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 1:2/35 is a manual full-frame fast wide-angle prime lens which exists in several incarnations:
- Super-Takumar (1963-1968) – has early version of multi-coating, allows to select manual or automatic aperture mode by a special switch on the housing. Minimum focusing distance of 0.45 m, weight 398 g, 70 mm filter thread;
- Super-Takumar (1968-1971) — MFD 0.40 m, weight 242 g and has 49 mm filter thread;
- Super-Multi-Coated (1971-1979) – multi-coated, allows metering without preliminary closing the diaphragm to shooting aperture. Other characteristics are the same of Super-Takumar’s (1968-1971).
- smc Pentax (1975-1977) – has the best build quality among the smc Pentax lenses and optically consists of 8 elements in 7 groups;
- smc Pentax-M (1977-1984) – the build quality is also very high but both the length and weight of the housing are slightly reduced. Optically consists of 7 elements in 7 groups;
- smc Pentax-A (1984-1989) – has fully automatic aperture which could be controlled from the camera. Other characteristics are the same of smc Pentax-M’s;
- smc Pentax-FA (1999-2004) – autofocus lens with new optical scheme which consists of 6 elements in 5 groups.
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 1:2/35 does not exist in such variation.
So, we have determined that our sample of Takumar 1:2/35 is the ultimate variation of Super-Takumar 35mm F/2 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» 53.5 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.
Build Quality and Characteristics
The build quality of the lens is great (in fact, this is pretty typical for the most lenses of the late 1960s) 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 242 g and a length of 58.5 mm (when focused on the infinity; not including the caps).
The manual focus ring has width of 23 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 not so big (approximately 135 degrees) but pretty sufficient to provide accurate focusing. The front element is pushed forward only by 4-5 mm when focusing on the minimum distance of 0.40 m. There is a distance scale and depth of field scale of course.
The aperture ring has the following markings: 2 — 2.8 — 4 — 5.6 — 8 — 11 — 16. There are half stops between F/2.8 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.
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 8 elements in 7 groups. The Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 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 do have noticeable yellow cast — a common characteristic of many Asahi Super-Takumar lenses. The shots at F/2 are noticeably yellowish:
The lens is a bit soft at F/2 at the center of the frame. The sharpness increases of course with the further closing of the aperture. Anyway the overall contrast remains very good even at F/2. The borders of the APS-C frame don’t lag behind the center of the frame (when shooting at the infinity).
Vignetting could be visible at F/2 at some shots even with APS-C sensor but it’s definitely not strong and looks like the slight darkening of the corners of the frame. Distortion is virtually invisible at APS-C sensor.
With significant closing of the aperture the lens exhibits sharp images all over the frame especially at F/8 where the lens perhaps shows its best.
The quality of the bokes is pretty good for the wide-angle lens. The background blur is neither pleasant nor nervous. It’s rather neutral. The depth of field at F/2 is not particulary narrow so you won’t get the impressive separation of the main subject from the background. The character of the blur is not the same at different apertures and in my opinion is the most pleasing at F/4-8 (which is rather late). 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/2 in the center of the frame but cut of at the borders of the APS-C frame due to mechanical vignetting. The out-of-focus highlights become hexagons from F/4.
The longitudinal chromatic aberrations (colored halos in front of the focus point and in the background) are visible at F/2-8 at the contrast transitions, water droplets, shiny metal surfaces etc — this is a usual flaw of the fast lenses, including modern ones. The CAs are decreased at F/4 and become invisible from F/5.6.
That the lens is prone to multicolored but not very intensive and big flares while the sun is located in any part of the frame.
All in all the Super-Takumar 1:2/35 could be considered as a good manual standard prime lens for the modern APS-C digital cameras. Besides it’s also a fast lens so you have the opportunity to experiment with the depth of field and bokeh (but don’t expect the impressive results as with 1.8 or 1.4 lenses) and shoot in such light conditions where you usually get boring and noisy images with your 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 kit lens. Plus the depth of field provided by this lens is not very narrow so you won’t miss the focus and the manual focusing ring is comfortable and accurate. You can easily take this lens on a trip and you’ll get the images which for sure will be reviewed by you far more than once.
Author of the review and photos: Evgeny Artemov, firstname.lastname@example.org