I’ve decided to have one of my compact camera lenses converted to Leica thread mount by MS-Optical in Japan. Since Miyazaki, the name behind MS-Optical, doesn’t offer the service to anyone outside of Japan, it is only possible to have a lens converted by him with the help of a third party in Japan, in this case Japan Camera Hunter.
Rather than wait until the end of the project to document the whole process, I thoughts I’d document it in parts. This first part being about how I came to choose the lens to be converted…
I’d been thinking about getting a 35mm Leica thread mount lens to use on my Leica iiia. The main goal was to find something small. I really like my iiia as a pocket camera and so didn’t want anything that’s going to project from the body too much. I’d spent a lot of time reading around online, and really only come up with the Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 as a possibility.
The Voigtlander seemed like quite an attractive option until I remembered having seen an MS-Optical lens conversion not all that long ago. It was of a 28mm lens of some sort, but it was tiny. I couldn’t remember where I’d seen it, but since I know Bellamy (off of JCH) has a positive working relationship with MS I thought I’d get in touch with him and get his thoughts.
A bit of too and fro with Bellamy and I worked out the lens conversion I’d seen was a Nikon 28mm lens off an AF-600. Of course 28mm isn’t any good to me, I already have a 28 I’m happy with. I asked Bellamy if MS would do the same work to an Olympus mju-ii lens, the answer was unfortunately negative, and whilst Bellamy did come back to me with some options, none were as small as I wanted. I did a bit more research online to get some more ideas and I found reference to someone having a Yashica T4 lens converted (scroll to the bottom). I asked Bellamy, and of course the answer was that I could too have this conversion done.
It was nagging on my mind a bit though, these conversions aren’t cheap – they aren’t all that expensive considering that a man in Japan is going to hand make a rangefinder coupled lens from a donor compact camera – but it’s still a few quid. Because of this, I wanted to make the right choice, so before I committed to anything I had a bit of a head scratch about other lenses I might like converted instead.
Going back through my compact camera reviews there was one camera that instantly jumped out at me, the Ricoh FF90. A bit of a sleeper of a camera, perhaps because by most people’s standards it’s as ugly as sin and not what you might call pocketable, but it does have a fantastic lens. It’s also a 35mm, not to mention the fact that it’s a f/2.8 lens rather than the f/3.5 lens of the Yashica.
So, I emailed Bellamy, and whilst the answer wasn’t a resounding yes, since it wasn’t mentioned on the list of lenses he has that MS won’t convert, he said if I send him the camera he would have the possibility investigated.
Of course, the next problem was where to get the lens. I actually have two Ricoh ff90s, the original and the later ‘super’, both working fine. It seemed a little reckless to have a camera killed off just for the sake of extracting its lens. So on to eBay I went looking for a donor non-working camera. I found one in the states, the owner of it even said he was happy to ship it to Japan for me. I contacted Bellamy, he said this was fine, but that I should get a detailed description of the lens. Apparently MS doesn’t clean lenses, he just strips them from the body of the camera and mounts them as they are. I thought this a bit odd to start with, but thinking about it, I suppose he is just maintaining the lenses character as it was when he was sent it…?
One way or another, it seemed only sensible to use one of my cameras as a donor. So just yesterday I got it back off a mate who’d borrowed it, and in the next day or so I’m going to get it shipped to Japan.
Before I do though…
I’m interested to hear which you would choose? Would you choose the well regarded Zeiss lens from the Yashica, or the faster lens from the Ricoh? I must admit, one of the big draws to having the Ricoh lens converted is that I will have something that as far as I know would be completely unique…
Answer the poll and/or comment below …