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05-08-2011, 05:29 AM   #1
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Do m42 lenses measure up to todays lenses?

Hello everyone,
How do M42 lenses compare to today's lenses? Is the color reproduction, IQ, and sharpness, better than, the same as or worse than today's (prime) lenses?

05-08-2011, 05:34 AM   #2
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HornetNest This is going to open up a heated debate. However, it will essentially come down to which m42 lens and which modern lenses. Plus, there are a lot of people that will low-mouth a lens such as the preset Takumar 85, 83mm, and 105 for example without having used them simply based on the early coatings on them. However, with the appropriate hood, their performance can be surprising because there are plenty of "dogs" in the modern mf and af k-mount realm. Go look through the long running Takumar Club thread. The advantage that 'some' of the modern lenses such as the FA 77 and 43 and 31 limited lenses have on them is the Ghostless Coating and auto focus (same story for the DA ltd series).
05-08-2011, 05:49 AM   #3
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Depends in what criteria do you want to compare and which M42 lenses against wich modern lenses...
05-08-2011, 06:04 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by jusfun21 Quote
Hello everyone,
How do M42 lenses compare to today's lenses? Is the color reproduction, IQ, and sharpness, better than, the same as or worse than today's (prime) lenses?
Some are good, some are bad...Tak 85mm is a pretty impressive example, while I was not very impressed with Tak 105mm

05-08-2011, 06:09 AM   #5
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M42 was often designed for black and white so with colour you do sometimes get a fair amount of purple fringing because it may not have the coating to aid with that. But it depends on each lens, some are great, some are lousy =)
05-08-2011, 06:45 AM   #6
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I do have a Soligor 28mm f2.8 which I will use as a paper weight, because of it's crappy IQ.

But on the other hand I love my Takumars and my Helios-44 (M39 - Zenith version). These lenses are absolutely terrific.
05-08-2011, 07:13 AM - 2 Likes   #7
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Arguably one of the worst lenses Pentax ever sold is the SMC-A 35-80/4-5.6, which is lousier than any Tak I know of. And arguably almost every newer zoom is optically better than an M42 zoom -- with notable exceptions such as Vivitar Series 1 and some other premium lines. But to toss-out all M42 primes, you discard many masterpieces by Zeiss, Asahi Pentax, Meyer, Tomioka, et al.

My fastest lenses, other than the superb K50/1.2, are FA and ST 50/1.4, planar Yashica ML 50/1.4, and Tomioka 55/1.4. Only the FA50 is SMC, but I use hoods on all these. And all give different (and excellent) results. The ST and FA 50's are similar but not identical, and of course they feel different to use. My next fastest are a batch of old lenses around 50-55/1.7-1.8, by Asahi Pentax, Chinon, Mamiya, Meyer, Olympus, Petri, Ricoh, Yashica, all being different to use and value. These, and slower Fifty's from Asahi Pentax, Cosina, KMZ (Russian), Meyer, Porst, Ricoh, Zeiss, all produce excellent (and different) sharp results when stopped-down.

These will show different dimensionality, color renderings, bokeh, character. From f/4 and up, I prefer the bokeh of the CZJ Tessar 50/2.8 (12 iris blades) and the sharpness of the Macro-Takumar 50/4 (1:1) to the FA50/1.4. I love the dimensionality of the Yashica ML 50/1.4, the Tomioka 55/1.4, the Petri CC and Super-Takumar 55/1.8's, etc. Are any of these better or worse than newer AF Fifty's? I can't say that; just that they're different.

I have a mantra. (I have many mantras -- this is just one). Newer AF zooms are good for taking pictures; older MF primes are good for making pictures. Many newer lenses will fairly accurately record what's around you. Many older lenses help you capture what you want to see. What we want to see; what we think we see; what the camera sees; and what is really there (if anything); these are not the same. Each lens is like an artist's brush, a different instrument for producing different images. And each lens is a different window on the world. That's why I have hundreds of lenses, to look through those various windows, to use those varied instruments. It's aesthetic, not technical.

Last edited by RioRico; 05-08-2011 at 07:22 AM.
05-08-2011, 07:37 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by yusuf Quote
Some are good, some are bad...Tak 85mm is a pretty impressive example, while I was not very impressed with Tak 105mm
Which Tak 105? There are 6 different ones. The preset and Auto-Tak had 4/4 forumula and the newer preset had the 4/5. Then there were 2 different Super Tak 105 and an S-M-C 105mm. Plus, these samples are 40 to 50+ years old so sample variation could be a concern. That is even true with new lenses as we have seen with the DA* 16-50mm.

Also, which Tak 85? There are 5 of them as well although none of them are actually a Takumar 85. They were the Auto Takumar 85/1.8, Super Tak 85/1.9 ( 2 versions), S-M-C Tak 85/1.9 and S-M-C Tak 85/1.8. The only true Takumar was the 83mm/1.9.

All that said, the use of a hood in outdoor situations can dramatically improve the performance of all the m42 Takumars, especially the models before the S-M-C.

05-08-2011, 08:21 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Blue Quote
:HornetNest: This is going to open up a heated debate. However, it will essentially come down to which m42 lens and which modern lenses. Plus, there are a lot of people that will low-mouth a lens such as the preset Takumar 85, 83mm, and 105 for example without having used them simply based on the early coatings on them. However, with the appropriate hood, their performance can be surprising because there are plenty of "dogs" in the modern mf and af k-mount realm. Go look through the long running Takumar Club thread. The advantage that 'some' of the modern lenses such as the FA 77 and 43 and 31 limited lenses have on them is the Ghostless Coating and auto focus (same story for the DA ltd series).
Just a minor correction, the "ghostless" designation was used for special filters with curved glass of constant thickness -- the curved glass eliminates ghosting, the constant thickness does not refract light.
05-08-2011, 08:27 AM   #10
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The short answer is-
It depends on what you're doing. RioRico hit it pretty dead on, each lens has different character and properties that make it better or worse in certain situations. Some lenses I can't coax good results out of, others I use mainly on B&W (My Kuribayashi 135mm springs to mind) but can perform well on colour, others, such as my Super-Takumar 35mm, have beautiful tones on B&W or monochrome images, but lack presence on colour. The 35mm is a fantastic lens in terms of IQ, I just can't seem to coax the bokeh and colour I want out of it.
A good example of different lenses for different situations is my choice of low-light 55mms. I have a Chinon 55 1.7 and a Rikenon 55 1.4. The Rikenon has slightly thinner DOF wide open, and is a tad soft, but due to the superior coatings of the Chinon, light gathering is about equal. The Rikenon is also nearly as heavy as my camera, and hardly fits in the ever-ready case, HOWEVER, I still generally reach for the Rikenon if I'm going to shoot at a gig or a low-light, night-time situation. This is because the sharpness of the Chinon would show every little bit of camera shake and missed focus, while the slight softness of the Rikenon makes the situation look more natural and closer to what the eye would see in similar lighting. Both lenses can, at 1/30 and with 1600 or 3200 film, practically shoot in the dark. The Chinon is just less suited to it, and, on B&W, performance is equal. The Chinon would be my choice with colour slides during the day, however, because it has the best single-coating I've ever encountered and has a long, smooth focus throw. The Chinon will likely live on my soon-to arrive practika, which will give it the second life it deserves.

Neither of these is as CONVENIENT as my friend's d3100 with the kit zoom (I've shot it enough to know) and while the differences named above apply to shooting these lenses in their native environment, on a Spotmatic, rather than with an adapter, the point is basically that, while good and bad lenses do exist, some lenses might underperform in certain areas and excel in others. A little bit of wide-open softness isn't always a bad thing. Tack-sharp (or is it tak-sharp?) won't always give you the desired result, but it can help greatly. The analogy to painting is quite apt, you wouldn't paint always with one type of brush and paints on one size canvas, and shouldn't always photograph with one lens and one camera. The older M42 primes are still (Mostly) very fine glass, especially from the better German and Japanese houses, but they're different, in intent and use, from kit zooms. The fundamental contrast between zooms and primes is simply amplified by the age, primes are simpler and engender fewer design compromises, while zooms are convenient but lack fast apertures (and hence DOF control) and are more complex and expensive than primes. If you like your current zooms, M42 is likely not for you. If you enjoy primes and want to try some different "flavours" of colour, bokeh, etc, than M42 might be for you.

That ran on for longer than I meant it to. Sorry.
05-08-2011, 08:29 AM   #11
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A lot of good points have already been made here, so I'll just add a couple a minor thought. There aren't very many overlaps between M42 lenses (here I'm thinking Takumars) and the current prime lineup actually, if we consider both FL and maximum aperture. Both the Takumars and the modern Pentax prime lineup are great lenses capable of producing great results; in large part it depends on what sort of specific usage (and budget) you intend for the lens.

As for other (non-Takumar) M42 lenses, it varies wildly (remember, for instance that Vivitar made many of the excellent Series 1 lenses in M42 as well as the K mount) depending on the lens. I have a Sankor-made 135mm f3.2 (that's not a typo), which is a present lens with a ton of aperature blades. Sure, sharpness is not incredibly high (although still plenty acceptable), but the lens has fantastic bokeh. It definitely serves a purpose, and one that no modern lens does quite as well.

Last edited by macTak; 05-08-2011 at 08:39 AM.
05-08-2011, 08:35 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by yusuf Quote
Some are good, some are bad...Tak 85mm is a pretty impressive example, while I was not very impressed with Tak 105mm
I have the S-M-C Tak 105 version and it is easily one of the best M42 lenses in my collection. amazing lens. Which did you mean??
05-08-2011, 08:41 AM   #13
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I've been adding some more modern lenses to what was a large bag full of old M42 glass. I now have some limited primes which have excellent IQ and very convenient for AF and auto-exposure...
...BUT, these nevertheless do not have the vintage glass look that I can get with my Helios' or Takumars, even a couple of Vivitars, so I often pull off the limited lens and put on the M42 to get the look I want.

True, in many cases I get much more CA than with the modern glass, so more work is needed in post to reduce some of the fringing issues.

All in all, i find them to measure up just fine, a few are indispensible to me.
05-08-2011, 09:03 AM   #14
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Really depends on the glass. Some M42 lenses produce superior quality compared to newer lenses. The newer ones really benefit from AF and AE whereas the older lenses you have to do everything by yourself.

I think M42 glass should not be over looked just because its old and deemed inferior.

My Pentax-M at 50mm is far superior to the kit lens at 50mm. My Fujinon M42 55mm lens produces excellent images compared to the kit at 55mm.
05-08-2011, 10:35 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by rhodopsin Quote
Just a minor correction, the "ghostless" designation was used for special filters with curved glass of constant thickness -- the curved glass eliminates ghosting, the constant thickness does not refract light.
Actually, you are incorrect in this case since I am not referring to the Asahi filters. In 1997, the FA 43mm ltd lens was the first to receive the Ghostless Coating patented I think in 1992.

Go here and scroll down to 1992.

Milestones

And here for a blurb:

About Super-Multi Coating (SMC)

Pentax usually lists this in the description of a lens at either Pentax Imaging or Pentax.jp when Ghostless Coating is used on a lens. Dimitrov usually lists it also in the details of a specific lens.

For example, the FA 35mm/2 got it whereas the FA 50mm/1.4 did not. The new DA 35mm/2.4 also has it.

That said, there isn't a lot known about the Ghostless Coating, SuperProtect (SP) Coating and Aero Bright Coating.
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