The Slippery Road To Ruination – Adapters

dscf2352Or is that adaptors? I can never be sure.

In any case adapting mechanisms ( hah, fooled you…) were always some of the most annoying products that the camera shop stocked. Annoying because they incited lens lust and loose thinking in the customers, and the staff suffered.

The first of the adapter/converter/mistake cycles came when the people who made cheap lenses issued them for the front of camera lenses. It was not too much trouble in the days of the rangefinder camera because most of the enthusiasts found it too much trouble and shied away. Only the most dedicated would apply a diopter lens and then try to figure out how to accurately frame and focus with it. The attempts were never very successful, but people got some wonderful gadgets out of it all.

When the SLR, and latterly the DSLR came on the scene, people could see what the lens saw, and were able to use front-cell lenses better. the front-cell lenses were nearly all rotten things that introduced chromatic aberration and coma into the result, but people used them to get extra value out of cameras with fixed lenses. Funnily enough the sales of these optical disasters has continued all along, but the only suckers who fall for them these days are the rawest tourists into the roughest camera shops. Hong Kong, I’m looking at you…

The next venture was slightly better and actually successful. The SLR lens could be supplemented with a tele-converter that mounted between the body and the main ens and increased the focal length of the lash up from 1.4 to 3 X . Some prime lenses took to it and actually produced reasonable result. Most zooms failed, and most digital zooms failed horribly – neither focusing nor resolving. The major manufacturers made their own selected zooms work with their own teleconverters and customers were well advised not to venture past the factory recommendations.

The next venture was by the Chinese CAD CAM companies when the mirror-less camera systems started. The thinner bodies on the mirror-less cameras meant that SLR and rangefinder lenses could be accommodated with room to spare and everyone could focus to infinity. People with piles of heritage lenses that they wanted to use on new mirror-less cameras could get adapters to mate them up. As long as they could focus by hand, set apertures by hand, and get the actual camera to fire, they could get a picture as good as the original lens could make.

Which in some cases was woeful. Bad old lenses on good new cameras do not suddenly blossom into optical superstars. GIGO.

But we get to try out what we saw in the sixties …or earlier. We can even try to recreate the look of the past. I’ve been trying to be Henri Cartier Bresson for years and all I have achieved so far is the hairline. I think I need a new lens.

Note: Heading image taken with a $ 40 Russian 53mm lens screwed onto a $22 Chinese adapter. And every bit as good as the proprietary lens made by the maker of the camera body. Not as fast, not as sturdy, but optically wonderful. The plastic geodesic belongs to the neighbours and no, I don’t know why it is on the verge…


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