Review of Pentacon Auto 29mm / 2.8 m42

This was my first manual focus lens. It might not be the greatest, but it is my eyeopener to old gear.

Pentacon 29mm with camera Praktica EE2

Pentacon 29mm with camera Praktica EE2

My purchase
I bought this lens attached to a camera on Tradera (swedish ebay). It was about 20$, with the camera. A lot of old stuff is cheaper in Sweden then on international ebay, there are not so many buyers. Did I make a bargain? Well, lets find out…

The camera attached was a Praktica EE2. The reason I bought the kit was that I wanted some prime lens close to wide angle. I had mostly landscape photography in mind.

Back of Pentacon 29mm/2.8

Back of Pentacon 29mm/2.8

Pentacon Auto 29mm/2.8, the lens
This version is a M42 screwmount. As you might have noticed it’s an odd focal length, 29mm. The 1mm difference from the more usual 28mm is not something you notice much. On a crop-camera like my Canon EOS 350D this 29mm lens becomes a 46,6 mm lens.

Everything on the lens is manual, although there is a aperture-pin for some auto function on the Praktica. All in good condition, focus and aperture rings worked ok. The lens fitted my Canon-camera good.

The reputation for this line of lenses from Pentacon is not great (with the exception of the 135mm). But lets take a close look at this little 29mm-lens.

My impression of the lens
My first impression of this lens came from a portrait of my daughter, which was fantastic. It was shot indoors, in good light and from above (my daughter looking up). Sharp where it should be and soft bokeh, war colours.

Portrait

Portrait

When it came to landscapes my first test was in swedish forest with dark, hard contrast and some harsh backlight. The images was ok, but nothing special at all. It seemed it had a hard time dealing with the big contrast, but to be honest so did my new Sigma AF-zoom.

Landscape over Tysslingen

Landscape over Tysslingen

Later landscape images with lower contrast and more summer and colourful has turned out ok, I think. Higher performance then reputation lead me to believe.

Pros
+ Nice colours in right conditions
+ Sharpness achievable
+ Nice build quality
+ Good for warm and close-up portraits

Cons
– No real wideangle with sensor crop, closer to normal focal length.
- The aperturering is close to the camera, which can cause problems.
- Unreliable performer, sometimes dark colours go weird

Recommendation
If you can not get something really good in that range (like a Yashica ML), get this Pentacon instead an play with it for a while. Maybe it’ll surprise you.

Lannafors lanthandel

Lannafors lanthandel

Gärdsgård

Gärdsgård

Junk car

Junk car

The company Pentacon and Prakticas
VEB Pentacon was an East German camera- and lens maker formed in 1964 and was closed in 1991 after the fall of the east block. It made Praktica-cameras and a lot of them has Carl Zeiss-lenses (”aus Jena”) so keep an eye out for these cameras. My EE2-version has a very distinct ”klonk” when pressing the exposure-button, which is a little bit charming.

Reading

15 Responses in “Review of Pentacon Auto 29mm / 2.8 m42”

  1. Mattias, do you have any experience of using a M42-adaptor on a digitial house? I’m having an EOS450, and there are a lot of lenses with the M42-connection on Tradera.

    Will it work well (in manual mode of course), or should I forget the idea of using M42-lenses on my EOS450?

  2. admin says:

    Yes, have one on my EOS 350D. I bought a adapter with AF-confirm because someone told me it was necassary for the 350D, but now I’m not sure that it is. An adapter without this function is a lot cheaper.

    You could check forums like mflenses.com and groups on Flickr to fins someone with the 450D that uses manual lenses, then maybe you can buy the cheaper version of adapter.

    I’m going to add some useful Flickr-groups to the links later today.

    Oh, by the way, I bough mine from http://www.kaffebrus.com, but I know they are also on cyberphoto, scandinavian photo and auction sites like Tradera.

  3. Lee Probst says:

    I recently acquired a Pentacon Hexacon camera without a lens. It is not working, but I plan to use it primarily as part of my modest camera collection. However, I can’t seem to locate a lens for this camera. Any places in Sweden I could contact? And do you know of nay reputable repair place if Should desire to get it repaired. (I am not a dealer –just a private citizen.) I might be interested in buying a working camera if I could find a decent one at a reasonable price. I have long been interested I the Prakticas.
    – Lee

  4. Mattias says:

    No sorry, I just bought it from swedish ebay “Tradera”, mine is M42-mount so there are many options on lens for it.

    You probably will have better luck to find one on international ebay – the swedish market is quite small. Check also with http://www.praktica-users.com, they are probably experts on it :) Other places to check around is forum.mflenses.com, and maybe there’s flickr groups for Praktica-cameras. Pentacon lenses is often seen on http://ebay.co.uk

  5. I have one of these, which I found in a used lens bin in a local antiques shop for £8. It’s mechanically very good, with a clicky aperture, and it feels tough; optically I found that it was a bit disappointing around the edges even on my cropped 350D. I use it on my 5D every so often as a “don’t care if it gets smashed” lens and it’s not bad for snapshots. The vignetting at f2.8 is very arty. Even stopping right down it never becomes very sharp, and it distorts around the edges, and it’s surprisingly large. I find that the aperture ring sticks out and is easy to use.

    There’s also a Pentacon 30mm which I used to have, but it bangs against the 5D’s mirror on infinity focus.

  6. Mattias says:

    I’ve heard it had great variations in qulity in the porduction of the lens. I suspect I got a good one.

  7. Richard Nuttall says:

    They do vary a lot mine is a bit battered but also ok the 30mm Pentacon aka Meyer ‘Lydith’ is a very good lens its a preset and has the aperture ring on the front like a lot of Russian optics, works fine on a Samsung /Pentax Dslr in manual and AV mode and clears mirror ok.

  8. Mattias says:

    I like the early Pentacon 50, looks very similar in the finish to my aus Jena 135mm

  9. Roy L Faverty says:

    These Pentacon lenses are like every other lens manufacture (including Zeiss, Leica, Canon and Nikon) quality can vary from design to design and within a particular design over time. However, generally east German lenses like Pentacon, Meyer Optica, Carl Zeiss Jena etc are quite good both in resolution and contrast. Coating on these lenses have their roots in the T and T* coatings of Zeiss (similar ones by Schnieder and Rodenstock) before the “wall” went up in 1960. The housing of the elements was often bulky and heavy, pre WWII in many aspects, but very good. It was the cameras for which these lenses were made that caused their reputation to slide down, mainly because it was difficult for a person in the west to get them repaired. Again the cameras were heavy and manufacturers were slow to adapt to the changing market. East German optics are fine and some are excellent, you have to know which ones are excellent before you buy. The photos presented above are for the most part under-exsposed, but this could also be a scanning issue. But all the same they look good. I like old lenses as long as they are not de-vitrafied (hazed from weathering). Old Meyers, CZJ, Schacht, Enna to name a few all are every bit as sharp as todays and many have a better presentation of contrast (especailly if you use monochrome film). Many of my favorite lenses are 60+ years old and still great. Buy East German and Russian lenses, they are inexpensive right now and many are really excellent. Read carefully what mount they have and what camera they were engineered for so you don’t by a lens that will not work on your camera.

    Cheers
    Roy Faverty
    Colorado

  10. In the beginning just remember it was darked and then someone smiled! try this:

    A gentleman is a man who can play the accordion but doesn’t. :)

  11. Peng says:

    How can I register at Tradera? I tried but it seems an ID number is required. Indeed there are some good deals there!

  12. Men may buy Gold over dear.

  13. buy antabuse says:

    Do the likeliest, and God will do the best.

  14. Ken Kitchen says:

    I have a working Praktica EE2. All it needs is a battery. I used this camera since buying it in 1977. I paid $250 USD. I have the manual along with the orginial lens, zoom lens, leather protective cover, polarizing lens, strap and bag.
    I am wanting to sell the outfit, but I’m not sure what it would be worth. Can you help?
    Thank you in advance.

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