WARNING: It was recently brought to my attention that superglue (cyanoacrylate) CAN damage your glass and camera sensor. I haven’t figured out a surefire way to make it work without the superglue, but I also didn’t have any problem using a tiny drop. For safety reasons, try the method of just loosening and tightening the screw to find the ideal position. If you MUST use superglue (like I did in one of my lenses), make sure your glass is completely clean and keep the lens in a well ventilated area until fully dry. Also be aware that using superglue will make your scope unserviceable. Other pros can’t open it and make it better, so I advise against using glue!
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Tito Ferradans here for the last episode in this Kowa series! Ever since I read about this sharpness tune up, I’ve been super curious about it. Once again, this trick is being explained thanks to Mr. James Price, and I got input from a few others on facebook as well, changing from the original post by James.
In this video we’ll realign the front and rear optical elements in the Kowa B&H. These lenses likely didn’t get much love since they were first put together, being knocked around and eventually falling out of alignment over the years. Like the previous mod, I believe this one can be applied to all sorts of similar lenses like the Kowas 8Z and 16H, and maybe even other vintage projection lenses.
When I asked about how much rotation James was talking about, he said that “a fraction of a millimeter turn in alignment can make a huge difference to the sharpness”. So it’s a tiny mod, but one that brings great improvement. Here are some comparison shots before and after the tweak. I was mindblown. A properly calibrated B&H delivers the results that justify its status among adapters. Don’t undermine your own shots.
DISCLAIMER! Whatever you do to your lens, it’s your own responsibility. I won’t be held accountable for any consequences.
Open up the lens: loosen the three tiny screws at the top and then unscrew the front ring. Remove the glove with the focus markings. We’re now at the lens’ core. Remove two of the brass tabs. I removed the two short ones and left the longer one with just one screw. Loosen this screw so it’s easier to take it out later, under stress.
Set up your camera with a long taking lens – mine is 135mm. Set it to infinity, close the iris to about f/4. Attach the Kowa and focus it to infinity. The aim is find an object with contrast edges or text. Punch in the zoom of your screen.
Take a photo or record some video paying close attention to image quality. This is your default setting. Remove the last brass tab and twist the loose lens block to find the sharpest possible image, focused at infinity. When you do, take a photo or shoot a video and compare it to the default setting.
If they match, your lens is as good as it can be, and you should close it back, putting back all the tabs. If the second image is better than the first – my case! -, it’s time to give this Kowa some love.
Once you micro adjust your alignment and find the perfect spot, use electrical tape to temporarily lock it – be delicate as it’s incredibly easy to knock it out of place. Everything must be done with extreme care here. James says the word: “imagine you’re diffusing a bomb… very gentle touch”.
Now, with a q-tip, remove the grease from the recess where the tab used to be, so it can stick back in place.
Apply the tiniest drop of super glue on the underside of the longer tab and push it into place using tweezers. I said it twice already, let’s make it three: it’s very easy to misalign the lens before the tab is seated into place. Let the glue dry.
WARNING: It was recently brought to my attention that superglue (cyanoacrylate) CAN damage your glass and camera sensor. I haven’t figured out a surefire way to make it work without the superglue, but I also didn’t have any problem using a tiny drop. For safety reasons, try the method of just loosening and tightening the screw to find the ideal position. If you MUST use superglue (like I did in one of my lenses), make sure your glass is completely clean and keep the lens in a well ventilated area until fully dry.
After the critical step was done, I took all the gear inside. Then I tested different things. Just glue wouldn’t hold them in place and they would start sliding, so add back the front screw on the tab, very carefully to not unglue it.
Make it tight. Notice that, while focused to infinity, the elements have no play. As soon as you back a little bit, the only tab in place allows you some rotation. Not good.
Hold the lens while pulling to infinity and insert the other two tabs – they are the ones that will prevent any rotation. Put them back into place with their screws. Tighten them well. By doing that while you hold the lens to infinity, you lock rotation and prevent misalignment.
It’s tricky, I had to redo the whole thing about three or four times for every lens, so be patient. I won’t lie, I was terrified of using super glue on a $800 lens, my heart was pounding, but it was not that bad. The results are definitely worth the stress. You should subscribe now because the schedule for December looks neat. We’re talking about tutorials for modding both the Mir 1B and the Jupiter 9 – plus more!. So hit that button and I’ll see you next week. Ferradans, out.
Stepping up from last week, here’s how to achieve closer focus natively with your Kowa B&H. I also explain how stretch varies across the focus range. I believe this process can be applied to other vintage projection lenses.
Tito Ferradans here for Episode 3 of the Kowa month. Today’s mod is a little more elaborate than last week’s Edge Blackening. Also introduced by James Price, today we’ll be slashing minimum focus a tad closer.
The Kowa B&H is an amazing projection lens and, until quite recently, a double-focus setup. That means relying heavily on diopters for close focus. The Kowa isn’t too bad, at 5ft or 1.5m for minimum focus, but it would be nice to go closer.
What we’re gonna need for today is:
Kowa B&H (or Elmo II)
a tiny screwdriver
needle nose pliers
Before we start, some useful info. Projection lenses vary their stretch factor across their focus range. I’ll come back to this subject in the future. For now, here’s a comparison of the Kowa focused at infinity (6’6″, using a +0.5 diopter), and at original minimum focus (4’8″ for me).
The nominal stretch factor is only valid for infinity. At minimum focus we come down to around 1.8x. Single focus solutions fix this, as the anamorphic block stays focused at infinity – hence, it has constant stretch. Not everyone can afford a single focus solution though.
I believe this is a process that, like the previous tutorial, can be applied to other lenses such as Kowas 8Z and 16H. I couldn’t check by myself. If you’re able to do it, please let me know!
The first step is to get to the core of the lens. Using the screwdriver, loosen these three tiny screws on the front of the Kowa.
Now get a grip and rotate the front ring out. This will set the body’s glove free and you can spin it out all the way through the back. Welcome to Greaseland.
You will find three little brass tabs around the lens. As you move the front element back and forth, notice these tabs are the focus limiters. The front marks infinity, the back is for minimum focus. At minimum focus you can see a gap between the front element and the body. The goal is to eliminate this gap. Not all Kowas have such gap. Two of my three Kowas had it.
Sometimes you might find a tab with a longer back part. If that’s the case, you can simply take out the longer tab and enjoy shorter minimum focus. This process is easily reversible because you can restore the lens back to normal by simply putting the tab back. Not my case.
Take out each brass tab by removing their screws. They’re tough. DO NOT PROCEED IF YOU’RE UNSURE ABOUT PERMANENTLY MODDING YOUR LENS. In an ideal world, instead of the file and pliers we would have the tab held by a vise and a fine metal saw to do the cut. Too bad I don’t live in an ideal world. Using the pliers, snap one end of each tab to make them shorter. File the cut clean.
By cutting them we change how far the front element can travel and eliminate that pesky gap. Screw all the tabs back with he short part facing the back of the Kowa. I had a longer tab in all my lenses. It turned out to be the key to infinity focus. The top of it is just a tad higher than the others so, when I tested without it, I could focus way past infinity and that is no good. Cut it shorter too and put it back in place.
If you change your mind AFTER cutting the tabs, the best you can do is rotate one of them 180 degrees, restoring the original minimum focus stopper, while the others hold for infinity.
Reassemble the lens. When you put back the glove, there’s a chance that the Kowa’s focus markings won’t match. Let’s fix it. Loosen these three screws around the markings skirt. This allows it to rotate. Focus to infinity. Adjust the markings, tighten back the screws.
Time for testing. Here’s our previous minimum focus, at 4’8″. Here’s the new one, at 3’8″. The stretch factor has been further decreased to 1.7x.
On James’ tests he was able to come down to 2’8″, and stretch dropped to 1.55x. Nothing comes without a “Price”.
Since we’re already in the subject of price, I’m gonna take a moment to thank James for the effort of putting all the data on the forum and then clarifying my many questions through detailed messages. Thank you, sir, you are an inspiration!
Now, if you’re still watching and had the guts to do the mod, please let me know how it went on the comments! Subscribe if you haven’t yet, because next week we’ll be improving the Kowa’s optical performance with a highly recommended tune up that you can do by yourself. See you then! Ferradans out.
Following the steps of James Price, this episode explains how to dial down the strong veiling glare in many anamorphic adapters. For this example, I’m using the Kowa B&H. The process is cheap, fast and safe. What else could you wish for?
Moving forward with the series of Kowa B&H tweaks and improvements, this one was presented by James Price (frequent collaborator by now!) on EOSHD a while ago. You might’ve noticed veiling glare in many shots I made with the Kowa – particularly noticeable on wider lenses. Veiling glare is this white halo, or inverse vignetting that comes from strong light sources hitting the front optics.
If you’re not too fond of that aspect of the lens there’s an easy way of modding it. The edge of the front element is exposed on the Kowa B&H, which is both good and bad. Bad because it creates glare, good because that gives us the opportunity of fixing it ourselves with no disassembling.
You can be fancy and get acrylic paint and a fine brush to cover the rough edge (its rough aspect is great for absorbing and adhering the paint) but, as I wanna be cheap, I’m just gonna grab my trusty sharpie and carefully paint the edge. It’s easy to see what the edge is as it is… rough. If you have any track accidents during the paint process, just use a Q-tip with a tiny little bit of lighter fluid to wipe the paint off the front glass.
Here’s a little bit of before/after comparisons. For me that’s a LOT of improvement, as I find veiling glare one of the most negative types of flare as it’s too much like an inverse vignetting on a majorly dark frame.
Here are a few more comparisons, these ones by James Price. He states that “this ‘modification’ can also be applied to any similar lens that has an exposed front edge of its optic, creating a strong veiling glare. Often the veiling glare is part of the joy of anamorphic – but sometimes it can be a little too much, so this technique is good to try a little bit at first – by applying a thin layer of diluted paint first (that way, the veiling flare can be ‘deadened’ rather than completely removed.)”.
Hello, hello! I’m Tito Ferradans and it is time to bring to the stage an interesting match. Ever since I laid eyes on the Elmoscope II, it’s similarities with the Kowa Bell and Howell were… impressive, to say the least. Long story short, they have the very same look on the outside, so I wanted to check if the same holds for the footage they deliver. Afterall, the Kowa B&H goes for around 900 bucks, while the Elmo II can be had for a third of that price with just a bit of luck. It would be more than interesting to know if the Elmo is underpriced (or vice versa!). Both lenses are vintage projection optics and dual focus setups by nature. The Kowa B&H is considered to be the very best among projection lenses, praised by many and sought after by many more.
A while back I worked on the shooting of the acoustic version of Hello, by Hedley, with the genius of Matt Leaf. It was a two-camera setup. For that we had both my Kowa B&H and Corey MacGregor‘s Elmo II, each one inside of a Rectilux and paired to Russian taking lenses (the usual, Mir, Helios and Jupiter). Can you spot the difference between each anamorphic? Shooting this piece only inspired me more to get both lenses in a more *sterile* environment.
DETAILED Spec Comparison
On a spec side, the Elmo weights the same as the Kowa, 500g. Minimum focus on both lenses is the same, 5ft – or 1.5m – as well as the sizes for the front and rear elements. For the sake of this review I designed a custom clamp to hold both lenses and 3d-printed it. The Elmo’s back is a little thinner than the Kowa, so you’ll need to print the spacer ring too. This clamp attaches to SmallRig’s 1651 lens support system and 951 rod. It uses M4 screws and nuts for holding the adapter in place and a 1/4″ nut to screw to the lens support. You can get the files for printing right here.
They don’t have front neither rear filter threads. If you want to add some diopters to them, a clamp will be required. Alignment is also set on the clamp – check out how to mount either of these lenses inside the FM or inside the Rectilux for single focusing.
For the following tests I’ll be pairing, side by side, shots with the Kowa and Elmo II with the exact same settings. For usability’s sakes they’re mounted into a Rectilux.
This is the time of the truth. While the Elmo manages to keep up at wider focal lenghts – it doesn’t do so well in fast apertures. When the lenses get longer, the Kowa states its supremacy, beating the Elmo in every single setting. These are 100% crops of 12 megapixels, so when shooting video, the difference shouldn’t be so noticeable. Take a look at the full res images here.
Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 CENTER
Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 CORNER
Contax Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 CENTER
Contax Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 CORNER
Contax Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 CENTER
Contax Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 CORNER
Contax Zeiss 135mm f/2.8 CENTER
Contax Zeiss 135mm f/2.8 CORNER
I dare you to say these flares are not identical. Warm long streaks and one green reflection.
Contax Zeiss 50mm f/1.4
Again, exactly the same results, with an almost usable frame at 40mm at 2.4:1. No vignetting from 50mm for 2.4:1 crop, but a little bit at 2.66:1. Step up to 58mm for 2.66:1 coverage, and clear the image completely at 85mm and above.
If you wanna see some test footage of these two inter-cutting together, as I mentioned in the beginning, check out Hedley’s Hello, acoustic version by clicking here. My half-cooked tests won’t come as close, so I won’t even try. Matt already did a great job with that!
This is the first video of the “Kowa month”, throughout which I’ll be showcasing different tweaks and tests focused around the Kowa Bell & Howell. These were all achieved in collaboration with other people – this time with Matt and Corey, there’s a few with James Price – to help you achieve the best out of your B&H – or Elmo II. It’s a seriesception, with a series inside of a series. If you’re interested in that and have the courage to open up your lens (it’s not that hard, I promise), subscribe and join me for this ride. For more detailed info – or if you hate constantly pausing the video – head to the blog for the written version of everything you see here.