Lens Love #5 – Asahi Takumar 105mm f/2.8 M42

Lens Love is an occasional 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.

You can see all Lens Love posts here.

This time around, the Asahi Takumar 105mm f/2.8, in M42 mount.

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What I Love

This could almost be answered in a single word. Takumar.

I haven’t yet met a lens made by Asahi under their Takumar range that I didn’t like.

(It’s important to note that I’m talking about the original range of Takumars in M42 mount. Later on in the late 70s and 80s, when Asahi had evolved into Pentax, they resurrected the Takumar name for some of their K mount lenses. These are not the same, and I’m not in a place to recommend any of them.)

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At 105mm this model initally seemed an unusual focal length on paper.

But as I used it only with digital cameras with APS-C sensors, and a crop factor of 1.5x, it meant the field of view was equivalent to just over 150mm, in fact 157.5mm to be precise.

At the time I had a number of beautiful 135mm lenses in M42 mount, including the Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Sonnar 135mm f/3.5 I reviewed previously in this series.

On APS-C digital cameras, this equated to over 200mm (202.5mm), which most of the time was just too long for me.

The Takumar 105mm was significantly shorter in this sense, plus its physical size overall was smaller and less cumbersome.

Those familiar with the width of the M42 screw thread can see in the picture above that the lens body is not all that much larger. Its more like a 50mm lens, but twice as long, than a tele lens.

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The Takumar 105/2.8 is also a preset aperture lens, which means instead of the standard click stops on the aperture ring with most manual lenses, you set the aperture you want to stop down to first, then open the lens up on a second ring to compose and focus with the maximum amount of light entering, then stop down to that preset aperture before shooting.

I wrote more about preset aperture lenses and why you should have at least one here.

What I especially enjoy about preset aperture lenses with digital bodies is I can adjust the lens precisely to achieve the depth of field I want, I’m not limited to whole stops.

This is also useful in low light where I might mentally limit my shutter speed to say 1/15s. I just adjust the aperture until the shutter speed drops below 1/15s, then notch it open again fractionally until I’m back at 1/15s.

This just gives a bit of extra control and finesse, and with the Takumar accentuates the quality build and smoothness of the aperture ring, as its motion is not interrupted by the set click stops of a standard aperture lens.

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Any Downsides?

The only downside for some may be that this is a fully manual lens. There’s no automated aperture (or of course focus). It needs more time and thought that simply whacking an auto focus, auto aperture lens on your DSLR and firing off in Program mode with little consideration to your aperture and shutter speed.

There are times I do enjoy Program mode(s), most often with compact cameras. But when you pick up the Takumar – and again this is enhanced by it being a preset aperture lens – you know you’re in for a more considered and cerebral photography experience.

More akin to luxuriating leisurely in a hot deep bubble bath, than quickly hopping in and out of a shower with an all auto camera.

Well, not literally, but you know what I mean.

Overall, the Takumar 105/2.8 is a delightful lens, that offers an excellent option on APS-C sensors where a far more common and bulky 135mm lens is just too long. 

The build and silky smoothness of use is typical of the glorious Takumar range.

And as I hope you can see from the images in this post, it delivers absolutely lovely photographs.

Highly recommended.

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Have you used an Asahi Takumar 105/2.8? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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7 thoughts on “Lens Love #5 – Asahi Takumar 105mm f/2.8 M42”

  1. This looks a really nice lens that I had not considered or to be honest, ever thought about, it being M42.
    I like a lot of the old nikkor lenses and they also do a really good 105 f2.8 but the price has gone a bit silly since mirror-less cameras came about.
    Will look out for one, thanks for the info.

    1. David, thanks for your comments. M42 are one of the easiest mounts to adapt to other film cameras plus digital SLRs and mirrorless. There’s a huge world out there!

  2. I’ve never met a Takumar I didn’t like.
    You can do a lot of good shots just by putting a manual lens on a digital camera and “presetting everything”. Sometimes automation is overrated.
    Although I don’t use my longer manual often, the 28mm is practically the default ‘prime’ for the Canon. I’d use the 35mm more, but the yellow tone it’s developed makes it a pain for colour shots.
    And yes, I should have kept ALL the M42 lenses I had – even the non Takumars. Oh well.

      1. Right now I have the 28mm, the yellowed 35mm, and a 50mm – all from my Spotmatic kit. I had a Pentax H2 with a 55mm Takumar too, and a Yashica J-5 with a 55mm Yashinon Takumar copy.
        Outside of that I still have my Vivitar 135mm and the big Soligor 80-240mm zoom. But I did have some other M42 lenses usually with a T2 mount that ranged from 18mm fisheye to a 400mm telephoto. The ones outside ‘normal’ range wouldn’t be much to keep as the telephotos are massive and heavy and the fisheye … well it’s fun for a bit but not something you’d really use a lot. One of them was a Lentar 250mm mirror tele, and its quality was always lousy! Not sad I left that behind.

  3. I have the SMC-M 100mm f/2.8 – lovely little lens, but your Takumar is supposed to be even better, a classic. You’re not alone in your praise for it. But my 100mm is no slouch either… I was surprised it became a favorite, as I wasn’t planning on ever buying one and it just came with that lens lot last year…
    So far I have resisted the allure of the M42 lenses… I have enough lenses as it is 😉

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