Tick Tick Tick Tick Zoom?

After very promising results recently with an SMC Pentax-A 35-105mm, the next step in my explorations of zoom lenses was to try something that would embrace the wider end.

It was time try the lens I got this with the 35-105mm, a 24-50mm, also Pentax-A series.

Now I’ve realised (duh!) that I can use a zoom as a set of primes, use one focal length at a time and ignore all the others, they’ve become vastly more appealing. At least a select few have.

The aforementioned SMC Pentax-A 35-105/3.5 appears to offer a wonderful range of primes – 35, 50, 80 and 105mm if you stick to the focal lengths marked on the barrel (which I do).

On paper this lens offers everything I need, bar maybe a 120 and/or 135mm prime at the tele end plus a 24 and/or 28mm at the wide. 

Turns out it’s not just promising on paper but actually a bit special in practice too.

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So let’s say this lens WAS the only one I needed between 35 and 105mm. What about that wider end? I have my Super-Takumar 28mm f/3.5 – pretty special in its own right too. But nothing wider.

Enter the 35-105’s little sibling, the SMC Pentax-A 24-50mm. 

Following its barrel markings, it offers 24, 28 and 35mm, as well as 40 and 50mm.

At 35 and 50mm it duplicates focal lengths of the 35-105 (and my surprisingly impressive 35-70mm f/4, also a Pentax-A zoom), and though the 24-50mm is significantly smaller and lighter, its close focus of 0.4m across all focal lengths puts it way behind the 35-105’s intimacy potential up close and personal at 35 and 50mm.

So my consideration of the 24-50 is almost exclusively as a twinset of 24 and 28mm primes.

With that in mind I took it for a spin at 24mm.

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In short, it’s pleasant enough to use, pretty compact for a zoom, but still with a wide enough focus ring to be very comfortable. The focusing is pretty smooth too.

The all metal aperture ring has a good feel, very similar to the M series lenses, and better than many A series with their reliance on plastic.

In practice I use A series lenses on their A setting, then have the camera on Manual (M) mode, adjusting both the aperture and shutter speed via the dial wheel(s), but the build of the aperture ring is reassuring nonetheless.

Overall the lens performed well enough.

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It’s sharp is enough for my needs, and the colours are similar to my other A series – natural yet quite vibrant (more so than my Takumars), and the combination with the CCD sensors of my Pentax DLSRs gives results I really like with minimal post processing.

But I have two main issues.

First, the close focus of 0.4m, whilst respectable at 50mm, and just about passable at 35mm, is just nowhere near close enough for me at 28mm or 24mm. A bit of a let down in all honesty, compared with the 35-105’s excellent “macro” shift focus action that works across the entire zoom range.

As I mentioned, this feature alone would make me reach for the 35-105 for a 35 or 50mm lens over the 24-50mm every time, again making it in practical use just a 24 or 28mm lens.

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The second issue is not really the lens’s fault but more just my unfamiliarity with 24mm. And this is a major reason I bought it – to get more familiar with 28 and especially 24mm.

I struggled not so much with finding compositions that suited 24mm, but the focusing, and the (deep) depth of field (DOF).

Even at my usual starting point of f/5.6, there’s a fairly extensive DOF (and remember the lens only goes down to 0.4m – obviously at half this distance the DOF would be significantly more shallow) so I didn’t have my usual comfort blanket/ crutch/ excuse for not intelligently making every single element in the frame work together and blurring it out with shallow DOF.

With the 24mm field of view I wanted to get really close. But the lens wouldn’t let me.

At least not unless maybe I used a tiny aperture and relied on the DOF at this aperture to bring everything in focus. Which I didn’t want to do.

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In a way this is all good, and challenging for me as a photographer. It was just different to get used to.

In time once I am more used to 24mm I’ve no doubt it will have a positive effect on me using longer focal lengths too, and being less reliant on wide apertures to magically disappear backgrounds.

So to sum up, the lens  mostly ticked the boxes I wanted it to – providing an affordable option at a 24mm focal length, to allow me to experience and start to embrace that focal length for wider, more distant scenes at least.

The fact is, it’s unlikely to be used at 35 and 50mm (maybe I’ll dabble at 40mm a little) and maybe not even at 28mm (that Super-Tak 28/3.5 is arguably the loveliest and most balanced handling Tak I’ve ever had).

Which makes it essentially a 24mm prime in a more chunky package that only focuses down to 0.4m. Hmmm.

So whilst it does give me a taste of 24mm, the prime alternatives I might consider are the 24/3.5 Takumar which goes down to 0.25m, and a DA 21mm which focus as close as 0.2m. A whole other world of intimacy compared with 0.4m.

I’ve also got decent enough results a couple of years ago with a Sigma Super Wide II 24/2.8, which are far more affordable than either of the Pentax options mention above and also focus close.

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I’m all for embracing the versatility of zooms, but with this one I’m still undecided. 

A zoom that offers four focal lengths, but I’ll only realistically use for one of them, 24mm, doesn’t seem such good value.

It deserves another couple of outings, but my hopes of it being as big a surprise as my other two A series zooms are somewhat dashed.

Which 24mm (or wider) lenses have you tried, whether as a prime, or within a zoom? 

Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

Champion The Wonder Zoom?

Traditionally I’ve been a prime lens kind of photographer. I just like the simplicity of having one less variable to consider.

Plus the journey of getting to know how the world looks at a fixed focal length and field of view – so you can visualise the part of the scene the camera will capture with this particular lens before you raise it to your eye – is very enjoyable and satisfying.

But I confess I’m increasingly drawn towards zooms, albeit using them as a set of primes. I’m still not comfortable with the stand-in-one-fixed-position-and-just-zoom-until-the-scene-fits-the-frame approach that I imagine zooms were/are designed for.

Also I’m gradually coming to settle on a range of focal lengths I like shooting.

50/55mm is where I began and have most experience, and 135mm is something I’ve now used a fair bit too.

Less familiar are wider angles, though the Super-Takumar 28/3.5 I’ve used a few times has delighted me already, and is an absolutely joy to use.

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As I’ve started to consider zoom lenses more, I’ve chosen them based on the gaps they can fill in my collection.

I’m geeky enough to have recently sat down and plotted every lens I have on a chart of focal lengths, to see where there is duplication, and see where there are shortfalls.

The outcome of this exercise was – plenty of coverage at 50/55mm and 135mm, one 28mm and three 35mm lenses covers the moderate wide angle front, and lovely f/2.8 Takumars at 105 and 120mm elegantly bridge that 105-135mm gap.

What remains missing then, is anything wider than 28mm, and between 55mm and 105mm.

Conveniently, I came across someone selling two rather well regarded Pentax-A series zooms together – a 24-50mm f/4 and 35-105mm f/3.5.

Given my previous experience of Pentax-A zooms – a solitary, but very impressive 35-70mm f/4 – I thought these two could potentially fill any remaining gaps in my optical arsenal, so made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

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Indeed, between the 24-50mm, the existing 35-70mm and the 35-105mm I now have everything covered from 24-105mm (and 35-50mm covered three times over), pretty much the entire range I shoot. In three lenses.

I currently have 15 other lenses (all primes) that, on the basis of focal lengths at least, could be replaced by just these three A series.

Collectively the zooms cost me around £90. The remainder of my 15 lenses probably amount to £750+.

Ah, another reason why people like zooms.

So today I went out with the 35-105/3.5 and my Samsung GX-10 (almost identical sibling to my Pentax K10D) to see if there was any chance it could indeed replace a handful of primes. 

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The short story is, there’s plenty to like about the 35-105.

It’s well made, with lots of metal and big Super-Multi-Coated glass on the front. It’s smooth to use and feels robust.

The focus initially goes down to 1.5m, on paper very disappointing, especially at the wide end.

But, cleverly, and crucially, shunt the (wide and easy to handle) focus ring forward a few mm and it shifts into a whole other “macro” scale, which, even better, works at all focal lengths, not just at one end of the scale, like many similar zooms.

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In practice this means focusing is possible down to around 0.15m at 35mm, 0.3m at 50mm, 0.5m at 80mm and maybe 0.7m at 105mm.

All of these are as close or closer focusing distances than any equivalent primes I have. If you’re a regular here, you’ll know I like my close focus. A big +1 for team zoom then.

Performance wise it’s more than sharp enough for my needs (I don’t pixel peep and/or make 3m x 2m prints) and the colours are in line with other A series I have, which on my Pentax/Samsung DSLRs with their CCD sensors means lovely vivid colours, that are natural without looking too garishly digital or processed.

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As I said, plenty about the 35-105 to want to cuddle it close on a cold winter’s night.

So far so peachy. But are there any downsides?

Ultimately, there is only one, which itself all depends on how you view it. The size and weight of the lens.

At a shade over 600g, it’s not exactly a bazooka, but heavier than my biggest prime, the Takumar 120/2.8 which weighs in around 350g. Paired with the GX-10 / K10D it’s not a pocketable, lightweight combo you want dangling from your neck for eight hours.

The overall size itself in terms of handling is not an issue, and that wide, chunky focus ring is fun and reassuring to use. Especially once you get used to that macro shift feature.

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The 35-105 has markings at 35, 50, 80 and 105mm, so in my one-zoom-equals-a-handful-of-primes outlook, this equates to four primes in one. 

If you make a direct comparison with any of the primes I have (35, 50 and 105, I have nothing at 80mm anyway) then in terms of weight and size the 35-105 seems a bit of a dinosaur.

But that’s not exactly its point or purpose.

On the flip side, you could quite easily argue that you could use just this single lens for all kinds of different photography over a series of photoshoots, and it would be far lighter, smaller and cheaper than the comparable four primes you’d need to carry around to cover the same range. As I said, for maybe 90%+ of my shooting needs, this one lens would deliver.

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The other potential negative for some might be the f/3.5 maximum aperture.

For me, the only time this would make it difficult are the occasional very low light church interior explorations I venture on. In these instances, my A series 50/1.4 or 55/1.8 Takumar would be the lens I reached for, as my lenses at all other focal lengths are f/2.4, 2.8 or 3.5 anyway.

But for all other situations, where my default aperture tends to be around f/5.6, the max aperture is perfectly fine – fast enough to make the viewfinder bright and clear to focus, and to mean that my optimum shooting aperture is a comfortable stop and half down from the lens’s maximum.

So, does this “champion the wonder zoom” mean I’ll be selling every other lens from 35-105mm that I own? 

No, not exactly.

But because it’s more than competent at all of its focal lengths (four, if you stick to the barrel markings as I do), it has made me strongly question whether I need another three 35mm, four 50/55/58mm, and one 105mm prime lenses over the same range, that will in most situations not give me any significant advantage or better final photographs than the zoom.

A more thorough testing of the 24-50mm is next on the plan, though on its initial outing it’s shown enough promise to be optimistic.

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If it lives up to its reputation – and my experience with its 35-70 and 35-105 siblings – it will no doubt further the argument for a few quality zooms potentially replacing a bunch of primes.

Which would free some funds maybe for some more unusual additions, like something even wider than 24mm… A 20mm Takumar? A 15 or 21mm Limited? Time will tell.

How is the balance of primes and zooms in your kit? When do you favour a prime over a zoom, and vice versa?

Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

 

 

Wandering On The Wide Side

When I predominantly shot 35mm film, my default lens was a 50 or 55mm.

The world just looked right when viewed through them, plus they’re compact, can usually focus down to around half a metre, and perform very well.

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Contax 137MA, Yashica ML 50mm f/1.7 lens, Fuji Superia Reala 100 expired film

Then when I began experimenting more with digital – first with my Sony NEX mirrorless, then a Sony Alpha DSLR, then a couple of Pentax K DSLRS – I became curious about other focal lengths.

My first 135mm was the lovely Carl Zeiss S (Sonnar) 135/3.5, and there soon followed two or three other 135s, and maybe 10 since then.

I loved how with a 135mm I could get a more shallow depth of field with very dreamy backgrounds that almost became more like paintings than photographs.

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Sony NEX 3N, Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Sonnar Electric MC 135mm f/3.5 M42 lens

In a word, 135mm lenses say “isolation” to me, as in isolating interesting subjects from everything around them.

What it took a while to get used to though was having to stand around 2m away from my subject every time I composed a photograph, having got so embedded in the much closer distances required for 50/55mm.

I’ve since explored a few focal lengths either side and found 150mm and 200m too long for my tastes (and the lenses too cumbersome and difficult to steady!).

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Pentax K10D, Asahi Super Takumar 150mm f/4 M42 lens

Takumars in 105 and 120mm have delighted me and continue to do so, having most of that reach of a 135 but being slightly less extreme and distant from the subject physically. 

Plus, being typical Takumars, they are both very compact for 105 and 120mm lenses respectively, so don’t feel clumsy or unbalanced at all.

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Pentax K10D, Asahi Takumar 105mm f/2.8 preset M42 mount lens
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Pentax K10D, Asahi Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 120mm f/2.8 M42 lens

My latest challenge is at the other end of the scale – wide angles. 

Of course using APS-C sensors, the fields of view are different to that seen when using the same lenses on a 35mm film camera.

The two lenses I’m most interested in exploring currently are, inevitably, both Takumars. An old and amazingly tiny Auto-Takumar 35/3.5 and a somewhat newer Super-Takumar 28/3.5.

On film I dabbled with 28mm and struggled to get my head around it. There were just too many elements in the scene I had to consider and try to balance!

On the DSLRs it’s easier because of the crop factor – 28mm giving an equivalent 42mm (28 x 1.5) field of view, which is said to be pretty much exactly the “normal” view.

What I’m finding challenging is not to default to the same style of photography as I make with 50/55/58 and longer lenses, ie mostly close up, isolated subjects.

Er, like the image below.

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Samsung GX-1S, Asahi Auto-Takumar 35mm f/3.5 M42 preset lens.

The 28mm and to a slightly lesser extent 35mm Takumars (which is equivalent 52.5mm field of view on film, bang in the middle of where I’m most experienced in that medium) encourage seeing wider, more complete scenes than 50/55mm and certainly 105mm and beyond.

In many ways, the longer the lens, the easier it is to make beautiful images, especially close up.

The shallow depths of field possible, plus the magnification of the larger focal length compared with our “normal” view, mean it’s not hard to block out anything distracting and isolate that beautiful petal/leaf/dewdrop.

So I’ve been trying to capture complete scenes as opposed to isolated close ups with the 28 and 35mm, with, so far, quite limited success!

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Pentax K10D, Asahi Super-Takumar 28mm f/3.5 M42 lens
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Pentax K10D, Asahi Super-Takumar 28mm f/3.5 M42 lens

On the plus side, I love using these lenses, especially the 28mm which is divinely smooth to use, is plenty sharp even half a stop down at f/4, and gives very pleasing (to me) colours.

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Pentax K10D, Asahi Super-Takumar 28mm f/3.5 M42 lens

I’ll continue to explore in the coming days and weeks and see what I can manage to capture.

Walking around with any camera encourages us to look at the world more closely and discovery beautiful things we might otherwise ignore and pass by. This is a crucial aspect of myself as a photographer, and of 35hunter

Using the 28mm is giving that ethos a jolt and a fresh impetus – still hunting for beauty, but in a different way, and a more challenging, and possibly ultimately a more rewarding one.

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Pentax K10D, Asahi Super-Takumar 28mm f/3.5 M42 lens

I’ve had enough positive results with the 28mm – and certainly enjoyed the new experience enough – to consider maybe selling one or two 50/55 or 135 lenses to fund something even wider – a 24mm or even 20mm lens – down the line, and refreshing and expanding my outlook all over again.

What focal length have you found most challenging, and most rewarding? 

Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

How To Find The Lenses Best For You – Choosing Focal Length

Since discovering film cameras and vintage lenses some five summers ago, I’ve been through a fair bit of glass. 

Enough to become concerned about being a lensoholic.

What I’ve learned from this experience – and I appreciate compared with some people’s lens count this is a tiny drop in the Atlantic – is which lenses I like most and why.

I thought it might be useful to outline how this has evolved.

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Pentax K10D, Pentax-A 35-70mm f/4 lens

Regular readers might have gathered I’m not really a zoom kind of guy, and when I do use them, I treat them as a prime lens.

By using them in this way – in short, setting them at one zoom position, ie one fixed focal length, on any one photowalk – I’ve had access to a whole range of focal lengths in one lens.

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Samsung GX-1S, Tokina SD 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 lens

This might seem like stating the obvious, but I gather that most people use zooms by simply standing in one position, scanning around until they seem something interesting, zooming the lens until the subject fills the frame how they wish, then releasing the shutter.

Absolutely nothing wrong with this – it’s likely why zooms were originally developed, to be able to capture different shots without switching lenses.

But I’m a simple kind of guy, and just like to concentrate on one focal length at a time, and try to get to know how the world looks through that perspective. 

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Pentax K10D, SMC Pentax-A Zoom 35-70mm f/4 lens

Two zooms that have helped me with this recently are the Pentax-A 35-70mm f/4 and Tokina SD 28-70mm.

There’s little to choose between them in size, weight and performance – both will give very pleasing results.

So, with the Tokina say, using the guide numbers on the barrel I can use it as 28mm, 35mm, 50mm and 70mm. 

The Tokina is plenty good enough to give pleasing results at these focal lengths. Plus it has a “macro” mode at 50mm to get really close, down to around 0.2m. This also gives one a taste of the world that close, where most 50mm lenses typically focus down to about 0.5m.

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Samsung GX-1S, Tokina SD 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 lens

The Pentax is even more useful, in my view. 

It might only go to 35mm wide, but also has handy markings at 40, 50, 60 and 70mm. Plus it focuses pretty close at all focal lengths, from around 0.55m at 35mm, 0.27m at 50mm and 0.25m at 70mm.

Again this gives the user a great sample of a range of focal lengths, and closer focusing than most prime lenses. 

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Pentax K10D, SMC Pentax-A Zoom 35-70mm f/4 lens

So to anyone starting out with vintage lenses, despite my love of beautiful old primes, especially Asahi Takumars, I would recommend picking up something like the Pentax or Tokina zooms featured here (both gave me change from £10) and experiment for at least a few months with one focal length at a time.

Then, when you find which you like best, maybe explore a prime lens at that focal length.

This makes a lot more sense – and will save you a lot of money and lens gathering – than buying a bunch of beautiful expensive lenses at focal lengths you never warm to. 

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Samsung GX-1S, Tokina SD 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 lens

Affordable compact zooms – even if they don’t establish a permanent place in your photography kit – can be a fantastic step along the way in helping you find the focal lengths you enjoy seeing the world through most.

Which focal lengths do you enjoy most? How did you discover them?

Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

First Flames – Asahi Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 120mm f/2.8

My Lens Love series is for those lenses I’ve used a fair bit, love using and the results they can give, and want to spread the word about them.

Quite often though there are lenses I have that I’m less familiar with, but even with a little use have shown plenty of promise. 

I wanted a way of sharing my initial excitement about these, before I know them well enough to feel I can give them a more comprehensive and in-depth Lens Love post.

First up in this new First Flames series then, is inevitably a Takumar, specifically the Asahi Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 120mm f/2.8. 

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Samsung GX-1S, Asahi Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 120mm f/2.8 M42 lens

The last few months have found me shooting almost entirely digital with my two Pentax K mount DSLRs, the 10MP Pentax K10D and 6MP Samsung GX-1S, a clone of the Pentax *ist DS2.

These cameras both having APS-C sensors with a crop factor of 1.5x has slightly influenced the focal lengths I use. 

Mostly it’s meant I’ve been happier experimenting with wider angles (eg Takumar 28/3.5) as the field of view has not been as overwhelmingly wide as I’ve found a 28mm on film, and have found my preferred limit at the tele end is probably a 135mm.

The S-M-C Takumar 120/2.8 then, became more appealing as it sits a little behind the 135s, but far enough beyond my next longest lens, the Takumar 105/2.8, to be different. 

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Samsung GX-1S, Asahi Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 120mm f/2.8 M42 lens

The build is predictably fantastic, and although my copy is a little worn cosmetically, the focus and aperture rings are as lovely as you’d expect them to be from a Takumar. 

It’s also pretty compact – again Takumars generally are – and whilst not heavy, its weight further reassures of its quality.

I like that it’s f/2.8, so like my 105/2.8, it gives plenty of light for easy focusing. Plus it seems pretty sharp even at f/2.8 and even better a couple of stops down.

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Samsung GX-1S, Asahi Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 120mm f/2.8 M42 lens

Overall, a very promising beginning for the 120.

With Taks in 28, 35, 55, 105, 120, 135 and 150, I have a good range. I also like that the 105, 120 and 150 are quite unusual focal lengths, a little different to the ubiquitous 135mm, especially in M42 mount, where there must be at least 25 very competent 135s.

What’s niggling is that I also have about six other 135s, which makes eight or nine lenses between 120 and 150mm, which is an overcrowded scene.

A good choice might be to keep the more unusual Takumar 120 and 150mm lenses, sell three or four of the 135s and put the funds towards the largest gap in my set, between 55 and 105, ie an 85mm, either a Tak or a Jupiter 9.

If you come across a Takumar 120/2.8 at a decent price (less than £60-75) it’s hard not to recommend it, even with the limited used I’ve had with mine so far. 

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Samsung GX-1S, Asahi Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 120mm f/2.8 M42 lens

Have you any experience with a Takumar 120/2.8? 

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

The £5 Cheap Lens Challenge – Part 3

In my vintage lens adventures, I’ve rarely come across any that were truly awful. Indeed many have initially been underdogs on paper, but have then surprised me in use.

So I decided to set myself a challenge that encompassed the two aspects of my 35hunter approach – finding a lens that met certain criteria, then finding some tiny pockets of beauty to photograph with it.

Being something of a cheapskate, I decided to set my spending limit to just £5. Could I find a usable lens for £5 or less, and get some decent results with it?

Read part 1, with the MC Sun Zoom 28-80mm f/3.5-4.5 Macro here.

Read part 2 which featured the Paragon 300mm f/5.6, in M42 mount here.

Part 3 then today, highlights a Tokina SD 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 zoom in Pentax KA mount. 

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I previously had a similar Tokina on a Minolta, although that was Autofocus and physically quite different.

Nevertheless, its performance really impressed me, so I was going (back) into the world of Tokina completely blind.

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Samsung GX-1S, Tokina SD 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 lens

I came across this lens on the auction site with a starting price of £5, watching until the dying seconds then putting in a bid, which it turns out was the only one.

£5 plus a few pounds postage puts it neatly in the running for this cheap lens series.

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Samsung GX-1S, Tokina SD 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 lens

So the Tokina is a zoom (not my favourite kind of lens), with a very useful focal range of 28-70mm and reasonably fast at f/3.5. Minimum focus is 0.7m, which is not so great but at the 70mm end this actually gets you pretty close.

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Samsung GX-1S, Tokina SD 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 lens

Plus it has a “macro” range, enabled by turning the zoom barrel beyond 70mm.

Whilst you can focus much closer, the actual focal length seems to revert to about 50mm, rather than just making the 70mm end closer focusing like some other lenses I’ve used.

Either way it’s a pretty useful addition, and 50mm is a field of view I’m well used to on film and digital APS-C cameras.

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Samsung GX-1S, Tokina SD 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 lens

The lens is also KA mount, meaning it has a manual aperture ring, but also an A (Auto) setting, so with compatible cameras you can set the aperture to A and control it via the camera, not the lens.

On my two Pentax K DSLRs this makes it very easy to use on Aperture Priority (Av) mode, and of course you have open aperture metering too.

There’s not a lot else to say about the Tokina SD 28-70mm.

It handles well enough, but the zoom or focus rings inevitably aren’t as smooth as a Pentax-M or Takumar.

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Samsung GX-1S, Tokina SD 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 lens

It’s fairly compact and light for a mostly metal and glass lens, and balances well on the Samsung GX-1S, which is what I’ve mostly used it on so far.

Optically, the Tokina has been the best of the three in this cheap lens series so far.

On the GX-1S with its 6MP CCD sensor, the colours are pretty vibrant and smile inducing.

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Samsung GX-1S, Tokina SD 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 lens

I’ll let the photographs here say the rest. 

For £5 the Tokina is a steal, and you could argue that with its 28-70mm focal range covering classic wide, normal and portrait perspectives, it could be the only lens many photographers would need.

Which makes it an astonishing bargain.  

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Samsung GX-1S, Tokina SD 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 lens

What have been your most satisfying results with cameras and/or lenses you’ve only spent peanuts on? How do you feel using cheap kit compared with far more expensive?

Please let us know in the comments below.

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Lens Addiction – The Allure Of The Infinite Versions

Recently we spoke about how to escape the camera consumption spiral, and how narrowing the parameters has helped me hone down this consumption.

More recent still, I shared my favourite lenses – Asahi Takumars – and how really I don’t need to look at any other mount, or make.

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Samsung GX-1S, Asahi Super-Takumar 55mm f/1.8 lens

I want to delve even deeper into the addiction of buying camera kit (and for me this is more specifically camera lenses) and dissect the next level.

It’s a slippery beast, akin to some mythical serpent, that seems to continuously shape-shift to avoid capture.

Rather than trying to explain it hypothetically, it’s easier to share a direct example of how this works, and what that next level seems to be.

In short, the last five years or so I’ve been exploring dozens of different cameras and lenses.

I’ve found my favourite lens mount is M42.

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Samsung GX-1S, Takumar 105mm f/2.8 lens

Whilst M42 covers a vast range of cameras and lenses (and adapters to use those lenses on non-native M42 cameras), it still hugely narrows the field and eliminates all other lens mounts.

Next, I’ve found, eventually, that my favourite cameras are Pentax.

They made M42 cameras, like the excellent Spotmatics, plus K mount cameras (film and digital) that with a simple adapter can use M42 lenses manually stopped down.

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Asahi Spotmatic F, Super-Takumar 55mm f/1.8 lens

I have also recently found a couple of excellent K mount DSLRS, the Pentax K10D and Samsung GX-1S, which can also very easily use the M42 lenses with an adapter.

Again this thins the herd and removes all non Pentax M42 cameras and any other cameras that can be adapted to M42, aside from Pentax K mount.

Then by choosing Takumar lenses (mostly, I still have a small selection of German and Russian gems in M42 too), I’ve further reduced the intimidation of having too much choice.

M42. Pentax. Takumar. End of story?

No, not yet, as focal length is the next layer down, and deciding on those I need and enjoy (any between 28mm and 150mm) and those I don’t (any less than 28mm or more than 150mm). The five I mentioned recently cover this range well.

But then, this sneaky ever complex addiction continues to evolve and introduces another layer. Lens model variations.

For example, the main Takumar variations across all lenses I’ve come across are plain Takumar (often preset aperture lenses), Auto-Takumar, Super-Takumar, Super-Multi-Coated (S-M-C) Takumar and SMC Takumar.

Take the humble (and glorious) Takumar 55mm f/1.8. 

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Pentax K10D, Asahi Super-Takumar 55mm f/1.8 lens

I have a Super-Takumar version. I’ve also had the later SMC version but disliked it because of the rubber waffle focusing ring. I greatly prefer the metal knurled ring of the older pre-SMC Takumars.

But I am curious about the S-M-C Takumar, as supposedly it has a superior multi coating to the Super, but still that metal focus ring.

Would this lens give different colours, a different character, more accurate exposures, more consistent results? 

I’m even more intrigued by the earlier Auto-Takumar 55/1.8, as this has ten aperture blades (compared with six in later models), and has a simpler coating still.

I know from experience of lenses with a greater number of aperture blades how this can create much smoother backgrounds, especially the bokeh highlights, so it’s a genuinely appealing advantage to me.

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Six blade apertures can lead to an attack of aggressive bokeh highlights – Pentacon Auto 50/1.8
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Many aperture blades equals very smooth backgrounds – Jupiter-37A

Since shooting mostly digital this year, and especially in the last couple of months with my Pentax K10D, I prefer the more subdued colours I get from Takumars and similar age lenses, compared with for example the Pentax A series lenses which can be almost too brash and vivid in their colours.

So would the older Auto-Takumar 55/1.8 with its simpler coating give more subdued colours still than my Super-Takumar, and would I like this more, or less?

The short answer to all of this is I won’t know until I try it. 

And there’s the dilemma. Even once the choices have been drastically limited, there’s still much to try.

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A former phase of my M42 lens collection

I probably didn’t choose the best range for someone who wants to limit their choices.

Allphotolenses have 78 different Takumars listed. PentaxForums has 54.

Surely none of us need more than half a dozen lenses, maybe a dozen maximum?

How do you narrow down your choices with photography kit? 

Please let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.