Wanting to both streamline and diversify my lenses at once, I discovered this unusual 55/1.8 M42 from Petri.
The yardstick for 55/1.8 lenses in M42 mount has to be the Asahi Takumars. I’ve had half a dozen, and the one that’s endured is a very clean Super-Takumar.
In the past I’ve also had a Fujinon 55/1.8 which was pretty much the Takumar’s equal in the final image, if not quite so well built or smooth to use.
This Petri I researched a little before, but I think there are different versions in different mounts (M42 and Petri’s own proprietary mount) so it was difficult to draw any definitive conclusions.
Nevertheless there was enough promise to keep an eye out for one, and along it came, via my usual source, the wonderful/evil eBay.
Build wise the Petri is classic M42, sturdy, with plenty of metal and glass.
It’s larger than the Tak or Fujinon, but still pretty light.
Of course with any vintage lens, you can only judge it based on the example you have.
Focus-wise the Petri is fairly smooth, if slightly dry.
The throw is quite short, only about a third of a turn from the minimum focus to infinity.
Ah yes, the minimum focus.
Normally anything more than 0.5m I wouldn’t look at and most 50 or 55s seem to go to 0.45m.
Indeed one reason I so like the German lenses like the Zeiss Pancolar 50/1.8 and Pentacon 50/1.8 is their excellent close focus – 0.35 and 0.33m respectively.
So the 0.6m of the Petri isn’t ideal, and noticeably long compared with those mentioned above, but this is alleviated somewhat using it on an APS-C DSLR with 1.5x crop factor, giving an 82.5mm equivalent field of view.
Like most M42 lenses, the Petri has an Auto/Manual switch, which if course with a DSLR with an adapter I leave on manual, as the auto pin is not activated by anything on the camera body.
Something I really like with this lens is there are no click stops on the aperture ring.
Whether this is by original design, or someone has either declicked it purposely, or dismantled the lens and lost the ball bearing that provides the click stop (we’ve all done it, haven’t we?), I don’t know.
That is, the aperture can be infinitely adjusted, depending on the depth of field required.
The six blades form a rounded hexagon as they’re stopped down, which is preferable to me than very straight blades forming a severe attack of the hexagons in the bokeh.
So, let’s summarise the Petri so far.
We have a lens with decent but not amazing build quality, that’s not especially compact, only focuses down to 0.6m and only has six aperture blades.
Doesn’t sound a keeper does it, especially in the company of the Super-Takumar 55/1.8?
However, the Petri isn’t finished yet.
Whilst it doesn’t feel special to use in the way a Tak does, it’s actually very endearing, and the short focus throw and clickless aperture really appeal.
Even better, the magic of this lens is in the bokeh.
Even wide open.
Especially wide open.
Many lenses claim a fast aperture but then aren’t really usable until they’re stopped down two stops.
The Petri CC Auto delivers something I’ve not seen in quite the same way from any other lens I can recall.
Yes the Takumar and Fujinon give perfectly pleasing bokeh, and the Helios can be teased into delivering dreamy swirls like nothing else I’ve used.
But the Petri manages to do something different.
The best way I can describe it is renders backgrounds like a beautiful watercolour painting left out in the rain.
At the same time being at least as sharp as I would ever need a lens to be.
Needless to say, the Petri has solidly secured its place in my kit for the foreseeable future, and I’m greatly looking forward to using it again.
All photographs in the post made with the Petri CC Auto 55/1.8 on my Samsung GX-1S 6MP Pentax K mount DSLR. Click on any image to see full size on Flickr.
Which are your favourite lenses for bokeh?
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