What lens to buy?

It is a very difficult question to answer, but it is asked very often. Thus, this page was intended to collect some personal (and more or less objective, where available) opinions about different screw mount lenses. Let's see what happened with this ...

New Lens

Russians are still made an extensive range of screw mount lens. A comprehensive list is available at Kalimex home page. (I never bought anything from them and have no idea how reliable they are).
There are mixed responses to the quality of the Russian made lens. Some think that the optics is good and some have rather different opinion.
I used four of their lenses:
16/2.8 MC Zenitar Fish Eye - compact, well made and seems to deliver very good results.
20/3.5 MC Mir - somewhat stiff at focusing (not that I don't use a focus of this lens very much, mostly set it to the hyper focal distance) and their wide front element seems to have an ability attract sun flare. But I suspect that I just need to take more care taking photographs with it.
85/2 MC Jupiter-9 preset screw - if you are ready to work with the preset diaphragm lens they are capable to deliver very good results. I used them wide open to shoot portraits and liked the photographs very much. It seems to be slightly less contrasty than my 85/1.8 SMC Takumar and may be just a bit less sharp, but not to the degree that I would care.
500/5.6 Rubinar Macro Mirror - very heavy (1.6kg), bulky and roughly made lens. But seems to produce photographs of acceptable quality.

Tamron makes adaptall-2 manual focus lens. The SP lens suppose to be very good. But some non SP, for example 28-70/3.5-4.5 macro zoom, is a very good buy for the money in my opinion.

In the December issue of the Popular Photography there was an advert that the Kinoptik lens (French made) are now available in T-mounts. To quote from the magazine: "Half of the Kinoptik lenses, which range from a 50mm f/2 to a 1000 f/8 are apochromats; four are true macros focusing to 1:1; and all are covered by lifetime warranties. (Heitz Service, 34-11 62nd St., Woodside, NY 11377)."
I never saw one of these lenses and have no idea how good are they.

Used Lenses

There are so many used screw mount lenses available second hand that it must be much more people were interested in photography in 60th and 70th then now.

The SMC Takumar and Super Takumar lenses by Asahi Pentax considered to be the best lens available. As the result they are relatively expensive.
I did not used any lens made by Sigma or Vivitar but heard that some of them are better than average quality.

As far as zoom lens are concerned, I would recommend not to buy the old heavy zooms of 70th (Soligor, Sigma, and others) but to look at the Tamron Adaptall-2 zooms which are readily available second hand. I used two their SP series zooms: 28-80/3.5-4.2 CF Macro, which I like and my favourite one-touch 70-210/3.5 SP. Also, some time ago (November 1996) the Photo Answers magazine rated 70-210/3.8-4 Tamron zoom as the best compare to with others non expensive 70-210 variable aperture zooms. I heard good comments on the 28-70/3.5-4.5 (I used it and agree with that), 28-135/4-4.5 and on 60-300/3.8-5.4 SP lens.

Some words about teleconverters.Don't buy ordinary 4 element screw mount teleconverters which are so many around. The quality will be very average at the best. Look for the 7 element teleconverters instead. They looks only slightly fattier that their 4 elements cousins, but deliver much better results. I saw two so far: Promura MC Auto tele converter 2x 7E for Pentax-S and Tamron tele-converter 2x Bbar MC for Pentax-P F system. Coupled with my 300/4 SMC Takumar stopped down to f8 both deliver acceptable to me results.

From Ivan Singer: I would like to add my two cents about the four M42 wide angle (2-28's and 2- 24's) lenses that I now own. Here are my subjective, unscientfic reviews:
Pentax SMC 28/3.5- A true, rectilinear lens. Sharp, in focus, corner to corner, wide open. Not retrofocus design, yet a reasonable size to hold. On Spotmatics though, viewing through this lens is somewhat dark. For outdoors scenics and big architecture, but not a low-light lens. Worth keeping aro und for the rectilinear feature and sharpness.

Vivitar 28/2.5- A strangely compelling sleeper lens. This lens is rectilinear at the far edges and pleasingly bright. However, as you sweep the image area with a strong vertical like the edge of a wall, you see some deviation in the form of slight barrel distortion at the 1/3 and 2/3 points in the image area. This lens is probably only single coated, but is excellent in lowlight and for people shots. I have used it outdoors and have very sharp, contrasty images from it. I cannot judge how it handles flare though. Larger than above Pentax 28, but still pleasing to hold. Best thing about t his lens: Price. No one will ever know how little you paid for it, when they see your pictures. Probably a steal at $10.

Sigma 24/2.8 Filtermatic- This is a strange, wondrous lens. Rectlinear and sharp all the way across but where is the plane of focus? At f2.8 under 4 feet, it is narrow and not well defined. For indoor and group people shots, probably great but DOF seems to defy the common laws of optics. I would not trust the markings, but worth looking at for sure. I found this one on Ebay for $35 and I was unopposed by any other bidders. Here is why: This lens is short and fat, like my Nikkor 20/2.8 AF and about as solid (which is my way of saying). The finish is not as nice as the Super-Taks and has a rubberized focussing ring, instead of the more confident metal knurled M42's. But wait, there's more. You get four filters built right into the cam: Blue (LB- 180), violet (V-48), Orange (O-56), and Skylight-1A.

Fujinon EBC 24/2.8- This tiny metal barelled lens (49mm and even shorter than most 50/1.8) is not rectilinear at the edges, with some noticeable barrel distortion. This distortion is surprising given that the reputation of Fujinon lenses is only equalled by the Super-Taks. It is still snappy to f ocus and sharp in the plane. I cannot vouch for its usefullness as a architectural replacement for the SMC 28/3.5 above, but will definitely suit the indoor/people shot category.

From Pontus Pihlgren: I am a happy user of a Chinon CS screwmount camera and I thougt I would give you my opinion on the lenses I use.

1. Chinon 55/1.7 original lens. This is a great lens, very good quality and is nice to use.

2. Asahi Pentax 50/4. "Super-macro-takumar". Though it's a little dark this is my favourite lens since I can go as close as 0.234 m (0.77 feet) And i realy like close ups.

3. Accura 28/2.8. I have never used this lens (bought it today), It does however seem like a nice lens, good to handle.

4. Tokina 135/2.8. A nice tele lens, only taken one picture but it is very nice to handle. It is though bigger then m42, but I use an adapter and it works very well.

5. Tokina 400/6.3 This is a HUGE lens, it doesn't use mirrors so therefore it is dark and loooong (actually 40 cm). Though a cool thing to own, since it is so dark and big (pretty heavy) i haven't used it much.

From Franck Maubuisson:

2,8/28 Unitax --> bad, distortion, sticky diaph.

3,4/35 Zeiss Skoparex (for Icarex 35 TM)
Good mechanics, good definition in every situation but not outstanding, no distortion prone to flare; bayonet filter mount (a problem for B&W photography)

1,8/50 soligor
Became sticky but was worth cleaning pretty soft wide open, but extremely SHARP at medium apertures, could compare with a summicron.
The preset diaphragm is quite hard, no fun on bodies where the release button itself closes the diaphragm.

2/85 jupiter 9 (Russian)
Inconvenient (manual preselection) but really good. Unfortunately, it is fragile, I broke it.
The late 70's version I had was sensitive to flare. I own an old version (58') in 39mm mount for Leica: much better than the 42mm for contrast and flare (very good inner black paint) but gives yellowish colors (lenses look really blue). Don't know about the late MC version, nor if the older ons was made for reflex.
(From aab - there is a new MC version and is current. Seems to be good)
When found at low price, it is a good deal

Recently picked up a post-soviet Jupiter 9 (a '93 model, but not MC (from aab - I believe that it is MC version, it just don't have that coating color-cast. Results seems to confirm that)). for a quite low price. Well, it is as unconvenient as ever, but well coated and finished, no problems with backlighting like the '70s version, high contrast and really crisp, good color rendition, nice backgrounds, nice for macro with extension rings too. Like the jupiter 37am 135mm, it's a lens that could optically compare to many japanese or german ones, but mechanically "jurassic".

1,5/85 mm Helios 40-2
Comes with 3 filters (Yellow 1,4x, Yellow 2x, Orange 2x) but none for portraits! Needs a lens shade (like other russian ones), unconvenient (manual preselection), weight 1.1 kg - really heavy, really soft wide open, really sharp at medium apertures, but contrast a little weak. (very good b&w prints); Warm colors (OK for portrait)
Be careful: at f/1,5, the depth of field is so short that if you focus on the eyes, both the nose and the ears are blurred.

Tamron Zoom 3.8/4 80-210 mm
Good contrast, not so good definition wide open; convenient, reliable. I don't like the single zoom/focusing ring but that's personnal; f/32 minimal aperture (can be useful), colors are quite cold

I also tried a Petri 2,8/135mm: low contrast and not very good mechanically.

Revue Revuenon 3.5/200mm
good mechanics good definition, but low contrast (not so bad for b&w but slides are too soft)

Enna Munchen Tele-Ennalyt 4,5/240mm
Was a cheap lens. Got it this year in a fair for about 30 US$. Mine is a manual diaphragm version. Very small and light for the focal length (but may be fragile). The telephoto lens you can take everywhere - looks like a 90 or 135mm! Good contrast and colors - good slides nice rendition of blurred background (due to manual diaph ?) Not very sharp but enough. I really like it.

Schneider Tele Xenar 5,5/360mm
Heavy and long. Good mechanics - two ring manual preset diaphragm. Good definition and colors. Mine has a flare problem, maybe due to the fact it has been cleaned after a fungus, would have need to be re-treated but it is too expensive.

From Andrew Fildes:
One angle that no-one seems to have mentioned is low-cost macro-photography. I picked up a manual Yashica screw mount bellows the other day for AU$20. This allows me to use my enlarger lenses - a Leitz Focotar 50mm and a Rodenstock Rodagon 105mm, both very high quality lenses indeed. I use a 42-39mm screw adaptor on the bellows. I love the Rodenstock because I bought it in a Cash Converters for only $35 (about a tenth of its true value) and it takes 49mm filters! Enlarger lenses are actually better for this work, I believe, although I'm still a novice. Any way you do it, it's a cheap introduction to serious close-up work!

From Franck Maubuisson:
Rubinar 10/1000. I had to partially dismount and reassemble it - when I bought it it only focused at about 4 meters! Now it's OK, it's sharp enough, very good contrast and color rendition for such a long lens. I used it with the Revue 5005 and Fuji high speed film. (The flamingos (flamants) pics here were taken with this lens and the revue 5005)

Mir 3,5/20. Doesn't like the sun or any strong backlighting. Not bad for colors and contrast in other conditions. Mine has a centering problem, the left part of the image is never really sharp. Also sensible to the little differences between lens mounts on different bodies: if it screws a little more or a little less than the correct position, focusing is disturbed and the integrated shade induces vignetting. Otherwise distortion and vignetting are very low - wich is good for a 20mm. Not a very good buy.

Jupiter 37AM 3,5/135. a '92 russian model, bought it for a very low price. Good multicoated lens, not too heavy, but very unconvenient due tu it's fully manual diah (not even a two-ring preselection system). Still this diaphragm has many, many blades, wich gives a perfectly round aperture, and so a very smooth leica-like background rendition. Worth it's price.

Mamya 2,8/35 mm. Much better than the Zeiss Ikon Skoparex 3,4/35mm. Low distortion, less flare, sharp pics. Not really compact for a 2,8/35. Light but good mechanics.Maybe a little colder colors than the Zeiss..

Yashica 1,7/50mm Sharp, better than the Soligor when wide open, mecanically very good, smooth focusing, perfect diaph operation, but colors are really cold.

From John Shaeffer:
I would also like to mention three lens I have used recently:

Helios 44-2 58mm - a great single coated lens - a biotar copy that yields basically the same results as the original. These often are found for less than $10 (US). Yield an almost pastel like photo using Kodak Gold 200 or similar. Good for portraits, too. Little lens distortion.

Industar 50-2 - this lens was standard on the older Zenit cameras. A small, simple lens that is described often on eBay as an enlarging lens, it is much maligned. I must have gotten a good one, because my experience with the lens has been that it is a good performer (especially since I got it for free on a broken Zenit).

Volna 9 - this is a Russian macro lens that is a real bargain for cost conscious screw mount camera users. I have been impressed with the detail and it costs a lot less than any OEM macro. If you can find one, buy it - you will be pleasantly surprised

From Jugean Patrick:
I have used some of the MC CZJ lenses and the single coated pentacon, Meyer and CZJ. I think the single coated lenses can hold their own with less contrasty colour of pictures than the MC versions. In available light condition the CZJ 35/2.4 lens is slightly better that the pentax 35/3.5 super multicoated Takumar.

From Tim Hicks:
The Industar 50/3.5 is a very cheap and basic lens - many were sold as the 'low budget' option on Zenith B and E series cameras. It is a preset lens (4 element Tessar type construction I think) I often see these lenses being sold in the UK for less than J5 (pounds sterling) but it can be an excellent and very sharp lens, very suitable for macro use on a bellows. It is a classic case of a design that has not been stretched to give a wider apperture so it performs very well within it's limitations. These were mass produced at low cost so not all will be good but some are excellent.

From Roland Stauber I use Mamiya SLR cameras (mainly NC series) and have a dedicated website about these.
I also have a separate page "M42 Lenses" on this website which I will update frequently. I recently "discovered" this lens mount and there are some really nice lenses available.

From Kelvin The last few months, I've developed a passion of collecting fast M42 lenses. This was driven in part by my preferred style of shooting wide-open at shallow DOF, and by the thought I could someday use these on an EOS D-series SLR (I do use them on my EOS 1N today).

I've almost collected a full set, but haven't had a time to test them all, though I plan to over the next few weeks.

Vivitar 24/2 Reasonably good even at f2 . This is a variant of the Kiron 24/2 version. There is also a 28/2 version which I didn't pick up, as well as a vivitar series 1 , 28/1.9

Super Takumar 35/2 Pentax lenses never fail to please, and this is no exception. There is a slight yellow colour cast in mine (2nd variant), which is atypical of many fast lenses made in those days which have not aged well. Not a problem if shooting negatives, just a slight warm. Vivitar also has sa 35/1.9

Tomioka 55/1.2 Fast! But certainly not wonderful at f1.2. Goes to ok as it is stopped down. This is more a novelty piece since frankly, the Pentax SMCT 50/1.4 I also have is a much better lens.

Helios-40-2 85/1.5 Fast lens. Soft wide open but nice bokeh. Contrast a little low
(From aab - I also recently have got this lens and agree with Kelvin - very nice soft looking pictures at apertures below 4).

Enna-Werk Ennalyt 85/1.5 Just acquired, sitll untested. Computar/Porst 135/1.8 Slightly soft wide open... but nice colour and excellent bokeh wide open. Mine is the later multicoated version. There is an earlier Soligor version which I hear is not so good.

CZJ Sonnar 180/2.8 I have both the olympia and later pre-MC P6 versions (with M42 adaptor). Both impressive pieces of glass. Just acquired, so untested.

From Dave M. I am always amazed at the quality of photos from my Pentax SPII and my Super-Takumar lens. I own over 20 lens for my screw mount cameras. My body collection includes a Chinon CE-II,Sears 2000ES(Chinon CE),and my trusted SPII. This summer I photographed a friend's wedding using all 3 bodies. To my amazement,the most raved about photos were all from my SPII w/50mm 1.4 Super- Takumar lens.The only other pictures that were comparable in sharpness were from my Sigma 24mm f2.8 Filtermatic and the Chinon 55mm f1.7 ran a close 3rd place. I purchased this SPII several years ago after my wife dropped my Nikon down a flight of stairs.I had a collection of screw mount lens but no body at the time. I will never regret going back to my screw mounts.I also use a Yashica FRII that I was given to me this year by a good friend who went full digital.This has worked out well, because of the Yashica/Contax mount accepting a screw mount adapter, I now have an enormous system. For those wanting the best of both screw and bayonet usages this works out fantastic.Now I can use lens from two of the world best, Carl Zeiss and the Pentax Super-Takumars.

From Andy
As far as screw mount lens recommendations, I think many of the Fuji EBC lenses from the 1970's were exceptional, and they are highly under-rated. I had to look hard to find any of them, but have gotten the 28 f3.5, 50 f1.4, 100mm f2.8, and 200mm f4.5. They are all superb and compare favorably with the best primes I have ever used, including those from Nikon and Leica. The 50 f1.4 and the 100mm f2.8 are especially good. These lenses have a special tab on them that keys in the meter for wide open metering.
Another lens I can highly recommend is the 35mm f2.4 Zeiss Jena MC Flektogon. I got a mint condition one from an Eastern European seller for only $59.00, and have been blown away by the image quality. The color, contrast, sharpness at all apertures and freedom from distortion are superb. The build quality is not that great, however, with some cheap materials used in the diaphram linkage. I had to adjust mine to get the thing to open up all the way. The images from this lens are so good that my lab asked me what kind of lens I was using becasue they noticed the clarity of the images was extra ordinary. I have never had that happen before. Only go for a near mint lens, as one showing a lot of wear is likely to be trouble.

From Malcolm
I have had terminal diaphram faults with two Pentacon lenses. One was a 135mm f2.8 and the other a 50mm f1.8. This has rather put me off this brand of lens. The diaphram on the 135mm just totally mangled itself up. The 50mm diapham sticks, usually wide open. I am now hoping to try a Zeiss or a Hoya as an inexpensive replacement.

From Bryan
The Mamiya Sekor SX lenses are sharp and not expensive on used market. But if you want to use an adapter ring to use them on other camera bodies, their extruding end may be a problem. They can only be mounted on certain M42 bodies. For example, they don't work with Fujica ST605n.


I would love to here from the users of different screw mount lens. What are your favourites?

Mine is the 55/1.8 SMC Takumar. Outstanding lens! Even 4x6 photographs clearly stands out.

From Mark-Andrew Butt:
My favorite M42 lens (at least one that I own) is the 50/1.4 SMC Takumar. Unbelievable image quality as well as superb craftsmanship.

From Kelvin
I have a whole slew of screw-mount lenses ... but I think my favourite has got to be , interestingly, the SMC Takumar 55/1.8. Contrasty, yet neutral colours. Sharp. Better than the Super-Tak 50/1.4 I also have, though I don't have the SMC 50/1.4