Takumar Hair Splitting

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by Michel Hardy-Vallée, Mar 23, 2006.

  1. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,350
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    Location:
    Montréal (QC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Next in my series of "why is the world like that" questions concerns the screwmount Takumar lenses.

    By the time the lenses were at the Super / Super-MC stage, I am trying to figure out why Pentax would produce a pair of lenses like the f1.4 50mm and the f1.8 55mm. In terms of aperture, the difference is negligible, and likewise in terms of focal length. I wouldn't see a reason for someone to own both. I am sure most people chose either of these.

    Ditto for the 35mm Takumar: they exist in a f3.5 and an f2 version.

    But why did Pentax produce such apparently nearly identical lenses, and above that sell them at different prices? The one thing I know is that the f1.4 50mm and the f2 35mm had thorium which cause them (like my 50mm f1.4) to yellow slightly after age.
     
  2. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

    Messages:
    1,845
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2005
    Location:
    North Caroli
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The half stop faster lens was a big deal when f/1.4 was the fastest SLR lens you could buy. Conversely, the 55 f/1.8 was significantly cheaper than the faster lens, but could use the same filters (because the slightly longer, slightly slower lens had the same barrel diameter).

    A couple years later, you could collect a $100 premium for f/1.2 vs. f/1.4 (which was real money in 1970).
     
  3. Marco Gilardetti

    Marco Gilardetti Member

    Messages:
    420
    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2005
    Location:
    Torino, Ital
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    The lens lineup (optical design) and optical optimization is usually different among these cases. f:1,4 "normal" lenses are designed for best performance at wider apertures, where usually the f:1,8 gets "weak". But on the other side, the cheaper f:1,8 usually beats the more expensive f:1,4 in sharpness with diaphragm fully closed.

    You see, as in most cases, one's strong point is the other one's weak.
     
  4. Mark Layne

    Mark Layne Member

    Messages:
    919
    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2003
    Location:
    Nova Scotia
    I recently took a 35 f2 and a 35 f3.5 on a trip.
    The f2 with its built in radioactive yellow filter is superb even in backlight. The f3.5 was multicoated and even at f8 is dreadful in the corners.
    There are two versions of the f2 -one uses a 58mm filter. There also exists a 35 f2.3 which I really haven't tested much. It seems ok.
    Mark
     
  5. Steve Roberts

    Steve Roberts Member

    Messages:
    1,151
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2004
    Location:
    Near Tavisto
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Hi All,

    Somewhere recently (it may have been in Keppler's "The Pentax Way") I read that with the Spotmatic etc. viewfinder optics the 55mm lens gave a true life size view of the subject (not sure why that matters) whereas the 50mm only gave 0.9X life size. The way I read it was that buyers were invited to choose between life size or half a stop faster.

    I have several of both focal lengths but rarely use the 55mm as I find that for the kind of things I'm photographing the difference in viewing angle, albeit small, is often significant. (In case anyone asks why I'd have lenses I don't use, I'm also a collector and they turn up attached to bodies!)

    Slightly off-topic, I was always amused by the adverts for the then "new" SMC lenses which showed two supposedly identical shots into the sun, one without an SMC lens and one with. The reduction in flare was staggering - until you looked closely and realised that the scantily-clad yound lady had moved over for the SMC shot, obscuring more of the sun than in the other shot!

    Best wishes,

    Steve
     
  6. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,341
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2005
    Location:
    Dearborn,Mic
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Shooting with both eyes open, with a 'life size image', is a rare pleasure. Like eating a ripe tomato, it has generally become a memory of another age.

    .
     
  7. titrisol

    titrisol Member

    Messages:
    1,671
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    Location:
    Rotterdam
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The 1/2 stop made a lot of difference back then.
    IMHO the 55/1.8 is a sharper lens than the 50/1.4, even fully opened
     
  8. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

    Messages:
    1,670
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The 1.4 is useful in limiting DOF. Which is why it is optimised for large apertures.
     
  9. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

    Messages:
    4,203
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Not to point out the obvious or anything like that, but if you dismantle the two lenses you'll find that they're not quite the same. The 50/1.4 contains more glass and is a more complex design. It cost more to make that the 55/1.8. Going from f/1.8 to f/1.4 is not a tiny step.

    The 55/1.8 is an older design, dates from the days when "normal" lenses for 35 mm SLRs weren't at all retrofocus and had to be longer than the conventionally accepted normal focal length for the format (50 mm) to clear the mirror.

    As to why people were willing to pay a premium for 50 mm and f/1.4 over 55 mm and f/1.8, I'm not sure. When I bought my first Nikon in 1970, I chose the 50/1.4 rather than the 50/2.0 because I thought I'd need the speed. I mean, it was often pretty dark where I then lived, even at noon. And I used the speed; I have a couple of barely acceptable shots taken a little after sunset that would have been impossible with the slower lens. But after I got a 55/3.5 and realized the absurdity of carrying two lenses of about the same focal length, I learned that a fast lens wasn't the only way of coping with, um, darkness and got rid of the 50/1.4.

    The short answer to your question is, "Because."
     
  10. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,350
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    Location:
    Montréal (QC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks all for your great responses, it does make much more sense now. Together, they make the picture complete: manufacturing, design, optimization.

    As a comparison, I looked at the current Nikon lens lineup and they still sell both an f1.4 50mm and an f1.8 one. The f1.4 closes until f16, while the f1.8 can close to f22. Pentax also sell an f2.0 - f1.4 pair of 50mm primes, although both can close to f22. The desing also is different between the two (5g5e for 2.0; 6g7e for 1.4).

    So I guess even 30 years later, those differences matter to some people!
     
  11. RonJ

    RonJ Member

    Messages:
    12
    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2006
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I bought my first Spotmatic in 1968. I was 20 years old. The main reason I bought the f1.4 Takumar was because the relatively huge chunk of glass looked impressive on the camera. When I look at my Kodachromes from those days I'm still impressed by the sharpness.

    RonJ
     
  12. mawz

    mawz Member

    Messages:
    282
    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2005
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    That 2/3rds of a stop (1/2 stop is f1.7 to f1.4) can be a big deal for dedicated low-light shooters. The 1.5 stops between f2 and f3.5 on the 35 is even bigger (getting you from sconsumer zoom speeds to a fast prime). The shallower D0F allowed by the faster lenses is also a major reason.

    I shoot a lot of low-light high ISO stuff, and keeping the shutter speed at 1/30 is a big deal when shooting with the 50's or 35's. Last night I was shooting in a bar, with 3200TMZ. I had my 35/2.5 E and 55/3.5 Micro with me and was missing my 50/1.8 E badly, the extra stop over the 35 and almost 2 stops over the 55 are a big deal in low light, I eventually had to pull out the flash because I had enough light to shoot a 1.8 acceptably (A 1.4 or 1.2 would have got me into 'no problem' territory) but the slower primes were only netting me 1/15 or slower, which simply is too low for acceptable shooting.
     
  13. stark raving

    stark raving Member

    Messages:
    125
    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2005
    Location:
    Lumberton, N
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Indeed. I bought a Spotmatic with 55/1.8 in 1970. I couldn't afford the 50/1.4, I believe it was $60-80 more expensive. That was a big chunk of change to a 14 year old in 1970.
     
  14. luvcameras

    luvcameras Advertiser Advertiser

    Messages:
    420
    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format