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Close, but no banana


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Close, but no banana

15 Mar 2021 8:20AM   Views : 581 Unique : 412


A doubly-appropriate title, it turns out. My idea was to write about the shortcuts that don’t quite turn out right, inspired by a set of manual close-up tubes I bought a few months ago, and used today. And yes, they got me close, and everything functioned. But there’s a but.

They are nicely made and finished – no real beef there, and I was impressed until the first time I used them. And then I found an inherent design flaw, and two practical drawbacks. The design flaw is that – to keep the cost down – there are three tubes with simple screw fittings, and two relatively-chunky bayonet mounts. More about this later.

Let’s keep this in perspective: the tubes I bought cost under £15, and allow extreme closeups, giving a total extension of around 50mm. A pair of Kenko tubes that give a total extension of 26mm cost £100 more, but provide the electronic contacts to preserve automatic functions with the camera’s focus and diaphragm control. With the cheap tubes, you don’t get that.

Practical issue number 1: this means that you can’t control the aperture of FE mount electronic lenses. There’s no mechanical stop-down option, so you are stuck with whatever aperture the lens rests at, and very possibly with the focus setting as it was when disconnected from the camera. A modern lens is completely fly-by-wire. So, in practice, usable only with all-manual lenses. Not too much of an issue for me, as I have plenty of them, but a complete showstopper for most people.

Practical issue number 2: the screw fittings between the components can get quite tight, especially as you’re tightening them up as you bayonet the lens to the camera body. And, as all the relevant parts are light aluminium alloy, they can jam together and be hard to remove. There’s no problem with the bayonet mounts, which are chrome-plated, but you may spend some time struggling to get bits apart, as gripping them tightly can distort them enough to jam harder. A couple of pieces of chamois leather or some other grippy material can be a help.

And the chunky bayonet mounts – the minimum extension, without any of the three tubes mounted is around 15mm, so that a more wideangle lens with limited focus travel may have a gap in the focus range. Again, not a problem for serious close-ups, as you’d be using a longer-focus lens.

It makes the Meike pair of tubes (similar to the Kenko set, but unashamedly made in China) seem good value at £25 or less…


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
15 Mar 2021 8:26AM
As so often happens, cheap and cheerful requires care and guile...
chase Avatar
chase Plus
18 2.5k 682 England
15 Mar 2021 9:38AM
I am all for cheap and cheerful but....there is probably a strong possibility of damage to the camera fittings when you try ...carefully... to get them off, a risk which is not for me.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
15 Mar 2021 9:59AM
I've read many dire warnings about excessively-tight fittings, and have occasionally had lenses that were reluctant to come off bodies - but these tubes don't present any risk. Both bayonet fittings operate as they should - it's only the fit between the different parts of the tube set that are a problem!
cooky Avatar
cooky Plus
19 7 11 United Kingdom
15 Mar 2021 5:37PM
I remember such things when I used my brother's Zenit E camera...many,many years ago. I also remember meccano, equally fiddly!

Kath Smile
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
15 Mar 2021 8:09PM
The problems I had with those rings were something that never afflicted anything Zenith! They were as solid as a T-34 tank, and didn't bend when you gripped them!

Meccano - now, you're talking!
pablophotographer Avatar
pablophotographer 12 2.2k 450
17 Mar 2021 1:46AM

Quote:The problems I had with those rings were something that never afflicted anything Zenith! They were as solid as a T-34 tank, and didn't bend when you gripped them!

Meccano - now, you're talking!

I can't remember ever having a shaken frame with the Zenit and the Helios 52mm lens. It was that heavy that it did not suffer any shutter or mirror shake. LOL

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