M42 lenses are so 1970s. They are built to last. And among them you'll find spectacular ones that rival modern lenses in so many ways. Check out these:
- Carl Zeiss Jena - Flektogon 35mm f2.4,
- Pentax Super-Takumar 50mm f1.4,
- Carl Zeiss Jena - Sonnar 135mm f3.5, and many others.
A few years ago, you could get them for half the shipping price on ebay. Nobody wanted them. People loved their 'wonderful' autofocus/autoexposure Canons, Nikons, Minoltas... Now people went digital, and experimenting is virtually free. So they started looking into alternatives. That's why we have a boom in old M42 lens market! People love them on their Canon digital camera bodies. I said Canon, because the lens register space in Canon DSLRs allows using an adapter to convert M42 to EF lens mount. You focus manually, set your aperture manually, and use 'aperture priority' mode for auto-exposure.
Since everybody is into DSLRs, mass production film cameras go dirt cheap on ebay. I mean some lower end modern Canon EOS series and some Nikons. You can get a mint EOS-300 body for $40 including shipping. EOS-300 makes a great light body to use for your street photography. Put a wide-angle M42 lens on it, and you'll have a very compact, reliable, quick camera. It has 1.5 fps burst shooting. Built-in flash. Reliable auto exposure. Low power consumption. For its price, these are great features.
However, the mirror mechanism slaps some M42 lenses, we have to modify the mirror. The original focusing screen doesn't help you for focusing manually, so we'll change it into a split-image screen. The M42-EF adapter needs to be taken off each time you change a lens. I prefer it to stay on the camera, so we'll solve that problem, too.
Tools needed: Utility knife, pliers, watchmaker screwdrivers, fine-grit sandpaper, adhesive tape...
Parts needed: Canon EOS-300, M42 lens, M42-EF mount converter, an old SLR focusing screen (F-1)...
Below are the photos of the camera before and after the modification!.. In the middle you have the M42-EF mount adapter.
Step 1: Start with the focusing screen!
The first photo is from the original focusing screen on Canon EOS-300. The second photo is the split-image focusing screen that we'll fit into our EOS-300.