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12-02-2010, 11:59 PM - 4 Likes   #1
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LBA cooldown

Well, I think I'm done.

About a year ago, I started exploring old manual focus lenses and ebay. I've seen fungus and I've seen separation. I saw broken lenses and I broke lenses. I had bad surprises and good surprises. I think I saw enough - it's now time to use what I kept from all that I tried.

Here are some impressions from all this experience:

Best M42 lenses: Russians and CZJ

I have yet to see a bad Russian lens. Some may be in bad condition, but it's not their fault. Each and every one of them is fun to use, even if that may not be very easy due to their manual aperture mechanisms. And I like their no-frills, robust, atomic age design. I know this stuff will outlive me. The most impressive thing I found about them is how usable they are wide open, their great microcontrast, and their resistance to chromatic aberrations - something that Japanese lenses appear to be very vulnerable to. Old Zeiss lens designs are truly remarkable.

Best manual zooms: Tamron adaptall-2 series

I gained a new appreciation of Tamron by sampling their old lenses. Like any other Japanese lenses of that era, these are vulnerable to PF, but their build is second to none and they often offer a unique feature set regarding zoom range, close-up capability, and overall optical performance.

Mixed impressions: Pentax K/M, some Vivitar Series 1

I'm sure there are some stars among the K and M series, but the regular ones that I tried didn't impress me. Long close focusing distances and nothing very special in terms of IQ, plus PF galore. For a comparison, even the non-SP Tamron 80-210 seemed more interesting to me than the M 135/3.5 - and my sample of the Tamron suffered from separation too. Sharpness of the Pentax lenses can be excellent, but PF is a big problem for these lenses. Of course, they work great for B&W shots.

Vivitar Series 1 is a mixed bag. Some are living up to their reputation, but others are so-so. I've been unimpressed with the zooms I tried so far and I much prefer the adaptalls. Very nice color rendering seems to be a common characteristic - the word "vibrant" comes to mind. Build is nice, but the adaptall seem to be more solid and they have a more consistent feel across the line. VS1 primes are much more interesting, but they are harder to find and more expensive.

What about Takumars?

I only tried two (50/1.4 and 55/1.8) and I'm not sure how I'd feel about the standard ones, as I'd expect to find similar PF issues as in the K or M series. But I can say that the Super-Tak 50/1.4 is a gem and it's superb for low light use.

Disappointments

I have yet to find a Meyer Optik to impress me. Domiplan was a joke and a 135/2.8 electric was unimpressive coming after a Jupiter 11A. I tried about three Oreston/Pentacon 50/1.8 and they all had fungus. Some interesting rendering, but not something to win me over.

Surprises

An old Vivitar 135/2.8 was much better than I expected. Reasonably sharp wide open, little PF.

A Kiron 80-200/4.5 macro with zoom lock was also a nice find. I don't understand why zoom lock was not a feature on all push-pull zooms. This lens also suffers from PF, but resolution was pretty good and price was excellent.

A Petri CC 55/1.8 proved to be about as good as the Takumar 55/1.8. Build not as solid, but very smooth operation.

Overall conclusions

Once in a while there is talk about whether it's worth using old lenses on digital cameras. The answer is yes, but you have to be careful. The main problem I found with old lenses was purple fringing - it's very common and I can't name a single Japanese lens that doesn't suffer from it (other than mirror lenses). With this in mind, I think many old lenses are overpriced. The Russian lenses were an interesting surprise. The microcontrast wide open is amazing to me - longer focal lengths start showing some CA wide open, but stop down the lens a bit and it goes away. Remarkable performance.

Modern budget zooms are pretty impressive. Even if they lack micro contrast and resolution, they are much better in terms of CA and color rendering.

12-03-2010, 01:59 AM   #2
hcc
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Many thanks for that insightful treat. Awesome... It is much appreciated and your comments are insightful.
12-03-2010, 03:03 AM   #3
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Domiplans are likened to the optical quality of Coke bottles in some forums so no surprise you were disappointed with it. For Meyer Optik you need the bokeh monster 135mm. In 50mm go for the f1.8 and see what you think. For Series 1 Vivitar I have to say I do like my Version 1 Kiron made a hell of a lot and should use it more often.
12-03-2010, 03:14 AM   #4
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Thanks for your insights, especially interesting given the (imho) outrageous prices old manual pentax lenses are fetching here on ebay in australia.

12-03-2010, 05:50 AM   #5
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Thanks for your insights. Oddly I have the SuperTak 50/1.4 and the 55/1.8 and find the 1.8 more pleasing at present. I keep hearing about the Russian lenses and I'm interested in something <15mm so I may look there. Thanks.
12-03-2010, 06:11 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Docrwm Quote
Thanks for your insights. Oddly I have the SuperTak 50/1.4 and the 55/1.8 and find the 1.8 more pleasing at present. I keep hearing about the Russian lenses and I'm interested in something <15mm so I may look there. Thanks.
For the ultra-wide stuff, you should really look at modern lenses. I don't think you're going to find anything older and Russian that compares in IQ to the new 10-20s out there today.
12-03-2010, 06:18 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ira Quote
For the ultra-wide stuff, you should really look at modern lenses. I don't think you're going to find anything older and Russian that compares in IQ to the new 10-20s out there today.
Well Ira, coming from you that's helpful as I know how much you appreciate a good Russian lens.
12-03-2010, 07:23 AM   #8
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This is an interesting summary, and I would really love to hear exactly what lenses you have tried in total as several of your comments conflict directly with my own experience.

If we consider your general headings

Best M42 Lenses. I only have one russian lens, a Helios 58mmF2, which is optically reasonable, but mechanically it is falling apart, and I find build quality questionable. I would say my takumars are all pretty good, but overall the best is my SMC Tak 35F2.
Best Manual zooms I am not into manual zooms really, so I can only comment about my Series 1 70-210F3.5 which is excellent.
Mixed impressions Perhaps some K mounts, specifically the 105F2.8 which I find very soft wide open, and M series where the focus action seems inconsistent and much rougher than K series
What about Takumars? overall, they are a good lot, and the reference comparison for all lenses you can't go wrong.
Disappointments XR Rikenon 135F2.8 (M42 with 6 blade aperture) which suffered from serious reflections off the rear group mounting ring, and also a funny color shift and general 1 stop lower shutter speed to get proper exposure than a normal F2.8 lens.
Suprises vivitar 28nnF2.5 (M42 mount) for $9.00
Overall conclusions I like the K series, and the examples I have are all excellent performers (300/4, 135/2.5 and 50/1.4) The K300 has some lateral CA. and here I think there needs to be a differentiation between PF and CA. for M42 lenses I did not go totally for SMC tak's as I felt these were too close to K series lenses

12-03-2010, 08:42 AM   #9
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I don't have a lot of experience with Russian lenses but I can say that the Zenitar F16 fisheye is a fun lens. However it is terrible wide open, it's unusuable at f/2.8 and poor from f/3.5 to f/5.0. Mine is the K mount variety but I've heard that it is the same as the M42 mount.

Pentax K mount lenses: I own 3, Pentax K 50 f/1.2; Pentax K 135 f/2.5 and Pentax K 300 f/4.0 and I find that all of them are excellent quality lenses. Like LG above, there is a little lateral CA on the 300, but the other two are excellent performers, especially the 135.

I only own 2 M42 lenses, the 55mm f1.8 and I just took posession last night of a 150mm super Takumar f/4.0. I've found the 55 to be an excellent lens, as good as my well loved A 50mm f/1.7 except w/o the convenience of controlling the aperture from the camera.

NaCl(I guess all you can really say is YMMV)H2O
12-03-2010, 09:04 AM   #10
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QuoteQuote:
Disappointments

I have yet to find a Meyer Optik to impress me. Domiplan was a joke and a 135/2.8 electric was unimpressive coming after a Jupiter 11A. I tried about three Oreston/Pentacon 50/1.8 and they all had fungus. Some interesting rendering, but not something to win me over.
I want to point out that based on what you wrote, you haven't really tried a Meyer lens. The Domiplan is considered the worst lens ever made by Meyer and one of the worst German lenses ever. Plus, trying a fungus ridden lens and making a statement about its performance is not a fair assessment.

Meyer has some gems out there such as the Zebra version of the 29/2.8. However, for what they fetch, I don't pursue them due to having 2 early versions of the S.T. 28mm and a couple of k-mount 28mm lenses not to mention a Mamiya 28mm SX that I can't really use on my dSLR at present.


As far as a "cool down" goes, I can understand that. I have been there myself for some time. The lenses that I have bought the past year have been very deliberate to fill an actual need.
12-03-2010, 09:40 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Docrwm Quote
Well Ira, coming from you that's helpful as I know how much you appreciate a good Russian lens.
My next two modern lens will probably be the Sigma 10-20 and the new Pentax 18-135.

I need some fully auto stuff to be able to do parties, because I sure don't have the skills to do it with my manual lenses. The Pentax 10-17 also attracts me to no end, because of IQ and I think that fisheye on the wide end would result in some great shots. But the 10-20 will probably be more practical.
12-03-2010, 11:12 AM   #12
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I am very happy with my Russian glass, especially the very usable Zenitar 16/2.8.
I am quite happy with my Meyer glass, even the funky Domiplan. Exploit that funk!
I am happy with my Takumars and all Pentax glass except a couple M and A zooms.
I am still trying to determine how happy I am with misc-branded Japanese glass.
The DA10-17 is great fun but is only a workhorse if you want everything distorted.
My lens lineup is pretty much filled in; an ultrawide rectilinear is about all that's left.
Of course, with a big enough inheritance, that could change. I could even go Red.
12-03-2010, 11:50 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ira Quote
My next two modern lens will probably be the Sigma 10-20 and the new Pentax 18-135.

I need some fully auto stuff to be able to do parties, because I sure don't have the skills to do it with my manual lenses. The Pentax 10-17 also attracts me to no end, because of IQ and I think that fisheye on the wide end would result in some great shots. But the 10-20 will probably be more practical.
why not get the samyang/bower/prooptic/vivitar/rokonon 8mm fisheye. it is a whole lot of fun. the 10-20 paired with the 18-135 is interesting especially in light of the IQ coming out of higher ISO sensors lately.
12-03-2010, 12:38 PM   #14
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I have loved all the Pentax glass I've ever shot with the exception of the Takumar-A 28-80 zoom, which was merely okay. I even love my Takumar Bayonet 135/2.5.

Right now I'm floored by my new FA 35mm f/2.
12-03-2010, 12:44 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
why not get the samyang/bower/prooptic/vivitar/rokonon 8mm fisheye. it is a whole lot of fun. the 10-20 paired with the 18-135 is interesting especially in light of the IQ coming out of higher ISO sensors lately.
+1 on the pro optic/etc 8mm fisheye. Big time fun lens. I will be posting a real world type review of it soon.
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