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12-25-2012, 03:52 PM   #1
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Do old lenses lose their luster?

I started thinking about my old pentax lenses when I purchased this week a new sigma 17-50 2.8.The new sigma zoom performs to a level i had hoped but didn't really expect. A few years ago I purchased a pentax M 28, 2.8 as I loved this focal length with my film cameras. I didn't like the results. The photos were soft and looked really flat. The colours seemed to lack vibrance. I have tried my old macro bellows 100mm lens and my 50mm lens both nearly 40 years old. The results are also disappointing. They no longer seem to come up with the goods and are nothing like I recall them to be. There isn't anything that I can see that is wrong with the glass. The class seems very clear with no visible dirt or evidence of fungus.

Are the surfaces of lenses affected over time? Do they acquire a coating of grease inside? Does the lens coating degrade? Is it just my imagination? Because I use a range of Ltds are my expectations too high with older lenses? Have prime lenses improved that much over the past 30 years? Have you any thoughts or observations?

Since I purchased the M28 I have not been tempted to purchase any more older lenses.

12-25-2012, 03:55 PM   #2
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Lenses really have improved over time, yes. On top of that, the older coatings don't do as good of a job on digital as they should. With that said, though, you should still be able to get sharp photos as long as the focusing is done correctly!

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12-25-2012, 04:11 PM - 2 Likes   #3
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You can compensate somewhat with the old lenses by using custom settings to boost color and the like. Its an extra step in the process, but you can get decent results.

Personally, I kind of like the somewhat muted effects my old lenses give me - they work well with my 'style'. Its also a matter of picking your subjects and generally approaching the photo knowing you're using something very special in that the glass could be as old as you are.

Here are some shots from some of my old stuff. I'll let others be the judge on how lustrous they are.














12-25-2012, 04:36 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sagitta Quote
Personally, I kind of like the somewhat muted effects my old lenses give me -
Thanks - I think the two landscapes are stunning. You seem to understand the characteristics of your lenses.

12-25-2012, 04:54 PM   #5
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It depends on the lighting .... but as Sagitta mentioned ... sometimes a little boost is needed in some images.
And then in other shots ... I find nothing else in my newer AF gear comes close to the quality to the old primes.

I guess it depends on a number of curcumstances though.
12-25-2012, 05:17 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bob from Aus Quote
I started thinking about my old pentax lenses when I purchased this week a new sigma 17-50 2.8.The new sigma zoom performs to a level i had hoped but didn't really expect. A few years ago I purchased a pentax M 28, 2.8 as I loved this focal length with my film cameras. I didn't like the results. The photos were soft and looked really flat. The colours seemed to lack vibrance. I have tried my old macro bellows 100mm lens and my 50mm lens both nearly 40 years old. The results are also disappointing. They no longer seem to come up with the goods and are nothing like I recall them to be. There isn't anything that I can see that is wrong with the glass. The class seems very clear with no visible dirt or evidence of fungus.

Are the surfaces of lenses affected over time? Do they acquire a coating of grease inside? Does the lens coating degrade? Is it just my imagination? Because I use a range of Ltds are my expectations too high with older lenses? Have prime lenses improved that much over the past 30 years? Have you any thoughts or observations?

Since I purchased the M28 I have not been tempted to purchase any more older lenses.
The M28 f/2,8 isnt the best old lens.
I have all the DA limiteds. Greate lenses.
BUT, both M50 f/1,7 A50 f/1,7 M100 f/2,8 is better.
They are a bit sharper, and does that little extra.

Some of the old lenses are extreme nice. And, you cant make them anymore, because you have
to use a whole lot of toxic additives such as led.
Some old M-42 lenses also are radioactive, and has some Thorium in them.
Perhaps not the kind of lens you leave under your pillow

Tested my FA 50 f/1,4 along with M 50 f/1,4 M50 f/1,7 and A50/1,7
All the M and the A lens is sharper, and have less chance for lens flair.

Last edited by Runegutt123; 12-25-2012 at 05:19 PM. Reason: need more
12-25-2012, 05:23 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Runegutt123 Quote
Some old M-42 lenses also are radioactive, and has some Thorium in them. Perhaps not the kind of lens you leave under your pillow
That's a surprise. What have I been carrying around all these years?
12-25-2012, 05:25 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bob from Aus Quote
That's a surprise. What have I been carrying around all these years?
If the glasses turns yellowish when tot exposed to sunlight for several months, they contain Thorium.
To make them bright again: Place without lids in the sun for an hour.

12-25-2012, 05:44 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bob from Aus Quote
Thanks - I think the two landscapes are stunning. You seem to understand the characteristics of your lenses.
The night street shot was about as basic as you get - Pentax-M 50mm f/2, wide open. The trick is cheating with the white balance - that hazy white glow is from arc sodiums. The original shot was hideously orange.
12-25-2012, 08:28 PM   #10
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I have used a Pentax M 40~80 Zoom, and a Sigma 600 Mirror on my *iStDL and K10D with excellent results. But I had to pay strict attention to focus, as they don't focus for me.
12-26-2012, 12:39 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Runegutt123 Quote
I have all the DA limiteds. Great lenses.
BUT, both M50 f/1,7 A50 f/1,7 M100 f/2,8 is better.
They are a bit sharper, and does that little extra.
I have both the DA 70 Ltd and M100/2.8,
and would not agree that the M100/2.8 is sharper.
Both lenses give about 40lp/mm across the APS-C frame at f/5.6.
12-26-2012, 02:31 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by lytrytyr Quote
I have both the DA 70 Ltd and M100/2.8,
and would not agree that the M100/2.8 is sharper.
Both lenses give about 40lp/mm across the APS-C frame at f/5.6.
DA 70 is very sharp lens, I had one alongside with FA77 and K85...and I have to watch photos at very large magnification to see that K85 is marginally sharper (FA77 was not). So taking in account also lens sample variety, it may happen that old lens could beat DA limited, but it would be narrow. The question then is if you have lemon DA70 or extraordinary M100.
12-26-2012, 03:12 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by vrrattko Quote
DA 70 is very sharp lens, I had one alongside with FA77 and K85...and I have to watch photos at very large magnification to see that K85 is marginally sharper (FA77 was not). So taking in account also lens sample variety, it may happen that old lens could beat DA limited, but it would be narrow. The question then is if you have lemon DA70 or extraordinary M100.
Testing Da 70 vs. M100 without having a M 100 is a bit odd.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
For the Thread starter:

Good lenses will not be worse on aps-c
Whats really a difference from the film days, is the angle of view because the crop factor.
The M28 f/2,8 used to be a nice wide angle lens, with nice color.
On aps-C its almost a normal lens, and because of that the colors are a bit less rich.

The 50, 100 and 200 would be from normal to telelenses on film.
They are tele lenses on aps-c
colors app. as in the film days.

THIS IS MY HYPOTHESY and not very well documented.

I myself am not using the M-28 anymore. It does not work as it used to.
My M and A 50, 100 and 200 are as good or better than in the filmdays.

So if you want to test my hypothesy, try an A or M 50/1,7
12-26-2012, 04:16 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bob from Aus Quote
A few years ago I purchased a pentax M 28, 2.8 as I loved this focal length with my film cameras. I didn't like the results. The photos were soft and looked really flat. The colours seemed to lack vibrance.
The M 28mm, assuming it's the more common first version, is sharp enough but, yes, leaves images looking very flat and boring, more so than any other lens I've tried. The version II (same as the A version) is much better. Don't assume that all older lenses will be as bad as the M 28.

Most older lenses, while they may be very sharp, leave something to be desired when it comes to colour and contrast. These are qualities that can be quite easily added in PP, but it's much nicer when that's not necessary, and somehow the results don't seem the same.

The old lenses I've tried that compete with the very best in terms of colour, contrast and producing generally vibrant photos are:
  • Pentax M or A 50mm f/1.7
  • Pentax M 85mm f/2
  • Pentax K 28mm f/3.5
  • Pentax SMC Takumar 55mm f/2.0
  • Pentax SMC Takumar 35mm f/3.5
  • Sigma Super-Wide 24mm f/2.8 (older MF version seemed better than AF version)

Much of the fun of using these old lenses is the tactile feel while in use, something I enjoy immensely. I'm willing to sacrifice some small degree of quality in the results in order to enjoy the process of photography more, though others may not feel the same.
12-26-2012, 04:34 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Runegutt123 Quote
Good lenses will not be worse on aps-c
That does depend on the resolution of the sensor being used.
As the resolution increases, limitations of older lenses start to appear.

As a case in point, compare the Photozone tests
of the FA 43 on the 10 MP K10 and 16 MP K5.
The edge perfomance looks much worse at 16MP,
more of a degradation than one would expect
from mere sample variation or AA filter differences.
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