Pentacon 1.8/50 is "50mm" as it is. An unconditional classic of the genre, a model to strive for. No, he is not sinless - however, claims against him are often just a manifestation of "taste".
A lens produced in the GDR from about 1960 to 1990 for SLR cameras with an M42 threaded connection, Exacta. This lens is installed on modern SLR and mirrorless cameras through the appropriate adapter. Read the article about adapters. The “father” of the lens, the Meyer Optik Oreston 50mm f1.8, has been produced since 1965 in a bicyclic zebra body.
Many German lenses of those times (60-70s) were produced with this design. When the Meyer-Optik enterprise became part of Pentacon, lenses were produced under this brand until the very end of the existence of the Berlin Wall. Hugo Meyer Company produced lenses for many common systems, and also had contracts for completing lenses and cameras. Production was not limited to one or two models.
Standard camera lens:
The list of Meyer factory lenses will include more than 30 models, with various optical schemes, as well as a full range of focal lengths for each of the items. Optics were valued on a par with Zeiss, while, for the most part, they were cheaper. For example, Meyer-Optik Orestor 2.8 / 135 still called the bokeh monster because the lens has 15 blades, unlike the original Sonnar. This is a real breakthrough - at that distant time, not every lens contained a huge number of petals in the aperture. Even subsequent Pentacon 2.8 / 135 were optimized and had fewer aperture blades on board.
The second half of the 1960s was the best time for the production of photographic equipment in the GDR. Technical innovations, new manufacturing processes and cutting-edge design combined with enhanced usability. PRAKTICA cameras were based on the Praktiflex principle, which was released shortly before the Second World War, but was radically redesigned. This was necessary not only to install a TTL exposure meter, as the West German manufacturer Wirgin did with its Edixa, but also to expand the metering system to a dual automatic exposure system. In particular, the shutter had to be completely redesigned.
From the autumn of 1969, large batches of the new Praktica L series were to be produced. The modular design of this chamber allowed more rational assembly on short assembly lines. Conclusions for electrical contacts appeared on this version, and lenses with Electric in the name were produced for them. This required changes to the design of the lens circuitry. At the back, it was necessary to create enough space for a voltage divider, and connect its elements to the diaphragm ring. In the course of this Oreston 1.8/50 was redesigned optically and mechanically.
When the Praktica L and LLC were introduced at the 1969 fall fair, the new lens was still called the Oreston. However, shortly thereafter, all VEB Feinoptikes Werk Görlitz products were permanently referred to as "Pentacon", and the company name "Meyer-Optic" was finally abolished.
The trademark "Meyer-Optik" has been gone since around 1970, and the confusing and fatally bad-punning jumble of proprietary lens names, such as Oreston, Orestor, Orestegor, and Orestegon, has been replaced by the unified "Pentacon" label.
Around the time the Praktica EE2 was introduced, in 1977, there was a black multi-coated cross knurl. Initially, the scheme was based on the Oreston of 1969, but after a short time the hulls were redesigned and received a form that was produced in extremely large quantities until the reunification of the GDR and the FRG.
Pentacon 1.8 / 50 was produced under the names:
- Meyer Optik Oreston 50mm f1.8
- Pentacon 1.8 / 50
- Pentacon 1.8/50 Multi Coating
- Pentacon Prakticar 1,8 / 50 (Praktica B mount, plastic housing)
- Revuenon Auto 50mm f1.8 (export for Revue)
Meyer Optik Oreston 50mm f1.8 in turn, a redesign of the previous Domiron 2/50. The main modifications and cosmetic differences encountered by lenses:
- bicyclic zebra (early, before 70s)
- zebra in which the edges of the focus ring were painted black (transitional)
- with focus nut ring (at the turn of the 70s)
- coarse knurled focus ring (80s)
Later versions of the Pentacons (closer to 90m) had white-green fonts, the early ones were orange-white. They are available with and without multi-enlightenment, with and without electrical contacts (Electric), with an automatic iris and a function to turn it off (in both cases it has the inscription Auto). The evolution of the lens looks like this:
A cutaway lens from the 80s looks like this:
The optical scheme in all variants of the Pentacon 50mm f/1.8 is the same.
Comparison of MTF Jena curves Pancolar 1.8 / 50 with the future Pentacon 1.8/50 shows how good the first one was Oreston 1.8/50, the closest competitor from the Meyer factory. When aperture down to an average of 1:4.0, both lenses are very similar. Wide open Pancolar shows a clear advantage in contrast and resolution. The curves seem a bit unusual because the plot is not plotted as a function of image height, as is common today, but as a function of transmitted spatial frequency. "M" stands for the center of the image, "R" for the edge. These measurements were taken on December 16, 1969 and, as far as the state of the art is concerned, they are definitely out of date. But this is not significant, since we are not interested in the absolute values of the contrast transmission for this comparison, but only their relationship to each other, which was determined at that moment. [Photojournal, 2/1970, p. 50.]
Lenses from different time periods of production were taken for review at different times. In 2022, a version with a large knurled focus ring, automatic aperture, multi-coating and white-green font fell into the hands. After this modification, Praktica B mount Praktica B was launched. The Praktica B bodies were molded from plastic. Subjectively, I did not notice any special distinctive difference between these lenses, optically, on a digital camera.
Pentacon 50mm f1.8 in action
Pentacon 50mm f1.8 proved to be more than satisfactory in work. It is installed without problems on digital cameras, but it must be taken into account that an adapter is required that has a flange (clamping the diaphragm pusher). The Chinese, as a rule, they are inexpensive. In the case of an adapter without a flange, we will have to adapt to hold down the depth of field preview button on the lens until the shutter is released, or use the slider for switching the aperture mode from automatic to manual mode. True, the slider appeared only in the 80s.
If you take it in one hand Helios 44m 58mm f2, and in another Pentacon Auto 50mm f1.8 from the seventies, you can detect the external similarity of the lenses. But this is only outwardly. The difference is in price and build quality, aperture ratio, in the optical design and in the aperture mode switch. Despite the fact that both lenses are typical Double Gauss (planar) lenses, they still have differences when comparing the picture.
Pentacon 1.8 / 50, unlike Helios-44M, feels lighter and more accurate. The weight of the Pentacon is about 150 grams, for the Helios 44M series it is around 270. The minimum focusing distance is 33 centimeters (for Helios it is half a meter), which makes the Pentacon 50 / 1.8 a good lens for shooting various artistic orientations from close distances. According to the picture that the lens creates by twisting the background and turning the glare of the blur zone into circles, it looks like Helios-40.
Pentacon more aggressively converts highlights in the blur zone into circles. Long glare objects generally look like a series of circles. At first, this can be captivating, since the picture is actually unusual.
Subsequently, especially on a digital camera when shooting in color, it starts to infuriate. The Helios 44M and Pentacon hulls are only similar in one time period (late 70s), and are sometimes described as a "monocyclic zebra".
On the the lens there are focus distance marks. On the Pentacon 50 / 1.8 of the 70-80s, the values \u16b\u16bare marked in orange in feet, white in meters, but in the later ones the color changed to white-green. Also, as with all old manual optics, the body is equipped with a depth-of-field zone mark, along which you can set the lens to hyperfocal distance and shoot from the hip without looking into the viewfinder. Guided, for example, by the same f / 16 rule, you can set aperture XNUMX on the lens, and combine the infinity mark with the number XNUMX on the body, and then most of the image from the photographer to the horizon will be sharp.
In this case, the digital camera should be set to AutoISO so that you do not have to change the shutter speed every time you recompose the frame. I used shutter speeds of 1/125 and 1/60 for shooting outdoors, but indoors or when shooting portraits, of course, you have to focus through the viewfinder, since at an open aperture you have to control whether the model is sharp.
У Pentacon 50mm f1.8 6-petal diaphragm draws nuts in the blur zone at hidden values with f3.5. Inexpensive lenses of that time were equipped with about the same number of petals. There is blur across the entire field of the frame in the blur zone. The part of the image in the center remains sharp, approximately 25-40% of the frame. At the same time, the depth of field is so thin that it is almost impossible to hit the target just like that. The step of the aperture ring is very small, the aperture ring rotates amazingly smoothly. At the same time, the design of the diaphragm is different for early and late lenses, but this does not really matter during operation.
The nature of the bokeh of the lens is peculiar. Any highlights in the blur zone turn into circles, and on an open aperture they are arranged in a circle. At the same time, sharpness in the open is present only in the center. Approximately the same picture can be observed with the Soviet Helios-40 lens. It turns out that the lens has a very pronounced creative potential, if you know where to apply it. For example, you can make gentle still lifes, as does photographer Valeria Tikhonova. You can see examples of her work on her VK page, fragmentarily I presented them at the end of the article.
The more covered the aperture, the less pronounced the effect. In general, such behavior of optics in modern realities is more like mediocre work to correct aberrations. However, leaving purely technical points, let's just admire the result that is available to a person without any photoshops - just point and shoot. But in everyday use, most likely, such bokeh will be annoying, as the scaly bokeh in Jupiter 8 on open.
Although, judging by photographic books and shooting advice from the past, the main use of lenses was assumed, nevertheless, when shooting at such aperture values, when the above effects did not appear at all, or only minimally (f / 5.6 - f / 11), so as for the most part, small-format equipment was charged once per 36 frames, without the possibility of changing the ISO on the fly, as in modern digital cameras.
Now a little suffocation. The lenses are painted black, and on the focus ring they have either a wrench look or ribbed knurling (lenses from the 80s). The knurling is wide enough and the spikes on it are large - even with gloves you can feel where the focus ring is. The aperture in lenses is jumpy, but the jumper on later lenses is blocked by a switch on the body, which is very convenient - there is no need to disassemble the lens and fix the drive pin in order to use it on a digital camera. When blocked by a switch, the diaphragm reacts to the movement of the ring by changing the diameter of the hole. The principle of control is from the 60s, but now we can see firsthand the picture from the lens before we take the picture.
By the way, the lens of the 80s went with a half-dead camera Praktica Super TL. If the lens was included with it, then the years of manufacture or purchase of the camera are the eighties. If not for one but. The Super TL practice was produced from 1968 to 1976, and lenses with this design should not exist even in the late 70s. The lens and camera of different time periods, because the regular glass of Practika Super TL was Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 2.8 / 50 (well, and its variations, such as T 2.8 / 50 и aus Jena 2.8/50).
Sample photos from Pentacon auto 50mm f1.8 M42
On Canon 60D Pentacon auto 50mm f1.8 M42 it was installed via M42-EF adapter without focus confirmation. Sighting was done on the screen, shooting mainly in Av mode with AutoIso.
Pentacon Auto 50mm f / 1.8 Multi Coating sample photo
These photos were taken on a Sony A7 with Focus Peaking, and mostly in aperture priority mode.
These examples of work are taken from VK pages of photographer Valeria Tikhonova.
The lens certainly deserves the highest praise. Compact, with very little MDF. Sharp (however, at a fully open aperture, “soapiness” is noticeable at the edges of the frame. Vignetting is moderate and can be used to focus on the subject. Color reproduction is natural. Structurally assembled very well, ergonomics are beyond praise. In general, this is a classic German quality - and it doesn’t matter where the lens was assembled, in East or West Germany.
Use on modern cameras
To work on digital cameras, you will need an adapter from the M42x1. It is easiest to put on cropped Canon EOS with EF-s mount, especially considering that adapters without chips on Canon cost mere pennies.
On a camera with APS-C sensor (kf = 1.6) the camera will have a field of view equal to equivalent to 80mm focal length distance, and the aperture will correspond to the value f/2,8 (EGF by depth of field). Why is that? Because, due to the narrow viewing angle, you will have to move further. The lens on the crop has a drop in sharpness due to a denser arrangement of pixels on the matrix and their concentration in the center of the lens.
On a full frame, the lens works as intended - it has a more flexible picture and characteristics corresponding to the declared ones.
The easiest way to shoot is in the mode Aperture Priority (Av)when the camera adjusts the required shutter speed based on the current aperture value and the light in the frame. To work on digital cameras, you need an adapter from the M42x1 threaded connection to your camera. Pentacon auto 1.8 / 50 it is easiest to put on Canon EOS with EF (-s) mount, due to the insignificant difference in focal lengths. Adapters without focus confirmation chips on Canon are cheap.
By ordering things from the links below, you help the project cover the costs of site maintenance and development. List of adapters, systems and mounts (direct links for ordering)
- Canon EF / EF-S adapter M42-Canon EOS (without chip or with chip).
- Canon EF-M adapter M42-Canon EF-M.
- Nikon DX / FX as well as Fujifilm and Kodak with Nikon F mount M42-Nikon F adapter with lens и without.
- Nikon 1 adapter M42-Nikon 1.
- Pentax K adapter M42-Pentax K.
- Pentax Q adapter M42-Pentax Q.
- Sony / Minolta A adapter M42-Sony A (without chip or with chip).
- Sony NEX and Sony Alpha E-mount adapter M42-Sony E (M42-Sony Nex).
- Four Thirds, aka 4/3 (Olympus, Panasonic) adapter M42-4 / 3
- Micro Four Thirds - Olympus, Panasonic, Kodak, Xiaomi Micro 4/3 (Micro 4: 3) adapter M42-Micro 4/3.
- For Fujifilm X mount cameras adapter M42-Fuji X.
- Samsung NX adapter M42-Samsung NX.
- Leica M adapter M42-L / M.
- For Leica T mount adapter M42-L / T.
When ordering, it should be borne in mind that cheap adapters of poor quality with a lens on bayonetf Nikon F spoil the picture significantly. Adapters without a lens reduce the maximum focusing range (due to the difference in focal lengths). Adapters with chips come across poor quality, exposure metering and focus confirmation on some Canon EOS models may suffer from this.