Takumar 50mm f1.4

This lens was stripped and cleaned some time ago. Although the outward condition is inferior, optically it is in first-class order. I have chosen to scan the negatives at a low resolution to see how the images look on the site.

As you can see lens is well worn:

Takumar 50mm f1.4: Ian Timothy

The close up reveals the condition of the lens: During the overhaul the optics were subjected to a 48 hour UV bath, and are now gin clear, without a hint of the yellowing associated with the thorium lenses. The UV bath removes the time related yellowing of glass containing thorium.

Pentax Issues:

I have eight screw thread Pentax cameras, and all have enjoyed full clean, lubrication and adjustment carried out by Eric at Pentax Repairs. He is an outstanding technician. However, I’m now coming across a fault with the Pentax’s. On two cameras the shutter curtains are beginning to show slight light leaks in very bright light. If I am to continue to use the Takumar lenses, I will consider purchasing a Voightlander Bessaflex TM – Or move over to Nikkormats and Contax for my 35mm work, and sell my extensive Pentax collection. This would be a sad move, as I have used SVs and S1a’s for many years. A compromise is to use the M42 to K Mount adapter: The image below shows the same 50mm mounted on an MV using the adapter:

Ok: We now have another issue to consider when choosing an analogue camera. Light leaks in the rubberised silk shutter curtains would make a repair expensive and in some cases impossible. It is interesting how something out of our control can force us to consider available options, even ones that overrule emotional attachment.

Film and Developer Choice:

For this test, I used FomaPan 100 developed in Ilford ID11 (20 degrees C for 9 minutes). This is a change from my usual developer: Rodinal. During the last six years, this classic developer has given me beautiful negatives when using FomaPan. And I have come to expect the sharp acutance (edge sharpness) of the grain using the Foma 100/Rodinal combination. ID11 does not give this ‘edge’ sharpness, of course one should not expect the ID11 to do so, it is a ‘solvent’ developer which smooths out the grain during processing.

The old tractor on Cromer beach is an indication of how a simple image can be full of information. It is for the viewer to realise the story being told. My thoughts are redundancy and end of service.

Takumar 50mm f1.4: Ian Timothy

Another tractor image: In fact, boring and without great interest: The Composition would benefit from a closer crop and a different angle. An important lesson is the negative is sharp, and a wet print would have more excellent resolution. The conclusion is low-resolution scans are not beneficial when assessing lenses for the internt; although low resolution scans are fine for reviewing composition. Low resolution scanning has a time advantage. The scan time is less than a minute at the low setting on Silverfast 8 software, usual scan time is three minutes per frame.

Takumar 50mm f1.4: Ian Timothy

The portrait composition of the Muir-Hill machine works reasonably well: although a second ‘square-on’ record would have been worthwhile. I had limited myself to one cassette of film for this day’s work, and therefore, one frame per subject was the rule.

Takumar 50mm f1.4: Ian Timothy

In this image, we see the tractors in use. It is a reasonable record of the scene. Unfortunately, it also betrays the shutter curtain’s deterioration. Look at the two white lines in the bottom left of the picture. This is extraneous exposure made while composing the image. My Weston Euromaster Meter indicated 1/500th at f11.0 for the correct exposure. So while the composition was being made with an open aperture, light seeped onto the emulsion. Look at the other images in this series, and there is no indication of curtain issues. Only when faced with extreme light does the rubberised cloth leak light and ruin the picture.

Takumar 50mm f1.4: Ian Timothy

We can see the ability of the fifty-five-year-old lens to resolve a sharp image in this capture. Consider the composition. The sea horizon is level and therefore the alignment is ok: the composition is mediocre and nothing more than a ‘snap-shot’. Many photographers make the mistake of ignoring horizons. Think about the way we see our world, it is with level horizons and (for example) squared walled buildings. When the inner-being suggests to the conscious mind: ‘there is something not quite right with this picture’ The background and ‘angled’ horizons often answers the question ‘why don’t I like this image?’ This is not a hard and fast rule, it is an important consideration in ‘open-framed’ pictures.

The final image is of the Russian cannon outside of Ely Cathedral. This image is all about exposure. The cannon is black, to show the gun as black, the technique is to under-expose the frame: this results in a less exposed cannon on the negative. When printed in the darkroom the thinner ‘under-exposed’ cannon is darker on the print. I closed the aperture by two stops to achieve this end. In the darkroom, I could give the cannon a little more exposure using the burning-in technique. Although I’m very keen on straight printing, which means getting the best negative possible. Straight printing is the process when prints are not manipulated during printing. One prints ‘straight’ from the negative to the paper. Good exposure technique helps with ‘straight-printing’.

Many photographers extol the virtues of print manipulation, indeed there are those who worship the so-called master printer. I have no interest in refining the print. If I desired amazing and easy to take monochrome images, I’d sell my collection and buy a Leica Monochrome!

Edward Weston dismissed photographers who used sloppy technique (straight printing), dodging and burning prints were an essential aspect of his final image. And there are many who follow his lead. Bresson liked his Leica and 50mm, Tri-X and f8.0. He felt the deal was composition, in fact, he did not develop or print most of his work, although he demanded excellence of printing. I go with Susan Sontag: in her book ‘On Photography’ : she comments that ‘straight’ printing is a valid photographic method.

In Conclusion:

The Takumar 50mm f1.4 is an excellent lens. All images in the article are exposed using small apertures and fast shutter speeds. So the full opening of f1.4 is not explored in the pictures. From experience, the glass is sharp wide open at the point of focus. It is excellent over most of the frame from f2.8 and loses the edge after f11.0. There is no point in taking a series of frames of one subject sequentially closing the aperture to demostrate the different ways the lens resolves the picture. My preference is to explore the lens’s capability in the real world.

When one is walking around with a camera and lens, you have immense control over exposure setting combinations. However, In the real world, when wandering, we are recording images and considering composition. My prefence in this instance is to set the apature to f8.0 and change the shutter speed to the suggestion made by the meter.

The principal requirement is to expose the film well. Use Sunny-16 or a light meter: and keep an eye on the settings. After the exposure is looked after: pre-visualise the picture and compose as best you can if you desire imagery with either a story to tell or visual impact. The process IS this simple.

  1. Keep an eye on the light: Refer to the meter often
  2. So, use the Sunny-16 rule AND light meter. Learn to see and understand light
  3. Adjust settings often – In this way you become used to light and camera adjustments. Eventually you’ll set exposure by intuition!
  4. Compose tightly and concentrate on focus
  5. One camera and two lenses can capture most images (added as an after thought!)

The images in this article struggle or fail to impress: all demonstrate compositional faults. When we have a ‘bad’ day not all is lost: By reviewing one’s compositions changes can be made. But remember one crucial point: We can never take and make a good image on every frame or on every outing. However, we can learn from every frame we take!

See You Soon

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