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Vello M42 to Sony E-mount Macro Adapter Review

Dustin Abbott

March 17th, 2019

I have a serious soft spot for my vintage glass (I’ve got about 12 vintage lenses that I still use adapted modern cameras).  Some of my favorites are classics from Japanese-made Takumars, Soviet-made Helios lenses, and German-made Zeiss (and their derivatives).  While many of those classic lenses have greater flaws than modern lenses, they also tend to have greater character, which translates into truly beautiful images.  Here are a few of my favorites that I’ve shot with some of my vintage glass:

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Pretty great, right?

Some of the color rendition, bokeh quality, and even lovable optical defects like flare patterns or “swirly bokeh” of these lenses are pretty special.  Not clinical or boring.  I see a lot to love in them, but unfortunately many of them do share one less-than-desirable quality:  they don’t have a great minimum focus distance/reproduction ratio.  My worse offender in this regard is the Super Takumar 150mm F4.  It’s minimum focus distance is an astoundingly bad 6 feet (1.8M).  

Umm, wow.  As a byproduct, this represents maximum magnification for the bare lens:

Not exactly a macro shot!  But by employing the macro focusing heliod in the Vello adapter, I’m able to focus much closer and end up with this result:

Still not exactly a macro shot, but considering what we started with, that’s an impressive improvement.  And, if we were to choose a lens that isn’t as bad of an offender, like, say, the SMC Takumar 55mm F1.8, we start with this minimum focus result:

Use the Vello adapter, and you can get this degree of magnification:

That’s more like it.  It gets even better if I use a lens with even a moderately good minimum focus distance like my SMC Takumar 28mm F3.5, which can focus down to 1.4 feet (40cm).  I was able to achieve this degree of magnification with it:

That is getting very close to 1:1 reproduction ratio.  

So how does it work?  

The best way to answer that question is by watching this brief video and seeing it in action:

Put simply, however, the Vello LA-NEX-M42-M (the official name) adapter works by employing a ring that looks like a focus ring on the adapter.

When you turn that ring, the adapter itself extends out, which functions much like extension tubes.  As the lens gets physically further from the camera sensor its ability to focus down more closely increases.  At the extreme limit any lens can focus down much closer than its original minimum focus distance, though at the expense of the ability to focus to infinity.  Unlike extension tubes, however, you can retain infinity focus simply by reversing the “focus ring” and bringing the lens back to the normal distance from the sensor.  The adapter is no larger than a typical adapter, so you can use it as you would any other…until you want to focus closer.  You first focus the lens down to minimum focus, then rotate the ring and extend the adapter until you are at your desired focus distance.

What’s even better is that the adapter can be had (at the time of review) of only $40 USD for the Sony E-mount/NEX version, or $70 for the Micro 4/3rds version.  When you consider that you can get an SMC Takumar 55mm F1.8 for under $50 of Ebay, you have the ability to create some killer images on a budget.  Here’s a few taken with this combination that can be had for under $100.

And how sharp is this combination near minimum focus?  Very good, I would say.  

Looks pretty sharp to me…and that’s on a 42MP Sony a7RIII body.

So, any issues?  There are the typical issues with adapting old lenses.  No electronics, so EXIF data won’t be communicated.  I also noted an odd light reflection in an image on a couple of occasions in unique lighting conditions (more of a back-lit situation).  There wasn’t much to complain about, though, and I really found that the Vello adapter extended the usefulness of these lenses for very little cost involved.

So, if you are looking for a fun and inexpensive way to maximize the potential of your vintage M42 mount lenses, considering picking up the Vello macro adapter and see what kind of magic you can make!

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Keywords: Macro, Vello, M42, Sony E, E-mount, Vello M42 to E Adapter, Vello M42-Nex-M, Vello Macro Adapter Review, Vello M42 Macro Adapter Review, Dustin Abbott, Takumar, Helios, SMC Takumar, Extension Tubes, Sony FE, Sony Alpha, Sony a7riii

 

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