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07-11-2018, 05:20 PM   #1
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Old used lenses: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Hi all,
A few days ago I was asking for your help on selecting new lenses, and now I need your help again.

It turns out there is a camera shop a few blocks from me and they have a bunch of old (mostly really old) pentax lenses. Since most were very old or brands I hadn't heard of I was reluctant to grab most of them. I managed to grab a Pentax-F 35-80 for $30 (which is above average but I didn't have to pay shipping). A bunch of their lenses had a yellow looking coating on the glass (oxidation?).


I wish I had been writing down what they had exactly but here is an idea:


Pentax-M: they had 1-2 of these, and now that I've checked reviews on this site, I probably should have grabbed them.
JC-Penny 28-80: Looks horrendous based on reviews but I thought it was funny that they had this. This is what I want to avoid.

Marexar-CX 28-80: Don't know a thing about the brand.
Screw mounts: they had a bunch, any I should keep my eye out for?
Sigma (can't remember exactly but something like 25-70mm macro): was full of dust inside somehow but was cheap. Is that fixable?
Tokina telephoto (I think it was the 75-260): was $100, sounds steep...

Tamron telephoto: was $100, sounds steep...

Pentax-A: I think they had 1-2 of these. One was the 80-200 (which I think they wanted $100 for, sounds too high).

Sears: Another department store kit lens.



They had plenty of other obscure brands I have never heard of. In general telephotos were $100 and everything else was $30. I'm mostly wanting to know of any like the JC-Penny that I should absolutely avoid or any oldies that may be very good.



Thanks for your help!


07-11-2018, 05:30 PM - 2 Likes   #2
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For the most part older third party kit zooms aren't worth having. There are exceptions, like the Tokina 28-70 F2.8-4.3 or the Tamron Adaptall-2 35-80 F2.8-3.8. The Pentax F 35-70 F3.5-4.5 is a cult lens...

Sears 50mm lenses were made by either Ricoh or Chinon. They are good.

Follow the sandwich rule. If it costs the same as a sandwich, buy it. If it costs the same as a deluxe pizza, think about it. If it costs more than a fancy dinner, ask your significant other.
07-11-2018, 06:14 PM - 1 Like   #3
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Super Takumars and SMC Takumars. As you probably know, these are the screw-thread Asahi Pentax lenses. I own three, and they are, in my opinion, optically superior, built like Swiss watches, and an absolute joy to use.

If you see any dusty or fungusy old lenses for really cheap, buy one and take it apart to see how it works. Primes are easier than zooms. You may be able to clean it up and have a usable lens for next to nothing. There are lots of how-to videos on cleaning old lenses on the internet.

Yellowing on old Takumars - there are a ton of threads here about how to fix this. Search for radioactive Takumars.
07-11-2018, 06:23 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by boriscleto Quote
There are exceptions, like the Tokina 28-70 F2.8-4.3 or the Tamron Adaptall-2 35-80 F2.8-3.8. The Pentax F 35-70 F3.5-4.5 is a cult lens...
I'll check if they have these tomorrow.

QuoteOriginally posted by boriscleto Quote
Sears 50mm lenses were made by either Ricoh or Chinon. They are good.
Cool, I think the sears was a zoom but maybe I missed one.

Never heard the sandwich rule, I will keep that in mind. I definitely wasn't about to risk $100 but their $30 offerings seem tempting.

07-11-2018, 07:07 PM   #5
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You don't need the dusty Sigma because you have the Pentax-F 35-80. Maybe it might be worth buying if it happened to be a 24-70 because 24mm would be useful, but zooms can be challenging to take apart and clean because of all the moving parts.

Older manual focus zooms are somewhat annoying because you have to enter a compromise focal length for SR to work. An autofocus zoom will tell the camera its focal length. The older a zoom is, the more likely it is to be optically terrible.

Tamrons might be useful if they have an adaptall mount, because the mount can be used on other adaptall lenses. You might find a Tamron 90mm f2.5 macro, or 28mm f2.5, or 500mm f8 mirror lens that can use the adaptall mount.
07-11-2018, 08:12 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Neuse River Sailor Quote
Yellowing on old Takumars - there are a ton of threads here about how to fix this. Search for radioactive Takumars.
I'll try it out.

QuoteOriginally posted by Just1MoreDave Quote
Older manual focus zooms are somewhat annoying because you have to enter a compromise focal length for SR to work. An autofocus zoom will tell the camera its focal length. The older a zoom is, the more likely it is to be optically terrible.
Good to know. I'll stick with primes if I go back any farther in history. The 35-80 is acceptable in terms of performance and quality so if going farther back means it gets worse then I'd rather save my money.


QuoteOriginally posted by Just1MoreDave Quote
Tamrons might be useful if they have an adaptall mount
I don't think any had an adaptall mount but I'll keep my eyes open for that.
07-11-2018, 10:37 PM - 1 Like   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by catwalk Quote
they have a bunch of old (mostly really old) pentax lenses
In the broad scheme of lenses, there are no K-mount lenses that are "really old". If they look crummy, it is probably not age.

QuoteOriginally posted by catwalk Quote
A bunch of their lenses had a yellow looking coating on the glass (oxidation?).
Yellowish color reflecting from the lens surface is quite normal for many lenses. This is not oxidation and not related to radiation. However, lenses that have come from tobacco smoker's home may have tobacco residue on both glass and painted/chromed surfaces. Tobacco sullied lenses smell bad, but will usually clean up nicely if gently dealt with.

QuoteOriginally posted by catwalk Quote
JC-Penny 28-80: Looks horrendous based on reviews but I thought it was funny that they had this. This is what I want to avoid.
Marexar-CX 28-80: Don't know a thing about the brand.
Store brands and off-brand zooms are generally poor performers.

In regards to purchase advice:
  • Shooting with legacy glass can be fun and rewarding since many of these lenses offer excellent performance and/or unique rendering
  • I have found it useful to shop based on good experiences from other photographers. That is how I came to own two of my favorite lenses (KMZ Helios 44M 58/2 and LZOS Jupiter-9 85/2). Hang out in the lens threads and the lens club threads to see what lenses have buzz and then try and find one.
  • Appearance and condition are good indications of how well the lens has weathered the years. A good used lens will handle, operate, and appear much as when the lens was new.
  • Glass should be without haze, obvious external or internal scratches, damage to coatings, or fungus. Magnification and use of a penlight in a dim room help when assessing the optics.


Steve
07-11-2018, 11:22 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Shooting with legacy glass can be fun and rewarding since many of these lenses offer excellent performance and/or unique rendering
I think I will buy the Pentax-M primes they had tomorrow if the price is right. A lot of their inventory is shoddy, overpriced telephotos, but the primes are probably a safe bet overall.
QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
In the broad scheme of lenses, there are no K-mount lenses that are "really old".
That's true, but when I say really old I mean M42 screw mount which was about half of their stock.

QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Glass should be without haze, obvious external or internal scratches, damage to coatings, or fungus. Magnification and use of a penlight in a dim room help when assessing the optics.
I'll remember to bring a light with me next time, I hadn't thought of that.


QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Yellowish color reflecting from the lens surface is quite normal for many lenses.
Good to know, I am not familiar with that type of optical coating.

QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Hang out in the lens threads and the lens club threads to see what lenses have buzz and then try and find one.
The fan clubs is a good idea, that should help me track down some quality classics.

07-12-2018, 05:47 PM   #9
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Went back to that store. Most of what they had was old Tamron telephotos of poor quality. I forgot to mention yesterday that they have a bunch of Ricoh lenses though, that might bring me back.

Anyway this is what I got:
Pentax-M 50mm 1:2 (a little overpriced but it's in good shape)
Sears 28mm F2.8 (price is on par considering no shipping)
Pentax-A 135mm 1:2.8: DING DING DING we have a winner. I scored big on this one, great condition and great price.
07-12-2018, 06:07 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by catwalk Quote
Good to know, I am not familiar with that type of optical coating.
It is common for Japanese lenses before multi-coating became the norm. My non-SMC Takumars all reflect yellow. So do my Minolta lenses of the similar vintage. My Vivitars all reflect bluish. The reflection color is no indication of warm vs. cool rendering, color cast, effectiveness of coating or anything. It is simply how the coating refracts the light that reflects back through it off the lens surface.

Steve

(...some of my Soviet and Russian lenses have amazingly vivid coating reflections...)
07-24-2018, 07:38 AM   #11
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Anyone can suggest a cheap telephoto for birds shooting? probably something manual focus? I found relatively cheap a Sigma AF 400mm, but maybe some more vintage lenses can do this better?
07-24-2018, 09:25 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by boriscleto Quote
For the most part older third party kit zooms aren't worth having. There are exceptions, like the Tokina 28-70 F2.8-4.3 or the Tamron Adaptall-2 35-80 F2.8-3.8. The Pentax F 35-70 F3.5-4.5 is a cult lens...
Tamron marks their AdaptAll lenses as "SP" if they consider them to be "professional grade". Most of them are quite good indeed, but of course the user needs a K-mount backend to use one.
07-24-2018, 11:39 AM   #13
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Old zooms can be a lot of fun. They're not perfect but they tend to have quirks that make your ideas flow. My Sears 80-200 is objectively a "meh" performer, but is a ton of fun and I don't regret for a second the 5 bucks I spent on it.

Also screw mount stuff can be very good, I just got a hold of a Petri 50mm f1.7 and it is a real treat. At 1.7 it has this soft/sharp aesthetic that you usually can only get through post processing, and when stopped down to even 2.8 it becomes a very stunning lens. For 3 bucks I don't think we could have done better! In fact the contrast is so good I sometimes had to turn it down, which is surprising for such an old lens.

Picture from the sears:




Picture from the Petri wide open:

07-24-2018, 12:49 PM   #14
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Another "fun" lens is the 37mm f/2.8 'Mir 1', an M42 lens which won some sort of award at the 1958 Brussels Fair, and bragged about that award for years. It has lots of curved aperture blades, so it gives round bokeh, but even stopped down I find the images to be good. In fact many of the Former Soviet Union lenses {usually have Cyrillic lettering} are good, and they tended to focus their efforts on bokeh.
07-24-2018, 11:36 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by ZombieArmy Quote
Old zooms can be a lot of fun. They're not perfect but they tend to have quirks that make your ideas flow. My Sears 80-200 is objectively a "meh" performer, but is a ton of fun and I don't regret for a second the 5 bucks I spent on it.
I would definitely be willing to play around with some underperforming legacy zooms for under $20, but the shop I visited was asking far too much for its telephoto zooms (about $100 for lenses worth at most $20).

Thanks for sharing the Petri, I'll keep an eye out for one.

QuoteOriginally posted by reh321 Quote
In fact many of the Former Soviet Union lenses {usually have Cyrillic lettering} are good, and they tended to focus their efforts on bokeh.
I've heard good things about old Soviet lenses. I don't think this shop had any at the moment but maybe one will turn up some day.

By the way, turns out the Sears 28 I picked up is the macro version thought to be produced by Samyang. So 2/3 lenses I picked up were well worth it. Wish I had more money so I could get more legacy lenses at that shop. I love the rendering of these old lenses.
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