The Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4 lens was manufactured by Asahi (now Pentax) in the 1960s for SLRs cameras. Fast forward sixty years and this lens is now regarded for its character. Shot wide open at f/1.4 it provides a smooth background blur and subtle vignette swirl. Combined with the golden tint these lenses have developed from a thorium coating produces photographs like no other.
With modern digital cameras we control the white balance of our shots so the golden tint can easily be taken away. But the reason I and, judging by everything I’ve read on the internet, everyone else gets the Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4 these days is for that golden glow. When using this lens I found that autumn and sunrise colours took on a rich colour. Quite happily scenes shot at normal or low lighting had no visible tint.
Shot wide open at f/1.4 this lens gives a very ethereal look. The short depth of field combines with a vignetting swirl to add movement and takes the eye around the picture. Shoot at a cemetery, run the image through a gray scale filter, throw in a bit of grain, and the result you get is haunting.
And, of course, bokeh. Here with relatively close autumn leaves as light sources.
Here’s a shot across the Wellington Harbour with the street lights of Mt Victoria in the background.
The night-time performance of the lens is OK but really you’re relying on the capability of your camera body. I shot all of these photos handheld with the Sony a7rii. I also took the lens out a few times late at night with a tripod. Shooting longer exposures of lights around and across the harbour with a smaller aperture resulted in consistent colour fringing and chromatic aberrations; likely due to the design and coatings on this older lens.
Stopped down the lens is acceptably sharp. Fine focus throughout the frame, and the corners aren’t overly soft. A lens hood will help reduce flaring.
The Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4 is fun to shoot with. Wide open it shows a unique character which you’re just not going to see in modern lenses. Stopped down it delivers quality images and when you get used to the manual focusing makes it a fine every day lens.