WONDER LENS Asahi Pentax Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 50mm f1.4

8 Lens Element Version *updated 1/2/15

A mate of mine (Bicycle Stu) who constructed a new Auto 2 Speed hub for my single-speed dropped the wheel off a few days ago. I only just decided to get it sorted and found he had left a nice surprise in the Hub box. A old leather lens case and a lens hood. I opened the lens case to find a mint condition  'Asahi Pentax' Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 50mm f1.4 lens. My jaw dropped ... Sweet baby Jesus, this was a Holy Grail of manual 50mm lenses which many a SLR Videographer would give their right foot for.

The lens came in 2 varieties a 7 element version and a 8 element version. I have the 8 element version and once the adapter arrives will add a few personal words of my own. I most likely will not purchase the 7 element version so for now here are a couple of interesting differences noted from various online sources. 

Just something I noted in real life pictures but I forgot to add:
the S-M-C Takumar (7-elements) has a lot more depth of field and each stop than the Super-Takumar (8-elements).
Focused at infinity at f/1.4, for example, the S-M-C will render objects at 15-20 meters soft but sharp enough, while the 8-elements will render the same objects really blurry. The difference is definitely here, and it's striking. I have to yet measure this for the S-M-C, but the Super-Takumar at f/1.4 and at close distance (2-3 meters) has a depth or field of maybe 4-5 millimeters! 

Gianluca Bevacqua (Photo.net)

image by Priit Siimon

image by Priit Siimon

Bokeh wise, I prefer the 7 elements as it is a bit rounder. Apart from the yellow in the 7 elements, the 2 versions are pretty similar. You'd really need to be pedantic or look at them with a microscope to not be satisfied with either.

Oliver Sutton (pentaxforums.com)

image by Paul Aningat

Yes, this is a great lens. Yes, the vast majority of users will love it. 

Now that that's out of the way, let's dispel some myths:

1) Myth #1: The image quality is substantially better than the 7-element version.
The truth: I have probably owned or handled hundreds of 50mm tak 1.4s over the years. And the truth is, the difference in image quality between this and the 7 element Super Tak is vanishingly small. There's maybe a bit more smoothness in the bokeh, but this version is certainly less sharp wide open - although some people like that effect. By the time you compare it to the SMC, any advantages the 8 element has are outweighed by improved contrast and flare resistance.

I've yet to see a lens shoot-out putting this lens at the top that has been done blind, and I'd wager that given such conditions, 9 out of 10 users wouldn't be able to consistently differentiate this lens from a de-yellowed sample of the 7 element version.

2) Myth #2: The build quality is substantially better in this version.
The truth: I am familiar with all versions of this lens, inside and out (literally, as I've CLA'ed several versions of them). Aside from the additional element, the design and build of the 8 element version is virtually identical to those of the 7 element Super Tak. In fact, ALL Super Tak primes and most SMCs share the same fantastic build quality. I suspect that those who are blown away by the fit and finish are those for whom this is their first vintage Tak, and the others are fooled by the slightly greater heft of the 8 element than the 7 element, stemming from the extra glass.

3) Myth #3: The 8 element lens was destroying Asahi's finances. 
The truth: My inside sources familiar with Pentax history tell me this is complete rubbish. While the 8 element version was slightly more expensive to produce, it's ridiculous to think that one additional piece of glass per lens would threaten the solvency of the company. Asahi engineers realized they could achieve comparable image and build quality and slightly lower production costs by changing the design, and the suits at top made the decision to go with the less expensive version, as any profit-conscious executive would. No major drama involved.

4)Myth #4: The 8 element version doesn't yellow. 
The truth: I myself have owned two samples of this lens that have exhibited substantial yellowing that cleared up under UV light. While most samples do not, some (I expect newer) samples apparently do have thorium glass in them.

All in all, this is a very nice lens, approaching the Zeiss Planar 1.4 in image quality, and with unbeatable Takumar build. But so are the 7 element versions of this lens! Indeed, the biggest advantages this one has are bragging rights due to its relative rarity, and the fact that you will get 50-100 bucks extra if you sell it on the used market.

dcshooter

...cheers for those informative words of wisdom internet community, much appreciated.

image by Anna Pawełczyk

What does seem to be consistent when looking at the images above is what a fantastic lens this really is. A BEAUTIFUL fall away and a stunning render really make this an inexpensive gem of a lens. For any serious shooter portrait or social documentary photographer I urge you to track one down and give it a try. I promise as soon as my adapter arrive I will post an update.

Like the early Nikkor lenses of the 70's and 80's the Pentax is very sort after within the DSLR Video world. Below is great example of what is possible for this sub $100 lens. Paired with Either a 'Nikon 810' or 'Canon 5D iii' the lens is true enjoyment to use and simply a match made in visual Heaven..

If you decide to grab this fantastic lens you most probably will need to get it mounted onto your DSLR/Film Nikon or Canon camera. There are various lens adapters* available for both Nikon & Canon  via Ebay & Amazon to mention just 2. Have a Google search for

Lens Mount Adapter, Black M42  Lens to Canon or Lens Mount Adapter, Black M42 Lens to Nikon

You should not have much trouble getting an inexpensive option to suite your Camera of choice, and once you do the world of Takumar 50mm f1.4 is your Oyster. Mine is on it's way as I write this so definitely will give you guys a heads up when it arrives. SO until then enjoy the great images below, they are some great examples of what this lens is capable of when in the right hands.

*UPDATE The adpater I purchased from eBay was dissapointing. Although it stated it coupled properly, it did not, when mounted to the lens it refused to coupe correctly to the camera body. So it basically redered the lens unuseable as focusing was out and not possible. SO purchase a genuine adapter and avoid the eBay cheepies.

More to come soon ...

image by Piotr Grudzień

image by ogy