pentax and the best bokeh for the buck

Discussion in 'Pentax' started by niceparking, Oct 18, 2006.

  1. niceparking

    niceparking Guest

    I won't be getting rid of the old Nikon gear, as resale price isn't
    enough to bother with, frankly, at least not on the old manual lenses
    from the 80's and earlier. Pentax is on the cheap for the most part,
    too. I figure I can trickle $500 into it over several months, eat a
    little less sushi for lunch, and come out mostly even with a decent
    setup and a new if limited understanding of Pentax, Nikon, and bokeh in
    general, and more. Call it an exploration.
    niceparking, Oct 23, 2006
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  2. niceparking

    niceparking Guest

    I did say, to begin with, "either auto or manual focus." As to your
    pronoun problem, please refer to me as "he" if you'd care to.

    I do appreciate all of the advice I've received thus far, and I have no
    idea why you would say all of the excellent advice given here has been
    "so far for nothing." Even if I don't use it, presumably the great
    google groups archive will continue to serve it up for years to come.

    More specific to the advice you've given here, I am considering the K2,
    though the more I consider it I feel it is a bit older than what I want.
    niceparking, Oct 23, 2006
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  3. Hear! Hear!!

    Please post your impressions after a while...
    Chris Loffredo, Oct 23, 2006
  4. niceparking

    jeremy Guest

    If you are interested in technical specs for the SMC Takumar screwmount
    lenses, the data sheets can all be found at They represent
    all the lenses that Honeywell Pentax was marketing in the US up to 1975,
    when Asahi Optical switched over to the K-Mount.

    Many of the original K-Mount lenses were the same as the previous generation
    of screwmounts, just ported over to the later mount, so a lot of the
    information from the M42 lenses remains applicable to the first generation
    of K-Mount lenses.

    If you can live without spot metering and MLU, my personal favorite Pentax
    camera is the P3n (Black) or the P30t (Gray). They were originally
    characterized as the replacements for the K-1000.

    * Metered manual operation, plus aperture-preferred and program mode. (The
    original Pentax automatic models, the ES and the ES-II, allowed manual
    operation, but their meters turned off, making it necessary to carry a
    handheld meter for manual operation. The P3n/P30t can be used manually and
    their meters remain on.

    * LED meter interface, not the older needle-type. Less mechanical
    components that can fail or go out of calibration.

    * Sized almost identical to the Olympus OM-1, and weight was reduced
    substantially over that of the Spotmatic. Less mechanical components to get
    gummed up, too.

    * Asahi-Seiko electronic shutter with X synchronization speed of 1/100, up
    from 1/60 for the older, cloth shutter speed

    * Takes all K, M and A lenses. The "A" series exploits the
    aperture-preferred and program modes.

    * Auto-Flash mode with certain Pentax flashes. Synch speed automatically
    sets itself to 1/100 as soon as the flash is turned on, so you don't forget.
    Unlike previous Honeywell flash units, the Pentax units used regular AA
    cells. No problem using rechargeable ones. Honeywell units had to be
    serviced when their internal cells died out. I have three of them, and
    can't find anyplace to replace the dead NiCads. No such problem with the
    later Pentax flashes.

    * The 50mm "A" f/2 normal lens is still being manufactured today, is dirt
    cheap, and is tack sharp! Sells new for under $75.00!

    * Camera dies when batteries are exhausted, but the S76 cells are readily
    available and are cheap, unlike the RM400 mercury cells used in the
    Spotmatic/Spotmatic II. They are no longer produced, and users have to use
    various alternatives, none of which are quite as good as the original
    mercury cells.

    * No leather on camera body. Rubber has been used instead. Not prone to
    drying out or becoming detached.

    * DOF preview lever.

    * Auto DX-coding.

    * Electronic self-timer, great when taking shots on tripod to avoid camera
    shake when tripping shutter.

    * These models were purchased primarily by amateurs, and they are in
    plentiful supply on eBay, and are typically in excellent shape. I have 4 of
    them, and they all arrived in mint condition. Lots of folks shot only a
    roll or two per year, unlike professional camera models, which are often
    sold in beat-up condition.

    If you can do without auto winders these models allow you to fully exploit
    the A lens' capabilities (no autofocus--the A lenses were manual focus).
    You get fully manual operation if and when you want it. You get program
    mode and aperture priority when you prefer to spend your attention composing
    shots, rather than being sidetracked by exposure issues. Aperture priority
    gives you auto exposure while still allowing you to control depth-of-field
    because you set the aperture. This is just like the ES and ES-II models
    from back in the days of M42.

    If you are looking for an inexpensive and reliable body, I highly recommend
    these. With Pentax, it is the lens that makes the photo, not so much the
    camera. And these bodies have plenty of life in them, so you don't have to
    worry so much about mechanical component failure. The gears, springs and
    other mechanical components have been replaced with electronic ones, and I
    believe that the shutters are more accurate than the older cloth ones were.

    Be careful not to get the older "P3," because that model did not have
    aperture preferred auto operation, just program mode.

    I am reluctant to recommend screwmount bodies if they are to be used as
    shooters, because they're over 3 decades old and you run the risk of getting
    something that may not have a lot of life in it, or one that needs CLAs to
    free up thickened lubricants. You indicated you were on a budget, and the
    maintenance costs on older mechanical cameras make them less desirable for

    I am a big fan of normal lenses, and Pentax normal "A" lenses are plentiful
    and cheap. You can buy one of the models I listed above, along with a f/1.4
    or f/1.7 lens, for under $100.00. How much better than that can one get?
    AND, much of the gear is in near-mint condition, so you can expect to get a
    lot of use out of it, rather than just to acquire it for collectable value.

    You can always add other bodies later, but I have chosen to stay with the
    P3n/P30t, as they give me what I require.
    jeremy, Oct 23, 2006
  5. niceparking

    jeremy Guest

    Is that page still on the Internet?

    I am going to sun-bleach a couple of my 50mm lenses and see what happens. I
    don't like the idea of leaving the lenses uncovered for several weeks,
    jeremy, Oct 23, 2006
  6. niceparking

    Tony Polson Guest

    The yellowing is a result of using a specific heavy element in the
    glass to obtain a high refractive index. It yellows as it ages.

    However it is very easy to remove the yellowing by subjecting the lens
    to ultraviolet light. The easiest was is to leave the lens on a
    window sill in order for the ultraviolet component of sunlight to
    bleach it. However, anything more than gentle warmth tends to make
    the lubricating grease melt, causing problems with oil on the iris
    diaphragm and lens elements. So it is best to use a well ventilated
    window sill or a cold artificial source of UV light.
    The human eye cannot be compared directly to a camera lens because it
    has a very wide coverage at low resolution and a narrower coverage at
    high resolution. The angle of coverage of the low resolution compares
    to that of an 8mm fish eye lens on 35mm film. The angle of coverage of
    the high resolution compares to a short to medium telephoto lens.

    I recall a report in the long lost "SLR Camera" magazine back in the
    1970s about a test where people were asked what focal length gave a
    "natural" view comparable with the human eye. Apparently there was a
    consensus around ~70mm but I cannot recall the details.

    50mm is the "standard" focal length because 50mm lenses are cheaper to
    make than shorter or longer focal lengths and can more easily be made
    to perform extremely well at economic cost. There is no need to look
    for any further justification. Many photographers choose 35mm as their
    "standard" lens in any case.

    43mm is merely the diagonal of a 24x36mm film frame. It has no
    further relevance other than perhaps as an arbitrary starting point
    where shorter focal lengths can be called "short focus" or "wide
    angle" and longer focal lengths "long focus" or "telephoto".

    However, as with the 50mm focal length, a mystique seems to have
    developed that accords the 43mm focal length far more importance than
    it ever deserved, with Pentax even making a high quality 43mm "Limited
    Edition" lens for the Pentax KAF mount. Even the "Limited Edition" is
    a misnomer because it has been in production for some years.

    Tony Polson, Oct 23, 2006
  7. niceparking

    Tony Polson Guest


    I cannot hope to improve on anything Peter has said here, given his
    longer experience with the brand, but I will add a few comments where
    I can ...
    Also consider a 24mm lens. The 24mm f/3.5 K (also SMC Takumar) is a
    gem and the recent 24mm f/2 FA is a very fine lens indeed, with very
    low distortion and smooth bokeh - yes, the f/2 maximum aperture makes
    defocused backgrounds a distinct possibility!
    The later 35mm f/2 FA is probably the best of all, but the f/2 K and A
    versions are not far behind.
    Agreed on the 50mm f/1.4 A. Sublime bokeh - better than any Leica
    50mm though not nearly as sharp wide open as later Leica offerings.
    The 85mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar has a well-deserved reputation for fine
    sharpness and smooth bokeh and is one of the best Pentax portrait
    lenses ever made. Does the K version have the same formula? It seems
    to sell for much less.
    The 105mm f/2.8 Super-Takumar is a favourite of mine. I don't know if
    it ever made it to SMC Takumar or whether the K version is the same
    The 200mm f/4 M is probably the best of the non-macro 200mm lenses.
    Pentax zooms are generally not nearly as good as Pentax fixed focal
    length lenses but some exceptions deserve mention:

    The 28-70mm f/4 FA is a gem of a lens with excellent sharpness and
    good bokeh. Unfortunately it suffers from a balsam fault which causes
    a compound element to separate, after which the lens is junk. But a
    good one can be found very cheaply and will work very well until it

    The 35-105mm f/3.5 A is an outstanding performer. It is a varifocal
    rather than a true zoom but makes up for it with superb sharpness and
    bokeh of a sublime quality that is rarely found in zoom lenses. This
    is without doubt the best zoom lens I have ever used. It usually
    sells for high prices

    The 45-125mm f/4 seems to have its fans but I am not sure why. It is
    heavy and suffers from strong distortion - pincushion at the wide and
    barrel at the long end. The bokeh is mediocre and the sharpness is
    nothing special. Despite that it sells at high prices. The 35-105mm
    f/3.5 is a much better buy.

    I used the 70-210mm f/4 A with generally good results. It is a
    competent rather than outstanding lens. The 80-200mm f/2.8 is
    reputedly very good but I have not used it.
    As always, a word of warning with the LX. Its mirror damping system
    is very complex and it contains many rubber components that
    deteriorate. All LX models from the 1980s will either already have
    the dreaded "Sticky Mirror Syndrome" or will soon succumb to it. The
    repair is not difficult but it is expensive. Buy a camera that has
    already had the repair done by an experienced Pentax-trained
    technician, or budget for the repair.
    The MX suffers from a high failure rate of the flash trigger circuit.
    Anyone buying one should ensure that it fires a flash gun. Of course
    it can fail at any time and spare parts are no longer available. All
    LX parts are available until at least 2011 and that may be a better
    buy, although the MX has a strong following and I really like mine.
    Seconded! Let us know how it goes.

    Like you, I changed from Nikon to Pentax, mainly for the superior
    optical characteristics of Pentax glass.
    Tony Polson, Oct 23, 2006
  8. niceparking

    AAvK Guest

    Now I know... you're a male!
    It's that "OOF" thing and manual shooting... you know.
    Right, well, there's no reason to go from manual Nikon to manual Pentax. Unless
    it's your money and you'll do whatever you want.

    Nikon lenses are pretty much very desireable, and two CC's yellower for contrast,
    as I've been told by a pro seller one time at Del's. They are the "ness" of great.
    They are practically a cult (or, have been) and I envy you. I wouldn't dump 'em.

    And the OOF problem can only be covered by auto focus or a diopter. Nikon is
    fantastic with providing correction diopters. Personally, I do have the OOF
    problem as I need a diopter in my prescription, or I need auto focus. Currently,
    when I shoot I am pressing my glasses right up against the plastic frame of the
    viewfinder, it works, but yuck.

    But you couldn't pay ME to go from an F3 to a K2. Especially over OOF.

    So, my apologies,
    AAvK, Oct 23, 2006
  9. niceparking

    AAvK Guest

    Excellent info, thanks much for the reply.
    AAvK, Oct 23, 2006
  10. My old Pentax f1,4 50mm M series still seems to me a good lens
    (chuckle). But I find this all very interesting and would like to ask if
    anyone has any user experience about the old M-series 40mm f2,8 or the
    new Limited 43mm f1,9?

    Väinö Louekari
    Väinö Louekari, Oct 23, 2006
  11. niceparking

    Tony Polson Guest

    I used to own the 40mm f/2.8 M. It was reasonably sharp in the centre
    when stopped down to f/5.6 or f/8. Wide open, it was soft across the
    frame and the light fall-off was severe. The edges were soft at all
    apertures. Not a great lens, perhaps not even a good one, though the
    bokeh was smooth.

    The 43mm f/1.9 FA Limited is a very sharp lens, albeit with a little
    softness at the corners when wide open. Personally, I think the bokeh
    is harsh for a Pentax lens but others' opinions will differ. After
    testing the lens I decided not to buy one.
    Tony Polson, Oct 23, 2006
  12. Thank You.
    Still bothering You, considering that I have a M 35mm f2,8, M 50mm f1,4
    and a F 50mm f1,7 what would You consider worthwhile in the 35 - 50 (or
    say 85, I have a good 105) fixed focal length region?
    This is a friendly question.

    Väinö Louekari
    Väinö Louekari, Oct 23, 2006
  13. niceparking

    Bandicoot Guest

    What a good attitude - a shame more people don't think like that. Try
    something, learn from it, then decide what you like, rather than just follow
    the herd or buy from whoever has the biggest advertising budget that month.

    Here's to more exploration!

    Bandicoot, Oct 24, 2006
  14. niceparking

    Bandicoot Guest

    I've used both of these, as has Tony. Unlike Tony, I kept both of them
    (though the 40mm I got rather cheaply, and might not have kept if it cost
    what the 43mm does...)

    The 40mm f2.8 M's principal claim to fame is, of course, its tiny size.
    Some love this, others find it makes operating the focus and aperture rings
    awkward, so try before you buy. I wouldn't want to have to use one wearing
    gloves. The size makes it a very unobtrusive lens when used ona a small
    body, and I think it pairs very nicely with an MX in particular.

    The 40mm is not fabulously sharp - especially not compared to a Pentax 50 -
    but it is pretty good in the centre and good when stopped down. Bokeh is
    good. I like mine more as a B&W lens, and mostly for the sorts of people
    shots where interest is towards the centre of the frame. There is some
    fall-off wide open which also contributes to favouring this type of use.

    This is sort of what one might expect from a Tessar, though it clearly isn't
    a Tessar design (has an extra element on the front). The new 40mm f2.8 DA
    AL Limited has a very similar optical design, apart from the aspherical
    element(s). (The 50mm f4 macros - not the f2.8s - are the only Pentax
    standard lenses that really look remotely like a Tessar design to me.)

    The 40mm is also good if, say, I am expecting to use some other (usually
    longer) FL, as the 40mm can slip into a pocket and just be there if I find I
    need it. And I like the 40mm angle of view.

    This lens is often described by sellers as rare. In fact, it isn't all that
    uncommon, so don't over-pay for one.

    The 43mm f1.9 FA Limited is a very different animal. It is very sharp
    indeed, with lots of micro contrast, good coma correction, extraordinarily
    good flare control, and 'luxury' build quality. It doesn't, however, have
    quite as smooth and 'creamy' bokeh as one expects from a Pentax, and all
    that contrast may not always flatter. I wouldn't quite call it a Nikon in
    Pentax's clothing - but in visual 'style' it is maybe halfway between the
    'typical' Pentax and the 'typical' Nikon approach to which of the various
    compromises that are inevitable in lens design should be taken.

    The 43 is a seven element in six group design, looking very close to the
    f1.2 and f1.4 50s in design, from which it must be descended, but clearly it
    has been 'tweaked' to a slightly different set of design priorities.

    This issue of bokeh has led some who love the Pentax 50s to reject the 43mm.
    If I could only have one 'normal' lens it would be one of the 50s rather
    than this one. However, if I can have both, I value the fact that it is an
    alternative choice. In these days of computer aided lens design it is not
    that usual (in 35mm) to have a choice of such different visual styles within
    a single brand, and I value it.

    Specifically: if bokeh mattes to the shot, and especially if there are out
    of focus highlight areas, I'll use one of the 50s (or the 40mm) rahter than
    the 43. For people I'll prefer something other than the 43. For night
    scenes the 43s lack of flare and low coma make it the preference - ie.
    defocused highlights go for the 50, sharp highlights go for the 43. I also
    like the 43 in landscapes when it is stopped down for front to back
    sharpness: while at small apertures there is probably little if any
    differnece in sharpness between it and the 50s, I feel the way the 43
    handles contrast works well in this situation.

    But as with (almost) all my opinions on lenses, this is all based on my
    experience in shooting actual pictures, not carrying out tests. So it
    applies to my style and way of working, and may not be the same for someone

    Bandicoot, Oct 24, 2006
  15. niceparking

    jeremy Guest

    The 50mm f/2.0 is not all that much bigger, and it is easier to focus
    because the focusing ring is somewhat larger than on the 40mm.

    I was one of those people that felt uncomfortable using the 40mm because of
    its small size--plus it just looked strange mounted on the camera. I can't
    understand the fascination with it.

    Just gimme' a plain ole' normal lens and I'm a happy camper . . . In fact,
    the humble f/2 or f/1.7 will do just fine--no need for the f/1.4 or (Holy
    Moley!) the f/1.2. That's overkill.
    jeremy, Oct 24, 2006
  16. niceparking

    AAvK Guest

    I took a look at lens_specific images for that Asahi 50 F/2 "A" ( since
    it's a cheap lens, no one using it hardly cared to do any really fine focusing_to_
    genuine_sharpness with it. I also could see very clearly that the color rendition is
    less because the thing simply has less glass in it. My 50f/1.4 "M" gave better/deeper
    color rendition in images I shot, though I have not used the f/2 yet. And as it is so
    touted to be so sharp (which is why I bought it), I really think the f/1.4 M is quite
    awesomely sharp enough, with better color results. But not "quite" as good as a
    Canon 50 f/1.4 SSC breechlock.

    Let me ask, which is your absolute favorite Spotmatic body? Which was the best
    they ever made, in your opinion? I ask because of your experience.
    AAvK, Oct 24, 2006
  17. niceparking

    Tony Polson Guest

    The 35mm f/2 (any version), the 50mm f/1.4 (A or any later version)
    and the 85mm f/1.4 (any version) are all extremely good lenses with
    excellent sharpness and outstandingly smooth bokeh.

    It is worth reading Peter's (Bandicoot's) long and detailed reply to
    the original poster to learn more about the available choices. Peter
    has a lot more experience of Pentax lenses than I have, and his
    knowledge is vast. I currently use a mix of Leica and Carl Zeiss
    (Contax) lenses on a Canon EOS 5D. I still have some Pentax gear
    (MZ-3, MX and *ist D bodies and seven lenses) but it only ever gets
    used when the Canon body fails, which is a very rare event.
    Tony Polson, Oct 24, 2006
  18. niceparking

    niceparking Guest

    Thank you for the excellent and most informative post.
    niceparking, Oct 26, 2006
  19. niceparking

    niceparking Guest

    Not much of a selection on Ebay right now...KEH has some, but not the
    ones you name. Any place else I should look?
    niceparking, Oct 26, 2006
  20. niceparking

    Bandicoot Guest

    Well, I'm in the UK, so the places I'd look might be expensive for you once
    you allow for postage. eBay does turn things up with some regularity, so
    it's worth just keeping looking. Over here the online dealer I like best is
    Ffordes -

    Bandicoot, Oct 27, 2006
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