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Playing around with a stock 18-55 and a Sigma 70-300 ...
Now, with an SMC Takumar 105 and a CZJ Flektogon 35 too ...

Friday, October 19, 2007

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.


REFERENCES:

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) ...

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18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey,
why don't you use a 49mm to 52mm step up ring for your filters?
Nice review .-)

October 22, 2007 at 12:32 AM  
Blogger IndianaDinos said...

Hi, thanks for appreciating the review, i will try to add some infos about M42 adapters and lenses ASAP.
For what concerns the step-up adapters, i wouldn't like them because i use to put on the lens cap between two shots, and this would mean to buy a 52mm lens cap too (i had the original Pentax cap with the Takumar ...).
Anyway, i'm going to consider it, especially because i noticed that, incredible but true, 52mm filters are cheaper than 49mm ones (sic!) ... and maybe that, buying a 52mm UV filter + a 49-52 step-up ring + a 52mm cap would be cheaper than a 49mm filter alone ...
I will let you know.

October 22, 2007 at 10:13 PM  
Anonymous Noel said...

Hi! stumbled upon your blog when googling. It's a great resource for me as I'm also into the K10D-M42 setup.

I'd like your comments on the Katzeye focusing screen. Is it accurate? I've gotten one from eBay(China made ones) and it does not accurately agree with my focus-confirm indicator in our cameras.

November 16, 2008 at 3:53 AM  
Blogger IndianaDinos said...

Hello Noel,

I didn't have a Katzeye screen, but i guess i have the same as yours, from jinfinance ;-) ...
I too noticed a little difference with the focus confirmation on my K10D, but things are going better since i used the shim that came with the screen ...
Actually, i'm thinking about a new screen (always from jinfinance) since their new models seem to be sold without a shim, as they changed their source ...
Will make a new post as soon as i get the new one ;-) ...

Thanks for visiting and commenting.

November 19, 2008 at 1:37 AM  
Anonymous Laurence said...

Nice review, I have been going along the same lines myself. A big advantage of the Takumars is that the K10D can not try and set the exposure according to the aperture because you only have the fully manual lens option. Because of this you can leave your camera in any of the auto modes and have perfect automatic exposure. Do not use the camera manual manual mode for Takumar lenses.

You can not do this with K/M type lenses because the green button which comes with the camera manual mode only sets the exposure at the lowest f stop of the lens. When you take a picture it also only uses the lowest f stop even though it gives the iris a quick flick to fool you into thinking it is using the f stop you set. For K/M lenses you do have to use the camera manual mode, press the green button and then you still have to set the exposure yourself.

Takumars and some other M42 lenses are fantastic but do use the real Pentax adapter or you can get a range of problems. The reference mark on the distance scale on the lens needs to be top dead centre on your camera and the adapter has to be exactly the right thickness for accurate infinity focus.

February 14, 2009 at 10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have two Spotmatic bodies that i still use and 5 lenses that is why i went with the k10d. I am now looking at the k7 as my next body. the only thing i miss from the lens that came with the k10d is full auto. but i gladly give it up for my 135mm and 200mm. check out Tiffen dfx v2 for your digital lab.

September 23, 2009 at 10:37 PM  
Blogger IndianaDinos said...

To Laurence: Thanks for your comments, you're totally right about the original M42-to-PK adapter ... I used two third-party ones before getting a branded one, and the difference is clear ...

To Anonymous: The Spotmatic are fine cameras, i used one with an MTO 500, when i was shooting film ...
I didn't know about Tiffen DFX, will try as soon as i will have a bit more spare time ...

Thanks for spending your time here ...

September 26, 2009 at 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great blog and macro photos as well. I am relatively new to digital photography and own a K10 D.

I have not seen the lenses that you are talking about. I do use manual focus a good bit. I generally shot in AV mode. Laurence mentioned that you could not use manual exposure on the Takumar lenses. How do you set exposure with these lenses after focusing? Do you manually set the aperture on the lens and shutter speed as well and does the exposure bar work as it does with the Pentax 28-250 lens?

I do not understand the focusing issue that you and Laurence discussed. Can you help with a brief explanation.

I would like to buy the Pentax adapter as is seems that better quality lenses will be available at reasonable prices.

Is the flikr group open to newer photographers?

Thanks for any info in advance?

October 26, 2009 at 4:17 AM  
Blogger IndianaDinos said...

Hi,

At first, thanks for spending your time here and commenting. Then, sorry if i didn't reply before, i have been a bit busy ...

For what concerns the exposure, i usually use (and abuse) the green button on the top of the camera ...
At first, i do a first measurement with the lens wide open, just to get a "quick-and-dirty" idea of the shutter speed. Then, after focusing, i stop down the lens (counting the clicks of the diaphragm ring), then i hit the green button again to fix the speed ...
It seems a bit complicated and slow, but once you have practiced a bit, it is a quite fast way ...

The focusing issues we were discussing about were originated either by a third-party M42 adapter, that i was using before getting the original Pentax one, or by the focusing screen (but now, i have replaced it with a Katzeye and the results are much better) ...
What i was noticing is that the focus on the picture didn't match the focus of the split screen ... Don't know the right cause, because i have changed the adapter and the focusing screen almost at the same time, but i suspect both, anyway ...

The original Pentax adapter is the best one i have used up to now (i have used 3 before), and it is worth all of its price. If you are planning to buy some M42 lenses, don't miss this one, they are available from time to time on eBay, too ...

Yes, all the Flickr groups are open to everyone (at least, the ones i belong to) ...

Thanks again for your comments.

November 4, 2009 at 8:42 PM  
Anonymous rich edwards said...

Hello! Great blog!
I am currently using m42- helios, pentacon and super takumar on a canon 300d- the sharpness and detail beats by far the kit lenses that I can normally afford.
I use a £15.00 plastic split image focussing screen - sourced from a chinsese ebay seller- works a treat!

Rich.

December 19, 2009 at 6:44 PM  
Blogger IndianaDinos said...

Hi Rich,

I am using exactly the same combo on my K10D ... The sharpness of those old glasses is simply astonishing, and you seem to have choosen the right lenses to enjoy manual focusing ...

Thanks for commenting

December 24, 2009 at 3:39 PM  
Blogger Doc said...

3 letters....

keh.com

tons of old lenses

September 30, 2010 at 6:24 AM  
Blogger IndianaDinos said...

Yep ... Too pity the customs fees make them quite expensive for EU users ...

October 3, 2010 at 10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're doomed..........

Once you've tasted the pleasure of Takumar's there is no going back !

October 8, 2010 at 11:53 PM  
Anonymous Kev said...

Hi, Thanks for the info on this thread. It's very enlightening.

I'm a nikon user, but have been dabbling with m42 adaptor + some old m42 lens (no takumars yet though, only Meyer + CZJ). No infinity focus, but using an old K10D or something on the same lens for the in-body IS does sound interesting.

Would you still recommend a K10D these days ? They appear possible to get at quite cheap prices to dabble with. The K7 has Liveview which would help with macro focusing ?

Any suggestions/recommendations ?

January 19, 2011 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger IndianaDinos said...

Hi Kev,

At first, thanks for spending your time here and sorry for the late reply ...

Well, it's true that the K10D is becoming really cheap these days (maybe you could also consider a K20D, with a newer sensor, a bigger resolution, a better AF sensor and ... live-view).

The live-view of the K7 may certainly help (actually i'm using an EOS 5D Mark II in live-view and it really helps getting the focus spot-on for macro shots).

Maybe a cheap good choice would be either the K10 or the K20, because the AF confirm LED still works with M42 lenses (with the AF of the K20D being most probably more precise/reliable) ...

If the 10Mp of the K10D are enough for you, i would go for it, keeping in mind that it could be necessary to enable the debug mode for AF micro-adjustment (i had to do it with mine, and it is quite a time consuming activity, but, once fixed, it will be spot on) ...

Otherwise, if you want live-view (which is really helpful for macro shots), i would consider the K20D, which should be found cheaper than the K7, but offering a better resolution than the K10D.

Nevertheless, keep in mind that the extra resolution of the K20D (or the K7) will require good lenses, since the extra pixels will reveal all the faults of a lens that could work well with the K10D ...

Thus, my choices would be:

1. K10D if 10Mp are enough (do you print your pics ?)
2. K20D if live-view and better AF module are required (may be used for other than macro)
3. K7 if found at a good price

Hope this helps ...

And welcome to the world of MF lenses!

January 28, 2011 at 12:38 AM  
Anonymous Bill W. said...

I like your website. I liked the photos from the Pentax K 135mm 2.5 and the Fujinon EBC 135mm 2.5. Could you please advise which lens is better at 2.5 (and 2.8)? Also which one wide open has better bokeh, and which is sharpest stopped down? And finally, which do you personally like better and why? Thanks for ypour website!

Bill

February 4, 2012 at 3:52 AM  
Blogger IndianaDinos said...

Hi Bill, thanks for spending your time here and for your kind comment ...

Up to now, i have been quite busy at work, so my cameras (and lenses) are just sleeping in their closet ...

Nevertheless, since you are interested in the comparison between these two lenses, i will try to take a series of shots during the next weekends (if the weather allows for) ...

For what concerns my preference between these two lenses, well, i prefer the Fuji one. But i have to point out also that it is probably due to the fact that i had a better light when shooting with it ...

For the other points ... Well, the comparison is coming soon ;-) ...

February 29, 2012 at 1:19 AM  

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