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canon 100D on 300mm photosniper lensUsing the Photosniper 300mm with an EOS 100D/SL1

Tiny DSLR meets 1970's Soviet camera technology

Keith has been looking using his old Tair 3-phs 300mm f/4.5 lens with the Canon 100D.

Why the 100D?

I recently purchased a Canon EOS 100D 18MP APS-C DSLR and am writing up some articles about using it in different ways, as much as anything to get used to using a completely different camera to my normal Canon 1Ds Mk3.

It's actually the first crop sensor DSLR I've owned and the only camera I have which has video...

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This is part of a series of articles concerned with the 100D.

Zenith Photosniper

The Zenith Photosniper kit was one of my prize possessions in the mid 70's.

A metal carry case with a Zenith ES 35mm body, a 50mm f2 lens and the huge Tair 3 Phs 300mm f/4.5 lens.

What really set it out from the crowd was the rifle mount. The 300mm lens had a focus knob on the bottom, that is extremely easy to use when mounted on the mount.

This picture is from the original manual (this scan from some excellent lens repair notes I came across)

zenith photosniper parts diagram

The lens hood is rubber, and was part of the accessory set that included a range of 72mm filters (which screwed into part of the metal carry case for storage).

The trigger mechanism operated two parts of the camera/lens. First, the stop-down lever (11) would take the lens down from f/4.5 to whatever you had preset it to. Secondly, the protruding shutter release button (base of the camera) would be activated. The camera release fitted into the supporting ring (14).

The lens stopdown really does make a hefty clunk noise - I remember people turning round to look...

The shutter release sticking out of the base was as I recall, a nuisance when using the camera normally with a the 50mm lens. You couldn't accidentally press it, but it made tripod fitting awkward.

lens design for 300/4.5The Tair 3 lens is a very simple design, with 3 elements in 3 groups

There is some more info at this Russian site [Google xlt] The Tair 3 lens was produced from the mid 1950's through to 2005.

I know from some shots of stars taken back in the 1970's that at f/8 it gives good star images over the whole field, given that the 100D crop sensor only samples the centre of the field, I'd expect it to perform well, even at full aperture.

Looking at people's testing of this lens on digital cameras, suggests that my high opinion of it in the past was not wrong. I've tried the lens several times on my old 1Ds but the 1Ds is too big for the rifle stock.

Here's my modified stock, with a cable release for the 100D

modified photosniper stock

Everything is screwed together very solidly, so it was easy to remove the camera clamp.

camera clamp from photosniper rifle grip

I've seen people add microswitches and all kinds of modifications to the mount, but I wanted a solution that could easily be removed.

The lead is from a cheap 2.5mm stereo jack extension lead (£1.20 in a local store) and the switch a PCB mount 'push to make' switch from the junk box (any low profile push button switch would do).

The whole thing is very securely held in place with hot melt glue.

small switch mounted on photosniper rifle mount

I've only used the full shutter release connection in this instance. The half press option is perhaps more useful if you have a lens with AF.

remote control jack connections for 100D / SL1The 2.5 mm jack plugs in easily enough, but it sticks out quite a bit. I'd prefer an angled plug, but this one will do.

  • Remote jack connections for the 100D/SL1 ->

I've adjusted the pin that activates the switch, so that it works after the aperture release lever.

If you focus at f/4.5 it's easier to get a precise focus, but your depth of field is pretty thin.

Stopping down to f/8 gives a sharper image, but it's more difficult to manually focus. After a few dozen shots though, I really got the hang of using the wheel to focus, and focus errors were reduced dramatically.

My (very) close up eyesight without glasses makes the screen on the back pretty useless for any form of liveview (or phones and compact cameras in daylight).

I can read the text just fine, but the optical viewfinder of the 100D is just fine with this lens, although I've still not got used to the idea of a viewfinder that doesn't show 100% of the frame.

Here's the 100D and lens (note the silver M42->EF) adapter.

camera set up with phtosniper

The lens hood makes for a great shock absorber...

rubber lens hood

Here's the full kit ready for use.

testing the shutter release

Using the camera

I went down to the nearby canal for trying out a few shots. It feels very comfortable and solid

On a crop body, this lens give the field of view of a 480mm lens - that is quite long. The longest lens I normally use is a 70-200 on my 1Ds3, and the majority of my professional work is shot at 24mm and below.

It took a couple of shots to get the feel for the focus adjustment, but once you are used to the movement, it's very quick to use.

There is no EXIF info about the lens and (with the adapter I've got) no AF confirm.

What seemed to work well was setting the shutter speed at 1/250, selecting an aperture on the lens (f/5.6 or f/8) and using auto ISO. I know from using this lens in the past that I can keep it pretty steady at 1/50 for relatively static subjects, but it was fairly bright.

A few shots at f/4.5 got me started. This third one was the first properly focused.

A 100% crop shows the slight softness at full aperture.

I reduced the aperture slightly to f/5.6

At this size, the image looks pretty sharp.

However, a 100% crop shows that there is camera shake of about 4 pixels. Fortunately this is fixable with a tool such at Focus Magic (see my recent review). Move your mouse over the image to see the correction. Remember that this is at 100%

There is slight colour fringing for very bright out of focus highlights. Green for those beyond the focal plane and red in front.

This (cropped) example below shows this well. The highlights are very over exposed and I've had to apply quite a bit of hightlight recovery to the raw file here.

The swans do get a bit tetchy with each other some times...

I note how the Auto ISO setting is doing a good job with exposure.

I was hoping for some swans flying down the canal and catching a landing, or flying under a bridge, but not that afternoon.

I did get a flyover of the local medical evacuation helicopter - this is the only really sharp picture - more than 1/250 is definitely needed here ;-)

Some cyclists on the canal towpath.

A few Canada geese also hanging around, waiting for people with bread to show up.

Mainly swans though...

I hope these examples give a feel for the quality of the lens.

There are higher resolution examples of some of these images on my Google+ account.

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Looking through the images I notice very few showing any camera shake, and the vast majority quite well focused.

It's a tad sharper at f/8, but even at f/4.5 image quality is good with a crop sensor.

I have no pretentions towards being a nature photographer - my speciality is commercial work, mostly things that don't move much, so although I'm happy with fully manual working (focus and exposure), it needs a bit of experimentation to get the hang of using the Photosniper.

I'll be trying a few more experiments with the 100D over the next few weeks, since I've some reviews of new lenses coming up too...

Perfectly good M42 lens adapters can now be found under £10. M42 -> EF adapters at:

Article first published January 2014.

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