Thursday, September 9, 2021

DKL and Exakta mount lenses + Exa camera

Soulless creatures will assert that I love listening and looking at distortion when I say that triode amps make music sound more gratifying while classic lenses make pictures look more satisfying.

They can carry on with their SINAD and MTF charts while I enjoy the 21st century with retro tech gadgets, which were designed by human ears and eyes aided only by primitive computers and instruments.

Leica M and LTM lenses have significantly appreciated in value, with M42 lenses following at their heels. However, the German lenses below can still be found at reasonable prices in DKL and Exakta mounts. These are just as easily adapted to current mirrorless interchangeable lens camera bodies.

DKL Mount Lenses

Zenit 11 + DKL>M42 lens adapter
Schneider Kreuznach 45mm f2.8
(click for sample pics)

I pulled this Schneider Kreuznach Xenar 45mm f2.8 out of a Kodak Instamatic Reflex camera. It doesn't have the sharpness nor resolution of its bigger brother below but it renders nice colors with low to medium contrast. The short throw focus and compact design makes it a nice street shooter.

Fujica ST801 + DKL>M42 lens adapter + Schneider Kreuznach Xenar 45mm f2.8
Ultrafine Extreme 100 in Rodinal 1+50

Sony A7IISchneider Kreuznach Retina-Xenon 50mm f1.9
(click for sample pics)

The Schneider Kreuznach Retina-Xenon 50mm f1.9 was the standard fast lens supplied with the Type 034 Kodak Retina Reflex S, III and IV + Retina IIIS rangefinder camera. It outperforms all the lenses discussed here in terms of speed, sharpness, resolution, color rendition and contrast. This lens is big and heavy.

Fujica ST801 + DKL>M42 lens adapter + Schneider Kreuznach Retina-Xenon 50mm f1.9
Ultrafine Extreme 100 in Rodinal 1+50

Zenit 11 + DKL>M42 lens adapter +
Voigtländer Color-Skopar 50mm f2.8
(click for sample pics)

This Voigtländer Color-Skopar 50mm f2.8 is normally found in a Bessamatic, also a compact design like the Xenar above but heavier. It's almost at par with the Xenon in terms of sharpness, color saturation, resolution and contrast. However, vignetting becomes apparent at wider apertures compared to the Xenar and Xenon.

Fujica ST801 + DKL>M42 lens adapter + Voigtlander Color Skopar 50mm f2.8
Ultrafine Extreme 100 in Rodinal 1+50

DKL Adapters

Voigtlander Color Skopar 50mm f2.8 DKL Lens + DKL>M42 lens adapter + M42>NEX lens adapter

The monochrome film pics above were  taken by the DKL lenses mounted on my Fujica ST801 M42 camera body via this DKL>M42 lens adapter. This adapter can also be mounted to an M42 adapter for your favorite mirrorles interchangeable lens digital camera body.   

Schneider Kreuznach Retina-Xenon 50mm f1.9 lens + M42>NEX lens adapter

NOTE: DKL lenses with built-in aperture rings aren't compatible with either of these lens adapters. Scroll down this link for more info.

Exa Camera + Exakta Mount Lenses

The Exakta VX camera was immortalized by James Stewart's character in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. I don't know if Hollywood contributed to the asking price for these cameras, but we'll focus on its cheaper siblings instead.

Ihagee Exa + Isco-Göttingen Westar 50mm f2.8
(click for sample pics)

Based on the serial number my Ihagee ExaIsco-Göttingen Westar 50mm f2.8 was produced between 1956-1959. It's a very basic design with 4 shutter speeds -1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/150 + B and the mirror was integrated with the shutter mechanism. It came with a waist level viewfinder, which can be replaced with various focusing prisms including an eye level viewfinder that's interchangeable with the higher end Exakta. The Westar lens is a basic single coated triplet. I got it from my friend Mike, who's also an audio hobbyist.

I've only shot two short rolls with this camera. I'm having issues getting used to the waist level viewfinder, which might be psychological since I don't have trouble using medium format twin lens reflex cameras. 

Isco-Gottingen Westar 50mm f2.8 + Exakta>NEX lens adapter

Ihagee Exa II + Meyer Görlitz Domiplan 50mm f2.8
(click for sample pics)

I've been hunting for a Meyer Görlitz Domiplan 50mm f2.8 in M42 for many years but couldn't justify the asking prices for a single coated three element lens. So I ditched the M42 idea and got an Exa II camera with a Domiplan lens cap instead. The Exa II was upgraded with a focal plane shutter with speeds from 1/2 - 1/250 in geometric progression + B and was fitted with a fixed eye level viewfinder. This camera was manufactured between 1960-1963, which makes it just a tad older than I am. 

As long as the Exa and Exa II are loaded with ISO 100 film, the limited shutter speeds is a no brainer. It's just like shooting my Leica II and its Fed and Zorki cousins. Just as I expected, the Domiplan and Westar triplets can be very sharp in the center. From there, it builds up lots of character towards the edges, especially at wider apertures. 

Vintage glass + digital camera bodies take the edge out of pixels just like triodes and transformers make music more harmonious.

Good light and happy shooting!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Gray Research HF500 Turntable

My buddy John Piro has a knack for finding obscure vintage hifi pieces and has built up quite a collection. A couple of summers ago, he offered his spare blonde plinthed HF500. I had just acquired my first and only genuine Gray Research 108C viscous damped tonearm and couldn't pass up the opportunity to pair them up. 

Capstan Drive

The Gray Research HF500 turntable employs a unique drive system. Strictly speaking, it is not an idler drive. A round section rubber belt is partially embedded around the outer rim of the platter, which is driven directly by the motor shaft. Capstan drive is probably a more appropriate technical term.

45 + 78 rpm capstans

To change speeds, the corresponding 45 or 78 rpm capstan (or bushing as termed in the manual) is placed over the native 33 rpm motor shaft.

D&R turntable drive system
Courtesy of

 AFAIK, the only turntable from this era which also drove the outer periphery of the platter is the equally rare D&R turntable, but as depicted above, it uses a rubber idler wheel. 

Seiko-Epson drive system
Courtesy of

The Gray Research capstan drive may have been the inspiration for Mr. Takeshi Teragaki's three turntable designs for Seiko-Epson - ∑2000, ∑5000 and ∑5000II.

Servicing Tips

Download a pdf file of the Gray Research HF500 Manual for more detailed information.

This iron platter/bearing combination weighs close to 20 lbs. The 1" spindle tapers to 13/16" which turns on a 1/2" thrust sphere at the bottom of the sintered bearing well. 

After experimenting with a couple of belt sizes, a 3/16" (cross section diameter) x 36" polyurethane round belt x from McMaster Carr, catalog #3044K705 gave the steadiest stroboscope readings at all speeds.


Remove the four screws as indicated by the red arrows. 

The plinth lifts from the bottom frame. 

The top plate is a massive 1/4" thick metal resting on rubber pads at each corner. Prior to installation of new rubber pads, motor vibration could be felt at the tonearm finger lift.

 With new rubber pads installed (+ new motor mounts, see below), vibration was practically nil. The material I used looks very similar to replacement rubber soles used by shoemakers. 

Removing the motor 

To release the motor from the mounting bracket, straighten and pull out the cotter pins.

Left = worn out motor mounts
Right = fresh motor mounts

Another source of vibration were perished motor mounts. Brand new replacements are available from Surplus Sales of Nebraska -  Rubber Shock Mount, Part No. RPS - 426-0001.

New rubber mounts installed

Before reassembly, I cleaned the motor and re-lubricated the bearings with engine oil.

The sound is very energetic!

I've been enjoying my entire mono LP collection with the HF500! 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Billingham Hadley Pro Small + Leica II Half Case

None of these camera accessories will enhance anyone's picture taking abilities, but talking about camera gear is a pleasant respite from audio.😉

My Olive Billingham Hadley Original has been a loyal companion since the mid-90s. Due to its larger size, it encourages me to bring more gear than necessary. Recently, I got this navy canvas/chocolate leather Hadley Pro Small for moments when I want to travel light. 

A Leica M3 + 35mm and 50mm lens, Fuji X-E3 + lens, a 5 roll film case + other accessories and gadgets easily fit in the small Hadley Pro.

Billingham has tastefully updated a classic!

Leica II half-case

Ever since I restored my Leica II, it's been cradled in a Fed/Zorki half case. Not the most elegant, but it served me well for over 15 years.

Half cases for early Barnack bodies (Leica 0, I + II) sans strap lugs aren't common. I was happy to find a nice one at the Martinduke Shop on Etsy.  

It took about a month for the package to arrive but it was well worth the wait!

All set for a photo expedition!