Anamorphic

Anamorphic Chop Shop – Kowa B&H Sharpness Tune Up

November 27, 2016

The Kowas are great vintage adapters, but with this simple tweak they can deliver much better image quality!

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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.

Get your tools. Let’s get started.

  • Kowa B&H
  • tweezers
  • screwdriver
  • camera, with long taking lens
  • electrical tape
  • Q-tips
  • super glue

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.


DEFAULT SETTING

NEW POSITION

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.

  • Step Down Ring for Kowa B&H Lens | RAPIDO TECHNOLOGY November 28, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    […] Recently, I purchased a Kowa 2x Anamorphic lens for Bell & Howell, which is highly appraised by users, and I plan to tune up the sharpness of the lens like Tito did in his blog. […]