Lens Spotlight: M200 - Jason Doss

Lens Spotlight

smc Pentax-M 200mm f/4

This is a very small 200mm lens, and because of this fact, it was one of the first I went after when collecting small primes for my APS-C collection. It's long and thin, and feels a little weird on a full-frame DSLR.  In fact, it looks and feels a little weird on any camera.  This is one of the cheapest legacy Pentax I could find.  A good copy cost at the time between $50 and $100, and I've seen them go for less.  The problem is getting a good copy.  Because they were one of the most common M-series lenses, there are many that weren't treated with the proper TLC in the day.  Plus, some have internal defects.  Truth be told, this is the second copy of this lens I bought.  The first introduced me to the concept of delamination: this is when two internal glass elements that are glued together become unglued.  This looks like a dirty, hazy ring around the outer edge of the lens. This won't affect the image quality unless the defect is large, however it is progressive, and it is difficult to fix.  In my case, the defect was on the small rear element, so I decided to sell the first copy for parts and get another.


Delamination isn't due to maltreatment as might have been alluded to above.  It's a spontaneous defect that can occur over time due to weakness in the glue, or environmental conditions in which the lens was stored.


The lens is 405 g (0.9#) and, focused at infinity, 111mm long (4.4 inches) and has 8 aperture blades and 52mm filter threads. The fast aperture of f/4 is on the slow end for lenses of this focal length. The lens bears the usual aperture ring and has a rubberized grip for easy manual focusing. Minimum focus distance is 200cm (6.6 ft) producing 1:7.8 reproduction ratio (0.13x).

I'm getting better at taking a lens out for a spin and coming back with a suitable collection of images to show on one of these Spotlight pages.  Previously, it might have taken a few days to find several "good enough" images to show, or opportunities to shoot enough frames.  I'm trying to keep these to three frames, which doesn't exactly showcase all the features and flaws of each lens, but rather gives a brief taste of the focal length.  In some cases, I do try to show an example of wide-open performance, or closest focus for macro lenses.  That's my goal for this first run-thru of my lens collection, so a little feedback is appreciated if adjustments to these writings are needed.


So the lens came to town with me on a lunch break at what turned out to be the peak of autumn color for 2019.  We live in fabulous and wonderful Newton County Arkansas.  It really is a beautiful place, despite some imperfections here and there.  The Newton County Courthouse was right across the street from our dining establishment of the day (The Ozark Cafe) and I snapped this shot at f/8 from the curb, across the street from the courthouse.  This is cropped somewhat to line up the frame and cut off the open door frame just below the sign.  I find my handheld shots are consistently -1.5 degrees askew... have you noticed this with your photography?


We visited Emma's Museum of Junk in search of a wooden bench for my desk.  I have one of those fold-down desks that came with our house, but nothing to sit on.  My search was in vain this day, however I did spot this Singer sewing machine in the corner and rendered a monochrome image.  Tight framing was required due to physical restraints in the store.  This is wide open, by the way.  I hadn't really regarded this lens to be very good at f/4, but this shot looks pretty good to my eye.


Finally, the Grapes of the Buffalo Theater.  This is a fantastic building on the courthouse square that i really want to acquire.  Jasper has two restaurants, one good one and one excellent one, but no coffee shop.  I would love to rent or buy this building and convert it into a coffee shop, but alas running down the owner and figuring out actually how to run a business without failing in the first year is something with little hope of success.


Anyway, the grapes are withering on the vine on the north side of the building in front of this closed and curtained window.  I liked the composition here, with light, shadow, and a mix of chaotic vine against clean straight lines and right angles.  This was f/5.6 I believe.


That's all I have for now... See you next time.


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