Friday, June 1, 2012

SMC Takumar 135mm f/2.5

I've posted before in this post about how awesome the old M42 screw mount Pentax Takumar lenses are, especially for video which is mostly what I've shot with on my last couple of film projects. It's been awhile since I snapped some pictures with these lenses so I spent a few hours strolling around Coal Harbour recently and to add to the challenge of going all manual with a vintage lens, I shot exclusively with just the Super Multi-Coated Takumar 135mm f/2.5.

All of these shots were taken hand-held which even for static subjects can be quite the challenge.

Way back when I shot a bunch of pictures of a Blue Heron on the Super Takumar 135mm f/3.5 - The pictures were okay but mostly because of the subject matter. I didn't find the lens very sharp, colours needed a fair amount of tweaking in post, in certain light conditions the lens didn't handle flare very well, there was significant chromatic aberration when and the bokeh details were a little distracting to my eye - not buttery smooth the way I like them and certainly not "bokehlicious!"

The Super Multi-Coated f/2.5 version of the Takumar 135mm is in an entirely different class.

The extra f-stop makes a huge difference especially in low light or in situations where a fast shutter speed is required. I also found there was less chromatic aberration (although still a little in some lighting conditions), I much prefer the colour rendition of the lens and as for sharpness and smooth, creamy bokeh details... Well--!

Bear in mind this is a 135mm lens on a crop sensor camera (the Canon 60D) so it's the equivalent of a 216mm... Shot handheld... On a lens made in 1972. Interestingly, this lens is as old as me! I have to say I am very impressed with it. In fact I'd go as far as saying this lens performs better than several of my modern lenses with all their new-fangled electronics and advanced lens coatings and for a fraction of the price.

The lens was made in two versions, the second of which is apparently harder to find and which is generally regarded as providing better results. Lucky for me the version I have is the 2nd version although it took me a little research to figure this out - externally they look exactly the same and the only difference is in a tiny serial number etched into the aperture switch.

The lens has a very good feel to it. Unlike modern lenses that often have a fair amount of plastic and rubberized bits to them, the Takumar lenses are made entirely from metal and glass. These things are built to last and it's a good thing because they're as good today as the day they were released. I can't imagine many of my fancy new lenses performing as well in 40 years time.

Very little post-processing was done to these images - A little cropping here and there to improve composition, an increase in vibrancy in some to bring out the colours as well as bumping up the contrast. Like all vintage lenses, it has it's quirks. In areas where there was already significant contrast between sun and shade, no tweaking was needed such as the shot above and the one below.

Focusing manually can be tricky, especially handheld. The focus barrel has quite a few degrees of rotation to it but it is extremely smooth. I had a number of shots that looked in focus but once I got home and saw them on my computer monitor they were slightly off - this was all user error so the lens really can't be blamed. Luckily I took over a dozen versions of the shot below so finding a good one was a lot easier.

Towards the end of Coal Harbour, across from the rowing club there's a lovely pond area and it was here that I really got to test my fast-draw, razor sharp, focusing skills, first with a little wildlife...

Then with this extremely enthusiastic puppy who, much to his owners consternation, broke free from his leash--

--And proceeded to cause panic and chaos amongst the waterfowl for the next 15 minutes...

One poor duck became the focus of his attention for much of the chaos.

Much of the action took place across the pond from where I was so the above is a significantly cropped picture and yet the detail on the dog's face still holds up and the only blurring is from the high-speed flapping of the poor duck. One thing noticeable element in some of these pictures is a little odd purple fringing on highlight details (such as the water droplets above) which no matter how hard I tried, I wasn't able to fix in Post Processing. Ah well.

Thankfully the dog made it back to shore with no casualties to the bird population and pond life was able to return to normal. Which worked out great for me because my best shots of the day were about to present themselves in all their awesome, cute and fluffy glory...

In fact I got so many great pictures of these little guys I figured they deserved their own blog post so come back in a couple of days and check out the terrific pictures I was able to snap.

In the meantime, if you'd like to know more about the wonderful world of Pentax Takumar M42 lenses, including reviews, full specs, market value etc. then head on over to the amazing Pentax Lens Forum

Until next time folks!