Canon EF Nikon FX Pentax K
Three full-frame prime lenses in one
It’s three full-frame prime lenses in one, but just try not to gasp too much at the price of this trendy package
Lomography is full of surprises. This hipster retro specialist operates a regular production line of plastic lo-fi cameras, instant cameras, and quirky films in all kinds of formats, and has helped relaunch classic lens types.
The Neptune Convertible Art Lens System might seem like a random off-the-wall idea, but the design has its foundations in the history of lens design. In 1840, optical pioneer Charles Chevalier presented a ‘convertible’ lens with an interchangeable barrel, an idea that Lomography has resurrected for the 21st century.
The system consists of a base unit that attaches to the camera lens mount, and a series of three additional lenses that attach to this base. The base contains some of the optical elements, the diaphragm and focus ring, while the add-on lenses provide three different focal lengths.
The Thalassa is a 35mm f/3.5; the Despina is a 50mm f/2.8; and the Proteus is an 80mm f/4. By today’s standards, the apertures are modest, but these add-on lenses are far smaller and lighter than their modern equivalents. Each would easily fit in a trouser pocket or, quite possibly, a shirt pocket.
However, there are significant mechanical and operational limitations. For a start, all three lenses are – not surprisingly – manual-focus only. Not only that, but there are no mechanical or electronic connections to the camera body, so your DSLR will not know which aperture setting you’ve decided to use. It’s not just focusing that has to be done manually, but exposure metering too – very old-school, to say the least.
The add-on lenses feel weighty and well-made, but the base unit feels crudely fashioned by comparison. The focus ring works smoothly, but
1 Individually, the Neptune lenses are far smaller than equivalent modern prime lenses. 4 5 2 7 6 3 1 The Despina 50mm f/2.8 offers a standard lens angle of view on a full-frame Nikon and 75mm equivalent on a DX model. 2 The Thalassa 35mm f/3.5 is a good lens for street photography, with enough depth of field for rough ‘zone’ focusing. 3 The Proteus 80mm f/4 lens is sharp, but the precise manual focusing needed is tricky with a DSLR viewfinder. 4 This base unit attaches to the camera and contains three optical elements plus the focus and diaphragm mechanisms. 5 The focus mechanism is smooth enough, but the aperture ring on our sample was stiff. 6 The diaphragm is exposed. If you want to use a different, creative effect, you can use the supplied bokeh plates. 7 The three add-on lenses attach via this bayonet fitting in the base unit. It’s a mechanical fitting with no electronic connections.
The Neptune system can be used on mirrorless cameras via adaptors.