BackgroundThe 135mm ƒ/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar (or the almost-identical older Super-Takumar) lens for M42 screw-mount cameras from Asahi Optical Company of Japan (more recently known as Pentax) is one of the great bargains for film photographers and some digital photographers.
The 135mm focal length was popular through much of the 20th century. Leica and Zeiss sold 135mm lenses starting in the 1930s, and during the single-lens-reflex boom of the 1960s, all the Japanese companies made 135 lenses for their respective cameras. Often that was the second lens a budding photographer bought, until the marketers convinced amateurs that they "needed" zoom lenses.
|Honeywell Pentax advertisement, Modern Photography, June 1968.|
M42 thread mountM42 refers to the thread-mount of 42×1 mm used to attach the lens to the camera body. This was a common size in the 1960s and 1970s, and European, Russian, and Japanese companies made hundreds of M42 lenses in various focal lengths. Many people consider Asahi Optical Company's lenses to be among the best optically and mechanically in that era. It is common to buy an old Takumar lens that will still operate perfectly, while a drastically more expensive Leica lens of similar age will likely have haze or film on the inner elements and need professional cleaning and re-lubrication. The Takumar lenses have a following among serious photographers today because they can be mounted on most mirrorless digital cameras. The M42 mount lost popularity in the 1970s because it was slow to exchange lenses, and companies like Nikon and Canon used faster bayonet mounts on their cameras.
The 35mm ƒ/3.5 Super-Takumar or SMC Takumar is another under-appreciated gem. I tested my bargain 35 around town and at the Tomato Place.
ProductionAsahi (or Pentax - the names are confusing) made a M42 135mm lens as early as 1957. It was modified over the following years with improved coatings and different cosmetics, but the optical formula remained approximately the same. The multi-coated version I have was, according to one source, in production from 1971 to 1977. It is a relatively simple design of 4 elements in 4 groups.
|Advertisement from Cambridge Camera Exchange, Popular Photography, January 1981, p. 164.|
|Advertisement from Cambridge Camera Exchange, Popular Photography, December 1985, p. 105.|
CoatingMy lens has the label "Super-Multi-Coated" on the front ring. This refers to multi-coating on the lens elements to reduce flare. Asahi introduced multi-coating in 1971 and advertised widely to emphasize how it was a unique technology. That is not entirely correct because other companies were already using multi-coating on specific elements in their optics. Asahi did not invent multi-coating, having bought patents from Optical Coatings Laboratories Inc. (OCLI), California. Regardless, Asahi's advertising was effective, and soon customers demanded multi-coating for all their lenses, whether they needed it or not. It tended to be most effective on complex wide angle lenses with many elements. On a simple long lens like the 135, multi-coating would have minimal benefit. Regardless, the best way to reduce flare is to always use a hood, and the 135 Takumar was supplied with a long deep hood.
Despite the obvious benefits of a hood, most point-and-shoot cameras of the 1980s and 1990s did not have any way to attach a hood for two reasons: 1. Users had been told that multi-coating negated the need for a hood (wrong); 2. casual users would not use them even if supplied (lazy).
|Humphreys Street, Itta Bena, Mississippi|
|Itta Bena, Mississippi|
|Webb Mississippi (Kodak BW400CN film)|
|Main Street, Webb, Mississippi|
|Farm fields, Rte 32 near Webb, Mississippi|