Playing with old camera gear

Over the Christmas holiday my wife and I made a trip back east to visit my step father, mother, and her family.  A good time was had by all.  Shortly after arriving, I found myself in a conversation about photography with my step father, a long ago hobbyist back when film was king and you developed black and whites in a small chemical filled room in the basement.

Before long, we were pulling old photos and camera gear from dusty cardboard boxes somewhere in the basement.  After showing me several of his favorite workhorses and his father’s original hand-cranked home video camera (easily the nostalgic crown jewl of the collection), he opened a very long case and pulled out a Tele Vivitar 1:6.3 500mm lense and asked “think this would fit your camera?”

 

The short answer was, of course, no.  But being an engineer and having a friend who has enjoyed adapting and shooting with older lenses, I knew that might not be the end of the story.  A quick search on Amazon found the Fotodiox Pro Lens Mount adapter:
$30 and 24 hours later, I was mounting it to my Cannon T2i and fiddling with the settings to get a picture.
The lens has its own tripod mount point and in size, weight, and aim, is more akin to a telescope than a camera lens (which might be why one of my first ideas is to point it at the moon and take some shots… stay tuned!).  While aiming it accurately might get a bit tricky my Benro B1 seemed to hold it just fine.  As you might expect from an older lens, the focus and f-stop adjustments are old school (read: manual). This implies you wont be chasing a fast moving object with it very easily, unless you can pre-plan the capture point along its trajectory.
I didn’t have any great opportunities to point the camera outside (bad weather and other activities ruled) but did spend some time pointing it at some bowling trophies across the basement.  Too close to focus properly, but enough to get some preliminary understanding of if it would work.  Several websites (and my mother, who apparently tried to use it once with her own film camera) noted both significant vignetting and /or difficulty getting enough light to the film.  However, I found that the crop of my T2i sensor (1.6x) was well within the vignette boundary and putting the T2i into preview mode and an ISO of about 400, I could start to get a reasonable image.
Unfortunately that is about as far as I have had the chance to use it, but I have a bunch of ideas already (moon, sailboats, airports, neighbors windows… ).  To make things even more interesting, my step father threw in a Vivitar Auto 2x Custom Tele-Converter (2x-4).  Effectively doubling the lens and adding my camera’s crop effect, thats the equivalent of a 1600mm lens! (I can see the little green men from here! 😉 ).  As soon as the weather clears and a good time and opportunity align, I’ll post some pictures and more on using the lens.
Stay tuned!
-DPH

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