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Thread: Camera modifications & old lenses

  1. #1
    hcp474's Avatar
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    David

    Camera modifications & old lenses

    Right this is unlikely to be a topic of interest to the majority of people (in most cases it voids the warranty and has a small chance of destroying the equipment), but I think it would be good to at least give it a mention. I should note that I have no affiliation with any of the companies / groups mentioned & if you decide to undertake any of the modifications mentioned below it is solely at your own risk.

    Hardware modification
    Split screens
    The first modification is split screens / focusing screens, these are available from the manufacturers for some of the higher end cameras, and allow easier use of manual and older lenses. They are however also available for many of the lower end cameras. For instance I have replaced the screen in my 550D with one from here: http://www.focusingscreen.com this has given me much better results when using manual lenses (especially when combined with software changes below).

    Lens adaptors
    Backing this up when using old lenses with M42 fittings etc. is the use of 'chipped' adaptor rings, these come in a variety of forms some of which you can program to give the EXIF the settings for your specific lens. The second advantage of the 'chipped' adaptors is to tell the camera to allow the AF indicator (LED/beep), this gives you a quick method of verifying focus (especially if you set AF to use a single point).

    Sensor modifications
    I am also aware for the astro photography market the ability to remove some of the (UV) filters on the CCD/CMOS sensors, this allows UV images to be taken. I have noted this being available but have no experience of it.



    Software modification
    Firmware
    The last section is on additional software (firmware) that allows additional features above those supplied by the manufacturer. The only project that I am aware of is Magic Lantern, which is for use with a number of Canon cameras. The aim of this project was to provide additional video functionality for use in the film industry.

    The project has since evolved and includes a number of useful features for still photography, such as;
    • focus trap - When using manual lens, when focus is detected the image is taken (allows images to be taken when you cannot see through the lens to focus)
    • HDR - Allows setup of number of images and degree of exposure stepping
    • motion detection - will take a photo when a change in image or light levels is detected (good for lightning photography)
    • Interval timer - set time between shots, may be used in conjunction with the following
    • Bulb timer - allows bulb exposure up to 60 minutes (this is much longer than canon exposure control)
    • audio & sensor trigger - allows remote trigger on noise level and face sensor (useful if you don't have remote release handy)



    Magic Lantern currently supports: (Canon)
    5D mark II
    550D / T2i / Kiss X4
    60D
    600D / T3i / Kiss X5
    500D / T1i / Kiss X3
    coming soon: 60D & 1100D / Rebel T3 / Kiss X50

    Magic Lantern details:
    Web page / wiki http://magiclantern.wikia.com/wiki/M..._Firmware_Wiki
    Development / Discussion group http://groups.google.com/group/ml-devel
    All the versions for download are here https://bitbucket.org/hudson/magic-lantern/downloads

    Hopefully this may be usefully to people, feel free to add any other tweaks.

    David
    Last edited by hcp474; 22nd November 2011 at 07:09 AM. Reason: Core corrections

  2. #2
    inkista's Avatar
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    Kathy Li

    Re: Camera modifications & old lenses

    Just some slight corrections.

    Quote Originally Posted by hcp474 View Post
    Split screens
    It's called a focus screen, and one of the types is "split circle". Just my experience, but I use adapted manual focus lenses, and got a katzeye split-circle for my 50D, and it works, but I find the simple Canon precision-matte screen works better for me on my 5Dii. I'm planning on replacing the katzeye in my 50D with the simple precision-matte screen, too.

    Also, with the lower-end cameras, it's much more of a PITA to replace the factory one, with a much higher-chance of damaging a focus screen, and less chance of swapping back and forth between them. The dRebels, and 7D have their focus screen held in place with a spring/bracket that's fiddly. Unless the camera actually has an interchangeable focus screen latched door, I'm not sure I'd recommend swapping out the focus screen over using live view and 10x magnification to manually focus with greater accuracy.

    You also need to know about focus screens blacking out at smaller max. apertures.

    Lens adaptors
    Backing this up when using old lenses with M44 fittings etc. is the use of 'chipped' adaptor rings...
    I think you mean M42 (Pentax screwmount). The other five mounts would be Leica-R, Olympus OM, Contax/Yashica, Nikon F, and Pentax K. And that's for Canon, not for Nikon. But you do have to watch out for mirror clearance with a 5D. The pebbleplace.com website has a great database for looking up whether a lens can be used on a 5D. Oddly, the mirror clearance issue does not seem to be an issue with the 1Ds.

    Nikon can adapt lenses from Leica-R and Contax/Yashica with Leitax kits, but this requires replacing the lens's mount.

    You don't need to use a ring that is chipped, although a chipped ring will give you AF confirmation and help fill in the EXIF information. But some folks find that they cause more problems than they solve, and that the AF confirm is less accurate that using liveview and 10x magnification or a precision matte focus screen. I'd have to agree. It's better than nothing, but to me the main reason to use a chipped adapter is for the EXIF information, not the AF confirm. And there is always the danger of bad electronics shorting something in the camera. Buy from someone reputable. mflenses.com or the Fred Miranda alt. gear group is full of great folks who can point you in the right direction on this.

    There are also a lot of limitations to using an adapted manual focus lens: you have to have a lens with an aperture ring, because you can't control the aperture from the camera body. This also means you're using stop-down metering, not wide-open metering. And, of course, you have to manually focus. Critical sharpness and a stable/tight fit might be hard to achieve, too, due to manufacturing variances of the adapter rings. Generally, the cheaper the ring you choose, the worse of you're going to be. A good adapter ring will cost more in the range of $50-$100.

    LCD modifications
    I am also aware for the astro photography market the ability to remove some of the (UV) filters on the LCD sensors,
    When we say "LCD", we generally mean the video display on the back of the camera that shows the pictures. What you're talking about is the filter over the sensor. And yes, this thoroughly voids the warranty, and is typically done by folks who want to do IR or astrophotography, who don't want an IR cut filter over their sensor. It does, however, render the sensor less useful for regular visible light photography, unless an IR/UV cut filter is used on the lens.

    UV cutting actually isn't that big of a deal: most lenses have coatings that do that, anyway, which is why UV photography is a much more difficult task. In that situation the cut filter over the sensor is the least of your issues: the hard part is finding a UV-capable lens.

    Firmware
    The last section is on additional software (firmware) that allows additional features above those supplied by the manufacturer. The only project that I am aware of is Magic Lantern, which is for use with a number of Canon cameras. ...
    Just wanted to say that Magic Lantern is derived off the venerable firmware hack project, CHDK (Canon Hack Development Kit), an open source project to add functionality to Canon cameras by reverse-engineering the Canon firmware. The CHDK has much broader support, if not as strong a feature set, and is most commonly used to add RAW capability to P&S cameras that don't have it built in.

    Other than that, yes, these are subjects not many photographers dive into. It's more of a geek thing.

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