This lens was cleaned and repaired 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 this site.
As you can see lens is well worn:
The close up reveals how clean the lens is: It was completely stripped and overhauled. The optics were subjected to a 48 hour UV bath, and they are gin clear, without a hint of the yellowing associated with the thorium lenses.
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 think I’ll have to purchase a Voightlander Bessaflex TM – Or move over to Nikkormats and Contax for my 35mm work. This would be a sad move, as I have used SVs and S1a’s for many years. The other alternative is to use the M42 to K Mount adapter: The image below shows the same 50mm mounted on an MV:
Ok: So there is now another issue to consider in the world of analog camera choice. It is interesting how something out of our control can force us to find better 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 also a change from my usual developer. During the last six years, Rodinal has given me beautiful negatives when using FomaPan. And I have come to expect the sharp acutance (edge sharpness) of the grain using this combination. ID11 does not give this ‘edge’.
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.
Another tractor image: In fact, boring and without real interest: The Composition would benefit from a closer crop and a different angle. Now, the more important aspect 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 and have a place when reviewing composition. The scan time was about one minute at the low setting on Silverfast 8 software. Usually, the scan time is two to three minutes.
The landscape composition 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.
In this image, we see the tractors in use. It is a reasonable record of the scene. Unfortunately, it also betrays the shutter curtains age and its deterioration. Look at the two white lines in the bottom left of the picture. This is extraneous exposure made while composing the image. A Weston Euromaster Meter indicated 1/500th at f8.0 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 will the rubberised cloth leak light and ruin the picture.
We can see the ability of the fifty-five-year-old lens to resolve a sharp image in this capture. But, 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. If you consider how we see our world, it is with level horizons and square buildings. The inner-being says ‘there is something not quite right here’ when it reviews many images’. The background often answers the question.
The final image is of the Russian cannon outside of Ely Cathedral. This image is all about exposure. The canon 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. I closed the aperture by two stops to achieve this end. In the darkroom, I may 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 helps with ‘straight-printing’. Many photographers extol the virtues of print manipulation, indeed there are many who worship the so called master printer. I have no interest in refining the print. If I desired an amazing and easy to take monochrome image, I’d sell my collection and buy a Leica Monochrome!
Edward Weston dismissed photographers who used sloppy technique, 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. I go with Susan Sontag: in her book ‘On Photography’ she comments that ‘straight’ printing is a valid photographic method.
The Takumar 50mm f1.4 is an excellent lens. All images seen here 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 settings, if there is time to spare. However, In the real world, when wandering, we are recording images. In film work, the principal requirement is to expose the film well. When there is no image on the frame, there is nothing to work with in the darkroom! 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.
The images in this article struggle to do either! They demonstrate compositional faults. Not all is lost: only by looking at one’s compositions can changes 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