Coin photography: When two lenses love each other very much....

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by SuperDave, May 3, 2016.

  1. SuperDave

    SuperDave Free the Cartwheels!

    ....they procreate. :)


    So I snagged a lot of lenses appropriate to our needs as bellows coin photographers from Ebay. All but one are "problem" lenses, with internal haze or dust requiring disassembly/cleaning. It's a process I've been wanting to learn anyway, and when this lot came up on Ebay (from a seller local to me), I jumped on it.

    Top row is a pair of El Nikkor 75mm's flanking a 150mm El Nikkor. The latter is upside down, because I'm dumb. :) The dented one is the "good" lens of the bunch.

    Second row starts with two lenses having an interesting story. Max Ponder and John Best fled Germany in the 1930's when Hitler rose to power, and after the war sold photographic equipment in the US via agreements with German and Japanese manufacturers. In 1964, they chose to come up with their own brand name and start selling bespoke equipment. They chose the name "Vivitar" for their business, and as they say the rest is history. On the left is a 75mm f/3.5 P&B Anastigmat, and next to it a 50mm f/3.5. Near as I can tell, they are two of the only three lenses (there is also a 150mm) they ever branded without the Vivitar name. Next to them is a Wollensak 74mm f/4.5 Graphic Raptar.

    The bottom row is a Schneider Componon 50mm (the little brother to my Componon-S) and a Tominon 50mm f/4.5. This latter is going to rmpsrpms, so it won't be involved in what follows. Instead, it'll probably just be used to shoot stupendous stacked images we're all jealous of. :)

    In posts to follow I will be documenting the process of disassembly and cleaning, and before/after imagery using them to see what improvements are made in the lens' quality for coin imagery. I don't expect much of the P&B's for our purposes, but both contain a lot of glass because they're far heavier than any of the other lenses aside the 150. Although the Wollensak is not reputed well as an enlarger, it is apparently a rather nice "taking" lens with terrific bokeh (background blur) and down the road I'm going to explore that aspect. The Schneider should hold its' own in this crowd rather easily, possibly excepting the Nikons.

    The 75mm El Nikkors are the single most desirable lenses in their (under $50 used) price class, and should be capable of quality satisfactory to the most demanding among us. One or the other of them is going to become my "daily" bellows shooting lens, as the Componon-S needs to come off the bellows to shoot Crown-sized coins and the 75mm won't.

    There. Yet_another pan in the fire. :D
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  3. Paul M.

    Paul M. Well-Known Member

    Cleaning precision optics is easy. First, obtain a class 10000 clean room... :p

    In all seriousness, I used to work for a company that made and used world-class infrared optics. We cleaned them with isopropol alcohol using an applicator that was essentially a Q-tip. I'm not sure how much of the technique would transfer over to camera optics.
  4. fiddlehead

    fiddlehead Well-Known Member

    Neat stuff! What sort of camera body will you be using those on?
  5. SuperDave

    SuperDave Free the Cartwheels!

    They're going on my Rebel XS, mentioned in a previous thread. I employ a Vivitar Triple Track bellows in the system, mounted on a microscope stand custom modified for my usage case by CT member rmpsrpms. Like so (in a previous iteration):

    Paul M. likes this.
  6. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Knowing that lenses come in configurations tending to a certain camera, how do you compensate for the 'fit' Dave?
    Paul M. likes this.
  7. Vess1

    Vess1 CT SP VIP

    Dumb question but what is the bellows supposed to do for it?

    Sent from my XT1093 using Tapatalk
    Paul M. likes this.
  8. SuperDave

    SuperDave Free the Cartwheels!

    The bellows is how one varies magnification. The greater the length, the greater the magnification. This infinite variability beats the heck out of machined spacers. With the right lens, I can shoot the full coin image and then extend the bellows for major detail magnification in five seconds.

    At normal mounting spacing - factoring the adapter required to match lens to camera - most duplicating lenses do not achieve their "rated" (where they're best optically) magnification. They were designed for use with bellows.
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  9. SuperDave

    SuperDave Free the Cartwheels!

    Adapters. Lots of adapters. :)

    Only a very few thread sizes - M39, M42, C-Mount - cover the vast majority of these lenses. Of the group above, only the Wollensak and the El Nikkor 150mm are not M39.
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  10. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    I applaud your buying these lenses and fitting them to your needs Dave. You are an inspiration to us all.........heck, I pay big money for Nikon stuff. You show a vast alternative to that ........
    Paul M. likes this.
  11. Dave Waterstraat

    Dave Waterstraat Well-Known Member

    This is great Dave! I'm looking forward to your future posts.
  12. SuperDave

    SuperDave Free the Cartwheels!

    7 of those 8 remain with me. I have three others besides at the moment - a 75mm El Omegar, 75mm Accura, and a 50mm Schneider Componon-S. Between all of them, I've a total of $165 invested, more than a third of that total being the Schneider alone. The Rebel XS cost me $84 plus shipping.

    Coin photography does not have to be expensive.
    green18, Paul M. and fiddlehead like this.
  13. rmpsrpms

    rmpsrpms Lincoln Maniac

    Dave...I missed this post when it was fresh back in May. I found it doing one of my occasional searches of the forums for photography posts. What caught my eye was the 74mm Graphic Raptar. I am extremely interested in knowing how it performs. Have you done any testing of it?

    Also of interest is the 75mm P&B Anastigmat. One of the members on another forum posted images using a Fujimoto 75mm anastigmat that are really nice. I have an Accura branded lens that appears to be the same, and need to test it. The P&B looks to be the same lens as these. If so, this might be a real sleeper lens.
  14. SuperDave

    SuperDave Free the Cartwheels!

    I've still not found appropriate adapters for the Wollensak or the 135mm. I've used all the others, and my impression of the P&B's - loose barrels and all, both of them - are kinda....good.

    It's after dark. Let me do a quick comparo.
  15. SuperDave

    SuperDave Free the Cartwheels!

    OK. Common: Camera; ambient light; all f/5.6; all ISO200. Different: Magnification, 50 vs. 75mm; light placement to minimize glare from the slab; exposures from 1/13 to 1/25. Only postprocessing was 50% downsizing to posting size plus an 800x800 100% crop of roughly the same area of each, all saved at 80% Quality in the Gimp as per my usual habit.

    Componon-S 50mm control shot:



    P&B 50mm - I struggled to get this one to retain contrast against the slab reflection; it's far thinner than the others and has the smallest-diameter front element by a similar margin. I quit trying after ten exposures; the Schneider took 3 while I figured out the angle against the slab, and the other two lenses only two apiece.



    P&B 75mm:



    Second control, El Nikkor 75mm:



    In my opinion the P&B 75 quite holds its' own in this company.
    Paul M. likes this.
  16. Brian Calvert

    Brian Calvert Active Member

    Good stuff for sure, love this type of work. I dont know all these lenses or cameras, like the guy wrote above, worked on microscopes for years. I know the cleaning process well, as well as I could make it off the shelf. For years, they just replaced the Nikon scopes.
    This was at M.A. Ford mfg. in Vero Beach Florida.. Scopes used to check the tol. of small drill bits. When I say small, I am talking about drill bits with diameters as low as .035... That was our smallest... 30 MPH broke wind broke it (carbide).. .used in the circuit board industry...
    Anyway, Isoprop... alcohol for sure... But not sure about camera lenses and reading I found out there are some coating that cannot tolerate it, so be careful... Good tools are important of course, a great table top vice, rubber inserts, small tools, jewelers tools... good tweezer kit and so on..

    Watch for left handed threads...
    Also be careful with Caustic cleaners on aluminum... They dont mix well.. I remember an electrical contact cleaner back in the late 80s that when sprayed on aluminum it would instantly start to deteriorate..

    I also used the lint free wipes... 500 in a box, cheap, but worked well and you can wipe, wipe, wipe until you have what you want... Probably need another very clean scope to check your lenses before assembling.

    Good luck
  17. rmpsrpms

    rmpsrpms Lincoln Maniac

    The Componon-S 50mm looks excellent, as expected. The P&B 75 looks very good too.

    For the Wollensak, can you do a "tape job" adapter, adding masking tape layers until it comes up to the size of some other adapter you own? I do this all the time. In fact I have some lenses that I still don't have adapters for. One of them is a Wollensak 88mm Micro-Raptar, an amazing lens. I'm hoping your 74mm is in this same class.
  18. benveniste

    benveniste Type Type

    When two lenses love each other very much...
    ... they couple.

    In this case, we have an 80-200mm f/4 zoom coupled to a 50mm f/1.8. Both performers are over 18 years of age :).


    And when they do, things can get blown all out of proportion, such as FDR's ear.


    Note that the above crop is reduced by 50%. Here's what the entire frame looks like; magnification is just over 4x.

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