M42 Lenses on a Canon EOS

Cameras are an expensive hobby. An addictive, expensive hobby. You are always looking out for some new equipment for your camera and the one I always go for are lenses. But being the cheapskate that I am, I started looking for cheaper lenses to play with.  Like most people being cheap, it started on eBay. I was looking for lenses there and came across something advertised as “M42 Lens for Canons” for very, very cheap. So I did some research and wasn’t able to come up with much, but I took the plunge and got one anyway. This blog entry is an attempt to share the information with you, although I’m going to regret doing this I think, as it’s already hard enough to buy the lenses on eBay with the limited competition there is.

As of last week, I have two M42 lenses: a 28mm f2.8 (unbranded) and a Sigma 80-200mm f3.6. Here they are in comparison to the stock-standard Canon EOS EF-S lenses, the 18-55mm IS and the 55-250mm IS:

The Sigma’s on the right, the two Canon EF-S are in the middle and the 28mm is on the right. In front of them all is a little black ring; the M42-to-EF adaptor. That little piece of metal is what allows me to use these lenses on my Canon EOS.

 

That’s it. There’s the 42 mm pitch on one side, where the M42 lens screws in, and the other side (topmost in the picture) just clicks into your camera like any normal lens. This adpater cost me $4.95 on eBay, only because I went for a more expensive metal one. That’s the beauty of M42 lenses on Canons: nearly all of them need no special glass to be used, just a simple adapter to fit the mounting. And because of their smaller screw size, they fit in perfectly. Apparently a few M42 lenses will get too close to the mirror in EOS cameras, but I’ve yet to have a problem with it. Just be careful and check your lens before using it.

Of course, being such a cheap adpater, there’s no electronics used. It’s all manual baby. That includes the zoom, the focus and the F-stop. The camera helps you with nothing. For those not used to shooting outside of an auto-mode on their cameras, this will be a steep learning curve. But if you’ve got a DSLR, you should be stepping outside of the auto and into the creative zones anyway.

Time to compare. For this blog entry I’m going to compare my M42 lenses to the standard Canon EF-S lenses set at about the same focal length. All pictures of the equipment was taken on my 60D with my 50mm f1.8 lens, while all of the comparison pictures were taken on a Canon 40D set to manual mode. For all of the comparisons I endeavoured to keep the same camera settings for ISO, shutter and aperture (which was always set to the lowest possible).

I’ve had the 28mm for a few months now, and purchased it for about $50 for usage as a concert lens. It’s done me well. The Sigma 80-200mm was bought on a whim for only $6.40! It came with a leather case worth more than that I’d say. I only got it this week, so this comparison was the first time I’ve used it really.

Let’s begin:

Sigma 80-200 mm

The first thing anyone will notice is the zoom. Unlike normal Canon lenses where you twist left and right to zoom, you pull the lens up and down the barrel. It took me a while to realize this. The rubber grip is used to move up and down, and then spun around to focus. Different, but actually much easier to use. You don’t have to release your hand. The aperture is set at the dial closest to the camera.

The following photos compare the Sigma to my EF-S 55-250 mm. All shots are taken at ISO 1250, early in the night, in my poorly lit dining room with a shutter of 1/25 s. Aperture is set to as low as possible at the focal length. Canon lens first, Sigma second.

80mm:

100mm:

(whoops, realized just now I focused on different objects)

135mm:

200mm:

Well on first look, the Sigma lens seems to be a bit more washed out with the colours and maybe a little less sharp. I’d probably blame the sharpness on me though, as focusing manual is not the easiest thing in the world on a big zoom, even when it’s on a tripod. But heck, for $6.40, this lens is a great deal. And given it’s extremely rugged build (rubber grip and metal body) and leather padded case, it’ll probably become my hiking lens now.

Throughout the testing I fiddled with the f-stop a bit, but there wasn’t too noticable of a change, unlike when using a Canon EF-S lens. They did get slightly darker, but not too much.

28mm f2.8

As I said earlier, I’ve had this lens for a few months now. I bought it for a wide angle lens to complement my 50mm f1.8 I used for gigs (back before I bought my Tamron 17-50mm f2.8). It came with a lens cap that says “KMart” on it, so I’m a bit dubious about the make (there’s also no brand on it). Although the manual focus can be a bit difficult at gigs, given it’s wide angle I didn’t have to fiddle too  much. I’ve even gotten some good pictures with it in the past:

That’s the Gun Runners from Melbourne, playing at the Zoo back in April 2011. In testing this lens at home today, I set the camera to ISO 1000, a shutter speed of 1/40s and of course the lowest f-stop each lens could reach. Canon first, M42 second.

Not surpising, the M42 lens has a much brighter image, given the quicker f2.8 of the lens over what was about f4.5 on the Canon lens. I love this lens. For the $50 I spent, it’s been a great investment, especially for low light. My only complaint is that the f-stop selector doesn’t seem to work and it appears to be stuck on f2.8. But then again, given the performance of the Sigma M42 lens as well, maybe it’s just the M42 lens style on the EOS cameras? Neither of them did much with the f-stop.

Conclusion

If you’re after a cheap lens and know enough about your camera to work in advanced creative modes with absolutely no automatic features, this is surely the way to go. You can get a lot more bang for your buck, and a heck of a lot more lenses. I’m just afraid to share this with everyone, in case  the competition for the lenses heats up. There’s normally just one or two on eBay at a time, but try your best to get one, the competition is less fierce than trying to buy a normal Canon lens. Just don’t take any I’m bidding on!

As the sun was setting, I took my cliche sunset photos off my balcony on my 60D using both the Sigma and the 28mm lens to see what else I could do with them. Check some out:

200mm:

80mm:

28mm:

28mm:

7 Comments

  1. Posted December 5, 2011 at 11:41 am | #

    well done sir.

    • Posted March 4, 2012 at 8:36 pm | #

      Hey Kai, why would you choose 4 rsandatd primes (I consider the Nikon a rsandatd as well, even if it’s 58mm, anyway, we all know rsandatd for a full frame sensor is 43mm)?My choice would rather be something like:Carl Zeiss Planar 36.5mm ƒ/0.7 (well, indeed it is the 50mm ƒ/0.7 Kai wants with a converter)Nikkor Fisheye 6mm ƒ/2.8Sigma 200-500mm ƒ/2.8 (with the 2x extender off course)Zeiss LWZ.2 15,5-45mm T2.6Schneider-Kreuznach PC-TS 90mm Makro-Symmar ƒ/4.0Of course I like other lenses, and if I were asked my realistic top 5, the list would be rather different, but these are the one that are in the forget these lenses exist as you’ll never get enough money to buy them category.

  2. Posted February 25, 2012 at 1:33 pm | #

    whoah this blog is fantastic i love reading your articles. Keep up the good work! You know, many people are hunting around for this information, you could aid them greatly.

    • Posted June 13, 2012 at 8:44 am | #

      Wider than?The kit 18mm is pretty wide. Getting any wider than that will get exvsneipe quick.One thing you might try is take multiple shots of the area you want to cover and use the free photo stitch software to stitch all the photos together.The key with this technique is to make sure the exposure is the same for all the photos. Find the desired exposure, then switch the camera to Manuel mode and set the exposure. Put the camera on a tripod and take multiple photos of the area you want. You don’t just have to do this in “panorama”, you can also take photos above and below, and when you stictch the photos together you can crop it.. This will essentially simulate an extreme “wide” angle shot for free. Just a thoughtReferences :

  3. Posted March 21, 2013 at 2:43 am | #

    nice post.added to my bookmarks cheers

  4. Posted April 30, 2013 at 7:27 am | #

    Thanks , I’ve recently been looking for information approximately this topic for ages and yours is the best I’ve came upon till now.

  5. Posted January 10, 2014 at 6:31 am | #

    Have you any solutions for taking donates? I`d like to give a dollar

One Trackback

  1. […] were taken on the 85mm f1.8 (which is becoming my most used lens) or my cheap manual 135mm f2.8 (an M42 mount, which I’ve added to my collection). #gallery-1 { margin: auto; } #gallery-1 .gallery-item { […]

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