A Cheap Lens and a Rabbit

A Cheap Lens and a Rabbit

2000 1125 James Tocchio

“Alright, pal. Relax. Everything’s fine. I’m going to sit down here and take it easy, take a few pictures, and we’re both going to relax.”

Preemptive annoyance tinges my whispered words because I know this rabbit is going to run. There is no threat. I just want a photo or two. But rabbits don’t know a camera from a gun, nor a lumbering human with good intentions from a ravenous coyote, apparently.

“Stop being so twitchy and just relax, so that I can relax, and then we can both relax together, for Christ’s sake!”

But then the pea-sized brain in the animal’s skull screams the existential warning, “DANGER! DANGER!” It bounds away chaotically, and one of its half-dozen leaps brings it three feet into the air, its hind legs flailing pointlessly against the snatching predatory jaws that it has entirely imagined. It flees approximately twenty feet, stops when it realizes it’s not dead, and turns its head to look at me, a blade of half-eaten grass dangling stupidly from its lip.

“Wow. Very impressive. You escaped.”

I wearily push myself up and stalk toward the creature once more. I wonder about those enormous black eyes. Placed as they are on the side of its skull, does it see ahead of itself when fleeing? Or can it only see to its sides like a deer? When panicked, is it prone to career into a tree?

I’ve apparently approached in an acceptable way this time, since I’m allowed to get about ten feet closer than the time before. I stoop once more to sit in the grass alongside the rabbit.

“Alright.” I sigh. “Let’s try it again.”

Photography has been a good friend. A way to chill out. A salve for anxiety and worry. At times in my life I’ve used cameras and lenses and film and tripods to philosophically refocus. As I’ve written in previous articles, even the worst cameras end up pointing at what’s important. I could add to that observation that even if the camera points at nothing of particular importance, the act of pointing it at anything can itself be important.

This rabbit is important enough. A small living thing with the same hopes and dreams as all living things (though we humans tend to complicate what is so fundamental); to have food to eat and a place to live, for our kids to live lives that are happier, healthier, and longer than our own. That’s all most of us want. Sometimes we don’t get it. At those times, photography has been useful. As it is now.

I raise the camera and feel the weight. It’s not insignificant, because I’m using a Sony A7 mirror-less camera fitted with a ten-dollar Nikon F mount adapter and a sixty-dollar Soligor 90-230mm F/nothing-to-write-home-about telephoto zoom lens from, like, 1971. The lens weighs more than the camera, but it’s all-metal and glass and feels, surprisingly enough, wonderful. The focus throw is long and gentle and the aperture clicks into its detents beautifully.

In addition, because the lens was designed to operate uncoupled to the mechanisms within the camera (Nikons in the 1970s and Sonys in the 2020s alike), it features a second aperture ring which stops the lens down in a progressive way. The iris is circular and beautiful, and before I’ve ever mounted it to a camera I’m sure it will make interesting, if not creamy, bokeh.

The lens.

The rabbit.

So anyway, there I am sitting in the grass peering through a viewfinder and fiddling with an aperture ring and a focus ring, and zooming in and composing and framing, and remembering which button on the mirror-less Sony activates “close-magnification focus assistance” or whatever they call it, and the worries are sloughing off.

No, that’s not entirely accurate, if I’m honest. They’re not sloughing off. But maybe they’re out-gassing, dissolving at a molecular level, becoming ever so slightly lighter. I suspect that another two hours of shooting this rabbit might get me to a point where I feel like everything is going to be just fine. But this rabbit has got shit to do, and it hops away after about three minutes.

“Well, let’s see what we’ve got in Lightroom.”

The thing about photography, for me, is that I’m sort of adrift. I don’t exactly know what I’m doing anymore. My whole photographic life has been taking pictures of my children and trying out cameras that I think look neat. I still like my children, so that’s fine. I take pictures of them, same as always. But as far as the “cameras that look neat” thing is concerned, I’ve tried them all.

I love film cameras. Always have, always will. I’ve shot every film camera I care about, and hundreds about which I’ve cared very little. Plus, film is expensive and getting pricier every year. And then I have less time to do it, and more bills to pay, and personal situations to work through, and oh, boy, we are going down this hole again, Jimbo? Where’s that rabbit when I need him.

Let’s get back to cameras and photography.

My pictures of the rabbit are pretty good. They contain a rabbit, and some grass, and nice colors and sharpness most of the time, when I’ve focused right. The shots made at wide-open aperture have strong subject isolation and interesting bokeh, as I suspected they might. The shots made with a tighter aperture are sharp. Not as sharp as would be with a modern lens, naturally, but sharp in that old fashioned way which lacks of clinical perfection. A good thing.

In Lightroom I’m able to turn my decent RAW photos of a rabbit into whatever I want. I can make these pictures look like clean digital photos, or Ilford HP5 film or Kodak T-Max 100, Kodak Portra, Delta 3200, all by sliding a few sliders and knowing what I’m doing. I’ve even managed to create a pre-set which makes a shot look very much like images made with the long-ago discontinued Fujifilm Natura 1600 color film, which is my favorite film I’ve ever used. (And wouldn’t you know it, there’s a picture of a rabbit in that article, too!)

I love using old lenses on new cameras. I love it more than I love shooting film cameras or shooting the newest digital Leica, or instant film, or anything else. Old lenses adapted to new mirror-less cameras; nothing is better. We get the more interesting imaging characteristics of old cameras and film, without the hassle and cost of actually shooting film.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed the rabbit.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • I too enjoy using my ‘old’ glass on ‘new’ cameras…one of my favorites? my nearly 40 year old 55mm f2.8 Micro-Nikkor adapted to my Fujifilm X-T3

  • If one more person tells me it’s “careen” and not “career” I’m going to die.

    JK love you all.

  • Hi James, half of the time I’m using vintage lens on, also vintage, Nikon d700. The experience is amazing – in a way resembles film shooting, but in a way is a thing of its own. I use F100 and D700 with the same lens and sometimes forget which one I’m shooting (i hate chimping every frame)..
    For casual flowers or rabbit – it’s important to have fun, not to be strict about what equipment you have 🙂

    • I love the idea of using the same lenses on digital and film alike. Canon Eos, Pentax K, Nikon F, Leica M. It’s a good way to go.

      • Robert Chestnut June 3, 2023 at 9:43 am

        I just recently Purchased a canon 1ds Mk II to shoot with my canon eos 3. I actually have fun adapting a Nikkor 50mm f1.2 ai lens to both. I use a 35mm f1.4 L on them as well. Also I hate to be a leica snob but I have a m10p that I love love love using vintage rangefinder lenses on. so many cool ltm lenses and m mount lenses to play with. I have an amedeo adapter so I can use my nikkor s mount stuff on it too.

    • The D700 is not vintage, it’s magic. It and its twin D3 make the best B&W images, especially with old manual focus Nikkors and the ZF/ZF.2 Zeiss lenses. Looks amazing. But I digress from the subject at hand…actually, I’m careening off topic.

      Sorry, James. I couldn’t resist.

  • “I love using old lenses on new cameras.”

    I totally agree with you. I’ve probably had more fun using my ancient Super/Takumar f/1.4 50 on my new Pentax monochrome camera than all the new, modern lenses we’re encouraged to use.

    There’s something about the rendering and mood of these old lenses, and there’s no need for me to use Photoshop to create that feeling. And just like I enjoyed the simple charm of your rabbit photo, this casual photo of my wife, blurry feet and all, reminds me why old lenses still have a purpose on the latest and greatest sensors.


    Cheers, Ned

  • I’m another old lens lover. I have an Olympus e300 (8MP) that I use with vintage Minolta SR mount lenses. The MD 200mm f4, MD 75-150mm f4, and the MC Rokkor 50mm 1.4 PG make stunning shots with this camera. The colors are gorgeous!!!


  • Film is very expensive, but I just want to say that you can still get a 100′ roll of Ilford HP5+ from Midwest Photo for $87.95 (free shipping on orders over $100). I don’t work there, but I just received my first order from them in the mail this week, and I honestly was afraid it was going to be a scam since no one else has prices that low. Just a tip for my fellow B&W shooters out there! Bulk roll and dev at home, folks. Save money and shoot stress-free!


    Nice images, James! Old cameras and lenses are worthy of our fascination and admiration. Keep shooting pics of your fam! <3

  • Michael Elliott June 1, 2023 at 11:51 am

    The subject separation on that lens is really rather pleasing, I have to say! Lovely subject, lovely photos 🙂

  • Merlin Marquardt June 1, 2023 at 10:40 pm

    Very, very nice. Good combo.

  • Brooks McNeill June 2, 2023 at 8:13 pm

    James, this article, as always, was well written, and significant. I too, grab the cameras when “other things” are bearing down. The photos of the rabbit are great and I hope all is well. Thank you for all that you do.

  • Those second aperture rings were stop down rings. The second ring sets a limit on how far the aperture will be allowed to close. You could set your aperture on the second ring, then use the primary ring to open the aperture all the way for easier focus, then rotate back to stop down your desired aperture without having to look. Cameras like the Spotmatic and (I think) the Nikons with AI lenses have this feature built into the camera, but before that it was something you often had to do manually, and that second ring is a cheap way of adding that feature.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio