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03-20-2016, 05:08 PM   #1
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Old Film SLR Lenses

People are often dismissive of old lenses from the 1950s and 60s as being for collectors only, not digital work. After all, they had barely started using computers to design lenses then. I recently added a Pentax K from about 1957, with its Zebra (semi) Auto Takumar 55mm f1.8. Here's a 100% crop of a "mirror" shot with this lens wide open (where it is known to be a bit soft):
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I also tried my 35 f3.5 (semi) Auto Takumar from the same period, also wide open. 100 % crop:
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Perhaps modern lenses are incrementally better, but you can still get great pictures using the really oldies. Even my 1934 Leica Summar f2.0 is surprising.
These are taken with a Sony A7, which is fun as it can use so many of these old lenses Full Frame, and compare them on the same system.

03-20-2016, 05:45 PM - 3 Likes   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by TomB_tx Quote
People are often dismissive of old lenses from the 1950s and 60s as being for collectors only, not digital work.
I'm personally dismissive of people with that opinion.
03-20-2016, 05:52 PM   #3
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I have an 'ignore' button ready for those dismissives.....
03-20-2016, 05:56 PM   #4
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+1 lol

03-20-2016, 06:38 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by chickentender Quote
I'm personally dismissive of people with that opinion.
Couldn't have said it better myself!
03-20-2016, 06:48 PM - 1 Like   #6
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Classic manual focus lenses just ooze quality.
What pleasure then in using a plastic fantastic?

Chris
03-20-2016, 07:18 PM - 2 Likes   #7
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If I had to give up my old film era lenses I wouldn't have many left to use
03-20-2016, 07:32 PM - 1 Like   #8
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Dismissers can send any old film lenses they want to dismiss right on over here.

03-21-2016, 02:29 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by TomB_tx Quote
People are often dismissive of old lenses from the 1950s and 60s as being for collectors only, not digital work.
Nice illustrations . . . class dismissed!
03-21-2016, 03:33 AM   #10
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Some of my best photo are with Takumars. If you can control contrast and flare by using a hood and positioning the sun correctly, you can actually get extremely good colour and sharpness. Also, the number aperture blades on the older taks give very nice oof character.

Crazy to discredit the M42s
03-21-2016, 05:51 AM   #11
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Newer lenses do have some advantages. One that is almost universal is the advancement in coatings to reduce flare and increase transmission (=maintains contrast when the number of elements starts to rise). However, many old lenses have good to excellent IQ. I have multiple times praised the qualities of a well-made Tessar design lens of near normal focal length. Not fast, generally limited to f2.8, but stopped to f4~f11 a good Tessar can produce excellent images. For a short time I had a 40mm f3.5 Steinheil Cassaron in M42 mount, regrettably only usable on a manual extension tube because of a big lug on the back that prevented it from screwing directly into an M42 to K adapter*. I took a few close-ups with it, and the results were very good. It is a Cooke triplet design. If I can find a scan I made of the best of those close-ups I'll post it here later today.

*OK to use for close-up, but not nearly as convenient as a modern macro and being 40mm, with a very short working distance. Aside from no aperture linkage, the diaphragm was fully manual, no pre-set mechanism and no click-stops, and was operated by the front most ring of the lens which had no filter thread, no way to attach a hood. I suspect from the age of the lens it probably had no coating. The mechanical quality of the lens was outstanding, 10 curved aperture blades and buttery smooth focusing that actually made me gasp the first time I turned it. I suspect 80% or more of the original price was in the metalwork, not the glass. The lens was in its original plastic case and looked unused. It came in a batch with multiple other lenses, bits and pieces.
03-21-2016, 07:05 PM   #12
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So, if you have money to burn and liked to fly, would you buy a F-16 on the assumption that an old P-51 Mustang is just, well, obsolete?

Really, the heyday of lens grinding was probably in the 1960s and 1970s, no?
03-22-2016, 03:02 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Flylooper Quote
So, if you have money to burn and liked to fly, would you buy a F-16 on the assumption that an old P-51 Mustang is just, well, obsolete?

Really, the heyday of lens grinding was probably in the 1960s and 1970s, no?
Certainly not with computerized grinders and laser guidance & checking of curvature, presuming both of those are used (have never seen details about modern lens manufacturing machines and methods). But I suspect there's a touch of sarcasm in your response.
03-22-2016, 04:35 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by WPRESTO Quote
Certainly not with computerized grinders and laser guidance & checking of curvature, presuming both of those are used (have never seen details about modern lens manufacturing machines and methods). But I suspect there's a touch of sarcasm in your response.
Yes, but just a touch. To continue with the analogy, the P-51 was a hell of an airplane even thought they didn't have computers to design and make them. All they had was slide rules.

As for me, I'm having a great time doing film photography. My collection of Super Takumars and SMC Taks is, I think, up to 8 lenses now. Yesterday I just picked up a Super-Tak 35mm f3.5 wide angle at my favorite (family owned) camera shop for 45 bucks. A very good lens.

When I was a kid and had no money, just my little Spotty with a 55 mm on it, and an off-market 28 and 200, I used to drool for those Takumars. But they were always beyond my reach. (I think I'm catching up on lost time!) You could actually feel the quality in your hands.

God knows what they sold for in their day!

Last edited by Flylooper; 03-22-2016 at 04:42 PM.
03-24-2016, 09:32 AM   #15
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I normally use old single coated lenses, '53-70 street shooting with mono or colour film.

Adaptive compression
Flashing of shadows

Yes I use deep hoods as well...

I don't mind flare or high light artifice that was also in the period shots.
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