35mmc just published a short post I did on this lens that I bought fairly recently, after finding it recommended by Mike Eckman on a post he contributed to at Casual Photophile (here).

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote that and I thought I would expand a little on my experience with the lens so far and also some 3D printing.

The post I discovered this on was about favourite lenses and it was an interesting read; especially as people tried to not pick the obvious (perhaps) clichéd choices and avoided the “best” just sticking with the ones they use the most and truly are favourites.  

It was Mike’s recommendation that caught my eye though and it seemed to me that this lens would fit nicely into my small tool-set.  I have been toying with buying a new lens that I could use on my digital and maybe also on a couple of my film cameras too.  This wasn’t quite what I had in mind but it just sounded very useful and might replace an Olympus lens I am thinking of parting with.

Mike’s pick was the Kilfitt-Makro Kilar D 4cm f/2.8 lens. It has a very short (2cm) macro shooting distance but also does well at normal distances and with a focal length of 40mm I figured it might make a nice portrait lens seeing as I use Micro four thirds which makes it effective 80mm.

So I did a short amount of research including checking Mike’s own site and then jumped on that auction site and had a look at what was out there.  I quickly found one that wasn’t very high in price and I decided that it was not a bad risk as many were double the price and so resale should be safe.  I’m one of those bidders that waits until the last moment to make my bid and that is what I did here; someone else outbid me though so not a win, oh well.  

A night’s sleep didn’t quell the desire for this lens and so next day I had another look.  This time I found one which was currently at a fifth of the price I was out-bid at; it was very early on in the auction but the seller had the ‘Best Offer’ option; I made an offer way over double the price he was at and about half what I was willing to pay.. he accepted!

It was the other, earlier version, of this lens (E) which ONLY focuses to 4cm and has an max aperture of 3.5 but I figured that was good enough for my purposes at least to see if I would find it useful.   At the price I paid I should hopefully get my money back should I decide to sell it.

It arrived a while later and all looked pretty good, the rubber grip on the focusing ring was missing but other than that it was in fine condition.

It came with the Exakta mount and I had already ordered a suitable adapter for my MFT Olympus which arrived a few days later.  I have to say that although the adapter fits and works absolutely fine; aesthetically the thing is awful (we’ll come back to that).

Lock down restrictions were still well in place and finding spare time has been a struggle so my options for shooting the lens somewhat limited.  I take the dog for a walk around my neighborhood twice per day and that was it’s first outing.

I love this lens!  

I have to be honest that I had been struggling with inspiration of late and I am not sure if it is the focal length or what, but I suddenly found that there were things to shoot and with the flexibility this lens offered I was not held back.  

Next day I was playing on the floor with my daughter and reached for my camera; lots of close up fun ensued. 

I used an piece of rubber from a bicycle inner-tube as a sort of repair for the missing grip and that works fine.

I had my first commission job in June (unpaid for a friend) to do their son’s first birthday cake smash photos. I used this lens for 90% of that shoot and they were very happy with the shots I took which is great.

So what do I like about this lens? Firstly it’s range of focus; 4cm to infinity give me a lot of room to get creative. The focal length when attached to my MFT gives me a nice 80mm which allows me to isolate things while not being too restrictive. Physically, the lens has a nice smooth operation and I even like that the lens glass is set well back meaning it has it’s own built in lens hood of sorts. The pictures it renders are lovely and creamy with a nice bokeh though I haven’t really explored low DoF very much yet. Stopped down it is as sharp as anything and colours come out in a way I really like. I also think it’s a nice looking lens too; ignoring the adapter issue which as I said I’ll come back to shortly.

There are a couple of things that aren’t perfect with this lens (nothing is ever 100%). Firstly, wide open it is on the soft side so you have to stay above f4 really (not unexpected). Second the aperture scale is written in tiny numbers and with my eyesight it is sometimes (especially when I am not wearing my glasses) difficult to see what I have it set to. Other than that I am finding this lens fits my photographic needs very well and I am using it all the time now.

I was still unhappy with the adapter –  as I mentioned above, the aesthetics just bug me; I don’t like the way the bare metal is revealed where the diameter steps down to the lens mount.  Why they designed it so that it get’s bigger as it gets to the lens I don’t know (the Exakta mount is smaller than the MFT).

So had a look to see what alternative adapters there were… they all had the same wide base to mount the lens to 😞

Then I stumbled on a post where someone had made an adapter useing some available parts; an Exakta extension tube plus another adapter with the addition of some painted plumbing pipe. It was apparently working and it actually looked like a fairly nice adapter.  I hadn’t considered making something like this but this seemed like a potential solution. I looked up extension tubes on ‘that site’; found a combination set which allowed a number of length options; and ordered them.  They turned out perfect as you can unscrew each part including both ends of the Exakta mounts and then each tube itself.  The thread between each tube is M44 (same as the old Miranda lenses) and so I figured that if I found the right parts I could make something pretty simply and not even need the plumbing pipe…

I took an adapter I already had for M39 (LTM) and removed the M39 thread part which was a metal ring held with grub screws.  I ordered a mount for M44 to another camera which was a little bulky but had a similar fitting metal ring and that was the part I wanted.  The idea being screw one of the extension tubes with the Exakta mount to new ring and then fit the ring to the MFT mount at the other end…

the new ring didn’t fit the MFT mount as snugly as I had hoped….

So I 3D printed a short tube that the ring would push-fit into and then would fit into the mount itself; I added a taper to get a nice smooth transition.  I now had an Exakta mount (at the same diameter of the lens, some threaded tube which then fitted into the mount to the MFT system.  Great!…


But…

It was two millimeters too long and so focus was off – damn that maths thingy!

Back to the drawing-board (design software)…

For Mark II I changed the design completely and as the tubes were not going to get me to the right length I abandoned them along with the M44 adapter.  I decided on a design that used the MFT adapter mount (without the threaded ring), the Exakta mount from the extension tubes and a single piece of 3D printed ‘pipe’ to the correct length and to fit the other two parts.  It took a few attempts to get this right as the length had to be just right to get focus but I did it.

The Exakta mount screwed tightly into one end (cutting it’s own thread) and the grub screws secured the other end to the MFT mount. I put a nice taper on the tube so it flows nicely from mount to lens.

I need to do a nicer job with the rubber band so I will see if I can make a better solution than the roughly cut old inner tube I currently have.

I am very happy now; the adapter looks great and works perfectly. I am using this lens all the time and loving the results. I may start looking for the 2.8 version but for now this works and I am taking pictures again.