Optimal Prime

Not Optimus Prime, sadly *grin*

Argh, as I've been diving into the mirrorless cameras, I have also tipped my toes into the vast sea of lenses available. Btw some abbreviate them CSC for compact system cameras, which might be the closest resemblance to the finnish nickname for them: mikrojärkkäri (which translates literally micro-system/camera). CSC might be a more neutral name for them, since calling them mirrorless gives a connotation that they are lacking something. Which yes, they technically are, but it shouldn't be the selling point of them as such.

But I got sidetracked of what I actually wanted to write about... Lenses! More precisely: prime lenses.

I already discussed some native lenses briefly in my last post about my possible new camera aquisition. My there I was basically only thinking of getting a native lense, aka a lense that is specifically made to fit the camera in question. And even more narrowly, a native lense from the maker of the camera.

Now that I've splashed around the web some more, I've come to know that they surely aren't my only option. Apparently one major advantage with CSCs is that using adapters you can fit them with any 'retro' lense. I thought the adapters were worth a lot, and the brand ones which can transfer electronic data are pricey, but one can find cheap Chinese ones for less than 10$ on Ebay.

Sooo, I was gooleing and came across many people asking after cheap lense recommendations for their CSCs, like Sony NEX/Alphas. And sooner rather than later I was neck-deep in all sorts of strange letter combinations that I was slowly starting to cipher.

There are plenty of fun prime lenses out there for less than 100$ if you know what to look for and go for Ebay. And although I am being overly critical about the brand primes, it is more about the price. If I'm going to spend 300-400$ on a tube filled with glass, it damn better be worth it! But if I pay 30$ for something, I don't mind if it doesn't work optimally in every situation. ;)

So here are a few primes I have been eyeing on and adding on my list of wishes:

Helios 44m-7 58mm f2

Wikia info here. Cost estimate ~60$, M42-Mount

This came up on multiple lists and the lense seems to have a solid fan base. It is a Soviet-made mass product, so it'll be cheap and mostly readily available. There are actually plenty of Helios 44 lenses out there, but I've decided to go for the 44M-7 for the higher resolution. Yeah, don't ask about my detailed reasons, I'll just refer you to the meme on the top of this post :D

Helios 44 is a midrange prime (especially if the focal length of 58mm needs to be multiplied for the cropped sensor) that would be best for portrait work for me. In really close close-ups, it gives a creamy bokeh, but with a bit more distance it has a funny swirly bokeh that gives a distinct feel to the photos. I've mostly seen the lense used for nature potography, but that might just be because flowers make good example photos... I think I could well use this with outdoors photos of my SDs, with full-body shots.

Minolta Rokkor PF 55mm f1.9

Cost estimate ~40$, MC/MD-Mount

This lense was manifactured for two years in the 70's but is still available for quite a low price. I can't seem to find any real reviews of it although some adapter users really praise it. It'd be a lot cheaper than the Helios, although used for mainly the same purpose, I think. No swirly bokeh though :D

Olympus F-Zuiko 38mm f1.8

Cost estimate ~60-90€

This might be a replacement for Sony's native 1.7/35, being less than third the price... Thenagain the native will have image stabilisation and autofocus for when I need them, so I don't know if I should just splurge on the more expensive one after all.

Mitakon Wide 28mm f2.8

Cost estimate ~30-40€. MC/MD-Mount. Although Mitakon also makes a newer 28/2.8 as a native E-Mount, but the cost goes up to around 80€?

This also interests me purely on someone's suggestion. I don't have any other lenses in my sights in this focal lenght, so it might be a nice addition. I'm more interested in trying out this focal lenght with this cheaper product than splurging on Sony's own lenses. From what I've looked at some sample photos, the bokeh looks to be quite soft. I'm only iffy about if I'll actually use a slower lense, since I'm so in love with f1.8 and f2... Might still have it uses, at least if I get it cheaper and I already have the MC/MD->E adapter from getting the Minolta.

Super-Takumar 50mm f1.4

Cost estimate ~50-70€. M42-Mount

This one is an oldie, manifactured in the 60's :D But it's a nice f1.4 prime, making it faster than any other out of these options. Also one review of it told that the quality is good in all aspects.

It being an M42 mount like the Helios, I could just get them two as my toy primes for specific photo use. And hey, if I fall for vintage after all, maybe they'll stick on my camera for a more varied use.


All-in-all, I just need to keep this under control XD I have hoarder-tendencies and I'm very prone to hype. Also after thinking of getting 400$ lense, these ones seem so cheap that "just get them all! It's next to nothing!" rings in my head. I guess it's like with dolls. After getting a big Volks, the little Teenies are practically a steal :P And now I have 9 of those... And the price adds up.

But I take the cheaper option with my prime, I could go for a more pricey body without having a guilty conscience, like Sony a6000. Btw, it also comes in white :P If only it had a 180 tilting screen... Although now that I've had a few days to think it over, I'm starting to feel  that the EVF (especially if using these manual retro lenses) and easier manual controls might weigh n more than the screen.


  1. Oooh, interesting! I actually have that Helios lense I use in my doll photography along with my Canon 50mm/1.8 ^_^ It's a great one! It's just bit difficult sometimes to focus with those old manual lenses, especially outdoors if the air is moist, so I highly recommend a tripod and taking plenty of shots xD

    I got mine from a flea market for 20€ - actually I bought a whole Zenit camera and just snitched the lense away xD If you can find sellers with Sovient Union memorabilia, they quite often sell Zenit camera stuff too :3

    That Super Takumar looks quite fun too, maybe I should snatch it as well :D

    1. Oh, I'd love to see exactly which pictures you've taken with the Helios! And if you have any recommendations on a adapter for a Canon body? Since with a cheap adapter I could very well get the Helios sooner to play around with it already. Then I might just last until later this year to upgrade the body since I've been itching for it more and more. >_<

      I have the Canon 1.7/50 as well. I have to confess that I was starting to feel it was a crappy lense, since at widest aperture the photos were always a bit blurry. Then I read that there was a similar problem with other 1.8 lenses as well and they usually needed to be stopped down to 2 or so to produce sharp images. I felt like a fool! :D I'd been blaming the equipment when I just didn't know enough...

      Still, as I need to upgrade my camera body anyway, I might not stick with Canon. Since an EF->E adapter can be gotten quite cheap (10€ with the simplest design to 50€ with AF), I could still continue to use my Canon 1.8/50 with a Sony if I get the hang of the lense before that. But you say you have use for both the Canon and Helios? They are different enough to justify both?

      I'd love to have some variety in primes, although it would men I'd have to study a bit more to really take full advantage of them. But maybe concentrating on the technical side of photography would bring some variety on my doll hobby as well. Since I'm not buying as many new dolls or more things for them, the photos are otherwise getting a bit repetitive which makes me uninspired.

  2. So much info, so many lenses! Old lenses are great, I used to have an analog canon camera with the kit lens for my photograpy courses in the university so I dusted it off, gave the body away, but kept the lens haha. Of course it doesn't have autofocus, but that's not something I use too often anyways. I like it a lot, though I haven't used it for dolls yet, I should try D: the range is a lot wider than the kit lens from my canon t2i.

    Your last post made me thing how cool it would be to purchase more lenses and now you post about lenses haha, though I would be stixking to Canons I think D:... so if I ever change the camera I can still use them on the next one, I've been buying canon all my life XD I'm quite happy with my camera though it's super old.

    If you end up purchasing any of these lenses when you get your new camera I'd love to see some reviews or examples applied to dolls :)

    1. Hahaa! I'm happy that I'm perhaps inspiring others to some more photography gear and especially photography inspiration! ^-^

      You should also look into adapters, especially if you someday upgrade to a Canon CSC. If you are using an adapter for old manual lenses anyway, the adapter doesn't need anything fancy either, so they don't cost that much (really, 10$ or so). But yes I understand that if you have a lot of good Canon glass, especially with AF, it might be better to stick with Canon bodies too. :)

      I will surely try to review them if I get any special lenses. A comparison of the same photo but with two different primes would be ideal, I just hope I have the skills to pull it off without messing with too many variables...

  3. Your plans sound awesome! I find using old cameras and lenses super neat and sort of artistic.
    I'd like to experiment with vintage cameras as my dad has an old SLR from the 70's and I've wanted to get a vintage Polaroid camera (we have one but I'm not sure if it works). My sister also has a film SLR from 90's and I'll have to see what kind of lenses she gas for that.

    It would be also fun to experiment with camera obscura on doll pics.

    1. I was in total oblivion in regards to these old lenses :D But it didn't take too much googleing before they started popping up in conversations. Now I can't get enough of them XD I've even switched my preference for the Helios 44 series from the 44M-7 to the older cult-favourite 44-2. I might just be band-wagoning here, but I have to start with something, right? ;)


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