Why Takumar lenses on a K10D ?
After discussing with some friends, i've decided to explain here why i'm switching on old Pentax Takumar lenses.
First of all, a little background infos. Takumar lenses were made by Asahi Pentax up to 1975, when the K-mount were adopted. They were available in three flavors, according to the age of the lens: "original" Takumar (the oldest ones), Super-Takumar, and SMC (Super Multi Coated) Takumar (the newest ones). The original Takumar lenses were made with uncoated glass. The Super-Takumar lenses had a simple coating, to prevent flare. The SMC Takumar lenses were made with the multi-coated glass that made Pentax famous.
All these lenses have been made with different quality standards with respect to today's lenses. First of all, they all were made with metal bodies because the cameras too were made of metal, instead of the synthetic materials used today. Then, they had to be very clear, because the sensitivity of the films available during 1950-1970 years were not so high: most of the Takumar lenses - and most of the M42 lenses in general - have a bigger aperture when compared to today's lenses (ex.: 85mm f1.8, 105 f2.8, 135 f.2.5 ...).
When i started using the K10D, i was a little disappointed by the "small" aperture of the available lenses (i was used to the 50mm f1.4, 200mm f3.5 and 24mm f2.4 lenses i had with my old camera - a Canon F1, which was stolen in the meantime). Of course, i bought the Sigma zoom (f3.5-f5.6), which is a great lens really worth its money, but i still was looking around for more fast lenses (sure, i'm aware of the Pentax Limited lenses or the A* 85mm f1.4, but they are really expensive, unless shooting is your work).
While snooping around on the best search engine (guess which one ;-) ), i was wondering why there were such a number of references to M42 to Pentax mount adapters available, and i started gathering infos on them. So, i realized that a lot of people were using M42 lenses (as the Pentax Takumar ones) with their numeric cameras because:
- they were made for a 24x36 sensitive surface, which is bigger than the APS-C sensors of today's cameras (with a few exceptions); this means that these peoples were just using the central portion of the lens, which had a better quality than the peripheral portion
- due to the smaller size of the sensor, the angle of view will be smaller than the one of the original lens, as the focal length were multiplied by the scaling factor between the 24x36 area these lenses were made for, and the CCD/CMOS sensor area. Sometimes, this scaling factor is referred as "crop factor", to emphasize the fact that the CCD sensor is "cropping" the 24x36 image these lenses were made for. On a Pentax camera the sensor is 1.5 times smaller than the 24x36 film area, so a 100mm f2.8 lens becomes the equivalent to a 150mm f2.8 on a 24x36 camera, and a 300mm f4 equivalent to a 450mm f4 - cool!
- the SMC coating of Takumar lenses, as the T coating of Carl Zeiss or the EBC of Fujinon lenses, was (is) really good for use with a numeric camera
- these lenses have metal bodies, strongest than the new plastic lenses
- usually, they are cheaper (usually ...)
- last, but not ... least ;-) ... the M42 adapters allow to use any screw mount lens, which means Takumar, of course, but also Carl Zeiss and Pentacon lenses, among others.
So, i decided to try the M42 way, and started by looking at an adapter ... Actually, there are two kinds of adapters: some that plugs in the camera body, with a ring that goes outside the body of the camera, and others that completely fit the body. I choose the second kind of adapter, more expensive but allowing the focus at infinity (the first kind won't allow this because of the extra ring thickness between the body and the lens). If some of you is looking for such a kind of adapter, just browse to eBay and search for the reseller Roxsen (fast shipping, really fine people, see link at the end of the post).
Then, i started looking for Takumars. And i was really surprised about how many of different kind were available. To get started, i decided to try with a short tele lens, and looked for an auction about an SMC Takumar 105 f2.8 (btw, here is where i learned the meaning of the "mint" word - in quasi-new condition). After some bidding, i got one in such condition ...
At first, i was really impressed by the quality of the lens: despite the fact that it was really in mint condition, i got a feeling of something really built like a tank - strong, heavy, with a focus ring smooth as silk ... I was just disappointed by the fact that the filter ring was 49mm - no chance to use my 52mm B+W filters ... too bad!
Then, as soon as i received the M42 adapter, i started shooting everything around me ... And then there were ... light ?!?!?! The old 105mm f2.8 just became a 150mm f2.8, about an f-stop faster than my Sigma zoom at the same focal length, but really easy to manually focus. Of course, i had to get used again to fully manual operations (focus and f-stop), but the "old" reflex from the F1 times came out ... I was really impressed by the overall quality of the image (the Murano glass picture in my previous post has not been retouched, just cropped ...), the sharpness of the lens and the bokeh beyond the green apple in the other picture below.
One of these days, i will post the "best" shots i got with the Sigma 70-300 and the Pentax 18-55, and the same objects shot with the Takumar 105 (same artificial light, of course), i no longer have doubt about the quality of the oldest lens.
Now, i'm just wondering about how to get more free time to go around for shooting ...
All this doesn't mean that everything is OK ... At first, using these lenses means that you loose all the automatic features of the camera: no more auto focus, or program exposure, all these become manual .. but Pentax owners will still benefit of the anti-shake feature embedded in the body ;-) ... This means also little (or not at all) sport pictures (unless you use the depth-of-field trick for focusing), no candid camera, but great still life, macro and portraits (my preferred activities) ...
Moreover, most of these use 49mm filters, which are quite hard to find today, unless you can afford "pro" series from various manufacturers ...
Finally, most of the M42 lenses available on the market are "prime" lenses (the zoom lenses came out a bit later, when most of the cameras suppliers switched to proprietary mounts), which means that you should know which kind picture are taking, unless you decide to bring the whole set while walking around ...
Nevertheless, i will continue with these lenses because:
- they are really sharp with respect to the currently available "digital optimized" lenses and have a little - or not at all - chromatic aberration (of course, i can speak only about my 105mm, but, according to discussions from other forums, the other lenses have the same quality),
- they are faster than their counterparts available today and, anyway, i can still use the anti-shake of my K10D,
- they have a full metal body, giving me a feeling of strenght with respect to today's plastic lenses,
- using M42 screw mount lenses means possibility to use Takumars (of course), but also Carl Zeiss' Sonnar, Tessar and Distagon, russian Jupiter, Mir and Helios, Pentacon lenses - really good 300mm and 400mm f4, Schneider lenses, and a lot more to get listed here ...,
- most of these lenses may be found in mint condition at very cheap prices on eBay - be careful, the prices are rising because more and more peoples are starting buying them ...
Moreover, i've found a great deal about the manual focusing issue: after reading in some forums, i found a firm supplying custom focusing screens with a split prism like the ones that were available on "old" manual focus reflex cameras (check the links below) ...
To finish this post, a small list of possibly useful links and nice lenses to look for, as requested by some friends. Of course, constructive criticisms are always welcome ...
Have a nice shoot.
ROXSEN, M42 Pentax adapters like mine
HVStar, B+W and Hoya filters at great prices
Katz Eye, Custom focusing screens
DPReview, great discussions forum
Pbase, huge database of M42 lenses with samples
Manual Focus, another great database
Note that i'm not affiliated with any of the resellers listed above, just had great deals with them ... Of course, you may find/have others (on eBay, or wherever you want ...).
INTERESTING CHEAP LENSES (in casual order, except the first ones ;-) ):
All Pentax SMC Takumar
All Pentax Super-Takumar and Takumar
Jupiter-9 85mm f2
Helios-44 58mm f2
Mir-20 20mm f3.5
Carl Zeiss Sonnar 135mm f3.5, 180mm f2.8 and 200mm f2.8
Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35mm f2.4 (or Distagon, if you can afford)
Carl Zeiss Pancolar 50mm f1.8
Pentacon (also labelled Meyer) 300mm f4, 400mm f4 and 500mm f5.6
Pentacon 29mm f2.8
... Anyone to add more ?
Do not forget that, because of the difference in size between the 24x36 format these lenses were made for, and the sensor of the new digital cameras, the focal length must be multiplied for something between 1.4 and 1.7 (APS-C cameras - like the K10D - owners may use 1.5 - others, check the size of the sensor) ...