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08-25-2017, 04:16 PM - 1 Like   #1
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Disappointing lenses with good reputations

Many lenses have good reputations, and I've used these reputations over the years to buy my M42 manual lenses, my A lenses, and my F and FA lenses. Mostly, I was not disappointed. However, there have been lenses over the years that I eagerly awaited, only to find that they were "meh". Here are 4 of those for me, and the reasons why:

- Meyer Gorlitz Lydith 30/3.5

I really wanted to like this lens, but it wasn't sharp at the edges at all, and this was on a 1.5 crop. I finally bought a Takumar 28/3.5, and it was night and day.

- SMC Pentax-A 135/2.8

A nice lens, but didn't really seem to do anything that well, for me, on a crop body. An FA100/2.8 macro takes care of that focal length.

- SMC Pentax-A 35-105mm F3.5

This was the most surprising to me. It is certainly sharp at any focal length. But the shift mechanism point to get into macro mode seemed to be *exactly* where I was at any time I wanted a shot, and I had to end up focusing with the zoom ring, which didn't give me nearly the control I needed. I don't have a zoom replacement in that range.

- SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7

Another surprise. It just wasn't that sharp. My older Takumars are sharper, easily. And I don't shoot at 1.7. It could be my copy, of course. Anyway, the FA50/2.8 macro takes care of this length now.

What are some of your well-regarded disappointments?

08-25-2017, 05:16 PM   #2
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I must be easy to please. I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by just about every lens I have ever purchased that was not obviously broken or abused...even the stinker Tamron 70-210/4-5.6 (158A) that came attached to an Adaptall-2 PKA adapter for $25 total is better than it should be. (Truth be told, it is a LOT better than it should be, despite being a pain the focus.)

The singular exception to my state of lens contentment was a Super-Takumar 50/1.4 that I purchased off eBay. It took me about a 1/2 hour with it to realize that it was not a stand-out performer at any aperture and certainly not worth the premium price I paid as BIN. This was true both on APS-C digital and 35mm film. I seem to remember returning it on the basis of cosmetics not being up to the claimed condition.

I might add that I likely would be disappointed in my KMZ Helios 44M 58/2 if I had only shot it on 35mm film. Corner performance is poor enough on 24x36mm FF to counter-balance the copious pixie dust that flows into the APS-C frame.


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08-25-2017, 05:48 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
I must be easy to please. I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by just about every lens I have ever purchased that was not obviously broken or abused
Same for me, even my 18-55 kit lens.
08-25-2017, 06:03 PM - 1 Like   #4
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Optically I have never really been disappointed; you seem to get what you pay for.

I do really wish that the FA prime lenses (35 f/2 and 50 f/1.4) were nicer in the hand. The optics are nice, but I'd prefer handling even a kit lens to these. The focus ring is a really unpleasant rubber and the manual aperture control feels like it's going to break off in my hand. Again these are cheaper lenses so you get what you get, but considering their optical quality it seems a shame.

Also, to be perfectly petty, I just find them to be ugly lenses.

08-25-2017, 06:19 PM   #5
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I once paid a premium for a Like New Vivitar Series 1 70~210/2.8~4 ver. 3 based on its 'Cult Classic' designation on websites sich as Mark Roberts' and Monaghan. It was sharp enough, for sure, but I thought it rendered overly warm - nearly a yellow cast - and flare often washed out detail and vibrance.

Aside from that single lens I've never had a disappointing lens that wasn't broken. Just bad transactions, both the result of expectations versus performance.

Last edited by monochrome; 08-26-2017 at 06:26 AM.
08-25-2017, 06:22 PM - 1 Like   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by asharpe Quote

- SMC Pentax-A 135/2.8
A nice lens, but didn't really seem to do anything that well, for me, on a crop body. An FA100/2.8 macro takes care of that focal length.
Pentax-A 135 / 2.8 provides better performance for portrait and long distance shooting that can not be replaced with my Pentax FA100 / 2.8 macro. In addition, less sturdy construction and the weight makes it impractical. There is nothing wrong with this because this latter lens has been designed for macro work. I still want to get this FA version 135 / 2.8 for its AF feature and visually easy to pair with modern Pentax DSLR.
08-26-2017, 12:51 AM - 2 Likes   #7
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The DA* 16-50 f/2.8.

My copy was so soft at 2.8 it was, in truth, just a heavy, waterproof and overpriced f/4 lens. AF was too slow on the K3 although, I concede, it was quiet.

It was a huge disappointment after the cheap and cheerful 200 Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 that I'd been using beforehand. I never actually trusted the 16-50 either to be sharp or to focus fast enough when the pressure was on. So it went out of the bag and onto the shelf...

And let's not even start on the slow-to-wake-up AF (which I later discovered to be a sign of the impending SDM motor failure).

Happily, the 24-70 f/2.8 is also an absolutely lovely lens on the K1 so Pentax (Tamron!) seem to have stepped up their game here.
08-26-2017, 01:47 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
The singular exception to my state of lens contentment was a Super-Takumar 50/1.4 that I purchased off eBay. It took me about a 1/2 hour with it to realize that it was not a stand-out performer at any aperture and certainly not worth the premium price I paid as BIN. This was true both on APS-C digital and 35mm film. I seem to remember returning it on the basis of cosmetics not being up to the claimed condition.

As a Takumar lover this causes me pain, but I completely agree with you about the Tak 50mm/1.4. It's one of the most over-rated lenses around, and I prefer any version of the Takumar 55mm over the 50mm in every way. I think the 50mm/1.4 owes most of its reputation to the romantic glow given by mildly yellowed copies of the lens, and once you de-yellow it. . . it's just bland.

08-26-2017, 03:25 AM   #9
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In defence of the Pentax-A 35-105mm, having a problem taking images at the particular distances that require being shunted into "macro" mode (5 feet or less?) is the only downside. Otherwise it is a pretty good lens to have in your arsenal. Perhaps worth getting a small (12mm?) extension tube to complement the lens if you are going to be using these distances a lot.
My biggest disappointment was the Tamron SP 70-210mm, I found I seldom wanted to use it as my Tamron SP 60-300mm was a little more versatile and at my (rather poor) level of photography any benefit in the images taken at focal lengths they shared was not noticeable to me.
Other disappointments that rather surprised me were;
The Pentax-M 28mm F2.8 (both versions) and the Pentax-A 28mm F2.8, I like my Vivitar 28mm F2.8 close focus and my Pentax-M 28mm F3.5 better. I understand the K 28mm F3.5 might be better than these so will be keeping my eyes open, will also be looking out for K 50's.
To each his (or her) own.
08-26-2017, 06:29 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Skodadriver Quote
My biggest disappointment was the Tamron SP 70-210mm, I found I seldom wanted to use it as my Tamron SP 60-300mm was a little more versatile and at my (rather poor) level of photography any benefit in the images taken at focal lengths they shared was not noticeable to me.

You might be interested in Test classic 70-210mm vintage lenses: vivitar series 1, tamron SP (which, despite the original page's title, did inlcude both lenses among the lenses tested).
08-26-2017, 06:47 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by asharpe Quote
Many lenses have good reputations, [...] However, there have been lenses over the years that I eagerly awaited, only to find that they were "meh". Here are 4 of those for me, and the reasons why:

Hmmm... Well four come quickly to mind (although I am sure there are others, but that might require thinking, and...).

The K 105/2.8. I never liked the rather harsh bokeh (at least in my copy). I never gave it an extensive try-out, admittedly, and it didn't last long here.

The FA 43/1.9 Ltd. I found its barrel distortion to be annoying. Too bad -- everything else was great with it (like with the FA 77/1.8 Ltd), but...

The VS1 450/4.5 Aspheric Mirror. I found it very difficult to use handheld in the field (this was back in "Ye Olde Film Days of Yore" (i.e., without any APS-C "crop factor")). I went through two copies of it (not expecting the focusing to get any easier, but hoping to see its sharpness improve perhaps (?)).

The AT-X 150-500/5.6 SD. Wonderful build, and I wanted to love it, but, while it was sharp and contrasty up to 300mm or maybe 350mm, it was somewhat soft above that. The problem was that I wanted to use it often at 500mm, where it was just a bit muddy. [I was expecting this shortcoming to not be the case, due to my experience with the exquisite AT-X 100-300/4 SD, which was pretty sharp throughout its zoom range.]
08-26-2017, 07:14 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by fwcetus Quote
You might be interested in Test classic 70-210mm vintage lenses: vivitar series 1, tamron SP (which, despite the original page's title, did inlcude both lenses among the lenses tested).


Yes I have been keeping an eye on that thread. High time Marcus provided his results.
08-26-2017, 07:26 AM - 1 Like   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by asharpe Quote
SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7
My copy is sharp wide open, and it's a nice lens, but I could not see anything special. It reminds me good, reliable DA50mm f1.8.
08-26-2017, 09:04 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Skodadriver Quote
The Pentax-M 28mm F2.8 (both versions) and the Pentax-A 28mm F2.8...
Those do not surprise me. Although not bad lenses, the M and A series 28/2.8 were made as consumer-grade lenses with street price under $50 and less than the various Vivitar 28s of the same era. When I bought my Tamron 28/2.5, it cost me more that twice that of a Pentax-M 28/2.8 would have been.


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08-26-2017, 09:26 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Skodadriver Quote
Yes I have been keeping an eye on that thread. High time Marcus provided his results.
I looked for the 'images to the right' until I figured my malware blocking software didn't like them for some reason
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