|Sean Carpenter | profile | all galleries >> Equipment >> the Normal Lens Shootout >> Round 1 >> Match 8: (6) Fuji Fujinon 1:1.8 55mm vs. (11) Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 1:1.8 55mm||tree view | thumbnails | slideshow|
This is the last matchup in the first round of the Normal Lens Shootout, and it is only fitting that it pairs yet again two well-matched lenses. Both of these M42 screw mount lenses are very similar physically and optically, both offering a fine bargain for their relatively cheap prices.
The Fujinon 55/1.8 and S-M-C Tak 55/1.8 are both compact, light-weight, all-metal M42 screw mount lenses. They both have scalloped focus rings that move smoothly, although the Fujinon 55/1.8 is slightly tighter. Both lenses have aperture rings that click easily and definitively at every half stop from f/1.8 to f/16.
The silver aperture ring of the Fujinon 55/1.8 gives it a somewhat distinct look. My preference leans slightly towards the all-black S-M-C Tak 55/1.8 but appearance matters little for this matchup.
The S-M-C Tak 55/1.8 has an 'Auto/Man' switch on the body of the lens, allowing it to be used in stop-down mode on digital SLRs. The Fujinon 55/1.8, however, was intended as a 'fully automatic' M42 lens, so it can not otherwise stop down. I have modified my adapter (thanks Jens!) by gluing on a brass ring that depressed the aperture pin. This makes it, like the Helios 44M-4, somewhat restrictive to use since only one adapter will stop the lens down.
Other than the switch, these two lenses can be used pretty much interchangably.
Side view of both the Fuji Photo Film Co. Fujinon 1:1.8/55, right, and the Asahi Optical Co. Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 1:1.8 55mm, left.
The 100% crops above show how sharp both of these lenses are..
Both of these lenses are sharp at all apertures. The 100% crops of a fence show that even at f/1.8 these lenses are impressively sharp in the plane of focus.
Both of these lenses render out-of-focus areas nicely. If you look at the 100% crops of the tree leaves, for example, there is little to distinguish between the two. (Compare these crops to the ones from the last matchup!) Both have 6 straight aperture blades, although for whatever reason they seem to be more prominent at f/8 for the S-M-C Tak 55/1.8 crop.
An edge crop of the field scene here shows that besides the cooler color of the Fujinon, both lenses render very similarly.
However, both of the above crops are green subjects, and the one flaw notable on most Pentax lenses is axial color - usually manifesting itself as green rings around the edge of out-of-focus highlights. I compared them using my typical difficult scene of glasses on a table (see reduced sized versions here and here. The rest can be found in the Samples Gallery.)
By closely examining the out-of-focus areas both behind and in front of the point of focus, the S-M-C Tak 55/1.8 shows subtle green/purple rings along the edges of the highlights. Both lenses showed distinct bright rings at f/1.8 but solidified nicely by f/2.8. Again, the differences are slight but I would favor the Fujinon 55/1.8 for a more even blur disk.
The Fujinon 55/1.8 had a distinctly cooler color to its images. In the digital age and with RAW files, this simply means sliding the temperature bar in post-processing, but could be an issue for those who still shoot film or shoot only JPEGs.
These two lenses are more alike than different, and both of them present a distinct value given their relatively low prices. Their optical performance, sharp at all apertures and with generally pleasant bokeh, left little to be desired. The lack of an Auto/Man switch on the Fujinon might present problems to those who can't source a brass ring to push in the aperture pin, and the Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 1:1.8 55mm is certainly a good choice for such people. However, since I already fashioned an adapter that works, the small edge in out-of-focus rendering makes the Fuji Photo Film Co. Fujinon 1:1.8/55 the winner of this matchup.