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02-12-2013, 01:26 PM   #1
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Quality of old telephoto primes?

I wonder if anyone has some experience to share.

I've been looking at getting a slightly longer lens and maybe a classic one - a K, M or A series smc 100mm, 120mm or 135mm.

I've read the reviews in the database and looked at my local Ebay. Examples of these classic primes range from 140-180 or so pounds Sterling (around $220-280 US) for good examples from good sellers.

This isn't particularly cheap though that's not really the point. My question is whether I am really getting superior image quality from these old classics compared to the two obvious modern counterparts which don't cost that much more, the DA 50-200mm and especially the DA 55-300mm. It seems from comments in the lens database that lack of contrast and severe purple fringing in bright light afflict some of the old classics unless they are stopped down, but then if you stop them down you lose some of the advantages of using a prime. I know the build quality of the old ones will be superb as I already have a couple (28mm and 50mm) but I'm wary of spending the thick end of 200 quid on an M series 100mm (e.g.) if, in truth, I'd be better off spending a little more on a modern lens even if it's a zoom.


Last edited by mecrox; 02-12-2013 at 01:33 PM.
02-12-2013, 01:31 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by mecrox Quote
I wonder if anyone has some experience to share.

I've been looking at getting a slightly longer lens and maybe a classic one - a K, M or A series smc 100mm, 120mm or 135mm.

I've read the reviews in the database and looked at my local Ebay. Examples of these classic primes range from 140-180 or so pounds Sterling (around $220-280 US) for good examples from good sellers.

This isn't particularly cheap though that's not really the point. My question is whether I am really getting superior image quality from these old classics compared to the two obvious modern counterparts which don't cost that much more, the DA 50-200mm and especially the DA 55-300mm. It seems from comments in the lens database that lack of contract and severe purple fringing in bright light afflict some of the old classics unless they are stopped down, but then if you stop them down you lose some of the advantages of using a prime. I know the build quality of the old ones will be superb as I already have a couple (28mm and 50mm) but I'm wary of spending the thick end of 200 quid on an M series 100mm (e.g.) if, in truth, I'd be better off spending a little more on a modern lens even if it's a zoom.
Generally speaking it's safe to assume that the older lenses will be comparatively sharp but they won't do as well in the fringing and flare department. Compared to consumer zooms they'll probably seem sharper, but modern primes and pro zooms are generally going to be better.

With that said, the M 135mm F3.5 is a very cost-effective way of getting started with a quality telephoto, so I'd recommend getting that lens. You should be able to find one for around 50 pounds.

Adam
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02-12-2013, 01:32 PM   #3
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Some of the classic 135mm's are very very sharp. Make sure to use a hood for these lenses.

What is your intention in getting a older telephoto in the 100-150mm range? Is it for portraiture? Animals? Just fun?
Several of the older telephotos have longer minimum focusing distances, making them a little trickier to use.
02-12-2013, 01:50 PM   #4
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The older primes, at least the good ones, tend to be very sharp and a pleasure to work with. You give up AF of course which may or may not be an issue. The biggest drawback is the coatings which is one area where modern lenses definitely have an advantage. Always use a hood with these and that helps a lot, still you will get more purple fringing than on modern lenses.

I have a Pentax A 135mm f/2.8 which I get good results from and use quite often. I paid about 125usd for it which I thought was good.

One piece of advice if you are going to buy used lenses is do your research and be patient. Set the price you think is fair and bide your time. If you want it RIGHT NOW, then you will pay more. If you can wait for your price, it might take a month or so, but one will come by in your range.

Another thought if you want to keep the cost down is look for lenses made for k-mount but sold under a private name, like Sears or JC Penny. Not sure what dealers might have done that in the UK (Jessups maybe?) but often those are of the same quality as the name brand but go for a pittance.

02-12-2013, 02:07 PM   #5
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Once i bought a no name 135mm f/2.8 M42 lens dor 2 pounds with some scratched and dusty optics. It was a bit low on contrast but had M/A setting and was quite sharp ,producing nice bokeh. Later on the focusing ring broke
02-12-2013, 02:12 PM   #6
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It depends on which lens. For what it is worth, I have an old Super Takumar 200 f4 which I occasionally use. I did some tests on some scenes versus my DAL 55-300. The old tak came with a pretty good hood and as long as I use the hood it is significantly better than the 55-300 at 200mm - except for convenience (auto exposure / auto focus). The Tak is sharper wide open f4 across the frame than 55-300 at f5.6, has better bokeh, and surprisingly lower CA / fringing. And of course build quality is in a different league. The only reason I don't use it more is convenience.

I also have a SMC Takumar 135 f3.5 which is pretty good but eclipsed by my FA100 f2.8 and probably going to be sold at some stage.
02-12-2013, 02:14 PM   #7
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I have a Vivitar 500mm behemoth of a lens. When you get the shot right, it's stunning. It's very difficult to get the shot right on this 1970-vintage lens...even on a nice, sunny day. It's a lot of frustration for a small number of usable shots, but it's a hobby.
02-12-2013, 02:17 PM   #8
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Using my old M42 Vivitar 200mm f3.5 generally give much sharper indoor sport shots compared to when I use DA50-200mm.

Two reasons,

1. I think Viv 200 is quite a bit sharper than DA50-200 @ same aperture, have not done any formal tests to confirm this.
2. @ 200 mm DA50-200 is f5.6 wide open compared to f3.5 for Viv200. If using same sensor sensitivity you get longer exposures. More blurry shots if moving subjects.

I would not expect a Pentax smc lens to do worse than the Viv200.

But outdoors with more light I more often choose the DA50-200. You can stop down a step or two, get reasonably sharp images and better contrast and less flare than what you would get with an old prime.

Also, Pentax old smc primes at ~ 100mm+ are excellent, no discussion. But if you don't need the name and SMC, you could also get a Vivitar, Ozeki or some russian135mm f2.8 for less money and still with very good IQ.

02-12-2013, 02:44 PM   #9
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great lens for outdoors. lots of them around so they would be cheap like Adam says

good luck

randy
02-12-2013, 02:57 PM   #10
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The M135 is pretty good for the price. I paid 69 pounds for mine but I was ripped off, the normal price is half that. It performs ok but needs to be stopped down to f/5.6 for real sharpness. It is still the best bargain out there for K mount manual telephoto lenses though.

I had an M 200 f/4 for a while, which is also fairly common, and wasn't very impressed.

For anything over 120mm or so in old glass, I'm not sure that you'll find anything as sharp as today's lenses, though there's a lot to be said for the pleasure of using old metal lenses. And, as always unless you have liveview, I wouldn't recommend using any manual lenses if you don't have a split-prism focusing screen installed, as sharp shots will be few and far between.
02-12-2013, 04:13 PM   #11
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I have some old lenses.
- Super Takumar 105mm/2.8 is very good lens.
- Super Takumar 150mm/4 is another one
- SMC Takumar 135mm/3.5 not as good but certainly good enough for most peoples.

There is certainly many more, but as you get to 300mm lenses or more the results are not as good as the modern lenses which have ED glass to correct aberrations.
02-12-2013, 04:27 PM   #12
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I have the manual 400 mm from some 25 or 30 years ago.
It does get some serious purple fringing, but under the right circumstances it is still capable of very good shots.
If you look at the price you can't expect the same results as the modern 300 mm F4 lens, but it is certainly worth it's money to me....
02-12-2013, 04:44 PM   #13
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The A100/2.8 (non-macro) could get up around 200 quid, but the M should be about half that. It is a nice lens however. Much better than the modern kit zooms.

I also had the A135/2.8. It isn't great, but it's nothing to disparage either. It took some pretty nice shots.


BTW, a trivia question - I know the origin of a "buck," but can you tell me where "quid" comes from?

Last edited by DSims; 02-12-2013 at 04:50 PM.
02-12-2013, 04:57 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jonathan Mac Quote
For anything over 120mm or so in old glass, I'm not sure that you'll find anything as sharp as today's lenses, though there's a lot to be said for the pleasure of using old metal lenses.
I can vouch for the nice overall IQ of the K200/2.5, and the similar A*200/2.8 is excellent as well. I imagine there are some other fine examples too. The DA*200/2.8 I had for a short time had both pros and cons in IQ compared to my K200/2.5. In the end I like the overall IQ of the K200 slightly better. The clear advantages of the DA*200 come in the AF and the WR, which makes it a nice lens to own if you don't need fast AF. Often I need either fast AF or none at all, so I kept the K200 with its IQ that's more warm and charming.
02-12-2013, 05:12 PM   #15
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I picked up a M 120 a year or so back and have been very impressed with the image quality from lens. I also like the fact that it's just a bit shorter than a 130. It's a keeper.
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