Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2

Fact.  I have owned a copy of every SMC-M 50mm lens that Pentax ever made.

The 50/2, the 50/1.7, the 50/1.4 and I stopped the journey at the 50/1.2.  Which, technically is called SMC, omitting the -M (“Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2”) but it’s clearly of the same period and series.

The SMC-M 50/2 is an excellent performer and is valued in about the same range as a body cap!  Great student shooter lens or for a daytime/flash shooter who prefers to spend their $$ on film than needless equipment.

The 50/1.7, in my opinion, is the smartest Pentax SMC-M lens to own if you’re only going to own one 50 for your kit.  It’s very cheap, often overlooked, but very small and light, yet performs more strongly than the 50/1.4 at wide apertures.  I’ve shot extensively with it also.  Without getting too far off track, here’s a link of examples.

I’ve owned a couple 50/1.4’s because I just didn’t believe a Pentax prime could be so disappointing wide open that I bought another and even had one CLA’d just to be sure I wasn’t buying out of wack lenses.  These lenses are big, heavy and offer nothing that the 50/1.7 doesn’t offer unless you prefer soft focus images at wider apertures.

Now, the 50/1.2, this is a lens.  At between $300-$400USD, it’s probably cheaper than any other 50/1.2 lens by any manufacturer, as well as other Pentax 50/1.2’s, but it packs a punch!


Yes, the SMC 50mm 1.2 is a big, heavy lens, easily moreso than any of the other SMC-M 50’s, but, it’s smaller and lighter than any other Japanese 50/1.2.  In fact, it fits so well on a K1000 that it just looks like a normal lens.  On an LX, it is probably best at home.  The wide focus ring rests well in ones hand and is not so damped as to tire the fingers such as longer lenses tend to be.  Click stops are as smooth and definitive as any other SMC-M lens.  It contains a dense 7 elements in 6 groups and 8 rounded aperture blades.

It’s filter size is up from Pentax’s standard 49mm, up to Nikon/Canon’s 52mm.  As a Nikon shooter, I often swap my good, metal Nikon 50/1.4 hood onto the P50/1.2 and it does just fine.

What’s great about the SMC 50/1.2 is that it does what you expect the most expensive lens of a line-up to do; blow the rest out of the water!  When you buy a Nikon or even a Leica super fast lens, some models, arguably, don’t even live up to the performance of their humble 50/2 offerings.  That is not a concern with the Pentax.  At every aperture, at every distance, it is sharper, has more micro-contrast, less ghosting, less distortion and creamier, dreamier bokeh than any other SMC-M 50.

Unlike earlier super fast lenses, and some made by lesser manufacturers, out of focus areas are even, without swirl or funky shapes or soap-bubbling to light sources.  Bokeh is almost German smooth.  Certainly smooth enough, in combination with the high resolution of sharp areas, to create really crisp, nearly 3D, separation.

Focusing.  Get as close as 1.5 feet, .2 feet closer than Nikon’s bigger, more expensive 50/1.2 AIS.  The closer the focus, the more shallow DoF!  Getting close and shooting at full aperture with this lens gives results that feel more like those of a macro lens than a standard.

So if you ruled out picking up this lens on the basis that you don’t NEED 1.2, what may interest you is it’s absolutely stunning stopped down performance.  At f4 to 5.6, this lens just sings.

Pentax K1000 SE | Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2 | CVS 200
Pentax MX | Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2 | Kodak Ektar 100
Portrait of Joe Pasco | Pentax K1000 SE | Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2 | Fuji 160 Pro S
Pentax K1000 SE | Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2 | CVS 200

The following shots were opened up a bit more.

Portrait of Sam Sisson | Pentax ME Super | Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2
Portrait of Stephanie Lee | Pentax K1000 SE | Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2 | Ilford XP2 @ 3200
Pentax K1000 SE | Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2 | CVS 200
Portrait of Patrick Keegan | Pentax ME Super | Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2 | Fuji 400 Pro H


The moment you’ve all been waiting for…

I present to you…

The Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2 at FULL APERTURE, and in some cases, minimal focusing distance too!

Pentax ME Super | Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2 | Fuji T64
Pentax MX or ME Super | Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2 | Fuji 800 Pro Z
Pentax ME Super | Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2 | Ilford XP2 400
Portrait of Christina Crawford | Pentax K1000 SE | Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2 | Ilford XP2 at 1600
Pentax K1000 SE | Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2 | Ilford Delta 3200 @ 6400
Portrait | Pentax K1000 SE | Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2 | Ilford XP2 @ 3200
Portrait of Stephanie Lee | Pentax K1000 SE | Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2 | Ilford Delta 3200 @ 6400

When shooting wide open at closer distances, it can be tricky to hit focus so some may want to stick to shooting non-moving objects.  However, the lens has a nice way of drawing that can be engaging for portraits even if the focus isn’t perfectly dead on.

So don’t talk yourself out of this 1.2 with the usual excuses of hard to focus, too expensive, too big or unnecessary because this is the cheapest, most available, smallest one you’re going to find.  It outperforms all other Pentax 50’s and probably a number other manufacturers’ 50’s also!  And therefore the Pentax SMC 50/1.2 is well worth every penny and every moment spent using it!

Do you have this lens or one like it?  I want to hear what you think!

Thanks for reading and happy shooting!

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13 thoughts on “Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2

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  1. This is *fabulous!* I didn’t even know this lens existed. And you’re right, it does stunning work.

    The going prices for these are a little rich for me right now — I have sons in college, and that’s where my money is going. But this lens is definitely now on my to-buy list for after the college years are over!


  2. Wow! I also had no idea such a beast existed! I passed on an SMC 50/1.4 when I read of its lackluster reviews, but I’ll be sure to keep my eyes open for that once in a lifetime score of this lens. Thanks for the well written review!


    1. Sure thing Adam. I would agree on passing on the 50/1.4. The 1.7 is just such a spectacular lens that one could easily stop there. But yeah, the 1.2 is a special lens and well worth picking up if you find a good copy. Thanks for reading/commenting!


  3. I used smc 50f1.4(m42) before and i own 50f1.2s. the smc 50f1.4(m42) is very high quality lens but i heard p-m 50f1.4 the the other way. i’d like to share but how to post picture here?


    1. Folks who haven’t used the 50/1.2 or used many fast lenses in general, I find, tend to rave about the 50/1.4 K-mount. But I feel like the enjoyment of its bokeh overshadows their evaluation of its resolution and micro-contrast. I also use the 50/1.4 Takumar and agree, despite the lesser coating, it’s a far superior, yet cheaper lens than the K-mount 50/1.4.

      I don’t believe images can be embedded but you’re welcome to share a link!


  4. I found the Pentax be pretty much what I expect of a modern-ish (vs. L39 Canon, etc)vintage f1.2- not really very sharp wide open, but entirely usable for a lot of stuff. I sometimes think I have an extraordinary example of the Nikkor-mine is a knockout at 1.2, as good as most of it’s peers are at 1.8 or 2.0!


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