Homemade Lenses!

As an obsessive amateur photographer I have a lot of old and broken camera equipment sitting around and doing nothing. I’ve already started using my old SLR lenses on my Samsung NX100 and I started to wonder if there was a way I could make use of the broken equipment, after all I do not have the expertise to repair it properly so why not make use of it.

So I purchased a couple of NX lens mounts from eBay, two for less than a fiver including postage so still on a budget here, and started looking at what I had sitting around. I setled on trying to find a way to use a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm on which the aperture ring had stopped working and the lens from an old Beirette that was bought for me as a gift but on which the film advance mechanism had given up the ghost.

Dismantling the Tessar was pretty straightforward, a few screws undone and the whole thing fell to pieces. Fortunately all the lens elements were held together in a single rigid unit – this also held the aperture itself which could be adjusted by a sliding switch on the side (the internal mechanism that moved it had broken). Getting the lens assembly off the Beirette took a bit more effort and meant the built in shutter wouldn’t fire but I didn’t need that anyway, as long as the lens elements and aperture were ok I was happy.

Firstly the Beirette’s lens, a 45mm Meritar. Using the simple method of holding it in front of the camera while no lens was mounted, I used the image on the screen to guesstimate the size of mount needed. Some superglue, a small M42 macro ring, the lens assemble and the NX mount soon resulted in a new NX mount lens (and some time spent unglueing my fingers).

With the Tessar I decided to try and be a bit more ambitious, I would manufacture my own tilt-shift type of lens – more lensbaby in style that the ludicrously expensive professional products. I’ve seen a few of these online and people generally use flexible rubber hosing to form the lens barrel but I thought that would be too easy and I would try and be clever (always a mistake). One trip to the pound shop later and I had some wire and some black rubberised sticky tape. The plan was to make some wire rings and tape them all together spaced out just right to give me a flexible tube that would hold it’s shape well. Unfortunately the plan was put into practice by me, so I ended up with a slightly wonky, unstable tube that looks awful. I decided to use it anyway, at least I could find out if the idea worked and then I could go get some proper tubing and redo it properly later.

This is what the two lenses looked like:

Meritar_0 Tessar_0

And here are a couple of test shots, taken in Avery Hill Park in Eltham, from a not very sunny day:



Meritar_2 Meritar_1



Tessar_1 Tessar_2


Check Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/archerctb/) for more examples.


Ok, the Meritar doesn’t quite focus to infinity – my guesstimation of the mount was not quite right but it will be fine for close up work and most things except landscapes or very large objects. The Tessa worked remarkably well, definitely worth me putting it into a better tube sometime. Now I need to see what else I can modify like this – new lenses for pennies? That can only be a good addition to my budget photography plan!


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