Sears, Roebuck, and Company sold a lot of camera gear in its heyday, including lenses for popular 35mm SLRs. Several manufacturers produced lenses for Sears and it was manufacturer roulette when you bought one. But the prices were sure right compared to similar lenses from the major manufacturers, and so Sears sold a lot of lenses.
One such lens is the 80-200mm f/4 Sears Auto Zoom, which was available for the major bayonet lens mounts. The lens is marked as made in Korea; common speculation is that Samyang made it. I own two of this lens, both for the Pentax K mount; they came with K-mount SLR bodies I bought along the way. One of the lenses includes the mount pins that let the camera control the aperture, if it is equipped to do so, while the other does not. They are cosmetically the same except that strangely, the aperture-control-enabled lens is a fraction of an inch longer. I believe them to be optically identical.
This lens offers a couple of great features, led by its consistent f/4 maximum aperture across the zoom range. It also offers a 1:4 macro mode, which you select by twisting a ring next to the aperture ring. I own an 80-200mm f/4.5 SMC Pentax-M lens and it doesn’t offer macro mode! (See images from that lens here and here.)
This is a push-pull zoom. For a zoom range this large, that makes sense and it works well. The lens handles easily. It’s heavy, so mate it to a full-sized SLR body like the Pentax K1000 or, as I did, the similar Pentax KM. It would make a compact body like the Pentax ME hopelessly front heavy.
I had a roll of Fujicolor 200 in my Pentax KM with about 20 frames left. I mounted this big Sears lens (the one with the aperture-control pins) and took it on a photo walk through my neighborhood on a gray day just after autumn’s peak last year.
Even though it was cloudy, it was bright. The sky had a tendency to blow out and leak flare onto physical objects. Also, the lens didn’t do a great job of rendering fine detail, as in the leaves on these trees. When you look at these images at maximum resolution, you notice that the leaves all run together and look blobby.
The trees gave us a lot of red last autumn. It was remarkable. Yellow and orange are more common here. I like how in the image below there’s good separation between near and far.
I tried to find other colors on my walk, such as this blue playground. The details are more distinct in this image, and the lens rendered them well.
Not unexpectedly, it was a little challenging to avoid a little camera shake when I zoomed deeply. Everything about this image is a little soft thanks to shake.
Shooting in macro mode is always fun, at least for me. The lens yielded fine bokeh.
In this image, I was trying to capture the little logo in the middle of the blue band. That’s the logo of the town of Whitestown. Even though I live in Zionsville, neighboring Whitestown supplies water to my neighborhood. In this light, when I chose a wide aperture for good separation of foreground and background, the shutter speed I had to choose yielded a tissue-paper-thin in-focus patch. Natural human unsteadiness made the logo pass in and out of that patch. The logo is almost in focus here.
I’m not in love with this lens. It’s an okay, but not great, performer. When you nail focus, you get good sharpness. As already noted, it doesn’t always render fine details well. Color rendition is adequate. My 80-200 Pentax lens performs noticeably better. But the Pentax lens doesn’t offer macro mode, which I enjoy having on any lens.
I seldom shoot manual-focus zooms with ranges this wide. Really, I need keep only the 80-200mm Pentax zoom, given its superiority. But Sears zooms are essentially worthless on the used market. A quick check of eBay just now reveals that these lenses sell for as little as $5, but no more than $30. My experience selling aftermarket lenses says that I could list either of these for months without finding a buyer. Brand-name lenses like my 80-200 Pentax zoom sell much faster. As of the day I’m writing this, eBay has examples for $25-80.
I’m not sure what to do with my two 80-200mm Sears zooms. I need no more than one, and that’s only because of this lens’s macro mode. I would be perfectly happy to own zero. This isn’t a bad lens; its flaws are not fatal. But the 80-200mm Pentax zoom is so far superior that I will reach for one of these Sears lenses only when I can’t live without macro mode. That won’t be often enough to justify owning them. But these lenses are worth so little on the open market that it’s hardly worth the effort to sell them. What’s a man to do?
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