My time with the Pentax K1000 & Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4″ By Khunya Pan

My time with the Pentax K1000 & Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4″ By Khunya Pan

Hello Steve & fellow followers,

This story will talk about my time with the Pentax K1000 & Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4, and how I ditched nearly all my equipment for this simple and brilliant setup.

I started taking pictures seriously about 5 years ago when I was 19, when my father bought a Pentax K10D DSLR. He hardly used the thing and I started to get interested in it. Next thing I know I’m taking it everywhere with me, upgraded to a K20D and the SMC-31mm f/1.8 Limited lens. It was a great way to learn the basics and fundamentals of photography. I eventually had an exhibition of my work done exclusively with the K20D and the 31mm. It was a great experience, but it was time to move on.

One night I was watching TV and a film called “Blow-Up” came on. I was instantly intrigued by the movie due to its main subject being photography. But the thing that stuck with me was the camera the lead character was using. No, it wasn’t a Pentax, it was a Nikon F, but it was a classic film SLR. Even though the actor had no idea how to use a camera in the film, I was still very intrigued by 35mm and film, and I wanted to try it out. Sick and tired of the point-and-shooters all around me calling themselves “photographers” just because they took pictures of their vacation or family gatherings, I wanted to do something quite different for my age group and actually learn “real” photography (wink).

I eventually got the K1000, mainly because I could use my 31mm on it, thanks to Pentax making a series of lenses that can be used on digital and film. Instantly I was hooked on it, and eventually learned how to develop my own film and scan it myself.

This sparked me to start a weekly mailing list where I would send out a photo a week, and while it hasn’t grown to a huge number of followers, it has kept me motivated to continue taking pictures. The pictures I was taking were making me happy, but I still felt like they were missing some kind of magic. Then I discovered the Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4…

There is not much in the way of reviews or web presence on this lens, and I seriously wonder why. The early versions of the lens were released in the mid 60s, and continued until 1971 where the SMC-Takumar’s were released. These did away with the radioactive coating. Some say they are better, some say they are worse. My version is one of the early ones, with the obvious yellow coating on the front element. In color, it doesn’t distract or cause any bizarre effects, and in B&W it’s absolutely stunning. My guess is Pentax was going for a Leica/Zeiss killer, and maybe on a technical standpoint they failed, but on an aesthetic and artistic point of view, they succeeded tenfold.

The setup has been my primary carry-around shooter. I have used many other cameras and lenses throughout the years. I’ve tried my hand at a Yashica & Rolleiflex TLR, a FED2 Russian camera, a Leica M3 and a Leica M9, and the Fuji X100 and X-Pro 1. Honestly, none of them are quite bonkers enough. I always go back to my K1000 and Takumar. Yes, sometimes the weight and bulkiness of an SLR are annoying, and it is far from an ideal street-shooter, but I really don’t shoot street photography, and the Takumar is not meant for that, nor is the K1000. This is a setup that makes you get in close. It is intimidating, as it should be. It is a $150 setup that produces $10,000 Leica results.

Sometimes I feel a bit amateurish walking around with what is essentially a “student” camera. But I think I’ve finally gotten passed the vain part of photography and trying to “look cool” while I take pictures. In the end, it’s the photograph that counts, not what the silly man behind the camera looks like.

I eventually sold my K20D and 31mm lens, and now I shoot exclusively film. From time to time I will borrow my girlfriend’s K-x and use an M42 adapter so I can shoot the Takumar on that, but it’s not very often. I am quite amazed though by the results of a nearly 50-year-old lens on a crisp and clean digital sensor. The lens has such a soul to it, it’s delicate and I worry if I accidentally whack it on a counter or something, it will fall apart with ease. But if you treat it well and with respect, it will be a lifelong companion and always give you outrageous and amazing results.

And so concludes my story, enough with the text and on with the photographs. The first three are from the K1000 and 31mm, the rest are the K1000 and Takumar. You can compare them for yourself and see if I’m talking total claptrap.

Thanks for reading and looking!

Yours friendly,

-Khunya

Additional images can be seen here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/khunya/

Quentin - SMC-31mm 1.8

Tokyo Drift - SMC-31mm 1.8

Ruta Maya - SMC-31mm 1.8

Bicycle - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Ellar - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

French Hand - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Hands - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Naked Bed - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Nikon - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Smile - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Rifle - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

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90 Comments

  1. I agree, some of the best pictures I’ve seen on this website.
    The grain is a matter of taste, no one can say is too grainy, not even Cartier Bresson 🙂
    Is your pictures!
    I love it, keep up!
    M

  2. Some of the best photos I’ve seen on this site, including Steve’s(sorry Steve 🙂 ).
    Maybe I’m just biased towards older pentax, but that glass is a true gem.
    Keep up the good shooting!

    • To be honest, I wouldn’t be able to tell if these were taken with a 50 Takumar, AiS Nikkor, Zuiko, Canon or whatever, and I bet you couldn’t either. The images are great; let’s keep it at that.

  3. Bringing back memories. I grew up on that camera and whatever 50 f1.8 Pentax was selling it with in ’74 or ’75. According to this old photo, from ’81, I may have added another lens or I might just have been using the lens case to carry film canisters – I don’t remember ever having a second lens for this camera. But this was my entire travel setup for 6 months in the Middle East and Europe as a 22 year old kid. I don’t like that focal length much now and having spent plenty of time in darkrooms, I don’t plan to go back. But its still all about the images…

    http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8230/8533661771_d3cfa73957_z.jpg

    -Ray

  4. It’s good to see discussion here for once that concerns the merits of the images more than those of the gear used. In the end it’s just a light tight box with a piece of glass fitted to the front, a tool to get an image.

    In these images I can see what the photographer tried to do, and they show a freedom oft thought that I enjoy. I like #1 in particular; it has that sixties French Gauloise/American Lucky Strike smoking quality that I think Kunya saw before him.

    Tri-X and Rodinal is coarse. Yes. D76 1+1 less so, or HC110, but if this is what you’re aiming for, great. The shallow DoF helps the images in my view, making large parts unsharp, by giving the images a dreamy quality. Oh, the dove isn’t out of focus, look closely. It’s motion unsharpness. Objects in front of and behind the dove are sharp.

  5. Hello >If you look at Google “Herbert Keppler” may you found a teste where the comparison between Takuma50mm and Summicron Leica is favorable to Takumar Regards from Brazil Rui

  6. I believe true photographers stands apart from the bunch because of the presence of an aesthetical message in their photographs.
    I don´t see any of this in this shots. The only thing I see is “look what a shallow depth of field I can achieve”. They just look like those old photographs I did (and many others) for photo classes, when we were learning about depht of field. And on the only photo where depth of field control is critical, the main subject is out of focus: the dove.
    But there’s too much of the “great shots” bunch in here.

    • You probably know all about “depth of field”, but of course you have to learn a lot about the concept of “point of view” and modesty. This guy, at age 19, rather than play with a smartphone and instagram, sought his own way and he did it with passion, with method, with excellent results (read the other comments). So if you do not see any aesthetic result, you’re probably just a different taste.
      I’m really tired of people who take themselves too seriously. Take it easy.

    • Please look again Felipe. The dove is in focus (as is everything else). The unsharpness you see is motion unsharpness. There is a difference, but I’m sure you knew that.

      In my view that unsharpness actually makes the image.

    • These are nice photographs. Keep shooting, find your voice and have fun.

      ps the K-1000 is a tank of a camera.

  7. Hey Khunya
    What a trip your on!! Keep up the great work….enjoyed it all….
    feeling whistful for my old darkroom days.
    Bruce from BC

  8. Fantastic photos – and pretty much the reason why I’ve just bought an ME Super and 50mm 1.7. Had a K1000 and 1.7 back in the late 70’s and early 80’s and wish I’d never sold it. Hope I can get close to what what you are producing.

  9. Love the shots and your words. Love the shallow focus and especially the film grain.
    I really miss the darkroom, sigh.
    Really enjoyed looking at all your images, brilliant stuff.

  10. Great pics…personally I like the one of the girl’s hand the best…beautiful shot. Yes, there is no doubt you can get great results shooting old film cameras. With that said, personally I am too lazy to deal with the film developing/scanning etc so I would never shoot just film….but it’s nice to do once in a while as a change.

    From my perspective the most exciting thing about film is that you can buy world class equipment for next to nothing. The cameras I could only dream of owning in my youth are now cheap, cheap, cheap. A quick search on Ebay and you can find literally hundreds of top notch medium format bodies/lenses from the 80’s/90’s that in the right hands will give you all the quality one would ever need.

  11. Very good, solid images. The f1.4 Takumar is always a fantastic lens. I liked the nude photo best: excellent composition and it doesn’t overdo the blurry background thing, which is so tempting with a fast 50mm. Keep it up!

  12. Lovely portraits. I like the simple use of film and the avoidance of excessive digital processing.

  13. These are really great images and present, to me, the essence of photography: walking around with a simple camera, observing, seeing, previsualizing an image and a composition, and just do it, however strange or against convention that image might be.

    Wonderful, talented stuff!

  14. Thank you everyone for your feedback and comments! It’s nice to hear from all the other fellow Pentax users and lovers. Quite an understated brand but they made excellent equipment. Hope everyone keeps on shooting!

    Yours friendly,
    -Khunya

  15. Man! You are really talented! Keep going, keep going! You master your equipment and making the picture you want… that’s the most important thing on photography… I saw a few masterpieces here already…

  16. Ahhhh… the K1000. The first SLR I ever used. I had one lent to me by my local newspaper when I shot sports for them when I was in high school. Same lens. Great camera.

  17. Wonderful pictures, Khunya! Thanks for sharing with us. I’ve recently starting looking at getting older Pentax lenses; just bought my first from KEH about a week ago (50mm SMC 1.7) and have been really impressed with the results.

  18. Love your work..

    It’s funny as I just gave a new friend a Pentax K 1000 and 50 2.0 .. Like I told her.. This camera loaded with Tri-X and your set..

    Gregory

  19. I happily agree with the comments above stating these are among the better images presented on this site. Take away the bird and bicycle shot, the colour image and the two repeated portraits of the man best presented in #5, and I think there is an excellent – albeit too short – essay here.

    Please keep at it Kuhnya; you have our respect.

  20. Love your photography.
    I also had a Asahi Pentax Spotmatic F with Super Takumar 50mm F1.4 in the 1970’s and I feel it was instrumental in getting me into photography.
    Ross

  21. Khunya it is really a good sense of déjà vu looking at these images as they take me straight back to the 1970s and seeing contact prints and enlargements by fellow students at photographic college as they came off the print dryer or were laid out on tables. Great artistic use of grain, out of Focus areas and visual impact from carefully selected framing. Well done and I like the way you have seen and produced your final images. I remember the even older screw thread Pentax 50 mm f1.8 and 35 f2 on the Pentax spotmatic camera bodies… One of the first SLRs with through the lens metering, quality lenses and student – proof providing you did not want to change your lens in a hurry.

  22. I felt like there was TOO much grain. I appreciate composure, exposure, and subject. But the grain was borderline distracting sometimes. I don’t understand why there’s so much film grain. I shoot B&W film and grain is hardly a problem. In this case I’m assuming grain is what you’re trying to achieve, but then again, I’m not sure why. Maybe you could enlighten me.

    • I’m a pretty big fan of grain, but I did bring it out a lot more than it would have been. I usually develop film in Rodinal 1+25, which brings out the grain in TriX and HP5+ quite a bit more.

      For me it was just a personal preference for making grain more prominent. I feel like it gives the photograph a higher sense of immediacy, and is far more moody and dark, which has come to be my style over the years.

      But again, just a personal preference for me. Not for everyone I’m sure. 🙂

    • I was wondering the same, Ashlin. I still shoot film (mostly FP4, HP5 and XP2 now) and home-brew my developers (with ref. to Eddie Ephraims) for the first two but see no reason to turn everything into what, inevitably, someone had to call “gritty”. Gravelly, more likely.

      The main subject just didn’t seem a “gritty” type; despite the fag and F he wasn’t convincing (and seemed very pleased to be the subject) no matter how much grit was thrown his way.

      Not sure why the woman is shooting back with a heavy cal. Is it a visual pun? Maybe I’m not mad about people pointing guns.

      The Takumar 50/1.4 SMC is a great lens – I still think its focusing is the best of any of the 50’s. It allowed a beginner never to be constrained by (or able to blame) equipment.

      • James,

        I appreciate the comments, but just to clarify the man with the Nikon F was not a model and was indeed taking pictures of me as I took them of him.

        There’s no secret message to the Rifle photo. The rifle itself is a toy gun circa 1960s, I’m just a lover of shallow DOF.

        I do find it interesting that you were able to analyze these images so well, yet you cited the lens incorrectly (it is a Super-Takumar, not an SMC).

        Again, thanks for the comments!

        • Khunya,

          I did not cite the lens incorrectly – I was referring to the lens I had on my Spotmatic II and later Spotmatic F. I fully realise you were using a Super-Takumar, one of which is still on a Spotmatic 500 here in a cupboard somewhere.

          I thought the person likely to be an acquaintance of yours, certainly not a model, given his pleasure at being photographed.

          Interesting you use Agfa Rodinal at a relatively high concentration; it is rather fun to use at low concentrations and longer development times, too (‘push processing’).

          Thank you for your reply.

          • James,

            I see now. The SMC in all honesty isn’t much different from the Super apart from the radioactive element. Still seems to produce the exact same results. I agree on definitely one of the best focusing lenses out there, at least the all-metal one is. I haven’t used the later models that had the rubber grips.

            Yes, he is a close friend. As for the pleasure of being photographer, do you mean by the image right below the Nikon F one (the devilish smile)?

            I did push a roll of TriX to 1600 once with Rodinal, can’t remember much of what was on the roll though, I might have to try it again.

            Thanks!

          • Khunya,

            Yes, I had the all-metal SMC Tak.

            Pushing FP4 with Rodinal (dilution 125:1) yields a tight, small grain structure which is not too obtrusive for low light work and has a great luminosity.

            Cheers

          • James,

            That’s good to know! I’ll have to try that combo out sometime.

            Thanks!

            -Khunya

        • James, great line; “It (Takumar 50mm) allowed a beginner never to be constrained by (or able to blame) equipment”. I feel that when I shoot with digital I need to be even better to overcome the equipment. There is a relaxation with shooting with the Takumar and film that your equipment is going to be there for you. We need to remember that digital is an approximation of analog.

  23. Fantastic and amazing shots!!! Wonderful! Then film ”out resolve” digital by an relaxed and convincing easy stroke
    Thorkil

  24. Fantastic and amazing shots!!! Wonderful! Then film ”out resolve” digital by an relaxed and convincing easy stroke, lets se some more, please
    Thorkil

    • So are bananas…and commercial aircraft. As long as you don’t photograph while flying and eating a banana, you should be fine.

  25. I love your shots and I’m a big fan of this lens. I have an SMC F/1.4 50mm on my Panasonic GH2 (found at a flea market for $5!) and love the thing even more than my Canon FD 55mm F/1.2!

  26. Great work. I am always glad to see some ‘good old’ analogue stuff around here 🙂

  27. Very very nice Khunya. I just love the film look and you really take it to an excellent level with your vision.

  28. Fantastic shots! I did quite the same in a shorter time switching from K5 to Pentax MX. The FA31 is a bliss too (I use the FA77 Limited quite often). Asahi Pentax designed great products, especially the 67 MF camera and its astonishing set of lenses.

  29. Nice work. Proof (if ever it was needed) that expensive equipment does not equate to better photographs and that it is what lies between the photographers ears. Keep up the good work.

  30. Wow! Look at these images and tell me that ” noise” or “grain” is a bad thing! In the search for the noiseless high iso image we are forgetting just how good it can look.
    Top, top work.

  31. I love these images, particularly the boy with the cigarette and the girl with the rifle. The last in particular looks like it could be a still from an old Lindsay Anderson film.

  32. These pictures are absolutely fantastic, and I agree that they are some of the best ever shown on the site. Wonderful. I’d love to know what film you’re shooting. I’ve been using a 1977 Pentax K-X with a 55mm f2 for years, in addition to my Leica MP and M9, and I love the results. Keep up the great work!!!

    • For B&W film I use Kodak Tri-X 400, Ilford HP5+ 400 and ADOX CHS 25. Thanks for the kind words!

  33. The pictures are really stunning. The 1,4 50 mm SMC Takumar isa great. I have ine on a older Asahi Pentax Spotmatic F )(M 42 mount). It performs excellent. Really great. If you can’t afford a Leica, stick to the 150, Euro Leica killer.

    with best wishes from Hamburg

    Peter Mayer

  34. Well Khunya you can certainly call yourself a photographer, I think you have a lot of talent

  35. Powerful images… The work on yr flicker site as well as the above is excellent ! Love the portraits. I can see you connect with those you portray. The last image of girl with riffle is mesmerizing …very feature film like. Good to see the current generation embracing film for its unique style of shooting and work flow. The results you are getting are not only due to film, but to your talent and vision. Film has, I am sure to a certain extent, formed your distinct style and personal voice, but your eye sees damn well for starters. Great lens and wonderful use of it. Will bookmark your Flickr site for future developments in yr work as well as inspiration . Just keep shooting and sharing your work please.
    Warm regards
    Jorge

  36. Hey great pics, I also bought the Takumar 1.4 last year and with my Pentax ME super and a K5 setup.

    Glad to hear you are getting such nice results. I am also very happy with the Takumar I mostly use it with the K5 but it creates some delicious blurred backgrounds and the images have a painting feel. I guess colourwise it definitely has a character. I will try using it with B&W on the ME Super after seeing your pictures.

    I was wondering what technique do you use to scan film?

    • Albert & John,

      Thanks for the comments! For scanning purposes, I use the program VueScan. The main reason I use this program is it gives the ability to scan the negatives into a .dng format (RAW) so I can edit it in Camera RAW on Photoshop. It gives me much more control over the tones, contrast, etc, etc, etc.

      There is also a technique on VueScan for getting more truer blacks. Basically you preview the first frame of the roll, and you take a crop of the black area of the negative (the area outside the actual photograph). This gives you a exposure reading that you can “lock” for the rest of the roll, so each frame that scans after that will have better blacks, contrast, shadows, etc.

      Hope this helps!

        • It’s a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED.

          It’s actually not even mine, but a friends with whom I live with. I do eventually want to buy a different scanner though, as the Coolscan is old, and while it achieves great results, for web use it’s almost overkill. Plustek has some great affordable scanners out there that I have my eye on. I think the Coolscan goes for like, $5,000 or something.

  37. Hey! Congratulations! I really think you did some great photography there! I love shooting film myself. May I ask what film you used for the colour pic? I really it! Keep on and all the best!

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