Monday, February 13, 2017

A Half Century Old Gem

A Review of the Asahi (Pentax) Super-Takumar 50mm f1.4

We all love surprise gifts but let’s face it, one of the best parts about being an adult is having the choice to buy what you want when you want it.  Unfortunately I have a limited budget so that 911 Turbo in burnt orange and tube framed rock crawler will just have to wait.  However when a fast, affordable vintage lens catches my eye, I get all wrapping paper and bow eyed.  While lust is never a good way to start a relationship, I have a feeling this one is going to last “till death do us part”.  
It should be no secret by now that I love the rendering of vintage lenses.  I’d been searching for a few months on eBay for a fast 50 to complete my vintage trifecta.  Over and over I kept coming across one lens, the Super-Takumar 50mm f1.4.  The lens has developed an almost cult following among the mirrorless camera crowd.  The Super-Tak is known for its rock solid build quality, painterly bokeh, and decent center sharpness wide open.  When an excellent condition model popped up on eBay, I bought it as a Christmas gift to myself.  
This is the second generation model, manufactured in 1967.  It has 7 glass elements in 6 groups with 6 aperture blades.  On the Fuji X-T1 this lens has the same field of view as a 76mm lens on a full frame 35mm camera.  I’ve really come to love the versatility of prime lenses in the 50mm - 90mm range.  I shoot this lens at f1.4 most of the time.  The depth of field is very narrow at f1.4 but thanks to the X-T1’s focusing aids, obtaining accurate focus is a relatively straightforward process.  The bokeh on this lens is fantastic, albeit it can be a bit busy at times.  The background just drifts away into an oil painting-like mush.  
The huge f1.4 aperture allows me to catch members of the naughty list in even the lowest of light.
Stop this lens down and everything begins to sharpen up quite nicely around f5.6.  By f8 this lens offers plenty of sharpness for nature shots.
Enough of this stopped down talk though, you don’t buy an f1.4 lens to stop it down.  This lens was made for wide open use.  “They” say you can’t shoot landscapes at a wide aperture, though I’ve never been one for rules.
Sharpness is good enough, one can’t expect clinical sharpness like Fuji’s own lens lineup from a 50 year old lens.  Though sharpness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Some portraits do well with a little softness.  
This lens renders colors in such a unique way.  They are rich and warm, which I really like.  The Super-Tak pairs nicely with the Fuji Velvia simulation and Classic Chrome +2 color.  Just like the famous Fuji film, Velvia is a great choice for landscape shots.  Classic Chrome +2 color offers nice contrast and accurate color rendition.  
In summary the Super-Takumar coupled with the Fuji X-Trans sensor is one sweet ecosystem.  Colors are warm and beautiful, the bokeh is incredible, and the build quality is excellent.  I have a feeling this lens is going to stay on my camera for quite a while.  If you’re thinking about investing in a vintage lens, make sure you consider the Super-Takumar.  Below are some examples.



- Joel


  1. Ahhhmazing! What great photos ;-) interesting lens shenanigans as well ;-)

  2. There might be something special about the lens. However, to truly capture such magnificent photos the photographer must know what he is doing. Clearly you do!! Magnificent pictures Joel. Always enjoyable.

  3. Thank you both! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  4. I recognize that foot must truly love the owner of that foot. :-) Also, photos are beautiful (even that dang foot!). - Jen

    1. Hey Jen,

      I sure do love the owner of that foot. She is quite a gal. Thanks for reading, I'm glad you enjoyed my photos.

      - Joel