5 frames with...

5 frames with a Bessaflex and CZJ Flektogon 2.4/35mm – by Son Pham


When I say I use a Flektogon about 95% of the time, many people raise their eye-brows especially here in London. The QC standard for these lenses was inconsistent, and good copies like mine can cost quite a bit for an M42 lens.

Back in the old days, countries in the Communist bloc often exchanged help not only with supplies but also in the form of human resources. Many Vietnamese ended up in East Germany as part of these pacts: a small number came to study, the vast majority came to work in different industries. My father was one of the latter – he worked in a shoe factory near Magdeburg for a few years before returning to Vietnam when the Berlin Wall collapsed. These East German glasses remind me of his stories about the good old days.

As you can see, I am a very nostalgic person and the way this lens renders images complements that perfectly. Normally I’d roam London streets and the Underground, but for this story, I would like to share 5 frames I shot with it from my last trip to Hanoi during Lunar New Year. The film I used was Kodak Ektar 100 (which is such an incredible film stock!)

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  • Avatar
    BONNIN (Jean-François)
    February 8, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    Splendid lens + fine M42 camera + a talented photographer = a good article.
    I myself own a CZJ Pancolar 50mm and a CZJ Sonnar 135 mm.
    How do you like the Bessaflex ?

    • Avatar
      Son Pham
      February 8, 2018 at 6:09 pm


      Thank you for the comment, I’m flattered 😀 I love the Bessaflex, I think it has one of the best viewfinders I have ever used.

      P.S.: I also had the Pancolar before, it is a great lens!

  • Avatar
    Art Tafil
    February 9, 2018 at 12:20 am

    All of your photos are beautiful. The main problem with the Soviet Bloc cameras and lenses is the quality control. If the technician building the camera hadn’t had too much Vodka before work you had a chance of at least fair quality.
    I’ve had numerous Kiev cameras including a late KM. It uses Pentax K mount lenses so the glass is great. When I got the camera, brand new in the box from Ukraine I was impressed. That was until I opened the back of the camera. Up until then I had never seen a plastic multi-blade vertical shutter AND plastic film tails and pressure plate! I haven’t used it yet but I’m looking forward to doing so. Keep up the great work/

    • Avatar
      Son Pham
      February 9, 2018 at 11:48 am

      Thanks, Art! Please do share your experience with that camera when you get to use it, that sounds very interesting!

      If the technician building the camera hadn’t had too much Vodka before work you had a chance of at least fair quality

      Haha yes! However, to be fair, wasn’t the material scarcity partially at fault for the inconsistent quality? It is a bit of a shame, really. When one does manage to find good copies of the later cameras/lenses, they are very compelling tools that are often overlooked.

  • Avatar
    Ken Hindle-May
    February 9, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    I’ve just got my first negs back from my Mir-1b, which is often called a Flektogon copy, so it’s interesting to compare. I actually don’t think it is a copy – I’ve checked and the Mir is truly a 37mm focal length – but you can see why a lot of people might’ve thought it was. There are definite similarities in the way the two lenses render – the Flek looks to hold up better in the corners and the saturation is more naturalistic, where it can be a bit too punchy on the Mir.

    • Avatar
      Son Pham
      February 9, 2018 at 5:59 pm

      Hi Ken!

      Glad to see lots of Soviet glass love over here. To the best of my knowledge, I believe the Mir-1B has a design of its own and is not a Flektogon copy as you have pointed out. I think somehow this misconception has something to do with eBay sellers trying to up their asking price by name-dropping the Flektogon in their Soviet wide-angle lenses offerings (I am more than glad to be proved wrong on this front though if anybody knows!)

      Do you have a place where you post the results from those negs? I am quite curious to see them!

  • Avatar
    Karl Valentin
    February 15, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    I used/tried some of the east-german or sovijet cameras and just have to say I hated the handling
    the inperfection of build and the problems while working withe them.
    Never was satisfield with the bokeh or colors of the lenses shooting wide open on color slide film
    like Kodachrome 64 (location) or Agfa RSX 100 (studio).

    • Avatar
      Son Pham
      February 18, 2018 at 10:13 pm

      Hi Karl! Thanks for writing in. Sorry I’ve been travelling and only seen your comment now.

      I do agree with you that these lenses don’t have the best bokeh (in the M42 world, I think the Super Takumar equivalent are superior in this respect). Fortunately, what I normally shoot does not place so much emphasis on it as you can probably see. Regarding the colours, I can’t say much for those Kodakchrome and Agfa RSX since I actually never used them before, but I can certainly vouch for Ektar/Portra/Tri-X on my Flektogon.

      What is it about the build of these lenses that you don’t like? I’m curious because they are built like a tank, and I love their handling (perhaps it is a matter of personal preference?)


  • Avatar
    January 4, 2019 at 6:10 am

    Good read!

    Random question.
    Would there be any issues getting a M42 to Nikon mount for the Bessaflex?
    Is there any focus or cropping?


    • Avatar
      Hamish Gill
      January 4, 2019 at 11:21 am

      You need an adapter with an extra element in it – the flangeback distance of Nikon cameras is greater than that of M42

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