Pentax FA 50mm: A Foundational Lens

By PF Staff in Influential Photo Gear on Jan 15, 2013

One of the most important changes in my journey into photography was due to one single lens. A lens that forever changed how I took photos from that point on but also launched me head first into an exploration of photography and learning its fundamentals. That lens is the Pentax FA 50mm 1.4. A type of lens that has been commonly equipped as standard on many film cameras and one that is still recommend by many as a must have.

The Pentax FA 50mm 1.4 has been around for a while and is still a very good buy in terms of performance and capabilities. There are only a few negatives to the lens such as CA when wide open, but it performs well in many situations.

Influence & Impact

The real power of this lens is not just in its focal length, but in its aperture. It opens up the area of photography that few photographers without an SLR and large aperture lens get to experience, subject isolation through controlling depth of field. Before I received this lens I only had the standard kit lens, which while great and usable in most situations, it never gave that pop to a photo that I saw so many times in professional photographs. Something was always missing. When I took that first shot I was astounded. The final piece of the puzzle that I had been missing was there. Seeing a subject isolated against a blurry background that made them pop opened up a new world. Being able to finally have the option to choose how much of a subject was in focus or not is very powerful.

There are generally two main creative points to address when taking a photo. Question one, how much motion do you want shown in your photo by adjustment of your shutter speed. Question two, how much subject isolation do you want which is generally controlled by your aperture. By having a very fast, large aperture 1.4 lens, a photographer can finally have more of a choice in the second question. It's giving this new range of ability and options that makes this lens so powerful and a great teaching tool for beginning photographers. There are other ways to get a subject to be isolated by either focusing very closely or using a very large focal length, but the 50mm focal length is more usable in general situations then specialty circumstances. The fast lens also provides photographers the ability to play with low-light situations that were harder to address with the standard kit lenses that they may have been used to. 

Sample Photos

(Click any image to enlarge and browse)


The FA 50mm F1.4 is a very influential lens. It is a lens that many photographers own and still use daily, whether it be for a casual photo shoot or a wedding where everything may be on the line. It is a wonderful teaching tool and the reason you will see it recommended and used by many photography classes across the country. A lens that touches every photographer in their career at some point in their life and can be found in almost every lens lineup out there. It is a foundational piece, and something that has become a photographers best friend.

- knightzerox

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