The undervalued, underappreciated 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens

Pentax made several manual-focus 50mm primes back in the day. I detailed the three 50mm SMC Pentax-M primes, f/1.4, f/1.7, and f/2, in this post. They offered a similar range in their later SMC Pentax-A line. They even offered a 50mm f/1.2 in their original SMC Pentax line in 1975. Because Pentax offered such a comprehensive set of fast 50mm glass, all of it very good, it’s easy to overlook the slowest of them, the f/2. For that matter, it’s easy to look down one’s nose at the f/2. But that’s a shame. The 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens is excellent. Under most circumstances that call for a 50mm prime, it is all the lens anyone needs.

Pentax ME

The 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M brings good sharpness and renders strong detail. In situations where depth of field is shallow, this lens is capable of beautiful separation and a smooth blurred-background effect. When I shoot it with consumer color-negative film, this lens imparts a warmth that the f/1.7 and f/1.4 lenses just don’t.

Here are some of my favorite photos I’ve made with the 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017
Pentax ME, Fujifilm Fujicolor 100
Pentax ME, Kodak Tri-X
Jeep light
Pentax K1000, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200
Pentax K10D (DSLR)
Stallard & Schuh
Pentax ME, Kentmere 100
Pentax ME, Kentmere 100
Shrubbery - Pentax Lens
Sears KR Super II, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200
Second Pres
Pentax ME, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200
Pentax ME, Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 at EI 200
Woman with flowers
Pentax ME SE, Agfa Agfacolor Vista 400 (long expired)

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16 responses to “The undervalued, underappreciated 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens”

  1. conspicari Avatar

    I picked up the SMC A version last year, it was attached to a Miranda MS2 camera and cost me £11.50p about $15.00 for both, it was cheaper than buying the lens on it’s own ! Was pleasantly surprised by both the camera and lens.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve had the same thing happen, where I pick up a lens attached to a body for the body price!

  2. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    I’ve got the 50mm Pentax M f/2 myself. All the 50 anyone ever needs. Small, sharp, and that great Pentax multi-coating. For the “look” of lenses, I’ve always been a Carl Zeiss fan, but Pentax runs a close second.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I bought the 50/1.4 version about ten years ago to get that extra stop in available light situations. Today I’d just push the film!

  3. brineb58 Avatar

    My ME Super came with a F2 and I love it … I pretty much shoot f8 or smaller anyway. Kinda the street philosophy of f8 and forget it, zone focus and bang!!!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Then that 50/2 is a good choice for you!

  4. jfbonnin Avatar

    I own a couple of these 50 / 2 lens, one (a Takumar on a Spotmatic) in M42-mount and the other in KA-mount (on a Chinon).
    Great lenses indeed.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I don’t think I knew there was a version for M42!

      1. Kodachromeguy Avatar

        I think JF made a mistake. The M42 Takumar lens would have been 55mm. (The f/1.4 lens is 50mm.) Some sources report that the M42 thread mount 55 f/2 has the same glass as the 55 f/1.8 but for unknown reasons only opens to f/2. Possibly this was a marketing ploy. Regardless, the Super- and SMC 55mm f/1.8 lenses are remarkable optics. Mine is a 1971 unit with Thorium glass.

        I’m surprised that the thread mount Pentax lenses are still so reasonably priced. I wonder when these will become the next fad and shoot up in price, as have so many other traditional camera brands?

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I have owned both the 55/1.8 and 55/2 but I didn’t study them both to know for sure! All of my Takumar glass is now SMC or Super-Multi-Coated as my one Spotmatic body is the F, which requires the SMC lenses for open-aperture metering. Those lenses have an extra pin, or something, for that purpose. I’m pretty sure the SMC Takumars contain no thorium.

  5. Gordon Lafleur Avatar
    Gordon Lafleur

    The Pentax Super Takumar 55f1.8 and f2 are exactly the same lens. If you look into one you will see that the f2 has an aperture disc that limits the maximum aperture slightly. It was sold with a “dumbed down” version of the body, that had shutter speeds only to 1/500 marked, but actually had the 1/1000 speed unmarked. They did this to be able to offer a slightly less expensive camera without cutting into the sales of the top of the line version. Before the Spotmatic, the S1a and SV were the offerings. The S1a, no self timer, speeds limited to 1/500, f2 lens. The SV got the f1.8, the self timer, and the 1/1000 marked speed. Subsequent Spotmatic versions basically did the same thing, the Spotmatic 500 was similarly stripped down with the f2.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks for filling in the history!

      Similarly: When I was a kid in the early 70s my grandfather bought me a TI-1200 calculator. Nobody had calculators in 1975 or whenever that was! It was a four-function calculator, which doesn’t seem fancy today, but then it was a big deal.

      The glue that held down the face plate gave way sometime in the 80s, revealing the membrane that the keys pressed to activate the numbers and functions. There was a membrane behind a blank spot on the faceplate — and pressing it activated a +/- function. The TI-1400, the next calculator up, had a +/- button. In short, the TI-1200 and the TI-1400 were the same calculator; the TI-1200 just had a faceplate lacking a certain button and was sold for less money!

  6. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    A great review, and the comments are really interesting this time – marketing spin does some really dishonest things at times, to drive up the price of products! My main system for 35mm is Contax, which was made by Yashica/Kyocera, and there was a similar choice of lenses from budget to premium. I have the Zeiss Planar 50mm f1.7, which sells on ebay for about half the price of the f1.4, and I just can’t justify the additional dollars for that small amount of additional light. The Yashica lenses are also very good.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I used to chase after the f/1.4 lenses. But then I started developing my own b/w film. When I realized I could push the film and compensate in development, I quit chasing after those faster lenses. An f/2 lens is more than enough when you can push something like Tri-X to 1600.

  7. Michael Abatemarco Avatar
    Michael Abatemarco

    Hello Jim. Wonderful photos! I used to have either the f/1.4 or f/1.7 for my K1000 (can’t remember which one for sure), but I busted it long ago. Today I bought the f/2 at a local shop where I live. Looking up info on it is how I came across your blog. I’m glad I did. Your thoughts and photos make me feel more confident that I made a good choice. Although I’ve had an SLR for many years, I only recently got into using it again. I have a Vivitar Macro Zoom lens on it now, but I’m slowly gathering some must-have items and I figured a good prime lens should be on the list. Thanks!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m pleased that you found my post to be useful! People unfairly look down on f/2 lenses. They’re plenty fast, and I don’t know of a 50/2 from a major manufacturer that’s anything less than excellent.

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