In this article I'll look at the use of enlarging lenses with the Fuji X system, and how you can build a custom adapter for infinity focus with shorter focal length enlarging lenses. The same process would also apply to other mirrorless camera systems.

Using enlarger lenses with the Fuji X System

The Fuji X system has a short flange back distance. This is also common to other mirrorless interchangeable lens systems such as Sony's E and FE mount cameras, and micro four thirds cameras. The benefit of this is that it allows you to mount lenses closer to the sensor than you can with a DSLR.

One lens I was particularly interested in trying with my Fuji X cameras was the EL-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 N. This is an enlarging lens, designed for making enlargements from film.

This lens has a M39 mount, which can easily have an adapter attached to convert it to a more usable M42 mount. However, you can't directly attach it to a DSLR with a mount convertor as the back of the lens extends too far back - it would hit the camera's mirror. Since the Fuji X cameras have no mirror, this is no longer an issue.

The protruding rear element on the EL-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 N lens
The protruding rear element on the EL-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 N lens

I purchased a Fuji X to M42 mount adapter with a built-in helical for use with the lens. (Enlarging lenses have no built-in focusing mechanism, so you must add a helical to allow focusing).

Unfortunately I found that with the adapter the maximum focal distance (with the helical fully retracted) was about 5 feet. For infinity focus, the lens obviously needed to be nearer the sensor than the 45.46mm of the M42 mount.

17-31mm M42 helical (left) and Pixco Fuji X to M42 adapter with built-in helical (right), both at minimum lengths
17-31mm M42 helical (left) and Pixco Fuji X to M42 adapter with built-in helical (right), both at minimum lengths

The only solution I could think of was to fashion my own M42 mount adapter with a shorter flange back distance. To do this I took a Fuji X mount 58mm reversing ring and a 52-42mm step-down ring and glued them together. This then provided an adapter with a Fuji X bayonet mount mount on one side, and a female M42 mount on the other. (Actually it has both a 52mm male thread and a female 42mm thread on the lens side).

DIY Fuji X to M42 mount adapter with short flange back distance
DIY Fuji X to M42 mount adapter with short flange back distance

The important thing to note is that a standard filter thread has a thread pitch of 0.75mm. But the M42 mount has a thread pitch of 1mm. So you need to use an 42mm ring with female threads that has a thread pitch around 1mm. I'm not convinced the ring I bought is actually meant to have 1mm threads. But it's close enough to work for me.

With the short adapter, I found that I could screw my 17-31mm M42 mount focusing helical into it. And then add the 50mm lens on the end of that, and achieve infinity focus.

Due to the design of the focusing helical I have, I had to add some cardboard rings to the adapter. Otherwise the helical screws into the adapter tightly when closed, but will be able to screw in further when it is extended (which leads to it becoming loose).

Inside of adapter showing M42 female threads and cardboard shims
Inside of adapter showing M42 female threads and cardboard shims

The cardboard rings also make sure that the focus point with the helical fully closed is only slightly beyond infinity, rather than a long way beyond infinity.

The adapter with the 17-31mm helical when used with the 50mm EL-Nikkor gives a focusing range from slightly beyond infinity to slightly less than 1 foot. So it turns the 50mm enlarging lens into a standard 50mm lens.

17-31mm M42 focusing helical attached to DIY Fuji X to M42 mount adapter
17-31mm M42 focusing helical attached to DIY Fuji X to M42 mount adapter

My 75mm and 80mm enlarging lenses are both usable on a DSLR, that is they both have a relatively large flange back distance for infinity focus. So this home-made adapter is not useful / needed for them.

For those lenses I can use the Fuji X to M42 helical adapter, plus the 17-31mm M42 helical. And then the helical still needs to be extended a bit to give infinity focus. This combination allows focus from beyond infinity down to a little less than one foot.

50mm EL Nikkor with M39 to M42 adapter ring
50mm EL Nikkor with M39 to M42 adapter ring

I did have a good reason for getting the 50mm enlarging lens working with infinity focus. This was that it is the shortest focal length lens I have that passes a reasonable amount of UV light. I was hoping that I might be able to do some UV landscape photography with it.

However, I have now discovered that the Fuji 27mm f/2.8 pancake lens passes a good amount of UV. More on that in a future post.

50mm EL-Nikkor magnifcation tests

I tested the 50mm EL-Nikkor with my Fuji X-M1 UVIR in various configurations to see what the magnification was like. While infinity focus is important to me, close-focus ability is also important.

DIY adapter + 17-31mm helical

Fujifilm X-M1 camera with DIY Fuji X to M42 mount short adapter, 17-31mm M42 focusing helical, and EL-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 N lens
DIY M42 adapter with 17-31mm M42 helical attached

Photo of a ruler showing magnification of Fujifilm X-M1 camera with DIY short M42 adapter, 17-31mm helical @ 31mm, and EL-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 N lens
17-31mm helical @ 31mm

DIY adapter + 17-31mm helical + rear cap extension

Fujifilm X-M1 CSC with 17-31mm helical, M42 - 52mm reversing ring, 52mm - M39 adapter, and 50mm f/2.8 N EL-Nikkor lens
17-31mm helical + reversing ring & lens cap adapter (lens not reversed)

Photo of a ruler showing magnification of Fujifilm X-M1 camera with DIY short M42 adapter, 17-31mm helical @ 17mm, reversing ring, lens cap adapter, and EL-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 N lens (not reversed)
17-31mm helical @ 17mm + reversing ring & lens cap adapter (lens not reversed)

Photo of a ruler showing magnification of Fujifilm X-M1 camera with DIY short M42 adapter, 17-31mm helical @ 31mm, reversing ring, lens cap adapter, and EL-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 N lens (not reversed)
17-31mm helical @ 31mm + reversing ring & lens cap adapter (lens not reversed)

Fuji X - M42 helical + 17-31mm helical

Photo of a ruler showing magnification of Fujifilm X-M1 with Pixco Fuji X to M42 mount adapter (helical closed to minimum length), plus 17-31mm helical at 17mm with EL-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 enlarging lens mounted
Fuji X - M42 mount helical at minimum length plus 17-31mm helical @ 17mm

Photo of a ruler showing magnification of Fujifilm X-M1 with Pixco Fuji X to M42 mount adapter (helical fully expanded), plus 17-31mm helical at 17mm with EL-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 enlarging lens mounted
Fuji X - M42 mount helical fully expanded plus 17-31mm helical @ 17mm

Fujifilm X-M1 with Pixco Fuji X to M42 mount adapter (helical fully expanded), plus 17-31mm helical at 31mm with EL-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 enlarging lens mounted
Fuji X - M42 mount helical fully expanded plus 17-31mm helical @ 31mm

Photo of a ruler showing magnification of Pixco Fuji X to M42 mount adapter with helical fully expanded, plus 17-31mm helical at 31mm with EL-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 enlarging lens
Fuji X - M42 mount helical fully expanded plus 17-31mm helical @ 31mm

DIY adapter + reversed lens

Fujifilm X-M1 camera with DIY M42 adapter and reversed 50mm f/2.8 N EL-Nikkor lens attached
Camera with DIY M42 adapter and reversed lens

Photo of a ruler showing magnification of Fujifilm X-M1 camera with DIY M42 adapter and reversed 50mm f/2.8 N EL-Nikkor lens attached
DIY M42 adapter and reversed lens - it's like a cheap lens baby with no movements that can't be focused

DIY adapter + 17-31mm helical + reversed lens

Fujifilm X-M1 camera with DIY short M42 adapter, 17-31mm M42 helical @ 17mm, and reversed 50mm f/2.8 N EL-Nikkor lens attached
Reversed lens on 17-31mm helical

Photo of a ruler showing magnification of 50mm f/2.8 EL Nikkor reverse mounted on 17-31mm M42 focusing helical @ 17mm, on DIY short M42 to Fuji X mount adapter attached to Fuji X-M1 UVIR camera
17-31mm helical @ 17mm, lens reversed - still a bit smeary at the edges

Photo of a ruler showing magnification of 50mm f/2.8 EL Nikkor reverse mounted on 17-31mm M42 focusing helical @ 31mm, on DIY short M42 to Fuji X mount adapter attached to Fuji X-M1 UVIR camera
17-31mm helical @ 31mm, lens reversed

In my opinion the 50mm EL-Nikkor works quite well on a mirrorless system like the Fuji X series. The longer focal length enlarging lenses (75mm and up) I think are more suited to DSLR use. Yes, they will work on a mirrorless camera. But they need more extension than they do when used on a DSLR.

Enlarging lenses are quite small, but when you add on the focusing helical they can actually end up larger than a normal lens. Having said that, you can share the helical(s) amongst multiple enlarging lenses compared to normal lenses that all have their own helical built in.

In my opinion an enlarging lens with helical can be quite useful for doing close-up work. They can also be pressed into longer distance work when required. However, if you're just interested in getting a cheap standard lens that can focus to infinity, I'd suggest sticking with a normal lens rather than messing about with enlarging lenses.

4 Responses to Using enlarger lenses with the Fuji X System

  1. +1 and Thanks!

  2. Ricardo Janet says:

    Very interesting solution to a 50 mm enlarging lens. Have to search for new parts to try it…:)

    I own two Beseler Color enlarging lenses: a 50 mm f/2.8 and a 75mm f/4.5. Both can be adapted to my Fuji XE-1 with a Fuji-m42 adapter + Asahi Pentax Close focusing Helicoid (15-30mm) + m42-m39 ring giving me full infinity focus with the 75 mm and about 1.5 meters with the 50mm.
    Need to try your solution!

    Saludos from Querétaro, México.

  3. I have an EL-Nikkor 2.8 enlarging lens (to reverse) and Fuji XT1.
    What are the missing necessary components?
    Thank you.

    • Dave Kennard says:

      If you want to mount it reversed for macro work, you’ll probably want a couple of Fuji X mount extension tubes (bought as a set). Then a Fuji X reversing ring (Fuji X mount on one side and male filter threads on the other, normally 52mm or 58mm). Then a step up ring to go from the 52 / 58 / whatever of the reverse adapter to the 40.5mm thread of the lens.

      This will give you fixed focus / magnification, other than adding / removing extension tubes. You just move the camera back / forth to focus.

      If you want variable focus / magnification, then instead you want a Fuji X – M42 adapter with helical, then an M42 reverse adapter, then a step up ring to go from the 52 / 58 / whatever of the reverse adapter to the 40.5mm thread of the lens.

      Hope that helps.

      Dave

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