Really Cheap Lens for Nikon?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by kent_staubus, Sep 29, 2016.

  1. I asked on a "regular" Nikon forum and pretty much drew a blank. So, I turn to you guys--a more off the wall bunch. I'm going to do a little presentation for my camera club in a month or so, and the topic is "Really Crappy Lenses." What I'm after are "lenses" (I use the word very loosely) in Nikon F mount that are really, really cheap. I'm looking for the "Lomo" kind of thing. I already have a pinhole/body cap, have just ordered a genuine Holga lens for Nikon (for twenty bucks!), and a used Russian Helios 50mm/f2 for $30. This is a good start, but I bet we can do better! I'm thinking of making a lens out of a toilet paper tube (inside painted black) and something plastic/cheap. Kid's telescope? I thought of a magnifying glass, but that might only give me something like 8 inch focus (hey, a cheap macro!) Another thought was to pull the meniscus lens from one of my Brownies and mount that using black poster board and a toilet paper tube. (Roughly a 100mm lens.) So there you have it--cheap lenses, where the best quality is the Holga! Any fun ideas?
    Note: I am NOT looking for cheap lenses that perform well. I am looking for cheap lenses that barely perform!
    Kent in SD
  2. How much is cheap? I got excellent lens like 100mm f/2.8 E for $5.
  3. OK, that's cheap, but is it crappy? I'm looking for cheap and crappy. :) Think: toilet paper tube with lens from a 1950s Brownie stuck on the end.
    Kent in SD
  4. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Timo uses an old projector lens -- junk shop? All sorts of junk lenses -- broken binoculars, rifle scopes, cheap magnifying glasses, old eyeglasses, even the bottoms of some drinking glasses might work. The old pre ai Nikon 43-86 is reasonably crappy (not the newest ones) -- often under $20 on line.
  5. Note: I am NOT looking for cheap lenses that perform well. I am looking for cheap lenses that barely perform!​

    Oh, OK. I think the cheapest that I bought is an AI 80-200 zoom for $10.50 at Goodwill.

    This is the one with push/pull zoom, but as far as I know it is a fine lens.

    I never bought a lensbaby, but I believe that they are supposed to be plastic lenses.
    If you go to goodwill, or similar store, you can find a supply of old cameras and parts for low prices. There are even some nice low quality 35mm cameras, such as one from Time magazine.
    You could buy some cheap camera, and take the lens out.
    The first camera I ever had, though didn't use it long, is an Imperial Delta using 127 film. It seems to have crappy film transport, with no smooth edges where along the film path.
    Yes, I suppose that cheap plastic magnifiers are the way to go. Maybe one with a Fresnel lens that might not stay flat.
  6. The lensbaby Spark is designed to be sharp in the center, and blurry on the outside.
    Seems that it is a two elements in one group lens. It doesn't say much more that that.
    Might be interesting to compare to some of your other choices.
  7. What about a nice pre-set wide angle lens (35-28) in a T mount adaptor. Some of those can be pretty ordinary. I have an 8mm Hanimex fisheye; great but very ordinary. All really old & cheap fisheyes will probably be awful, if full frame fisheyes are not awful enough by themselves :)
  8. tgh


    Consider looking for a really cheap, third party, way-off brand 28 mm lens, then mount it on an equally cheap, off brand 2x teleconverter. The 2x would magnify the shortcomings of the lens, and you'd also have a 56mm lens that could probably be focused down to 1 ft for crappy closeups.
    It might not be a super cheap setup, costwise, but I think it could certainly meet your thresh hold for crappy image quality.
  9. During the 1980's some of the zooms offered by Samyang, Zykkor, and several others offered so-so performance, especially in the tele range at wide apertures. Some of them were branded as Sears lenses. Some of the early 28-80 and maybe 70-210-ish lenses might fit the bill. Some of them in Modern Photography tests were rated "unacceptable" for image quality in the extremes of focal length and wide apertures. The South Korean made 500 mm f 8 mirror lenses from the mid to late 80's were not good performers. Some of them were even branded by Vivitar. The two samples I tried never really reached a sharp focus at any distance.
  10. I think the crappiest lens may have been the original 24-120 zoom. Which I have, but stopped using years ago. If you get one, on eBay, say, which won't cost you much, be careful of bait-and-switch. You might get the 2nd or 3rd iteration. Make sure you get the original, and don't settle for anything better.
  11. I heard this one some years ago, for a cheap fisheye lens.
    You take one of the door peep holes that you use to look before opening the door.
    Drill/cut a hole in a lens cap of the right size, and attach the peep hole.
    They aren't designed for photographic quality, and not so much work to use.
  12. Cheap lenses are abundant. Mounting them to a Nikon will be the expensive part.
    A young Tasmanian photographer did some beaut work with an old Soviet enlarging lens from the '70s. But it took his handyman dad (a friend of mine) several hours of diligent toil in his workshop to fix up a suitable mount to put it on a Nikon DSLR. I donated a camera body front cap which he (very carefully) drilled into a circular mount for the aforesaid lens. Results were truly amazing - coma, fringing, color shifts, convergence, divergence, unpredictable levels of sharpness alternating with blur. Ordinarily boring bush landscapes became like something one would expect on a faraway planet like Mars or Uranus.
    Another photographer I know used a door peephole device (per Glen's suggestion), with similar results, 'tho more panoramic.
    Possibilities are endless. As are bargains in better lenses. At a backyard sale in Hobart I visited last weekend, I picked up an almost new Nikon 18-55 DSLR kit lens with hood and an original L39C filter for $20. Passed up a Zeiss Nettar 6x6 in reasonable body condition for $50 because of torn bellows and a damaged back. The case alone I would have paid $50 for ten years ago. Times sure do change. Film cameras and lenses once costing small mints to buy are to be found everywhere for cents on the dollar now and people want to play with door peephole devices...
    JDW at home.
  13. It's unlikely that you will find a really crap lens in Nikon F mount.
    Lashing something up with glue and gum bands might not be the best approach.
    I'd recommend getting an F mount body cap, drilling a small hole in it, and heading out with a pinhole camera.
  14. I once borrowed a perfectly awful AF-Nikkor f/3.3-4.5 24-50mm lens. It cost me nothing to have it for a couple of weeks, so it was definitely cheap. Used it only enough to decide I didn't want it. If you want a bad one, look for one of these, I'm sure they're around.
  15. Start with a body cap (drilling a hold required) or an extension tube for mounting to the camera. Just about any lens can be mounted using cardboard tubes. A single positive element (magnifying glass or ???) will have lots of abberations but will focus to infinity at some distance from the focal plane.
    I'm thinking of a project using one of those thermo lens cups to hold a lens from my collection of surplus shops takeout lenses.
  16. You take one of the door peep holes that you use to look before opening the door.
    Drill/cut a hole in a lens cap of the right size, and attach the peep hole.
    They aren't designed for photographic quality, and not so much work to use.​
    Now we're talking! Several good suggestions above. I never would have thought of a peep hole lens. :)
    I'm thinking of opening my camera club presentation with, "The price of lenses has gone crazy. The latest Nikons are hitting $2,000! I'm going to show you how to make your own lenses from a toilet paper tube and........"
    LOL, this could be a lot of fun. But really, the point I will be making is that photography is all about creativity, not gear. I have plenty of Nikon body caps and have been saving up a supply of toilet paper tubes.
    Kent in SD
  17. Actually, there are myriad "so-so" to "bow-wow" lenses available for Nikon F mount.
    Not the least of these are any number of lenses made for the common and inexpensive T-mount, for which Nikon F adaptors are available.
    Things like "Astronar" and "Girl-Watcher" telephotos come to mind, although cheap telephotos were not always as awful as you'd think.
    There were also ancestors of the Lens-Baby lenses - soft focus, close-up auxiliaries, wide angle auxiliaries, and so on.
    Here is a bust of an image or an image of a bust taken with a Sima Soft-Focus plastic lens:
  18. I made a peephole fisheye a long time ago, but it was mounted in a lens cap in front of my 50mm. The choice of lens determines the image circle size. Worked OK.
    Haven't tried a plastic Fresnel lens, but that will be a) fast, and b) crappy image. Might be fun for night shots.
  19. While not terrible.. the Kiron 28mm is disappointing especially at F8 or more
  20. I've had a few very very cheap lenses for the Nikon that were also very good so it takes some thinking to come up with the bad ones.
    The worst I can think of are a Marexar 28-70 mm. zoom, which was slow, fuzzy at 28, and subsequently became fungus infected. I can't now remember but I might have disassembled this one. I'm away from home for the week, but when I get home I'll look.
    The most disappointing crappy lens I have is a Quantaray 28/2.8 AIS which I actually must confess to have bought new some time around the late 1970's. It is pretty lousy. I still have this one somewhere, and might be induced to part with it.
    I have one of those Sima plastic lenses, and this is a very amusingly crappy lens. It's a very fast 100 millimeter singlet with waterhouse stop lens caps. Its ability to render a good image is very limited, but it's rather fun to play with. It focuses to macro (sliding focus, nice and sloppy), and has a T mount so you can put it on anything. If you can find one of those, you can have lots of fun.
    If you have access to assorted bits, you might try one that I did some years ago, which turned out to be very interesting. I took a big old enlarger - an Omega, I think - with a single condenser lens. I mounted a t mount to the lens board, and of course took the light housing off. The result was an enormous singlet lens, with a focal length around 200 millimeters, and an F stop of something around 2 or better. It was moderately sharp in the center, with insane amounts of chromatic aberration. It focused with the original bellows, and went from infinity to macro very easily. One could put home made waterhouse stops in the negative holder, and when stopped down to something around F11, became reasonably sharp. The fringes around colors were pretty interesting. Everything glowed as if lit from inside.
    One of my favorite current playthings is a microscope adapter which, though originally made for a Konica, I converted to Nikon mount. Into this can be inserted a variety of small lenses, some quite nasty, and some, like the typesetting lenses from a Compugraphic typesetting machine, amazingly sharp macro lenses. No focus, no f stops. Just choose a distance and shoot.
  21. I have one of those Sima plastic lenses, and this is a very amusingly crappy lens.​
    I knew you guys would come through when it comes to knowing crappy stuff! The Sima is looking great. Here's a quote from a recently ended ebay sale: "Having bought and sold cameras and lenses for 30+ years, it is my considered opinion that this is by far the worst lens that has ever been produced. I tested this on a Canon Rebel T2i so in theory at least that should be using the "good" center portion of the lens. The reality is that I found it difficult to focus since the sliding lens element is not smooth and sort of "jumps" to various spots and worse yet, it was very difficult to determine if/when the lens was actually in focus. If you want to make your 90 year old great-grandmother's face look like an undifferentiated blob of flesh colored protoplasm, this may serve you well. I suppose it might be handy for burning ants but have not tested it for this purpose so you are on your own for that!!!!" NO RETURNS FOR ANY REASON, THIS LENS IS TERRIBLE AND I HAVE NOT SUGAR-COATED ANY ASPECT OF IT'S INFERIOR EXISTENCE!!!"
    I just put in an offer on one, LOL.
    Kent in SD
  22. You can make one yourself. I did, it was really cheap and crappy. The idea is to make a paper tube with its length adjustable and use ONE lens inside. It is really crappy because of inaccurate focusing, and too much aberration
  23. A lot of interesting suggestions here. You know, when it comes to cheap, off-brand lenses, don't be surprised if they're actually decent perfomers. I have a handful I'm trying to get rid of on eBay and, to help the sales along, I've included pics I took with the lenses. Most are surprisingly decent. So, so much for cheapo off-brand lenses being sub-par performers.
    One of the respondents mentioned the Nikkor 43-86mm zoom, which is legendarily crappy. At least the early ones. A standing joke for years was that the 43-86 was Nikon's best soft-focus portrait lens because it was so soft at 86mm.
    The most creative I've gotten was to reverse mount a D-mount (8mm movie camera) lens on a lens cap to produce a high-magnification macro setup. I mounted the cap to my Tamron 90mm macro and took some shots with the reverse mounted D-mount lens. I think its focal length is 8mm. I was surprised that its field of view covered an APS-C image size. And I was even more surprised that this setup produced impressively sharp, very high magnification images. Center sharpness was excellent, but corner sharpness with an APS-C camera was pretty awful. This was with the 8mm stopped down to about f/8 as I recall. This setup was certainly cheap enough. All it cost me was the glue I used to glue the lens to the cap. I'd had the lens rattling around in a junk drawer for years and the cap was a spare.
  24. Yeah lots of interesting suggestions but the two that come to mind for me are the old Vivitar 80-200/4.5 lens, NOT the Series 1. I still have one and it lives in my car. The other I cannot recall the name of no matter how hard I try. It was advertised in the 70's as a 'Girlwatcher' lens, 400 mm at about 5.6, preset aperture for the low low price of maybe $26. I bet they sold a bunch of them. Oh yeah, I once had a Vivitar 400mm lens that was so lacking in sharpness that it appeared NOTHING was ever in focus even at f/16. There is a long list...

    Rick H.
  25. If you're interested in blurry telephotos, most of the cheap 500mm f/8 mirrors being sold these days are pretty bad. If they're made in Korea, they're rebranded Samyang. Samyang builds excellent lenses, including some mirrors, but the majority of the cheapo 500/8 Korean mirrors are simply awful. With a typical example, it's almost impossible to tell when optimal focus has been reached.
  26. Just get me to focus for you, even with the best lenses, widest aperture, and I will give you a rubbish image.
  27. As said, cheap (mostly Petzval, BTW) few element telephotos were easy to make work well.
    This is the "Girl Watcher" from Sterling Howard in NYC
  28. We think alike on this subject Kent. Your excellent ideas on DIY lens hacking sound like the best way to get the results that you're after. There's always Vaseline on the lenses that you already have, or simply a piece of paper w/ a hole in it taped over your lens-du-jour for that vintage vignette look. Sadly, most cheapo camera lenses will be too good for what you have in mind unless you flip an element in them. I did that once in an olde folder by mistake and the results were memorable. Looking back, I should have left the lens that way.
    Don't forget to randomly over and underexpose your negs, throw in a little camera shake and shutter blur, and mix well w/ poor development for that just right look. A camera held crooked, or simply waved in the general direction of your subject whilst pushing the shutter button, may yield something too.

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