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Vintage Lens Review: Super Takumar 105mm (F2.8) First Impressions

About a year ago I was gifted two Super Takumar lenses on Thanksgiving. The gifter was someone I barely knew, but used to shoot professionally with Nikon film and dslr cameras.

He could tell, when my eyes popped out of my skull, that I already knew the “lore” behind the 50mm F1.4 Super Takumar lens he first showed me. The 50mm in question has a sort of unique feature in that it is technically radioactive. The lenses have a thorium isotope in one of the internal glass elements, giving any highlights caused by sunlight a gorgeous gold glow and halo. These thorium lenses are fairly easy to identify because they appear to have a yellow internal element. While some of the more anal photogrpahers would find this to be a defect, I have loved the creative doors this opens.

There is simply not a better sunset or lowlight campfire vintage lens if you like warm tones. Don’t take my word for it though, two of my best friends (and fellow photographers) have purchased their own after trying my lens just once. The words “woah, okay, I get it, and I need it” usually follow after someone trying out the Super Takumar 50mm F1.4.

However, this article is NOT about 50mm, but instead the 105mm F2.8.

The above is just to say, I have a bias, andI love the Takumar lenses. I own a 35mm F3.5, a 105mm F2.8, and a 200mm F4 to complement the gifted 50mm F1.4 and 135mm F3.5 lenses. All are sharp, and full of character.

The 105mm F2.8 is no different. I recently took a day trip down to southern Oregon into the desert to try it out. In using modern 100–400mm zoom lenses for wildlife photography I’ve actually become a huge fan of the 100mm focal length and wanted to try out a vintage “fast” prime. I was not disappointed. The 105mm F2.8 seems to address the two (and only) complaints I had with the 135mm F3.5: too much zoom, and too slow of a lens. The 105mm still offers the punch-in that I like from tele-lenses BUT isn’t as restrictive as a 135mm (or even my beloved 200mm scopes)and it’s much better in fading light situations and providing separation from the background.

All of the Takumars provide solid background blur and bokeh (but not overdone). The 105mm offers very much the same feel as the 135mm but with better bokeh, a slightly warmer tone (but still cool compared to the 50mm gold view), and a “flatter” lower contrast image which gives EXACTLY the vintage feel I look for. This becomes especially true when pairing the lens with a diffusion filter (I use a Tiffen Black Pro Mist 1/8) which softens the highlights and creates some subtle bloom from light sources.

Example images will be posted below, but first a final insight: this lens works exceptionally well as a black+white lens. I can’t say “why” just yet, but I like it. Anyways, thanks for reading, let me know what lens you might want to know about next!

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