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Katarina Souto Mera's all about pictures...

50ties shoot out on film

Reviews Posted on Mon, April 18, 2011 12:06:05

Comparison shots on film from 6 prime lenses ranging from 43-58mm.

Pentax 43/1.9 Ltd,
Pentax M 50/1,7
Pentacon 50/1.8,
CZ Jena Flektogon 50/4,
Cosina 55/1.2,
Helios 44M 58/2

I owe a couple of lenses in the 50mm range and I was curious to see the differences between them. Each lens has its own characteristic which translate into unique rendering of out-of-focus areas know as bokeh.

Lenses in the test

SMC Pentax FA 43/1.9 Limited – Pentax limited autofocus lens, great IQ, very sharp even wide open, 3D subject rendering, slightly wider angle than the rest of the lenses in the test,
SMC Pentax M 50/1.7 – manual focus lens, also very sharp with pleasant bokeh, however this is the least used lens from the whole lot (that’s why I forgot about including it in the first and second test shoots)
Pentacon auto 50/1.8 MC – M42 screw lens, smooth manual focus, very sharp wide open (the rest of the apertures I could not test as the lens is broken), focuses to very close distances (30 cm)
CZ Jena Flektogon 50/4 MC – medium format lens, smooth manual focus, not very fast (f4) but sharp, I normally use it with Pentacon6-PentaxK tilt adapter so I can place focus where I want
Cosina 55/1.2 MC – manual focus lens, very very fast (f1.2) with a special bokeh rendering – not very smooth, rather on the busy side but very interesting and surprising
Helios 44M 58/2 – Russian M42 manual focus lens, the longest one of the lot, creates swirly bokeh, (cons of my copy – very stiff focusing ring, and no MC coating even that on the front it says 44M-7 MC, it is not, I got fooled, but that’s another story..)

First shoot (purple flower from above)

Shot on Fuji Superia 200 with Pentax MZ-S, all the lenses wide open.
Shooting from above at the closest possible focus of the lens. Of course foreground/in-focus/background ratio changes, so the comparison of the bokeh in this shoot is not that much comparable. However we can see, what we can do with each lens and what the result will be.

SMC Pentax FA 43/1.9 Limited – as already said, very sharp and wider than the rest, bokeh more on the busy side, 45 cm the closest focus distance

Pentacon auto 50/1.8 MC – very sharp as well, but as this lens is able to focus very close up to 30cm, the in-focus plane is drastically reduced, bokeh more interesting

CZ Jena Flektogon 50/4 MC – very sharp, closest focus 50cm, nice pleasing bokeh

Cosina 55/1.2 MC – as this lens is really fast, the focus plane is very thin which makes focusing a real challenge, but this lens has very interesting bokeh which sometimes looks more like a painting than a photograph

Helios 44M 58/2 – quite sharp in the centre but not very much at corners which I don’t mind at all, very prone to flare due to missing MC coating (the lens is from 1976, so no wonder J) but can be creatively used, and this lens, as its bigger brother Helios 40, creates beautiful swirly bokeh

Second shoot (purple flower from side)

As well shot on Fuji Superia 200 with Pentax MZ-S, all the lenses wide open.
Shooting from the side at the closest possible focus of the lens. Background is about 1,5m behind the flowers. That means that the foreground/in-focus/background ratio does not change that much, so this example better demonstrates the differences in bokeh rendering of each lens.

SMC Pentax FA 43/1.9 Limited

Pentacon auto 50/1.8 MC

CZ Jena Flektogon 50/4 MC

Cosina 55/1.2 MC

Helios 44M 58/2

Third shoot (stroll in the wood)

Fuji Superia 200 with Pentax MZ-S, all the lenses wide open.
Shooting with each lens from the same distance about 2-3m which demonstrates the different scope of each lens and differences in bokeh rendering.
I added a “new” lens in the test SMC Pentax M 50/1.7

SMC Pentax FA 43/1.9 Limited

SMC Pentax M 50/1.7

Pentacon auto 50/1.8 MC

CZ Jena Flektogon 50/4 MC

Cosina 55/1.2 MC

Helios 44M 58/2

Fourth shoot (portrait)

Fuji Superia 200 with Pentax MZ-S, all the lenses wide open.
Shooting with each lens from the same distance about 1-2m which demonstrates the different scope of each lens and differences in bokeh rendering. Shooting into sun reveal the flare resistance. Thanks to my sister for being a patient model.

SMC Pentax FA 43/1.9 Limited

SMC Pentax M 50/1.7

Pentacon auto 50/1.8 MC

CZ Jena Flektogon 50/4 MC

Cosina 55/1.2 MC

Helios 44M 58/2

Katarina Souto Mera

PS: to view bigger images, please visit my facebook page “50ties shoot out on film” album

Helios 40-2 85/f1.5 portrait lens (II. part)

Reviews Posted on Tue, January 04, 2011 11:18:10

So in the first part of the review of this beautiful les we saw its specifications and what it can do. Now in this second part we will see the transformation from M42 mount to Pentax K and of course some more photographs produced with this lens.

Converting Helios 40-2 from M42 screw mount to Pentax K

Helios 40-2 is native M42 screw mount so you need an M42-Pentax K adapter to put it on a Pentax camera. Had some problems first when putting it on – the adapter comes with a little spring that keeps it safely in the mount. So when you put the adapter on the lens and mount in on the camera, it will not come off like a normal Pentax lens with a push of the button. No, no. The adapter stays there and you have to unscrew the lens and remove the adapter from the camera mount with a tool.

Mount adapter M42 to Pentax K

I was lucky my lens is Helios 40-2 which has rotating tripod socket, had the silver edition Helios 40, the lens would have had to be on my camera permanently as the knob to loose the socket and the socket itself are colliding with the built-in flash housing and it would be impossible to unscrew the lens. So I had to loose the socket and unscrew the lens and take out the adapter every time I wanted to change lenses. Very impractical. Took me about 3 min every time. Impossible to do it in the field or on assignment.

So what I did is I removed little spring on the adapter and screw it very tightly on the lens. Now I transformed my Helios 40-2 from M42 into permanent Pentax K mount, which I could put on my camera and take it off as fast as any other lens with native K mount. Cool.

One thing still bothered me though. If you check carefully your lens and camera, there is little pin on the camera a little hole in the lens that secure the lens from falling off. Well, there was no hole in the back of my Helios. Well, it did hold somehow, but I had to be very careful when carrying my Pentax MZ-S with Helios 40-2 on. I had the biggest problem when focusing from far distance to close, especially when coming really close like around 1m and less. The manual focus ring is quite tight and even tighter at that spot, so I had to pay attention not to unmount the lens at the same time. Quite bothering. So I nicely asked my dear husband, if he could drill me a tiny hole into my lens. He did a great job and I now have a Helios 40-2 in Pentax K mount. Yay! smiley

Helios 40-2 85/1.5 with mounted M42/Pentax K adapter and a freshly drilled hole

Portrait of my dear husband (Pentax MZ-S with Helios 40-2 85/1.5 on Kodak Portra 400NC)

Portrait of my little girl (Pentax MZ-S with Helios 40-2 85/1.5 on Kodak Portra 400NC)

Leaf on spider web (Pentax MZ-S with Helios 40-2 85/1.5 on Kodak Portra 800)

Katarina Souto Mera

Helios 40-2 85/f1.5 portrait lens (I. part)

Reviews Posted on Tue, November 09, 2010 09:35:08

Helios 40-2 85/f1.5

Helios 40-2 85/f1.5 is Russian portrait lens for old M42 screw mount SRL cameras. There are apparently four different editions of this lens. There is Helios 40, Helios 40″B”, Helios 40-2 and Helios 40-2 export. I have the last version of them – Helios 40-2, which differs from Helios 40-2 in roman inscription on the lens instead of Russian.

Helios 40-2 85/1.5 wide open

Helios 40-2 85/f1.5 Specifications:

Focal length in 85mm
Lens fitting: M42
Apertures: 1.5 – 22
Angle of view: 28°
Focusing range: 0.8m to Infinity
Mount type: screw mount M42
Filter thread: 67mm
Weight: 1,185g

Picture quality

This lens is really amazing, very well built, hefty, optics are great, sharp even wide open and it creats beautiful swirly bokeh. And that beautiful bokeh is the reason I got this lens so I could create portrait images out of ordinary.

Have to say that there are two other lenses in my bag that have that swirl in the bokeh, but it is not so pronounced as with Helios 40-2. It is my beloved SMC Pentax FA 77/1,8 Limited and SMC Pentax FA* 200/2,8 IF&ED. Here are some photographs for comparison.

Pentax MZ-S with SMC Pentax FA 77/1,8 Limited on Kodak Portra 400NC

Pentax MZ-S with SMC Pentax FA* 200/2,8 IF&ED on Fuji PRO 400H

Pentax MZ-S with Helios 40-2 on Kodak Portra 400NC (converted to B&W in post)

Focusing Helios 40-2

It takes some getting used to manual focusing after being spoiled by autofocus, and one has to check very carefully the focus point because at f1,5 the depth of field is really shallow.

What is quite unusual about this lens it its two aperture rings where one sets the aperture value and the other serves for actual closing of aperture blades. The closing is smooth with no clicks between the apertures values. Uncommon is also its physical positions on the lens – it is kind of switched with the focus ring. I am used to set the apertures on the ring closer to the camera body and focus with the outer ring, but on this lens the focusing ring is the one close to the camera body and the aperture on is on the other end.

(to be continued in part II)

Katarina Souto Mera

Cosina 55/1.2

Reviews Posted on Tue, June 15, 2010 09:15:14

Japanese lens in Pentax mount

Frame format ― 24×36 mm (35mm SLR / DSLR)
Focal length ― 55 mm
Focusing ― manual
Maximum aperture ― 1:1.2
Aperture range ― 1.2 – 16
Diaphragm blades ― 9
Construction ― 7 elements in 6 groups
Minimum focus ― 0.60 m
Filter size ― Ø58 mm

I am not going to call this article “review” since I am was not doing any chart tests or similar. Rather than that I put this beautiful fast lens on my beloved Pentax MZ-S, loaded it with Kodak Portra 400VC film and headed out to my garden. Luckily everything was in bloom, so I had plenty of things to shoot.

As it was my first time out with this lens, I wanted to see how it handles rendering of out-of-focus areas called bokeh and to see it performance wide open at 1.2 f-stop. All these photographs are shot with the lens Cosina 55/1.2 wide open. They might seem a bit soft, but here is why – the depth of field (DOF) at f 1.2 very narrow (a couple of millimetres) so a slight breeze on flower or branch or me not holding the camera steady (I should have used the tripod, but I was kinda lazy) could throw the focus off. And plus, it is a general truth, that the best sharpness of the lens is when stopped down a bit. With Cosina 55/1.2 that would be about f 2,8 I’d say. But then, why buy fast lenses if to use them stopped down?

When I was deciding over the purchase of a fast lens I had two favourites – this one Cosina 55/1.2 and Pentax A 50/1.2. If I could I would buy both of them, as each has its own advantages. But finally I have choose Cosina because of the bokeh rendering a it’s focal length 55mm. I already own a 50mm Pentax lens 50/1.7 and also 43/1.9, so the 55 was something I didn’t have. But the biggest thing that won me over to Cosina was its bokeh. It is so special, I can’t explain it. Some photographs look like paintings. It is not that smooth as the bokeh of Pentax 50/1.2, but it is so interesting and unique, that ever since I saw some photos I was sold.

If you wish to see more photographs taken with this beautiful lens, please visit my Facebook page and search for SPRING PhotoAlbum.

Katarina Souto Mera

Hartblei Super Rotator 80/f 2,8 photos

Reviews Posted on Thu, March 25, 2010 13:17:11

Last week I posted a review of a tilt/sift lens Hartblei Super Rotator 80/f 2.8, in which I described this lens specifications and gave you my first impression. If you haven’t read that post, you can find it here.

Well, today I want to show you some examples shot with this lens. Please, take into account I haven’t fully grasped the way how to use this lens to get me the precise results I want regarding metering exposure. As I explained in the previous post, with tilt/shift lenses the light going through the lens is bended and that’s why it easily misleads the metering system in the camera which in result will propose you wrong exposure. That’s why you have to use bracketing function on your camera, or exposure compensation or use manual mode and set your aperture and shutter speed as you deem appropriate. Tilting and shifting bends the colours as well, so you can get colour shifts or strange colours where they should not be. I am not any educated engineer in optic, so if you want to have educated explanations of what is happening to light when using tilt/shift lens, search somewhere else J. But I will show you my photographs and explain how I handle or overcome the shortcoming to give me pleasing results.

Let’s have a look at the picture here:

This is the photograph straight out of the camera. I used full tilt and focused on their faces lens fully open at 2,8. You can see the effect of the tilt throwing the bottom and top of the picture out of focus. That is because the plane of sharpness is not in parallel with the film/sensor plane like with ordinary lens, but has been moved to run in the angle. You can see that the wall behind their heads is also in focus which with ordinary lens – fully open – it would not be. Or if it would be, everything from the top till the bottom of the frame would be also in focus.

Now let’s have a look at the colours. There is visible blue tint in the highlights. In this particular photo I used on-camera flash, you can see the ugly shadow behind them even though I dialled the flash exposure compensation down, it is still too much flash. I should have bounced the flash into a reflector in this situation to give me softer and directional light. But that truly belong to flash technique J. The blue tint is also visible on the photographs where I did not used the flash. The contrast is a bit muted and overall exposure is not spot on. But that is partly because it is difficult to compensate for the in-camera misleading metering and as I shoot on film camera, I cannot check my histogram or preview the picture on the display as a digital photographer would do. Next time I’ll try different approach and surely will bracket J.

The next picture is the same as above, but corrected and improved in a computer software during post processing. I usually scan my negatives myself, but these came from the lab as a low resolution files instead of classical index print. Quite handy indeed.

So in this case I just increased the exposure and contrast and toned the highlights with yellowish and the shadows with purplish colour. It gave the photograph old nostalgic look and hid the imperfections of the lens and my wrong exposure yielding a pleasing result.

I am definitely not regretting buying this lens, it gives an opportunity to learn something new, push the boundaries and the best is the fresh new look it gives to my photographs.

Katarina Souto Mera

Hartblei Super Rotator 80mm/f 2,8 in Pentax mount

Reviews Posted on Mon, March 15, 2010 09:56:20

Not so long ago I purchased another lens (this quest never stops!) for my Pentax MZ-S film camera. This time it is not the Pentax production but Russian tank Hartblei Super Rotator 80/2,8. This is not an ordinary lens, it is tilt and shift lens with 0-10mm shift in any direction and 0-8°tilt also in any direction. And the best thing is that the tilt and shift are completely independent of each other, so you can rotate the rings on the lens the way you want – that’s why SUPER ROTATOR.

The build quality is robust and resistant like a tank, no plastic used, just metal. I guess you could just brake a skull with it and there would be no sign of damage on the lens. The six-lens optical system is multicoated and has anti-reflection surfaces to improve image quality and contrast. It boast 12-blade aperture for more uniform distribution of light when tilted/shifted and of course nicer round highlight reflections in out of focus areas of the image.


Frame format ― 24×36 mm (35mm SLR / DSLR)
Focal length ― 80 mm
Focusing ― manual
Maximum aperture ― 1:2.8
Aperture range ― 2.8 – 22 (manual, 12-blade)
Construction ― 6 elements in 5 groups
Angle of view ― 42° (45° with optical unit shifted)
Minimum focus ― 0.65 m
Filter size ― Ø62 mm
Lens movement ― TS-PC Super Rotator, both tilt and shift in any direction
Shift movement range ― 0 to 10 mm in any direction
Tilt movement range ― 0 to 8° in any direction
Rotation movement range ― 360°, with click stops every 15°
Dimensions ― Ø88×80 mm
Weight ― 660 grams

First impression:

very robust, well built, a little bit alien-looking with all the knobs for tilt/shift and rotations:))

It took me a while to figure out how it works as this is my first tilt/shift lens, even though I own a large format camera, this is something different. It takes time to get a handle of it, especially to pay attention when you want to rotate shift part – not to mix it with aperture ring. All the knobs are well positioned but the rotation one of the tilt part (on the picture is the closest one the lens mount, the only chrome knob). This one is too close to the camera body and goes right under the built-in-flash, so even though I have small fingers, it is kinda difficult to get in there to push it and rotate the lens.

The lens is a light-eater – means when tilted/shifted it confuses the built-in-meter in the camera and pictures are too overexposed. That’s why the bracketing is your friend more then ever when shooting with this lens. What I found that works is to underexpose by at least 3 stops from what your built-in-meter shows you as the correct exposure. And even then I am not sure that what I am getting is correct. For those shooting digital it is easy to check your screen and adjust accordingly but I am an analogue photographer and this is a bit hit-and-miss and a lot of wasted film. For this would be nice to have a DSLR, but what the heck.. :)) one has to work with what he’s got.. :))

Image quality coming out of this glass is great and the effect you can achieve with tilt/shift is mind-blowing. I think it is worth to have it and expand your photography skills and knowledge, especially considering the price :)). Stay tune in for more info and photos.

Katarina Souto Mera

Follow this link to read the next post about Hartblei Super Rotator 80/2,8 with sample photos

Captured by the Light by David A. Ziser

Reviews Posted on Thu, March 11, 2010 11:23:38

Couple of days ago I have finally got the brand new book written by the David A. Ziser Captured by the Light.

David Ziser is an internationally renowned portrait and wedding photographer, one of the leading trainers in the industry for more than 20 years. And this knowledge and experience is handled to you in this book, which I think is worth so much more than you actually end up paying for it. I would recommend it to any wedding or portrait photographer or anybody who would like to learn some more about lightning in photography.

Katarina Souto Mera