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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Sakar Circular Polarizer Filter CPL (£6.50 for 3 on eBay)

This is just a mini review of the Sakar CPL filters I got on ebay recently, I got 3 different sizes for about £6.50 all in, very cheap in other words!

Build quality and finish

Totally fine, they came supplied with sturdy plastic cases, the frames are metal and the rotating action is smooth.

Image quality
The image quality is great! When the cost is put into consideration the results are even more impressive. To put it simply they do all that you could ask of a polarizer, blues are deeper, reflections are reduced and foliage and vegetation appears less shiny and colour saturation in general is improved. There was no apparent colour cast and no noticeable loss of sharpness or contrast. I could find no fault in these filters that is worth mentioning, especially at this price point.

Here's a simple before and after:

At this price point there is really nothing to lose, these filters are great value for money and deliver more than satisfactory results!

UPDATE: I have recently noticed strange behaviour with these filters when using lenses with longer focal lengths, for some reason where a filter will give perfect results on a wider lens the image will turn mushy on telephoto lenses, I am investigating the matter further and for now I can only recommend these filters for use on lenses 50mm or lower in focal length where they have performed and still are still performing perfectly well.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Optomax 200mm F/3.5 M42 (Around £5 from ebay)


This lens was one of the first manual focus lenses I bought and came as part of a job lot. Due to my lack of experience I expected a poor performance from this lens based on the brand because at the time I had no idea that many of the old manual focus brands were just importers and that this lens was likely to have been made by one of the major Japanese manufactures. In time I came to realise that the lens was probably made by Tokina and that there are Vivitar and Mamiya versions out there as well as others.

Build quality and finish

This is one solid hunk of lens and features a lot of metal in it's construction, the finish is an attractive but easily soiled satin effect and the rubber focus grip feels good and offers sound traction. The lens includes a sliding hood which while almost certainly not as effective as a separate hood offers at least some glare protection and is better than nothing, it's a nice little gift horse that should not be looked in the mouth. It all feels well screwed together and the focus and aperture mechanisms are positive and sturdy.

Optomax 200mm F/3.5

Optomax 200mm F/3.5

Optomax 200mm F/3.5

Image quality

This was a surprise for me because as I explained previously I was not expecting much in terms of image quality. The sharpness of this lens wide open was an eye opener, whilst it would be foolish to claim it is one of the sharpest I can comfortably say it is far from soft, there is certainly enough sharpness there to make using the lens wide open and entirely practical proposition. The lens does exhibit a small amount of colour fringing wide open but it is minor and easily corrected in software if necessary. I have to wonder how much of this is down to poor lens design and how much is due to the lens being far too old to be optimised for digital sensors. The colour and saturation are of a good standard and coupled with the decent level of sharpness on offer this lens is a pleasure to use and consistently returns decent results. The bokeh this lens produces is generally very smooth and compliments subjects well, I have no complaints in this department although I am known for having low standards in what is in my opinion a matter of personal taste.

I have to add that this lens has several patches of fungus around the perimeter of the front element along with what appears to be some residue possibly from internal lubricants leaking. I have yet to buy a decent lens spanner but when I do I will be able to easily clean the lens up and I would expect the image quality at the edge of the frame to improve somewhat.

All of these samples are wide open:

Optomax 200mm F/3.5

Optomax 200mm F/3.5

Nantymoel from Ogmore Vale

You can click on the following two to see them at 100% size:

Optomax 200mm F/3.5

Nantymoel from Ogmore Vale


In conclusion I recommend this lens wholeheartedly, it has decent sharpness throughout the aperture range, good colour, good contrast, nice bokeh, it's well put together and it's nice to handle. It won't challenge a Canon L or a Carl Zeiss but it puts in a thoroughly decent performance so if you see one for a good price I suggest you snap it up and see if it's a good copy!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Sun Optical 28mm F/2.5 (£6.51 from ebay)


I like Sun lenses, they were one of the few companies to make their own lenses in a time when many of the popular brands were just distributors putting their name on other companies designs. The company started off some time soon after the second world war rising from the ashes of the K.O.L lens company. They initially made lenses for the Leica screw mount and one of the appealing qualities of their lenses is that they continued to make lenses that were aesthetically pleasing in a time when other brands were becoming a sea of dull blackness. The company appears to have ceased the production of 35mm lenses in the late 80's but the company still seems to exist as a manufacturer of industrial lenses, on their website they claim to have began operating in the late 80's but had a past in the 35mm lens industry so there is surely a connection but how deep or shallow it is I have no idea.

On to the lens

Sun lenses always seem to have some sort of quirk or gimmick, be it the styling of the lens or some kind of function that makes it distinctive in some way compared to rivals and that is why they appeal to me as a collector. The slightly unusual aspect is of course the F/2.5 maximum aperture as opposed to the more usual F/2.8

Build quality and finish

This 28mm lens is in fact one of their later and more sober looking lenses although it still has a funky logo on the lens cap. It's well put together which seems to be a consistent trait of sun lens but optically it's a mixed bag..........Also a consistent trait!


Image quality

The main problem when the lens is wide open is a tendency to produce bloom in areas of contrast which can make focusing a difficult task, when you are very close to critical focus the bloom appears and gives the impression of softness so the lens almost looks sharper when it is just outside of perfect focus, you have to go against your instincts because if you try to set the focus ring at a point where the blooming is absent you will get a soft image.

The sharpness wide open is not bad in the centre but poor at the edges, unfortunately the edges don't really come up to scratch until F/8-F/11 but I find myself using this aperture a lot with wider angle lenses anyway. The lens also makes a fairly good portrait lens on my Olympus E-410 where it has a 56mm equivalent focal length, in this situation I can use the lens wide open because the subject is more often than not at the centre of the frame.

Where this optics strengths lay are no doubt in the colour and contrast department, there is a very appealing warmth and enthusiasm to the colours this lens produces and the contrast is gives a decent pop that almost makes up for the lack or resolution at wider apertures.

The bokeh is interesting in that it is very smooth wide open but at smaller apertures has a strange almost ring shaped appearance on highlights, almost like a mirror lens. I like it personally but then again I like mirror lens bokeh so I'm a Judas in any case!

There follows some samples which can be clicked on to see a larger version.

This one was at F/2.5:

This one was taken at F/5.6:

This one is a stitch of two photos taken at F/5.6:

This one is F/5.6:


In conclusion I would have to say it's hard to recommended In general even if I am quite fond of it personally, it's optical performance is average and whilst it is strong in the colour and contrast departments it let's itself down in other areas. If I was not a fan of Sun lenses in general I would probably sell the lens on but there is just something about it that I cannot quite put my finger on. If you are in the market for a lens of this kind of spec and price I would recommend looking out for a Tokina RMC 28mm F/2.8 which is a class act in comparison and has much better edge performance and is acceptably sharp across the frame. Another option would be the Tamron adaptall 2 28mm F/2.5, it doesn't quite have the sharpness of the Tokina but it does have that same slightly faster maximum aperture as the sun lens but without the blooming.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Ebay nightmares: Soligor 200mm F/4 T2 mount

You know the scene, browsing soon to end items on ebay, you catch something that's really cheap so you put a bid in and cross your fingers. I won this lens for next to nothing BUT I only bid on it because the seller described it as in good working condition, I know a few pound isn't much but it's the principal that counts surely? I wouldn't have paid a few pennies for it if I had know how it would turn up!

Was there fungus? No

Was there a stuck aperture? No

Scratches? No

Stiff focusing ring? No

So what am I complaining about?


I would have to say that the front element is rather loose to put it mildly!

So, I says:

"Hi there, Just received the lens but there seems to be a problem, the front glass element is completely loose and rattling around, it looks like it could fall out at any moment. I'm not trying to say you sent it knowing it was broken but obviously the lens is unusable in this state and I would appreciate your thoughts about that to do. Here is a photo of the lens:"

And he says:

 "Hi ,I thought it was packed all right with it being in the case aswell.the postal staff must had a game of football with it.When I offered it for sale & indeed packed it there was no rattle or problem, if yo look at my feedback record ,you might assume that I am very fessy about what I sell ,this is clearly a transit problem.Either you or I must make a claim from the post office,Ive a feeling it might have to be me even tho it cost a pitance ,in any case keep the lens etc as evidence.There is no point in sending it back because of the cost involved but I can assure yo I wouldnt send out a faulty piece of equipment esspecially for a measly £2.00 Let me know your thoughts"

Pittance? Measly?
How rude! It was enough money for him to bother selling it in the first place! I cannot express enough how I know it really is a tiny sum but the principle remains that if I had known the lens was faulty I would not have paid anything at all. There is no way on earth that the element popped out by itself and on closer inspection of the sellers photos all seemed to show the lens side on, how convenient. I asked the seller to go ahead and ask royal mail for a refund but I never heard from him again so in due course I gave him a negative feedback for his efforts. If everyone in the world decided customer service was not an issue if an item only costs a small amount the world would be in a right mess. He called my money measly and a pittance yet he was unwilling to refund me! Hopefully in future he will realise that the key to being a professional ebayer is to treat all customers with respect and gratitude, even if they do only spend a measly amount.

Tokina RMC 80-200mm F/4 (£6.99 from ebay)


This lens is as good a place to start as any!


First of all it's worth mentioning that during my travels of the various forums and websites on the net there seemed to be a general consensus that any zoom lens made before the late 80's/early 90's would be soft, plagued by low contrast, weak colours and extreme image defects such as flaring and colour fringing. The reasoning behind this was that technology at the time was simply not advanced enough to produce optically acceptable zoom lenses. In more recent years however, and after frequenting sites such as MFLENSES.COM it became apparent that this was far from the Truth! Indeed it seems that although there are some real stinkers around there is also a fair share of decent zoom lenses from the decades past.

The main negative issue I see with these lenses tends to be a small amount of colour fringing when the lens is wide open but nothing that cannot be corrected in software. What impresses me with the majority or lenses in the 70-200mm (give or take) arena from the 70's and 80's is that they seem to consistently produce sharper images at the long end of the zoom than modern equivalents can manage whilst usually having a usefully faster maximum aperture. I would even go as far as to say that almost all consumer grade zooms in this range available today will inevitably be soft at the long end especially wide open. I cannot believe that technology has taken a backwards step so I can only assume this is a deliberate measure taken my manufacturers in order to split lines into consumer and professional ranges. It is almost guaranteed that a modern zoom that ends at 200mm will have a F/5.6 aperture at best whereas older lenses always seem to be F/4 or better whilst delivering sharpness that is usually significantly better.


Get On With It!

Tokina RMC 80-200mm F/4

There is some confusion as to if the RMC in the name refers purely to the "rainbow multi coating" or if it signifies this lenses place in Tokina's range. Some have suggested that RMC is an in between grade with ATX being Tokina's best professional lenses and RMC being somewhere between this and the basic consumer models. Other people believe that RMC in it's self is not an indication the quality of the lens and refers purely to the lens coating and that both bad and good lenses have carried the RMC label.

Build quality and finish

In terms of pure quality and finish this lens seems very well put together, it is of the one touch style that was popular in the 80's and is very compact considering it's specification without feeling cheap or flimsy. For a lens that must be approaching at least 25 years of age the focus and zoom movement are very smooth and well damped. Aesthetically it is subtle but smart with the familiar green font and red logo on the retaining ring of the front element and a silver band at the end of the lens barrel.

Image quality

No need to waste any time here! The image quality is quite remarkable at all zoom settings and all aperture settings. Colours are strong but realistic, contrast is just about perfect and the sharpness had me constantly checking to make sure the lens really was wide open and the aperture hadn't stuck. The only weakness is a tendency to produce colour fringing in areas of extreme contrast but nothing that cannot be corrected swiftly in post processing.
The samples below can be clicked on to view a full size versions so that you can judge the sharpness for yourself, these shots were taken with the lens wide open at 200mm. These images have had mild tweaks of the levels and saturation but the sharpness has not been altered in any way:

Tokina RMC 80-200mm F/4

Tokina RMC 80-200mm F/4



This lens can be bought for peanuts, it's well built and delivers amazingly strong images considering its age and compact size. The only negative quality I can see is a slight amount of colour fringing at wide apertures but certainly not enough to spoil the party. Overall I recommend this lens and I find it's superiority to modern consumer equivalents a real hoot, If you can do without autofocus this lens will give you a real step up in quality and it's not alone! In time I will show you models from Tamron, Vivitar, kiron and others that can all be had for similar money and exhibit similarly good performance!

Greetings and happy new year!


This is my first post as you can probably see for yourself!

My main reason for setting this blog up is to document my experiences buying and using manual focus lenses on my DSLR's which at the moment consist of a Canon EOS 350D and an Olympus E-410. I also of course buy and use more modern autofocus lenses as well as filters and various other accessories which I will also write about.

I hope this blog will prove helpful to potential owners of these lenses and will be of interest to photographers and collectors in general.

The reason I got into the practice of using manual lenses was simply a matter of curiosity coupled with the amazingly cheap prices some lenses can be had for on sites such as eBay as well as in second hand shops and car boot sales etc. As times goes on the more respected and famous lenses continue to fetch more money but there is still ample opportunity to pick up bargains and "hidden gems". Many lens brands around in the 60's/70's/80's were simply importers who had lenses produced for them by established Japanese manufactures so it is commonplace to find lenses made by companies such as Tamron, Tokina, Cosina, Komine, Kiron and Olympus(!) wearing cheap and nasty sounding badges, Vivitar is a great example of this although prices are soaring! Soligor is another good example, many lenses wearing this badge are made by Tokina and Tamron! I would be lying if I said I didn't occasionally pay a fair sum for an old lens but for the most part the joy for me comes from taking a gamble on an unknown lens that costs a few quid, testing it against lenses I already own and deciding if I should keep it or sell it on again. If I make a small profit that's great but even If I only break even it means I have a financially neutral hobby that is always interesting and sometimes very rewarding.

I'm a great believer in finding things out for myself, even though that sometimes equates to learning the hard way! I am always buying very cheap filters and other accessories, some turn out to be exactly what you expect them to be but others show up the more established brands as overpriced and prove that sometimes people dismiss things too easily based on name and reputation. A good example is the Expo Disc white balancer which costs an eye watering £80 in 82mm size yet a coffee filter will do an equally good job and if you want something slightly more dedicated you can buy items that perform just as well on eBay from as little as £3 including international shipping! I'm by no means an expert photographer and I am certainly no Wordsworth either but hopefully over time this blog will prove to be at least interesting! The rate at which I update will depend on how busy I am and how inspired I feel at any given time!