Fields of Gold and Lens Fungus

The other evening, one of my daughters and I took a quick trip down the road to some local fields of barley that has finally reached its lovely golden phase.  When the setting sun washes these fields in golden light, it really makes for a scene worth pulling over to look at for a few minutes.

Sony A7R w/ Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 | f/8, iso 100
Sony A7R w/ Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 | f/8, iso 100

Earlier that same day, I had rummaged through the local camera shop’s cardboard box of old Minolta goodies and came across three lenses I felt worth having:

Rokkor-PG 58mm f/1.4 ($50)- the internal elements had some fungus on them and lots of dust and haze.  After tearing it down and cleaning everything, it looks immaculate.  The body of the lens had hardly a sign of wear and tear and now it has the glass to match it.

Minolta MC(ii) Rokkor 135mm f/2.8 ($30) – Fungus and dust galore and the built-in lens hood was really loose.  The cause of the loose hood was the felt strips that line the inside of the hood that contacts the lens barrel being flattened out with packed-in dust.  I washed the hood under running water and used some scrubbing to restore it to it’s normal height.  Now the hood smoothly moves back and forth without all the wobble.  After cleaning the lens inside and out, it looks awesome!

Minolta MD Rokkor 135mm f/3.5 ($20) – Excellent condition requiring only a basic cleaning.  I bought the f/3.5 version of this lens because I had read that the slower, more modern, MD lenses had better coatings on the glass which could improve the image quality.  For $20, it was worth having to try it out, and it is a fraction of the size and weight of the f/2.8 version.  Much better for travel.

I brought these lenses, along with some others, to test them out while shooting these barley fields.

This next photo I shot with the ancient Minolta Rokkor-QD 30cm f/5.6 that I posted about before.  Thanks to some excellent resources on the web, I was able to track down the part number for the original metal hood that came with that lens. I found one on eBay from a seller in Hiroshima, Japan.  Now, having the hood, I’m getting even better results.  It’s not the fastest or sharpest but what it lacks, it more than makes up for in lightness, uniqueness, and image character.  If you look at the first image (14mm) in this post, you’ll see this same house in the back of the field.  My shooting distance was the same for this next shot but at 300mm.  In spite of the effect of heat, the house rendered beautifully sharp!  In the full-size (36MP) image, I can very clearly read the house number beside the door under the front porch.  In one of the frames, I could even make out two dragonflies that were hovering just above the house.

Sony A7R w/ Rokkor-QD 30cm f/5.6 | f/11, iso 100 | Tripod
Sony A7R w/ Rokkor-QD 30cm f/5.6 | f/11, iso 100 | Tripod

Using the excellent Rokinon 14mm f/2.8, I got this shot of the sky and barley.  I love the contrast of the gold against blue.  For this photo, I used a 10 second timer and chunked the camera on its back onto the ground.

Sony A7R w/ Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 | f/8, iso 100
Sony A7R w/ Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 | f/8, iso 100

So uh… yeah.  Look at this next photo.  The 58mm f/1.4 lives up to its reputation for making some killer, buttery bokeh!  The lens weighs a ton but man you can just tell that no corners were cut in it’s manufacturing.  The further I tore it down to clean it, the more impressed I was at the precision and quality of machining that went into it.  They really don’t make lenses like it anymore.  For collection and preservation purposes, I still would like to get the faster 58mm f/1.2 but it’s getting hard to find and when it can be found it normally has a pretty hefty price tag.  For now though, I can be very satisfied with the “slower” f/1.4 version.  Just FYI, the vignette seen in the image below was added in post.

Sony A7R w/ MC Rokkor-PF 58mm f/1.4 | f/2.8, iso 100
Sony A7R w/ MC Rokkor-PF 58mm f/1.4 | f/2.8, iso 100

The next two photos I made with that bargain-of-the-century $15 MD Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8 (normally sells for near ~$500) that I posted about a few weeks ago.

This old wooden pole had intertwined vines and aluminum wire wrapped around it in such a way that I found it rather appealing.  In the unscaled original, the oxidation on the wire is clearly visible.  That 24mm is incredibly sharp!

Sony A7R w/ MD Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8 | f/8, iso 100
Sony A7R w/ MD Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8 | f/8, iso 100

Shooting straight into the sun, the 24mm handled it exceptionally well.

Sony A7R w/ MD Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8 | f/8, iso 100
Sony A7R w/ MD Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8 | f/8, iso 100

In a later post, I’ll include some samples from both of the 135mm lenses.  I may even do a comparison shootout between them.  Does the more modern coatings of the MD version help it out-perform its faster, heavier, older brother?

I want to end this post by sharing with you what I learned this week about lens fungus.  Prior to these three latest lens purchases, I’ve not had to remove fungus from a lens simply because I would not buy a lens that had it.  I made an exception this time due to the low cost of such neat lenses.  After tearing down the first lens and using good quality lens cleaners, I could not remove even a hint of the fungus.  I thought that maybe the glass was ruined by it.  A bit of web searching revealed that a 50/50 mixture of Hydrogen Peroxide and household Ammonia does the trick.  After a 60 second soaking in this solution, I used a cotton ball to wipe the fungus off the lens.  When I say wipe, I mean a simple wipe and the fungus just disappeared!  I then washed the lens element with dish soap and rinsed it off with lots of running water.  I then used lens cleaner to give it the final cleanup before reinstalling the element back into its lens group.  Easy!  On all three lenses, the majority of the fungus was on the back of the front element group, forward of the aperture assembly.  On the 58mm, it also had it on the front and back of the rear-most element group closest to the lens mount.

Knowing now how to deal with it, I’m definitely a lot more open to buying a lens that has fungus.  I plan to buy a super cheap lens with the worst case of lens fungus I can find just so I can see how repairable it is.  I want to establish some sort of baseline so that when I’m out lens hunting I can make an informed decision on choosing a lower-cost lens due to such a thing.  Most people, would immediately pass up a lens that had fungus even when it could be had for exceptionally less money.  Based on my recent experience, at least a moderate amount of fungus is completely removable!  The only special tools you’ll need to tear down these Minoltas is an adjustable lens spanner wrench ($15 on Amazon), and decent set of crosstip jeweler’s screwdrivers.




5 thoughts on “Fields of Gold and Lens Fungus

  1. Hey Philip,

    Sorry for the delay in response. I was traveling to Malaysia. I’m now in Kuala Lumpur.

    I brought the MD Rokkor 135mm f/3.5 with me and had a chance to use it quite a bit the other day. I’ll be posting in a few days what I’ve shot so far. On this trip I have with me that 135mm as well as the Rokkor-x 24mm f/2.8 and the MD 35-70mm f/3.5. Each of the lenses have performed brilliantly. Can’t wait to share the photos!


  2. I always enjoy going back and reading some of your earlier blogs. I met you within the last year when you purchased an Olympus OM 35 f2.8 lens from me. I am very interested in your comments on lens fungus. I have an Olympus OM 100 f2.8 lens with fungus. It is too nice a lens to throw out but I do not know if I have the skills to disassemble without breaking something. I would pay someone to do the work but I’m afraid the expense would be greater than the lens worth. Your thoughts?


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