As I venture further into the world of photography I have developed a defining fascination of old lenses. They have a character that has been long lost in the production of clinical-looking perfect rendering glass for the ultra-modern digital cameras of today. What is super fun about my Fujifilm X-mount system, is that you can adapt almost any lens mount via an adapter. So possibilities to use these old lenses are nearly endless. For the old Pentax M42 screw-mount you can get a LOT of great glass for a very reasonable price. Cream of the crop are the old Takumar lenses, but also many old DDR and USSR lenses like Praktika, and Zeiss Jena lenses are really cool. I was fortunate enough to get a hold of a rare Fujinon 50mm f/1.4. It came attached to a Fujica ST705W, and I got it REALLY cheap. The lens was in excellent condition. No fungus or inter-elemental dust of any kind. Of course the white marking had been yellowed by wear and nicotine. I restored the outer elements of the lens using silkmatté spray car-finish and white+green acryllic paint for the markings. I now have a mint condition, 38 y.o. vintage lens for the bargain price of $50 (incl. the great Fujica ST705W, which I will make a little review of when I get some rolls of film developed and scanned)
I have bought a cheap adapter for the M42 to X mount on ebay, and the 50mm turns into a great 75mm FOV equivalent f/1.4 for my APS-C Fujifilm X-Pro1.
“They don’t build ‘em like they used to”
The build of this lens is FANTASTIC! It’s all metal and glass. It’s amazingly sturdy and the aperture ring clicks in great defined clicks. The focus ring is fluid in its turning and a joy to use. I have handled alot of lenses, and the feel of these vintage lenses simply cannot be matched by todays production standards, except maybe for the Leica lenses, and to some extent the Zeiss lenses. The era of plastic certainly isn’t doing anyone any favours in terms of durability and look & feel! I am simply amazed that I am using something from 1978 and it feels brand spanking new!
“Sharp is great, but so is softness and character”
So what makes this lens so great is its character. It seems that with the digital era came the pursuit and quest to get everything razor sharp, and noiseless. While great and practical, the results can often lack defining character. This is where I like the look and quirkyness of the old lenses. You get some unique looking shots, that you simply cannot achieve with modern day lenses. The Fujinon 50mm f/1.4 is quite soft when shot wide open. But stop it down to f/2 and it is rather sharp. However that wideopen softness gives it a dreamy look and feel to portraits. There is some chromatic aberration visible when shot in harsh sunlight, but if you attach a 3-stop ND filter everything looks great. The Bokeh is very pleasing. Soft and round out of focus specular highlights, and its not messy, but rather fluid and soft. For object separation this lens is fantastic. The soft dreamy look at f/1.4 is really essential to the shots that can be achieved with this lens. When you stop it down a few steps to f/2.8 you can get very sharp results. I prefer the soft look approach, since I would use a more modern lens if I wanted that super corrected sharpness. However, the possibility to achieve sharpness is definitely there. Color rendering is a pleasing warm colour. Colours are saturated and there is great blue/yellow separation. This must be due to great coating of the elements…..
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