THEY CALL IT MELLO-VELLO, BUT NOT WITH A PENTAX 40mm PANCAKE ATTACHED! (A VELLO ADAPTER REVIEW).
The morning of Chrismas 2022 brought with it some wonderful puffs of imagination. A letter from Santa himself, the reaching out and holding of loving hands, the sweet aroma of coffee hovering just in reach of noses, and a warmly lit tree standing a safe distance from the cozy billowing heat of a hungry fire. These are all special things, like, very special things to be around, and things I find myself as an almost 35-year-old, wondering “is this real?” I didn’t grow up with this kind of magic buzzing all around me, but these Holidays I’ve had the privilege to experience for the last 8 years have certainly tipped the scales in favor of the closeness and kindness of a family and the wonders and whimsy that can follow, even after everything has gone so perfectly. Snow had fallen for days before this moment and the streets were prepped and being packed by a steady hammering of ice rain. There were talks just before exchanging gifts of a walk after breakfast, which got me excited to try out my new Vello brand adapter. I packed my Nikon F, with a non-working metered prism, and the Pentax K 40mm f2.8 pancake lens. I have only had one other adapter, that also has a small single layer of glass between the rear element of the lens and the opening to the film plane. This single element guarantees proper infinity focus, but there are some other things it does as well. The other adapter allowed me to shoot M42 mount lenses on my Nikon F as well, but it performed a bit differently than this one.
Anyway, after gifts, we all ate, talked, pet the dogs with our feet, softly, beneath a finely decorated table; while the dogs toyed with power and position amongst the many treats that lay strewn about all over the damned place. We then got prepped in our fineries and headed out into the cold slick of the day. I hopped through almost knee-high snow in the backyard to pee before sliding down the driveway to meet everyone else. During this process, I took a photo and saw that I would have to be opening the lens up all the way to be able to focus correctly. I’m not opposed to this way of shooting, but it is forcing a lens that normally bypasses this step to revert to a method used by my 1960s Spotmatic.
The photo I took while peeing. Nikon F, Pentax K mount 40mm f2.8 w/ Vello adapter.
It’s also allowing me to use it on my Nikon F, so I digress. Standing there I realized what would be needed to shoot this lens on this body, made this photo, and bumbled through the yard hurrying to carry on.
Once I got back with the group, we rounded the corner and saw a car that looked like it had been ditched after running up on a pretty small snow bank. We passed with a sense of wonder and began to unfold our many theories out toward one another, into the chilly air, pressing on. Only a few short blocks away, we made it to a curve in the road that follows the round of a pond alongside a lovely park called Manito. This season, the pond is almost solid ice in its depth. A hockey-playing father and son carved new lines in their shoveled-out little nook and found old ways to fall into comfort and laughter, amongst the swift thwack and shhhhhhk of a puck passed between them.
As we passed, I continued messing with the focus on things near and far, trying to regain speed in focusing, it was fun and sometimes hard, but the adapter feels nice. It has a good weight to it, while not being heavy; nothing feels loose and it attaches very easily to my Nikon F and allows my Pentax lenses to lock in snug and easily too.
Pentax 40mm pancake attached to Vello adapter, attached to Nikon F!
There’s a well-made little tab that you press and turn to remove the lens from the adapter, it is very simple. While using this lens specifically, I did notice the silliness of the adapter being just as big as the lens; if you don’t have much experience in using this lens without an adapter, you may misplace your fingers pretty easily. Grabbing the barrel of the adapter or even the aperture while trying to turn the focus ring. It can turn into work rather quickly if you aren’t comfortable already. So, for some, this 40mm lens is too compressed in its ergonomics to want to use it, too many possibilities for a sudden slow down in shooting.
Walker in Manito park chrismas morning.
I will say that once you get used to those crammed bits and pieces, this lens delivers! With that being said, when it is attached to this adapter, oooooo does it suffer. So I do have the 50mm f2 Pentax K mount, which I didn’t use with this adapter, so I won't claim that this is a full, end-to-end review with multiple studies, but I will continue to use this adapter and get around to the 50. With the 40mm though, I noticed after the fact while looking at the scans that there is an almost toy camera plastic lens pulling that happens all around the center, pretty heavily I must add. Part of me does like this semi-cinematic look, and another part of me feels like this is a bit much.
Now as I said, I don’t think that this would happen, or at least be as extreme with a less wide lens; the distortion and softness that spreads thickly around the focus or center would most likely dissipate quite a bit just going a few mm tighter. Having that extra single layer of glass just before the film plane gives any lens you put on these adapters a run for whatever money you spent. There is a definite sacrifice in using lovely lenses from one kit and putting them on another body, is this worth it? Yes of course.
Even in lowlight this lens and adapter perform well. Photo of my Great Grandma and Grandma, 1948.
I will continue to use this lens on the Nikon F, but due to having two 50mm lenses from the k mount realm, I will try one out and see what it can do and probably sell off one of the K1000s and one 50mm and toss the 40mm and 50mm into my Nikon F kit.
All this being said, I think it is really important to just try things, see what they can do and see what you like and dislike about them and see if you can fit any of those traits into your shooting, your vision, your strengths and in doing so make your work stronger. If this adapter or any piece of gear were to make your work suffer or make you enjoy making images less, ditch it, don’t force yourself to sacrifice anytime or effort just to have something. I’ve said it and I'll say it again, I did that with the Leica M3, I held onto that thing for years….and it did nothing for me. It isn’t the camera's fault, it was me accepting the weight of an idea and holding onto that idea for too long. Now that I have chosen to let that go, I feel much more mobile in my shooting and mental space. This adapter is no M3 or Summicron, but it can either add or take away just the same and it is up to the photographer to dig around and find the magic in something. This adapter delivers something interesting and makes using a lens I love possible on a body I love. What’s better than that?
Over and out!