Vintage Lenses – Asahi Takumar vs Carl Zeiss Tessar

The Sony NEX-6 makes it easy to use vintage (or ‘legacy’) lenses. I had a couple of different old lenses with me out on a bit of moorland near home. Neither of these are expensive lenses, though the Takumar came down to a bit of good eBay luck. Neither lens is really perfect. The Takumar has fungus inside it, which I’ve partly cleaned out, but some remains. The Tessar has rather stiff focussing, but it’s quite usable.

First up, the Takumar:

Shot with an Asahi Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 50mm f/1.4 lens.

One of the main traits of this particular model is that the coatings age to give an odd, warm colour cast. I quite like the effect it gives, but it’s not really capturing the real colours. It certainly didn’t feel this warm out on the moor in January!

Almost the same shot with the Zeiss Tessar:

Public Footpath - Tessar

The image isn’t quite as sharp. Zeiss lenses are known for great ‘micro-contrast’, but this hasn’t shown that well at all (though it probably isn’t obvious at this image size). Maybe it performs better stopped down a bit (at a smaller aperture), but maybe there’s just a good reason the old Tessar lenses are so cheap compared with other Zeiss lenses. Detail isn’t as sharp, and the image doesn’t feel as nice to me. Out of focus areas aren’t as smooth as the Takumar made them. Not bad performance, though, and I don’t tend to pixel-peep, so it’s just fine for the image sizes I tend to use.

One more thing to try – I adjusted the white balance in Aperture, to make the white part of the sign actually white. That should kill off the colour shift the Takumar lens introduced:

Public Footpath - Takumar Corrected

It’s only worked partly. The colour is closer to reality now, but there’s still a warm feel to the image in comparison to the Tessar. The Takumar’s colour shift is still there somewhat. Nice to see it’s easy to make things more real without totally killing that warmth. Both of these lenses were usable bargains, but I think I’m really going to like the Takumar.

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