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08-25-2007, 06:42 PM   #1
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Experience with FA 20-35mm f/4 AL

Does anyone here have experience with the SMCP FA 20-35mm f/4 AL lens in a DSLR? I am contemplating on buying one and would like to get some inputs first to see if it is worth the cost. Thanks!

08-25-2007, 07:21 PM   #2
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It is a very fine performer with barely any distortion. I have used it for architecture with good results.
08-25-2007, 07:35 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by vinceloc Quote
Does anyone here have experience with the SMCP FA 20-35mm f/4 AL lens in a DSLR? I am contemplating on buying one and would like to get some inputs first to see if it is worth the cost. Thanks!
I have this lens and used it a lot on my *ist D. Now that I have acquired a Pentax FA 20/2.8, the 20-35 doen't see much use. Not that it is a bad lens, but I find the 1 stop faster maximum aperture of the 20mm prime quite useful, if only for focusing.

Image quality is very good. It is quite similar to the 16-45/4 DA lens: very good sharpness across the range but prone to chromatic aberration. I prefer the 20-35 despite its narrower range, because of its full frame coverage and aperture ring.

The 20-35 is the same size as the 18-55 kit lens but the lens hood is more bulky. The lens weights a little more than the 18-55. Build quality doesn't feel so good IMHO, like most other FA zooms. The zooming ring is very loose. But I guess build quality must be adequate, as I never had any problem with the lens.

Cheers!
08-25-2007, 08:45 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by vinceloc Quote
Does anyone here have experience with the SMCP FA 20-35mm f/4 AL lens in a DSLR? I am contemplating on buying one and would like to get some inputs first to see if it is worth the cost. Thanks!
I had one and didn't care for it very much. My sample was purchased new from B&H camera just before the supply disappeared. At 20mm, it has lots of barrel distortion and pretty bad CA: I even noticed the CA with my film camera on 4x6 prints. You can't blame the purple fringing on sensor bloom when you're using film! I did use it for a while with my film camera, but eventually I sold it and replaced it with a SMC-M 20mm f4. The M 20mm lens has less barrel distortion, no noticeable CA and is sharper than the FA 20-35mm (but it doesn't zoom).

For DSLR use, the DA 16-45mm f4 is better in every respect: sharper, much less CA, less barrel distortion at 20mm, and it goes both wider and longer than the FA 20-35mm. The DA 16-45 has been criticized for both CA and distortion, so that gives you an idea of the poor performance of the FA 20-35mm. The only advantage of the FA 20-35mm is the smaller size. I would buy the DA 16-45mm and pass on the FA 20-35mm.

08-25-2007, 10:43 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by GaryML Quote
I had one and didn't care for it very much. My sample was purchased new from B&H camera just before the supply disappeared. At 20mm, it has lots of barrel distortion and pretty bad CA: I even noticed the CA with my film camera on 4x6 prints. You can't blame the purple fringing on sensor bloom when you're using film! I did use it for a while with my film camera, but eventually I sold it and replaced it with a SMC-M 20mm f4. The M 20mm lens has less barrel distortion, no noticeable CA and is sharper than the FA 20-35mm (but it doesn't zoom).

For DSLR use, the DA 16-45mm f4 is better in every respect: sharper, much less CA, less barrel distortion at 20mm, and it goes both wider and longer than the FA 20-35mm. The DA 16-45 has been criticized for both CA and distortion, so that gives you an idea of the poor performance of the FA 20-35mm. The only advantage of the FA 20-35mm is the smaller size. I would buy the DA 16-45mm and pass on the FA 20-35mm.
Thanks for your input. What I find strange, however, is that the tests done by Photozone.de for both lenses show that CA is higher for the 16-45, and barrel distortion at 16mm for the 16-45 is also higher than 20mm for the 20-35mm (check here: 16-45 20-35. Could it be that your specific lens had some quality issues.
08-25-2007, 11:58 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by vinceloc Quote
What I find strange, however, is that the tests done by Photozone.de for both lenses show that CA is higher for the 16-45, and barrel distortion at 16mm for the 16-45 is also higher than 20mm for the 20-35mm.
There is a fair amount of purple fringing on my sample of the 20-35 but it is certainly not worse than the 16-45. Distortion at 20mm is in the normal range for a wide zoom.

If you are looking for better overall quality than the 20-35 -- which is not a bad zoom -- you'd better opt for a prime wide lens. Try an used FA or A 20/2.8, or an older 24/2.8 or 24/3.5, they are all great lenses. If you want a new lens, give the Sigma 24/1.8 a shot. I like mine very much, but there must be a lot of sample variations, because it is not everybody's cup of tea.

Cheers!
08-26-2007, 04:00 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by vinceloc Quote
Thanks for your input. What I find strange, however, is that the tests done by Photozone.de for both lenses show that CA is higher for the 16-45, and barrel distortion at 16mm for the 16-45 is also higher than 20mm for the 20-35mm. Could it be that your specific lens had some quality issues.
My experience was with my particular FA 20-35mm and my particular DA 16-45mm lenses. I only used one copy of each, so I don't know how much sample to sample variation may have been involved. And note that Photozone tests only one sample on one camera, the lenses tested were used lenses that may have been dropped or jarred, and the tester doesn't use a real optical bench. My FA 20-35mm and DA 16-45mm were both new, and the FA 20-35 was used on both a film and digital bodies.

Also note that I said that the FA 20mm has more barrel distortion at 20mm than the DA 16-45 has at 20mm. I don't think it is fair to compare the FA 20-25 at 20mm with the DA 16-45mm at 16mm, since there is a huge difference between 16mm and 20mm on a 18x24mm sensor. The DA 16-45 may have a bit more barrel distortion at 16mm, but it is pretty good for this class of lens. It is a 3X zoom with the short range reaching into the ultra-wide. Most lenses in this class have a fair amount of barrel distortion at the wide end, including some expensive Nikon and Canon lenses as well as the Pentax DA* 16-50.

I do think that my FA 20-35 may have had a slight centering defect, because certain shots seemed to have be less in focus on the right side as compared to the left side. But this was not consistent from shot to shot and was only apparent at wider apertures. It may have been due to field curvature. The FA 20-35mm performed much better when well-stopped down, and I tried to use it at f/8 whenever possible. It isn't a bad lens, but I think the DA 16-45mm is better. Even if the image quality was identical, the wider zoom range by itself makes it a much better choice.
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