55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar and 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax

55mm f/1.8 optical design, courtesy Pentax Forums

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).

Old Point Tavern
Pentax ES II, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, Kodak Ektar 100, 2015
Pentax Spotmatic F, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, Foma Fomapan 400, HC-110 Dilution B, 2021
Pentax Spotmatic F, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, Ultrafine Extreme 400, HC-110 Dilution B, 2022
In the vinyl village
Pentax H3, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, Agfa Vista 200, 2018
Piloting the Buick
Pentax Spotmatic F, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, Kodak Plus-X, 2017
Augusta Station
Pentax ES II, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, Arista Premium 400, 2015
Pentax K10D, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, 2017
Ol' propeller nose
Pentax Spotmatic F, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, Kodak Plus-X, 2017
Pentax H3, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, Agfa Vista 200, 2018

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 KM, Fujicolor 200, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, 2012
Shiny dog
Pentax KM, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, Kodak T-Max 400, 2012
Carrying a jug
Pentax KM, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, Kodak T-Max 400, 2013
Damion at the piano
Pentax KM, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, Kodak T-Max 400, 2018
At Second Presbyterian Church
Pentax K1000, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, Kodak Gold 400, 2017
Ham radio club
Pentax KM, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, Kodak T-Max 400, 2018
Pentax KM, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, Ferrania P30 Alpha, 2017

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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26 responses to “55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar and 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    For some reason, I always end up with the 50mm f/2…..

    1. P Avatar

      My understanding is the f/2 is identical optically to the f/1.8. The only difference is it lacks the ability to open up that last fraction of a stop. I have an f/2 version and it’s an exceptional lens. Honestly, all screw-mount Takumars are superb.

      1. Jim Grey Avatar

        I’ve heard that too, that the 55/2 is just aperture-limited over the 55/1.8.

        1. Andy Umbo Avatar
          Andy Umbo

          Guys, I have a 50mm f/2, and not a 55mm, so don’t really know much about it, except the result seems Ok…I have heard the 55mm is superior in any configuration…

          1. P Avatar

            Oops. Sorry, Andy. I misread your original comment. Well, I have a 50mm f/2 also (as well as a 50mm f/1.4). I think the 50/2 I have is of the S-M-C variety (and the 50/1.4 is a Super-Takumar). It’s a nice lens. That said, I think there were some optical differences between the various 50mm Takumars. I don’t think the 50mm f/2 is optically identical to any of the 50mm f1.8 or f/1.4 lenses, but I could be wrong. I know there are at least two optical designs of the f/1.4. Regardless, Takumars are Takumars; they’re all good. Honestly, between the several nifty fifty Takumars I have and the several nifty fifty Rokkors I’ve got, to go with my Spotmatics and SRTs, respectively, I never feel like I’m under-equipped. Pentax and Minolta both made very nice lenses in the 70s and 80s.

            1. Andy Umbo Avatar
              Andy Umbo

              I’m with you P, I have a Spotty with basically all non-multi-coated screw mount Pentax lenses, and they are all pretty fine. I have both a 28mm f/3.5 and a 35mm f/3.5 which people virtually gave me since they were “slow” and no one wanted them, cause they were single coated; and I swear they are sharper and have a nicer “look” than any of the lenses I’ve owned in that size with the possible exception of the Carl Zeiss stuff I had when I shot Contax in the 80’s.

          2. Kodachromeguy Avatar

            Is your 50mm f/2 a Pentax lens? I never heard of this one and the Pentaxforums list does not show it.


            1. Andy Umbo Avatar
              Andy Umbo

              Kodachromeguy, I stand corrected! After your entry, I went back and looked at the lens, and some how, a K series Pentax lens made it into my screw mount Pentax storage tub! Since I rarely use the 50mm (my “normal” is 35mm, then I usually go right up to 85mm), I must have got this with some other screw mount items, put it in the tub, and never looked to see if it was screw mount as well!

            2. P Avatar

              I, too, was a bit confused there… I was thinking my 50mm f/2 was M42, but indeed it is clearly K-mount as it’s attached to my Chinon CM-4 (sadly neither has been used in many years). Yep… Sorry for any confusion. This is the 50/2 I have:


    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve owned the Super-Tak version of the 55/2. It’s a fine lens. It’s just as useful as the 55/1.8 in the majority of circumstances.

    3. Kodachromeguy Avatar

      Vivitar and other companies offered M42 50mm lenses.


      It’s a mystery to decipher who made some of these lenses. They are probably pretty decent quality, but with so many of the genuine Takumar lenses still available, I’m not sure who would seek out the off brands. I’ve read the Sears 1.4 is especially good. And the 55mm 1.2 fetches serious $$ now.

  2. Lyn Whiston Avatar
    Lyn Whiston

    I have the 55mm f/1.8 Super Takumar and it’s all you say it is. I also have the 17mm f/4 fisheye which I’ve adapted to all my various SLR brands. It’s a fun ens! Somehow I never got into the K mount Pentaxes.

    1. Andy Umbo Avatar
      Andy Umbo

      I had a 17 f/4 back in the 80’s, and it was exceptional!

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh fun. I’ve seen photos of the 17mm fisheye. If I ever come upon one cheap I’ll bite just to experience it.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        Technically, as I recall, my 17mm screw mount was a non-rectilinear, super wide angle. And I remember it being quite sharp! It covered the whole frame. I think in terms of the nomenclature of the day, it was not a fish-eye, a fish-eye was a hyper wide angle lens that had either an entirely round image on the film, or at least rounded sides. Hence the “fish-eye”. It seems the internet in rife with examples of calling full frame wide angles, “fish-eyes”, which is not accurate.

  3. sonny rosenberg Avatar

    Nice shots here Jim! I love my SMC Takumars and Super Takumar, other than the open aperture metering, I can’t discern much difference from the improved models.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      These are really good lenses. You can go a long way with a Spotmatic and a smattering of Takumars.

  4. Kurt Ingham Avatar

    There are so many superb 50mm lenses.And if you use f4.5 and smalller…My opinion is that a f1.4 SMCT is the best combination of value and performance. I use- f2 Summicron, 58mm f1.4 Topcon and I’ve had fabulous results from any of the f1.2 Nikkors- all on Sony or M4/3 digital. But there are lots of others I could use quite happily

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      A 50/1.4 SMCT is on my SP II. It’s a terrific lens as well. But for the work I do, if I didn’t have it, I’d never miss it because I have the 55/1.8.

  5. Kurt Ingham Avatar

    Also-condition is mare important than many realize. A thorough clean and correct assembly are crucial for what are now pretty old objects

  6. Kodachromeguy Avatar

    These 6-element 55mm ƒ/1.8 Takumars were amazingly good lenses, a testament to Japanese production skills and quality control in the 1960s – 1970s. Think of Summicron quality at a drastically lower price.

    The formula did change over the years. My wife’s 1971 55mm Super-Takumar has at least one thorium element. I cleared the tobacco color with a UV lamp. My later 55mm SMC Takumar is still clear, so it used different glass. I think the 1971 Super is just marginally higher resolution (but it would be hard to ever demonstrate this).


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes, from edition to edition details of the construction did change. It would be interesting to compare the entire series of this lens in controlled conditions.

  7. Don Avatar

    The 55mm 1.8 is my favorite Pentax lens, and my go-to for street photography. I really don’t understand why it’s so underrated.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      People get star crossed for 50/1.4s. But for most jobs, 1.8 or 2.0 is just fine!

  8. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Serendipitous craziness! Right after all the comments above, I went to my local custom coffee shop / beer brewer, owned by two x-photographers that realized what a financially unrewarding business photography was, so they got into that business. One of them was showing me a Nikonos V he bought for literally nothing, with a box of stuff, and said there was one Pentax lens in there, which he gave me for nothing! Turned out to be a mint condition, Super Tak, single coated 55mm f/1.8 618xxxx screw mount! Complete with as new caps! So now I guess I do own one….

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      How awesome is that!

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