Old is (sort of) gold... and cheap

I've been keen on photography for a while now. I started with a $2 pinhole camera, moved to a Dynax 3, crossed over to digital with the Panasonic FZ28, and finally settled for my first DSLR, straight to the Canon 60D.

This was a massive jump alright. And with the cost involved, I was left to choose just one lens and I opted for the highly-rated (for all the right reasons), 50mm f1.8 II. When I shot this image of everyday vegetables

, I was delighted with what the lens could do.

Yet, for all the advantages of a 50mm lens, you do crave a wider option. So, I started looking for cheaper lenses. For some reason, I refused to buy the 18-55 kit lens, as I have my eyes set on the Tamron 17-50 as a long-term solution. While searching the usual suspects drew a blank (primarily because of the cost involved), I came upon an article about using m42 or old screwmount lenses on Canon bodies.

Which is when I started trolling ebay. For a month or two, I tried sticking to a budget and bidding for a lens. But I guess I was 3 years too late on the m42 market as everything was steeply priced.

I was fairly disappointed with this and began looking for old camera shops in India. I found one in Mumbai who was selling m42 lenses. I ended up buying three, for $100 in all. An SMC Takumar 28 f3.5, an SMC Takumar 50 f1.4 (just for the extra stop) and a Helios 44-2 58mm f2 (because the seller gave it to me for something like $10).

My immediate desire was to get a photo or two accepted in DT. So, I set out taking pictures with these lenses, and I must say, I was terribly disappointed with the results (especially the 28mm). They just weren't anywhere close to my Canon 50mm.

It took me a while to get used to how they shot, how they felt, how they looked. I guess this was the essential "get used to your gear first" advice moment for me. I made sure I avoided using the 28mm in situations where its annoying CA would hog the frame and stopped using the 50mm at f1.4 just because it was there.

As a result, I managed to get one image each from the two lenses on here. The Flower vase on a sofa was shot on a initially frustrating day of photography with the 28mm and the Woman and child walking turned up unexpectedly with the Tak 50mm at, guess what, f1.4.

The conclusions I drew was that, one, these lenses are very good when used to their advantages (which are many) and because they are cheap (not on ebay though), they can be possible accessories for enthusiasts. Two, the Canon 50mm f1.8 II is bloody brilliant.

PS: What happened to the Helios? I ripped it apart as it was very dirty, cleaned it, put it all back in place and got it working ok-ish. It is part of my next mission, to get a photo from it approved on DT.

Photo credits: R S Vivek.

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June 29, 2011


I know the feeling about knowing your gear:D. I had the same feeling , that every lens i own/used,even the best ones(canon70-200 2.8, 300mmf2.8, 400mm2.8, 600mm2.8 and so on that i worked with) in the beginning of my usage I had the weird feeling that the lens doesn't 'know' me and I didn't know it and that those lenses doesn't perform at 100% of what they can

June 29, 2011



No problem in getting helios pictures approved.

June 28, 2011


Very interesting. Thanks for sharing your experience!

June 27, 2011


I think is always great and very interesting to explore different venues,and lens...and ways of getting exquisite "glasses" in your camera(using devices like adapters(mount). Specially good lenses with nice prices! Thanks to share your experience

June 27, 2011


Interesting information.Thanks.

June 27, 2011


Interesting information.

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