Low-cost lens cavalcade #5

Are you tired of reading mediocre reviews of mediocre lenses? Well I’m tired of writing them too! Fortunately there is hope for us all as this time I check out the Pentacon Electric 50mm f1.8.

The normal lens for the Praktica LLC.

It is my understanding that this lens is based on the Meyer Oreston. Meyer made many great lenses, and also a few mediocre ones. The Oreston was one of the greats, and this copy is no slouch either.

The Nissan before it got buried under the recent snowstorm.

The colours are not over-saturated and the contrast is also good, rendering realistic reproduction. Chromatic aberration is not in evidence anywhere and sharpness is top-notch. No doubt this is due to it having been constructed in communist East Germany where the quality control manager had the authority to send any slacking workers straight to the gulag.

Good detail in the branches.

If it seems as though I’m obsessed with sharpness, there’s good reason: not only that 100+ years of optical endeavor has gone into making lenses as sharp as possible and any example which falls short of being the best it can be is a betrayal to all who worked so hard, but my own actual eyes are lacking in such quality so trying to see a fuzzy image with fuzzy eyesight is doubly annoying, as well as irritating mentally and physically.

Small but sharp.

Just how good can it do? Take a look at this tree:

A tree with something extra.

Now look at a 640 x 427 segment cropped out of the full size image:

Almost hidden downy woodpecker.

Yes indeed, this lens can make good use of the Sony’s 20MP for some close-up imaging. It can turn out some very nice artistic images too:

Before the deep snow came.

What does the future hold for this lens? It will be staying with the camera it came on, the Praktica LLC. Why? For three reasons: 1). it is the Electric model, made specifically to work with the camera’s metering system (and does not work with my Canon’s adaptor); 2). I don’t use 50mm lenses often, and when I do; 3). I already have the excellent Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 which is still a better lens than this.

Despite that fact the Pentacon earns a ‘very good’ rating. There’s little to complain about in its performance, only slightly less competent than the Takumar but a bit more difficult to use owing to smaller control rings.

We came to an agreement

It’s a bad idea for me to get bored. You know that camera stuff I was boasting about not buying? Well …

The deal.

Anyway it worked out okay. With a Praktica LLC SLR (not a great camera) I figured I’d have some mediocre M42 lenses to play with, right? And yes as I looked at them they were mediocre: a Sun f2.8 28-80mm, an Opticon f2.8 135mmm, a Cunor f4.5 200mm, a Tokina f4.5 80-200mm (which appears to be Canon FD mount but is damaged on both ends), and of course the ‘standard’ Pentacon f1.8 50mm “electric” for the Praktica. Beyond that there are some miscellaneous items like three old flashes, some cheap M42 extension tubes and extenders, plus cases and caps not necessarily matching or fitting anything. In terms of cases the big, blue fibreglass and aluminium Hewlett-Packard one he gave me as a bonus is quite the nicest of them. The black leather one is trash but the brown one can be used with some fixing up.

As it was I didn’t look at everything before I bought it. I figured I was ahead anyway. The seller kept going on about the Canon VHS-C camcorder, which is frankly junk and headed for recycling. But once I had it home and pawed through everything I found the solid gold at the bottom of the brown case: a Pentax Super Takumar f3.5 135mm! Oh some people may say the gold was the Helios 44-2 f2 58mm that was hiding in the same case. The Vivitar f5.6 300mm is probably a pretty nice lens too. Likewise the Vivitar f2.8 24mm. Maybe even the Prakticar f4.5 70-210mm zoom, although likely not as it feels like the cheapest lens ever made. I’m sure the best is not the Meyer Domiplan f2.8 50mm because I’ve had one with my Exacta equipment and they aren’t impressive.

There’s also an old Sekonic meter, but that appears to not be working. Likewise the flashes probably aren’t worth bothering about, not even the Braun 340 SCA.

The likely best lenses.

Anyway that’s ten new-to-me M42 lenses to play with, which should keep me from being bored for a while. If we ever get any sunshine around here again.

Feel free to try and guess the price. You wouldn’t believe it.