I bought an old manual lens a little while ago – the Asahi Super Takumar 50mm f1.4.
I have been reading about old manual camera lenses on the web for some time now. There’s quite a few websites floating around and this one strikes me very well.
They are relatively cheap nowadays and were much cheaper some years back. The prices have come up a bit since the prominence of mirrorless cameras and the use of DSLRs for videos. The f1.4 50mms were well-regarded and from what I can read, their quality is as good as current equivalent lenses costing closer to and above the $1,000 mark. That got me very interested.
I bought the Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 for about AUD$130 – pretty good for something made possibly 30 years ago (the first version came out in 1964). The other brands seem to go for AUD$300-$500. The Super Takumar was famous for the cost of production – so high that the company reportedly lost a lot of money on them for a number of years. The early versions also used a radioactive element which decayed and caused the lens to yellow tinge without effect on the picture quality (and presumably to the camera user). I am not sure which one I bought and I think mine has the yellow tinge. But I am happy with it. I don’t care because I am keeping this.
The moment you hold it, you can feel the quality – all metal construction so you can feel the weight. The cap makes a clangy sound when you drop it onto a table. Plastic lens caps just clop and stop. The metal one clangs and vibrates for a short while. Very well built. I think it was in No Logo by Naomi Klein that lamented about marketers taking over consumerism. Her thesis was that back in the 50’s and 60’s, the engineers were king. They designed and made the products. And they made the products to last – many for a life time. But slowly the marketers took over and shunted the engineers off the ladder. And products were no longer built to last. Think of mobile phones nowadays. I think most people upgrade their iphone well before the built-in battery dies. Come to think of it, cameras are being superseded every 9-12 months. She makes a valid point and you can see the engineering with this lens.
The focusing ring is butter smooth. You can say that modern DSLRs are faster to operate and more effective with the dials and buttons (sometimes in combination). But I just love the way you change the aperture on the lens via the manual aperture ring. The aperture ring changes in 1/3 stops and each click makes a reassuring sound. Old lenses like this one give you the tactile feel.
The problem with using this lens on a Canon is that when you focus to infinity, the back of it protrudes and can damage the sensor. I bought an adaptor which is meant to let you avoid this problem. However in the last session of use, on two occasions the shutter or something else got stuck and did not want to close with an awful clack. I have decided not to try this again.
It also doesn’t look elegant on a bulky DSLR either.
Focusing is best done with the live view and magnification.
I enjoy using this lens (with a bit of patience) and am hoping to using other manual lenses as well.
The following were high tea at The Westin during Good Food Month. They had a mad hatter theme. The food looked great and the watch was edible.
This blond was taken at Le Pub.