Review: 50/1.4 Takumar 8 elements vs 7 elements

Discussion in 'Pentax' started by addicted2light, Dec 10, 2012.

  1. Hi, I have collected in the years several 50mm lenses - it's my favorite focal length - and among them an 8 elements Super-Takumar and a 7 elements Super-Multi-Takumar.
    I decided it was time to put them all against each other, to know better pros and cons of each in a controlled situation.
    The lens tested are:
    - Pentax 50mm f/1,4 Super-Takumar 8-elements design
    - Pentax 50mm f/1,4 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 7-elements design
    - Pentax 50mm f/4 M Macro
    - Contax 60mm f/2,8 Zeiss Makro S-Planar
    - Minolta 50mm f/1,7 Rokkor MD
    - Olympus 50mm f/1,8 OM Zuiko

    The test camera is a Canon Eos 5D Mark II; it was put on a tripod, with the mirror up, at 50x the focal length, fired through a remote wireless release and with a self timer of 10 seconds to avoid vibrations. The focus was checked at full aperture in the center using the Live View zoomed @ 10x and a 22x Peak loupe. It was checked again once closed the aperture to be sure there wasn't focus shift. The white balance has been set to "daylight" to show the different nuances each lens have.
    I can post here only a couple of shots - sorry they are too many because I tested each lens at nearly all apertures. If you want you may see the complete test at the following link:
  2. It's difficult to reach conclusions with these tests. You would need to test multiple examples of each lens. You would also need to shoot with film. Edge performance is hard to test because each digital sensor will react to the same lens differently. I have a number of 50/1.8 Zuikos and many 50/1.7 Rokkor and MD lenses. Shooting with film I would have to say the f/1.7 Minolta lenses are generally better than the 50/1.8 Zuikos. By the time of the MD, Minolta was not spending much on the exterior appearance or construction. For this reason the 50/1.7 MC Rokkor-X is my favorite. It's the last one with a metal barrel and aperture ring. I have a number of 50/1.4 Pentax lenses but not, as far as I know, an 8-element one. They are all pretty good but don't get used that much. Its's only because they aren't convenient to use. If I could throw in more lenses I would include the 50/2 AI Nikkor, the 55/3.5 Micro Nikkor PC, the 50/3.5 MC Macro, the 50/1.8 Canon FD SC (black front, aperure lock on back), the 50/3.5 Zuiko macro, the 55/2.8 Vivitar Macro and either version of the 50/1.4 Konica Hexanon.
  3. Hi Jeff,
    I absolutely agree on the MC Rokkor-X being a much better lens. I have one of them, but it has a sentimental value so instead of converting it to Canon I use it on a Sony Nex. And I owned a Micro Nikkor 55/3,5 when I used to shot Nikon, and it was a spectacular lens. My only problem with it was the heavy "greenish" color cast, compared to the others Nikkor I had; not a big deal, a touch of customized white balance and it went away.

    Regarding the need to use film you really got a point, but even with film there is always the problem of film flatness (unless you use a Contax RTS III with its vacuum back). And the biggest problem is probably sample variation, like you correctly imply speaking of the necessities to test multiple samples. Like I mention on my blog I made this tests for my own knowledge, with the gear I have, so they are not the "final word", just an aid to someone who should be in the process of googling around for info before buying like I often do.
  4. Gianluca,
    I know it is interesting to look at charts for some but I would have love to have seen some comparative pictures using each of the lenses alongside your commentary. I hope you move on to that sort of comparison some time soon as it would attract wider attention.
  5. The problem with a "real life" photo test involving so much lenses is that the light will change between shots, even in an overcast day, so you will not be able to compare the results.
    But you're right, to show the character of each lens some additional picture may be more than useful.
    I guess I can always make a "sequel" of the test in a bit!
  6. The radioactive thoriated glass elements do not turn the balsam tan. The radiation actually affects the glass itself, and turns it tan. This is why fiber optic cables cannot be used in high-radiation environments.
  7. John, thanks very much for the clarification; I just corrected the post.
  8. I've not owned it but of the 50's I hear very good things about the minolta 50f1.4. Also there are like 6 or 8 variations (optical changes) on the olympus 50f1.8. You should probably mention which one you are testing. I think the most recent "made in japan" 50f1.8 is said to be the best optically; though the older "made in japan" has better build. Olympus is very confusing. Contax also silently updated some of its lenses but I've not heard of changes to the macro 60. A couple of other 50's that are highly regarded include the olympus 50f2 macro (bit pricy) and the hexon 50f1.4. I suspect the olympus 50f2 is the best of the lot (though it is a stop slower than then 50f1.4.
  9. Also there are like 6 or 8 variations (optical changes) on the olympus 50f1.8. You should probably mention which one you are testing. I think the most recent "made in japan" 50f1.8 is said to be the best optically; though the older "made in japan" has better build. Olympus is very confusing.​
    You're right Alan, I specified which variation of the Olympus I tested on my blog, but I forgot to add the "extended name" here: it's an Olympus OM Zuiko Auto-S MC "Japan".
    From what I gather from the ultra-confusing way in which Olympus used to name its lenses this should be the last, and supposedly better, version.
    The Contax, as you correctly state, made only one version of its Makro lens, at least optically because there is also a C-Planar version which goes only to 1:2 but is a bit lighter and more compact.
    The Minolta I think changed various optical schemes too, because I happen to have an old MC Rokkor-X that performs quite a bit better then the MD version tested (I did not use this one because it's not converted to Canon). Generally speaking seems that the old MC Rokkor lenses are better in build and sharpness than most of their MD successors.
    The Pentax Macro should have the same optical scheme of the old Takumar, m42 screw-mount version.
  10. Gianluca Bevacqua,
    Thanks for sharing your great lens test.
    A few years ago, I performed a similar test using the following lenses:
    Nikon 50mm f/1.4
    Nikon 50mm f/1.8 (Series E)
    Takumar 50mm f/1.4 (8-element)
    Takumar 50mm f/1.4 (7-element)
    Fujinon 50mm f/1.4 (EBC)
    Fujinon 50mm f/1.4 (no EBC)
    My test was not as comprehensive and not as controlled as yours but my results and conclusions were very similar to yours.
    After I ran my test, I was so disappointed with the yellow colorcast in the images produced with the 50mm Takumar f/1.4 7-element that I bathed the lens in ultraviolet light for 30 days to remove as much of the cast as possible. I then successfully used the lens on a micro 4/3 body.
  11. 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!
  12. John, thanks very much for the clarification; I just corrected the post.​
    Being a collector of vintage large format lenses, some of which were aerial lenses , adapted after WWII for conventional photography, i know a thing or two about glass yellowing.
    The process is due to radioactive thorium, used in the formulae of optical glasses with extreme specs. After about six years the thorium contained in the glass starts its decay process, which causes the yellowing of the glass. The process ends at some time (i don't remember exactly, possibly 20/25 years), but at that time the yellowing is already very pronounced.
    The elements affected are one or two, usually placed at the back of the lens. A prolonged exposure to UV rays cures the problem, at least to some degree. Is better to use UV lamps instead of the sun light, because the amount of UV in sun rays is so weak that you usually need at least one month of exposure to direct sunlight. Such exposure could cause a damage to the lens cement due to overheating, or at least some fogging due to the outgassing of grease/oil/plastic.
    After the war the use of thorium was abandoned (or nearly so), and the use of rare earths like lanthanum was introduced. Unfortunately some (many?) batches of lanthanum mineral purchased by the various optical glass foundries were not pure. Thorium impurities were either absent, or present in a good amount, as there was no known technology that would allow to purify the lanthanum in an effective way. That is why different examples of the SAME lens can be either unaffected, or very yellow! It depends on which batch of glass was used, and on the provenance of the raw material used to manufacture it.
    I am not an expert of 35mm lenses. What i know is that most (all?) major makers used lanthanum glass in some of their lenses, and that at some point there was no more yellowing (did they find a way to remove thorium impurities? did they find an extraction site with no thorium impurities?). I have a couple of 35mm lens which are known to have lanthanum glass, but they don't show any yellowing. Those which are badly affected are usually aerial lenses used during WWII (or Korea war); the use of thorium glass makes them very prone to yellowing (to a degree that affects the speed of the lens - up to 1 stop or even more! - and not just the color rendition), and also definitely radioactive (lanthanum glass is not, even if it's contaminated by thorium particles).
    The good news: with old lenses the yellowing process is probably over, so if you succeed in removing the color cast with an UV tube placed very close to glass, there is a good chance that the effect of the "cure" will last.
  13. I have a couple of 35mm lens which are known to have lanthanum glass, but they don't show any yellowing.​
    +1. My sample of S-M-C Takumar, for example, is crystal clear. But sometime happens that other lenses, not known as radioactive or prone to yellowing, can be as yellow as lemons! This is probably due, like you said, to contamination of the lanthanum batches.
    I had a first-series 35mm f/1.4 Nikkor N, the one with the 9 iris blades; it was dark-yellow and, like you guessed, almost one stop slower than its nominal aperture. At the same time, it was one of the best lenses I had, and I'm still beating myself up for having sold it.
  14. The reason designers wanted to use Thorium glass was because of its super high refractive index and that gave them better correction of spherical aberration.
  15. Just found this and thought it may be interesting, if not for anything for "archival" purposes. I don't now the language (just use google translate or babylon) but the images are pretty much self-explanatory:
    It's a comparison between the Pentax A series 50mm: f/1.2, f/1.4, f/1.8 and f/2.

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