Lens Love is an ongoing series of posts about the vintage lenses I’ve used and loved most.
The dry technical data and 100% corner crops of brick walls can be found elsewhere. What I’m more interested in is what specifically about a lens makes me love using it, and why I believe you should try one too.
Today’s lens –
Ricoh Rikenon 50mm f/2 Pentax K Mount
When I first held a Rikenon 50/2 I was underwhelmed, to say the least.
A lot of plastic, “only” f/2, “only” full stops on the aperture ring, and a minimum focus of “only” 0.6m.
Against the likes of the lovely SMC Pentax-M 50/1.7 and almost as lovely Auto Chinon 50/1.7 – both of which are faster, better built (plus more metal) and focus to 0.45m – I didn’t expect the Rikenon to hang around long.
But then I shot a roll of film with it.
And was highly impressed with the photographs.
Then I tried it on my NEX, and got a lucky “right place right time” shot of a robin with the Rikenon wide open at f/2 that remains one of my favourite ever images I’ve made.
What initially seemed weaknesses turned into pluses.
The plastic aperture ring is actually the smoothest plastic aperture ring I’ve tried, way better than a Pentax-A 50mm. It’s perfectly usable, and always slots in reassuringly to the next stop.
Intentionally I think, and very cleverly, Ricoh enhanced the assured feel by making it only full stops.
Plastic aperture rings with half stops I’m often over shooting where I intended to turn the ring too then going back and forwards (you know like when you almost bump into someone, then both move one way, then both the other way, until finally four or five sways later, the improvised stranger dancing ends, and you pass your separate ways) before finding the right setting. Yes I’m talking to you again Pentax-A lenses!
The full stops actually make it lovely and simple to use (again I wonder if Ricoh intended this in the design).
I hardly ever use f/11 or smaller, so the most I have to click is four stops from f/2 to f/8 or vice versa. Meaning it’s very easy to remember where you are on the scale even if you’re not looking at it. My SMC Pentax-M 50/1.7, for example, needs eight clicks to go from wide open to f/8.
The expansive use of plastic make it very light – around 135g.
The smaller version (there are two sizes, to my knowledge) is very compact too, protruding less than 30mm from the camera when focused at infinity.
It’s approaching what you might call a Pancake, for a 50mm lens. The so called Pancake Pentax 40mm f/2.8 is only 25g lighter and 12mm flatter, and by all accounts is not a great performer.
That “slow” speed of f/2 virtually disappears as a barrier when it’s makes such pleasing photographs wide open.
The first photograph in this post, the robin photograph, and the tap shot below, were all shot wide open at f/2.
I really, really like the bokeh of these lenses wide open, and the sharp areas are plenty crisp for my needs.
Most 50s need stopping down two or three stops before they really perform, negating their f/1.4 or f/1.7 advantage, and losing the shallow depth of field and round highlights you get shooting wide open.
Whilst the focus ring is not quite as smooth as a runny honey dripping from hot toast, it’s silky enough that you never think about it.
The short throw from minimum distance to infinity of around a third of a turn, will please some who like to adjust focus quickly.
Finally, for the skinflints like me, these Rikenons can be had for less than £20 all day long, if you’re patient, less than £10.
Are there any downsides?
That minimum focus of 0.6m is a bit disappointing for someone like myself who loves shooting up close.
But if you really need to shoot nearer than 0.6m, you could use close up filters, an extension ring or a macro reversing ring. I used the latter with a 50/1.7 Rikenon with excellent results, and have no doubt the 50/2 would be at least as good.
I’ve had four or five 50/2s and two 50/1.7s. The f/1.7s are very good, but the f/2s really stand out, and I’d much rather have one of these.
Overall I’d highly recommend the Rikenon 50/2, not just if you’re looking for a Pentax K mount 50mm lens, but if you’re looking for any 50mm lens to adapt to digital too.
Very light and compact, a simple to use and navigate aperture ring, and very good performance from wide open at f/2 onwards.
Plus as they’re Pentax K mount, the film and digital body options made by Pentax alone are vast. Widen the net to Pentax K mount film bodies by other brands (including Ricoh themselves) and digital options (Pentax DLSRs and others via adapters) and there’s a winning combination out there for all of us.
Don’t hesitate to add one to your collection if you have the chance!
Have you tried a Rikenon 50/2? What lens would you recommend in Pentax K mount?
Please let us know in the comments below.
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12 thoughts on “Lens Love #3 – Ricoh Rikenon 50mm f/2 PK”
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I have an Rikenon50mm F2 from my old film camera. The aperture ring work at random , fungus at the side but I still love it.
Sometimes I love a faulty lens even more, as it’s even more unlikely to make something beautiful, then surprises me when it does!
Someone gave me a faulty (unbeknownst to them, they were just offloading some old stuff) Ricoh KR-10 with this lens attached. Got rid of the camera but kept the lens to try out on my Chinon CG-5. Like you, I was really skeptical about it (especially for being JUST f/2), but like you, I was definitely blown away by the results, especially the bokeh. It’s a real gem.
Thanks Cam, it’s a great lens. There’s an f/1.7 version that came as the kit lens on some of the later Ricoh bodies too, but it’s no better than the f/2 in my opinion.
Amazing review, thanks a lot.
Recently, I got this one and also the Cosinon 50mm 1.8 with a film camera. I read your post about the Cosinon as well (post title : Triple Underdog – 3 Humble 50mm Lenses That Far Exceeded Expectations).
Which would you say is best between those two 50mm lenses? I’m planning on getting rid of one of the 2.
What I love about the Rikenon is that it’s small, very light and focusing is fast!
Thanks Elio. I gad a Cosina 50mm for a while, I think it was either f/1.8 or f/2. From what I remember, optically it was very good, but it felt pretty cheap compared to something like a Takumar or Pentax-M. I would probably favour the Rikenon, though as I think I said in the post, the only shortcoming really was the disappointing close focus distance.
Awesome to read these comments. I have just purchased one and cant wait to use it.
Thanks Michael, do come back and let us know how you get on with the Rikenon. Which camera are you using it with?
My friend gave me a Ricoh xr7 with one of these on it the body was dead but this lens was in perfect condition proceeded to try it on my Sony a6000 and remember having to switch to my Pentax a 1.7 to really believe what I was seeing yep a real gem in the rust great review by the way
Those little Rikenons certainly deliver and they’re so cheap and plentiful. The only real downside for me was the close focus of only 0.6m, whereas rival Pentax or Auto Chinon lenses went to 0.45m, which is quite a significant difference for someone like me who often shoots at minimum focus.