The photos in this post were chosen as they show off the qualities of the lenses, not because of their artistic merit, so... back off, okay?!
In 1932, Kodak introduced Standard 8mm cine film. It was really just re-perforated 16mm film, and had a few quirks, the most notable was that midway through shooting you’d flip the reel around to shoot on the other side of the film. It was a smart way of doubling the economy of shooting 16mm, which was out of the reach of most amateurs.
This film was slow, with ISO 10-25 being the most popular, like most film in the 30’s, but that meant it had decent grain and a lot of definition could be captured across those tiny 8mm frames. The low ISO meant that the lenses would need to open wide to let as much light in as possible, but that was quite easy as the lenses were so small.
These fast and tiny lenses were called “D mount”, but were pretty useless on 35mm cameras, as the image they produce is so tiny.
Shift forward eighty-something years and digital camera sensors come in all shapes and sizes. D mount adaptors exist for most digital mirrorless cameras, but they’re particularly useful on the Pentax Q7, which has a sensor size of roughly… 8mm. (Older Pentax Q cameras have a smaller sensor, so some cropping will occur… and, well, they’re not as good).
As these lenses have been pretty redundant for the past few decades, most of them are crazy cheap. I bought 3 different ones to try out and had change from £20, for the lot. I was then gifted a 4th.
What did I get? (focal lengths are obviously a LOT shorter)
-Yashica 13mm, f1.4 standard prime lens.
-Wirgin 1 1/2” Telephoto, f1.9.
-Kern Palliar 5mm, wide angle, f1.9
-Taylor, Taylor and Hobson, 13mm, f2.5 standard prime (tiny!)
What should you look out for?
Wide apertures is where it’s at for these lenses. I have a 13mm (50mm standard frame equivalent) 1.4, and a 1.9 telephoto. Given how small the glass in these lenses is often their construction is pretty simple, and that gives you some amazing swirly bokeh similar to antique portrait lenses. Disregard the brands you know. The only brand I’ve heard of from the lenses I have is Yashica, and “known” brands like canon seem to drive up the price. Quite a lot of these lenses don’t have a manual focus ring, I’m supposing because focus was originally on the cameras they were intended for. It’s not necessarily a problem as they’ll probably focus to infinity screwed fully into digital adaptor, and you can focus closer by unscrewing them slightly.
What should I use these lenses for?
Seriously? Everything. The swirly bokeh works amazingly well for portraits, and most of these lenses close to f22, meaning they’re perfect for sun flares in the autumn and spring, and for that weird “almost pinhole” look. They were also designed for video, so excel at moving image.
Now I’ve bought a small collection, I’m ready for the rest of you to give these great lenses a try and drive the market prices up!