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Pentacon 200mm f/4.0 M42 lens on Sony Nex

This is a review of a Pentacon 200mm f/4 preset telephoto lens when used on a Sony NEX 6 APS-C mirrorless camera.

Pentacon 200mm f/4 images

I'm not exactly sure of the history of this lens regarding when it would have been made. I would guess that it must be sometime around the start of the 1970s because if it was before 1968 it would have had the maker named as Meyer-Optik Gorlitz since Meyer-Optik, the manufacturers, were taken over by the Pentacon company in 1968. If it had been much later it would not be a pre-set lens, it would have an auto diaphragm and an actuation pin in the mount. So I would guess between 1968 and 1973?

In design, it's a large heavy lens with a maximum aperture of f/4.0 and a minimum aperture of f/22. There are an almost unbelievable 15 blades in the aperture which makes it just about perfectly round as it closes. Being a pre-set means that there are no other controls (such as auto/manual switches etc) apart from the aperture ring and the focus ring which makes it a very simple lens to use. On the NEX 6 there is no need to use the Pre-set mechanism - I just set the pre-set stop at f/22 and adjust the aperture as required for the exposure.

It's possible to pick up an example of this lens from between £15 to £50 on eBay in fully working order - I paid £25 for mine. Because they are simple there is little to go wrong with them, so as long as they haven't been physically damaged and don't have any fungus issues they should be OK. The unit I bought had a small amount of dust inside, but I managed to clean most of that out with a blower pushed into the gap at the back of the lens when the focus is set to minimum distance.

There certainly seems to be a coating of some sort on the lens surface because the reflections have a purplish hue to them. I suspect that they are not multi coated however so the flare reduction may not be up to today's standards.

  • Focal length 200mm
  • Effective focal length on APS-C 300mm
  • Minimum Aperture f/4.0
  • Maximum Aperture f/22
  • Mount M42
  • Minimum focus 2.5 meters
  • Preset aperture
  • 15 blade aperture
  • Ser No 8552354

Use on the Sony NEX 6

In use this is a heavy lens to attach to a camera as small and light as the NEX 6. I have to support the lens barrel with one hand because I don't like to put the whole weight of the lens onto the lens mount. Because the aperture has no click stops it's also difficult to know which aperture you are shooting at although in many cases that isn't a particularly important piece of information when the camera is giving you a live view of the picture.

I know that pre-set lenses were designed so that you can rapidly move from fully open to the pre-set aperture, but on the NEX that isn't really the best way to work because you don't tend to meter a shot and set the exposure. I found I was using shutter priority mode a lot and leaving the ISO on auto. That way I could adjust both the shutter speed with the camera thumb wheel and the aperture on the lens and let the camera set the ISO to suit. As long as I kept an eye on the ISO it was OK. For video the click-less aperture would probably be an advantage.

Other than the weight issues, the use couldn't be simpler and achieving focus using focus peaking was simple but you have to be aware of the focal length and take all normal precautions against camera shake. Basically never set the shutter speed below about 1/250th, and you are probably OK.

Pentacon 200mm f/4 Pictures

This is a set of images I took in the last few days around Stevenage with this lens attached to my NEX 6 mirrorless camera with a NEX to M42 adapter. I'm slightly disappointed with this lens all round. For some reason I expected it to be a brilliant performer but although it is respectable, it's not an outright star. I suppose it could be my copy however - the biggest problem levelled at the East German manufacturing, like the Russian, was the inconsistency of the quality control.

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