A couple of weeks ago I saw a Petapixel article about a photographer called Alireza Rostami. This photographer modified a Zenit MC Zenitar 50mm f/2 lens and created some extraordinary images. He did this by taking apart this lens and flipping one of the lens elements the other way around. Some were amazed by the results, others thought they looked awful. I really liked some of his images and was itching to try it for myself. As this lens is very cheap (I bought one for around 40 euros), I didn't worry too much about messing up the assembly or not liking my results.
Modifying the lens is very easy and it only took me 10 or 15 minutes to make the changes to the lens. The most tricky part is loosening the first ring on the back of the lens, because one slip with the tool you use, can scratch the rear element of the lens. After some very busy days, today was the day I finally got around testing this lens.
The first couple of shots, were made in my backyard. This is one of the butterfly bush. You can forget taking a sharp image with this lens once it is adapted. The subject is at its 'sharpest' when it is close to the lens and the bokeh is (of course) smoothest when the lens is used with the aperture wide open. Take a shot of anything in sight and the bubbly bokeh balls will pop up everywhere. Also, another signature feature of this lens, everything will glow and it sometimes looks like a small child pencilled in a colouring book and went outside the lines.
Sometimes this lens creates a pleasing painterly effect and sometimes the results will be an awful mess of bokeh balls screaming for your attention.
Later on I took my camera and my dog Nikki to a local park, hoping to spot some flowers or objects that might be interesting to shoot with this lens. In the park I saw some some pretty pink flowers. Most of them already were past their prime and lost a peddle or two. I found couple that were still looking pretty good and made this picture.
There was also a gate enveloped by bushes with lots of flowers...
...and this bright pink flower.
My final image was one of a firethorn bush filled with red berries. One of my favourites of this day, as the red bokeh balls very much suit the red berries they're representing.
So, what do I think of this lens. I think it is a cool creative tool, very much like a Lensbaby (only much, much cheaper) or those Holga like toy lenses you can buy. Not a lens I will use often, but an nice option to have when I want to challenge myself in creating something different with a single purpose (limiting) lens. It makes you look differently at your environment, which is necessary to get some acceptable shots. This in turn wil train your photographic eye and also make you a more creative photographer when using other (regular) lenses.
I ordered my lens here: https://www.moscowphoto.net
More information about adapting the lens and the photographs Alireza Rostami shot: https://petapixel.com/2018/08/02/this-guy-flipped-an-element-in-an-old-lens-and-got-magic-bokeh/