The $8 lens. What a piece of junk…maybe, not so much! By Kevin Shorter

The $8 lens. What a piece of junk…maybe, not so much!

The ACCURA SUPERTEL   Tc, 1:2.8, f=135mm

By Kevin Shorter

To start with, the exterior doesn’t look too bad. That’s one thing that attracted me to it when I found it on ebay. These don’t pop up very often and I had been looking for one. When this one showed up with a ‘Buy Me’ as is of $8, I knew it would have lots of issues belied by it’s relatively ok look. Frankly, I thought if nothing else, being a Zebra and well proportioned, it would look good sitting on the shelf. So I bought it. And I got just about what I expected. A lens that from several feet away looks pretty OK. When actually its a very fubar’d lens. So much so that its sat on my shelf for many months.

Then yesterday for some reason it caught my eye and I thought, why not try and shoot something with it anyway!

So what issues does this thing have?

Starting with looking through the front element. As you can see its filthy and very discolored. I’ve tried to clean this up a bit more since this pic but most of what you see here is stuck down hard. As for the discoloration, the dark amber coloration. I’m sure this like most coated lenses had some coloration even when new. However I’m fairly certain it wasn’t this nasty dark and dull amber color.

We’ll call this strike one against usability of this lens!

Now for strike two which is a fairly severe issue!

Look at the aperture blades. This lens is noted for having a beautiful set of 16 aperture blades. But here, at least two of the blades are hung up causing a nasty tear drop pattern.

Strike three!

And probably the most deadly of all if one desires any kind of normal use from this lens.

The focus ring is hard stuck at 7.75′. And believe me, I’ve cranked on this thing pretty hard. Right now under current conditions, there’s no turning the focus ring. Since there’s a slim possibility that the lubricant may have hardened and frozen the ring, I am considering putting it in the oven at about 120 degrees for a short bit and then see if that might free things up. Not much to lose on this account.

Strike Four!

Check out the rear element. Looks like balsam separation to me and possibly a dose of fungus in there as well.

And while its pretty crazy to think about using a lens in this condition. Because its fairly rare to find. Meaning this may be the only copy of one of these I’ll ever get to make an image with. I decided why not just try it out anyway as a preset macro focus lens. That’s about all you could do except maybe frame something at 7.75′ away and I figured that using it as a macro might mask some of the nasty deficiencies it had.

 

 

So check out the results!

f5.6 .. or there abouts. That’s what the aperture ring was set to but then remember the misshapen aperture pictured earlier.

f5.6, 1/400th sec, ISO 500

f5.6, 1/160th sec, ISO 1000

f5.6, 1/160th sec, ISO 1000

f5.6, 1/500th sec, ISO 1000

So what do you think?

Frankly, I was pretty blown away by these results. And while I’m sure that using this in this kind of macro mode shooting does mask much of its ills. I was still pretty surprised at how sharp the images are. That, the nice color and very pleasing bokeh tells me to keep looking and see if I can find another copy of this lens in overall usable condition!

Kevin

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23 thoughts on “The $8 lens. What a piece of junk…maybe, not so much! By Kevin Shorter

  1. I’m in photo equipment retail for almost 40 years. I’ve seen, really, very few demonstrably poor lenses ….. in actual use. One can measure and declare one “bad” compared to another, but, most could outperform the available films. The entire process — lens, film, processing, printing or projection — all introduced levels of image quality effect.
    Now, with digital … same game. Is your sensor to printer or computer screen process up to showing how well even a “junk” lens performs?
    A decade( or so … ) ago, I used a combination of a Zorkii 4K and a handful of odd lenses from Accura, Acro etc. None said Leica. Couldn’t tell the difference on slide film .. and I was a Kodachrome 25 fan.

  2. It is possible that the yellow color may be caused by aged Lanthanum Glass that is mildly radioactive. bnphoto.org has a page about it. Other web sites have the same information. Apparently fire halls have geiger counters and will check an item for you. Thanks for sharing the beautiful photographs.

  3. Fantastic. I am also blown away. While reading your description of the Downs of this lens I expected crappy results to be honest. Excellent images!!

  4. It’s not the camera, it’s not even the crappy lens. It’s all about the photographer using available tools in a good and creative way. Sometime the limitations narrow the focus of the photographer.

    Remind me again why we need the latest sensor or L-lens for a month or two of income.

    Excellent article and photos.

  5. And then you go and find the good condition one, and try it, and the results are much worse. Life is sometimes like that. Thanks for posting, fun to read and watch.

    1. I can draw parallels to that TurvyT! I’m as big into red wine as I am cameras and lenses and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve partaken of one bottle of a particular wine, thought it was excellent, jumped into a whole case … only to later wonder ‘what was I thinking’.

      Yes, life IS like that some times!

  6. My comment, as is often the case for some unknown reason, is still awaiting moderation? Or didn’t even make it through moderation?

    1. This system is automated and holds many comments if it thinks there are trolls or spam or whatever. So I manually approve every day, those that are held. It’s either this or no commenting at all.

  7. There’s some really cheap jewels out there. A couple of years ago, I got a mint Vivitar 28mm, f2.5 for virtually nothing. Adapted to my Canon APS-C bodies, it equals about a 45mm, a useful length.
    This thing takes excellent pictures! Pretty sharp, (especially stopped down a bit), nice colours and beautiful bokeh. It’s built like a tank and will probably last as long as I do.

    1. Thanks for your comment Harry.

      Vivitar marketed some pretty good stuff if you selected right. Back in the day .. and that would be the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s when I shot lots of film, I had several Vivitar lenses. One that I still have today is almost completely unheralded and forgotten. I did recently find one site that has started mentioning it with brief specs. Its the Vivitar 35-70mm 1:2.8-3.8 one touch zoom. I purchased this lens new in the early 80’s and have had it ever since. Mine was originally for Canon FD and recently I’ve adapted it to my Sony A7RII. Here’s a sample of what this lens can still do after all these years .. and on digital no less.

      http://www.shorterimage.com/Landscapes/State-Parks/i-9fQjT36/A

      It just boggles my mind that lenses as old as these can still hold up and produce not only compelling images, but uniquely compelling when compared to today’s ultra clean digital lenses.

      Take care …

  8. You could try to see how far you can take it apart without forgetting how to put it back, cleaning it along the way. You might be able to fix some problems, or not. Even if you ruin it, it’s still just $8 for having some educational fun.

    1. Hey BdV. I’ve was seriously thinking that way when last night I discovered that Spiratone also marketed this same lens and I found one that looks to be in ok shape so I bought it. Now in about a week we’ll see if its in fully working order and proof it out a bit. My expectations for general shooting is not high. However I do a lot of macro work and my small sample I created here appears to indicate nice color and bokeh when used on extension tubes for macro. So I’ll see more soon.

      Also, I believe this lens was probably marketed under several brand names, not just Accura and Spiratone … all on the low end side mind you. There’s a Vivitar from the 60’s I think that looks a bit like this Accura, not a zebra but with the aperture and preset rings in the same location. I wonder what company actually made this thing though?

      1. I really have no idea about brands or what company made these, I just know there are many that came from the same factory. So now you have 2? Then you can safely try to take out at least the front and back element to give them a good cleaning. I have done it before, and I was very glad I did. Just be gentle on the coating. With the back element removed you might also be able to get the aperture blades moving again. Cotton sticks and alcohol could be very useful.

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