Any M42 fanatics around?

Hi all,

Haven’t we all been bombarded by statements that old, manual lenses are far too soft, and not really worth the hassle, especially when used on a modern, fully digital camera body?

I’d say that it all depends… I have a few semi-antique, manual lenses that I like very much. I cannot really say why, except that they make me think more about composition, lights, exposure, &c.

Soft? Of course. But certainly nothing that darktable can’t fix!

This shot was taken with a Soviet sibling of the Tessar, an Industar 50-2, a somewhat peculiar prime lens - but it still works just fine!

Now, what M42 lenses do you value - and why?

Have fun!
Claes in Lund, Sweden


A couple years back I picked up a Super-Takumar 55mm f/1.8 on ebay, cheap. Good fast lens that sharpens up nicely stopped down to f5.6 or more. Can’t focus at infinity, though reversed is a good macro lens. I thought that it may have been a radioactive one but was able to verify it’s not.

And then we are bombarded by skin-smoothing plugins for the modern tack-sharp lenses.

Yet one of my favorite pictures is grainy and soft:

I feel you. But being able to fix it doesn’t mean you have to. Softness is like poetry.

I seem to recall @carafife is a M42 lover.


Yeeeeeessssss !!! :heart_eyes:

Henri Cartier-Bresson on ‘sharpness’:

“Sharpness is a bourgeois concept”

“I am constantly amused by the notion that some people have about photographic technique — a notion which reveals itself in an insatiable craving for sharpness of images. Is this the passion of an obsession? Or do these people hope, by this trompe l’oeil technique, to get to closer grips with reality? In either case, they are just as far away from the real problem as those of that other generation which used to endow all its photographic anecdotes with an intentional unsharpness such as was deemed to be ‘artistic’.”
[From ‘Images à la Sauvette’]

(And don’t you just love the way that, because of the small number of lens elements, M42 lenses render the three-dimensionality of volumes?)


Hi. I have 2 M42 lenses: a Pancolar 50/1.8 zebra and a silver Helios 58/2 with kyrillic letters. I have not used them much lately though which I regret. 2 weeks ago I was at an orchids show, I should have used one of those lenses there, instead I used an OM Zuiko 50/1.8 which was OK, but I already used that lens for the show last year.
I also used to own a Flektogon 35/2.4, I sold it since the focal length did not make much sense on my then new MFT camera. I kind of regret that I sold it.

Helios! and helios again…
I admit it is very difficult to imagine the photo without my Helios 40-2 and 44-2, my CZJ Q 50mm 2.8 and the magic compression of my MOG Orestor 135mm 2.8.
How to resist their rendering :heart_eyes:


I have a couple of M42 lenses, a 50 1.8 and a 135 2.8. both are awful wide open, but stopped down a bit you can get very nice results (or at least, you can get fun :slight_smile:
here’s one with the 135 that I posted a while ago:


The old takumar are not bad either including the SMC 50mm 1.4 and the 105mm 2.8 (a little too sensitive to flares for the 105)

What do you mean by that? The only resources that I have seen talking about that seemed too esoteric for me.

It really comes down to looking at photographs made with modern digital lenses versus photographs made with antique lenses for film cameras. Do your own experiments: ideally, put the camera on a tripod, and do someone’s portrait with a modern lens and again with an antique lens with the same focal length at the same aperture. Then look at the pictures and consider which lens is giving the better rendering of the three-dimensionality of the face.

What you may first be aware of is the impression or feeling of the rendering: one looks somehow more ‘real’ or ‘natural’ than the other — closer to how you see the face with your eyes.

As I understand it, there are technical reasons for this difference, to do with the optics, with the behavious of types of glass, with microcontrast and so on. But what really matters is how the pictures look — draw your own conclusions from that.

But if you do want more technical detail, have a look at Yannick Khong’s articles:

The problem with modern optics
The flattening of modern lenses or the death of 3D pop

and he has a whole series of articles on his website about lenses.



I don’t own M42 lenses, but being a Nikon D700 user I enjoy using some old manual lenses (Ais 2.8/24, Ais 1.2/50, Ais 1.4/85, Ais 1.8/105 and Ai 4.0/200).

Knowing the characteristic of each of the lenses is important (Ais 2.8/24 has strong CA, which fortunately can almost completely be corrected by RT raw-ca-correction, Ais 1.2/50 is only usable at F >= 2, but then it’s among the sharpest lenses in this focal-range, Ais 1.4/85 is just a gem, usable at every aperture, Ais 1.8/105 is really good for close distance even at 1.8, but not so good for landscape at infinity, Ai 4.0/200 is good for close disctance, but very low contrasts when used at infinity)

M42 users: please also have a look at this issue and provide raw files if possible

Thanks for the links…some really interesting reads!

Huge fan of M42.


No m42 for me but I have a collection of ten Contax Zeiss (C/Y mount) lenses.

They’re mostly sharp enough to compete with modern lenses, but also very full of character.

A great compromise, IMO.

Does any of them happen to be a C/Y Tessar, around 50mm or so?

Those articles don’t mention nothing technically sound (they don’t even define microcontrast that seems to be snake oil, there was a reddit thread a bit ago and no one could find a good resource explaining it). The compared pictures look too similar to say which is better (maybe the color rendition may tip the scale).

I understand that for portraits you don’t always want a technically perfect lens, as the brain process faces differently anyways, and the look of older lenses may be preferable to people (and they may be cheaper), but I still think that is personal preference being hidden by some abstract concept that is even purposefully not well defined.

I suppose it only matters if you see a difference between photographs with digital and antique lenses. If you don’t, there’s no point wasting your time.

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Yes, I have a 45/2.8 Tessar. Lovely character-ish lens that gets quite sharp stopped down.