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07-20-2011, 01:28 PM   #1
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Are the 135mm f1.8 lenses any good?

I have seen a proliferation of the 135mm f1.8 lenses on eBay and I would like to know if they are any good or not. I know for sure that the Pentax SMC-A* 135mm f1.8 is a superb lens. However, I have not found photos of the others that convinced me that they are any good. For example Sigmaleon, Porst, other names that I do not remember. The dof at 10 feet fully open (f1.8) is about 1-1/2 inch only. Most of the photos I have seen have tons of pf and ca. The prices are exhorbitant. I know for example that Pentax SMC K 135mm f2.5 is definetly a good second after the Pentax A*, but are the others good at all, plus they come with M42 mounts. I appreciate your input before I toss my money away in one of those lenses.

07-20-2011, 07:35 PM   #2
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Based on my experience with the SMC Pentax 135mm f2.5, I don't think an older design f1.8 lens would be very practical to use. The Pentax has some CA which is typical for lenses of that era; they did not design it to eliminate CA. It's not awful, and if you know about it, you can work around it. You do have to be really good at focusing to use f2.5. The Pentax is somewhere around $200 these days, I think.

I looked at eBay and after finding about 8 lenses that I wanted right now, I found a Porst for $560. The lens has an 82mm filter (K135/2.5 is 58mm). With lens prices, there's a substantial premium for the fastest lenses in a focal length. I guess that's not too much of a premium. But even if the Porst was as good as the Pentax f2.5, the extra stop is not going to be that useful, and only if you were permanently stuck with an older body. I'm not tempted.
07-20-2011, 08:05 PM   #3
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From what I've seen, there is no substitute for the genuine Pentax glass. But, well I own the A* 135/1.8 and it is pure, unadulterated pixie dust.

Ask Asahiflex. He got to borrow one for a while.
07-20-2011, 08:58 PM   #4
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How can I borrow it from you?

07-20-2011, 09:51 PM   #5
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I saw one on eBay, only $1900, no bids yet.

Back to reality, how is focusing, and is it possible for mere mortals?
07-20-2011, 10:26 PM   #6
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The one on ebay does have a scratch on the front element.

@Just1MoreDave It's really not that hard, even at the MFD. Live view is of course your friend, and for pictures of people, you'd want to stop down more anyway.

Sometimes I will focus it in to the MFD and then focus with my feet to get macro like shots with a surreal flavor.
07-21-2011, 07:08 AM   #7
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I guess the scratch makes it unique and rare.
07-21-2011, 07:18 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pepe Guitarra Quote
How can I borrow it from you?
I don't know how Asahiflex convinced someone to loan him theirs. Mine is usually in my bag with me.

Here's my shot that is in our PEG. A* 135/1.8 wide open:

Desert Nights - Pentax User Photo Gallery



07-21-2011, 07:45 AM   #9
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I have some pics posted from my Sigmatel (SIGMA) Scalematic 135 1.8. (before they put the XQ designation on them - apart from XQ being on the slightly newer ones, I am pretty sure thay are the same exact lens).

All of the ones I posted are at 1.8 except for the one I noted at 2.8. At 1.8 and closest focus.. around 3 feet, the DOF is pretty shallow, but further out it gets better.

This link goes to the first post when I posted pics with this lens. If you scroll down the page, there a few more as well as a few I took to showcase what it will do in worse case scenarios at 1.8.

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/lens-clubs/99057-135mm-lens-club-33.html#post1577585

It really is a pretty sharp lens, especially for being that old of a lens. The focus is just a little hard to get perfect at 1.8 and close focusing distance.

It uses a YS mount (t-mount with an aperture control pin). It is very easy to mod it with a bit of metal tape to make it a fully manual lens in order to be able to use it with a regular t-mount adapter.

I picked up my copy less than a month ago in a Canon Ftb "kit" for $169 on Ebay. I have seen a few other Sigma 135 1.8s go for right around that or even less since then. I think it is because of the bad rap this lens gets even though I am pretty
sure it is just because it is tricky to focus at 1.8.
07-21-2011, 07:56 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Clinton Quote
I own the A* 135/1.8 and it is pure, unadulterated pixie dust.
+1, me too.
07-21-2011, 09:12 AM   #11
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Somehow I knew the answer. Good thing, because I did not intend to return it.

QuoteOriginally posted by Clinton Quote
I don't know how Asahiflex convinced someone to loan him theirs. Mine is usually in my bag with me.

Here's my shot that is in our PEG. A* 135/1.8 wide open:

Desert Nights - Pentax User Photo Gallery
03-16-2013, 03:38 AM - 1 Like   #12
DSG
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pepe Guitarra Quote
I have seen a proliferation of the 135mm f1.8 lenses on eBay and I would like to know if they are any good or not. I know for sure that the Pentax SMC-A* 135mm f1.8 is a superb lens. However, I have not found photos of the others that convinced me that they are any good. For example Sigmaleon, Porst, other names that I do not remember. The dof at 10 feet fully open (f1.8) is about 1-1/2 inch only. Most of the photos I have seen have tons of pf and ca. The prices are exhorbitant. I know for example that Pentax SMC K 135mm f2.5 is definetly a good second after the Pentax A*, but are the others good at all, plus they come with M42 mounts. I appreciate your input before I toss my money away in one of those lenses.
It depends on which one you get. There were at least four different optical designs employed in all the various 135mm f1.8 lenses produced before the Pentax SMC-A.
Soligor used a simple optical design of 5 elements in 3 groups to produce their unique (as far as I am currently aware) version.
Mitake used an optical design of 5 elements in 4 groups to produce the following optically identical but differently branded versions:
Spiratone Plura-Coat, Porst, Computar, Promura, Kenlock, Formula 5, Eyemik, Apollo, Ultra-Unitor, Accura, Varo, Vivitar and Weltblick. (there may be even more brands that I don't know about yet).
An unknown manufacturer (possibly either Goyo optical (owner of Sun optical since 1976 onwards), Yoshida industries (Owner of the Raynox brand), Tomioka industries or one its subsiduaries, Tokina, or some other Japanese company yet to be discovered) employed a slightly more complex design of 6 elements in 4 groups to produce the following optically indentical but differently branded versions:
Spiratone (the normal version), Polaris, Raynox Polaris, Carena, Beroflex and Samigon. (again, there may be even more brands that I don't know about yet).
All the above 135mm f1.8 lenses have an 82mm filter thread, weigh between 1-1.2kg and have an MFD of about 6 feet (1.83m).
Sigma used a more complex Sonnar design, of 6 elements in 5 groups, to produce the Sigmatel Multi-Scalematic and the optically identical Sigma XQ version. Compared to any of the 82mm filter thread versions mentioned above, Sigma's design allowed for a smaller physical size (a 77mm filter thread), a lighter weight (about 820g), a shorter MFD of about 4 foot 3 inches (1.33m), greater sharpness and much better control of CA.
Sigma's design proved so good that Pentax borrowed most of it when they produced their more complex SMC-A version with 7 elements in 6 groups, which also has a 77mm filter thread.
More recently, Sony produced the far more complex Carl Zeiss designed Sonnar T*, with 11 elements in 8 groups and 2 ED glass elements, again with a 77mm filter thread.
Finally, Nikon has filed a patent for a even more complex VR version with 16 elements in 9 groups.
It can be said that the more elements a particular version has, the better its optical performance and so logic dictates that the Soilgor should be the worst performer and the upcoming Nikon will probably be the best.
Here are the optical diagrams employed in the various lenses:


Last edited by DSG; 03-17-2013 at 02:27 AM.
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