In fact, before I get into this, I really should apologise for something.
When I say “sometime ago” what I actually mean is “so long ago I can’t even remember when it was”. The guys at West Yorkshire Cameras sent me this lens to play with and write about. I did play with it – briefly – and then it sat in my cupboard for years (literally). This was very rude of me, and so for my behaviour, to the guys at WYC, I apologise. I don’t really have an excuse… sorry guys…
My crapness acknowledged, I shall start again…
Sometime ago Ages ago, the guys at West Yorkshire Cameras posted a picture of a lens they “cobbled” together on Instagram. Apparently, behind the scenes they had joked about the fact that I would probably see it, likely be interested, and would even possibly get in touch with them about having a go with it. Seems I took the bait.
Not long later, I had this unusual contraption in my possession.
As you can possibly tell from the picture, the lens is off an Ilford Advocate – a series 1, at least as far as I can determine from what I have read online. This is a camera from 1949 – a very simple camera by all accounts with a Dallmeyer Anastigmat 35mm f/4.5 lens. I’d like to think the camera was broken, but maybe the savages at WYC trashed a perfectly viable camera in the process of making this lens… I wouldn’t like to speculate. Either way, they discovered that the lens housing from the camera when removed from said camera, would slot perfectly into a Minolta MD to Leica M adapter. A bit of glue later and they had a lens that focused perfectly at infinity, though of course it lacks rangefinder coupling.
In use, I can tell you it is also somewhat lacking when it comes to ergonomics. The aperture is fairly fiddly to adjust and the tiny focus control is even worse. Both are stiff too, which doesn’t help. Though really, I’m not complaining. For a bit of fun, it really is a very neat conversion, and for a 70-odd year old design that’s off what effectively amounts to a point and shoot camera that’s been bodged to fit a Leica with a mount adapter that fits by pure coincidence… well, it is what it is…
It actually didn’t take me long to get out and shoot it either. At the time, I was not long in possession of my early Pixii, and was enjoying shooting it in black and white. I mounted the lens to it, set the aperture and focus to something in the region of what I thought might work without me needing to adjust focus much, and shot away.
The Pixii and this lens actually made a really good combo. I can’t remember how much I tweaked these photos, but it wasn’t much, and I found myself very happy with the outcome! The beauty of the Pixii in this context is that it’s a aps-c format camera. This Ilford Advocate lens is 35mm, but mounted to the Pixii, it becomes the equivalent to a 50mm-ish lens. And because this basically means the camera only “sees” the centre part of the frame, the results were sharp-ish even in the corners. I enjoyed the experience shooting this weird lens on the also-slightly-weird Pixii too. Not being able to easily focus the lens forced that sense of enjoyment that I often gain from just snapping. I took the above 3 shots, possibly a couple more that weren’t worth sharing, and intended to shoot a few more. That was going to be the article: “A weird lens on a weird camera”. Unfortunately, for reasons I can’t remember, I didn’t get round to it and the lens made it into my pile of stuff that that I really need to get round to writing about.
And there it stayed for a couple of years (it really has been that long…)
That was until the other day when I had an IG message from the guys at WYC. Even before I opened the message, I knew they weren’t getting in touch to lend me something again… In fact, they have had an idea of something to do with this lens and wanted it back. So, filled with guilt, I decided to get out and shoot it. My gut instinct was to put it back on the Pixii, but then I remembered it was over in France at Pixii HQ being upgraded. Oh well, I thought, I will have to shoot it on the M10-P.
I’m glad I did too.
Shooting it on the M10-P gave me live view, and with that the ability to focus close up. It also gave me the full frame experience, and with that, a much better insight into what this lens is capable of on digital. I actually quite like the outcome too.
As the Pixii experience highlighted, it’s plenty sharp enough in the centre… well, sharp enough for a 70 year old lens at least. I’m sure today’s pixel-peepers would turn their noses right up, but not me… For my money, I like this sort of rendering. Stopped down, as I say, the centre is fine. It still seems to get blurry into the edges and corners at whatever aperture. Wide open, it’s pretty soft in the centre too, though the “glowing” look to the rendering is pretty nice I think.
The bokeh has a little bit of a swirl, theres also a bit of vignetting too – in both cases, especially wide open, though the vignette doesn’t really go away that much stopping down. You might also detect a little bit of barrel distortion (visible in the “brick wall” photo above). Surprisingly, I didn’t find too much issue with flare. I had expected a fair amount of veiling flare, but actually it faired pretty well. Though I should caveat that by saying that I didn’t end up shooting it in every possibly situation that could have caused flare. The colours are also pretty good I think.
All in all, I suppose it’s pretty much exactly what you might expect from a fairly slow wide angle lens of its era: far from perfect, or as we say in my world “lots of character”! What’s surprised me is how interesting the character is. As I say I was expecting a low contrast flare-ridden feel, but that’s not really what I found.
I actually wish I had tried the lens on the M10-P sooner. If I had given myself more time with it, I feel like I would have been able to give it a more thorough review. As it is, I feel like I have breezed over the review part of this post a little, which is a shame, as having looked at the shots in more detail, I actually quite like the rendering. Perhaps that will teach me a lesson when it comes to not taking a lens seriously just because it’s constructed in such a simple way.
What’s possibly all the more interesting about this lens is how easy it appears it could be for anyone else to make one. Of course there is the issue of finding a broken camera to take apart first, as to my surprise, the working cameras seem to go for a fair amount of money. Perhaps the people buying these cameras know more about the lens’s quality than I do.
Finally, thanks again to WYC for the (long term) loan of this contraption! If you’ve not checked out their website, you should! They always have a really decent selection of gear, prices are reasonable too, and in my experience the service they provide is solid too! In short, now go here: wycameras.com
Oh, and also follow them on IG. They clearly take what they do seriously, whilst not taking themselves too seriously!
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