4.16.2014

the transition ends Now!

A flurry of fortunate deals culminated tonight, so my prime kit is over and done.  And I do have something from every manual-focus set now, or as many versions as I will 'allow'.
  • SMC (K-series) 17mm f/4 Fish-Eye
  • SMC-A 24mm f/2.8
  • SMC-A 50mm f/2.8 Macro (1:2)
  • Super Takumar 105mm f/2.8 (M42 threaded, with adapter)
  • SMC-M 200mm f/4
So the ages are approx. mid-70s, early-mid 80s twice, sixties and late 70s respectively.

Neato - and not mere nostalgia either, as these are excellent lenses!  All are very good representatives of their types that are well respected by online forum owners.  I picked up some great lenses for impressively low prices.  Yes, if you look very carefully you may find a nick or two on front elements; that is not field relevant unless the lens focus really closely and is shot at f/8 or higher, when the depth of field could conceivably be very near the front element.  I actually did that once with a Sigma 17-70, and dust on the lens became blurry spots on the image - so it can be done!

Group photo to follow, once the 200/4 arrives in a few days.  On an interesting side note,  the DA40 xs ultra-compact lens left the same day the 200mm was shipped; guess the AF prime felt unwanted?  That paid for the 200, the Takumar and some of the 50macro, so that's a good thing overall.

The easy trio for many events is 17FE, 18-135 and 100-300 zooms for max coverage.  If long shots or strong light aren't in the plans, I can swap the 200mm in for the 100-300 and capture more light!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

OK - starting Now!

I won a Takumar 300/4, to my surprise.  It's marked (1962) on PKForums: wow.  And somehow I forgot the big one, a Hanimar 400mm; it's been in storage so long it doesn't come to mind.  The Tak may in fact be quite a bit heavier, hopefully we'll unpack soon enough and I'll know for sure!

  • Takumar 300mm f/4
  • Hanimar 400mm f/6.3 Preset


4.10.2014

one last stab at macro + my first Tak

I have mentioned before that I tried several dedicated macro lenses in the recent past.  A Sigma 50/2.8, Tamron 90/2.8, Promaster 100/3.5, Sigma 105/2.8 and a manual SMC-M 100mm took turns, but nothing quite convinced me they would get enough use.  The most convincing was the Sigma, which was a nice 50mm lens with bonus 1:1 coverage.  In the end they all left, and now I have several close-up filter-type diopters and a Vivitar 2x combo teleconverter and extension tube.  These too have not caught on, and I have pretty nearly despaired of taking 'real' closeup shots.

On a parallel track I've been seeking a few good manual-focus primes.  The SMC 17/4 Fish-Eye and SMC-A 24/2.8 are a very good start.  I have a decent SMC-M 50/2 but had hoped for something more 'versatile' whatever that might mean.  I have the DA40xs for autofocus, so a 50mm lens is not vital - but having a set of well-spaced MF primes might catch on.

from bdimitrov.de site
Looking back at me this evening was an SMC-A 50mm f/2.8 1:2 macro at a decent price.  Hmm that would be OK, and would instantly be my best close-focus lens... but I won't bother if it's not any good.  Yikes, this thing scores 9.6+ out of 10 at pentaxforums - that qualifies as really good!  Many owners say it's their sharpest lens, so I'm convinced.

So farewell to the M50, and here's to my one last attempt to use a macro lens.  I've read often that manual focus is as good as AF for really close work, and I did not give the SMC-M 100mm enough time to get used to it, as I was still an AF addict at the time.  Maybe this one will be the answer - or equally likely, after this time I will desist from asking the wrong question!

Hopefully one more MF prime will round it out, though if I find an 85mm I may be forced to add another for the long end.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
4/11 update - and for now that 'one more prime' is a 105mm f/2.8 Takumar M42 lens.  Serious retro pickup, and a well regarded lens probably from the 1960s.  This copy has lived a full 50 years and it shows, but mere age does not stop a Tak!  Well, so they say; I shall know soon.

This means I have a a Tak, one K-series and two A-series Pentax.  Maybe I should keep the M50/2 around so I have one of each?  Or maybe later I shall find a tweener M - who knows?  Never I, that's certain...


4.07.2014

bargain telezoom take 2

Today's big $20 lens is a Sigma 75-250mm f/4.0-5.0 one-touch zoom.  While the era of using one ring for focus and zoom appears to be gone forever, some fine glass was made back then that will never reappear.  Compared to the JCPenney 80-200mm f/3.5 this one is both variable-aperture and inherently slower, which make it quite a bit lighter & with smaller filter size.  It does add 50mm at the high end which is nice, and it uses a native PK mount not M42 - but neither lens has electronic data connectors to control aperture settings from the camera.  Testing on a bright wall suggests this is f/4 from 75 to about 150mm, f/4.5 to well past 200mm before hitting f/5 at the top end.  That's quite good by modern standards!

Test images show fine sharpness, very little color fringing but some 'glow' on bright objects; I should test some more with Pentax' Muted custom setting, to see if that can be better understood.  The lack of fringing is a definite improvement over the JCPenney lens, and the reduced weight is nice too.  I'd say that neither beats the vastly more expensive (almost $30!) 100-300mm Quantaray, which is slower but smaller, has AF and contacts to provide auto-aperture and focal-length data to the camera.  All three are built for film with aperture rings.  The Q-ray is in storage for a while as we relocate, so it will be interesting to play with these older lenses to determine if any of the old glass should stay with me.

4.02.2014

April 1st stories

- believe them or not! :^)

Well the taxes are done as of 4/1, and we received some good news.  Retirement income is a new thing to me, and smart software saved us a lot on state taxes!  The Federal return was nearly as simple as before, so that was nice. The result is an overall boost to our budget, coming soon to an account near us.

So given a lessened financial crisis I can stop selling lenses, and perhaps re-acquire a K-5ii.  Those are becoming rare now after 3+ months on the discontinued list - however the iis (sans AA filter) is now at about the same price as remaining II bodies.  So here we go, again!

my three Pentaces

Also once again, the K-01 shifts back to a reserve role.  It's a very talented camera but its tainted reputation wrought by early reviwers makes its resale value quite low.  Ah well, I shall manage.

3.28.2014

when one cannot afford a 70-200 f/2.8

The elite speed lenses of the current era tend to be a 70-200mm f/2.8 more or less.  These are fast at 200mm unlike many more typical f/5.6 designs, but a large penalty comes along - literally, the fast telezooms are large, heavy and include their own tripod socket since they outweigh nearly every camera that will be attached to them!  They are also multiple hundreds of dollars, and right now I have nothing like that to throw around.  What to do?

Well try this: for $24 I picked up an 80-200mm f/3.5, so only fractionally slower than the modern beasts.  This one still weighs in at over a kilogram (about two pounds) and outweighs my camera bodies, so thankfully it also has a tripod socket.  What's not to like about that?

OK for one it's manual focus.  I'm not planning to shoot sports (though I can if I want to!) so I'm OK with that.  Also it's an ancient screw-mount lens - so I forgot to add $10 for the PK-M42 adapter to make it $35.  Screw mount means manual aperture setting.  Most curious of all perhaps is the brand: JC Penney!  No they never made lenses in department stores, but many department stores added their labels; many Sears lenses were Ricoh-made and plenty of lens companies allowed another brand to be stamped on their lens.

On the good side, the tripod collar will lead to steadier shots with tripod or monopod, a slide-out lens hood improves contrast, and nine aperture blades result in very nice blur to either side of focus.  It also is an internal-zoom lens so its length only varies by the range of the focusing ring, which covers infinity down to about five feet (1.8 meters).  Clearly the price is right, so how's the performance?

Let's get one thing straight: this is a very nice, little-used copy of whatever brand it really is.  Everything works very well on it, though the zoom ring rattles a bit.  Images from a tripod look quite nice, no complaints from me while using the K-01.  The shot at left is 100mm f/6ish on a wet day.
It's very hard to hand hold and keep the camera's live screen more than 10" away from my face, but on the K-5 it should perform better in that respect.  I'll be trying it on the Q soon, that should be very fun!

Anyway, I'm impressed.  Just in case I have another $20 lens that may be coming soon*, so we'll have a contest and keep just one.  Oh what fun!  In the meantime, the all-manual kit now looks like this:
  • SMC 17mm f/4 fish-eye
  • SMC-A 24mm f/2.8
  • SMC-M 50mm f/2
  • Quantaray 28-70mm f/2.8-4
  • this JCP 80-200mm f/3.5 M42 mount/PK
  • Hanimex 400mm f/6.3 T-mount/PK

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

* p.s. it's true - a Sigma δ 75-250mm f/4.0-5.0 is on its way.  No it's not a whole fraternity, it seems that early Sigmas used extra greek letters to mark their lenses!  So this is a variable-aperture zoom but still, 250mm at f/5 is slightly faster than most - so we shall see if the extra reach is worthwhile.  It says 'for Pentax' but nowhere does it show a bayonet mount, although the rear cap is thicker than for most M42 lenses.  Again, we shall see... in any case this 80-200 does pretty good work!