The Takumar series of lenses from Pentax generally get a superb reputation, and I’ve personally had a great experience with the 50mm f1.4. The subject of today’s post was produced in the 60s, and at f2 is one of the fastest 35mm lenses available in the M42 mount. It’s a beauty.
- Optical design: 8 elements in 7 groups
- Minimum focus distance: 45cm
- Filter thread: 67mm or 49mm
- Aperture range: f2-f16
- Mount: M42
- Auto lens: Has an automatic switch to enable easier focussing when shooting at smaller apertures on film bodies.
Clickless or not aperture?
There were two different models of this lens produced – one with a 67mm filter thread, and one with a 49mm filter thread. The 67mm model was the earlier of the two, and seems to get a better reputation online. By sheer luck I picked up a 67mm model, and so the info in this post relates to my experience with that, as I haven’t ever used one of the later 49mm models.
Build & Performance
The Takumar 35mm is a chunky lens, with a reassuring heft to it. The large front element of the 67mm version is particularly pleasing, and it has a yellow sheen. I believe part of this is due to the coating, but it could also be down to the infamous radioactive quality of some of the Takumar lenses. I’ve written about this a bit more in my Takumar 50mm f1.4 review, so I won’t repeat myself here… but safe to say I’m not too worried about any adverse effects. In any case I haven’t been able to work out whether or not the one I have has radioactive elements… and it seems like the only way to clear it up is to source a geiger counter. Does anybody have one I can borrow? Travelling back to Chernobyl to get my hands on one seems like overkill.
The Tak 35mm comes with an accompanying metal lens hood, which clamps onto the front of the lens. It is nicely made, but rather bizarrely, the way it attaches means that you can’t use the Takumar lens cap at the same time as the hood. I guess the logic at the time was that you wouldn’t need both, but ehhh… I can think of a few scenarios where it would be useful. Either way, I almost never use a lens hood, as I don’t like the added length – and in all honesty I’m not sure where the hood has gone to now. It’ll turn up one day, when I need it least.
Overall, the lens is solid, feels reliable, and (while this is obviously dependent on condition, as with all vintage lenses), has a beautifully smooth focus ring.
Like most (all?) of the Takumar lenses, the 35mm f2 is impressively sharp. Yes, that includes when shot wide open. Does that mean wall-to-wall sharpness at all edges of the frame? Who knows. Probably not, but what were you expecting? If you want that, buy a brand new Zeiss. From what I can gather from everyday use (i.e. not framing a person’s head in the bottom left corner at f2 and expecting it to be tack sharp at 500% magnification), the lens is sharp where and when it counts – more so than many lenses of its vintage.
One thing that I did find tricky was nailing the focus at f2 on a 35mm SLR when shooting a subject from a metre or two away. This obviously isn’t an issue with something like the Sony A7, where you can zoom in on the focus point to make sure you are bang on, but with film the desired point gets that much harder to spot at a distance. Of course, this isn’t a problem specific to the Takumar – but it is more likely given the wide angle and maximum aperture.
For whatever reason, I don’t often expect beautiful boken from lenses with a focal length of 35mm. In my mind, that’s reserved for the 50mms and above. However, this is a Takumar we’re talking about, and I really should have known better.
45cm min focus is nice. Going by the serial number on my copy, the Takumar guide suggests that it is one of the earliest models from around 1963. Given that, it’s in remarkably good condition.
The Takumar is a beautiful lens which feels great to use. In many ways, it ticks all of the boxes. Extremely sharp, beautiful bokeh, a solid build, fairly wide maximum aperture. It has this quiet confidence about it – as if you can rest assured that it will be able to tackle anything you throw at it with ease (within reason, obviously). It not only easily out-performs almost every M42 35mm lens out there, but also has more character than the otherwise technically superb (but kind of boring) CZJ Flektogon 35mm f2.4. It is a lens which I gladly shot with both on my Sony A7, and my various 35mm film SLRs – for portrait sessions and general use.
The one thing I am not crazy about is the sheer size of the thing. Whilst on one hand the bulk adds to the feeling of grandeur, it is also the biggest 35mm lens I’ve ever used by quite some margin. When mounted on a 35mm SLR it is a pretty sizable beast (akin to a Canon 24-70 f2.8), but on a digital camera, the additional adapter makes it positively unwieldy. When you have such a large lens for such a ‘standard’ wide focal length, the two don’t quite marry up in my head very easily – as its size seems more suited to a zoom. Despite using it a fair bit, I’d really have to think about whether or not I wanted the Takumar 35mm in my bag for a shoot – as it takes up a fair bit of bag real estate.
If the only thing I can find to complain about is the size though, then that kind of says it all. The truth is, in any situation where I am likely to shoot an SLR, I’m probably not all that concerned about the weight of the lenses I have to carry – and in practice it’s been a superb addition to my lens collection.
Cost and Availability
These lenses aren’t necessarily difficult to find, but they also aren’t especially common. The earlier ‘fat’ 67mm version in particular comes up for sale less often, and fetches a higher price. Expect to pay about £150 for the 49mm model, and over £200 for the 67mm. Be careful not to get confused with the 35mm f2.3 lens, which is different.
Below is a selection of pictures I’ve taken using the Takumar 35mm f2… shot both on film and digital. Camera wise they were taken on a Spotmatic (SPF or SP500), or a Sony A7.