Help a newbie, please.


Link Posted 06/05/2015 - 21:50
Hello, all.
I've got a new/recent case of GAS. I've just been tremendously inspired by some photographs i've found, shot on M42 Takumar glass. I'd like to acquire one of these lenses, but i have no Pentax platform for it.

I've previously had Pentax 67s on a couple of occasions, but have no experience with the 35mm side of things, aside from a friend's K1000 in a high school yearbook class. Hoping not to offend anyone, i'll say that i did not like the K1000 at the time, feeling it felt 'primitive.' But, this was the 80s, and i was more interested in high tech stuff (for that era).

But now that i'm in my 40s, and not enjoying the digital era, i find a great deal of appeal in the 'old stuff.' In my 30s, i spent a ton of money on Leicas (SLRs and Ms) and new and vintage glass, and i have very little to show for it. More recently, i found that i really love results from a cheap Nikon 50/1.8 series E, on a Nikon FE2 or FG.... Which leads me to my current situation and a bunch of questions.

I've been trying to figure out how the whole 'metering thing' works with M42/screwmount lenses. What i really want is a compact-ish, solid (+pretty) body, that works quickly and efficiently. I'm not sure how the whole 'meter switch' thing works. I really want to shoot in aperture priority almost all the time. It would be great if the camera had an AE lock, as i never use compensation dials. I'd love to be able to meter, hold the setting and recompose on occasion, but that's a luxury, i'm assuming.

Other info: I am primarily interested in photographing people. Not necessarily 'street' style, though. So, i need something where i can shoot at wide apertures, nail focus with shallow DOF, and not fiddle with having to meter + stop down a lens after i've already focused on an impatient subject. Maybe this makes sense? Maybe not, as i have the feeling i really don't understand how these cameras work.

So, with something like a Spotmatic or ES II, what's the operating procedure? Did i state it correctly above? Focus, without knowing what the settings are going to be; then activate a switch on the left side of the mount; see the meter reading, adjust the aperture until it's 'good' then unswitch and then shoot? I'm not understanding how that can all be done quickly. Is there a better way to work if you meter first, then dial in the settings manually? If so, is the lens going to be open for focusing automatically, and then automatically stop down as i click the shutter release?

What if i really only want to shoot at apertures of 1.4 - 2.8? Is there a way to just have the lens close normally as i adjust between those apertures, because the viewfinder would already still be bright enough to focus? And, that way, i'd not have to deal with the switch? Or, i'm guessing the switch is needed for all metering operations? Or, does it depend on the camera model? I'm assuming the Super Takumar (50mm)'s pin on the mount side is for actuating the aperture when it's needed, and maybe different camera models utilize that pin differently?

Sorry for the rambling. Can anyone suggest a camera for me? Aside from something like a Chinon, i haven't read about any Pentax bodies that will work the way i'm used to. Finally, what if i used something like an MX, with an adapter to the M42 lens? If i did that, would the lens always just open to whatever aperture i have set, and the camera's meter would work in Aperture Priority? I'd just have to deal with the natural darkening of the viewfinder as i used smaller and smaller apertures? Again, if i shot at 1.4 - 2.8, would i have problems focusing that way?

Phew. Thanks in advance for your advice.


Link Posted 06/05/2015 - 22:47
To be fair, I'll bet you've learned a bit about photography since the 1980s, when you must have been in your teens. The Pentax 67 and the Pentax 35mm SLRs all work in similar ways. Manual cameras will never be the fastest way to do street photography, unless you preset the distance and exposure and just shoot. This might well work, but with apertures of f/1.4 the focusing would be a bit critical. Try f/8 (marked in red on the aperture scale) and set the distance in the same way, there's a red setting.

This "snapshot" setting is available on many Pentax wide angle manual focus lenses.
Best regards, John


Link Posted 07/05/2015 - 11:57
You are right about activating a swich on an original M42 mount body. An MX will have a K mount which only takes M42's using an adaptor and there is no mechanical linkage between the camera and lens so the lens must be stopped down manually to get accurate metering before shooting. The same applies to any variation of K mount camera with an M42 attached.



Link Posted 07/05/2015 - 12:35
With the ES and ESII you don't need to use the switch as they will meter at open aperture provided you are using Super-Multi-Coated Takumar lenses, not the earlier Super- or Auto-Taks. The meter on them is surprisingly accurate. The downside is that the electronics are now 40 years old and not that reliable. The Spotmatic F also meters at open aperture but is manual only. The Spotmatic II will require you to slide up the button on the side of the lens mount to meter. It drops back down when you take the photo. So the procedure is focus, push up button and adjust exposure, shoot.

Very few Pentax film bodies have AE-L. None of the M42 mount cameras do. The first was the K2DMD but although that camera was the top of the range at the time, the design of the ISO dial was flawed and they are a bit of a pain to use. Even the mighty LX doesn't have one. It is only when you get into Pentax's "butt ugly" phase that it becomes more common.

An alternative is to look at the K-series lenses. Some of these are Tak designs with a k-mount. I'm personally addicted to them... Then you can use any Pentax K-mount camera. With later models with "crippled" mounts they are a bit more fiddly. If you want Av mode, however, the ME Super is as cheap as chips, or the Super A.

If you are wedded to Taks, you can get a M42->k mount adapter. The genuine thing is expensive for what it is, but I'd recommend them. On cameras with Av mode, just set it to Av, focus wide open, then slowly close the aperture until you get the shutter speed/DoF you want. If you are shooting wide open, just focus and shoot. Some people semi-permanently attach the adapter to the lens with a bit of locktite or similar to save fiddling around during lens changes.

Hope this helps. Kris.
Kris Lockyear
It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart and head. Henri Cartier-Bresson
Lots of film bodies, a couple of digital ones, too many lenses (mainly older glass) and a Horseman LE 5x4.

My website



Link Posted 07/05/2015 - 20:08
Thanks, all. Tremendously helpful. Seems to confirm my suspicions on most accounts.

But, maybe it was all for naught. I just corresponded with a photographer who's images partially inspired this sudden lust, and he says his lens is NOT an M42. It's 'just' a K-mount SMC. I initially thought that was good news, but when i look at the prices for bodies and lenses, they're higher than i expected.... So, i may just sit this one out and use the Canon or Nikons i already have. Unless i run into a nice sample of the Memotron, in which case i might still be interested in the old, metal 7-element Super Takumar, just for the feel. Otherwise, an A-SMC 50/1.4 with an LX looks like a nice bit of kit, but i can't justify the spend at the moment.


Link Posted 08/05/2015 - 00:51
It would be well worth looking at a Pentax P30. It won't take Takumars without an adapter- it uses the A series lenses which are just as good and will do exactly what is asked for in the original post. Set the camera on Av ("auto" on its one dial) set the aperture on the lens, focus and shoot. Alternately, you can use it as a full manual job if you want.

This is a mega maligned camera simply because they styled it with a plasticky look. It's wonderful to hold and use, it gives first class results - and you can pick them up for peanuts on E bay. There are loads of lenses available at bargain prices (you can get a superb 50mm f2 for next to nothing).
Both the *istDS and the K5 are incurably addicted to old glass

My page on Photocrowd - link


Link Posted 08/05/2015 - 03:58
Thanks, David. After all this, i think i've decided to go with the LX and the A-50/1.4.

I appreciate the P30 recommendation. Interesting comment, about it being maligned because of its appearance. Sorta goes back to Kris/"womble's" comment earlier in the thread, about Pentax designs being "butt ugly." I've felt that way for a while — not sure what's up with their designers. I 'dealt with' a Pentax 67II and Pentax 67 for a while. Not gorgeous cameras, but they were 'the standard' in the format/for the purpose at the time. But, jeez, Pentax puts out some bizarre and hideous stuff, on a frequent basis.... The P30, though — that's not so bad. Not good, but i could cope if i can't get an LX. The older, classically-styled Pentaxes are kinda nice.


Link Posted 08/05/2015 - 04:42
Just minutes later.... I did, indeed, buy the LX. Ebay.

So, now i need the 50/1.4 to go with it, and i'm not sure what to do. There's an SMC (K), which seems like it's the first K mount version; then an M, then an A.

From what i've been reading, the A is supposed to be sharper than the M, but not as well-built. And, there isn't much written about the earlier K.

Thoughts? I'm not really concerned about the size, although smaller would be better. Not a factor in the decision, though. I'm most interested in f1.4 performance, and bokeh. I have a feeling that with the film/developer i'm going to use Tri-X/HP5 and Rodinal, sharpness and bokeh are both going to be indistinguishable no matter which version i go with, but i still have to ask, in case i get the urge to run some Portra 160 or Ektar....


Link Posted 08/05/2015 - 08:22
The characteristics of the K series lens are likely to be adifferent from the M and A series. The latter two should be the same.

The original K lenses were mostly bayonet versions of the SMC Takumar screw thread lenses. These would exhibit maximum resolution around f/8 - f/11, where quality could be quite staggering. Wide open they will show sharpness but the reproduction will be softer.

The M and A series follow a new trend of wanting better wide open performance, sometimes at the expense of slightly lower optimum resolution. The peak of the performance will also be reached earlier, perhaps f/4 - f/5.6. These may also show higher contrast.

Hope that helps!
Best regards, John



Link Posted 08/05/2015 - 08:42
That's good stuff, John I was thinking the K might be a little bit closer to a 'vintage' rendering, as I originally was interested in an 8-element Super Takumar, but I recognize that that probably is at odds with the purpose just stated.

So, now, between the A and the M....


Link Posted 08/05/2015 - 08:59
CKDexterHaven wrote:
So, now, between the A and the M....

A is more convenient, M doesn't support any program modes, just manual and aperture priority.


Link Posted 08/05/2015 - 10:25
I've never used Program Mode on any camera. Just Aperture Priority.
I've read that the A is made of cheaper-feeling materials. Is that not really an issue?
Also that the M is more solid, but not as sharp.... Compromises.... But which?


Link Posted 08/05/2015 - 11:01
CKDexterHaven wrote:
I've never used Program Mode on any camera. Just Aperture Priority.
I've read that the A is made of cheaper-feeling materials. Is that not really an issue?
Also that the M is more solid, but not as sharp.... Compromises.... But which?

If it's for an LX I'd go for an M - cheaper (A series attract digital buyers), better built (more metal) and no risk of the aperture accidentally moving into 'A' - it's also the original 'mainstream' standard lens for the LX (excepting the 'specials' with the 50/1.2). The M 50/1.7 is probably sharper though if f/1.4 isn't critical.

PPG Flickr


Link Posted 08/05/2015 - 21:22
Okay. It's done. Found an A for very close to the same price as the M.

Thanks to everyone for the advice. I hope it all works out so i can eventually contribute to this very helpful forum.
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