Tag Archives: cheap

Cheap Photogear: I

Introduction

Photography can be an expensive hobby for those who don’t make much money selling their work. In my photostore days I would often see people come in with very specific thoughts on what a camera should do for them, they would then walk out again after splashing a whole bunch of money on a camera that probably outfeatured the things that they would in reality use the camera for. But what else can they do? New cameras are super expensive and if you ask for advice the salesman will sell you the camera that best suits your expected needs, and those needs often make for some expensive-ass gear.

But life as an amateur photographer doesn’t necessarily have to be such a pricey proposition, if you are willing to be that guy/girl using yesterday’s gear. Well I most certainly am! There was a time when I would spent irresponsible amounts of money on a new camera. I was completely convinced that that piece of equipment (say a €2000,- X-pro1) would be the Leica to my Cartier-Bresson. Which is complete bollocks of course. I mean, a photographer needs his camera, granted. But a camera is nothing but a tool used for capturing images, it needs an imaging sensor, a means of composing the image and some glass to bend the light the right way. There you go, that’s it, everything else is extra. I am aware of the fact that you do need good quality image sensors and decent glass for pictures that stand out from the smartphone crowd, but trust me when I say that a €100,- 7-year old camera is just as capable of helping you take those shots as a €1000,- modern-day one.


(Amsterdam Protest. Canon EOS 5D mk I @50mm f/1.8. ©photovitalis)

This all occurred to me when I owned an, at that time, relatively expensive canon camera. I then bought another much older one as well because it came with a bunch of nice lenses that I could use on my camera. My intention was to sell the old camera that came with those lenses as body-only. I decided to try that old camera out before selling it. I was quite surprised to find the images from that old sensor were much more to my liking than the images that came from my much more modern camera. Perhaps they had a more film-like grain in them, or maybe the entire shooting experience was simplified and therefore much more pleasing but all I know is that much more of the photographs I made with that old camera have been keepers as opposed to images shot with the newer one. And that to me is what makes a camera, a good camera. And to take that as your main criteria for your photo-gear purchases, means you can start saving loads of money. If the camera feels right to you as a photographer, you will be much more likely to take it out. If the images coming from the sensor feel like they have exactly the right look for you, you will be much more motivated to keep shooting.

My ever growing quest to shoot the cheapest gear has led me into the mirrorles world of micro-fourthirds cameras. This cameratype started its succesfull existence in 2008 with the introduction of the Panasonic G1 and slightly later the Olympus Pen E-P1. So over the past 11 years this system has produced too many cameras to count


(Olympus Pen E-P1 with 1st gen 14-42mm lens)

Older models like the Pen E-P2, E-P3 or the Panasonic G3 and GH2 can now be bought for extremely low prices. But paired with the right glass and the right photographer of course (that will always be the most important part of the entire set-up) these little cameras are super capable of producing beautiful images. In my next Cheap Photogear post I will review the Panasonic G3 camerabody which I bought for no more than €50,-!

fifty euro Panasonic G3 with 28mm (eq. 56mm) vintage lens

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles, photography

Industar-69 Russian Lens review

This is a short piece about the Industar-69 28mm f2.8 LTM lens from the land of Putin, or Chroesjtsjov more likely. For this review I’ve mounted it on my Fujifilm X-E1 using a 5 dollar m39 to Fujifilm X adapter from ebay. 
So this is not a lens you’ll buy for its sharpness and optical perfection. This is a lens you’ll buy because you are in desperate need of some cheaply bought street cred. And that’s what this gives you. When you’ve hung this lens onto your fashionable mirrorles camera of choice, you will look like someone who knows his stuff. Using this sophisticated looking Russian made Tessar copy makes your camera look like a rangefinder that will make Bresson turn his head. So it looks damn good, yes oh my it does. The image quality isn’t that great though… It’s horrible at modern standards really. This lens is not sharp, it’s so soft that focus peaking will hardly work and above all, this lens won’t work for you until you take it apart and make some minor modifications to its core construction.
     Let me explain the above. This lens was never made for Leica camera’s, it just happens to share the same m39 thread mount. It was made for some Russian halfframe rangefinder that has a flange distance miles away from that of the leica’s. That means that the m39 adapter (needed for putting this lens on your camera) is a couple of millimeters to thick. So you either have to grind down the adapter, or screw the lens block inside of the lens barrel a little closer to the sensor. There are some great hacks out there on the interweb that will show you how to do this easily (this one for instance: http://www.mu-43.com/threads/20259/). Allright so this lens is an absolute piece of poo  right?  Well no, it is not. In fact, I totally love this little lens. And I will tell you why after the picture down below:
Fujifilm & Industar
Allright So if you get a good copy (DDR quality control…you never know), like mine, you will find yourself the proud owner of a full metal, smooth operating and above all very tiny lens. Even with the small m39 adapter, this lens protrudes no more than 25mm from the front of its retro styled host. Which is the European way of saying you’ve got yourself a one inch bulge sticking out your jeans pocket. Because yes, this kit will make your fujifilm X, Sony NEX or M43 camera awkwardly pocketable. Though I do suggest large pockets. Furthermore, it gives you a 42mm equivalent focal length. Which is very close to the legendary ‘perfect’ focal length of 43mm. They say that that is the closest you can get to what the eyeball sees (this does not apply to micro fourthirds camera’s, it’s 56mm there). The f2.8 max aperture is good enough for indoor shooting and some background blur. Ah yes, I almost forgot the one reason I actually went to the Bay of E and bought it from war-torn Ukraine. It’s the price! The cheapest near 28mm f2.8 mirrorles lens you can buy is the Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN EX lens for Sony and m43 MILC’s. And this lens costs you just below 200 USD where this one, with an adapter will set you back about 40 bucks. Allright, the sigma is a better lens in every way (except size and awesomeness) but you can just buy this lens to have fun with wherethe Sigma is dangerously close to being an actual investment. Same goes for the Fuji option. The Fujinon XF27mm f2.8 costs somewhere around 350 bucks nowadays.
The industar has a unique way of rendering things. Like I said, the lens isn’t that sharp and the contrast coming out of it isn’t very contrasty. Also the colors seem somewhat flattened to me. This may not sound very good, but it actually gives your pictures a sort of vintage feel. They sort of are vintage because they were created through some very old glass. If you are to apply the VSCO film simulations in Lightroom, pictures made with this lens are absolutely film-like. And that’s kind of the charm of this type of lens. It looks cool and gives your photo’s a unique look. It doesn’t even make sense trying to pixel peep this thing. This is a lens that needs to be used creatively instead of technically.
    So if you are willing to give up on autofocus, modern coatings and image stabilisation, this lens might just be something for you. When you buy this lens you get an everyday walkabout lens that will do your street photography, your portraits and maybe a landscape here and there. The focal length makes it a good lens across the board and the f/2.8 aperture makes it usable in a wide variety of situations. The size helps it to never be in your way.
Sample images below:
 20150402-DSCF7252A little bit of VSCO film magic and the Industar at F5,6.
20150404-DSCF7262
Wide open at F2.8. This lens does some crazy stuff wide open. The cornes are all over the place and it only remains sharp in the center, but that works just fine for this shot really.
20150404-DSCF7287
This shot shows the crazy swirly bokeh this lens creates. Love it or hate it.
Shot at F2.8
F5.6
It’s definitely sharpest at F5.6

12 Comments

Filed under Articles, photography