Flower Shot With an Old Pentax Lens

Posted on 27th September 2017 by Admin under Adapted lens, Comment, Equipment, Location, Photograph

Yes, the blog has been a bit quiet recently.  There have been plenty of good intentions to write something.  Ideas mulled, even articles started, yet never coming to fruition.  Maybe inspiration was not quite there or, as has more often been the case, life intervenes.*  Luckily my livelihood does not depend on posting regular updates and I can write as a hobby.  Besides taking a break can recharge the batteries, as it were.

So here we are, another post started.  If you are reading this then you will know this is the one to have broken through the logjam.  My topic is one I have visited before, namely using adapted lenses.  Back in the days of film, I shot an Olympus OM for many years.  Eventually I switched to Canon when Olympus failed to adopt autofocus. There followed many years of using Canon, which included the switch from film to digital.  Nowadays, Fuji cameras are my usual choice.

I had, though, retained my OM gear.  Being manual focus, second hand value was never great.  I always wondered how the lenses, bought new at some expense, would compare to their modern counterparts.  After many years the opportunity finally came when I acquired a Fuji X-E2, which has various aids for manual focussing.  That was never especially easy using the optical viewfinders on most DSLRs.  Admittedly live view helps, but is not always convenient.  It has been the introduction of mirrorless cameras which has really revitalised the use of older manual focus lenses.  An increase in prices over recent years is testament to that.

True, with an APS-C sensor I do not use the full image circle of a lens intended for shooting 35mm film, but that is not an issue for me.  People using adapted lenses generally fall into one of two types.  Those who have an interest in how the lens performs technically or those who want to use the rendering characteristics as an integral part of the final image.  Modern lens designs are great at achieving sharpness, but on occasion something a bit less clinical can be preferable.  While I have an interest in performance, once evaluated I tend to use adapted lenses as part of my everyday photography.

“New” Lens

My latest acquisition is a mint Pentax K SMC 50mm f/1.4, which does not look as though it has had much use. The lens also came with its original leather case, which is immaculate.  It is the same optical design as the Super Takumar 50 f/1.4 with all metal construction and M42 mount.  That is the version designed for Spotmatic cameras and the one for which classic lens collectors will usually opt. Pentax introduced the K mount in 1975 and my example could date from any time since then.  The company does not publish details about manufacturing dates, but there have been several variations of the mount which is still current in AF guise.  Mine appears to be to be the earliest version, so my best guess is that it is around 35 years old.

Stopped down, the lens is very sharp from f/2.8 onwards, but performance at wide apertures is where the interest lies.  It remains sharp but can confer the subject with an ethereal quality.  Nailing focus at f/1.4 can be tricky at close distances when I will often prefer to shoot at f/2.  It helps that the extra depth of field benefits most subjects.  The compact Pentax has justifiably earned its place with my regular kit.  It is surprising how often it seems to find its way onto my camera.

Flowers As Subjects

Finding subjects which benefit from shallow focus can be tricky.  One of my uses is to isolate the background when doing family shots.  That is personal work, which I do not publish.   A lot of people resort to flower photography.  So why should I be any different?  I found this one during a recent trip to Sissinghurst, the gardens created and made famous by authors Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson. I was fortunate that conditions were overcast so there were no harsh shadows with which to contend.  Additionally, there was no wind so the flower remained still.  A useful consideration when focussing manually.  I have some shots at f/1.4 which are sharp, but I used a setting of f/2 for this one.

Unknown Flower

A flower shot taken at Sissinghust using a vintage Pentax lens
(Click on tyhe image for a larger version)


Admittedly my botanical knowledge is not that great.  I tend to lump anything with a bloom under the general category of being a “chrysanthemum”, but even I can tell this flower is not one of those.  That stated, I have yet to find out what it is, hence its working title is “Unknown Flower”.

* Interruptions to writing this article have included:

  • a call from my motor insurance company
  • a visit from the window cleaners, who turn up ad hoc every few weeks
  • contacting a company which should have made a delivery but failed to turn up
  • lunch
  • a cold caller wanting to speak to “Mr Emm”.


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