5 frames with...

5 frames with a Steinheil 50mm f/2.8 Cassar S lens – by Tobias Eriksson

September 26, 2018

This lens is beautiful. It’s polished steel with knurled grips on the focus and aperture rings and has the shape of a birthday cake! It’s small too, but this is a requisite for using lenses with my Pen F (with an M42 adapter).

It’s old, which is often a quality that I enjoy in… … things… most of all in cameras and associated bits and bobs.In the case of this lens, it’s probably more than 70 years old. It came attached to a deceased Edixa Flex. As far as I know the Edixa company produced SLRs as early as the mid 1930s. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

Age in lenses means coatings on the glass can be aged, if there are any at all. In the case of this lens, I’d vote for it having no coatings, hence immense ghosting, flare and the general softer focus look. I haven’t tried to clean it inside – that’s a future project. But, I like to use it nonetheless. Most of my photography is taking old looking pictures with old looking cameras.

Most of the photos are from a market in a nearby town in late afternoon on an overcast day with no direct sunlight.

Thanks for reading!
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  • Reply
    Louis Sousa
    September 26, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    The lens may perform better if the film is given more exposure. Shutter speeds are off it looks by almost 2 stops. It will be interesting to see results with a bit more light. Love the fact that you are exercising another beautiful German creation. Perhaps another try and a re-post?

    • Reply
      Tobias Eriksson
      September 27, 2018 at 7:45 pm

      Thanks! I will definitely try expose as you suggest.

  • Reply
    Michael Kay
    September 26, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    Hello. I have to take issue with your comment that no lens coatings results in ‘immense ghosting, flare and the general softer focus look’. I have several very old lenses which are uncoated, but it would be hard to tell from the pictures they produce. It matters that the lens elements are clean and it is useful to use a lens hood to reduce flare. If this is done, the images are very much like modern lenses.

    • Reply
      Tobias Eriksson
      September 27, 2018 at 7:50 pm

      Thanks for shedding light on using old lenses. I really appreciate your input, and am happy there is a way to use this may favourite lens.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2018 at 2:41 am

    There really shouldn’t be a lot of flare, unless you’re shooting right into the light.
    Also, there’s a bunch of grain, or noise, which isn’t really normal for the Olympus. Did you add that in as a effect, or where you shooting at a very high ISO?
    Not being negative at all, just curious.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2018 at 4:54 am

    I really enjoy the photos. Tons of character and something indefinable, atmospheric. Thanks.

  • Reply
    Terry B
    October 2, 2018 at 9:31 am

    Tobias, in a “good cop, bad cop” scenario, I’m sorry to report I’m going to be the “bad cop” here. If you like these results, that’s fine, because in the end photography for the most part is pleasing ourselves and what others may think is secondary. But the reason for my “bad cop” approach? Well, the images you’ve posted here are very poor, technically, and I’ve no idea how they show off the prowess of the lens you are promoting. I’d really love to see some of your other work and find out if this is a one off.
    It would help to know what film you used, as by these images it carries all the hallmarks of totally unsuitable developer/film combination and poor development technique, and/or being outdated. The images are flat, grainy and simply not sharp enough to give us any idea of what the lens could be capable of. I don’t think it helps that you are trying to manually focus on a half-frame camera either. (Cards on the table, I’m not a fan of half-frame!) Some loss of quality could also be down to the scanned image. But my points all accumulate to what most old-school film photographers, such as I, would view as technically very poor quality.
    Is my opinion tough on you? Perhaps, but not in the sense that we all need objective feedback from time to time to help us improve. Getting a decent negative is the first requirement, and it really isn’t that difficult, but it does require proper exposure and paying close attention to correct development with an appropriate developer for the film being used. As I alluded to earlier, I don’t know if this is reminiscent of your film output as a whole or not.
    Regarding Edixa, they only started making slr’s in the 1950’s. It may be that you have confused them with Exakta, who did make the first 35mm slr, the KineExakta, in the mid-1930’s.

    • Reply
      October 2, 2018 at 9:59 am

      Hi! Thanks for the coments! This is exactly the kind of feedback and questions to ponder that I need. From someone who knows his stuff. Thank you.

      • Reply
        Terry B
        October 2, 2018 at 12:01 pm

        Tobias, great to see we’re still friends, so to speak!
        I’ve checked out your blog and now I’m guessing, although fairly certain, that from your experimentation with Caffenol, the images posted here are the result of being developed in it. Would that be correct? Now I’m sure it can be fun playing around with exotic brews, but I don’t believe you’ll ever maximise the capabilities of the films/equipment you use this way. Perhaps take a step back to assess your gear and films better and develop a few in a recognised, and simple to use developer, like Kodak D76 or Ilford ID11. Both are, in fact, identical, so buy whichever is the cheaper. Expose the film at the ISO suggested by the developer and develop accordingly at the recommended 20C/68F temperature and time. Providing that you’ve exposed the film with reasonable accuracy, you will get a very good idea of what a conventional well exposed and developed negative should look like. Even by 35mm standards, you will see far greater detail, sharpness and tonal gradation than by using Caffenol and your scanned negatives will be much better, too.
        If you don’t like the conventional look, then by all means go back to Caffenol, or any other of the weirdo witches’ brews out there. :D) There’s even chutney and beetroot varieties as well. Are these people taking the p..s or what?

        • Reply
          Tobias Eriksson
          October 2, 2018 at 2:39 pm

          Thanks for keeping the dialogue going! I won’t get into the caffenol pros and cons in this case. The post concerns issues about the lens’s age and fogging issues mostly. The rest of my issues with these photos are down to my (lack of) editing (knowledge). But of course as you are right to address other factors are important to bear in mind.
          Until I’ve had the lens cleaned internally I will over expose to counter the dirt issue.
          I will see what I can report in the future. Perhaps more readers of the blog are ready to contribute on this topic?

  • Reply
    Charlier Luc
    August 27, 2020 at 8:44 am

    Hello, I just happen to have received a simil ar lens yesterday. I’m a lover of Steinheil lenses, and also of triplets, as a rule of thumb. I have exactly the same experience as yours, with a few splendid shots when conditions are right, a few pictures that look nice after heavy editing, and quite a lot of abominable ones. There was a dent in the filter-ring, which I fixed and hence, I can use (and I do) a high quality UV filter and a lens-shade. Of course, it also means that the lens took a tumble , at least once.
    BUT : upon second look, there is a faintly visible « layer » of fungus on the inner surface of the frontal lens (at least, this is my impression) and I believe – strongly – that the cause of this whimsical attitude from one shot to another is to be found here.
    One day, I will clean the optics and I think the pictures will greatly improve !

    • Reply
      August 27, 2020 at 10:28 am

      Hi Luc! Since I wrote the article I had the lens cleaned. There was a haze inside the lens, but now it is clear. I highly recommend that your do it! Thank you for your comment!

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