Geoffrey's Photography

The fast 50

Everybody has one, right?  It’s the cheapest way to add a piece of fast, sharp glass to your collection.  I found mine used for $20.  I believe it to be a first generation 1.4, made shortly after they switched from the screw mount.

It’s a bit soft wide open, though stopped down it’s tack sharp.  The bokeh seems quite pleasing.  Being a 30 year old lens it is manual focus and lacks auto aperture control, but that’s no big deal if you’ve got two hands.

My copy has fungus inside and the filter ring jiggles…it also does some strange things with flare…actually it’s a rather flawed lens.

Here’s something that boggles my mind: People spend thousands on cameras and lenses that perfectly replicate the color chart. We oogle pictures of tiny converging lines and brick walls, judging every pixel of an ISO 1600 photograph for noise performance.  THEN, after we take our photos, we jump into the ’shop to adjust levels (adding noise), bump the saturation up or down (forget about that color chart) and add a vignette to spite that fine piece of glass attached to the camera.  Everybody does it.  So what’s wrong with a lens that starts out with a little character of its own?

Enough of that rant for now.  Maybe I’ll make a post of it sometime.  The point is, this old lens renders in a unique way.  It’s not qute as contrasty wide open as the modern DA* set and something in the coatings makes the color come out a bit different, but I like it.

The 1.7 and 2 variety can generally be found on ebay for around $80, 1.4’s and rare 1.2’s bring a premium up to the $200 range. Often they sell with a K1000 as a rear cap. To find one on the cheap I’d reccomend hitting up yard sales and flea markets.  You’ll obviously have less to choose from, but there’s a bit of pride involved with rescuing a fantastic lens out of someone’s dusty closet.

Another thing, this is the only prime I’ve had on my digital camera.  Something about the fixed, constricted field of view (the 50 becomes a 75 on an APS-C camera) spawns creativity in close quarters.  Subjects are more isolated and the feeling is a bit more intimate.

I took these at a friend’s birthday party.  I started out with the 16-50, but kept bumping 3200 to get a decent shutter speed.  That’s a bit out of the comfort range for the K7, but with the 1.4 aperture I was back to a more useable 1600. Honestly, I didn’t do very much to these pictures in lightroom, so most of what you see was the lens.

This last photo is of a friend’s daughter was outside on a cloudy day.  Wide open, I think, at ISO 100.  Again, it’s not particularly sharp at 1.4 but definitely useable.  You might say it has character.  Of course I bumped the exposure, added some saturation and a vignette but that’s what all the cool kids are doing :-)

Only one complaint…manual focus is MUCH more difficult on the digital cameras than on the old K1000.  Modern focus screens are bright, which is nice, but the image doesn’t “snap” when you’re in focus.  A cottage industry has sprung up on eBay selling old focus screens cut down to fit modern cameras. Hopefully I’ll have one before too long and will see if it helps matters any.

If you own a digital SLR, particularly a Pentax, there’s almost no excuse for not having one of these lenses.  I’m not sure if they’re as cheap in the other mounts…maybe someone can fill me in on that.  If you usually shoot with a wide angle zoom you’d do well to try this different FOV. I’ll be using this lens MUCH more often now!  Susie has me lined up for a few weddings soon and this might be the perfect reception lens.  Anyway, thanks for reading and have a great day!

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Posted in Cameras and Pentax K7 and people by admin on March 18th, 2010 at 1:37 pm.


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3 Replies

  1. you never fail to blow my mind. these are awesome.