Pentacon 300mm 1:4

Pentacon 6 300mm 1:4 medium format manual focus lens. Kinda makes the 60D look like a toy. Excuse the messy desk and poor shot, I don't have a decent background big enough to shoot a proper photo of this lens. Yet.

Pentacon 6 300mm 1:4 medium format manual focus lens. Kinda makes the 60D look like a toy. Excuse the messy desk and poor shot, I don’t have a decent background big enough to shoot a proper photo of this lens. Yet.

A few weeks ago I purchased a used Pentacon 6 mount 300mm 1:4 lens on eBay. This is a medium format lens built for the Pentacon 6 camera system, but comes with an adapter to M42 Pentax mount, which is then easily adapted onto EOS EF.

This lens is huge. There really is no other way to explain that. Weighing in at around 2.3kg on it’s own, it’s not something you’re going to want to hand hold for long, and definitely not something you want to drop on your foot. Anyway, the main reason I went with this is because I wanted something a bit longer than the Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm for shooting birds and other wildlife, but really didn’t want to fork out the huge amount of money for a Canon EF native mount one of any decent quality. I’d read good things about this lens online, especially with how well it compares to the modern lenses.

One of the theoretical advantages of using a medium format lens such as this on a crop factor camera like the 60D (or even full frame 35), is that you are only really using the very center of the image circle, which, generally speaking is where the best image quality is. Whether or not that would work in practice was a different question.

Another interesting thing about this lens is the aperture mechanism. It has 19 blades, which results in an almost perfectly circlular opening at all stops. It’s a little bit of overkill in some ways, but it’s pretty and kinda fascinating to watch it in action (excuse the poor video quality, can’t be assed setting it up properly).

What better way to test a lens I purchased specifically for wildlife, than by shooting wildlife?

Australasian Darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae) drying it wings in the afternoon sun at Hood's Lagoon. A good example of the shot I bought this lens for. These darters are pretty tolerant of people, but if you get close enough to shoot them well with a 135mm they freak out. 300mm gives enough reach that they don't really pay much attention to you.

Australasian Darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae) drying it wings in the afternoon sun at Hood’s Lagoon. A good example of the shot I bought this lens for. These darters are pretty tolerant of people, but if you get close enough to shoot them well with a 135mm they freak out. 300mm gives enough reach that they don’t really pay much attention to you.

There's a flock of feral domestic geese at the Lagoon (who, incidentally, really hate my bike), who have been fed by people, and as such you can get really close to them. So close this was all I could fit in the frame. This one wasn't so sure about me. Again, the background blur is amazing from this lens.

There’s a flock of feral domestic geese at the Lagoon (who, incidentally, really hate my bike), who have been fed by people, and as such you can get really close to them. So close this was all I could fit in the frame. This one wasn’t so sure about me. Again, the background blur is amazing from this lens.

Another goose face.

Another goose face.

I'd never realised just how wicked looking the beaks of these things were... On the subject of the lens though, I love the way the background blur is rendered.

I’d never realised just how wicked looking the beaks of these things were… On the subject of the lens though, I love the way the background blur is rendered.

A little corella (Cacatua sanguinea) doing a little dance on a street light. Prior to this shot it was hanging upside down. This is an image that shows the biggest limitation of this lens: chromatic aberration.

A little corella (Cacatua sanguinea) doing a little dance on a street light. Prior to this shot it was hanging upside down. This is an image that shows the biggest limitation of this lens: chromatic aberration.

A hardhead or white-eyed duck ( Aythya australis) resting on a partially submerged log. I like the reflection symmetry, even if even a 300mm wasn't quite long enough for close framing.

A hardhead or white-eyed duck (Aythya australis) resting on a partially submerged log. I like the reflection symmetry, even if even a 300mm wasn’t quite long enough for close framing.

A trio of apostlebirds (Struthidea cinera) on a power line. This was pretty much the last of the sunlight.

A trio of apostlebirds (Struthidea cinera) on a power line. This was pretty much the last of the sunlight.

This creature was with a group of ducks, but the colouring was completely different, so I'm not sure what she is. I'm guessing a feral domestic of some kind. This shot also hits the limitations of the lens, with a green fringing around her outline at higher resolutions.

This one was with a group of ducks, and had a similar body shape to the other ducks, but the colouring was completely different, so I’m not sure what it is. I’m guessing a feral domestic of some kind. This shot also hits the limitations of the lens, with a green fringing around her outline at higher resolutions.

But strangely, this shot doesn't have the same fringing. Maybe my focus wasn't perfectly accurate in the last shot?

But strangely, this shot doesn’t have the same fringing. Maybe my focus wasn’t perfectly accurate in the last shot?

Anyway, the only problems I found with this lens were reasonably bad chromatic aberration under some lighting conditions, and the rather large turning distance from one focus extreme to the other. It takes a fair bit of time and turning to switch from minimum focus distance to further away, so you’d better not need to switch in a hurry. That’s to be expected from a manual focus lens of this size though.

It surprisingly also makes a good portrait lens, provided you have the working distance.

Stacey was walking towards me, so I shot her. :)

Stacey was walking towards me, so I shot her. 🙂

All in all, I think for the usage I had in mind for this lens, it’s going to be more than adequate.

Shannon Walters

An amateur photographer who also spends time making chainmaille and doing too many other things to mention.

Comments are closed.