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11-19-2010, 06:28 AM   #1
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FA 31mm or Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZK Distagon

Hello,
This is my first post ever, glad to be a part of this forum!

I have read many rave reviews about the FA 31mm Limited, but it is hard to get much information and samples about the Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZK Distagon.
There are a few reviews on the web, (photozone gave it a stellar review on Nikon APS-C) but I was curious if any forum members had experience with this lens or could share samples. Even better if someone had both lenses and could compare them.

30-35mm is a very common focal range for me. I am looking for a well-built prime lens to last me for many years with some serious IQ to boot. Manual focus is not a big deal, I use MF frequently for landscape and in low light when my K7 gets a bit sloppy. I would use this lens mostly for landscape and portraits.

I'm also considering is the 35mm macro limited, however I'm not much interested in macro and I've heard some negatives about it for portraits. If I ever decided to take up macro I'd probably get a 100mm lens anyway.

My current gear: K7, 18-55WR, DA15 Limited, FA50 1.4, DA55-300
My Flickr

Thanks in advance!


Last edited by cmmurray; 11-19-2010 at 03:09 PM.
11-19-2010, 07:26 AM   #2
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I prefer the wide 31mm.
11-19-2010, 09:04 AM   #3
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pentax
11-19-2010, 10:01 AM   #4
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FA, you got AF!

11-19-2010, 11:23 AM   #5
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Thank you for you feedback, I understand that the FA31mm is great and I strongly consider purchasing it. However, I have been searching for more information about the differences in image quality between these lenses.
I am looking for the ultimate in IQ for a 50mm equivalent (+/-5) normal lens, in my mind both are strong contenders. The test results for the Zeiss 35 are excellent, probably one of the best (on paper).

I really prefer manual focus over autofocus so the FA31 does not have an AF advantage for me. 95% of the time my camera is on a sturdy tripod, I often use live view at 10X magnification to get the focus right where I want it. In fact, the smooth helicoid action of a lens designed for MF has me a bit seduced.

Pricing for both lenses is very expensive but Zeiss has cancelled the Pentax line, I fear that when inventories run out it will be even more expensive.

It seems very rare to find examples of a Pentax user with the 35mm Distagon. Does anyone own, use, or have any experience with this lens?
11-19-2010, 02:39 PM   #6
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i don't own either lens, but thought you could benefit from my experience when trying to decide on the zeiss 85mm. there are two sites i looked at for sample photos. one was pixel-peeper.com, which appears to be a more organized presentation - in terms of presenting lenses by maker - of flickrivr, and the other is zeissimages.com.
11-19-2010, 03:02 PM   #7
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I haven't used the Zeiss 35, but I've used the Zeiss ZK 25/2.8 and Zeiss ZK 85/1.4. Both had an incredible build quality and manual focus feel. I've tried out the 50/2 Makro Planar in the store and it was a beauty too. I would have to imagine that the 35 would be no different.

I have the FA 31 because I'm a sucker for AF and it also produces wonderful images, with excellent contrast and colour. But I have to say it's not a great lens for manual focus. The focus throw is pretty short, only 90. It's not as nicely damped as the Zeiss lenses.

Based on how you intend to use it, I would wholeheartedly recommend the Zeiss.

I currently have some Zeiss glass on another system, and the colour, sharpness, and bokeh are incredible. I think there's another forum member who has the ZK 35/2. I'll see if I can get him to post here...
11-19-2010, 03:05 PM - 1 Like   #8
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I don't have exepience exactly with Distagon, but I have 31 Lts and Summicron 35/2 .

Pentax is vivid and more landscape lens on APS-C.




35/2 is more oriented toward portraits :

but anyway both can be used for both porposes:

SMC Pentax-FA 1:1,8 31mm Limited Photo Gallery by Piotr Sobolewski at pbase.com
Leica Summicron-R 1:2/35 Photo Gallery by Piotr Sobolewski at pbase.com

From my personal experience top Pentax prime lenses are on the same level as Leica or Zeiss one (bokeh, sharpness,3-d feeling).


Last edited by Piotr; 01-23-2011 at 01:55 PM.
11-19-2010, 03:43 PM   #9
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There will be very little difference in IQ between the 2 lenses you are considering as both are wonderful. I would give a slight edge in IQ to the Zeiss, but an edge to the FA31 for "soul" (aka "pixie dust") and, of course, AF. However, if you, like me, are just one of those people for whom using a Zeiss just pushes all your pleasure buttons, then the 31, as great as it is, will just not ever quite do it for you.

I have the Zeiss 28/2, not the 35, but they don't make any bad ones. Having said all of this, though, I still want an FA31. It's the only one of the "trio" I'm missing, and it would give me AF in that range when I need it.

You are in a "no-lose" dilemma if I've ever seen one!
11-19-2010, 04:11 PM   #10
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I'd say FA31. I don't think the Zeiss 35/2 or 28/2 for that matter is all that worth it for the price. all 3 lenses have great build and price along the same. although you can get a used FA31 for much cheaper price compared to a brand new or used Zeiss. if only the Pentax K28/2 (same as the Zeiss 28/2) is still available and easy to find, I would recommend it since it's the cheapest among the others. it is selling from $400-$600 dollars. all these lenses are great, it's a question of what and how much are you willing to spend on.
11-19-2010, 09:09 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pentaxor Quote
I'd say FA31. I don't think the Zeiss 35/2 or 28/2 for that matter is all that worth it for the price. all 3 lenses have great build and price along the same. although you can get a used FA31 for much cheaper price compared to a brand new or used Zeiss. if only the Pentax K28/2 (same as the Zeiss 28/2) is still available and easy to find, I would recommend it since it's the cheapest among the others. it is selling from $400-$600 dollars. all these lenses are great, it's a question of what and how much are you willing to spend on.
I don't know where the OP is located, but this eBay store has new ZK 35/2's for $737 US:
ZEISS 35MM F/2 ZK DISTAGON T* PENTAX K MOUNT USA NEW on eBay.ca (item 170553226950 end time 14-Dec-10 20:01:51 EST)

Might sound steep, but what's a used FA 31? $850?

The Pentax K28/2 is indeed based on the same optical formula, but would require stop-down metering. The ZK lenses are A lenses, so one less thing to fiddle with!
11-19-2010, 09:37 PM   #12
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patk - Thanks for the pixel-peeper.com link, I haven't seen that one yet but it is a good resource.

farfisa - Thanks for the input and Ebay link, that looks like a much better deal than B&H photo.

Piotr - Thanks for the info, your sample images are wonderful.

Pentaxor - Thanks for the advice, I'm going to shop around for a K28/2 and compare pricing.

DogLover - Thanks for the feedback, I considered the 28/2 as well. I have read that it also has stellar IQ but a "field curvature" of the focal plane that makes it a bit tricky at larger apertures. Have you found this to be true?
11-19-2010, 10:47 PM   #13
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I shoot Canon,Nikon,Leica and Pentax; and I can testify that the Pentax FA31mm f/1.8 is every bit as good as a Leica Summilux 35mm f/1.4 ASPH and it is significantly more flare resistant too.In a more direct comparison the FA31mm f/1.8 beats the canon 35mm f/1.4 in terms of contrast and pulls ahead of the canon lens in terms of resolution.

I have seen a test of the zeiss 35mm f/2 VS the DA 35mm f/2.8 macro and surprisingly the DA35mm cheerfully stomps on the zeiss when it comes to corner sharpness, and flare tolerance. And let's not forget the DA has built in lens hood, one less thing to lose in the field.
11-19-2010, 11:35 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by cmmurray Quote

DogLover - Thanks for the feedback, I considered the 28/2 as well. I have read that it also has stellar IQ but a "field curvature" of the focal plane that makes it a bit tricky at larger apertures. Have you found this to be true?
Yes and no. Yes, it does technically have a small degree of field curvature, but no, I don't find it tricky to use at all. The curvature is really only (barely) noticeable at fairly close distances, so as long as you're aware of it it's kind of fun to try to add another dimension to your image. I use it much more than I thought I would. It honestly has ended up being much easier to focus than I had feared it would be. I had been putting off buying the lens for that very reason, but it was all for naught. I think the 25/2.8 is really supposed to be a booger to focus, but I have no first-hand experience with it. On the other hand, the 35/2 has a reputation for being particularly easy to focus. Again, really hard to go wrong with any of the lenses mentioned here.
11-20-2010, 03:40 AM - 1 Like   #15
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I happen to have both. Hmm, it's funny that many who do not own the Zeiss could recommend it over the FA31. Ha. My zeiss is just a recent purchase and I have yet used it extensively. Built wise, the zeiss is definitely a notch or two over the FA31. It's pretty much built like a tank and very dense and heavy. Physically it is longer than the FA31 and may feel a bit front heavy when mounted. The zeiss has very excellent colors but vignets quite a lot. But hey, I love the vignet as it is much more natural than having to add it during PP. Unless I need AF, I would pick the zeiss over the FA31, i.e. if I could start all over again, I would skip the FA limiteds altogether and get the zeiss 25/35/50/85 quadruple.
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