Shooting outdoor flash portraits with a 50 year old M42 lens on a modern mirrorless body

Jan 25, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Shooting outdoor flash portraits with a 50 year old M42 lens on a modern mirrorless body

Jan 25, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of M42 and other older manual focus lenses. I’ve been using them for years with my DSLRs. They have imperfections, suffered from very random quality control, that give each one a slightly unique look and feel. They often have characteristics that can’t be reproduced with modern “perfect” glass and post production. So, whenever I see my favourite photographers also using them, I get interested.

This time, Texas based portrait photographer, Francisco Joel Hernandez has discovered the Russian-made Jupiter 9. Out of all the M42 lenses I own personally, this is tied with the Helios 44-2 as a favourite. We’ve featured the Jupiter 9 before, but Joel’s video shows a couple of neat tricks for working with this lens on location. The big one dealing with the flare this lens is often prone to.

YouTube video

Of course, for some, the flare is the attraction itself. Although, at times it can be a little over the top, and you may want to tame things down. Francisco fashioned his own lens hood from a rolled up tube of black paper, which was then simply taped over the end. I’ve done similar myself, using pieces of Cinefoil as flags to prevent the sun or other light sources from hitting the front element.

Abandoning his usual array of Canon gear, Francisco uses the lens on his Sony A6500. The 1.5x crop factor this gives this lens a field of view similar to that which you might get with a 135mm lens with a full frame sensor.

Manual focusing with these lenses can sometimes be a pain. For mirrorless users, though, who are familiar with seeing an LCD or EVF, it’s fairly straight forward. Francisco uses the zoom feature to get right in on his subject to see when they’re sharp.

I shoot mine with DSLRs. Using a modern optical viewfinder with these, especially if I’m using a crop body, is often near impossible. I’m always just slightly out. So, I ended up getting split prism focusing screens for several of my Nikon DSLRs to make my manual focus life much easier.

One tip later on in the video, that you might miss if you’re not watching closely, is the use of the assistant’s hand to provide a little extra shade on the subject’s face.

Often, on the edges of columns and walls like this, a subject’s features can just creep past the front and catch a little more sunlight than you’d like. If you don’t have assistants with you, you can always just use more small pieces of black card or Cinefoil taped to light stands to create flags. But using an assistant makes life much easier.

I’ve also used assistants on location before to help prevent flaring, standing between the light source that’s backlighting my subject and the lens. This helps to get that nice glow around the subject, without losing contrast due to the sun shining straight into your lens.

It certainly seems to have all come together nicely for Francisco, though, as these shots from the day show.

It’s nice to see the old lenses getting some love lately. Many of them can found for bargain prices, and most will with modern cameras using a simple adapter. My own collection of them is always growing, and I don’t see it stopping any time soon. How about you?

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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9 responses to “Shooting outdoor flash portraits with a 50 year old M42 lens on a modern mirrorless body”

  1. catlett Avatar
    catlett

    It’s OK I guess but it just feels like another flavor of gear obsession to me and someone trying to be different by doing the same things we have seen dozens of times. Personally I don’t get the point of just trying to make things harder for no real wow in the end product. The images aren’t better they’re just different.

    1. Francisco Hernandez Avatar
      Francisco Hernandez

      No doubt this was done too many times, but this was *my* first time trying out an old lens and only my second shoot with an 85mm. I use my 135L a lot. And it definitely is a “flavor” of gear obsession. Why is that so wrong? It’s an interesting lens and other lenses like it intrigue me. It’s not like I’m taking money out of your wallet, =)

      1. Daniel Avatar
        Daniel

        Do YOU Francisco, keep your photography exciting to YOU w/ a change of gear from time to time. Someone else sounds burned out! That’s their problem, not yours!!

      2. catlett Avatar
        catlett

        I didn’t say it is so wrong. That’s your own interpretation. Oversensitive much? Sorry … didn’t gush over it like I guess you were expecting. I didn’t say it was bad. Didn’t say it was wrong. Didn’t say you were taking money out of my wallet. If you are going to do something that has been done a lot of times and post an article about it expecting gushing you might need a thicker skin.

        1. Francisco Joel Hernandez Avatar
          Francisco Joel Hernandez

          lol

    2. Polly Avatar
      Polly

      Jealous that YOUR work didn’t get featured?

      1. catlett Avatar
        catlett

        The guy wrote an article and submitted it to a blog. Even you can do it. He was looking for some kind of external justification that it is amazing and he is annoyed that it didn’t turn out that way. There is nothing more to this. The photos are OK, not bad, not great. The lens isn’t exhibiting anything special. Nothing to see here. If it were the first or even one of the first dozen articles about somebody amazed they can use an old lens on a modern camera maybe there would be something interesting about this but people have been doing it and publishing it for over a decade.

        1. Kaouthia Avatar
          Kaouthia

          Actually, he didn’t. He made a video and put it up on YouTube. I found the video, thought it had a couple of neat tips in it (like the DIY lens hood, and using assistants to help block errant sun), and wrote a post about it.

  2. Kyle Rayner Avatar
    Kyle Rayner

    It’s ok and all, however how much photoshop was needed on the girl really? Am I the only one who noticed that her face looks plastic? It’s too much.