Steve Cushing Impresionist Fine Art Photography

Embracing imperfection, recording emotions, one impression at a time…

Asahi Takumar 17 f4 Fish Eye


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The Lens details of a series of images taken by Steve Cushing on mirrorless camera.

Asahi Takumar 17 f4 Fish Eye

History

Takumar is the name that Asahi Optical gave to its lenses, notably but not exclusively those for its own SLR cameras. Named after the Japanese-American portrait painter, Takuma Kajiwara (梶原啄磨, Kajiwara Takuma) whose brother Kumao Kajiwara founded Asahi Optical.The name adorned its lenses until 1975, when Asahi switched from the M42 screw mount to the bayonet K-mount. K-mount lenses were simply named "SMC Pentax". Some Takumar lenses were also made for the K-mount.

So how did Japanese companies take over from the early German companies?

After the war, with many plants bombed and the Russians taking over East Germany, production cost for making lenses were a lot cheaper in Japan. Even before the war German optics companies started to partner with Japanese companies to manufacture optic lenses used in industry and in cameras. Japan as one, if not the only industrialised Asian nation in the world at that time, had the capability and the cheap labour to entice German manufacturers to move some of their production there. Similar to what is happening right now with China.

Together with this and a new post-war Japanese law and export control system, Japanese optics companies were effectively out of the business from military purpose optics for long time into the future. So, a company that was making gun sight for fighter plane or war ships optics for battleship had to start competing on civilian market to survive or too close down. There was no carry on as normal option for them.

European manufacture did not suffer this problem as much as Japanese did, as they still had lucrative military optics markets that grew even more as cold war kicked in. Even decades after the Japanese started to return to scientific with a partial return to military optics market, they still had to make the majority of their money in consumer, industrial, or medical optics market. Another advantage Japan had was they could use military developments for domestic products. Autofocus technology for example were really designed for the military so this was quickly adapted for civilian purpose in Japan, but remained secret in the rest of the world as it was used for military purposes and companies were not permitted to use it outside of these military fields.

The Japanese soon became so adept at making advanced camera lenses, originally for the Germans and then for their own domestic use, that companies like Nikon, Olympus, Minolta started. Canon was an off-shoot of Nikon. And so, the Japanese came to dominate the camera as well as the lens market. The Germans still have Leica of course which is considered the most expensive camera system in the world.

Japanese lenses can be divided intro entry level third party lenses, made by Soligor, Revuenon, Vivitar, Coslinar and others, mid range lenses made by smaller manufacturers, such as Makinon and Chinon and premium lenses, such as those made by Asahi Pentax and Fujifilm.

Other premium manufacturers like Canon produced lenses in their own native mounts others include Olympus, Minolta and Mamiya. Japanese lenses are considered the most reliable of these vintage lenses, with Asahi Pentax Takumar series coming on top of them all.

Takumar made the first fisheye for m42, the first one was in 1962 and it was an 17mm f11. Some years later in 1967 they released this 17mm f4.

This Lens

Very smooth to focus and it comes with three filters included on the front of the lens. So there is no screw-thread to put a filter on the front, the filter is already there.

You have three positions here for choosing what filter to use:

UV filter
Y48, yellow filter
056, a red one.

Y48 and 056 are/were very useful when shooting BW films.

You can also still shoot with the Y48 to bring some contrast to clouds or to add a Vincent van Gogh type feel to the images as it is here that this lens just shines. As all fisheyes, this is very special; it will force you to “see” things in a different way and this one is very special.

This lens is like having one of those pancake lenses, the size of the lens is not more than 2,8 cm from the body.


The vintage lens has an amazing 11 glass elements in 7 groups. It is much more complex and sophisticated than the earliest (f=11/18mm) diagonal fish-eye lens made by Asahi.

The performance is a credit to it's designers. In 1971 super-multi-coated lens elements were added to the next version to make the performance even more efficient. Neither version has a hood. The glass projects just beyond the front by a few mm. It is protected by a deep front cap when stowed.
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Care of this lens is important. It has no hood or filter to protect it from damage when in use. I have the original cap and leather box for the lens as can be seen in the photograph below.

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Performance

Fisheye shooting is a matter of taste; You can enjoy the full potential of the lens in a city-landscape with really high buildings or with this lens recreating Van Gogh type images with the yellow filter, the distorted cubist type images and the lens flare which is just amazing because of the built in filters. No other lens can achieve what this one does.

Regarding sharpness: at f4 is soft (nothing you can “fix” in PS with USM filter), but from 5,6 to f22 is sharp in the centre. F8 and above is as sharp as other m42 lenses.

Colour rendition and contrast are as expected of a Takumar lens, very nice colour-contrast rendition.

IF you want a lens for normal photography…. Do not buy this one. You almost always get flare as the glass sticks out the front of the lens. No lens hood and no screw mount to add one. BUT if you want lads of fun playing with flare and colour, a sort of mix between Van Gogh, Monet and Picasso…… this lens is a MUST.

Summary

This not an everyday lens, but if you want to expand your creativity then a nice fisheye is a must in your lens collection and you will find it hard to find better at the price but be careful, the lens glass sticks out so often gets scratched and so many elements to separate to get fungus…… buy carefully

For images using this lens click HERE

For general information on lens design and lens elements go to the homepage HERE

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