Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 Lens Review

super-takumar 55mm f1.8 lens

The Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 is an all-time classic and one of the best vintage lenses commonly available today. They’re inexpensive, solidly built, and give good image quality with plenty of character.

They’re also very close to that 50mm length that you probably know and love. So with plenty of 50mm lenses readily available, relatively cheap, and usually well-made, should you bother with this 55mm Takumar?

This review will give you all the information you need to be able to answer that question for yourself, so be sure to read it until the very end.

And if the answer turns out to be yes, you can easily find your own 55mm Super-Takumar on eBay or over at KEH Camera.

Listings ending soon!
super takumar 55mm f1.8 lens review

One of the most popular vintage lenses being used on digital cameras today, the Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 gives great results at a very affordable price, with some slight radioactivity thrown in for good measure.

History of the Asahi / Pentax / Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8

Before I bought this vintage lens, the only Asahi I knew was the beer. Which, to be fair, is a very nice brew.

However, there was once a camera manufacturer in Japan known as the Asahi Optical Co. It was founded by one Kumao Kajiwara who named the lenses produced after his brother, the painter Takuma Kajiwara.

In the years that followed, the Asahi Optical Co., Ltd. became what we now know, generally, as Pentax, which is now itself a subsidiary of Ricoh.

The first lot of Takumar 55mm f1.8 lenses date back to the late 1950s and were known simply as that: Takumar 55mm f1.8.

As newer versions were released and used on cameras like the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic, they were given prefixes like Auto, Super, Super-Multi-Coated, and SMC.

Production of the lenses ended in the mid-1970s.

super-takumar-55mm-f1-8

How old is my Takumar 55mm f1.8?

If you have a 55mm Takumar and want to know how old it is, you can figure it out by the name and by the product code found on the reverse of the auto/manual diaphragm switch, if there is one.

Mine is a Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 with the product code 37101 which, as you can see from the table below, makes it from sometime between 1965 and 1971.

NameProduct CodeApertureMade
Takumar 55mm F1.8f1.8 – f221958
Auto-Takumar 55mm F1.8 (early)f1.8 – f221958 – 1960
Auto-Takumar 55mm F1.8 (late)345f1.8 – f161960 – 1962
Super-Takumar 55mm F1.8 (early)345-2, 345-5, 33450, 34520f1.8 – f161962 – 1965
Super-Takumar 55mm F1.8 (late)371, 37100, 37101f1.8 – f161965 – 1971
Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 55mm F1.837104, 37101, 37106f1.8 – f161971 – 1972
SMC Takumar 55mm F1.837108f1.8 – f161972 – 1975

Using the Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 on a digital camera

Using most, if not all, vintage lenses on digital cameras will mean shooting in some sort of non-fully auto mode and with manual focus. If you’re not used to either, don’t worry. They’re not hard to learn.

For the former, I recommend aperture priority mode. You can read about how I use that here.

Many new and new-ish digital cameras come with some sort of manual focus aid too. On the Sony mirrorless I use, focus peaking has been an unbelievable help to me.

Other manufacturers have this and their own focus assist systems too. If you want to learn more about this and everything else there is to know about buying a mirrorless camera for vintage lenses, this comprehensive guide has you covered.

The bottom line though is this: if you’ve never shot a vintage lens before, don’t let having to get out of full-auto put you off. You can learn aperture priority and manual focus without too much trouble.

super takumar 55mm f1.8 lens

Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 size and handling

The Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 itself is not that big, but the adapter you’ll probably need to use to marry it to your camera (more on that later) will increase the length of the set-up.

When put together, the lens and adapter I use are actually a little longer than the (old) 18-55mm Sony NEX kit lens, as you can see below.

In my review of the F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8, I talked about how the small size (of the adapter as much as the lens) was something I was very fond of. So does the Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 lose points for being bigger?

Not for me. I think most photographers slip very easily into ‘taking pictures’ mode.

When you’re out and about and just doing what you have to do to get the shots you want without thinking too much about how, the size of the lens becomes immaterial.

My fingers are on the aperture ring, which is actually a nice distance from the camera thanks to the adapter, and the focus ring at the front of the lens.

The aperture ring turns very freely on my lens, with a healthy sounding click as it moves onto the next f value. I say value, rather than stop, as it does allow you to use half-stops, aside from between f11 – f16.

The focus ring on my Super-Takumar is very smooth, and this classic lens just feels like it was well built in the first place and has been looked after ever since.

f-zuiko-38mm-sony-nex-kit-lens-super-takumar-55mm

The adapter needed for your Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8

If you’re planning on using a 55mm Takumar on a digital camera, you’ll likely need an adapter. What adapter that is depends on the type of camera you have.

I use a Sony mirrorless and find it a great partner for all the vintage lenses I have; especially with the aforementioned focus peaking feature. If you’re after a camera for your digital lenses, I recommend you check out this guide to ensure you get one that suits your needs.

If you do have a Sony mirrorless camera, the adapter you’ll need for your Super-Takumar 55mm is an m42-NEX (or m42-E which is the same thing) which you can easily find on Amazon.

If you have a camera with any other type of mount, you should still be able to find an adapter for it, although you may struggle if it’s a Nikon f-mount.

The adapter you need will always begin with m42, though, as that’s what the mount on the lens is, and you can either find it in the table below or go search for yourself here if you don’t see it there.

K&F Concept Lens Mount Adapter for M42 Lens to Sony NEX E-Mount Camera for Sony Alpha NEX-7 NEX-6 NEX-5N NEX-5 NEX-C3 NEX-3 with Matting Varnish Design
  • 【 Function】You can mount M42 screw mount lens to Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras.
  • 【 Material】All-metal design; hardened anodized aluminum construction,matting varnish inside to avoid light reflection.
  • 【 Features】Supports manual control, manual focus, manual exposure and focus to infinity.

Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 image quality

The image quality of the Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 has never been in question.

Indeed, many users of manual focus lenses rate it among the best vintage lenses commonly available; especially when the price is taken into consideration too.

Mine has spent as much time on my camera as any other lens I’ve owned, and I’ve taken some of my very favourite photos with it.

They’re plenty sharp enough when you nail the focus, and with good contrast and colours too.

Every image below is a real-world shot I’ve taken with the 55mm Super-Takumar.

small yellow thai buddhist figurines
chinese lanterns in xitang water town
road sign between chiang mai and pai
monochrome tuk uk in chiang mai

Street photography with the 55mm Super-Takumar

I bought this classic lens because I needed something around 50mm for a photography class I was taking at the time.

This was studio-based, and so the lens was really to be used for portraits and other shots taken in a controlled environment.

Before I bought it, 55mm was what I considered zoomed in. It was the upper reach of my kit lens, and I only went there when it was really needed; it’s not like I walked around with my kit lens fully zoomed in all the time.

So how much use I’d get from this classic lens outside of the class workshops, I wasn’t sure. I thought at the time it would just be too long to do any kind of street shooting.

Again though, photography is all about trying new gear, challenging yourself with new limits, and making the best of the lens you have with you.

Once I’d gotten to grips with the focal length, I ended up really enjoying the street photography I did with it.

I think the 55mm focal length actually has an advantage for street photography beginners, in that you can keep a little distance from your subjects if you’re still nervous about approaching them.

For example, I don’t think I would’ve got close enough to get the following shot with a wider lens on my camera.

lap of samui featured image

Shooting wide open with the Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8

If you’re buying a prime lens that can to f1.8, you’ll probably want to play around with shooting it wide open at some point.

In other words, blurring backgrounds and isolating subjects.

Although most of my street photography is shot with most of the image in focus nowadays, the Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 is good for shallow depths of field too.

I wouldn’t recommend shooting a lens completely wide open, as it means you lose sharpness. This means not shooting at f1.8 itself, but staying somewhere around f2.8 instead.

This is still enough to blur your backgrounds and get the kind of results as shown below.

house number sign in shanghai china
discarded food container in xitang china

Is my Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 radioactive?

Yes. Yes it is.

One thing that I was surprised to learn about the Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 – after I’d bought it – was its radioactivity. A yellowing of the glass is a sign of this.

Very briefly: the radioactivity comes from the use of such compounds as thorium oxide (me neither) in the construction of the lens.

I’m no expert, but you can find a lot of information about this in various places on the web. With that in mind, should you be worried about this vintage lens affecting your health?

Personally, I’m not. The information I’ve seen seems to suggest the radioactivity is minimal, and no more of a danger than the radioactivity encountered when flying or being x-rayed.

So no, I’m not overly concerned. Maybe I should be, but I’m not.

You might feel differently, and this issue might put you off buying a Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8. That’s up to you. It never crosses my mind when I’m using it though.

hong kong taxi

Why I bought a 55mm Takumar

When I took a trip out to the huge Xing Guang Photographic Equipment Market in Shanghai in search of a 50mm lens, I didn’t have this lens in mind.

There was no way I could; I’d never actually heard of Super-Takumar.

Before finding it tucked away in the corner of a shop, away from the cabinet with most of the other vintage lenses for sale, I’d tried a few different manual focus 50mm lenses on my camera.

A couple of old Nikkors, a Konica, and a Yashica. Some of which were f1.4.

In truth, we’re actually a bit spoilt for choice when it comes to great value manual focus 50mm lenses, so the decision to buy the 55mm Super-Takumar lens was based primarily on test shots.

I put every vintage lens mentioned above on my mirrorless Sony camera and took a few shots with each. They were all similarly priced. Or close enough for the price to not be a factor in my decision.

So it all came down to picture quality and the Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 won. There was, though, one more thing I had to decide.

monochrome street photography reflection

Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 or Super-Takumar 50mm f1.4?

One huge advantage of prime lenses, whether vintage or not, is their wider aperture than most zooms. For a lot of people, it seems the wider the better, with an f1.4 preferable to an f1.8.

With 50mm being slightly shorter and so slightly more versatile than 55mm, why would someone go for the 55mm f1.8 Takumar over the faster 50mm f1.4?

For me, it actually was the extra length that made my decision as it was more suited to what I needed for a photography class – that included studio portraits – I was taking at the time.

On full frame cameras, the classic length for portrait lenses is 85mm. With DX or APS-C models, where the crop factor means the focal length of your lens is around x1.5 of what it says, the cheaper, common 50mms are pretty close to 75mm.

50 x 1.5 = 75, which really is close enough to be negligible when the lens is so relatively cheap.

However, I had the choice, for just about the same price, to have a 55mm lens. When multiplied by 1.5, this gave me a focal length of 82.5mm, which is closer to that classic 85mm.

As I was buying it primarily for those classes, this seemed important. Maybe it wasn’t really, but it seemed so at the time.

Perhaps the 50mm f1.4 might have been a better option for you. It’s all based on what a person needs the lens for, and of course the test shots. The 55mm was the right choice for me, and I have not regretted it since.

By the way, if you want to learn more about focal length, check my article here. I did my best to explain it as simply as I could.

Buying a Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8

Maybe I got lucky finding my Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 having no prior knowledge of what it was. Maybe it was fate. But when you choose a lens based on the quality of its test shots, you know you’re picking up something good.

You now have all this information and the luxury of taking your pick of all the 55mm Super-Takumars on eBay and at KEH Camera.

I love mine, and it’s not just me who thinks it’s one of the best vintage lenses commonly available. Indeed, Takumars in general have something of a cult following.

The build quality matches the image quality and the lens is very affordable, even with the adapter – which you can easily find on Amazon – added in.

Put all this together with a wonderful mirrorless camera and I can see why the Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 is thought of as one of the best vintage lenses still used by photographers today.

I’d recommend you track one down for yourself too.  😀

Listings ending soon!
super takumar 55mm f1.8 lens review

One of the most popular vintage lenses being used on digital cameras today, the Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 gives great results at a very affordable price, with some slight radioactivity thrown in for good measure.

If you enjoyed this post or found it useful and want to learn more, dig into some more lens reviews and helpful guides below: 

  1. Buying a mirrorless camera for your vintage lenses
  2. How to use vintage lenses on digital cameras
  3. Check out all the other vintage lens reviews

And if you think others will enjoy this Super-Takumar 55mm review too, help them find it by sharing or pinning.  😀

26 thoughts on “Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 Lens Review”

  1. Add this product code to the last row of you list: 37108
    This version also has the rubberized grid on the focus ring.

    Reply
  2. Hi there, may I know how do u store them? I just got one for myself and I am not sure how to store them, can I store them with the rest of my lenses in a dry box?

    Reply
    • I just keep mine in a lens case in a cupboard, Raymond. I don’t have a dry box. If you have one though, you may as well put it in there, hadn’t you? Unless the lens has a lot of fungus and you’re worried it’ll spread to your other lenses. I guess that’d be a reason not to. Ultimately up to you. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Brilliant review. It was this article that partially motivated me to get a pentax spotmatic on ebay that came with a 55mm autotakumar lens. Have the issue that the camera i was delivered was actually faulty but i wanted to please ask your opinion on whether the auto takumar is as good as the super takumar and if I should keep the camera just for its lena?

    Reply
    • Thanks Matthew.

      I can’t really answer your question definitively as I’ve only shot the version I reviewed here. I believe though that the later multi-coated versions give better image quality. Less flare, more contrast, from what I’ve read.

      I’d recommend searching for forum posts and discussion on like ‘auto takumar vs super takumar’ or similar. You’ll get better answers there than I can give you.

      Lee

      Reply
  4. Hello everyone! I’m a happy user of 1.8 Super Takumar 55 mm for more than 30 years, have already mentioned here the benefits of this objective, so I will not elaborate on this. I have recently learned that these objectives are slightly radioactive: I should I care about this? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hey Anna. I can’t really give a definitive answer on that, not being a doctor or radioactivity scientist etc. I’ve never heard of anyone falling ill from using a Takumar but that doesn’t guarantee they’re 100% harmless. If you’ve already used one for 30 years though and nothing bad has happened then perhaps you’ll be okay. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Hi, I’m John, 71 years old. Back in the ’60’s, I bought SLR’s in Japan and took photography classes in college. Didn’t turn into anything so eventually I let it all go. Just several days ago, at an Estate sale, I ran into something I simply couldn’t pass up. A complete film camera system with all the lenses, filters, cameras, flash, cases – well, you see where this is going. So, I paid the princely sum of $25 for everything! I’ve put some hours into putting it all together and it is all in excellent condition (he took care of his equipment). One teeny problem I truly need help with. The camera is a Honeywell Pentax IHI3 with an Auto-Takumar 1:1.8 / 55mm lens (YAY!). There are several extra lens and all fit on the camera body except ONE lens – a Sankyo Kohki Japan Komura F = 300mm 1:5 (No. 3311010). It’s the ONE adapter ring I don’t seem to have. The inside diameter of the camera body appears to be about 34mm while the outside diameter of the attaching screw threads on the Komura F300 seem about 41mm. Can anyone PLEASE advise me what adapter I need to fit the Komura F300 to the Pentax camera body? Much appreciated. John

    Reply
    • Hey John.

      Congrats on finding that bargain. Sounds like quite a haul. 🙂

      Unfortunately I don’t know which adapter you’ll need for the Sankyo Kohki you mention. I’ve had a look around and it seems they came in a few different types of mounts. The serial number might help you find out but I can’t find any list of them online.

      If there’s a vintage camera shop anywhere near you perhaps they would know by looking at it. Or take a photo of the mount and post the question on a forum like mflenses .com?

      Sorry I can’t help more.

      Lee

      Reply
  6. Wonder if you can help. Rummaging through my collection I found an Asahi Super Takumar f1.8 lens ref 37101. BUT it does not have the usual M42 thread. It is a bayonet fixing. I tried it on a chinon CM-4 camera with K mount but it did not want to engage. Could this lens be designed to fit a camera having a mount similar to K mount. I want to sell it but want to get my facts right. Thomas Cosens

    Reply
    • Hi Thomas. The short answer is, I don’t know.

      I’ve had a look around to see if I can find out but I’m not really getting anywhere. This page states the Chinon “will function with all Pentax K-mount lenses” while this one talks about evolutions and changes in the mount.

      If you’re still needing to find out I would ask on the DP Review Forum or the Pentax Forums.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  7. I read you article “Focal Length Explained Simply” and you explain very well the crop factor.
    I noted that you use for the photos the Sony NEX-5N camera which is not Full Frame, but the vintage lenses like the SMC Takumar were made for 35 mm.
    You say:
    A 50mm lens on an FX camera will give a 50mm field of view
    A 50mm lens on a DX or APS-C camera will give a 75mm field of view (50mm x 1.5)
    A 50mm lens on an m43 camera will give a 100mm field of view (50mm x 2)

    What will be the best choice for use with a vintage lens like the SMC Takumar 55 mm or others around 50 mm in a digital camera. We will loose quality in pictures by not using FULL Frame?

    Thank you for the response

    Reply
    • Hey José, thanks for reading and asking.

      I wouldn’t say you’d lose ‘quality’ in your images by not having a full frame camera, but you will lose width in your shots (remember that beach photo diagram on the Focal Length post). How important this is depends on what you shoot, I guess.

      If you shoot landscape or architecture, for example, then I’d go with a full frame to allow you to get more of the scene into your shots. I can imagine it being annoying if you have a DX camera and can’t get an entire landscape in your shot but know you’d be able to with full frame.

      I find it less important with street photography because I’m constantly on the move and the process is more fluid. I can walk backwards to get more of a scene in shot, or just move on and see what is around the corner if a shot doesn’t work.

      If you shoot portraits then you may even prefer a DX camera.

      The short answer really is if you want to get as much of your scenes into your shots as possible, go full frame. But you won’t lose ‘quality’ (as I define it) by going with DX or APS-C.

      Hope this helps. Let me know if not! 😀

      Lee

      Reply
  8. Amazing review. I got myself the same lens and it’s on the way from the seller. Did you use a filter when taking picture? Some people also said that this lens is prone to flare, did you experience it?

    Reply
    • Hello mate. Thanks for the nice words.

      I don’t use filters when I shoot, no. Although I do process the images in Lightroom afterwards.

      As for lens flare, I’ve not really noticed any. I hardly ever shoot into the sun though. If you ordered a Super-Multi-Coated (SMC) version I think it has some built-in protection from flare though.

      Enjoy the lens anyway. Let me know how you like and show us some shots! 🙂

      Reply
  9. I did a side-by-side comparison recently, and yes, the professional-grade 645 lens is of course better in every way — but the Takumar is still amazingly good.

    Reply
    • Hey Elina. They were all taken on a Sony NEX-5N. Not a new camera but still good enough for me and my vintage lenses. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Hi! thank you for the review.
    i have a question. how about the flare, i had try using super takumar 50 1,4 and the flare is amazing. how about 55 1,8?
    Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Dennis. Thanks for reading!

      To answer your question, I don’t actually know. 🙂 Flare isn’t something I ever try to get in my photos. All I can say is that I’ve never really noticed it happening when I don’t want it.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help. 🙁

      Reply
    • Hi Seyra. That’s a really good question!

      I’ve never considered that it wouldn’t be compatible, because I’ve never tried to use one with a Nikon camera. Have just been doing some research and it seems you might well have certain issues, yes.

      Seems like a standard M42 to Nikon adapter won’t allow you to focus to infinity. You can buy a special adapter with an extra glass element to fix that issue, but that extra element decreases the image quality.

      I honestly don’t know the solution, or if there even is one. All I can find online is people discussing the problem, unfortunately.

      Reply
    • I tried it with an adapter that focuses to infinity on my Nikon D40. It still provides a good image but could reckon would be better without the extra glass element.

      please note that 28mm m42 lens would not focus to infinity though even with glass. tried three and all can’t focus to infinity.

      Reply

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