Good, vintage wide-angle lenses are hard to find, so let’s take a look at this little Japanese jewel. The Asahi Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 3.5/28mm is part of the superb Takumar line. Seeing is believing, so check out the video for image and video samples!
The lens has a relatively simple 7 elements in 7 groups design with an all-metal body that feels compact, sturdy and high-quality. The Super-Multi-Coated variant was introduced in the early 1970s as the last model of this line. This lens is not radioactive unlike the Takumar 1.4/50 for example. Online prices range from 40-80$ depending on the condition. The M42 mount requires one of the ubiquitous adapters to mirrorless cameras that nearly double the size of this combo.
We have two cameras: an Olympus E-PL5 (m4/3) and a Fuji X-M1 (APS-C). Note that I do not have a full frame digital camera so corners will be cropped and we are looking mostly at center sharpness. The lens becomes a normal 42/56mm equivalent on these two cameras.
Check out my flickr set with this lens for full images. So what about resolution, contrast, colors and handling? Well, overall performance is very good and I do like the excellent color rendition in particular. Take a closer look at the following sample images (unedited jpgs).
Resolution is good at F3.5 and pretty high at F8 in particular towards the center. Maybe not as high as expensive modern wide-angles around the edges, but very serviceable for most uses. More importantly colors and contrast feel excellent and well balanced overall and give the images a well rounded analog feeling. Images look sharp with fine details but not artificially sharpened like many modern lens/camera combos do. Bokeh feels smooth and unobtrusive as much as you can expect from a F3.5 aperture lens. I am of the opinion that we humans perceive sharpness more in terms of contrast and color intensity than image resolution, so the images feel sharp to me, but you’ll be the judge.
Focus and aperture are manual and both rings run pretty smooth considering the age of this lens – overall excellent ergonomics. However, working with a manual lens can be a challenge if you are used to fast autofocus lenses.
This lens is also excellent for analog 35mm photography, so check out my article with Fuji Pro 400H film and this lens. This lens has a spring aperture and a corresponding A/M switch (only relevant on old native M42 cameras).
I didn’t find any specific weaknesses, maybe some user will decry the lack of a faster aperture or go for a modern autofocus lens instead.
In summary: this lens is a quality metal piece with good resolution, excellent contrast and colors at a reasonable price. A comparable alternative would be the Olympus OM 2.8/28mm.
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