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02-11-2012, 10:07 AM   #16
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With respect to modern vs old, while zooms have improved considerably , they are not as user friendly in MF due to the focus throw. My sigma APO 70-200/2.8 has a 90 degree focus throw in MF, this is only half what my series 1 70-210/3.5 version 1 has. It is just not as accurate in MF. But with few exceptions my liking of old glass is primes not zooms. My only other MF zoom is the Tamron Adaptall II SP 200-500/5.6.

My two MF zooms are exceptions rather than the rule relative to image quality in MF zooms, but note that they are also from the era of computer design.

02-11-2012, 10:20 AM   #17

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QuoteOriginally posted by PPPPPP42 Quote
What would $1000 lens today have cost in 1975 or 1985 anyways?
Perhaps a lot less. I don't know what the old Takumar 50/1.4s sold for in the 70s, but an engineer at a Japanese camera company told Mike Johnston that that old 50 would have to sell for $1,200 to $1,500 today.
02-11-2012, 10:31 AM   #18
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Oops I mean auto focus, not sure what a person would do with auto zoom but I'm sure a Nikon owner would buy it.

I can tell you in my experience that the A series is the same as the M in build quality and probably not just my opinion, everything but the rubber grips seems to be metal (aluminum?) and thats better in rubber than metal for shooting with gloves, I have an older SMC-A 35-105 that I just replaced with a new one that was dropped before I got it cheap and you can see the bare metal showing through where it got the filter ring area stoved in by the concrete (I hammered it back out slightly). Finish on it and function is still near 100% despite obvious heavy wear and usage (the rubber is worn smooth instead of sticky like an old basket ball does but still has its ridges to grip) It still zooms and focuses smooth and tight despite the mileage. I would have no gripe with an M lens quality wise to be sure or even many other pre-A lenses but on a K20D the aperture ring is buried under that stupid beak on the front and I really like using the front and rear dials in M mode to set aperture and shutter speed quickly even with gloves, the aperture ring would be a royal PITA to use for me, plus you have to dink with the green button every new shot.

As far as quality goes for zooms in A, I like all mine but then I only picked the better (and more expensive) faster fixed aperture ones, not the cheaper slower and much lower rated variable aperture models. Our lens review page is a great way to view complete lineups. If I can get a good 24-50 F4 I'll have every good zoom in the A lineup (and a wide enough zoom for city finally).

Also I firmly believe that eventually full frame sensors will come to us poor Pentax folks, and I will be ready with my lineup of full framed A lenses, DA would be useless to me at that point so I don't see it as a good investment. Plus an A lens has a huge increase in working life vs anything with auto focus parts involved.
02-11-2012, 10:43 AM   #19
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There are pros and cons to both, so part of the choice is specific to preferences. As has been pointed out in this thread, it would simply cost too much to have the build quality from the old series across the entire lens line. We see that in the pricing of the FA and DA ltds. I specifically have some reservations over the DA* line as far as how they will fair after a few decades.

If you pixel peep etc, you'll probably get better measurements from some of the new lenses. When used for photography however, I much prefer the contrast and rendering of some of the older lenses.

02-11-2012, 10:56 AM   #20

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Zooms, as a class have improved, though there were some great old ones [Tamron SP60-300]. Modern long teles often have less abberation, at a price. As Adam noted, some old lenses [especially ultrawides] have problems with digital sensors, though they produce a fine image on film.
02-11-2012, 11:10 AM   #21
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I have the M50 1.7 which performs optically as well as the 50mms of today. It's so sharp at F8 that it compares favorably to my Tamron 70-200... which says a lot.

So the better primes of yester-year are still very comparable today - especially if we start going into Leica and Zeiss territory.
02-11-2012, 11:47 AM   #22

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Factor in a bit of survivor bias. The great old lenses that are talked about were the good ones. The bad ones are being sold on ebay to suckers.

That being said, if you need manual focus a lens designed for that purpose will be better than one designed for auto focus. I have an M42 300mm takumar that feels like a fine instrument in my hands, but the aberrations means it's in the drawer. My Tamron 23a feels wonderful in my hands, the one shot zoom and focus makes hand held long easy and reliable. A joy to use and pretty good glass as well. The A 50 1.4 I picked up a short while ago is a joy to handle, and I'm blown away by what comes out of my inept hands.

You get the same responses from some modern lenses. There is a thread somewhere with people talking about their 77mm 1.8 limited. Same feeling of awe, something that makes them better photographers. Likely every manufacturer has a lens like that in their line, hopefully more than one. A mixture of great design that can produce great results through the vagaries of manufacturing and skill levels. Probably a fluke, otherwise every lens would be as good.
02-11-2012, 12:20 PM   #23
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QuoteOriginally posted by wlachan Quote
I think M was the last high quality series lenses Pentax made then the build quality started to slip.
My opinion as well. In addition, as noted above, manual focus with most AF lenses is a major pain due to short focus throw.

As for modern lenses being better optically...I believe that is a good generalization when applied to zooms and to the short focal length primes.


(Only owns four "modern" lenses (one DA, two FA, and a Sigma EX DG) and likes all four. Owns tons of vintage glass and likes most of them too. Owns ONE Pentax-A lens and has no desire to purchase another (except, perhaps, an A*) due to build issues.)

Last edited by stevebrot; 02-11-2012 at 12:31 PM.
02-11-2012, 12:28 PM   #24
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QuoteOriginally posted by northcoastgreg Quote
I don't know what the old Takumar 50/1.4s sold for in the 70s
They were relatively cheap, even for the day, and were sold pretty much at a loss. IIRC, they essentially gave the 55/1.8 away for free with a Spotmatic body and the upgrade to the 50/1.4 was about $20 (about the same as going with "professional" black finish). Ping Nesster on this site. He has a collection of scans from old photo magazine ads showing street price for just about anything you might be interested in.

02-11-2012, 12:30 PM   #25
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QuoteOriginally posted by derekkite Quote
Factor in a bit of survivor bias. The great old lenses that are talked about were the good ones. The bad ones are being sold on ebay to suckers.
Ha! Although I think more of the overpriced steaming.turd lenses show up on CL.

I'll put in a word for lenses of the early Kodachrome era (which was mostly prior to zooms) and Darwinian pressure. Lenses that weren't sharp enough to project detail on 'chrome generally didn't survive. I think our love of lenses of that age is precisely because they necessarily had good-enough optics and haptics.
NOTE: Hay kids! Today's word-of-the-day is HAPTICS, which here refers to the touchy-feely qualities of an item. If it feels good, etc...
And I'll distinguish golden-age Kodachrome glass from the later, degenerate Kodacolor era (and the birth of zooms), when parking-lot photo-processors printed gazillions of snapshots on textured paper with absolutely no care for resolution, aberrations, etc. Those crappy early Sigma and other consumer-grade zooms survived because their low IQ was trivial compared to excreble mass-print technology.

Yes, most newer zooms have better optics than most older zooms, though exceptions abound. Yes, many older primes had better haptics than many newer zooms because we don't like those plastic surfaces. And I have a special dislike for older MF pancake primes, just because they're so hard to grab to focus -- and my fingers aren't fat. That's mainly why my very sharp pancakes (Meyer Helioplan 40/4.5; Chinon 45/2.8; Industar-50-2/3.5) don't get much use.

But I digress. I'll fall back on one of my imperfect (but useful) over-generalizations: AF zooms (newer) are great for TAKING pictures. MF primes (older) are great for MAKING pictures. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
02-11-2012, 12:33 PM   #26
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going back to the original post - ask him how heavy his camera is and what aperture his lens is? If he doesn't know what aperture is then just shake your head. An all in one zoom has its place but there are limitations and I'm not interested.

If I had the money I would own a complete set of AF primes (DA15/FA43/DFA100/more) and several AF zooms. I would also have a nice set of MF primes but imo the old MF primes are a cheap way to get results pretty much as good as today's DA ltd's. Or better in some cases. I think my A50/1.7 is better than my DA40 unless I need AF.
02-11-2012, 12:33 PM   #27
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QuoteOriginally posted by PPPPPP42 Quote
I got into an interesting debate with a Nikon friend, he couldn't understand why I am hung up on exclusively the older Pentax SMC-A series lenses, and only the fixed aperture zooms and faster prime ones. He see's my array of lenses and compares it to his single 18-250 variable aperture Tamron auto zoom and just shakes his head. I told him I can't afford the newer stuff of a quality I like and I don't need the auto zoom.

Am I just not realizing what these SMC-A lenses (or the better SMC-M's too) actually cost back when they were new? Or is a well built higher quality lens no longer what the market demands outside of the insanely expensive pro lines of lenses like the * series and such. Perhaps I'm just out of touch and people actually do want lots of plastic for weight reduction and variable aperture for a smaller overall size. I'm not saying many of the new budget lenses couldn't equal or or even better the images from my older lenses, but I feel like while the prices have increased, the average bar has lowered for what is expected. I think this is true of bodies as well as lenses actually.

What would $1000 lens today have cost in 1975 or 1985 anyways?
You have some nice lenses listed there. Just because your friend has a neekon doesn't mean squat, come on, a 18-250mm? If he had a canon he could try out one (with an adapter) and see for his self. I can't imagine having a nikon and NOT having any old MF nikon lenses to go with it, kind of sad really.

02-11-2012, 05:11 PM   #28

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QuoteOriginally posted by northcoastgreg Quote
I don't know what the old Takumar 50/1.4s sold for in the 70s, but an engineer at a Japanese camera company told Mike Johnston that that old 50 would have to sell for $1,200 to $1,500 today.
Hard to believe, when the Voigtlaender Nokton 58/1.4 goes for $450.
02-12-2012, 05:43 PM   #29
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Old lenses were designed to get images on film. Today's lenses should(!) be designed to put images on digital sensors. This is a much more demanding task - does not mean that lenses got better :-) Lens technology advanced a lot. Zooms perform much better theses days than before and new coatings and glass types help a lot in improving image quality. In general new lens designs should be better and better suited for digial use. Wonders did not happen though a 18-200 lens is still not a great performer - quality wise. keeping costs low, all the new tools and techniques are not used in all lens designs, so there is no general answer to your question. What is also new these days is that full frame does not mean 24x36 mm2 anymore but a smaller sensor size in Pentax land. That changes a lot and only Pentax offers many lenses, including prime lenses, designed for this smaller format. Whenever possible get new lenses and chekc out decent tests before you buy. Do not rely on old glass if you have the option.
02-12-2012, 09:21 PM   #30

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QuoteOriginally posted by zapp Quote
Do not rely on old glass if you have the option.
I'm much more of a pragmatist when it comes to old glass. I don't care whether a lens is old or new: if it provides the results I want, I don't care whether it's old or new. Nor in practice do I think it matters whether a lens is designed for film or digital. What depends is the sort of images the lens provides in your medium of choice. The best lens I've ever used on digital is the old K 50/1.2.

When comparing old to new lenses, it's often more about tradeoffs, then maintaining the superiority of one to the other. Yes, the newer zooms tend to be better (though not necessarily by as much as it sometimes claimed); improvements have also been made in longer telephotos and ultra-wides. But between those two extremes, there's not a huge difference between old and new, and sometimes the old is better. The old 50/1.2s are still the best normal lenses Pentax ever made; the old K 28/2 Pentax's best 28mm lens; the A 135/1.8 Pentax's best 135mm lens; and so on. The new is not always better, nor is progress always in a straight line. I sometimes think I should replace my old M 20/4 lens with the new DA 21; but that old M lens keeps delivering stunning images, so why replace it? If a lens gets the job done, who cares how old it is?

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