Vintage Lens On A Modern Camera

Sometimes you get plain lucky in multiple ways, enabling you to complete a hack that would otherwise have seemed improbable. [Mario Nagano] managed to attach a vintage 1950’s lens to a modern mirrorless camera (translated from Portuguese).

Photographers tend to collect a lot of gear and [Mario] is no exception. At a local fair in Sao Paolo, he managed to pick up a Voigtlander Bessa I – a bellows camera (or folding camera). It came cheap, and the seller warned him as much, commenting on the bad external shape it was in. But [Mario] had a sharp eye, and noticed that this was a camera that would have remained closed most of the time, due to its construction.

Inspection showed that the bellows was intact. What excited and surprised him was the excellent Color-Skopar objective mounted on a Prontor-S trigger, which is considered premium compared to the entry level Vaskar lens. His plan was to pick up another Voigtlander Bessa-I with a better preserved body, but the cheaper lens and do a simple swap. He never did find another replacement though. Instead, he decided to fix the excellent vintage lens to a DSLR body.

He’d read about a few other similar hacks, but they all involved a lot of complicated adapters which was beyond his skills. Removing the lens from the vintage camera was straightforward. It was held to the body by a simple threaded ring nut and could not only be removed easily, but the operation was reversible and didn’t cause any damage to the old camera body. The vintage lens has a 31.5mm mounting thread while his Olympus DSLR body had a standard 42mm thread. Fabricating a custom adapter from scratch would have cost him a lot in terms of time and money. That’s when he got lucky again. He had recently purchased a Fotodiox Spotmatic camera body cap. It’s made of aluminium and just needed a hole bored through its center to match the vintage lens. There’s no dearth of machine shops in Sao Paolo and it took him a few bucks to get it accurately machined. The new adapter could now be easily fixed to the old lens using the original 31.5mm ring nut.

The lens has a 105mm focal length, so the final assembly must ensure that this distance is maintained. And he got lucky once again. He managed to dig up a VEB Pentacom M42 macro bellows from an old damaged camera. Was it worth all the effort ? Take a look at these pictures here, here and here.

13 thoughts on “Vintage Lens On A Modern Camera

  1. The Olympus OM-D actually has the standard Micro Four-thirds bayonette mount. Looks like he’s used an m43 to screw adapter to fit the bellows (you can find adapters for nearly any lens mount to m43 easily online), and then the custom adapter on the front. And as you’d expect, and the photos prove, this would make a pretty nice macro rig.

  2. Look for a “Pentacon Balgennaheinstellgerät” or similar.
    Perfect cameras (w./.o. computers) and optical equipments were produced by VEB Pentacon (GDR) in many kinds.
    They were shamelessly copied (esp. the typical camera body) by japanese and korean companies.
    Google picture search shows a lot of them.
    Many are for sale on ebay and other local auction platforms in Germany and other european countries, perhaps in africa, latino america as well.

  3. Camera lens hacks are always worth it, having something uniquely yours that can’t simply be reproduced in software and it makes for a nice conversation piece.

      1. Oh and you use a (gentle) airspray to clean out the thing before attaching it of course. Or if need be something sticky to dab away any dust. Which is a trick they also use when applying protective film to displays, some suitable sticky tape that leaves no residue to dab away dust right before applying it.

  4. Every time I see an old folding camera, I want a folding digital camera. The closest I found are the compact cameras, with a lens that pops out when you start it.
    I look at mobile phones, with their large backs, small sensors and small lenses, and imagine a pop-out bellows like the old cameras had…

  5. Tip: If you can’t find a aluminium bodycap (what are the chances anyway?) then a trick is to use a aluminium macro adapter ring, which basically is a bayonet on one side and an inverse filterthread on the other side to screw on your standard lens backwards for macro photography. then instead of screwing on your lens you attach (epoxy?) something to it to hold the guest lens, or attach it directly to the guest lens.
    That way is more sturdy than taking the route of modifying a plastic bodycap.

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