Hacking a Vintage 1950s Lens for a Modern Mirrorless Camera

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photographer Mario Nagano has a new camera lens that will undoubtedly draw quite a few looks from fellow photographers: it’s an old lens from a 1950s bellows camera that has been converted into a Micro Four Thirds lens for his Olympus OM-D E-M5.

Over at the Brazilian website ZTOP, Nagano writes that the project started when he came across an old Voigtlander Bessa I medium format bellows camera from the 1950s and noticed the Color-Skopar 105mm f/3.5 lens on the front.

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The Color-Skopar is based off the Carl Zeiss Tessar, which was famous for its simple design (4 elements in 3 groups) and image sharpness.

Nagano began the conversion by first disconnecting the Color-Skopar lens from the bellows of the Bessa camera.

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The lens needed a mount, so he purchased a cheap aluminum M42 mount body cap from Fotodiox and had a machining workshop cut a hole through the middle.

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This custom lens adapter fit nicely onto the back of the Color-Skopar lens.

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Next came the challenge of having the lens’ light converge onto his E-M5’s sensor plane. After figuring out how far away the lens needed to be from his sensor, Nagano used a M42 macro bellows to fix the lens at that distance.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All that was left was getting a Fotodiox M42 to Micro Four Thirds adapter for connecting the new lens setup to his camera.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The lens works well and produces a unique look in photos. Here are some sample shots taken so far with the kit:

Focusing at infinity

Focusing at infinity

Focusing closer

Focusing closer

A macro test

A macro test

A tiny crop showing the lens' sharpness.

A tiny crop showing the lens’ sharpness.

There you have it: one way to convert an old (but highly regarded) lens for modern digital photography. An important thing to note is that this entire hack is completely reversible: the lens can be reinstalled on the Voigtlander Bessa I at any time!


Image credits: Photographs by Mario Nagano/ZTOP and used with permission

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