This is my second ‘one hour photo’ project in which I take one lens and present a few photos from a photography walk-about. For non-photographers, it will give a little taste of the nightlife in semi-locked down Kota Kinabalu.
In this project I wanted to really push the limits of night-time photography, testing both the lens and the camera at handling difficult low-light situations. This is compounded by the fact that this 60 year old lens is fully manual.
Because the lens is manual the camera is unable to record the aperture setting. I have included my best guess at aperture based on my rusty memory from last night. None of the photographs have been cropped or cloned and only basic auto-settings applied.
ABOUT THE LENS
Old Pentax Takumar lenses are among the favourites of legacy lens lovers. As the name almost suggests, these lenses are tack-sharp, they’re built like tanks and they are beautiful to handle. My first experience of Takumar was a 35mm f/3.5 and I fell in love with it instantly, but 35mm is not a focal length I’m comfortable with, preferring either 28mm or 50mm for street photography. I already own the 50mm f/1.4 but Asahi made a number of versions, the most famous of which is this one, the earlier 8 element version. It is famous for a few reasons:
1. It was so expensive to manufacture it almost made Asahi bankrupt. It lost money on every lens sold
2. Asahi used radioactive thorium glass coatings
3. It produces beautiful images, some argue ‘better’ than the later versions
The radioactive qualities of the lens is a hotly debated topic but Petapixel published a great article in which they used a Geiger counter on this lens to test how dangerous it is. Read it to find out if I’ll grow another head.
This lens is one of the highest rated on the Pentax Forums, my go-to reference for legacy lenses, scoring 9.3 for sharpness, 8.7 for aberrations, 9.3 for bokeh, 9.5 for handling and 9.6 for value. Here’s a test-shot taken in a shopping mall, which I hope shows off the sharpness and colour rendition.
BEFORE IT GOT DARK
We’ve had shitty weather lately, lots of rain resulting in terrible lighting. However our time here at KK is about to end as we’re off to anchor soon so I grabbed this opportunity to take a few shots before leaving. There isn’t much to photograph on anchor at night! Before getting stuck into the night stuff, I fired off a few shots to practice manual focus and aperture settings.
The image below has had the usual auto settings applied in raw and auto tone/contrast/colour. Normally I’d use the dehaze slider on this shot but that goes against my one-hour photo rules! If nothing else it shows you what crappy lighting I was contending with.
What was disappointing about last night’s walk was that there were no markets and few people out and about. I had in my mind the idea of getting some nice shallow depth of field, bokeh-rich shots looking through twinkly lights as locals traded from their stalls, but there was none of that. Instead, I had to make do with the fluorescent glare from shop fronts.
In fact the few people who were around were lurking in the shadows, making my little project even more challenging. I should have asked these cyclists if I could borrow their lights as it might have helped lift the noise from the image.
That said, shooting straight at shop-fronts is one of my favourite angles. Shot with a 50mm it looks life-like and provides a natural frame to the picture.
As you can see the busiest places were the restaurants, some more busy than others.
Using a manual lens in low-light is challenging. In an ideal world I should have been benefiting from that fast 1.4 aperture to let in more light, but nailing such a shallow depth of field on moving objects is not easy (depending on the subject f/4-5.6 is more realistic IMO). The focus ring on Takumars are buttery smooth with enough resistance you don’t easily over/under focus, but focus peaking really helps here and I find the view-finder easier to use than using the screen. I did allow myself one zone-focused shot that I was quite pleased with, harking back to my off-camera flash days:
Nothing to conclude that I haven’t said already. This is a well-known model and well documented. It’s worth noting that Photoshop has a lens correction profile for the 1.4 and should be used as there is a little barrel distortion.
All I can say is that this lens is an absolute dream to use and, having owned this version for only a couple of days, I look forward to a lot more photography with it. I’d like to do some off-camera flash with it next, and maybe I should spend an evening taking photos only at f/1.4 as a little project, but that’s not going to happen at anchor!
Thank you.Everything we do we do for free, but if you would like to help us out, please consider...
Sharing The LoveUse the share buttons, below, to spread the word
Share this Post