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07-20-2011, 10:44 PM   #1
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K versus M ?

I am sorry if this has come up before. I wonder what you know, or think, about the differences between K and M lenses. K lenses seem to be larger and a bit older, that is as far as I get. Was it competition with for instance Olympus to make M lenses smaller? Thinking about your own b/w prints (if you did them, or are doing them), were you happy with the negatives from both lenses?

I am less interested in resolution comparisons. And more in the 'feeling' the lenses can give: so yes, very subjective, sorry.

Machiel

07-20-2011, 11:15 PM   #2
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See this thread: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-beginners-corner-q/150729-super-mu...es-primes.html

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07-21-2011, 06:01 AM   #3
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it is difficult to make a generalized statement, because there are exceptions, but here goes any ways, based upon the K and M lenses I own or have used.

the K series Predates the M Series. So you are correct, K are older. K series cameras and lenses were the first bayonette lenses, and were released in 1976. M series cameras and lenses came out in about 1979-80.

K Series lenses are generally larger, heavier, use larger filters and in many cases ther are faster lens options at each focal length (but this has exceptions)

My own personal impression is that mechanically (touch and feel) the K series lenses are much more consistent, in terms of focus action and damping compared to the M series. in short, the M series feel a little cheap in comparison.

Optically, many of the lenses are similar, but there are some exceptions to this, and there are some definitive improvements/changes optically in the 300 and 400mm lenses, which make them considerably smaller without loss of speed. the M400 also had automatic aperture vs manual aperture of the K400.

What I don't know, and perhaps a real pentax historian can answer this, is whether as part of the weight reduction program, pentax reduced the thickness of the elements like Nikon. thinner elements mean less distortion but require different production techniques. the benefit is obvious with respect to weight thinner = lighter.

The other thing to consider with any lens, is that lens coatings are always evolving, and SMC for K series is not necessairly the same as SMC for the M series. I would expect every new lens to have generally better coarings than the one it replaces. This can help significantly in flare resistance and improved contrast.
07-21-2011, 07:46 AM   #4
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If you have a camera store in town that sells used equipment, you should easily be able to find a K50/1.4, K55/1.8 or K55/2 to compare to a M50/1.4, M50/1.7 or M50/2. Bring in your camera body and see which you like best. Just remember the f1.4 lenses in both series will weigh more than the slower primes.

Phil.

07-21-2011, 08:54 AM   #5
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Takinami's site has resolution charts for most of them. He generally rates K lenses much higher than M ones. In Dimitrov's site you can find information on most Pentax lenses. Some are extremely rare. For example the K50/4 macro. I own this one and, believe me, it is like from another planet compared to the other 50ies. The main problem with those old lenses is that they don't support ttl flash. At least in modern dslrs. I think Pentax should take care of that in future bodies, especially if it produces some mirrorless. Because this will bring Pentax back to street photography. If only I had my ME Super with M40/2.8 in digital.
07-21-2011, 09:13 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by gofour3 Quote
If you have a camera store in town that sells used equipment, you should easily be able to find a K50/1.4, K55/1.8 or K55/2 to compare to a M50/1.4, M50/1.7 or M50/2. Bring in your camera body and see which you like best. Just remember the f1.4 lenses in both series will weigh more than the slower primes.

Phil.
I think I should be hanging out in your used camera store! I don't know if I could assemble those six lenses in a retail setting anywhere in the Portland area.


Steve
07-21-2011, 09:29 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
I think I should be hanging out in your used camera store! I don't know if I could assemble those six lenses in a retail setting anywhere in the Portland area.


Steve
Yep we are very lucky having Kerrisdale Cameras here in the lower mainland. They have many stores with the biggest/oldest on 41st Avenue near Arbutus. (This is the store where I got my first Pentax gear in 1975.)

Over the last couple years I have picked up a used K18/3.5, K24/2.8, K35/3.5, FA43/1.9LTD, K50/1.4, K55/1.8, K135/2.5, Spotmeter V and a Pentax Portable Copy Stand III from the main store. As well as numerous Pentax cases, Kodak slide trays and so forth. They always have dozens of old Pentax film bodies (35mm, 645, 6x7) and lenses that you can play with.

Kerrisdale Cameras won’t have all six K or M series primes that I mentioned in at the same time, but will have at least one from each series. Hopefully the OP will have a place where he/she can compare at least one standard K Series lens to one M Series.


Phil.

Last edited by gofour3; 07-21-2011 at 09:36 AM.
07-21-2011, 10:46 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
I think I should be hanging out in your used camera store! I don't know if I could assemble those six lenses in a retail setting anywhere in the Portland area.


Steve
This is funny coming from a guy with Blue Moon and Knight around the corner. Hysterical I found a NOS A 35-80mm (the black plastic job) about a month ago in the local shop which had a total of 10 lenses new and old. I was absolutely stunned. I got to take it out of the box and take a test shot on my dSLR. That is about as close to a K 50/1.4 as I am going to come in this 2 horse state capital (not counting the horse's arse known as the governor).

07-21-2011, 11:05 AM   #9
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Like Lowell, Phil and many others on this forum I have a number of old M and K series lenses. Like many others I prefer the build quality and heft of the K series to the diminutive M series. There’s nothing like slapping my K 200/2.5 on one of my cameras. Every time I do so I think damn that’s a hell of a lens.

Getting back to the original post I prefer the rendering of the K series as well. I think for the most part they are sharper. This is certainly true when I compare my M 200/4 to the K 200/2.5. It is not a fair comparison as the K 200/2.5 is a much more expensive lens but there you have it. This being said I have no other lenses in my collection which paint the sky in quite so pleasing a colour of blue as the M series do. This is all subjective stuff of course. The M series is very well built, if not as robust as the K series, and bye and large they are uniformly good lenses. I certainly have no complaints with the seven or so M series I own.

As Phil suggests why not pick up a K 50 and M 50 and make your own comparison. They are readily available. My M 50/1.4 is one of if not the sharpest lens in my bag after my M 50/4 macro. K or M you won’t go far wrong.

Tom G

Last edited by 8540tomg; 07-22-2011 at 09:16 AM.
07-21-2011, 09:38 PM   #10
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Regarding the OP's point about competing with Olympus, I think this is correct. Pentax's competition at the time were Olympus, Canon and Nikon. Nikon were distinctly in the professional arena (though still recognised the need for an entry-level system), and Canon were following suit. Perhaps Pentax failed to see the importance of dominating the professional market, so decided that they would continue to specialise in the consumer market, and that meant (particularly for a Japanese company) cameras which were more compact. Especially as that's exactly what Olympus were alreay doing (with their OM-1 and OM10 models).

So, Pentax emerged with the MX and ME. Small, light cameras need small, light lenses, hence the M series. Most (if not all) the M lenses were completely different designs from the previous "K" series, which were mostly based on the mature Takumar screw-mount lens technology.

In terms of build quality, I think that's been somewhat downhill since the Takumars - but that's not because the M series is bad (far from it!), it's because the Taks are so brilliant in this area.

Personally, I'm a fan of small, light lenses, so I'm also very much a fan of the M series. A good case in point is the 135/3.5; the M version is delightfully small and light, though perhaps IQ isn't quite to the very high standard of the "K" - nevertheless it's the one which gets used more often.
07-21-2011, 10:07 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by m42man Quote
...In terms of build quality, I think that's been somewhat downhill since the Takumars - but that's not because the M series is bad (far from it!), it's because the Taks are so brilliant in this area.

Personally, I'm a fan of small, light lenses, so I'm also very much a fan of the M series. A good case in point is the 135/3.5; the M version is delightfully small and light, though perhaps IQ isn't quite to the very high standard of the "K" - nevertheless it's the one which gets used more often.
This is one example of the build quality difference. Takumar (Super-Multi-Coated 50/1.4 with metal focus ring):



And a similar shot of a Pentax-M 50/1.7:



The obvious difference: you'll find brass in the Taks, and aluminum in the M series. (I don't lose sleep over it.)
07-22-2011, 01:40 PM   #12
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Some of the K were made at the same time as the M, as shown on Bojidar's website. In particular, I just picked up a 24mm K as there isn't one in the M line up. You can tell it was made at the same time as the M as the finishing ring at the front with the engravings on it has the more modern type face. I think one of the K 55mm is also like that....
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