One of the kit lenses for Pentax screw-mount SLRs was a 55mm f/1.8 prime, of 6 elements in 5 groups. It was available for many years but evolved to take on semi-automatic and automatic diaphragms, different maximum apertures (f/22 or f/16), different lens-barrel cosmetics, different lens coatings, and (crucially) different metering abilities: none, stop-down, and open-aperture. When Pentax created its venerable K mount, it made one final version of this lens for that mount. All of them used the same basic optical design.
I own two versions of this lens, the SMC Takumar and SMC Pentax. Given their identical optical design and coating, they perform the same. Both lenses handle similarly: the aperture ring clicks with certainty, and the focus ring has enough heft for good control. The SMC Takumar version manages to be slightly shorter and slightly narrower than the SMC Pentax version.
These lenses are both plenty sharp and render plenty of detail, with no detectable (to my naked eye) aberrations, distortions, vignetting, or any other flaw. Both are capable of delicious bokeh. I especially enjoy how these lenses render color on every color film I’ve ever used with them: vibrant and true. Yet for some reason I’ve shot far more black-and-white film with these lenses!
I’ve used both lenses a ton, and I thought I’d share some of the best images I’ve made with them.
I bought my SMC Takumar version specifically to use with my Pentax Spotmatic F, a camera I bought from a trusted source after it had been part of a Pentax salesman’s demonstration kit. The body was pristine. SMC Takumar lenses can take advantage of the SPF’s open-aperture metering, yet still work on any screw-mount Pentax SLR body with whatever metering that body makes available. I’ve also shot this lens on a Pentax H3 and a Pentax ES II I once owned, as well as on a Pentax K10D DSLR I used to own (using an adapter).
My SMC Pentax version came with the Pentax KM that once belonged to my good friend Michael. The KM is the only “big” K-mount body I kept, but I’ve also shot this lens on the Pentax K1000 I used to own.
Pentax’s 50mm f/1.4 lenses get all the love. Even the 50mm f/1.7 lens in the SMC Pentax-M and Pentax-A lines get more press. But you will not fail with any 55mm f/1.8 Takumar or Pentax lens. If it’s the only normal prime you own for your Pentax SLR, you won’t advance your photography appreciably by buying one of those other lenses.
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