Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Super-Takumar 150mm f/4: Initial impressions

I recently had the luck to find a small assortment of old Pentax M42 screwmount cameras and lenses at Value- it, and bought the lot at a good price. I don’t have a need for more film cameras, so I plan to sell those, but I’m not sure which of the lenses I’ll keep. The Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4 is likely to go, because I already own the Pentax FA 50mm f/1.4, so I don’t see the Super-Tak getting much use. I shot the Super-Takumar 35mm f/2 briefly, wide open, and haven’t fallen in love yet. So far my favorite is the underdog, the little-known Super-Takumar 150mm f/4.

These photos come from its first trip outside, mounted on the Pentax K-5 II, an APS-C DSLR. On this camera, the lens has the same field of view as 225 mm on 35 mm film. (I also have an adapter on the way for Micro Four-Thirds, where it will be the equivalent of 300 mm.) All of these photos were taken wide open (at f/4), to make it easy for me to remember without the benefit of EXIF data.

I don’t think a lot of people have shot with this lens; it’s an unusual focal length, and I would imagine that most buyers opted for the much more common 135mm f/2.8, 135mm f/3.5, or 200mm f/4 lenses. But I find it appealingly compact, barely 4 inches long, with a 49 mm filter thread.

In user reviews at PentaxForums, some users report dissatisfaction with the bokeh. For example:

The bokeh is classicly bad - bright ring bokeh for out-of-focus highlights, and doubling - for example, out of focus twigs look like two partially overlapping twigs.

However, my experience so far is just the opposite, at least when shot wide open at close distances. I find the bokeh to be smooth and pleasing.

Sharpness is adequate at f/4; I’ll have to see how it improves at smaller apertures. I didn’t see much chromatic aberration or purple fringing, which is a nice surprise with an older lens. My biggest complaint so far about the lens is its poor close-focus distance, over 6 feet. That means that I can’t shoot an object on the ground at my feet, which has already been an annoying limitation.

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