A Yard Sale Find

Yay! I’m back home from my recent trip to Egypt.  With my wife due any day now to deliver the newest addition to our family, I couldn’t have asked for better timing.  While we wait for this baby to pop out and join our clan, I’ve had some time to squander on lens hunting.  A local craigslist post revealed that one of the camera shops in town was having a yard sale to clear out all of their old stuff in preparation for moving to a new location.  I wasn’t about to pass up on a camera shop yard sale!  Before going, I learned that this was the second weekend in a row that they’ve done this.   As such, I wasn’t expecting to find much since most of the good stuff would have already been picked over.  Sadly, my guess proved mostly true.  The only interesting lens I found, a Mamiya/Sekor 55mm f/1.4, was attached to an old 35mm Mamiya 500TL camera.  The lens was in decent shape with only a few dings in an aft dress ring which was causing a bind in the focus action.  The lens/camera combo was only 10 bucks.  After a quick search on an app I use for researching old lenses, I decided this would be a low risk purchase.  I don’t want the focus of this post to be on another lens restoration so I’ll spare you the details of that.  In summary: an afternoon of repairing, cleaning, and lubricating brought new life to this old beauty.

* The following photos of the lens were made using a Russian Zenit Helios 44M-6 58mm f/2 I purchased in Egypt.  A separate post is in the works that will feature this lens and a MIR-1 37mm f/2.8.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Zenit Helios 44M-6 58mm f/2
Sony A7RmkII w/ Zenit Helios 44M-6 58mm f/2

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Zenit Helios 44M-6 58mm f/2
Sony A7RmkII w/ Zenit Helios 44M-6 58mm f/2

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Zenit Helios 44M-6 58mm f/2
Sony A7RmkII w/ Zenit Helios 44M-6 58mm f/2

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Zenit Helios 44M-6 58mm f/2
Sony A7RmkII w/ Zenit Helios 44M-6 58mm f/2

While shooting photos of the lens for this post, Chester (aka The Rhinosapuss) decided that I required his second-opinion on the quality of my repair.  He approved of the work and commented on the perfect condition of the lens’ 6-bladed aperture.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Zenit Helios 44M-6 58mm f/2
Sony A7RmkII w/ Zenit Helios 44M-6 58mm f/2

Inside and out, this is a beautifully made all-metal and glass lens.  Considering how filthy, and dusty it was when I bought it, and the fact it had no lens cap and was stored in a box full of junk, the glass was in excellent condition with only a bit of dust particles settled on the inside.  A thorough cleaning revealed that it had managed to avoid taking any scratches to the front or rear elements.

Anyway…  All of that stuff is well and good but the most important thing is what kind of image a lens can make.  I’ve got some mint condition lenses that are optical turds when compared to some of my beat-up looking junkers.  Aesthetics are nice and all but I’ve learned not to judge a book by its cover.

Let’s give this $10 lens a chance to show us what it can do.

Shot at f/1.4

Sony A7RmkII w/ Auto Mamiya / Sekor 55mm f/1.4
Sony A7RmkII w/ Auto Mamiya / Sekor 55mm f/1.4

Shot at f/1.4

Sony A7RmkII w/ Auto Mamiya / Sekor 55mm f/1.4
Sony A7RmkII w/ Auto Mamiya / Sekor 55mm f/1.4

Shot at f/1.4

Sony A7RmkII w/ Auto Mamiya / Sekor 55mm f/1.4
Sony A7RmkII w/ Auto Mamiya / Sekor 55mm f/1.4

Shot at f/2

Sony A7RmkII w/ Auto Mamiya / Sekor 55mm f/1.4
Sony A7RmkII w/ Auto Mamiya / Sekor 55mm f/1.4

Shot at f/1.4

Sony A7RmkII w/ Auto Mamiya / Sekor 55mm f/1.4
Sony A7RmkII w/ Auto Mamiya / Sekor 55mm f/1.4

Shot at f/1.4

Sony A7RmkII w/ Auto Mamiya / Sekor 55mm f/1.4
Sony A7RmkII w/ Auto Mamiya / Sekor 55mm f/1.4

Shot at f/2

Sony A7RmkII w/ Auto Mamiya / Sekor 55mm f/1.4
Sony A7RmkII w/ Auto Mamiya / Sekor 55mm f/1.4

Shot at f/1.4

Sony A7RmkII w/ Auto Mamiya / Sekor 55mm f/1.4
Sony A7RmkII w/ Auto Mamiya / Sekor 55mm f/1.4

COME ON!!!??? REALLY???  From a $10 lens!?!  I am really, truly impressed.  What matters to me more than anything else is whether or not a lens produces a special look; this Mamiya/Sekor 55mm has it in spades.  The one thing that stands out the most to me is that superb color and contrast.  It looks and feels a lot like a Rokkor: nicely saturated, a tad warm, and great contrast when used away from full frontal lighting.

Without further evaluation, I’m not prepared to say it’s better than the Rokkor 58mm f/1.2 or f/1.4 but I can say for sure that it’s up there with them.  I’ve done some searching on eBay to see at what sort of price range this Mamiya/Sekor lens is typically offered.  I found them to be between $80-$125.  This puts it well below the price of the Rokkor 58mm f/1.2 and slightly above the f/1.4 variant.  I happened to score the Mamiya for much less than its current value but, having now seen what it is capable of, I would gladly pay the higher end of the price range to get this lens.

For giggles, I pulled a few similar lens from the cabinet and shot a set of side-by-sides for size and aesthetic comparisons.

From left to right:  Minolta MC Rokkor-PG 58mm f/1.2, Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 58mm f/1.4, Zenit MC Helios 44M-6 58mm f/2, and Mamiya/Sekor 55mm f/1.4.

Sony A7RmkII w/ MIR-1 37mm f/2.8
Sony A7RmkII w/ MIR-1 37mm f/2.8

The Rokkor 58mm f/1.4 and the Mamiya 55mm f/1.4 are nearly identical in length and diameter.  Whatever weight difference that may exist is negligible in hand.  The Helios 58mm f/2 is a wee bit smaller and lighter than both the f/1.4 lenses.  The Rokkor 58mm f/1.2 is a tank in comparison, both in size and weight, to the other three lenses.  All of its brilliant, thoriated glass comes at a cost in heft.

Sony A7RmkII w/ MIR-1 37mm f/2.8
Sony A7RmkII w/ MIR-1 37mm f/2.8

Both of the Rokkors and Mamiya have the same #30 grease applied to a smooth and clean helicoid.  The Mamiya has a thicker feel than either of the Rokkors while being slightly slicker than the Helios.  That isn’t to say the Mamiya is stiff but it does offer a bit more resistance to rotating the focus ring.  Worth mentioning too is the amount rotation it takes to go from infinity to close-focus.  For the Mamiya it’s nearly 330 degrees of rotation.  The other lenses require only ~180 degrees.  This can be a good thing for really precise control over your focus but if you’re chasing kids around the yard – like I was – it can be a proper task for your fingers to keep up with them when you have so much ring to turn.

A final note I’ll mention is the minimum focusing distance:  Both of the Minoltas are just a tad less than 2 feet while the Mamiya and Zenit will allow you to get about 6 inches closer to your subject.

I hope you’ve found tonight’s post to be informative – if not interesting.  For you fellow mirrorless junkies, I hope to inspire you to look to the past for a vast selection of great lenses capable of producing excellent results while costing very little in comparison to the modern (often sterile) offerings.

Check back soon for a new post about some Russian lenses I bought at an antique shop in Cairo, Egypt.

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25 thoughts on “A Yard Sale Find

  1. Tom,

    Has the newest one arrived yet? Boy/Girl? How many is that now? They are all gorgeous!!!! Hope you and the family are doing well.

    Dana

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  2. Hi Dana!

    The baby is still in the oven. He’s due tomorrow but we’ll see if he got that memo. Some of them try to hang on in there for an extra week or two. He makes #10, and my 3rd son.
    We’re all doing well, just staying busy with work and school. How have you been?

    Cheers,

    Tom

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  3. Would be interesting if he made it yet today- a new little hobgoblin!!
    Hey, Tom- I don’t think it’s the lenses…. I think you just have absolutely gorgeous children!
    Wes

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I went to the same yard sale and pick up two “interesting” lenses. Now you didn’t miss any bargain/hunt during the first week, because it was pretty much the same box, no dusty Rokkor waiting a new home. Nice job with the Mamiya/Sekor 55mm f/1.4.

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  5. Hi Simon. I’m glad to know I didn’t miss anything special at that first sale. I imagined tables of Rokkors selling for $5 each.
    I’m glad to know at least one local has come across outfor30.

    Cheers,

    Tom

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  6. Thanks Wes! We’re still waiting for little Wes to be born. Thought it was happening the other night but it just fizzled out. Hopefully over the weekend we’ll have a new little one to hold and love.

    All the best, my friend.

    Tom

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  7. I just found your blog and I used to buy the tools I need to try to repair old lenses. Thanks a lot! Just one question, what app do you use to research old lenses?

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  8. Hi Roy,

    The simple answer to your question is no. You could make it work with a complicated mount conversion which requires removal of the original Mamiya lens mount and custom fitment of a Nikon F-mount, taken from a Nikon lens. The reason this is not as straightforward as it is adapting the Mamiya to the Sony Mirrorless E-mount is because of the Flange-Focal-Distance (FFD). In short, this is the distance from the film/sensor plane to the back of the lens. The very short FFD of the Sony allows room for a spacer with mixed mounts that has been dimensioned to the original FFD of the Mamiya lens-to-camera combination. If you were to add an adapter between the Nikon body and Mamiya lens, you would only ever be able to focus on objects very near to the front of the lens – the same effect as an extension tube for macro work.
    Not the best news but I hope at least the answer I’ve provided is helpful to you.

    Cheers,

    Tom

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  9. thanks a lot ….. and that you answered my question!! Thanks.

    A. you may kindly go through the following link which is explaining that cannon 5d is used with 50mm f 1.2 Mamiya. how he made this possible?

    B. will you please tell your experience with Russian lenses – Zenith,helios bokeh and jupiter ? I am interested in painting element in photographs . I read somewhere these lenses good for it.

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  10. Mamiya NC1000 SLR Sekor 50mm f1.7 lens 35mm…………………..
    can I use this lens in my d 700 Fx, kindly answer this.

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  11. Dear Sir,

    I request a help from you ..

    I am interested in buying -PENTACON BOKEH MONSTER 135MM F2.8 M42 mount for my d 700 fx ……please suggest an adapter for this. some adapter is coming with infinity compensation glass, some without…you please suggest a brand and model that can suits you.

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  12. Hi Roy,

    I’ve done some looking into this for you and have found favorable reviews of the Fotodiox mount adapter. This is just a plain metal adapter which does not include a glass infinity correction lens. A 135mm lens can be expected to focus from around 18 inches to a far distance of 30 feet. This is what I would consider a usable range for that focal length. Good for portraits, medium size wildlife, still life, etc. I have no experience with infinity correcting glass and I would be hesitant to add any additional lens to the mix as it likely will have a negative impact on image quality. I can’t say for sure but I can’t think of any example where similar corrective (close-focus) lenses don’t cost you in image quality. Anyway, I hope this information helps you out.

    Cheers,

    Tom

    Like

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