A classic vintage prime lens with a distinctive aesthetic
A few weeks ago, Mum found yet another bag full of my dad’s camera gear in a wardrobe. As I wrote in my eulogy, Ian Roddie liked photography and had many cameras, but we thought we’d already sorted through all of them and given most away to people who would appreciate them.
In this old leather satchel we found a busted Olympus OM-10, a rather nice Braun Paxette compact camera, and a Pentax Spotmatic equipped with a Super-Takumar 55mm f/2 lens.
These cameras were almost certainly ones he’d picked up from eBay in the last few years of his life. He had several Spotmatics; I’d last seen him shooting with one in June 2016. They’re reliable and simple cameras from the 1960s, 100 per cent manual, and the Takumar lenses are high quality and very sharp.
I decided to give the camera a spin. It had been a few months since I last shot any film, so I loaded up a roll of Fuji Superia 400 and went looking for images in my local countryside. The camera’s battery was dead so I eyeballed every exposure, deliberately over-exposing by about a stop (Superia 400 responds well to being exposed at ISO 200).
When the scans returned from the lab, the results delighted me – although several frames were badly fogged, probably as a result of a light leak. The seals around the edge of the rear door aren’t in great condition.
Of course, a film camera is basically just a lightproof box. It’s the lens that makes the image, and this lens proved itself to be an absolute beauty. At this time of year I like to make dreamlike, almost abstract compositions with heavy bokeh. The Takumar 55/2 is perfect for this kind of subject. It isn’t clinically sharp when shot wide open at close range, but the quality of out-of-focus areas is beautiful to my eye – and it’s very sharp indeed when stopped down and pointed at more distant subjects.
Encouraged by this test run, I found myself a cheapo M42>Fuji X-Mount adapter and attached the Takumar to my Fujifilm X-T2.
It turned out to be a good fit. Fuji cameras play well with vintage lenses, thanks to their live electronic viewfinders, focus peaking, and traditional manual controls. I often like to slow down and shoot fully manually. The experience with a vintage lens can be similar to that of using more modern glass.
Again, the results fit the subject matter perfectly. I returned from an autumnal walk with the images I was looking for: simple, impressionistic pictures that show the colour and life of autumn in the Lincolnshire Wolds.
The Takumar 55mm f/2 isn’t an everyday sort of lens. It’s probably quite good for portraits, but I doubt I’d take it into the mountains with me. For the right subject, though, it’s an absolute joy to use.
All images © Alex Roddie. All Rights Reserved.
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