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05-28-2014, 02:48 PM   #1
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Battle: SMC Takumar 55mm f1.8 VS Pentax FA 50mm f1.4 on the Q

A few months ago I bought an excellent condition Spotmatic with a SMC Takumar 55mm f1.8 from a thrift shop thinking that I would want to shoot some film at some point. That never happened, and the camera and lens sat on a shelf unused since purchase.

However one day last week I was tidying up my camera shelf and I came across the Spotmatic and Takumar 55. I still had no interest in shooting film, but I decided to take the Takumar 55 for a spin on my K30 using an official Pentax M42 adapter. Boy was I surprised! The Takumar is small, light, super sharp, and super smooth to focus. It’s a real pleasure to use, and over the course of a few days I managed to squeeze some great images out of it.

I became even more excited about the lens when I decided to hook it up to my Q using a Q-K adapter. The Takumar functions beautifully with the Q. It produces great images, but more importantly, it handles exceptionally well. The Q with the Takumar can be used hand-held quite easily, and the smooth focusing aids greatly in achieving crisp images.


SMC Takumar 55mm f1.8 + Pentax Q using a Fotodiox Q-K adapter.

My recent experience with the Takumar led me to want to put a 50mm in my walkaround kit consisting of my K30 and Q, but I wanted to see if I could get a 50mm with autofocus, just in case I needed it. It would also need to have an aperture ring, as my Q-K adapter is just a cheap one that doesn’t have its own built-in aperture control. As luck would have it, an FA 50mm 1.4 popped up on my local Craigslist listing for a good price. I made an offer, and the next day I had in my possession an FA 50mm f1.4 in excellent condition.

The FA 50 seems to perform within expectations on the K30, but I wanted to see if it could outperform the Tak 55 on the Q. To do that, I decided to have a good old fashioned shoot-out. I decided to share the results here in the Q subforum since I felt that some of you might be interested to see the results.


Pentax FA 50mm f1.4 + Pentax Q using a Fotodiox Q-K adapter.

Oh, and I don’t need two 50mm lenses. Whichever lens loses will get sold. The stakes are high!

The two main tests I performed are for telephoto shots and macro shots. For the telephoto shots, I included two of my normal telephoto lenses using my K30, just to see how they stack up to a Q-K adapted combo. I will also include some general thoughts about handling the two 50mm lenses.

Here’s the lineup for the Telephoto shots:

Pentax Q + Q-K adapter + M42 adapter + SMC Takumar 55mm f1.8 (effective FF reach 302.5mm)
Pentax Q + Q-K adapter + FA 50mm f1.4 (effective FF reach 275mm)
Pentax K30 + Takumar-F 70-200mm f4-5.6 @ 200mm (effective FF reach 300mm)
Pentax K30 + Pentax DA 18-250 f3.5-6.3 @ 250mm (effective FF reach 375mm)

All shots were taken on a tripod. For focusing with the Q, I used focus peaking with focus assist, and I re-focused after every shot was taken. The K30 shots were also taken with the tripod.

The pictures were shot in RAW, and all I’ve done is turned them into JPGs using Lightroom with no adjustments made to any settings.

I’ll post 100% crops here, as I was mostly interested in ultimate center sharpness, as that is what I use telephotos for. If you want to pixel-peep the edge and corner sharpness of the pictures, you can check out the originals here.


I was using the sign with the anchor on it across the river as a photographic test subject.

I made an amateur hour mistake by forgetting to set a fixed ISO. However, it only affected the fun shots with the K30 tele zooms, and not the 50mm results (except the FA 50 result at f11, and only then it went from ISO 125 to ISO 160).

And the shots:





































Some general thoughts:

The 50s were both quite poor wide open, sharpening up quite nicely by f5.6. I think past that point image quality degrades on both. It’s close, but I think the Tak wins this round, but not by a whole lot. Actually, let’s call this even.

Did I mention what a pleasure the Tak 55 is to handle? In contrast, the FA 50 handles not as nice, since the focus ring is narrower, the focus throw is shorter, and the focus turning isn’t as damped.

I consider both the Takumar-F 70-200 and the DA 18-250 to be superbly mediocre at the telephoto end, and they still both slaughtered the 50s on the Q (even accounting for the high ISO). Even the funsie shot (DA 18-250 at f45 ISO 6400) produced a comparable result to the 50s on the Q. This exercise has showed me that, at least on the original Q, adapted K-mount lenses are not quite an adequate replacement for zooms with a Pentax K-mount body (at least for semi-serious purposes).


Next up: Macro battle!

I don’t currently have any macro lenses in my possession, so this is just a straight up head-to-head between the Tak 55 and the FA 50.

All shots were taken with a tripod. Focus peaking with focus assist was used, and I re-focused after every shot was taken. These pictures are full and uncropped. Again, I forgot to fix the ISO, but it only changed for the images at f8-f11 on both lenses. Still, take that into account when looking at the images.


The macro battle setup. The subject (a pile of rust nails) was on the small concrete ledge.

And the shots:




















General thoughts:

As far as image quality goes, there’s no real clear winner here. Both of the lenses are poor wide-open, achieving ultimate sharpness at about f8.

There’s a real clear winner in the handling department though, and that’s the Tak 55. When you’re trying to really nail focus on something, the fat focus ring, smoothly damped turning, and long throw really help you out. The FA 50 isn’t that bad, it’s just clearly inferior to the Tak 55 in this category.

Overall:

While I’ve been singing the praises of the Tak 55 for its handling in the picture taking department, I should add that it’s quite painful to switch this lens. First you have to unscrew the lens from the K-M42 adapter, and then you have to unmount the M42 adapter from the Q-K adapter, and then screw the M42 adapter back onto the Tak 55. This can get annoying if you are the type to change lenses often, and should definitely be taken into consideration.

But in my opinion the beautiful handling of the Tak 55 in the picture-taking category trumps this drawback easily. I’ve now owned over 40 different lenses in the past 1.5 years, and handled many more, and something I’m really coming to appreciate is the handling aspects of a lens, and not just the raw image quality. I think Ricoh-Pentax is on to something with their small, tiny Limiteds, vs something like Sigma that pushes ultimate IQ, size and weight be damned.

So who wins, the Tak 55 or the FA 50? If it were based just on these Q tests, I think the Tak 55 wins. Image quality is too close to call, so it’s pretty much based on the handling (interesting note: according to my digital scale, the Tak 55 + K-M42 adapter weighs 15g LESS than the FA 50 1.4!).

However, performance on the K30 must also be taken into consideration, as well as cost relative to performance. Having used both lenses on my K30 for a few days now, I can say that I’ve gotten better images with the Tak 55. I’m not sure that the extra money I threw at the FA 50 just for autofocus is worth it, so I think the FA 50 is going back on the lot. You lose Springfield!

Thanks for reading. This was fun. I might just have to set up another sort of test battle for the near future.

05-28-2014, 03:12 PM   #2
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I hope you picked up the rusty nails after you photographed them… and made sure your tetanus shot was up to date.
05-28-2014, 03:18 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by narual Quote
I hope you picked up the rusty nails after you photographed themů and made sure your tetanus shot was up to date.
I did not. Note the spiderwebs on them. They've been there for a while, and until the end of time they shall remain!
05-28-2014, 04:30 PM   #4
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Thanks for the detailed post!

I'm surprised at the performance of the zooms versus the primes. I don't quite get that - there is something going on I don't understand there.

I'm wondering if a good hood may have helped the primes (particularly the Tak - makes a significant difference with my one anyway). I found the Tak 55 has good even sharpness across the frame, nice colours and I have quite a few photos I'm happy with.

Example:


05-28-2014, 04:44 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by EarlVonTapia Quote
The two main tests I performed are for telephoto shots and macro shots. For the telephoto shots, I included two of my normal telephoto lenses using my K30, just to see how they stack up to a Q-K adapted combo. I will also include some general thoughts about handling the two 50mm lenses.
This was very interesting, and answered a few questions for me as well. There is a lot to be said for manually focused lenses if you have reasonable vision. Thanks for posting this review.
05-28-2014, 05:20 PM   #6
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Thanks for posting the results -- very interesting.

QuoteOriginally posted by kiwi_jono Quote
I'm surprised at the performance of the zooms versus the primes. I don't quite get that - there is something going on I don't understand there.
Quite simple -- it isn't so much zoom vs. prime, as K30 vs. Q.
05-28-2014, 05:34 PM   #7
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I think the macro test--had you tried for larger magnification (e.g., w/ extension tubes)--would have shown a much greater difference in favor of the Takumar (slower more symmetric lens formula); however, in terms of use in the field (live insects, etc.) usability it would not be good as it lacks auto aperture.
05-28-2014, 10:38 PM   #8
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Thanks for the replies all.

QuoteOriginally posted by kiwi_jono Quote
I'm surprised at the performance of the zooms versus the primes. I don't quite get that - there is something going on I don't understand there.

I'm wondering if a good hood may have helped the primes (particularly the Tak - makes a significant difference with my one anyway).
You know, that's something I didn't test, but I should have. I did use the hoods for the DA 18-250 and the Tak F 70-200. In the case of the Tak-F, it was a 49mm Takumar screw-on metal hood that supposedly works for the Takumar 200mm f5.6 (as per an engraving on the side), so it should work fine for the 50s on the Q.

What I'll do is next chance I get (it starting pouring today, and probably will for the next couple of days) I'll take a test shot using the Q and 50s with and without the hood, to see if it makes a significant difference. If it does, perhaps I'll use that as an excuse to do another round of testing, but this time the 50s can be one one side, and the zooms on the other.

QuoteOriginally posted by arnold Quote
This was very interesting, and answered a few questions for me as well. There is a lot to be said for manually focused lenses if you have reasonable vision.
Focus peaking and focus assist were critical in allowing these lenses to attain focus. Even with those options on, I may have missed focus slightly on a shot or two (see the tele shot for the 55 f4). It was a bright day, and a loupe may have helped.

I'll go so far as to say that using adapted lenses 50mm or longer on a Q would be unusable without focus peaking.

QuoteOriginally posted by dms Quote
I think the macro test--had you tried for larger magnification (e.g., w/ extension tubes)--would have shown a much greater difference in favor of the Takumar (slower more symmetric lens formula)
I'm actually pleasantly surprised at the performance of the 50s as macro lenses, since on the K30 they suck at it so incredibad thanks to their horrible minimum focus distance. On the Q, their MFD decreases so much. I haven't measured, but in the test above they're not even close to the MFD. I'll even say that on the Q they work better as macros than they do as telephotos.


Last edited by EarlVonTapia; 05-28-2014 at 10:43 PM.
05-29-2014, 12:18 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by EarlVonTapia Quote
While I’ve been singing the praises of the Tak 55 for its handling in the picture taking department, I should add that it’s quite painful to switch this lens. First you have to unscrew the lens from the K-M42 adapter, and then you have to unmount the M42 adapter from the Q-K adapter, and then screw the M42 adapter back onto the Tak 55. This can get annoying if you are the type to change lenses often, and should definitely be taken into consideration.
This is not an issue if you remove the retaining spring off the adapter-- then it stays attached to the lens rather than the mount. I have bought a dozen or so cheap aftermarket adapters and leave them permanently on the lens.
05-29-2014, 06:29 AM   #10
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Thanks for the post it supports what I have also found, I use adapted lenses on my Q's when they exceed the capabilities of the lenses on my K30. In my case anything longer than 400mm or wider than my 18. My fave to adapt is a 135 and 200 zoom and the 03 on the Q. I do find that I must PP the images of adapted lenses on the Q to achieve the contrast , sharpness and colors of native Q lenses or native K lenses on my K30
09-11-2014, 05:17 PM   #11
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Hoods-hoods-hoods! The results will be entirely different. Just rack out the 50-55. No focusing needed at that distance. Stopped down, the aperture blades of the two 50s acted as a kind of hood, hence the better results stopped down.
09-11-2014, 06:34 PM   #12
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Classic 50mm behaviour, isn't it? Edges only sharpen up around f4.
09-11-2014, 06:47 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by kiwi_jono Quote
Thanks for the detailed post!

I'm surprised at the performance of the zooms versus the primes. I don't quite get that - there is something going on I don't understand there.

I'm wondering if a good hood may have helped the primes (particularly the Tak - makes a significant difference with my one anyway). I found the Tak 55 has good even sharpness across the frame, nice colours and I have quite a few photos I'm happy with.

Example:
The longer focal length will produce better resolution, the primes will require more cropping. When you crop an image, you crop resolution, the more cropping, the more resolution is lost.
09-11-2014, 07:56 PM   #14
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Thanks for the post of your testing work.
The f5.6 setting seems to be optimum for adapted lenses on the Q I have also found.
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