Scabby Soligor gets Ai'd

The story of modernising a Soligor 35mm lens and bringing it kicking and screaming into the 1970's....

3 months ago

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Nikon F-301 with Ai converted Soligor Wide-Auto 35mm f/2.8 lens mounted.

This week I added what I felt was 'the missing piece' to my collection of Nikon F-Mount lenses: a 35mm. This is one of my favorite focal lengths as I often find 50mm a bit long and 24mm or 28mm a bit too wide when I'm out on our daily lunchtime street photography walk. 35mm is basically a great and very versatile compromise. Now, as the JazzyCamel coffers are not of infinite depth, I was looking for something on the cheaper side; I'm not one to be upset by cosmetic imperfections as long as it works and, for that matter, I'm far from averse to tackling a 'fixer-upper'. So, when I spotted a Soligor 35mm f/2.8 'pre-Ai' lens on Ebay for £25 delivered, I hit 'Buy It Now' with little delay.

Soligor Wide-Auto 35mm f/2.8 F-Mount lens.

Today, five or so days later, my latest 'toy' has arrived. One the whole, I am extremely please with it. It is a little 'scabby', by which I mean it's rather worn (or 'brassed' if you prefer) in many areas. However, the glass is clean, the aperture snappy and the blades free from oil and the focus ring moves smoothly. In short, it works perfectly. Except... this is basically a pre-Ai lens. To get the low-down on what this means, you might want to read my previous post on this subject here, but briefly this means the lens does not have the necessary groove on the aperture ring that informs my cameras of the selected aperture. This means that I can't use this lens on my F-301 as it does not support stop-down metering.

So, I set about working out a conversion. Unlike my previous experience on a Nikon pre-Ai 50mm f/1.4, I couldn't simply cut a groove out of the aperture ring as, on the Soligor, the ring is too shallow and doesn't meet the mount. This meant that rather than removing material, I was going to have to add some. To the 3D printer! (via a CAD program...!).

Soligor Wide-Auto 35mm f/2.8 with DIY Ai Conversion.

As can be seen from the above picture, I removed the old-skool rabbit ears and then designed and 3D printed a tiny bracket that could be mounted in their place. (I'm actually going to super-glue this in place for added strength, although this probably isn't necessary. I will also put a screw back in the unused hole for cosmetic purposes). I did have to lightly file some metal off the aperture ring just to stop it occasionally snagging on the cameras aperture mechanism, but it was so little you can barely notice.

I'm pleased to say that the lens now operates correctly on both my Nikon FE and F-301 film bodies as well as looking rather spiffy on my Sony Alpha7 Mk.II mirror-less digital. I've not had a chance to properly road test it yet, but it seems to be pretty sharp and the out-of-focus regions are nice and soft and the bokeh is gently bubbly. The following is one of my first test shots:

"Prayer Flags", Sony Alpha7 Mk.II, Soligor Wide-Auto 35mm f2.8 @ f/2.8, 1/60s, ISO 640

Disclaimer

If you chose to undertake a conversion on a lens and screw it up, don't blame me! Everything on this page represents only my personal experience and opinion and I cannot and will not be held responsible or liable for any damage or losses you may incur due to cack-handedness, lack of understanding, accident or for any other reason I am yet to think of.

Rob Kent

Published 3 months ago

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