Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Takumar SMC 17mm f4 Fisheye

I have owned this same lens, twice. A few years ago, I sold it since I rarely used it. About a year later, I bought it back from the same person who I sold it to. Interesting, isn't it. I figured it probably really belongs to me, so I have kept it since.

As with all screw mount Takumar lenses, this one was beautifully made, and focuses so smoothly like no other. Build quality is first rate, and most of all, optically quality is excellent. Very very compact but with good heft in your hand.

This lens has three built-in filters: Yellow, Red and 81A Skylight. Unfortunately filters can not be disabled. You are always using one of the filters. The indent for filters is too light and easy to move the filter, most of the time it's at the space between two filters. This is about the only complain I have with it.

Optically, this is one sharp lens in the center. One full frame, the edge is not well corrected, even when stopped way down. Very poor resolution and contrast at the far edges. On the 1D series (1.3x crop factor), this is about perfect, as the edge is outside of the imaging area of the slightly smaller sensor. At f4, the lens is barely usable in bright lights, but one stop down at f5.6, there is a marked difference. The sweet spot is about f8 to f11. Colour is excellent.

At one point, I shot with this lens and the full frame 1Ds for days straight, and then got so tire of looking at the distortion. The lens is again retired to its case and put on the shelf, for about a year now. I really ought to try it on the G1 to give me a mini wide angle.

With such wide angle, anything that normally looks ordinary immediately look interesting, but it's not a lens you would use often. Once in a while, it will give you some interesting pictures that other lenses wouldn't.

Interestingly, this lens makes me nauseous. If I look through the viewfinder with this lens on for about half of an hour of picture taking, I would feel dizzy, and want to vomit. At first I didn't know it was the lens, but the feeling came back when I started using the lens again. Even looking at the pictures taken with the lens would give me the same feeling, though in a lesser scale.

Most of these pictures below were taken with either the 1Ds or the 1D mark II.

1 comment:

  1. I have a SMC Takumar 17mm f4 since 20 years, but it's a long love history. The first time I had a look of it, it was on a Pentax camera, and I fall in love for it, the view and the colours were oustanding even in the vewfinder, but... in those time I was an Olympus photographer so... I had to leave it on the shelf. I found again it (the same)some 6-7 years later. In the meanwhile I changed to Nikon, so... I bought it and I asked for to modify it for the Nikon attachment. Well, from that moment on, the SMC Takumar 17mm f4 fisheye became one of my best ever lenses. I'm still using it, it looks really tired, but it works perfectly. My model is perfect even at f4 across all the frame till the corners. Recently I campared it with my Sigma 12-24 (quite good) on a D300 and surprisingly I found that wide open is even better than the 12-24 thought at f8 the 12-24 is slightly better (just a bit... but, as I wrote: it is an exellent wide zoom)

    Indeed, the 17 f4 is one of my best lenses ever, comparable to the 180 f2.8, the 135 f2 DC, the 24-70 f2.8, and some other on my most beloved lenses.

    Indeed, I wonder about a Nikkor 16mm f2.8, in my opinion, it is very difficult to obtain a better lenses than the Takumar 17 f4, as contrast, details and color rendition are still now, on digital... really perfect

    best regards