My first camera was a Canon 350D gifted by my Dad when I showed some interest in the art. That was sometime in 2012. Since then I’ve bought and sold cameras whenever I could save some money as with every new camera/lens release inevitably lead to G.A.S. I moved from Canon – Nikon – Ricoh – Olympus – Fujifilm. Changing systems meant changing lenses as well which was a bigger pain. Depreciation and incompatibility between the various brand, would always result in loosing money on exchange or sometimes prices offered for mint condition gear would be so ridiculous that I couldn’t bring myself to part with it.

About a year back I become fascinated with vintage lenses. They offered a perfect solution for me. While they didn’t have auto focus you can pick up a f1.4 or f1.8 lens for less than $60. They are future-proof; Metal construction meant that they would outlive me and irrespective of what camera system I invested in, I could adapt my existing lenses to my new system via inexpensive adapters. And the icing on the cake was when selling, most of the times you can recover what you paid for them. Some lenses are even selling more than 4-5 times their price a year back on Ebay.

The 50mm is my favourite focal length as it gives me a lot of flexibility and the lenses are relatively compact even with the adapters ( I hate carrying heavy camera bag or even straps on my camera). Also all companies made excellent 50mm lenses. Now that I own more that 10+ 50-58mm lenses, I though it would be fun to do a shoot out with them.

The Contenders

  1. Auto-Takumar 55/2
  2. Super-Takumar 55/1.8
  3. Pancolar 50/1.8
  4. SMC Takumar 55/2
  5. Pentaflex Auto Color 50/1.8
  6. Helios 44-3 58/2
  7. Helios 44m-7 58/2
  8. Super-Takumar 50/1.4
  9. SMC Pentax 50/1.2
  10. Auto-Chinon MC 50/1.7
  11. SMC Pentax M 50/1.4

Methodology

  • I shot all the lenses on a Tripod
  • The Camera was a Fujifilm X-E2 on Standard/Provia Jpg | ISO 200 DR 100 | WB Auto | HTone -1 | Timer 2 sec
  • Natural window light was used to illuminate the subject
  • All lenses were shot wide open and then at f2.8, f4, f5.6 & f8 respectively.
  • The photos are SOOC with size reduced to 2048px longest edge

Widest Aperture of Each Lens

Direct link to download files: https://ibb.co/album/mkE2BF

f/2.8

Direct Link to download files: https://ibb.co/album/jDZ2BF

f/4

Direct link to download files: https://ibb.co/album/cBVyka

f/5.6

Direct link to download files:https://ibb.co/album/kh70yv

f/8

Direct link to download files: https://ibb.co/album/cZ6Sdv

Observations:

Best Value for Money; Helios 44-3 f2 I paid $30 for it.

Wide open its quite sharp comparable to the much more expensive Super-Takumar 50/1.4 Also at f/4 when most of the other lenses have a hexagonal shape in the bokeh, it still has a pleasing bokeh

Most Disappointing Lens; Fujinon 55 f2.2

Strong Halo wide open and I didn’t like the bokeh for which the lens is know for. It has a very defined edge. The lens also has a very cheap plastic feel to it. Maybe it will perform well shooting foliage.

Mr. All rounder; Pancolar 50 f1.8 (Zebra Version)

Sharp and Contrasty wide open with pleasing out of focus area. Performs well throughout all f-stops.

Sleeper Lens; Auto-Takumar 55/2 If it wasn’t for the slightly stiff focusing ring on my copy, it would have been one of my favourite lens. It’s available around $40 if you keep your eyes open, has a lovely chrome finish to it and stopped down till f4 has a gorgeous bokeh.

Note: I am still waiting for adapters to arrive for Minolta and Yashica. I will try to keep updating the site with new lenses as and when they arrive.

Finally the full resolution files are available in the links. To sum up if you plan to shoot wide open you are limit by your choice, but by f4-5.6 most of the above lenses will do an excellent job. Try to keep your budget around $30-40 and you will not be disappointed. The SMC Pentax 50 f/1.2 is my most expensive less picked up for $110. I was pleasantly surprised to see it hold its own wide open. For backgrounds that just melt away, you can’t go wrong with f1.2. I’ve heard great things about the Canon FL 55 f1.2 Canon FD 50 f1.2 but they have been out of my budget.

Feel free to comment and share this article.

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Random

It’s a blessing that the memories I have of my childhood (which now seems a long, long time ago) are happy ones. I’m the only son of two loving parents. My Dad is an IAS officer now retired and my mom is a housewife. Having chosen Orissa (now rechristened Odisa) as his state carder, we have had the privilege (my mom would strongly disagree to that, given the hardships she had to face) of staying in the most remote and pristine places in Orissa. I can vouch that Orissa has the most beautiful forest tracks in the country; only that the state has not been able to promote itself because of its poor infrastructure.

My mom tells me stories of living in places where the only drinking water was carried to our house every morning by an old man, or that every time there was a power cut it took more than a week to restore the lines; electricity poles uprooted due to fallen trees. Or the day when Dad left early from office but arrived late….the reason? A bear was sitting in the middle of the road, intoxicated (the Mahua flower being the main culprit) and refusing to budge. The driver had a slight stammer which became more pronounced as he tried to speak “Sirrr aakta bhaluuk….k rastaee bochee aacheee… ” (Sir, a bear is sitting on the road)

Everything about me in my childhood till the age of four was ‘difficult’ to put it mildly. I wouldn’t sleep, wouldn’t eat, and wouldn’t stop crying and generally driving my parents crazy. It was only after five that I settled down and my parents heaved a sigh of relief. But unfortunately by then I had tortured my mother enough and I never had a brother or sister to keep company.

My first legible conversations was in Tamil, thanks to our Tamil caretakers with whom I spend a lot of time with. The next language was Oriya. I spoke Bengali, my mother tongue quite late. Once I was over this first hiccup of which language to speak in, I was hard to stop as if I wanted to make up for my first days of monosyllabic mumbles. This turned out to the advantage to my parents as when we had guests who over-stayed their welcome my parents would unleash me on them. I would enter the room, climb on their lap and start to speak to them in Oriya. Within a few minutes they would say their goodbyes and bid a hasty retreat.

I was a ‘silent worker’. I went about my deeds silently (only when the work aka misdeed was done was I unmasked). I distinctly remember that it was monsoon, which in Bhubaneswar is almost for six months – all the clothes had finally dried after two to three days of airing and mom had gone for her afternoon siesta.  I was feeling particularly helpful and when my mom woke up from her nap found me with all the dried clothes dipped in buckets of water for washing. I was really surprised at the look on my mom’s face; she didn’t seem pleased.

As I have already told you I was difficult. I had asthma and one of the reasons of not enjoying my food was that my nasal passage was always blocked. I had to breathe and eat through my mouth. Whenever my grandfather came over to visit us he encouraged me to have tea (black tea). That was the end of milk for me. After that when I was given bottled milk I would smartly point at the tea cups in everyone else’s hand. My less than normal eating habits did not stop there. I had a strong penchant for dried ‘pigeon shit’ which I would discover from any nook and corner and quickly put into my mouth lest anyone wanted a share from my tasty snack. My granny also had a role to play. She is an avid ‘paan’ eater. Whenever she had a paan I could get a small nibble from it. So it was only natural that I would miss it when my grandparents went back to Kolkata. The shrubs and small trees in are garden were well pruned till about a height where my hands would reach – my ready source of ‘paan’ leaves. And when I was caught munching I said “Mou pano kyochi” (I’m having paan).

In Orissa we lived houses built on ten to eleven acres of land with enough rooms to fit the entire Indian cricket team. Then my Dad got posted to Delhi – From big gardens to narrow balconies. From narrow unpaved roads to broad roads of Lutyen’s Delhi. School day of Delhi was another honeymoon period for me. Shivering in my grey half-pants while waiting for the school bus in the Delhi winters to bunking classes and loitering in Khan Market. It was in Delhi that I had the first experience of flats that too multi-storied. So many flats, so many friends to play with. From morning till dusk I would be out. Every evening my mother would shout from the stairs in the vague hope that I would hear and come home.

By this time in life studies were supposed to be important. How Sad! I was expected to come back home by a particular time, have my bath and devote a few hours to my studies. I think I had grasped the concept of returning home on time but not the second part of the deal-studying. Hence this instance – I come back early, tip-toed into the TV room, where my parents were engrossed watching Derrick (I think) and hide behind my mom’s chair. I patted myself on the back, feeling smug that it was nearly one hour and my mom had still not discovered that I was in the room, when she commented to my dad “ Look at the time, Choto is still not back “ . I popped out and said “I’m here”.  You guessed it, no applaud for my stealth.

Being fond of sweets is something  in the ‘genes’ of a Bong. Even if you are not at the moment, don’t fret it just means that it’s not been triggered yet.  Everyone in my family loves chocolates. From Gulyian to Milka we have tasted all. But our all time favourite has always been Nutella. It was a standing instuction with all my dad’s friends going abroad to bring Nutella. I remember one time we had an uncle who was extra sweet and got back twelve jars. By now my parents were well aware of my greediness. All the jars got coded; S – Soumya , GB – Dad & G – Mom. So that made four each. I was done & dusted with my share within a week. Then started the sequence of  begging &  blackmailing with puppy eyes. Dad gave in easily. Giving his share to me. But mom would not relent. So began my nightly vigil; getting up at night scooping out a spoonful and leveling the rest of the chocolate. Each time mom opened her jar she did notice something was not right but couldn’t put her finger on it.

Phew!!! if you have managed to read this far maybe you liked this post…. Waiting to hear your fond memories too.

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Do you believe in love at first sight? I Do… My first love – The Tiger. Or should I say – “The Tigers” and “Wilderness”. My journey started in Ranthambore and continued to Bandhavgarh, Corbett, Bharatpur, Kanha, Nagarhole, Kaziranga, Bandipur, Chambal, Sariska, Dudhwa, Pench, Mudumalai, Nameri and its still on. What happened en-route? Well quite a few things. I had worked in the hotel industry for a pretty long time and while traveling with clients through beautiful jungles I fell in love with them. My camera held me in good stead; capturing some breathtaking moment with Tigers, which even pros would die for. As time passed my entrepreneurial urge grew stronger and stronger. Finally I felt my job and after scouting for the perfect place found my dream land in Kanha. There I built my first wildlife lodge-Chitvan, Kanha.

Throughout my life I’ve been fascinated by Tigers. Slowly as I started spending more & more time around these magnificent beasts, I started understanding them better and with that understanding I came to know myself better as well. If you think about it, you can easily identify the traits of a Tiger with that of a CEO of a company. Let me run you through my observation and you will see my point. Let’s take the most important aspect which allows the Tiger do dominate his territory Fitness. It’s a quality shared by any CEO. To run a company he has to be physically & mentally fit to handle the reigns of the company and take informed decisions. Another characteristic is ‘Adaptability’. Tiger is one predator that’s perfectly adapted to various terrains be it the swamps, grasslands, snow or water. Similarly the CEO of a company needs to adapt to the ever-changing international scenario where the competitive advantage of any company can disappear overnight. ‘Eating Right’ is another trait which is essential for both to keep them in perfect fighting condition. The Tiger generally covers more that 10-15 miles of his territory every day. A CEO also needs to keep ‘Patrolling’ to judge the market sentiments and make sure the company isn’t losing ground. Hunting, Ambush, Concentration; all discreetly are the traits of any predator on the top of his game. A Tigers success rate is only 10 % but it always gives its cent percent. This is what any shareholders of a company would expect from the CEO; that he gives his heart and soul in all that he does.

And remember it’s always lonely at the top. You will have few friends but you will have to persevere. Hope I could share with you my complete awe and respect for these majestic creatures. In the case of the Tiger I firmly believe “Looks can Kill”. Will like to sum it up by a famous thought, “John Seidensticker, of Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park in Washington DC, come to mind: “The tiger lives in a world of sunlight and shadow; always secretive, never devious; always a killer, never a murderer; solitary, never alone; for it is an irreplaceable link in the process and the wholeness of life…”

Note : The above is a write up of a great presentation given by my dear friend Sharad Vats.

Random

At the subconscious level something must have happened in school which made by brain stop me going back there. In school I was the guy with average IQ, sandwiched between friends to whom studies was a walk in the park. Over all I would say school was a very enjoyable phase in my life, which makes me wonder why is it that I’ve not kept in touch with more of my school friends and teachers or attended any of the alumni meets, albeit being in Delhi all these years.

So it was a pleasant surprise when out of the blue I get an invitation on Facebook to attend the wedding of two of my school mates. I was thrilled that at least someone did remember me even after such a long sabbatical. I congratulated my friends and promised I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I would be meeting my school friends after nearly ten years.

I made plans for the 15th Dec’11 with the only school friend that I am in touch with. Unfortunately she had to cancel and I made the journey alone. I arrived on time (I hoped) since in my excitement I hadn’t even seen whether the invitation was for the marriage or the reception, let alone the time. After giving the valet my car to park, I asked where the marriage is and was pointed vaguely towards the front. I entered the wedding hall at the end of a corridor which had an arch decorated with flowers at the entrance. I was pleasantly surprised to see all the women dressed in traditional Bengali attire. Surprised, as my friends are now settled in the states and had come home only for the marriage. I hadn’t expected it to be a traditional Bengali affair. But my happiness did not last long as I soon realized I didn’t recognize any of the guests present in the hall. I made a hasty retreat to the archway to have a look around to see if I could see any signage to confirm if I was at the right place. Then I saw it, “Arindam Weds Anuradha”…. and heaved a sigh of relief. But I didn’t feel like going back in. Suddenly I heard the sound of band baaja and hoped it was my friend Arindham. It was. Arindham and a lot of barati’s dancing away to glory. I don’t know whether the groom had a horse to start with, but at that moment he had both his feet firmly on the ground, dancing along with everyone. After a lot of photo opportunities and hip swaying the crowd finally covered the last few meters and reached the entry to the hall. Anuradha too arrived at the spot in her car and the couple did a dance together in front of both the families who were laughing, shouting, and dancing at the same time. To my relief in that merry crowd I finally saw some familiar faces. I must tell you I was a wee bit disappointed at the boys. I think if I had seen them even after another 10 years they wouldn’t have changed. It was if it was only yesterday that I had last seen them. The girls on the other hand had become ladies. It took me a while sometimes to recognize their faces. The first half and hour was exciting as the ex Patalian group grew larger and larger, and sometimes a little embarrassing as sometimes there was a long pause trying to match faces with names. After a while once the first hiccups were out-of-the-way, everyone fell deep into conversation, reminiscing about the past and catching up on the present. I have a feeling that Arindam & Anuradha too wanted to join us. Haha…ha

Once the ceremonies were done and the bride & groom were having the customary dinner with close family, Anuradha couldn’t stop herself and joined the party happening on the dance floor. The last song played by the DJ was the song which is a rage now ‘Kolaveri’. In the end the blessed couple too didn’t want the party to end and fervently insisted that all of us come again for the reception. Let the party continue….

Random

I think the toughest trips to plan turn out to be the most memorable. The idea of a team trip had been in the pipeline for a long time but always failed to materialize due to unforeseeable circumstances.  This time too it was on a bitter-sweet note that we were all rushing to the railway station to catch our early morning train. I can honestly say I’m not a morning person, but having said so I do grudgingly accept – ‘Yes’, there is something magical about the early morning freshness’. I could see the excitement and the pent-up energy on everyone faces along with the look, “We are finally going” …..

Getting thirteen seats together at the last-minute turned out to be an ordeal that was as frustrating as sitting with hot chocolate fudge in hand and not having a spoon to dig in. Finally, we managed to get seats on Shan-e-Punjab – Non AC Chair Car. College was the last time that I travelled in a train where I could open the window. After that I had become the ‘Elite Class’ not mixing with the common gentry. I could feel it in my bones; this train journey was going to be exciting. Our compartment was milling with people, some trying to adjust their luggage while others were more interested in hitching along for a free ride.  The clamor was deafening.  As the train left the platform, things calmed down a little.

Within two hours of starting our journey everyone was having pangs of hunger. Most of us had packed something to munch on the way. Seasoned travelers and a mom, Jyoti had the time to get up early and make aloo parathas for us, whereas less adept people like me just managed to throw one or two ready to eat items together.  Eating out of tiffin boxes reminded me of all the books Enid Blyton wrote where there would always be one or two mid night feasts. But the fresh morning air and travel makes even the fussy eaters get a voracious appetite. So when the train stopped at Ludhiana Junction, we all got down to pick-up local goodies from the station.

The exciting thing about travelling in a Non-AC compartment is all the assortments of sellers that climb aboard to sell their wares. From intoxicating aromas of snack food, ten in one pens, to key chain sellers; the train had the hustle & bustle akin to any small town market.  I’m happy to say that by the end of the journey we had made many hawkers retire early for the day. But the highlight of the train journey was ‘Akum’, a small Punjabi girl who refused to stay with her parents, but instead adopted my friend Dipin’s lap as her preferred mode of transport. Try as he did Dipin could not dislodge her from her seat for more than a few minutes. In the end she was sharing her food with us and was our on-board entertainment.

We had a tempo traveller waiting for us at theAmritsar station and it was a short 10 minutes drive to our hotel – Mango Suites.  By the time we checked in, it was already late afternoon. Not to waste more time than necessary, we all agreed to meet down at the lobby in an hour after freshening up. By 1730 hrs. all of us we so hungry that we trooped into the closest eating joint that we saw; Kumar’s Convention & Banquets’. I’m not joking, this guy saw us as little lambs, which had come willing to a slaughter-house. By the time we were through with our food we had clocked up a bill of INR 2700 which is exorbitant by Amritsar standards. When everyone was satiated we proceeded to Katra Jaimahal Singh, the main market. I’ll let you decide what we did next with five women in our team. Hahaha….ha you guess it right “Shopping” of course. I had only one item on my list, Phulkari. I had enlisted my female colleagues to do all the dirty work. Cross my heart when I say, I mean this in complete awe and respect. Women have an amazing way of shooting down any price that a shopkeeper quotes and ask a price that if said by me, I’m sure the shopkeeper would chase me with a bat. I will not lie, even I enjoyed the experience as the weather was perfect and the meandering lanes did not have any locomotive traffic. Most of the shopkeepers were more that eager to show their wares and had loads of variety to keep us busy for half an hour in most of the shops. After clothes it was shoes. None of us wanted to miss the bargains as we had people who knew where to go to get the best deals and everyone ended up buying in dozens.

Fortunately everyone in the team is a foodie and understood one cannot enjoy on an empty stomach. Putting shopping on hold for day one, we went straight to Makan Fish Wala. It is a small place with open counters out in front and a seating area at the back. Everyone wanted to eat in a relaxed atmosphere so we packed our food (fish fry and tandoori chicken) and went to our hotel. Food when shared has a completely different taste in itself. After a sumptuous meal while talking nineteen to a dozen we had a game of dumb charades. With everyone in high spirits and movie names (concocted) like ‘Ganga mei behti lash’ it was a ball. Around four o’clock it dawned on everybody that the next day (which had already started) was going to be jam-packed. Grudgingly we all decided to grab a few winks of sleep.

The highlight of day two apart from Wagah Border was the lunch at ‘Kesar da Dhaba’. I had been to Amritsar before but if you don’t know the place, I can say with conviction that you will not stumble upon it by mistake. The food was yum. All vegetarian though. The best way to reach the place would be on foot (if you know your way around that is) but we took a tuk-tuk. The narrow lanes will remind you of the alleys of Banarus, with shops on both sides and the sun playing hide and seek. One could spend hours and hours just meandering through those lanes. We were on a time line, since we had to reach Wagah border by four thirty to avoid the crowd.

The only way to experience Wagah border is if you have a VIP pass, otherwise it’s very difficult to view the spectacle. The entire ceremony is for about an hour. What one does not expect is once the patriotic songs starts you have people dancing on the streets. It’s a wonderful sight, people dancing uninhibited. Nirmala my colleague was itching to join them but was unfortunately stuck with us on the top-tier.

We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly clapping, cheering and shouting ourselves hoarse. We ended day two at the Golden Temple. I don’t know if my shots do justice to the spectacle but the temple at night looked like a mirage; a golden body floating serenely in the center of a sarovar (small water body). I spent a peaceful hour sitting next to the water, drinking in the calm & peacefulness of the place. I sat with closed eyes in one corner of the sarovar and felt all my tensions and worries float away. Before leaving the Golden Temple don’t miss the nutri-kulcha just outside the temple. The owner has a small stall barely more than 4 feet long but you would be amazed how well he uses the space to dish out his creation to the never-ending stream of devotees. That night all of us slept like logs; the entire days of excitement had got to us.

Our train back on day three was in the late afternoon. Everyone had the morning free to spend it as they wanted. Some of us went to the Jallianwala Bagh, a public garden where thousands of peaceful celebrators were murdered by the British on the occasion of the Punjabi New Year.  And would you believe it some of us still had some last-minute shopping to do. If we were to catch a flight all of us would have had excess baggage. Since this trip had materialized after so much planning, I think everyone had a feeling that it wouldn’t be soon that we will all travel again together. In hindsight I see that this is true.

Do visit Amritsar if you still haven’t …… The Golden Temple, Food, Shopping & Jallianwala Bagh. Here’s a toast to the city, “Till we meet again”.

Notes:

  • The best way to get around the city is on the many tuk-tuk’s. Around INR 10 per person
  • Visit Golden temple at night.
  • Do Wagah border only if you have a VIP Pass.

 

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