Super Multi -Takumar on Nikon
How I managed to find and use this amazing vintage lens on my Nikon camera with infinity focus.
I am a huge fan of vintage cameras and is into developing my own films as well. I recently came back from holiday in Bangkok where I visited malls and malls of gadgets and gizmos of all sorts and my heart literally leaped-out of my chest and thought I was already in heaven when I came across shops of all these vintage cameras.
I‘ve read positive reviews and heard from friends a lot of great stuff about Pentax lenses, particularly the Super Multi-Coated Takumar lens— known for its amazing bokeh and super sharp and clear shots in low-light conditions, but it is quite hard to find a unit that's without 'hidden' issues online, moreover, its price in the market has been going up because of the 'new wave' of followers now that film photography is coming back.
I have my little collection of vintage cameras but I really NEED this lens for my Nikon DSLRs for close up / portrait shots. I do not have a full frame Nikon yet so this 55mm on my Nikon's cropped sensor would be equivalent to 82.5mm lens. Good enough for portrait shots...and the BOKEH! Omg, I can't stress that enough. Hahaha.
When it comes to buying vintage items or any gadget for that matter, especially cameras, it is very important to not be very impulsive (which I am honestly terrible at...it's so haaaaaard, especially when you are surrounded with everything you want...and limited budget!). "Better to be safe than sorry" applies here. So I finally found a shop that allowed me to try the lenses on my Nikon camera and had a great deal after a straightforward negotiation. I never haggle unreasonably but that's why research prior to buying is always important. Know the price range in the local and international market (FB Marketplace, Ebay, Amazon). The sellers would know if you are an 'informed' buyer. If you are, the least likely you'd be a victim of overpricing or worse, buying a suggested 'better' item that you will end up not using. And trust me, it saves time and it saves both parties mostly from being frustrated-- win-win. The shop owner knew that I am not a local, but I tried my best speaking the local Thai language while negotiating as much as I could with a smile and I think it did great wonders! :) I am not going to fill you with details about the specs of the lens or how good it really is. Do your homework (this is the 'teacher' side of me talking) and that's what Google is for or just click here and read. You're welcome.
1st CHALLENGE: To fit this Pentax SMC Takumar lens with M42 mount to Nikon, I needed an adapter. Solution: Get an M42-Nikon F adapter. DO NOT buy the one with the glass element in it. I do not have that one but 100% of the reviews that I came across with says that the cheap glass in it distorts and softens the images captured by the lens (which for me defeats the whole purpose of having this lens). One good thing though is that, with this adapter, you can focus the lens to infinity. This was the first adapter immediately recommended to me by the seller. But I did my homework and told him it's not what I need. I asked for the thin M42-Nikon F adapter without the glass element. The price of this is about 75% cheaper than the one with glass so I understand why most sellers wouldn't recommend this right away or even put it in display. All Nikon cameras have the same Nikon F mount since 1959. So any lens that I fancy fitting in my Nikon DX body camera, I just need to find the right from whatever mount to Nikon F adapter for it.
2nd CHALLENGE: With the thin M42-Nikon F adapter, the infinity focusing does not work. You get super sharp shots from about .45 meters and it gets softer until about 2.5 to 3 meters.
Why does it happen? Because we are using a lens not originally made for Nikon cameras, the distance from the rear element of the Pentax Takumar lens to the Nikon camera's sensor is now farther which disables its ability to focus to infinity. *This is why the adapter with the glass could do it, because the cheap glass minimizes the distance between the rear of the lens and the camera's sensor. Sadly, it messes with the image.
Solution: Minimize the gap between the rear of Takumar lens and the camera's sensor. READ the steps I did below. Disclaimer: This thing worked for my SMC Takumar 55mm 1.8 lens and Nikon DX bodies. I am just sharing what I have done in the hopes that it may help others make full use of the infinity focus of their vintage lens. I assume no responsibility on any type of damages that may occur should anyone do this. I still strongly suggest to have a professional camera repair man do this but if you're feeling adventurous, try at your own risk.
What you need: Clean and well-lit working area, micro screw driver (flat head), rubber cap/jar opener or pencil erasers, air blower, spanner, the thin glass-less M42 to Nikon F mount adapter, Nikon DSLR and dash of good vibes.
Step 1: Carefully use the rubber cap opener, to loosen the name ring of the camera counter-clockwise. I used a rubber/silicon to firmly but slowly twist the ring until it was loose. Some people swear by the use of rubber erasers at the end of a pencil. Whatever has a grip strong enough to push the name ring would work. I don't recommend using a metal spanner on this as it may slide and scratch your lens.
Step 2: You will find 6 screws under the name ring. Only remove the 3 screws that attaches the front protective barrel. I unscrew counter-clockwise until they are all loose and lifted it up carefully.
After removing the front protective barrel, I could see the 3 screws that attached the focus ring to the lens. They are screwed on a round copper metal. I double check that my Takumar lens is set at infinity. Doesn't matter where aperture ring is set.
I carefully loosen the 3 screws on the copper metal a little bit (but not all the way remove them) until I could feel that the focusing barrel is a little bit free. Meaning, I could freely move the focusing barrel and it lifts a bit from the barrel that has the indicator. I made sure the screws are not totally removed so I don't lose them.
I mounted the Takumar lens (with my thin adapter) in my Nikon DSLR and set it to live view so I could clearly see the if the adjustments I was about to make worked. Slowly but carefully and firmly, I pushed the loose focusing barrel and turn counter clockwise. I lift it and press firmly and turn it again while focusing on far objects until I was able to get the farthest focus. When I thought the lens have reached its farthest focus (not infinity yet), I lift the loose focusing barrel a bit and carefully set it to infinity. I tightened the 3 screws on the copper metal, used the air blower to clean the dust, put pack the front protective barrel and the tightened the name ring back using the rubber/silicon I initially used to remove it.
3rd CHALLENGE: My Takumar lens can now focus up until 4-5 meters but still it's not infinity. The rear element moved about 1mm backwards but it's still not close enough. Then I saw the ridges at the rear elements of the lens and thought...what if it can still be extended?
Solution: I took my spanner and carefully 'extended' the back outer lens by turning it counter clockwise until it is about another 1mm longer. I was very careful in doing this because I do not want to scratch the back lens, I also don't want it too extended that the lenses are totally unscrewed and would fall with slight use, and don't want it too extended that it might hit the mirror in my Nikon. So BE VERY CAREFUL.
I feel that the 'right' length of extension at the back would be about 1.5-2mm, or as extended as the silver pin at the back of the Takumar lens.
After this simple rear adjustment was done, I was so excited to see if it worked. Here are the test shots:
SUCCESS! At least for me. I am sooooo happy. I feel like my vintage Takumar lens has gained a new life, new vision, just like when I had my new eye glasses! :)
A thought: - I was thinking if just adjusting the rear element in itself would suffice and it would've saved me all the trouble in opening the front part but then again, being able to extend it backwards for about a millimeter through the front and then extending it for another millimeter at the back is probably a better move than extending the lens for straight 2mm at the back, then it might fall off. I don't know, I haven't tried. It would be interesting to find out though.
Hope this helps anyone else who is having an issue with Super Multi Coated Takumar lens 55mm 1.8 on their Nikon. Leave a comment if it worked for you too! It might work in other cameras but be careful as the gap between the rear element of the lens and your camera sensor might be different.