Steve's Web Site

A History of my Photography

Macro Lenses



    When I first started using my Pentax Spotmatic for close-up work I found that the 50mm f1.4 lens that I bought it with was a lousy close-up lens. It suffered from a curved field of focus. Simply put the area of focus was a spherical section equal distant from the lens. For close-up you need a flat field lens. Some of the best flat field lenses made are enlarger lenses. One of the best enlarger lenses made at the time was the 50mm El-Nikkor f 2.8 lens. I had one for my enlarger and at that time Pentax made an adapter for Leica thread lenses to mount on its screw thread cameras. The EL-Nikkor was a Leica thread design and I purchased the adapter. What a difference it made for slide copying and other macro work. The fast f 2.8 allowed for easy focusing and stop it down to f 8 ant there was nothing sharper.

Front view of the original model 50mm f 2.8 EL-Nikkor lens.

    I sold my enlarger before move to San Diego and the EL-Nikkor went with it. The Pentax was traded for a Leica M4 and I purchased a Leica bellows that came with a whole bunch of adapter that allowed me to use my Leica lenses with the bellows and Visoflex for close up work and they all worked very well.

    When I started with Nikon gear I bought the 55mm Micro Nikkor as my standard lens and it was outstanding. I had a Novoflex bellows and if I need more working distance I would use the bellows with my 105mm  f 2.5 lens another excellent combo. Nikon made two lenses just for use with a bellows first a 135mm and later a 105mm lens. I never bought one because I was happy with what I had. Now these two lenses are very rare and command high prices from collectors.

    In recent time I purchased a  Nikon PB-4 bellows to play around with the tilt and shift capabilities. With a 105mm or longer lens you can focus to infinity with the PB-4. I found the 135mm lens below on eBay for a low price and it came with a Novoflex Leica thread to Nikon bayonet adapter. This piece alone was worth the price of admission. The 135mm lens does a very credible job and works very well with the PB-4 allowing focusing from infinity to better than 1:1 magnification and the coverage allows me to use the tilt and shift of the PB-4.

135mm f 4.5 Actinar bellows mount lens.

    Everyone is selling off their old darkroom gear and enlargers and enlarger lenses have dropped in price. I found an EL-Nikkor 50mm 2.8 lens on eBay for a song and bought it. It came attached to a camera body that was pulled out of some sort of system The lens was in a single screw helicoid. After removing the lens and helicoid I mounted a Nikon flange from an old lens and have a rig that focuses in the neighborhood of 1:1. The lens is the new model EL-Nikkor with more plastic but still excellent optics.

Home brew 1:1 macro lens using 50mm EL-Nikkor

    I kept an eye on eBay for other EL-Nikkor lenses and found a good deal on a set of three lenses an 80mm, 50mm and a 105mm all EL-Nikkors. I won the auction and when I received the lenses I found that not all EL-Nikkors use a Leica thread. The 80 mm used a smaller thread that is used on the Schneider enlarging lenses. The 105 had both threads. My local camera shop had an adapter made by Nikon that screwed on the front of the 80mm lens and ended in a Leica thread.

80mm f 5.6 EL-Nikkor lens with the Leica thread adapter

    I have mounted this lens on a Graflex lens board and used it to take pictures on the Graflex using the focal plane shutter and Polaroid film.


The dual threaded 105mm f5.6 EL-Nikkor.

    I also bought a 75mm EL-Nikkor lens. It is a new style lens with more plastic but is still a very sharp lens.

75mm f4 EL-Nikkor lens.

    Besides mounting on my Nikons and Graflex I have an adapter to mount Leica thread lenses on my Pentax 6x7. While it takes the 105mm or longer lens to cover this format the sorter lenses work well for high magnification work.