Leica SMC-A

In the middle of Copenhagen there is a rather posh photo store. Often, when I pass by, I see a small mountain of Holgas in the shop window, sitting between Leicas and Linhofs. FYI the Holga is a Chinese toy camera, known for its cheap plastic lens, false light, heavy vignetting and unpredictable colour rendering – all contributing to its cult-status in some circles.

Another gadget in somewhat the same ballpark is the Lensbaby. It’s a lens, made up by a single piece of glass in a plastic tube, intended for mounting on a SLR. By squeezing the plastic tube, you can not only adjust focus, but also shift the axis relative to the sensor. The latter means that while some part of the picture will be in focus, other parts even in the same plane will be completely unsharp.

I think the cult of creating photos with technically inferior and/or unpredictable equipment is a little too much. However, I can relate to the fascination of not giving a damn about technical perfection and just start playing with pictures. I have considered buying a Lensbaby, but its a little to expensive for something, that might just be a short lived fancy. So, I decided to build my own trash lens. Of a certain class though: no less than a Leica.

At first I stripped most of the inner parts from an old Pentax SMC-A zoom optic. Then I took the optic from a Leica slide projector, and stuffed it into the remains of the SMC and secured it with some foam rubber. The result is a Leica Hektor with a Pentax K mount. It can be focused by sliding the Hektor back and forth inside the SMC – and the focal plane can be tilted much like the Lensbaby.

The last effect is used for this portrait: one eye is (almost) sharp while the other is completely unsharp, even though they are in the same plane. Since the original photo had dull colours and low contrast, I decided to desaturate it but raise the contrast.

If you don’t tilt the lens, it’s just not very sharp and have a very small depth of field – and a very blurry bokeh. The photo of the puppies has had the colours saturated quite a bit in post processing.

As a true photo-geek I had a couple of hours of fun from de- and re-constructing these old lenses. Does the result have any practical use? I doubt it….

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