That time I shot with a...

That time I adapted lenses to (rather than from) a Chaika – by Tobias Eriksson

December 26, 2019

The following endeavour was something that I thought had been tried by others, but it turns out that I think it might be something new. I recently wondered, why not adapt the Chaika which already has M39 mount to accept the nice Canon glass from my rangefinders..?

The Soviet made Chaika compact half-frame camera has a detachable lens which is popular to mod and use on digital half-frame size sensor cameras like the Fujifilm rangefinders. I had been wanting to try a Chaika 2 since learning that it has fully manual shutter control. I like half-frame cameras for the grain and film economy, and am not a fan of automatic exposure cameras.

But the one-lens option bothered me. When I learned that the flange focal distance was so close to the Leica screw mount distance something clicked in my mind.

Modding a lens to fit another system camera is not particularly difficult. Unless you want to do it by the book – which I’m not capable of. I don’t have metalworking equipment, or even an electric drill. Basically, what I use to mod a lens is mouldable clay and a mount for my preferred recipient… And the “donor” lens of course.

I’ve done some modding in the past. Some lenses for my Olympus Pen F (here, here, here and here). Also some for M39 mount (here, here, here and here. Oh, and here). I won’t mention the M42 ones just now… Anyway, once I opened the floodgates, I found the prospects of fun combinations of lens and camera body to be endless. And I’ve not even touched upon using adapters!

Anyway, I figured someone must have adjusted a Chaika to be able to mount that trove of M39 lenses. But no, I didn’t find anything on the whole world wide web. Everybody’d just plundered the Chaika for the coveted lens and left her body to rot. So I set to work. All you need is to add 1,3 mm to the mount to reach the Leica M39 system flange focal distance. Well, you need to be very precise or you won’t hit focus.

So I did a somewhat haphazard test fitting of the lens mount (which you can read more about on my blog here) and made some test exposures. Which showed that the lens wasn’t at the correct flange focal distance. I needed to adjust the lens even more, so that the mount sat closer to the body. Then I made more test exposures.

Still not in focus. More sanding and filing…

The lens I used for these photos is nicked from a Kodak Instamatic 500. It’s a Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar f/2,8 38 mm. I modded it a while ago and shared the process here on 35mmc. Since the Chaika is half-frame the Xenar image crop is equal to a 57 mm lens on a full frame camera.

The most recent (third) test roll shows that I’ve found the right flange focal distance: +1.3 mm. Here, finally, are some photographs from the interesting combination of Insta and Half:

I then couldn’t help mounting my 35mm Canon lens that is usually stuck to my Canon P on the Chaika. I finished the roll and the resulting photographs were satisfactory. I am a true fan of the grain! (And I do like the rounded corners which the Chaika gives the negatives. Not everyone’s taste, I am well aware.)

Thanks for reading! Visit my blog and my Instagram or Facebook group.

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  • Reply
    David Narbecki
    December 26, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    This is fantastic! Love the photos and the writing. I am slowly trying to modify lenses and cameras so this is good inspiration to push on, thank you!

    • Reply
      December 28, 2019 at 3:14 pm

      Thank you for your kind comment! I would be happy to inspire your creative endeavours.

  • Reply
    Alan Withington
    December 27, 2019 at 8:56 am

    I love it! The Chaika series are great cameras for character filled photography. I am impressed with the dedication to mounting lenses to the camera, something I would never have considered and the grainy shots with rounded corners are lovely to my eye. Thanks for the info – Alan

    • Reply
      December 28, 2019 at 3:15 pm

      I am happy to share my findings, and love the response!

  • Reply
    December 28, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    I like these pictures a lot. Not just because of the technical side, but also because they are lovely composed en exposed.

  • Reply
    November 10, 2020 at 5:57 pm

    thank you, you saved me

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