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05-02-2011, 09:46 PM   #1
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In praise of Super Tak 105mm

I got this lens at what I now think is a crazy price, something like $70 and that included shipping. I don't even think that's possible now a mere handful of months later, for some reason. In stellar condition. Wasn't sure what to do with it for a long while, since it seemed a bit long for portrait and walk-around, but I thought: Put it on and leave it on and see what happens.

It's a GREAT portrait lens, as everyone knows and now me, too. But what impresses me so much about it - and I'm looking at every DOF picture I see EVERYWHERE now - is the gorgeous bokeh it has. Just this lovely smear without jitters anywhere that I've seen so far, unlike so many lenses. For $70! I've got a couple of the kit lenses, but I have to say, 90% of the time I've got my 55mm Tak or the 105mm on the camera. It's at the point if I put on an AF lens I'm constantly green buttoning it to meter, I'm so in the habit of it.

I like the 55 a lot, too, but there's something about that 105 that's completely won me over. Looking forward to the day of getting an f1.4, but clearly I'm going to have to pay more (especially for AF, although really, is AF an advantage for portrait?).

Pentax, being the underdog, has provided a cash-strapped girl the chance to have a killer camera (K20D, ebay - $400! in stunning condition) with fantastic older lenses that really make taking pictures fun, and kind of what it's all about. I'm learning scads using these older lenses.

My girlfriend makes a bit of fun at me (she and her behemoth D200) but the proof is in the pudding. She's been gobsmacked by the quality of even the $30 Tak 55. Her kit was a few thousand with the 18-200. Or maybe she's gobsmacked at my photo skills. No, I think it's the camera.

Yay, Pentax!




Last edited by DeniseH; 05-02-2011 at 10:29 PM.
05-02-2011, 10:30 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by DeniseH Quote
She's been gobsmacked by the quality of even the $30 Tak 55. Her kit was a few thousand with the 18-200. Or maybe she's gobsmacked at my photo skills. No, I think it's the camera.
Don't sell yourself short! A camera is nothing without a photographer behind it.
05-03-2011, 06:42 AM   #3
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On a straight-up eBay auction a couple months ago, I won a SuperTak 105 for US$17.35 shipped. Yes, you may hate me now. It's nice, but I think I prefer the Meyer Trioplan 100/2.8 that cost me US$10 more. Good bokeh, and a bit crisper, at least to my eye.

Which SuperTak 55? The f/1.8 and f/2 have the same optics, just a wee different maximum aperture. But while a f/1.8 might fetch US$50 or more, I've seen the f/2 NOT sell for US$10. People are nutz.

Anyway, enjoy your shooting, and buy more old lenses. If you run across a Tele-Tak 200/5.6, grab it! And the Tak 35/3.5, 135/3.5, whatever else pops up. They will NOT lose value. Cheers!
05-03-2011, 01:51 PM   #4
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I guess you wouldn't say it's tack sharp (Tak sharp?), but for portraits it seems to have just the right amount of sharpness for me. I can see that even the entry level DA lenses can be sharper. I just like everything it does, I guess, including the level of sharpness ... for portraits. I think that's the key. For a travel lens, maybe not so much.

I've got the 55mm f2, which does a great job, too. For the huge difference in price between it and the 1.4, it does the job most of the time. I'm not even sure I could reliably focus the 1.4 for portrait work, honestly. It's amazing the price swing when you move to the f2.

$17.00! I don't hate you. Going to my happy place ...

05-03-2011, 05:05 PM   #5
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I haven't yet used the Tak105 for portraits, just for general outside stuff, and the Meyer does beat it there. I'll have to try that when I get back home in a couple months.

The Tak55 is just an amazing bit of optics for the price, IMHO the absolutely best deal in today's market, period. The only others that come close require a little luck to get cheaply: Chinon 55/1.7 or Petri CC 55/1.8, both M42. I've brought both of those on my current journey.

Meanwhile, there's a trick to focusing faster lenses: CIF, catch-in-focus. To use CIF with manual lenses, we usually put a bit of metal tape on the lens base, to (safely) short the mount contacts. Unfortunately, most Taks have bases too narrow to cover those contacts. So, for close work like portraits, there's another trick: a cheap safe flanged non-infinity-focus (NIF) M42-PK adapter. Those are usually painted black, so just scrape off the paint in the appropriate place and CIF is a go! It will ensure that the background is out-of-focus.

Much becomes easy (or at least possible) with CIF. Until I recently got a K50/1.2, my 'fastest' lens was a Tomioka-made 55/1.4, labeled as Sears Auto. The cost: all of US$2.25, shipped. Hate me again, eh? Unassisted focusing was problematic. With CIF, it's a cinch.
05-03-2011, 06:44 PM   #6
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Okay, now I do feel a little bit of hate coming on...

That's some very interesting advice you've given me there, as so often happens on this forum. I'll definitely keep my eye out for that adapter. I've bought the OEM-53 to help with focusing (obviously my eyes aren't tiptop) and while it doesn't change the world, I do find it helpful.

I'm going to read up on CIF. Don't know much about it at all. This forum is great for learning, isn't it? It's just there's so much to learn ......

I'll be very interested to know what you think of the 105 for portraits. And hell, if you decide you hate it, you're only out $17, damn your eyes!

Last edited by DeniseH; 05-03-2011 at 06:45 PM. Reason: added comment
05-03-2011, 06:52 PM   #7
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I just found this reference to you in another post:

"Of course, should you choose to not limit yourself to the fabled three and instead choose more modest, manual focus takumars, K series, or other older, less appreciated, lenses I'm sure you could put together a more than satisfactory assortment of primes for that same amount. Just ask RioRico, I think you could add up the cost of the "cheap" half of his collection and it wouldn't cost as much as the 18-135..."

I see you're notorious for your bargain hunting skills!!
05-04-2011, 10:26 AM   #8
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Ah, you have a K20D, same as I. CIF isn't in the manual's index but is documented on p.112. CIF is enabled via the Custom menu -- see p.34.

The cheap flanged NIF adapter is widely available via eBay, shipped from Hong Kong for US$5 or so. Just search for M42 PENTAX ADAPTER and look at those with wide flanges. If you can get a silver, unpainted one, all the better! No paint to scrape then...

How To Buy Lenses Cheap: I decide what a lens is worth to me, bid low, maybe snipe for $5 over my limit, and sometimes I get lucky. I miss 98% of them, and that's OK. Also, I look for LOTS that contain poorly-described lenses. My ROT (rule of thumb) for any lens: If it costs less than a sandwich or hamburger, buy it. If it costs more than a good pizza, think hard about it. If it costs more than a fine dinner for two, ask many questions here!

And for fine cheap manual lenses: get a bellows, some cheap macro tubes, and a batch of enlarger lenses (ELs). My PK (1) and M42 (2) bellows each cost between US$20-35. Chinese eBay tubes are often US$6-12 per set. Lenses are often less than US$15; sometime they're four for a dime. I just got a Leica 50/3.5 EL (Ernst Leitz Varob) for US$19 shipped. My bellows all compress to around 35-45mm; ELs longer than 80mm can reach infinity focus and thus can be used for non-macro general shooting. ELs are designed for edege-to-edge flatfield sharpness, and you needn't pay for a focusing mechanism for each one! Most are NOT designed to shoot into lights, so hoods are advised. I use cheap 90-105-140-162 ELs and get great results. Think about it.

05-04-2011, 11:28 AM   #9
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Wonderful lens it is, indeed. Don't let anyone give you crap about it -- but use the hood!





05-04-2011, 06:04 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
My ROT (rule of thumb) for any lens: If it costs less than a sandwich or hamburger, buy it. If it costs more than a good pizza, think hard about it. If it costs more than a fine dinner for two, ask many questions here!
I use the same criteria, RR. It's really useful. "Not to worry, dear, that l'il box cost less than the lunch/feast I was about to suggest for us tomorrow." I wasn't very good at judging shoes and purses and sometimes got tripped up using those.

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