Low-cost lens cavalcade #10

Now we come to the last of the ten (usable) lenses I got in the great deal, the Asahi Pentax Super Takumar f3.5 135mm.

Saving the best for last.

This is a lens I’ve wanted for a long time: it is the ‘missing’ member of the ‘standard trio’ of lenses for my Pentax Spotmatic 1000. Back in the day when I was using this as my main camera I managed to obtain a (radioactive) 35mm Super Takumar wide-angle to go with the 50mm standard lens, but could not afford the 135mm version. Instead I purchased a much cheaper 135mm f2.8 Vivitar, which I still have. Now through the good fortune of one deal I have the Pentax telephoto. There are longer Super Takumar lenses, and shorter ones too (I also have a 28mm), but the combination of 35-50-135 was considered a ‘proper kit’ of lenses in that age of film SLRs. There is also an f2.8 version of the 135mm, but that is not the one I have found.

So let’s see how well it works.

Duncan in the snow. What a 135mm lens is meant for.

The next photo was taken on a cloudy day, yet contrast and colour are good. Sharpness is nothing to complain about either, and no sign of chromatic troubles. But let’s push the limits.

The full view.
640 x 427 segment of the upper chickadee.
640 x 427 segment of the lower chickadee.

Now when we do the digital zoom thing we see sharpness falling off and chromatic troubles arise. Not as bad as some of the other lenses recently tested, though. But is this how the lens would typically be used?

The neighbour’s house.

If you don’t zoom in digitally everything is fine, especially in bright light when you can stop down to f8 (the ‘non-existent’ sweet spot for this lens). I shot quite a few ‘standard’ pictures and found it to be more than adequate under normal conditions.

The lens can do quite well.

Although 135mm is quite short for my usual photography I can see there are times when this lens would be just the right thing.

When all the elements come together …

I rate this lens as very good. Even though the performance has some shortcomings, they only appear when it is pushed to perform under less-than-ideal conditions. What’s more the actual handling of the lens (focus and aperture rings) is the usual high-quality of Super Takumars, so I have no complaints on operation.

Well that’s the last of the ‘deal lenses’. Of course they were not all the equipment I got in the deal, but much of it really isn’t of any use to me. The question remains: was all of it together worth the money?

Notice I haven’t yet revealed how much I spent.

What did I get that I will continue to use? A couple of cases and three lenses: the 28mm Vivitar, the 58mm Helios, and this 135mm Super Takumar. Now, what is a lens worth?

One of the on-line sources I follow has posted a list of “the best M42 lenses for $150-$300”. That’s per lens, and even the low end is expensive by my standards. Okay, I’m a cheapskate. So what would you be willing to pay for any one of those lenses (assuming you wanted one of them)? Half the ‘starting price’ mentioned in the article (i.e. $75) perhaps?

How about $60 for the whole boiling?

Come to that, I’ve probably had that much money’s worth of fun playing with the lenses and other things.

And I intend to have more fun with some of it in the future.

Low-cost lens cavalcade #1

And so we begin with the series testing the recently acquired M42 mount lenses. The criteria is simple enough; look for sharpness, contrast, chroma, and the very vague “ease of use”. I will post examples showing the characteristics of each lens, but not all of the pictures that contributed to the evaluation. The order of testing is based on my initial thoughts of expected outcome, starting with the likely lowest-quality lens and working up. There will be an “over-all” rating of each along the lines of “poor, fair, good, very good, and excellent”. I’m only expecting one lens to land in that ultimate category.

The camera is the Sony a6000. It could just as easily be the Canon T100 as either is capable of using the M42 mount lenses. For that matter so is the Pentax K100D, although the low resolution of that camera’s sensor as well as other factors make it a poor choice for this experiment. I am trying to do all the pictures alike, using fixed ISO 400 and aperture preferred metering (setting the f stop on the lens and letting the camera pick the shutter speed) to keep things ‘even’ across all attempts. I have cleaned the lenses, in some cases more than once, looked up such info as I could find about each, and did some preliminary shots to explore any potential operational problems.

The process is to take some “general scene” pictures near and far, as well as specific close-ups to check sharpness especially wide open. As mentioned above, not all images will be used in the reports. Also I must repeat that my eyesight is not the best and I have difficulty focusing, especially close where there is limited depth of field to compensate for inaccuracies.

So here we go with the first lens, the Opticam 135mm f2.8:

Opticam 135mm

What can I say? I couldn’t find any solid information on this lens and I wasn’t expecting much from it. That’s exactly what it delivered, although over-all it turned out to be not the worst of the bunch.

At infinity, stopped down, and still “soft”.
As close as it will go, at first glance it looks okay.
Cropped section of the full-size image above. Even the in-focus points are soft.
Contrast and colour rendition are good, no sign of excessive chroma or flare. It just isn’t as sharp as it could be.
Artistic potential. Might even make a good portrait lens.

I truly expected this lens to be a lot worse than it is. Although I don’t think I’ll be using it much and wouldn’t mind passing it on to someone who would, it still earns a rating of “fair to good”. I’m setting it aside for further testing, including trying it on the Canon and Pentax and, most importantly, comparing it to my other two 135mm M42 lenses.