I have often read that the 35mm (full-frame equivalent) is the perfect all-around focal length. On a 35mm camera, this focal length is wide enough for a scene to fill a frame, but long enough to isolate an individual subject. I had often also read that a 50mm prime lens, the ‘nifty fifty,’ is the most useful and complete all-round lens. Before the advent of zooms, most film cameras were fitted with 50mm lenses. It has been written that Henri Cartier-Bresson, whom many photographers hold in high esteem, used a 50mm lens for most of his photography.
A 50mm lens is a great addition to any camera bag because it's a versatile piece of glass. The point is that it is a great walk around or travel lens because it can help you photograph almost anything from your dog to mountains to small objects and everything in between.
Many photographers erroneously claim that the 50mm lens on a 35mm full-frame camera has an angle of view that closely matches the field of view of the human eye1.
I shoot mostly digital (APS-C), but I also own an Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II 35mm film camera. I went into the only local camera shop in Princeton to pick up a battery for the Spotmatic II and ended up buying a Soligor 35mm f/2.8 Wide-Auto M42 lens for $50.
I now have a good set of manual primes - 28mm 35mm and 55mm for my Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II which I can also use on my Fujifilm X-T2 at ~42 mm FF FOV, ~53mm FF FOV and ~84mm FF FOV.
As I have written a few times while writing about other old lenses, "it's all-metal, substantial, great construction, yadda yadda". Just about every old lens I've come across would get high marks for that.
This lens has an A-M switch, a smooth and damped focus with a beautiful range of only over 180 degrees, reasonably compact build and nicely knurled focus and aperture rings. However, I noticed a tendency to move the A-M ring when changing aperture and mounting/unmounting.
On a 35mm film camera, I would use this lens primarily for street photography work but it can be put to that purpose on an APS-C sensor camera as well. I used it at around f/5.6 to f/11, which helps with sharpness.
But it's the pictures that matter. They were all shot at f/5.6 on my Fujifilm X-T2 with a Fotodiox M42-FX adapter.
I do think the images are a bit soft but I am unsure if it’s the lens or just my poor manual focusing technique.
Name: Soligor Wide-Auto 1:28 f=35mm
Tested On: Fujifilm X-T2 with FotodioX M42-FX adapter
Focal Length: 35mm
Maximum Aperture: f/2.8
Minimum Aperture: f/16
Diaphragm Blades: 8
Price Paid: US$50
Product Ratings (1=miserable, 5=excellent):
Construction Quality: 4
Image Quality: 3
Overall Value For Price: 4
Many websites keep propagating the “story” that a 50mm focal length on a 35mm full-frame camera is roughly equivalent to the field-of-view (FOV) of the human eye. The statement always seemed odd to me, given that when I look straight ahead, keeping my eyes from moving side-to-side, I see “wider” than 50mm FOV. The “50mm is standard” mantra also seemed strange, given what I had learned about FOV in graduate school during my “vision” classes. We were being taught about the human eye because designing displays and image processing algorithms requires understanding human vision.
The focal length of the eye is 17 or 24mm. However, only part of the retina processes the main image we see. This part of the retina is called the cone of visual attention, which is about 55º wide. On a 35mm full-frame camera, a 43mm focal length provides an angle of view of approximately 55º. The 43mm focal length closely approximates the angle of view of the human eye.
43 is not roughly 50. That’s a round-up of nearly 14%. And then saying 52mm, when using a 35mm focal length on a crop factor camera, is close enough to 50 mm compounds the error (20%).
Maybe it’s the engineer in me, but these sort of “errors” get passed around and become “truth”, and then we get stuck with them1.
With the 43mm focal length in mind, I purchased an Asahi Optical Co. Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 28mm f/3.5 lens. This 28mm lens, when mounted to a Fujifilm X camera, provides a 42.56mm (28*1.52) full-frame equivalent field of view, which is near enough to the actual visible focal length of the human eye.
My purchase came directly from Japan with the lens in a leather pouch and the lens hood in another leather pouch.
On my Fujifilm X-T2, this lens has a 42.6mm full-frame equivalent field of view within the range of the visible focal length of the human eye, making this an excellent lens for travel street photography. Between 1962 and 1975, Asahi Optical Co., which eventually become Pentax, manufactured various version of the Takumar 28mm f/3.5 for its range of Spotmatic cameras. Asahi Optical produced this version of the lens with a multi-coated layer designed to reduce lens flare. The lens was sold from 1971 to 1975 and was given the Super-Multi-Coated label.
The first time I used this lens was during my trips into Philadelphia for daily radiation treatments for my Graves Eye Disease. After each treatment, while I waited for the valet to bring the car around, I would stand on the street and take photos. I have used the lens mostly for street photography ever since. Street photography was something I hadn’t done much with other cameras and lenses, but learning how to use this lens was a big help. Instead of pointing the lens at people, I practised by looking down at the flip screen to use focus-peaking, which made me seem less threatening as perhaps some people thought I was using a film camera.
Like most Asahi Optical Co. lenses from the era, the [Asahi Optical Co. Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 28mm f/3.5 is all-metal and glass construction, it feels solid in hand and compliments the look and feel of the Fujifilm X-T2, the focus ring is silky smooth, and the aperture ring gives noticeable clicks as it moves through the half-stops, the lens has a 49mm filter ring and comes with a plastic lens hood, the lens has a maximum aperture of f/3.5, and the minimum aperture is f/16, with intermediate stops at ½ increments. This lens is not a lens for bokehlicious photography. The Asahi Optical Co. Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 55mm f/2 is a better choice for that. I shot most of my images at f/5.6, which works well for street photography and seems to be one of the sweet spots for sharpness in this lens. Because the lens cannot communicate with the electronics in the Fujifilm X-T2, when I attach vintage lenses, I tend to shoot the glass at one aperture setting to make it easier for me to add that metadata to the image later.
I know not everyone will be as into vintage lenses, and losing access to auto-focus is a deal-breaker for some. Still, if you are interested in trying out old manual focus lenses, the Asahi Optical Co. Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 28mm f/3.5 is highly recommended. The lens is inexpensive, and both the build quality and image quality are great. The Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 28mm f/3.5 is my second Asahi prime lens after the Asahi Optical Co. Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 55mm f/2 and probably won't be my last.
While my wife drove, I had fun capturing images out of the windshield while experimenting with the focusing ring of the aperture of my Asahi SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 lens attached to my Fujifilm X-T2.
While my wife drove, I had fun capturing images out of the windshield while experimenting with the focusing ring of the aperture of my Asahi Optical Co. Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 55mm f/2 lens attached to my Fujifilm X-T2.