It’s not much of a secret that I’m a big fan of M42 lenses, especially for things like video or timelapse. I’ve got a few dozen of them that I use when I’m after a particular look and feel that would take a lot of work to achieve with more modern glass.
But occasionally I see a video or photos using an M42 lens that I haven’t come across before. In this case, it’s a Soligor 400mm f/6.3 lens. A lens that filmmaker Victor Bart managed to pick up for the princely sum of €2. In this video, he shows it off on the 2x crop Panasonic GH5, for an equivalent field of view to full frame 800mm.
M42 and other lenses of a similar age, generally aren’t the best when it comes to technical quality and consistency. They’ll often be sharp where it counts, but they often come with an overall softness, contrast issues, colour accuracy problems, and various other challenges. But sometimes you find a lens that gives you a look that you just really like.
The Soligor 400mm f/6.3 lens has a very simple construction with only 4 elements in 2 groups, and a minimum focus distance of 22 feet (6.5m). So, it’s not like most of your modern long telephoto primes. That minimum focus distance is going to make it impractical for some things you might want to shoot with a lens this long, but very suitable for things like sports or wildlife – at least as far as photography goes.
For filmmaking, too, it can make for a great wildlife and sports lens, but it can also be really useful for those long observational and establishing shots to help add context to your story. Victor shows off a number of such shots in the video above, and they have a nice effect.
Victor says that for what the lens costs (typically up to about $25), it’s worth getting one to have a play with, but it wouldn’t be his first choice for paid production work.