Why would Pentax decide to release a lens with a focal length of 55mm when the standard focal length for a body-lens pairing is 50mm at that time? That has been an unanswered question for me when I got my hands on this lens.
But then again, there is also the f2 version for 55mm, an even more unusual aperture choice, but that is a story for another time. So without further ado, here’s the full Takumar 55mm f1.8 review.
Table of Contents
Lens Build and Handling
I have reviewed a couple of Takumar lenses before, such as the 50mm f1.4 and 35mm f3.5, and one thing I can always say with confidence is that Takumar lenses are superbly built. Everything about them is almost perfect, and the 55mm is no exception. It’s small even though a little heavy for its size.
Although my copy of the lens does show its age with its banged-up paintwork, the lens still preserves its smooth turning for both focus and aperture rings.
One of my biggest pet peeves about M42 mount lenses, like this early Takumar lens, is that since the mount is a screw type, it tends to unscrew when you’re closing the aperture, and you didn’t properly lock the mount. Always remember to have the mount secured before using the lens.
My copy of 55mm has a coating on it (Super-Multi-Coated, to be exact), but like all old lenses, it really struggles to handle bright light. I used a large lens hood for the photo below; as you can see, it still exhibits some sun flare. I would suggest avoiding facing the sun altogether when using this lens unless you like less contrast in your photos.
Bokeh is quite pleasing. Wide open, I can see the lens renders the background smoothly even when there are so many objects filling the frame. Given that the widest aperture is only 1.8, it won’t give you the more creamy look of 1.4 and above. That’s not a bad thing, and it does give you an easier time to focus, as the depth of field distance is not that razor-thin.
However, shooting this Takumar wide open is not very sharp and riddled with bluish color fringing. I found out that stopping down to f2 or f2.8 leads to better results, but that also means it in low-light situations, the lens won’t give you any advantage over its wider aperture brethren.
The corners are not very sharp compared to the center of the frame, but that is to be expected. Not a dealbreaker; instead, it’s the essence of using old lenses.
When I first acquired Takumar 55mm f1.8, I wasn’t sure if I would like it. I was used to using a wider aperture of 50mm f1.4, so there were some questions about whether the lens would feel different at all. The extra 5mm focal length also does not differ much. It’s basically still the standard 50mm lens.
But this lens grew on me after I used it on a film camera body for a while. It goes without saying that I think film works best for this lens because film tends to hide the lens’s flaws, resulting in pleasing images, albeit imperfect.
On the other side, adapting it to digital bodies is also a good idea. I have never had a bad experience with Takumar lenses adapted to digital so far. They will perform well even for sensors with higher megapixels up to a point. If you already have other lenses of similar focal length, though, I wouldn’t recommend this lens unless you have a soft spot for vintage lenses.
Final score: 7/10