Monday, July 12, 2010

Vintage lenses on Micro Four Thirds

It's a little known fact that the Micro Four Thirds cameras, like my E-PL1, can take all sorts of lenses, even old film camera lenses. In fact, I bought my camera not knowing this. A friend recently pointed me to a few links online and I'm now officially obsessed about turning my camera into a Leicympus -- an Olympus Leica hybrid. I'll be happy with any good vintage lens though. Leica lenses can be quite expensive.

Here's the holy grail, the Leicympus:

It works using one of these M mount to Micro Four Thirds adaptors.

And here's a yummy alternative, the Panavoigt -- a Panasonic with a Voigtlander lens:

Why would anyone do such a thing, you say? Here's a couple of reasons why I want to give these things a whirl:
1. They used to make some pretty good lenses back in the day. Almost any old lens will willingly kick the ass of your modern day kit lens.
2. Old lenses have "character". Modern lenses are sharp, but photos from old lenses have a certain look to them, which many people find pleasing. I confess I am one of them.
3. Old rangefinder lenses in particular are pretty compact.
4. Focal length on micro four thirds cameras is multiplied by two. So place a 50mm f/1.1 Voigtlander for example on my Olympus E-PL1 and it magically becomes a 100mm f/1.1. That's incredibly bright for a short telephoto. A perfect portrait lens.

On the downside, focus will have to be done manually. In some cases, even selecting aperture has to be done manually. So these old lenses definitely aren't for everyday shooting.

Prices for these lenses can go upwards into the thousands of dollars range (especially the Leicas), but sometimes, you can get lucky on ebay and pick one up for a few hundred. It's hard to justify at full price, but if you can find a good bargain -- or if you have a bunch of old lenses lying around -- it sure looks like fun.

Here are a couple more -- a Panikon and an Olykon, Panasonic and Olympus cameras with Nikon lenses:

Of course, the proof is in the pictures, so head on over to this flickr page to see samples.

I got the Olyzeiss pic from here. And the rest from here.


Vanessa said...

this is what i'm trying to do too! will any ole 35mm lens work with this adapter or only certain lenses?

The Third World Nerd said...

Hi Vanessa. You'll need to find out the mount that your lens uses (F mount, C mount, M mount, R mount, etc) and get the corresponding adaptor to micro four thirds. The M39 to micro four thirds adaptor is only for screw mount lenses (also known as Leica's lens threaded mount). There's lots on ebay:

The Third World Nerd said...

Oh, and in case you missed it, here was my post on the lens and adaptor I ended up buying:
And photo samples: