Takumar 17mm f4 (1967) lens review

by Gustavo Orensztajn (Sanjuro), December 2006

 

Takumar 17mm f4Since I got my first camera, I always wanted to have a fisheye, I like the curvature of the images that is generated by them and the infinity ways you can play with angles in the composition.

Continuing with what Mladen started, I will try to give my opinions on this very special lens. Takumar did 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.

Here is some Takumar data from those early years:

F/length Model
(variation)
MaxAp MinAp Diaphragm Filter From Comment *
15mm SMC Takumar f/3.5 f/22 Automatic BImm 1975 ---
17mm Fish-eye-Takumar f/11 f/32 Perforated disk mm 1962 Fixed focus. 180 deg image covers complete 24x36mm image area.
17mm Fish-eye-Takumar f/4 f/22 Automatic BImm 1967 ---
17mm Super-Multi-Coated FISH-EYE-TAKUMAR f/4 f/22 Automatic BImm 1971 Full-aperture metering.
18mm Fish-eye-Takumar f/11 f/32 Perforated disk n/amm 1963 Fixed-focus 'pancake' lens producing a circular 24mm diameter image. Diaphragm is a revolving plate with holes of different diameters.

Of course this is not an everyday day lens, but is a lot of fun and opens a new way of how composing a picture, Like an extreme wide angle and if you wonder about crop factor and how the FOV would be in a 1,5 crop factor DSRL then here is some formulas:

FOV (fisheye) = 4 * arcsin (frame size/(focal length * 4))

So with a 15mm fisheye using this projection you get on 135 film:

  • 147deg horizontal FOV
  • 94 deg vertical FOV
  • 185deg diagonal FOV

with a 15mm fisheye using this projection you get on crop 1.5:

  • 94 deg horizontal FOV
  • 62 deg vertical FOV
  • 115deg diagonal FOV

 

Build and handling

This Takumar and like some other classic SMC Takumar lenses is a m42-mount lens, you need an m42 adaptor to have this lens in your camera. This lens is not easy to find, but I saw some on ebay and I do not think they are so cheap there.

The one I got is perfect, like new condition; all in metal, the build quality is excellent.

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.

I guess you can still shoot with the Y48 to bring some contrast to clouds.

I need to test more these two filters to see what they are good for in the “digital” era.

Having this lens mounted in my KM5D is like having one of those pancake lenses, the size of the lens is not more than 2,8 cm from the body.

As it was mentioned in the Peleng review, the ability to focus through our viewfinders (if you do not have a split screen) can be difficult, but just set the aperture of the lens at f8 and focus to infinity and that it is, you got a P&S camera. Just point and everything will be in focus.

 

Performance

As all fisheyes, this is very special; it will force you to “see” things in a different way. If you are not a WA shooter you might find it difficulty to compose an image.

Fisheye shooting is a matter of taste; I can imagine enjoying the full potential of the lens in a city-landscape with really high buildings.

Regarding sharpness:  at f4 is soft (nothing you can “fix” in PS with USM filter), but from 5,6 to f22 is sharper. F8 and above is as sharp as other m42 lenses (i.e pentacon 29/2.8).

What I found nice is that, or it is soft in the entire image or sharp in the whole image.

(I’ve read that some fisheye can be softer at the corners).

Color rendition and contrast are as expected of a Takumar lens, very nice color-contrast rendition.

This is not SMC (super multi coated) one so it could be a problem against flare but so far I haven’t got any (not too much sun here either)

I can’t compare it against a real WA like a sigma 10-20, I only have the 18mm of the kit lens as comparison, and the Takumar is wider.

This not an everyday lens, but if you want to expand your creativity then a nice fisheye is a must in your lens collection.

You can find discussions about this article in our forum

Saple full size images
Sample full size image
(3.5MB
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Straight from the camera; taken at F5.6 (remember that image qualityimproves as we stop down the lens, and this is far from the best perfromance this lens can provide.

Gallery by Sanjuro