The Prodigal Altar Boy

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Russian Lens Fetish Part 2 - My First Russian Lens

My First Russian Lens
With the XL1 Solutions PL adapter in hand, the next move was to get a suitable lens.  The adapter was less than the original list price, but not cheap, so budget was also a concern for the initial lens purchase.  I did not want to go completely bargain basement, but I also did not want to lay out an exorbitant amount of cash in case the results with the adapter were less than optimal.  With that in mind, I scoured the auctions at the time to find prices ranged from under $100 to thousands of dollars for PL mount lenses.  I found a Jupiter 11 lens the owner had adapted to PL mount.  The Jupiter 11 is not a movie lens, per se, this one was PL mount and after some bargaining, the price was right. 
Online auctions have shrunk our world and I am always amazed how things I could only dream of during the Cold War (like prime Russian optics) are now only a mouse click away.  As futuristic as the implications of international e-commerce may seem, the tried and true rules of the market place since Roman times (caveat emptor comes to mind) still apply.  While that first lens was not all that I expected, the value of that purchase as a proof of concept for the Russian lens theory outweighed any disappointment I may have initially felt.  What I learned with that purchase would shape my future purchases.
“You get what you pay for.”  Always keep that saw in mind when buying anything online.  Again, no regrets with this initial purchase, but when the lens arrived from Ukraine, the packaging reinforced that online auctions with overseas sellers is not for the faint of heart.  As primitive as the packaging was, to the seller’s credit, it did the job and the lens arrived in the condition described in the listing, no worse for the trip.  As an aside, I gave the seller good feedback, and did not obsess over the packaging (yes, I know I’m STILL talking about it).
After taking the lens out and inspecting it, I broke out the PL adapter and imagined a short trip from popping my Russian treasure onto the PL adapter to regaling in cinema-like images in my XL1s viewfinder.  Did I mention online buying is not for the faint of heart?  Does caveat emptor bear repeating? 
Online commerce, especially when it comes to discontinued products, is not for the faint of heart.  While the XL1Solutions adapter got good reviews, and the site (when it was up) was a wealth of information, when they shuttered the doors, the majority of customer service, to include instructions on how to use the adapter, evaporated with their web presence.  Looking at the adapter and recalling what I’d read on the site, the adapter was milled from a solid piece of stainless steel.  Based on that, I assumed the adapter was a single piece and that is where the trouble started.
When I tried to mount the Russian lens to the adapter, I observed the PL flange for the lens would not mate with the corresponding flange on the rim of the adapter.  After more than a few frustrating moments, I realized the adapter’s front flange actually screws on and might come out far enough to accommodate the PL flange on the lens.  Problem solved, right?
Not so fast, there, partner.  With the front flange extended as far as possible, the back of the lens will not seat evenly at the back of the adapter to allow mounting.  So close, and yet so far.  Looking at the lens, I notice that what the previous owner used to adapt the lens to PL mount used something an L-shaped bracket to attach the lens to the PL adapter and that protrusion was keeping the lens from sitting squarely in the XL to PL mount adapter. 
Repeat after me, “Used photo equipment from Russia is not for the faint of heart.”  After some trepidation, I removed the bracket from the lens.  The resulting configuration of the lens let me (finally) attach the lens to the PL adapter.  The tradeoff is that the focusing ring is disabled and the only way to focus the lens is by rotating the front of the lens.  While focusing from the front (the lens has an attached lens hood) was not an optimal configuration, it was usable for this proof of concept. 
NEXT UP:  Screen Test for the Jupiter 11