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Quality M42 lenses


tnorthy92
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Hi.

I have myself also just got a 550D, and have an adaptor with a couple of cheap M42 lenses. I don't have a tracking mount, so wide angle short exposures are all I can do at the moment. Star trails are easy enough.

The first lens I bought was a Helios 44-2, which is 58mm f/2. Cost only £25. With the aperture wide open it produced very obvious distortion at the edges of images, not good. This is a common problem with wide aperture lenses; apparently they perform better stopped down. I have yet to try the lens stopped down a few notches, but I wouldn't recommend it. The focus wheel is narrow and close to the camera body, making it difficult to focus in the dark.

The EFS 18-55mm lens that came with my Canon DSLR performed much, much better at f/4.5. I have posted some pictures in my gallery using this lens.

The second lens is a Helios 44m-4, about £27. This is a later improved version of the 44-2, is also 58mm f/2, but is multicoated and with a wide focus wheel at the end of the lens barrel (much easier to focus) . Apparently this was the lens included with millions of Zenit SLR cameras which were regarded as good quality cameras., Sadly I haven't had the chance to test this out on the night sky, but I shall post back later.

I also bought a Soligor 28mm f/2.8 lens (£14), but it has a lot of haze inside the lens which I cannot clean. It is awful for daylight photography, but at night is okay. It is hard to tell if the light pollution is being amplified by the haze. There was very little distortion at the edges, but I need to do more trials before I can recommend it.

I have done lots of research in the "all-knowing web" forums, and it seems there are many conflicting views about what are the best M42 lenses. One name that frequently crops up as the BEST of the best is Zeiss, and they can be had on Ebay for £60 and upwards depending on the model. The Flektogon lens is highly prized and likewise priced. Asahi Takumar are widely touted to be very good and are a bit cheaper.But then virtually all of those forums are for daylight photography, and I wonder if the lens characteristics that are so highly sought after are applicable to astrophotography. They talk a lot about "bokeh", which doesn't apply when shooting stars focussed at infinity.

The great thing about these M42 lens is they are very cheap, and can be re-sold easily if you don't like them.

Let me know how you get on.

Steve.

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My dad has a Soligor 200mm f/4.5 prime that he's given me, not had chance to try it out yet though. Been looking through ebay and there do some to be some good wide angle lenses out there. I'm going to get a tracking mount soon. When I tried some star trails my EFS 18-55 did some weird things, but that have been caused by the street light that was a bit out of shot.

I've tried looking at forums, but I thought it might be useful to start one on here as several of the more serious amateurs on here do seem to use them.

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Had a go with the Helios 44m-4 last night and it has the same problem as the other Helios. With the aperture wide open you get a lot of distortion away from the centre of the image (stars appears as stretched lines rather than pin sharp points of light). Stopped down to f/8 or more it was fine, but then I am loosing fainter stars and nebulosity. This means longer exposures, but then I get star trails. Looks like I also need a tracking mount.

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I was really fortunate in that my 21st birthday present ( a very long time ago) was a Pentax S1a with 42mm smc lens's. Glad I kept them they are great an my EOS with an adapter. Try the 2nd hand market screw pentax lens's are great bargain.

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Yes the Soligor does focus, but it is not as sharp as the EFS 18-55mm or the Helios lenses. I have posted a picture using this lens here:-

http://stargazerslounge.com/gallery/image/13883-iss-small/

In my mind the wider angles 28mm should be easier to focus at infinity, so it is strange you are struggling. Can you focus it in daylight?

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The Pentax SMC 50mm F/1.4 lens is arguably the best lens ever produced with M42 thread. Yashica also produced some very nice lenses for M42, before switching to their own bayonet mount. Hard to come by these days. You can also get adaptors for Contax/Yashica mount for Canon, and they do come to focus at infinity I am told. Yashica and Carl Zeiss lenses cold be used. The former are cheap and pretty good (I had a 135mm F/2.8 from Yashica, which was very nice indeed), but the latter are bound to be expensive (I have a Carl Zeiss Sonnar 135mm F/2.8, which blew the Yashica out of the water).

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i use m42 lens although havent for a while but my collection are in my signature, i have a helios 58mm, a 135mm a 200mm a 28mm and a 18 - 55mm and their all good lens althrough my fav ones have to be the 135mm and the 28 which get the most (very little at present) use

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I have the M42 lenses from my Pentax Spotmatic SLR days but nothing longer than 135mm which I've used quite a bit (though not as much as I'd have liked, like everyone else in the UK). I'd like a 200mm but they seem quite expensive.

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  • 3 months later...

Following the advice of Michaal Wilkinson (above) I went and purchased a Pentax SMC 50mm f/1.4 (bargain price too!). Here are some pictures I have taken using the lens with my 550D.

http://stargazerslounge.com/uploads/gallery/album_1440/gallery_9225_1440_156483.jpg

http://stargazerslounge.com/uploads/gallery/album_1440/gallery_9225_1440_362777.jpg

http://stargazerslounge.com/uploads/gallery/album_1440/gallery_9225_1440_369148.jpg

Apparently the lens was made with a radioactive thorium glass element which causes the lens to take on a yellow tinge over time. Whilst problematic for film photography, a little tweaking on the computer gets the colour balance back to normal. I am very impressed with this lens and can't wait to try it out on solid tracking mount (still saving!).

Recently, I have also acquired a Pentacon 28mm M42 lens, but it seems to have been raining for weeks, and so I haven't tried it yet. I will post some pictures when I can get out there.

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I have the M42 lenses from my Pentax Spotmatic SLR days but nothing longer than 135mm which I've used quite a bit (though not as much as I'd have liked, like everyone else in the UK). I'd like a 200mm but they seem quite expensive.

I have been watching eBay for M42 lenses and there are plenty of 200mm on there. Some are poor quality (I am lead to believe), but you can pick up a Takumar or a Pentacon for under £100, some around the £50 mark. They are rated as good quality, but I don't have one myself. The best in that focal length are the Zeiss which are £200 - £300. Too much!

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I have been watching eBay for M42 lenses and there are plenty of 200mm on there. Some are poor quality (I am lead to believe), but you can pick up a Takumar or a Pentacon for under £100, some around the £50 mark. They are rated as good quality, but I don't have one myself. The best in that focal length are the Zeiss which are £200 - £300. Too much!

Yes, since I wrote that I have indeed picked up a 200mm f4 SMC Takumar lens for a total of around £80 including delivery from the USA and import duty etc. I've had very little time to try it but so far it seems very good.

Here's a link to the only image taken with this lens as yet :- http://stargazerslou...m-flame-to-m42/

Edited by Gina
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Yes, since I wrote that I have indeed picked up a 200mm f4 SMC Takumar lens for a total of around £80 including delivery from the USA and import duty etc. I've had very little time to try it but so far it seems very good.

Here's a link to the only image taken with this lens as yet :- http://stargazerslou...m-flame-to-m42/

That is a fantastic image Gina. I wonder if you've tried imaging without an accurate tracking mount; then maybe you can sense my jealousy.

Last night I had a go with my 50mm f/1.4 Takumar. With aperture wide open the chromatic aberration is awful (this disappears at about f/5.6). On the up side, the wide aperture is great for locating objects within the small dim viewfinder on my Canon 550D.

So is the f/1.4 Takumar worth the cost compared to the much cheaper Helios 44M-4? Well on an APS-C camera the crop factor increases a 50mm lens to an 80mm lens, and so exposures times are limited to about 4 or 5 seconds before star trailing becomes noticeable. With such short exposures the adavantage of a bigger aperture lens would have an advantage. But as I have discovered, at f/1.4 the Takumar is so badly affected by CA, that the advantage is lost. Both the Takumar and the Helios need stopping down to avoid CA, and I can't tell the difference between them. Considering that the Helios is a third the price, I would recommend avoiding the inflated price of the f/1.4 Takumar. Having said this, the Takumar is the best daylight photography 50mm lens and I shall continue use mine.

I have acquired an M42 Pentacon 28mm lens, and shall try posting some results soon.

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  • 8 months later...

Resurrecting this old thread because I need to recommend an M42 lens. The following image of NGC7000 was taken with a Canon550D and a Tair-3S 300mm lens. The lens comes from an old Russian "Fotosniper" kit which originally came with a Zenit camera and, due to its heavy weight, was mounted on a gun!! No kidding, look it up on google. I am very impressed with the sharpness of this lens, even at the corners of the frame. Wide open, there are some internal reflections which produce some odd double images of the brightest stars in this picture. Next time I must remember to close the aperture more.

gallery_9225_1440_391996.jpg

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