Monday, February 04, 2008

The Pentax Super Takumar

After a day's work at the large telco, I once again went to Glorietta to wait for Lalai.

Anyway, it was the second-to-last day of Photoworld Manila and the fellow selling ancient cameras was in attendance. He had two Pentax Screw Mount lenses on sale, a 50mm f/4 Super Macro Takumar, and a 50mm f/1.8 Super Takumar normal lens.

I had a look at the f/1.8 lens, it was very weightily built, with a knurled metal focusing ring and a focusing action so smooth, you'd think it was lubricated with butter. I was really taken aback about how smooth and solid the lens felt; my East German and Russian glass seem crude by comparison.

The guy selling it, named Jun, was asking 2,800 pesos for it, or about $70. A reasonable price actually, for such a fine piece of machinery. Except I already have a 50mm f/1.8 lens, made mostly of plastic with a Canon label. But it has auto-focus. I really want an f/1.4 lens for the shallower depth of field.

Mike Johnston, in his Sunday Morning Photographer article on "his favorite lens," (the Pentax Super Takumar) explains that in the 1960's, Pentax was competing directly with Zeiss; their SMC multi-coating was as good or better than Zeiss T* coating; and the mechanics of the Pentax flagship lenses were every bit as good as Leica.

Mike writes that Pentax manufactured every 50mm f/1.4 lens at a loss, with lots of hand-fitting, precisely because it was their flagship lens and they were going up against Zeiss.

After handling that forty-year old lens today, I believe him!

Mike Johnston also rated the bokeh of the Pentax very highly; unlike almost all other manufacturers, the central cemented doublet in the Super Takumar has curved (not flat) surfaces, which gives this lens a very pleasing bokeh.

I guess I know what normal lens I want now; I can forget about the Zeiss Pancolar or the Helios-44. A 50mm f/1.4 lens on an APS-C DSLR is pretty much equivalent to a conventional 85mm portrait lens on 35mm.

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