The Kodak Ektanar f/2.8 Lens on the Sony A7r by Chris Peters

The Kodak Ektanar f/2.8 Lens on the Sony A7r

by Chris Peters

I recently built a custom lens adapter for the Kodak Ektanar f/2.8 Lens. If you think your readers would be interested, I would love to write this up as a user report. The Kodak Ektanar was part of the Signet 80 rangefinder system that the company produced from 1958 – 1962.

The system came with 3 lenses: a 50mm f/2.8, a 35mm f/3.5, and a 90mm f/4. More info is here:

http://photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00YOZc

And here are the three lenses mounted with the custom lens adapters on my Sony A7R. The lenses are so obscure I had to build the lens adapters on a 3D printer to use them!

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

Here are some photos I took with the lens and adapter:

A WALK THROUGH HOLLYWOOD WITH THE KODAK EKTANAR LENS

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

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29 thoughts on “The Kodak Ektanar f/2.8 Lens on the Sony A7r by Chris Peters

  1. I think these lenses were designed by Rudolf Kingslake who was the head of Optical Design at Kodak . They were designed to take advantage of Kodachrome and in some ways were more advanced than German lenses which were just beginning to be made again after the recovery of the German camera industry which was relying on pre-war designs. The Japanese had just begun but had not developed their own aesthetic yet as they were still copying German designs. These lenses have a very special and unique aesthetic , an almost cinematic quality. I can also see an overlap with Cooke lenses as Kingslake was originally English and was trained there in the 20’s before coming to the U.S

    A fascinating reference book to have is The History of the Photographic Lens by Dr Rudolf Kingslake

    Enjoy your lenses,they’re giving you beautiful results and a unique quality you won’t find anywhere else.

    You also might enjoy experimenting with Kodak Cine Ektars and Kodaks other Cine lenses

  2. it is great to have fun taken from making photos, playing with equipment and getting a mood from it.
    On the other hand the technical quality of these pictures (do not mean composition or any artistic aspects ) reminds me rather outcome from an older generation of phone camera and not a film…..
    But again, the fun factor rules here
    Regards.
    Do you think that the lost highlights seen in many places result from the glass anyhow or the camera itself?

  3. Great photos the Sony A7r was the most underrated camera of 2014 in my mind with the right lens
    Combo the a7r has a great vibe to it my very old 35 summilux works very well on this camera even if a new one comes out I won’t be giving up my a7r thanks for sharing

  4. Very very cool! The images really look vintage too. Did you do any post processing to them to give them that look? You know you’re going to have to write an article about your 3D printing setup now, right? =)

  5. re: the pictures, They certainly have a character, I guess most of them were shoot wide open?

    I like low contrast and slightly dull color (hope it is not PP), however sharpness could be better…

    1. The first one was wide open, the rest I’m pretty sure were at f/11. You are right, not the sharpest lenses out there, but that’s why they’re unique. I think they only have 3 elements and are clearly not aspherical.

  6. This is awesome!

    I have a Kodak Signet 80 system. It’s a funky camera to use, but I always thought the lenses seemed to have a little something special to them and wondered how they would hold up on digital. This is great to finally see them used on a digital camera (and a 35mm digital at that).

    Would be very interested, along with several other commenters, in the details of making your adaptor and some more insight into your thoughts about the lenses. Accompanied of course with more photos 🙂

  7. Definitely a lovely character to these pics – whether it’s you or the lens or both, I don’t know, but I like it! Now, if someone could only a print me a Voigtländer VM/E close-focus adapter – they’re completely unobtainable here in the UK! Thanks a lot, Nick

  8. amazing!! what a project! love the color and rendering of these lenses. would love to see some portrait shots with the 90 and the 50.

  9. Got an obscure lens mount you want to use on a Sony Alpha? Buy a 3D printer. :D) This is certainly a novel, and quite practical use of one. However, based on the evidence of the images seen here, these Ektanars are not up to modern lenses in every respect; they have an overall softness and lack of contrast which is contributing to a rather flat result. Considering the camera used, they also appear to lack the resolution a modern user would expect or want.

    The brand has a good reputation from days gone by but this seems to relate to their use with slide film. The natural high contrast of this type of film probably was a good marriage with the propensity for these lenses to be slightly soft, so in film use terms, their reputation was likely to be deserved. But 5 decades or so later? Probably not.

    Large format film users will most likely be familiar with a very highly regarded Kodak lens, the Ektar f7.7/203mm and this is still highly prized by them, even today. My example is a superb lens used with film, but like these Ektanars, I doubt it would translate into digital “goodness”.

    So, Chris, perhaps more a labour of love?

    1. Chris, great story, very inventive and resourceful, interesting images. I like the rendering, it does have a slightly washed out soft film like look.

      Terry, I thought the lens held up pretty well with this 36mp sensor, although the light wasn’t very challenging, behind the camera in all shots I think.

      1. Hi, Michael. It’s been a while.

        I agree. The results are very film-like and Chris has subsequently posted that he has done a bit of post processing to achieve the results he was after. They are very much reminiscent of colour film prints of that era. Oldie worldie for those wishing to escape the sometimes too clinical look of digital. T

        1. Exactly Terry! And that’s what I like about them, no matter the gear used, although the 3D bit is very interesting.

  10. First of all, kudos for your ingenious solution! I’m also interested in the process of building the adapter with a 3D printer. Would you be willing to share your STL file? Also, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the Ektanar lenses. What is it about those lenses that motivated you to try them on the A7r? I notice that there’s a slight yellowish bias to the color balance of your samples. Is this a characteristic of the Ektanars or did you create that in post?

    1. I can certainly share the STL file, but 3D printers are still in their infancy – STL files usually print slightly differently on different printers and in this case the dimensions have to be exact. I think the lenses do have a yellow bias, but so do I, I don’t like the default colors on the Sony.

  11. Very interesting article, and nice images! I just have a question…How does the sharpness of this legacy glass (in conjunction with the A7r sensor) compare to the current Sony/Zeiss offerings? If no advantage in sharpness or detail, what would the main advantage be of using this Kodak/Sony combo? Or, is this simply a photography “labor of love” project?

      1. I too, enjoy the “character” of a lens/sensor image. My particular interest is in terms of sharpness and detail retention in an image when printed large (above 11×14 inches), hence my original question. But yes, I totally agree that sharpness is only one of many criteria on which one can evaluate an image.

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