Photography

Shooting the 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax lens

I am wasting my time shooting any normal prime lens on my Pentax cameras other than this 55mm f/1.8. Just look at this! Such color, such sharpness, such sensitive detail! On workaday Kodak Gold 400 no less!

At Second Presbyterian Church

On the same day I photographed Second Presbyterian Church with a 28mm lens, I brought my Pentax K1000 with this 55mm f/1.8 lens too. While that 28mm lens really brought this giant church into the frame, this 55mm lens did a much better job of capturing the church’s detailed beauty.

At Second Presbyterian Church

That Kodak Gold 400 surely likes red. And this lens handles beautifully.

At Second Presbyterian Church

I took the K1000 and this lens to several favorite photographic haunts, including Juan Solomon Park. I’ve shot its colorful playground many times since it opened several years ago.

At Juan Solomon Park

There’s actually been a playground here since before I moved to Indy in the 1990s. The city just redid it from the ground up when they used this park site for a building that is part of an expansion of sewage services to this part of the city. The old playground was fine, but the new one is top flight. I especially love the colorful play surface of soft replaceable tiles.

At Juan Solomon Park

I also took the K1000 over to Broad Ripple one chilly day for a walk. I’ve photographed this unusual bridge railing many times. The bridge was built in 1906, but a couple years ago the railing was altered. The row of blocks below the links was added, I assume to increase the railing’s height for safety. The purist in me thinks this was a shame.

Rainbow Bridge

I just thought the painting on this dumpster enclosure was interesting.

Dumpster Enclosure

I usually shoot my 50/1.4 SMC Pentax-M lens on my K-mount cameras, but it doesn’t deliver the color or detail that 55/1.8 does. I’ll just admit it: I use that 50/1.4 partially because of that vaunted 1.4 number, as if it says something about me as a photographer. Nuts to it. I’ll let my work do the talking. And with this 55/1.8, I’ll definitely have something to say.

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22 thoughts on “Shooting the 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax lens

  1. Jim, I’m on the same page with you on this one, I loved the SMC Pentax 55/1.8, it was/is my favourite lens in K mount, and, like you I had an M 50/1.4 and it didn’t perform as well as the 55/1.8 so I sold it.

    It was the performance of this lens that ultimately led me to sell up all my K mount stuff, ironically.

    In the same way that the first K mount cameras like the KM were essentially a Spotmatic with a K mount instead M42, the SMC 55/1.8 and 55/2 were the Takumar equivalents with a K mount and slightly different body cosmetically. Optically they are the same.

    I figured that if my favourite K mount lens was identical in performance to one of my favourite M42 lenses – a Super-Takumar 55/1.8 – there was little point in having it, or indeed any K mount lens.

    Especially as the Super-Takumar has the all metal knurled focus ring that I prefer over the later S-M-C Takumar and SMC Takumar’s rubber grip. Just feels more classy and luxurious somehow, and looks more “vintage”.

    Shooting your K1000 with the SMC Pentax 55/1.8 is almost identical in experience (and will be literally identical in performance) to using a late Spotmatic (I have the F) with the Takumar 55/1.8. So again it made it a redundant combo for me, already having the Spotmatic F/ Tak 55/1.8 combo, and I sold it on.

    You can of course also use M42 lenses very easily on K mount bodies, with a simple adapter. So if you like the compactness of the M series, like the ME, ME Super etc, there’s the whole world of M42 to use with them.

    Anyway, as I said, I completely agree, in K mount it’s hard to look past that wonderful SMC 55/1.8 as a normal prime.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re not the first to bring up the SPF. I own an ES II already (and a 55/1.8 SMC Takumar). I like the ES II except for its prodigious battery appetite. So I’ve got my eyes open for an SPF.

      But I have a deep soft spot in my heart for K mount. It’s got to be because my first SLR experience was with a K1000. And now I’ve shot my Pentax ME so many times it feels like an extension of my hand. My book of photos from my Pentax ME is this close to being ready to go to press!

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      • I had the ES, what a beautiful beast! The lightmeter did work, but seemed a bit unreliable at times, so I mostly just used the mechanical speeds and Sunny 16.

        The Spotmatic F is now the only native M42 body I have, though I use my Contax and Canon EOS bodies with adapters and M42 lenses.

        For me the best thing with K mount is the combination of quality and size. An ME with an M series 50/1.7 or 50/2 is about as small as SLRs get, and it’s a fabulous combo to use.

        The first incarnation of K mount – the KM, KX, K1000 etc offered no real advantage in size or indeed anything else over M42 Spotmatics – it feels like Pentax were just stalling for time while they were developing their M series.

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        • That said, I do really like my KM. I got it from a friend whose dad bought it new, and it had been lovingly cared for. So it works flawlessly. It’s a joy to shoot. I’m sure an SPF would offer much the same experience, just in screw mount.

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  2. Christopher Smith says:

    Lovely photos Jim I have to agree it’s a great lens. I have the M42 version of this on a Spotmatic F and it produces some stunning colours even with a £1 roll of Agfa Vista 200 (Poundland) and very sharp too.

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  3. Heide says:

    You’ve made a compelling case for this lens, Jim! I’ve got to agree with you on that bridge: Although it makes an interesting photographic subject, the concrete-with-color treatment offends my inner purist, as well. But on the plus side, it’s unlikely that a photographer will topple over that railing by mistake, so it’s not all bad, I suppose …

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    • Here’s a photo of the bridge before the railings were reworked:

      Rainbow bridge

      I love how this has been painted in multiple colors, but not that the railing was sliced laterally and a row of cinderblocks inserted. I get it, safety had to be the reason this was done. But to alter a 1906 bridge in this way! Oy!

      I have a memory that before this paint scheme, the bridge was painted in a kaleidoscope of colors applied semi-randomly.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Some superb shots as ever Jim – The colours are indeed lovely.

    Annoying I’ve never shot with a Pentax – it’s always a make that’s managed to escape me – Your post wants me to try them even more!

    Cheers

    Stuart

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  5. Yup, like everyone else is saying, the 1.8/55 SMC Takumar is THE lens. It’s the reason I use the Spotmatics. The only reason I’d consider switching to K-mount is because the 1st generation K-mount lenses were optically identical to the Takumars. I did pick up a 1.8/55 and 3.5/28 just last year but I don’t think I’ll really make the switch to K-mount unless I happen upon a Pentax LX.

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  6. Jim, excellent shots with the 55mm f/1.8 SMC Tak, one of the all time classics and not so pricey either! I must have one in my drawer, thanks for reminding me of this great piece of glass.

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  7. Edwin P Paar says:

    On my 39th birthday I admitted that SLR’s were here to stay and bought myself the new Pentax K1000. I ended up with a number of Pentax lenses but not the 55 mm. Once again Jim you have led me into temptation. When I saw one cheap on Ebay I gave in. It arrived this morning and I tried it out on Panasonic G7. The results were all you claimed. Now I will try it on the K1000 which is still going strong after almost 39 years. Thanks for the tip.

    Peter in Savannah

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    • Nice that you have K adapter for your G7! I’d love to have a decent digital interchangeable-lens camera with adapters so I can try lenses fast like that.

      I’m so happy you enjoy the 55/1.8. It’s a gem!

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