The "Fast Telephoto Story"  (1953-1984)
(c) Frank Mechelhoff 2005 - Copies allowed only for personal usage
Usage of my pictures only up to 500x300 pixel and with referencing to the source
Contact: Frank.Mechelhoff "at"
                             updated 8. Dez. 2007
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1. Takumar 1:1.9 83mm (M37) 1953-1957

In the early 1950's it was a matter of prestige for a leading camera company to have its own fast telephoto/ portrait lens. Of course ASAHI Optical was serious in its ambition to join this club of names like ZEISS, LEITZ, ROLLEI and VOIGTLANDER....

It was the time when CARL ZEISS (1938) offered its great BIOTAR, a 6-elements/ 4-groups design with the highest speed of f/1.5 75mm, a quite huge, hevyweight lens that was soft wide open. Also LEITZ had a SUMMAREX 1.5/85mm since 1943 - 7 elements in 6 groups, a complicate design for the coating technique of its time, therefore flare-prone and quite heavyweight as well - 700g. All these lenses weren't  fully convincing in terms of performance at full aperture, but with slow films in these days there was a big need for speedy lenses. Since 1934 there was also the ZEISS SONNAR with f/2.0 85mm which was considered as the best telephoto lens for the next 1-2 decades - quite compact and a good point to start from scratch for the chief optical designer at ASAHI Optical, Mr. Ryohei Suzuki. This work, which was the first complicated design of Asahi Kogaku, foregoing were quite simple 3.5/50 Tessar and 3.5/105 Triplet designs, resulted in a SONNAR TYPE which last triplet was splitted into two groups. So it wasn't a true classical Sonnar in every aspect but contains a shot of Planar blood...

It was the time when CANON and NIKON also developed their first telephotos with f/1.5. ASAHI Optical decided for a slower f/1.9 lens. which has a 49mm filter (The LEITZ, CANON and NIKON f/1.5 lenses had 58mm filter) and weights more than 1/3 less.

This lens was made form Autumn 1953 - Winter 1957.
The first series was made in chrome brass. Minimum focus is 1.2m

Takumar f/1.9 83mm
Takumar 1.9/83mm

Picture G.v. Oosten
Takumar f/1.9 83mm
The optical diagram shows a "Sonnar" type with dissolved last group. This principle was again used by Mr. Suzuki for the 1957' f/2.0 58mm, fastest standard lens of the "Original Pentax"

First (chrome) series 1952 - 1955 S/N 83870
"Black" series 1955-1957 S/N 84040 - weight approx. 370g - quite lightweight! The black components look matt like anodized aluminium - one of the very first lenses of the world made in this material! See collectors website (says minimum focus is 1.1m weight 440g)

 7 known examples (S/N and approx. estimated batch number and size; listed in
I: 20-300? y

II: 200-500? y
chrome (picture)
II "
83991 chrome (picture)
II "

II "
84040 black (see picture)
II "
III: 20-500?

figures as of 3rd July 2005 in Pentax Screwmount Database Project -- please contribute your data here if you own that lenses or cameras !

2. Takumar 1:1.9 83mm (M42) 1957-1959

This is basically the design of the M37 lens with some minor changes for the M42 mount.
Production was Winter 1957 - Winter 1959, total estimated number is less than the M37 version (maximum 1000 made?)
59mm length, 56.8mm diameter, 300g - quite lightweight for a highspeed lens!

Takumar 1.9 83mm M42
S/N 153230 (without aperture blades

Takumar 83mm Ser.II
(S/N 167394  Fotos: Bob Rapp)

6 known examples (S/N and approx. estimated batch number and size; listed in

I: 100-600?

I: "

II: 400-1000 ?

II "

III: 50-200 ?

IV: 50-200 ?

83 and 85mm

85 and 83
Pentax (AP) 1957 with 1.9/83mm and Pentax Spotmatic (1964) witrh successing 1.8/85mm. Sleek and small with 49mm Filter and 300g weight. Close distance 1.1m/ 3.5ft

-- Left: First Generation spring loaded "Auto" Takumar lens beneath preset Takumar series (1957). As can be seen the alloy made lens mount thread of my 1.9/83mm was damaged by a previous owner, but the lens still mounts safely.

3. Auto-Takumar 1:1.8 85mm (1960-1964)   
Auto-Takumar 1.8 85mmTakumar 1.9/85mm Design

This was the first "all black" fast telephoto, and had a different - simpler - telephoto design: 5 elements in 4 groups
Nevertheless the design was derived from its predecessor (third element replaced by a "air lens" and simplified rear aperture group)
Very nice made and easy to distinguish due to its "front" aperture ring (similar to the early Auto-Takumar standard lenses of the early 60's)
weight 330g, Filter size 55mm. Close distance 0.85m (2.8 ft)

17 known examples in (S/N and approx. estimated batch number and size; listed in
I: ?
352306-353433  (2)
II: 1000? y
III: 1000? y
520893-522295 (7)
IV: 1500?
V: 500-1000?


4. Super-Takumar 1:1.9 85mm (1964-1971)   

This was the first "Super-Takumar" 85mm lens (means, the aperture mechanism hadn't to be cocked manually by the photographer - like with the earlier "Auto-Takumar" lenses)
On the first sight visible is the aperture ring near to the screw mount. "Focussing scale window"
The speed of the lens was slightly slowered to f/1.9,  whereas filter size grows to 58mm
The overall lens design was kept the same.
As fas as I know all (mono-coated) Super-Takumar lenses of this series were initially delivered with a hood/ sun-shade engraved with the lens name - later lenses were not! (at least not in every case) This would make sense because SMC-lenses are less prone to flare when used without a hood...
Nevertheless all lenses, even SMC, benefit from a hood - it's just harder to find the correct hood for SMC lenses...

Super Takumar 1.9 85mm

43 listed examples in

5. Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 1:1.9 85mm (1971-1972)   

This was the first "Super-Multi-Coated" 85mm lens - easy to distinguish by the front ring engraving.
This lens don't have full aperture meter coupling (for Spotmatic-F, ES full aperture metering system) - working aperture metering only !
Same basic optical design as its predeccessor No.3 and No.4

5 listed examples in

6. Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 1:1.8 85mm (1972-1974)   

"Super-Multi-Coated" 85mm lens - The barrell of the lens looks very similar to its predecessors No. 3-5
Only to identified by the front-ring writing.
ALL lenses of this series have full aperture meter coupling (for Spotmatic-F, ES full aperture metering system)
This lens has the best reputation for sharpness and contrast in this series, and therefore, deserve highest prices among many users or collectors.
A note to say, this lens isn't better as comparable than i.e the Chromring CANON FD 1.8/85, which was also modified in the early 1970's.
Weight 340g, filter size 58mm, length 57mm, max. diameter 66mm (no big difference to No. 3-5)

Don't know if later lenses in this series were marked "SMC" in the front ring (abbreviated for "Super-Multi-Coated")

SMC Takumar 1.8/85mm design SMC-Tak 1.8/85mm
Picture G.v. Oosten

32 listed examples in

3 85mms
Contingency and evolution - three generations Pentax 85's: 1957, 1960 and 1977

The following are not M42 but K-bayonet mount lenses!

7. SMC-Pentax K 1:1.8 85mm (1975-1977)   


Frontring engraving shows the abbreviated form "SMC" for Super-Multi-Coated Lens.
Optically the same design as its predecessor in M42 mount - the SMC "K" series was made for the K2/ KX/ KM / K1000series around 1975 whith their slightly larger bodies. Shares the excellent reputaion. Probably the most-sought-after "K-bayonet" short telephoto lens.
Just made in a small run.
weight 331g, 52mm filter, length 56mm, max. diameter 64mm

Further technical specs of this lens

8. SMC-Pentax M 1:2.0 85mm (1977-1984)

f2 85 SM M
SMC-M 2.0/85

The SMC-"K" 1.8/85 soon was replaced by the SMC-"M" - named by the smaller camera series (ME, MX) - which was slightly slower and lighter made - similar to the OLYMPUS lens. It can be easily seen that the design is kind of a retrace to the old 1.8/85 design of the 1960's (5 elements/ 4 groups), although it is smaller and lighter in weight (250g, 49mm filter, 46mm length, 63mm max. diameter)

The reputation for performance was not nearly as good as the SMC-K 1.8/85mm (tested with 69 lp/mm center resolution at f/8 opposed to 87lp/mm)

Test results of Mr. Yoshihiko Takinami
can be seen here.

Further technical specs of this lens.

9. SMC-Pentax A 1:1.4 85mm (1984-1989)

Finally in 1984 - more than 10 years later than CANON, NIKON and ZEISS) PENTAX brought a f/1.4 fast telephoto.
Remember the first f/1.5 highspeed telephoto's dated back in the late 1930's! PENTAX was more conservative than all German companies in this respect.
The "A" lens family finally offered shutter priority mode. This was offered a decade ago by companies like CANON, and 7 years earlier by ZEISS (MM-lenses).  It was the last "NON-Autofocus" fully manual lens series made by PENTAX...
The design was a pretty straight (not brilliant) Gaussian Type (7 elements/ 6 groups) - similar to the ZEISS PLANAR 1.4/85mm ten years earlier.
Nevertheless reputation for sharpness is very good.
Filter diameter 67mm, weight 555g (15g less than the PLANAR which was considered to be lightweight for its speed and excellent build quality) - max. diameter 74mm, length 66mm

The lens was replaced 1992 by the "FA" 1.4/85 with a much more modern 8-elements/ 7 groups Gaussian design. But this is a completely different story...

SMC-A 1.4/85
SMC-A 1.4/85

Further technical specs of this lens.

10. The Competition/ I : CANON
Canon FL85

CANON already had a great history with 85mm since 1952, Rangefinder lens 85mm f/2.0 which was a classical Biotar type (6 elements/ 4 groups) - replaced in 1961 by a modern telephoto design, the f/1.8 which had an reputation beeing superior than the concurrent Leica Summicron 90mm. This design was transmitted into SLR mount (Canonflex and FL) and kept in production until 1974.
Compared to the Auto Takumar (1960) the Canon FL (1964) is of larger size, is1/4 heavier (445g), probably to "bigger glass" and has larger filter (58mm). The build quality of the SLR lenses is far less precise than the Pentax (for some reasons the Canon Rangefinder series was better crafted than the SLR...).
In 1972 CANON came up with the FD series -both in build quality and performance - a brand-new design. This was kept in production for 18 years until the EF-series started. With the heavy build chromring FD weight slightly decreased to 425g (newFD 345g), length was 57mm, max. diameter 67mm, Filter 55mm (newFD 52mm).

Canon 1.8/85
Canon FD 1.8/85mm
Canon RF/ R/ FL 1.8/85mm (1961-1974) - a pretty straight-forward design - excellent performer
Canon FD 1.8/85mm 1974-1992 - kept in production even longer: 6 elements/ 4 groups telephoto design

11. The Competition/ II : NIKON

Like Canon, NIKON had a history in 85mm Rangefinder lenses, since 1948, but for some reason didn't made it for the SLR mount for several years (maybe because of the great success of the 2.5/105). When they come back to this focal length their long adsence became obvious. Nevertheless it was no bad idea to to use a complete different design (and character) than the well-known NIKKOR-P 2.5/105mm Sonnar-type.

Nikkor 1.8/85
Nikkor 1.8/85
Nikkor 2.0/85mm
Nikkor 2.0/85
The pre-AI 1.8/85 Nikkor weights a lot (430g) and was an huge antiquated long-focus design (70mm length, 70mm diameter).
"We Nikon using pro's like it this way, Go away with you whimpy  telephot-designs..!"
Takes 52mm filter.

The second lens (link here) weights only 310g, Filter 52mm but was 1/4 step slower too.

Not good enogh to keep up with the strong newer CANON yet...
The first Nikon 85mm portrait lens design after a break of 5 years looks a bit like a 1938 Zeiss Biotar!  (1964-1977)
This was soon got replaced by a slower f/2.0 lens with a design similar to the older Canon telephoto (1977)

12. The Competition / III : Olympus
Fitting to the small sized OM-1/ OM-2 Family, Olympus launched a compact, though speedy 85mm lens (1973): the F-Zuiko AUTO-T 85mm f/2.0. Unsurpassed by its day as a f/2 short telephoto lens: 48mm length, 60mm diameter, and 260g weight Most telephoto lenses even for rangefinder cameras exceed them in size and weight - even today..!

Oben: Ludwig Bertele would have rejoiced it assumedly: A perfect Ernostar-Type  - its forerunner was a more complicated Ernostar type with 6 elements in 4 groups


12. The Competition / IV : MINOLTA

Rokkor MC 1.7/85
It took Minolta to 1970 to bring a Fast-Portrait-Lens into production  - a nice Gauss Type (Ultron Type) - kept in production till 1978, then slightly changed lens configuration (MD series)
Minolta MC Rokkor 1.7/85
Length 62mm, max. diameter 73mm - 55mm Filter
 6 Elements in 5 groups
- nominally 1/6 step faster but a hunk of 460g weight too...

13. The Competition/ V : ZEISS
After a break of more than 30 years not beeing in the business of real fast lenses - the outmoded Sonnar 2/85 was kept unchanged till 1973 - the one step faster ZEISS PLANAR 1.4/85 in 1974 turns out to be a great pitch and excellent performing lens. Even if the nice "Sonnar look" is history... Available in Contarex, Rollei QBM and (1975) Contax C/Y mount. Acceptable low weight for its speed (574g). Alas, in terms of price a class of its own...
See my dedicated page.

Zeiss Planar 1.4/85
Above: An excellent performer for such a straight design - but huge glass (67mm filter).  Probably Zeiss could have developed this design ten years earlier. Why the hell they came out with it as late as 1974? 
The rarest mount - Contarex : only 200 made (Contarex was already dead)

Zeiss Planar 1.4/85

15. Die Wettbewerber / VI : Carl ZEISS Jena
Pancolar 1.8 80mm
6 Elemente/ 5 Gruppen: Nachfolger des Biotar 1.5/75 bzw. Pancolar 1.4/75mm, für M42 oder Praktica Bajonett - getreu dem "sozialistischen" Prinzip : Was nicht "Hausmannskost" ist, gibt es gar nicht, selten oder/und bloß gegen Devisen... und lichtstarke Portrait-Teleobjektive sind ganz entschieden keine Hausmannskost... spielte am Markt daher kaum eine Rolle und ist daher nur der Vollständigkeit halber aufgeführt: 308 g, 58mm Filter. Links die S/N 1068....
Pancolar 1.8 80mm

Soft Focus SMC 2.2/85mm

SoftFocus Lens


Gerjan van Oosten: The Asahi Pentax Screw Mount Guide 1952-1977

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