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Guest Bart Willems

A roof in the ceiling

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Guest Bart Willems

Spotted during a walk through the park


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    • Guest nfoto
      By Guest nfoto
      The tiny CX format by Nikon has perhaps not been appreciated by the public at large, at the least between self-appointed aficionados. Yet these petite devices enamour themselves once you realise they are quite capable cameras. Maybe their target audience never was the professionals, but what can prevent you from use these once in a while? The 1v1 and its siblings provide a welcome, light-weight change to all the heavy artillery one tends to haul around these days. I availed myself of a fire-sale on the 1V1 and recently added the 1 AW1 as well. The idea was to have additional tools not toys.
      However, one definite drawback in the 1 Nikon (CX) system is the total dependence on CPU-enabled lenses. Thus, without a CPU you don't get light metering, can only use 'M' exposure mode, and there is no way you can activate the finder magnifier. In Nikon's defence they never engineered the CX system to be used with other lenses than their own. However that won't stop curious people from attaching the weirdest stuff onto their 1 Nikons, in no small way helped by the spate of cheap third-party adapters arriving at the scene. You can of course use Nikon's FT-1 adapter if adding genuine Nikkors to the 1V1 is your thing.
      A keen dedicated user can easily work around or adjust to the first two issues (no light metering, only M mode), but having no finder magnifier is a severe problem when you use fast or long lenses. This because the requirement for focusing accuracy increases as the format size goes down and you keep the focal lengths from a larger format.
      No lens shows this better than the über-fast Rodenstock 50 mm f/0.75. It is an old favourite that in fact thrives amiably with the CX system because of its short register (flange to focal plane). However, focusing it is not easy as the description "wafer-thin" depth of field isn't even scraping the surface of reality. Surely a lens that simply cries for a CPU to get better focusing aid on my 1 V1.
      Recently I became aware of a Russian source for CPU chips targeted at the 1 series cameras. This can be found at http://gfotostore.ru and they kindly sent me a sampler of the chip. I'm not certain they are identical to the Dandelion chip maker for F-mount and Olympus 4/3 lenses, but must be related in some manner as the outward appearances of these chips are virtually identical. If reading Russian isn't your cup of tea, these chips are also sold on eBay.
      Thus, time to put the 50 mm Rodenstock on the work table. I have several of them so it was easy to allocate one sample entirely to the 1 V1 project.
      Here are the Heligons and the stuff you need to get a CX mount on this bulky and heavy lens. The better way is starting by making a 52 mm thread foundation secured to the rear of the lens. As the lens is encased in a massive metal tube, drilling three holes for screws is a breeze. In fact due to the heft of the lens anything less robust will probably shear off in due time. I use Cokin 52 mm filter adapters or similar for these projects. The lens on the left has had the 52 mm platform established already. In from one sees the CX mount with the red gizmo following the chip. This thingie serves as a template to locate the chip properly. Also due to the weight of the Heligon I use factory CX mount spares, ordered through my friendly Nikon repair facility. Always make a habit of cultivating long-lasting relationships to repair techs, as this with certainty will prove helpful at some point in time. In addition to the CX mount you need a spacer so the rear end of the Heligon won't do too much mischief to the narrow camera throat of the 1V1. Here I deploy a 40.5 or 42 mm > 52 mm stepring. Depending on how the stepring is build, you might have to use a Dremel to produce a flat mounting surface for the CX bayonet. The CX mount also needs to have some metal removed from its inner area so the rear part of the Heligon can go though it. Another quick-time job for a Dremel.

      Putting these pieces together is a breeze so I rather show the finished result and leave the rest as a practical exercise on your own lens. The locking nut of the rear lens cell needs a tad trimming on the side to allow the chip to slide into a secure position. Use the template to navigate the chip so it will be successfully read by the camera. The flange lip on the rear cell serves to give a stable platform for the chip.

      Another view of the Heligon, now mounted on the 1 V1. The sheer bulk of the lens and high-refractive thick elements inside the Heligon makes it pretty impressive to behold.

      Well, that's really what it takes. Provided you positioned the chip correctly, you now have full light metering, can operate in "A" mode, and the focus magnifier is at your service. The focus confirmation dot works perfectly as well.
      The chip itself is set up as a 50 mm f/1.4-16 lens and you have to put it at f/1.4 in order to get a reliable metering. Unfortunately, there is no option to allow the user to select focal length. I asked the guys at gfotostore.ru about this and they answered, probably truthfully, that the complex communication protocol of the 1 Nikons prevented a later change in chip settings (or rather, they hadn't been able to crack the code completely, whatever comes first). The Lens EXIF tag reads 'gfotostore.ru.'. However, as my lens indeed is a 50 mm, and I now can use it the way I want, I for one don't mind this small inconvenience. My lens identification module in my database software works with these data to uniquely identify the lens anyway. Do note the EXIF standard only allows f-number down to f/1, so were the chip user-configurable, the nominal speed of it could not have been entered as such. A translation table in my Lens ID module caters for discrepancies like this, though. Thus my own custom chip of my F-mount outfitted 50/0.75 Heligon reads 50 mm f/7.6 (nearest 1/12 EV to 10*f/0.75) to make its ID unique. It is set up as a "G" chip with just a single f-number available.
      The entire conversion job took about the same time as playing through one of my Tangerine Dream CDs (approx. 1 hour). While the instructions accompanying the chip were terse (one has to go to the web site to look up the particulars here: http://gfotostore.ru/?hash=page/nikon1), the implementation is pretty straight-forward so most people can accomplish this. The only problem is getting the chip in the exact location as the template isn't very precise, partly because the chip ends in a pointed 'nose' that can easily slide underneath the template. The maker of this chip set should perhaps redesign the template to have a notch into which the nose of the chip can be seated to improve mounting accuracy. I also asked the maker if they could provide a "De Luxe" version for which an end user could specify host lens data to replace the 50/1.4 standard now embedded in the chip. I for one would gladly pay more to have this convenience available.

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