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11-15-2008, 01:06 AM   #1
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SMC and Takumars: an observation.

Comparing lenses on a Friday night. It doesn't get much more embarrassing than this.

smc Pentax-M 135mm/3.5 v. Super-Takumar 135mm/3.5 v. Super-Takumar 135mm/3.5 v. Takumar 105mm/2.8. Royale, whatnot.

I've read a lot about SMC. It sounds great. But I wanted to test it. How much better is a Pentax-M 135mm than a Super-Tak 135mm with lens flare?

I also had heard that late Super-Takumars had coatings, and different kinds of coatings, leading up to the introduction of SMC. I have two Super-Taks; are they different?

And, my newest lens is also my oldest; a genuine Takumar. Not Auto-, not Super-, but just plain Takumar. How limited is this lens' functionality with backlighting?

I'll let you look before I tell you what conclusions I came to. First, a large image to show you what I was sampling from. Then two cross-sections, one from a picture using each lens. Note that these are not 100% crops; I'm not looking at pixels here, just wanted a fair sample.

1.

1.
2.
3.
4.

1.
2.
3.
4.

Methodology: Put a bright light (100-watt-equivalent compact-fluorescent) near a subject, then take 6-10 images with each lens and use the one with sharpest focus. The round knob on the top-left of the speaker was at the frame's center. Each image was taken at 1/60s @ f/3.5, ISO 1600; in-camera (GX-10) jpeg, cropped in Lightroom then Preview. Compared details in highlights and shadows for each lens. Post in ranked order here.

Although the top image shows some purple fringing around the lamp, it also shows more detail in the objects behind the lamp and in the speaker's wood veneer.

Here's how I ranked the images, as shown above:
1. Super-Takumar 135/3.5. link
2. Pentax-M 135/3.5. link
3. Super-Takumar 135/3.5. link
4. Takumar 105/2.8. link

I found three things surprising.
First, my Super-Takumar beat my Pentax-M.
Second, my Super-Takumars are different.
Third, my Takumar isn't all that bad.

I can chalk up the Super-Takumar/Pentax-M differential to lens design. These are obviously constructed differently, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Super-Tak had fewer elements for light to refract off of, which could create lower flare despite the M having better coatings.

I can only explain the difference in the Super-Taks by observing their serial numbers: the better one is 3,7xx,xxx, and the lesser is 3,0xx,xxx. I'd love to get my hands on several dozen of these lenses and try to nail down when changes happened, but my budget--financial and chronologic--is limited. At any rate, this certainly gives credence to the idea that Pentax was changing coating formulas on the Super-Takumars without any outward indication.

Third, well, the Takumar has flare--but not so much as to make me put the camera away. I often forget how very small practical differences seem huge to people in the hobby. The difference would probably be more pronounced if the backlight were from the sun rather than a household lamp, but it should not be overstated.

And, lastly, I don't have much experience with this measuring/comparing thing. Any comments are welcome; if you're interested in learning more about the differences in these lenses, let me know. I could do better tests (tripods, varying lighting, etc) with other lenses (I could also compare 28mm Pentax-A and Super-Tak).

11-15-2008, 06:22 AM   #2
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Nice effort, thank you - these comparisons are so difficult to control, but we do get useful info, if only for ourselves. Your results are more or less aligned with my observations at 28mm. That is, if you agree: not much real-life difference between samples, the newest may not be 'best' within the picky pixel peeping. The early non multi coated lenses are fine performers.

I would add - the difference between the two supers you have may be caused by production tolerances + lifetime experience (ie. banging around).


And finally: thank you for relieving me of the need to covet a 105/2.8 purely on performance basis. I'd still prefer one to a 135 just on focal length, but certainly see I can live without one.

Last edited by Nesster; 11-15-2008 at 06:30 AM.
11-15-2008, 11:34 AM   #3
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QuoteQuote:
I can only explain the difference in the Super-Taks by observing their serial numbers: the better one is 3,7xx,xxx, and the lesser is 3,0xx,xxx. I'd love to get my hands on several dozen of these lenses and try to nail down when changes happened, but my budget--financial and chronologic--is limited. At any rate, this certainly gives credence to the idea that Pentax was changing coating formulas on the Super-Takumars without any outward indication.
...

This has made me want to try out my Super Tak 135 3.5 - it's SN is 41xxxxxx.

I've noticed in the past that I got just as good results with certain Super-Taks
as S-M-C Taks, and I'm sure it's because the later taks had equiv coatings, just weren't labeled.

Thanks for this effort, very nice!


.
11-15-2008, 11:47 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nesster Quote
I would add - the difference between the two supers you have may be caused by production tolerances + lifetime experience (ie. banging around).
A slightly different point of focus could also explain the difference between the two super-taks in the first set of crops.

The test for this would be to do several exposures for each lens at slightly different points of focus and take the best exposure for each lens.

11-15-2008, 01:36 PM   #5
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Thanks Jon, that's really interesting.

I have recently bought an S-M-C Takumar 135/3.5 and I find it better than the M135/3.5 that I have. I also have a CZJ 135/3.5 and think the S-M-C Takumar is on a par. The only thing stopping me from saying that the S-M-C Takumar is better than the Zeiss is that I have had the Zeiss for 25 years and we have been through a lot together ;-)

Richard
11-15-2008, 02:54 PM   #6
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I'm glad to see people appreciate this.

Since I was thinking of using the 105mm as a long portrait lens, I decided that I wanted to look at boke, too. I did not compare both Super-Taks. The results were not straightforward; I discuss them, and there's a conclusion at the end.

The Super-Tak has 6 leaves, and so creates a hexagonal blur for points of light; the 105 and M135 both have 8 leaves and create good circles. On the other hand, both the 105 and M135 have halos on their circles, while the ST135 is softer. At higher apertures, the M135's halos disappear while the 105's halos stay around.

Haloing creates an interesting effect when multiple points of light are next to each other, and when the background should be out of focus but still busy. The halos become subjects themselves, which can be bad but can also be good. Here's a representative 100% crop of my 105 at f/2.8:



I'm not posting comprehensive pictures because I was photographing a tree and the light and focus points changed a number of times.

A few comments on focusing. The Super-Tak barrel spins about 330 degrees to focus from infinity to 1.5m; the Tak about 300 degrees to 1.4m; the M about 235 degrees to 1.5m. This makes fine adjustments on the Takumars much easier. On the other hand, the M allows setting the camera to only release the shutter when center focus has been attained. Apparently this is done by shorting the last two contacts on the body (as seen clockwise from the front). I'm going to try to find a gasket or o-ring that will both protect the contacts from inclement weather while using M42 lenses and will short out that connection. Frankly, though, as I get better at manual focusing I find the autofocus system to be more fast food than fine dining.

In sum: each lens is great, but for different applications.

The Takumar 105mm/2.8 is, of course, wider and faster, but will be good for when I want to smear out the background but not deaden it. It is small and light (no longer than the M135, and much narrower). I rather like the preset aperture system, compared to other Takumars. I can see this as a good part of my regular M42 kit.

The Super-Takumar 135mm/3.5 has soft, hexagonal blur which is great to impart an architectural or industrial feel. This benefits urban images or when I want to emphasize a modern subject in a scene dominated by nature. Overlapping hexagons also creates a sense of motion absent in overlapping circles. I think this lens will take backseat to my 105 for everyday carrying, but will be preferred over the 105 when I'm carrying a tripod and really slow down my process--or if I know I'll be shooting backlit subjects.

The Pentax-M 135mm/3.5 is compact and a good all-around telephoto. For f/5.6 or tighter, this will hide background details and lead the eye toward the in-focus subject matter. Catch-in-focus and auto-aperture are very useful when I don't have time to be precise. Time will tell how I use this lens: will convenience win out? That's a funny question to ask when most people consider anything less than an auto-everything lens to be inconvenient.
11-15-2008, 04:41 PM   #7
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Jon,

Very good stuff, and good summary of bokeh considerations.

In honor of this thread I shot for a bit with my Super-Takumar 135 3.5 today.
Thanks for making me put that back on my camera!

Super Takumar 135 Results Here.


.
11-15-2008, 06:18 PM   #8
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It's a shame you didn't have an SMC 135 F2.5 in the mix, or the SMC105 F2.8

I own both of these and they are excellent performers

the 105 is a little soft wide open but the 135 is sharp all the way through. The 135 F2.5 is a bit of a monster with a 58mm front element

11-15-2008, 07:27 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by JonPB Quote
I can only explain the difference in the Super-Taks by observing their serial numbers: the better one is 3,7xx,xxx, and the lesser is 3,0xx,xxx.
Jon,

Check beneath the Auto/Manual switch of both of your Super-Takumar lenses. If the number is "43540," then this is an earlier "type I" lens with a 5 element, 4 group formula. If the number is "43541," then this is the newer 4 element, 4 group "type II" lens. The "type I" has better correction of the chromatic aberrations, while a late "type II" lens might have better coatings. I think this explains the discrepancies you have noticed.

Cheers!

Abbazz

Last edited by Abbazz; 11-15-2008 at 07:32 PM.
11-15-2008, 09:45 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Abbazz Quote
Check beneath the Auto/Manual switch of both of your Super-Takumar lenses. If the number is "43540," then this is an earlier "type I" lens with a 5 element, 4 group formula. If the number is "43541," then this is the newer 4 element, 4 group "type II" lens.
Great info. They're both 43541, though. Nesster may have hit it on the head: the older lens is in poorer condition from use (and probably abuse). Now I'm tempted to add a 43540 to my collection... I mean, everyone needs at least five 135mm's, right?

QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
It's a shame you didn't have an SMC 135 F2.5 in the mix, or the SMC105 F2.8. I own both of these and they are excellent performers.
I don't have any ethical qualms over accepting loans for testing or outright gifts. Heck, or for trade; my Pentax-A's haven't seen much use because, frankly, even though they may perform better, the Takumars are more enjoyable to handle. I'm not good enough of a photog to touch the limits of any of these lenses, so why not keep the fun ones?

I love using ~50 year-old glass on a digital body. High end consumer lenses that will last another 50 years and a camera with more computing power than the Apollo program which will be discarded in 5 years. I suppose I do have some romantic left in me.
11-16-2008, 05:07 AM   #11
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Just a note about the original post...I don't think the test setup is actually that condusive to testing lens flare. I think you're actually looking more at "blooming" which to my understanding is more to do with optical design than coatings.

I can tell you there is a pretty significant difference between the coatings of Super taks and Super-Multi-Coated taks. I compared my 17/4 fisheyes and the difference quite stark.

This is flare from a non-SMC 17/4:


Hey...flare isn't always a bad thing either
11-16-2008, 05:26 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by jsherman999 Quote
.

Jon,

Very good stuff, and good summary of bokeh considerations.

In honor of this thread I shot for a bit with my Super-Takumar 135 3.5 today.
Thanks for making me put that back on my camera!

Super Takumar 135 Results Here.


.
I haven't used mt 135mm f/3.5 that I bought off you ages ago ... but I do have some online shots from it ... it is a wonderful lens ... even in the middle of the day in bright sunlight ... I found it is one of the better lenses on the K10D for exposure as well (nearly all shots were spot on from what I could see).
11-16-2008, 05:37 AM   #13
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OK ... here 's a few samples from my Super Takumar 135 f/3.5 ... I have no idea on the serial number ... but can check it in the next few days.

I might set up all of my lenses in Zenfolio ... and put as much info on them as possible ... so i can have them as reference later on.












11-16-2008, 07:28 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by JonPB Quote
I don't have any ethical qualms over accepting loans for testing or outright gifts. Heck, or for trade; my Pentax-A's haven't seen much use because, frankly, even though they may perform better, the Takumars are more enjoyable to handle. I'm not good enough of a photog to touch the limits of any of these lenses, so why not keep the fun ones?
Thats much the same reason I took the K105 F2.8 over an M 100 F2.8. It was just the feel of the lens when using it. I found the M100F2.8 seemed to be less positive with respect to the feedback you got from the focusing ring, i.e it was just a little too light for me.
11-16-2008, 08:12 AM   #15
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Nice series Mechan1k. I don't have any Taks (yet) but I have seen and held a few. They are just so substantial and so well made. They seem to make pretty good images too. You’re right Lowell - the Ks do have a good feel to them. I have a bunch of K and M series glass and they both are capable of producing great images if I do my part. But when I look into to my bag at the stuff I carry around and use most I see a lot of K series lenses because they just “feel” right. I suspect a lot of vitage Takumar users feel the same way about their glass,

Tom G

Last edited by 8540tomg; 11-16-2008 at 09:25 AM.
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