A subjective look at Asahi SMC Takumar 1:1.8/55 M42 @ Fujifilm X-Pro1

Asahi Optical Co., Ltd. was founded by Kumao Kajiwara in 1919 in Japan and became one of the leading manufacturers of photo cameras and lenses. The production of photo lenses started in 1931 but the true success came to Asahi only in 1951 when Asahiflex — first Japanese 35 mm SLR camera — came out. First Takumar lenses for Asahiflex camera had M37 thread mount, after some time the M37 thread was replaced by M42 and the lenses with M42 mount were produced till 1975 when threaded mount was abandoned due to release of the new Pentax system based on K bayonet mount.

Asahi Takumar 1:1.8/55 is a fast full-frame manual standard prime which exists in several incarnations:

  • Auto-Takumar (1960-1962) – single-coated, has semi-automatic aperture which needs to be cocked by a special lever before you press the shutter button;
  • Super-Takumar (1963-1971) — has early version of multi-coating, allows to select manual or automatic aperture mode by a special switch on the housing;
  • Super-Multi-Coated (later – SMC) (1971-1975) – multi-coated, allows metering without preliminary closing the diaphragm to shooting aperture.
  • smc Pentax (1975-1977) – has the best build quality among the smc Pentax lenses.

In 1980-90s the Pentax Corporation «resurrected» Takumar brand for the series of single-coated budget lenses. Such lenses were marked as Takumar (Bayonet) to distinguish them from the old threaded ones. Thanks God, Asahi Takumar 1:1.8/55 does not exist in such variation.

Optically and mechanically the SMC Takumar 1:2/55 and 1:1.8/55 are absolutely the same:

SMC Takumar 1:1.8/55 SMC Takumar 1:2/55
Focal length: 55 55
Maximum aperture: 1.8 2
Aperture blades: 6 6
Elements / groups: 6 / 5 6 / 5
Length, mm: 42.5 42.5
Weight, g: 201 201
Filter thread, mm: 49 49

So, we have determined that our sample of SMC Takumar 1:1.8/55 is the ultimate variation of the 1:1.8/55 model in the line of Asahi M42 lenses. In this review the lens was used with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 camera with a crop factor of 1.53, and the effective focal length of the lens «became» 84 mm (full-frame equivalent). The lens was used via M42 — Fuji X adapter without chip. There was no focus confirmation, but the metering was performed by the camera automatically in the stop-down mode. All you have to do is just to select the desired aperture and rotate the manual focus ring until you have your subject sharp in the EVF or LCD in Live View mode.

Asahi SMC Takumar 1:1.8/55

Build Quality and Characteristics

The build quality of the lens is great (in fact, this is pretty typical for the most lenses of 1970s) and is not comparable not only to the modern high-quality plastic lenses, but even to the all-metal Pentax Limited series of lenses. The black housing of the lens is completely made ​​of metal, including thread mount, has the light weight of 201 g and a length of 42.5 mm (when focused on the infinity; not including the caps).

Asahi SMC Takumar 1:1.8/55
Asahi SMC Takumar 1:1.8/55

The manual focus ring has width of 13 mm, is well damped, has no play, rotates smoothly and with proper resistance. The condition of various control elements of the lens depends on the year of manufacture and the level of preservation of a particular lens. The angle of rotation of the ring is big (approximately 270 degrees) and more than sufficient to provide accurate focusing. The front element is pushed forward only by 10-11 mm when focusing on the minimum distance of 0.45 m. There is a distance scale and depth of field scale of course.

Asahi SMC Takumar 1:1.8/55

The aperture ring has the following markings​​: 1.8 — 2.8 — 4 — 5.6 — 8 — 11 — 16. There are half stops between F/1.8 and F/11 but they are not indicated on the scale. The aperture works in manual and automatic modes, there is a corresponding switch on the rear part of the housing. The switch is irrelevant for today’s digital cameras.

Asahi SMC Takumar 1:1.8/55

The aperture has 6 blades, its opening is not circular, but this is not so surprising, because the production of the lenses with a circular aperture started only in 1987 by the Minolta Corporation — 12 years after withdrawal of Asahi Takumar lenses from the production.

The diameter of the filter thread is 49 mm — a common size among Asahi (Pentax) lenses. The filter thread does not rotate when focusing, making it easy to use polarizing and gradient filters. No filters were used during shooting for this review.

Optically the lens consists of 6 elements in 5 groups. In comparision with the Super-Takumar model this lens has advanced multi-layer coatings which teoretically result in greater resistance to flares and ghosting and better overall contrast of the images.

The optical elements of the reviewed lens have a slight yellow cast (a common characteristic of many Asahi Super-Takumar lenses).

If the optical elements of your copy of the lens are yellow, the yellowness (which, by the way, gives some ‘warmth’ to the image) could be corrected during post-processing. The original color of the optical coating can be recovered if the lens is subjected to prolonged exposure to the ultraviolet light with a special lamp (it takes several hours or even days of continuous exposure). After this procedure, the lens will be sharper across the frame, the focus confirmation in the viewfinder with the respective cameras will be more accurate, the images will be correctly exposed.

Optical Results

The lens is pretty sharp in the center of the frame at F/1.8. With further closing of the aperture the sharpness significantly increases. The overall contrast is excellent at any aperture. The edges of the APS-C frame don’t lag behind the center of the frame at any aperture. At F/8 the lens is as sharp as modern autofocus kit lenses. The depth of field at F/1.8 is very thin even with the APS-C sensor and if you want, you could achieve truly impressive separation of the main subject from the background.

Vignetting is not noticeable with APS-C sensor, the same goes to distortion and lateral chromatic aberration.

The quality of the bokeh is very good. The background blur is soft and sometimes even creamy. The degree of blurring, however, also depends on the distance between the front element of the lens and the subject, the distance between the subject and the background. The out-of-focus highlights are round at F/1.8 but become hexagons with further closing of the aperture.

The longitudinal chromatic aberrations (colored halos in front of the focus point and in the background) are visible at F/1.8. The aberrations become lighter with further closing of the aperture and invisible from F/4.


Summary

In pursuit of the 1.4 models many photographers overlook this well designed and cheap Takumar. It is one of the most underrated Takumar lenses. On APS-C camera this lens is a good manual portrait prime lens which has a nice bokeh and a pretty fast aperture for that kind of genre.

Author of the review and photos: Evgeny Artemov, eugene.artemov@mail.ru

Comments:

Steve - 22.12.2014 в 06:39

A lot of good info here. Thanks

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