Lens Modding

All of my photography is done with 100% fully manual lenses. I simply cannot stand the terrible quality of construction of most modern consumer and even professional photography equipment, and often the poor construction quality means I cannot use them easily with high hand precision, completely negating any of their optical merits. Fortunately, I don't care for automatic features in artistic pursuits, and many advances in optics and lens design were made quite early in photography history, meaning that there exist a lot of vintage glass designed for bygone cameras that still have spectacular optics not being taken advantage of due to obsoleted mounts. In addition, many of these old lenses have artistic qualities largely absent in modern lenses, which are often evaluated only on scientific standards such as MTF. Rather than continue to fuel this culture of consumerism and low-quality, almost disposable plastic construction often found on today's equipment, I try to bring back many legendary old, solidly-built lenses to life and make good use of them as artistic tools.

Canon FD 300/2.8 SSC Fluorite

Early long focal length lenses were often plagued with poor image quality resulting from high dispersion present in standard optical glass. Although many of these manufacturers, especially Zeiss and Leitz, developed wide angle and mid-range lenses with legendary performance, they seldom produced the dispersion-correcting optics that become important for good image quality at longer focal lengths; the few apochromatic lenses they produced are extremely rare and extraordinarily expensive. In 1969 Canon began cutting lens elements out of fluorite crystals which have unique low-dispersion qualities. Unique to Canon's engineering, lenses using fluorite elements maintain excellent contrast and resolution while negating almost all chromatic aberration. Nikon developed "ED glass" which has similar low-dispersion qualities, but Nikon avoided fluorite since they believe it easily cracks and is sensitive to temperature changes. This claim is dubious however as Canon however has continued to use fluorite elements with success in most of their professional long focal length offerings today. Although Nikon's ED glass also has excellent optical merit, unlike Nikon, Canon obsoleted their FD mount, resulting in almost all FD lenses being available for extremely cheap since they are useless to all but film and mirrorless users. For example, this 300/2.8 lens was released in February 1974 at a list price of ¥390,000 -- which is almost ¥560,000 in today's currency and close to the actual list price of a modern 300/2.8 EOS lens; however, this obsoleted FD version often sells for ¥30,000-50,000 in used markets today which is extraordinarily cheap considering there have not been any major optical breakthroughs in the design of 300/2.8 lenses since the advent of these low-dispersion materials. In addition the build quality of modern lenses is often significantly lower. So all that needs to be done to bring this lens back to life is to do what nobody wants to do, and completely hack the mount to make up for the extra 4mm to be able to use these lenses on a modern EOS system. Many thanks to Joshua Dittrich from the MIT Edgerton Machine Shop for the time he spent with me offering his expertise with advanced CNC milling; this could not have been done without his help.

I used a T2-EOS adapter as stock for machining a replacement mount.

Left-handed thread milling.

Finished part designed to replace the breech-lock ring and has an EOS mount on the other side.
This allows for closer mounting than the EdMika adapters.

Finished modded lens, now ready to use on EOS.

Spectacular image quality, aperture wide open, and from a 1974 lens!
As a bonus, this image is taken in broad daylight, probably the harshest condition for a long and wide lens like this.

100% crop from the above image.
Almost 40 year old lens and it nearly outresolves a 22-megapixel full-frame sensor with very minimal chromatic aberration!

Another test, also aperture wide open.

... and a 100% crop. Spectacular optics.