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Soligor 90-230mm f/4.5 M42 Manual Focus Zoom Lens Review

This in one big lens, and it's heavy too, due to its all metal construction. I got it last year to use as a telephoto zoom with my Canon EOS 350d / Digital Rebel XT, but to be honest I've found it much more useful as a macro lens, when used with a few extension tubes.

To recap a little, these M42 lenses use a screw mount - so you'll need a M42-EF (EF is the name for the Canon lens mount) adapter, which can be had for a few quid from eBay. You'll have to shoot in aperture priority mode, change the aperture on the lens manually and focus manually, but that's easy once you get used to it, and you can buy these lenses very cheap indeed at car-boot sales, charity-shops, and flea-markets. They can often also be found in friends and relatives attics and lofts, gathering dust with an equally old 35mm Film SLR...

Lens Cover, Olympus Mju 300

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The Soligor 90-230mm is great for macro work with extension tubes because it's a constant aperture lens (f/4.5), so as you focus on your subject, the end of the lens doesn't pop out and knock into the flowers you're trying to photograph. It has a tripod mount on the lens itself, making it easy to balance, and that wide zoom range makes focussing simple. (When using extension tubes you have to focus by changing your focal length - which means either moving your camera backwards and forwards, or in this case, just adjusting the zoom. Don't ask me why!)

Fiddy Pence

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The technique I use is to set up my camera on my tripod, and open up the aperture on the lens to 4.5. I then get my focussing right, (sometimes by illuminating my subject with a torch - it really helps), then "stop down" to around f/8 to increase the Depth of Field and sharpness. I then use a remote shutter release, or the shutter-delay timer to take the shot.

With this type of macro set-up your depth of field is often only mm wide, so stopping down is a good way to get more of your subject in focus. The down side to this is that you'll be using longer exposures, so you have to make sure that your camera and subject are very still indeed.


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Please bear in mind that all these photographs have been edited in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop - they are as close to "finished" images as I can create. I do this because I think it's important to see the potential of what you can do with these old lenses, to give you the inpiration to try them out before splashing out hundreds (if not thousands) of pounds on the latest, modern glass.


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Macro flower photography has become a bit of a favourite of mine. If When I buy my darling wife a bunch of flowers, you can bet that the next day I'll have my tripod set-up with my big Soligor zoom on my 350d, ready to get in close and see what I can come up with.

The old nuggets of advice still apply. Check the flowers for imperfections and get rid of wilting leaves and petals. Think about, and look for, a relative plain background to avoid distraction from your main subject. Try and choose an unusual angle, and when using extension tubes, vary the number you use to get very different looks.


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One of my favourite techniques is to shoot inside at night in complete darkness, just using a small torch to illuminate the flowers. I guess you could call this "Painting with Light", and it is fun and I love the black backgrounds.


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Shooting outside with the Soligor is a totally different proposition. You've got the weight to look out for, but also your photos will be more prone to subject-blur because of the longer shutter-speeds this slow zoom forces you to use. Pump up the ISO, choose a sunny day, and you can just about get away with hand-holding, although I do get a lot of soft shots.

Insect On Flower

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Whenever buying lenses at a car-boot sale, flea-market or second-hand store, always give the glass a good looking at. Check that there's no big scratches, that there's no fungus growing inside, and that the aperture, zoom and focus rings all move smoothly and do what they should do.

I always take a m42 extension tube with me to our local car boot sales so I can screw it onto the bottom of any potential lenses, so I can check that they really are M42 and not some similar looking lens mount. Trust me, it's easy to get it wrong, and I've got two lenses in my collection that although screw mount, are definitely not m42!


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The other thing I'd say is don't pay too much for this type of lens. I think this one cost me a tenner, and I'm happy with that, just remember that you could get a second-hand Canon EF 75-300mm for just over £100, and that has auto-focus, a bigger focal range, and is a lot lighter.

Tower Viewing Platform

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The above photo is a rare example of where I've actually used the old Soligor zoom as a Telephoto lens, also with a M42 2x tele-converter on as well! The link below the photo will take you to the orginal shot, which isn't that bad. I remember resting the lens on a railing to keep it steady, and it was quite a sunny day, so at ISO 200 the shutter speed was 1/800th, just enough to keep the photograph free of camera-shake.

So, in conclusion, if you see a M42 Soligor 90-230mm f4.5 Zoom going cheap, snap it up. Add a m42-ef mount adapter and some extension tubes and you'll have yourself a great little macro set-up.

Cheers, Rob.