A day at the Zoo

My girlfriend and I went to the zoo last weekend. I hadn’t been to the zoo for years, and was looking forward to it like a little kid!

This was not a photo trip, and so I didn’t want to bring a lot of gear. I wanted to travel light, but at the same time have a large aperture lens with the purpose of blurring the background, and making the zoo setting less obvious. My choice of gear for the trip was a 50mm, and a 85mm 1.8. They’re light, and have large aperture, so it was exactly what I was looking for.

While I brought both, I actually just used the 85mm. The 85mm is great for both portraits, and as it’s a short to medium telephoto lens, it’s also great for animals that are not too afraid of humans. That being said, I was missing my 70-200mm for some shots.

Nikon + Super-Takumar=?

So, I got my hands on some old manual focus Super-Takumar lenses. I had been on the look out for some manual focus lenses for a while, because I wanted to try them when shooting video with the D800. I’ve shot some video on regular modern Nikon auto focus lenses and it’s really difficult to pull focus accurate, so when these old Super-Takumar lenses fell into my lap for free I just had to try them!

Super-Takumar 35mm f/3.5

Now, these old Takumar lenses had the M42 screw-mount so in order to fit them on my D800 I would have to get an adapter from M42 to the Nikon F-mount. To complicate the issue even further the flange depth on the Nikon F-mount is different than on the M42 so in order to be able to focus to infinity, and not just get the effect of an extension tube, the adapter would have to have a corrective lens. Canon, Sony and Pentax for instance has the same flange depth as the M42 or less and only requires a mechanical adapter with no corrective lens. This corrective lens part had me worried. How would the extra glass affect the lens? Would it work and would the lens keep it’s sharpness and optical quality? In order to find out I devised a little test where I compared some original Nikkor lenses to the Super-Takumars with the adapter. Keep in mind this is nothing fancy or scientific. It’s a simple empirical kitchen-table test.

Equipment & set-up


  • Super-Takumar 35mm f/3.5
  • Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8
  • Super-Takumar 85mm f/1.9
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.8 D
  • Super-Takumar 200mm f/4

The adapter I used was from a producer called Hama. It’s a fairly cheap third party accessory brand but not the cheapest.

Hama M42-Nikon F adapter with corrective lens

For the 35mm test I rigged the camera on a tripod at a distance of 50 cm and for the 85mm test I rigged the camera on a tripod at a distance of 100 cm. For the 200mm I rigged the camera at a distance of 2,5 meters. This way I could  measure and check if the focus ring on the lens showed the correct distance. To make sure I had the most accurate focus I used live-view to zoom in digitally and set focus. All tests were done at aperture 5.6 and a shutter of 1/40. Focus is on the 2,50 mark on the bottle. Images are as is straight out of the camera only converted to JPEG from RAW and scaled down to 72dpi to save some bandwidth, but no editing is done. Check out the pictures below and judge for yourselves. You can choose to see the full size picture if you like.


What I noticed while doing this test was that the Super-Takumar lenses were a little bit closer than the original Nikkors. They also seemed to be a little bit darker. This may be a result of the corrective lens in the adapter. Also, I noticed that the cameras light meter did not always respond too well to the Super-Takumar lenses. It may be something I did wrong, because sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. I didn’t put too much effort into investigating or figuring it out at this point.

As for my the focal distance check; the focal distance it said on the lenses matched reality. It was a little bit off, but that was also the case for the original Nikkors and so I called it withing the margin of error.

I’m very pleased with the results. The 85mm lenses are really close. The Nikkor one is better, but the Super-Takumar is not that far behind. It’s still sharp and has minimal CA even with the adapter. Maybe even a little bit better than the original on the CA in some areas?

As for the 35mm test it is a bit unfair as I compared a fixed focal lens to a zoom lens. However, I am pleasantly surprised to see that the Super-Takumar is really sharp (sharper than the Nikkor zoom) and has very little CA even with the adapter.

Unfortunately I didn’t have an original Nikkor lens to compare the 200mm to. However, I’d say the 200mm holds up. It not as sharp as the others and it has more CA, but that’s to be expected. It’s still very good.


Can I use the old M42 Super-Takumar lenses? Absolutley! Are there any ill effects of the M42 to F-mount adapter and the corrective lens? Maybe. A little loss of light, and lack of metering. While this may be an issue for some, to me this is no big deal. What pleases me very much is that there seem to be hardly any loss of optical quality and that focusing work. Now that I know the image quality is good enough, I can’t wait to get to work with these lenses to see how they perform in real life and how they are to work with!


I realize there are several things about this test that are just not right. For one you can’t compare a zoom-lens to a fixed focal lens the way I did. Second the light is not controlled in any way, hence it may have shifted from shot to shot. And so on… This was just a simple empirical test I decided to do on a Sunday morning to see if these lenses were usable at all with the adapter or if the adapter would mess up the optical quality.