The first SLR I owned, back in 2013, was a late ’70s Praktica BMS Electronic, with a Prakticar Pentacon 50mm f/1.8 lens.
It turns out that whilst this wasn’t the most refined SLR ever made, it was pretty reliable, and the Pentacon 50/1.8 is very decent indeed.
But we’re not here today to talk about 50mm lenses. We’re here to discuss, er, 55mm lenses.
On film, the difference between 50 and 55mm isn’t huge, but enough that when I first shot with a 55mm lens (an SMC Takumar 55/1.8) it felt larger and more intimate when looking through the viewfinder, than the 50mm view I already loved.
So began my affair with 55mm lenses.
Since then, aside from a handful of Takumar 55/1.8 and 55/2s (from Super-Takumars onwards they’re essentially the same lens, Asahi just “crippled” the 55/1.8 slightly wide open and sold it at as entry level 55/2 lens, rather than design a whole new lens) I seem to have owned and used quite a few, and one way or another enjoyed them all.
Here are a few worth highlighting.
Asahi Takumar 55/1.8 and 55/2
As I said, essentially the same lens, my favourites are the Super-Takumar version which still has the metal knurled focus ring.
The later Super-Multi-Coated lenses still have the metal focus barrel but extra contacts at the rear which can interfere with adapters when using the lenses with adapters on non-M42 cameras, which I found to my disappointment when I had one.
The later model still, the SMC, still has the extra contacts, and a rubber waffled focus ring, which I didn’t like as much as the metal knurled ones.
Optically, none of them disappointed and today I have an old Auto-Takumar 55/2 with 10 blades, and a newer Super-Takumar 55/1.8 which is arguably my favourite, most capable, and most luxurious lens I’ve ever owned.
Auto Mamiya/Sekor 55mm f/1.8
This came attached to a very clean but rather ugly and clunky Mamiya/Sekor 1000DTL, and both camera and lens worked like new.
I soon sold the body (I already had a Spotmatic F by now, the only M42 body anyone needs) but kept the lens for a while.
Very smooth, compact, and capable of excellent results, I couldn’t fault it.
I sold it later in a purge to reduce duplication, and given I had the Takumar and a little Fujinon too, the Mamiya/Sekor despite a very respectable and close third in lofty company, had to go.
Talking of which…
Fuji Photo Film Co Fujinon 55mm f/1.8
This cute Fujinon went toe to toe for a considerable time with my Super-Takumar, and was never found wanting.
It really was – and is – a delightful lens, and some quite rightly say one of the best 50 or 55mm lenses ever made.
Again, the victim of a purge where the best 55mm I had was (just, based on feel) the Super-Takumar, and I also had a 58mm Helios 44-2 which I never plan to part with, off went the Fujinon.
Porst Color Reflex MC Auto 55mm f/1.4
I found this browsing the German eBay on the advice of a Greek friend who’s picked up many a bargain there, not least of all by learning about some of the rebranded lenses sold in Germany.
Porst and Revuenon are names that arise frequently, and with research you can usually find their original pedigree – which is often well regarded.
Seeing the listing of the this Porst Color Reflex MC Auto 55/1.4, it was love at first sight. Just look at that huge hunk of blue glass!
It was no slouch performance wise, but not quite up there with the best 55s I’d had, and the extra bulk and weight of it being f/1.4 didn’t really justify the fractionally faster maximum aperture.
Still, I wouldn’t object trying one again at the right price!
Auto Chinon 55mm f/1.7
Another beautiful piece of old school metal and glass, this cost around £20, I think attached to a camera (but not the Praktica pictured below).
Smooth to use and lovely end results, it was another 55/1.7 that was easy to love.
But another that went in a purge when I realised I had half a dozen lenses that did much the same.
I had this lens during my predominantly film photography era, so hardly shot any digital images with it. It would be interesting to compare with others on a DSLR now, but whilst it’s a lens I’d find hard not to recommend, it’s not one I have a burning desire to seek out again.
Petri CC Auto 55mm f/1.8
My most recent 55mm, and one of only three I have remaining (the Takumars being the other two), it’s been very impressive so far.
Very pleasing bokeh, like a washed out watercolour, and whether an original feature or not, it has a clickless aperture so operates much like my Helios 44-2 preset aperture, ie the depth of field is infinitely adjustable.
Which on Aperture priority mode on my Pentax DSLRs works beautifully.
How about you, do you have (m)any 55mm lenses? What do you like about them?
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).
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