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11-24-2010, 07:52 AM   #1
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About FA*24mm AL (IF)

I have decided to post this one here as the review section doesn't allow me to show all I want. I will post a review there too but this one is slightly more in depth.

The Story:

I was looking for 24mm since I got 31ltd. It's a terrific lens but the gap between 20/5.6 end of my Sigma UWA and 31/1.8 was huge in my mind.
My first stop was Sigma 24/2.4 Ultra Wide II AF. I thought it would give me all I wanted but it's not all gold that's shiny....It was a good lens but the colour rendition and contrast were not the best and flare resistance nothing to write home about.

So I sold it (with loss of course) and 6 months down the line I bought SMC 24/2.8 (K series). Now this was serious contender, with great colours and contrast and sharpness just slightly behind the Sigma. Overall rendering was great but my MF with combination of 24mm and 2.8 wasn't the best and since there is really tiny portion of the turn which is between 3m and infinity, I was ending up with quite a few OOF shots. So I sold it (this time I broke even) and decided I don't need 24mm after all....

I have read about FA* here and there, and the reports were quite mixed. Seemed love - hate lens. Price wise in UK they go between 450-650. Which is a lot to risk if I wouldn't like it (Sigma + K togethere cost under 200). Then my favorite London(ish) retailer got 2nd hand copy so I went and tried it. Seemed good but they wanted 499 so I left it. Couple of months they lowered the price to 399 as the lens was still sitting idle on their shelves. At the same time they got Sigma 24/1.8 EX DG for half the price. So I went and compared them.... and walked out with FA*

Size and build:

The lens has solid build. The only plastic bits are aperture ring, hood and the window on distance scale. Other than that there is rubber sleeve on the focusing ring and the rest is metal and glass. Great build, great finish. Everything feels solid. Size wise, the lens is good IMHO. Smaller than Sigma 24/1.8 but quite a bit bigger than 24/2.8 (any). It's around the height of the 31ltd but bit fatter. The thing that makes it look rather large is the hood. Still, I think it balances well on K10/20 + grip and is OK for K-x although....
To ease your imagination:

next to 31ltd



and on K10D GP with hood



Operation/handling:

The lens has good grip and good heft, as such it handles well, during mounting and dismounting. Once on, it offers comfortable grip to you left hand. AF is very fast. Faster than any of my FA ltd. AF/MF clutch is great, you don't have to take your hand of the lens at all. You just pull/push (although re-engaging from MF to AF is trickier as the gears need to be aligned but still OK) the ring and not having to touch the camera at all. Great for those moments when you need MF but don't want to loose focus aid. It obviously doesn't beat the full time manual override as offered by quick shift enabled lenses but it's better solution than that implemented on rest of the FA (ltds including and *s excluding) & F series. The hood is bit funny as you have align it exactly for putting it on in both ways, but you can get used to it. Not as comfortable as built in hoods (duuuh) but better than screw in hoods. One thing I don' like is that it doesn't have the window that enables you to turn PL filters... shame..

IQ:

Well everything above might matter but at the end it all comes down to this, doesn't it... The IQ is the reason we buy, praise, keep, hate and sell our lenses. As I mentioned this one has mixed reviews, so I was bit anxious about it.
In terms of sharpness, I think it's up there in the *land where it belongs. Yes there are shaper lenses but I would never say this one is soft. It delivers plenty of detail. In center of the frame at any f stop. Many moan about corner sharpness. Well, yes it is softer in extreme corners but not horribly so. Here is an example with EXIF and 100% crop insets:

K10D, ISO800, f2



Not too bad IMO. I've seen much worse. It improves by f2.8 and from f4 to f11 this thing is falling into "stupidly sharp" category IMHO. Especially for 24mm.

here is one at f9 on K10D



Colour rendition of this lens is... well, typically FA. Slightly yellow and warm. With saturated colours and good hues.





contrast is one of the strong points of this lens. It tends to mask most of the softer corners and leaves you with not much to do in PPing (although this depends on your conversion settings if you shoot RAW). Overall very pleasing.

OOF or so called bokeh. Well, this is another debatable point. Some like it some don't. I would say it depends. FA*24 is as picky with it's background and circumstances as FA43ltd. If you get it right, the OOF is nothing short of great and rivals that of 31ltd (personal opinion). If you put it against certain backgrounds, you'll see circles and such, very similar to FA43 or DA*55.

shot at f2 and dedicated to those who think 24/2 can't achieve subject isolation (note, no PPing at all to enhance the effect)


another f2 shot:


@f4.5


this one is f2 with not so smoot OOF but I have to say I've seen worse



and one which shows just how "nervous" the OOF can be


If you want to see OOF comparison of above scene between 24/31/43/77 just look here: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/117735-spot-di...ml#post1216218

Flare resistance, well, I've seen better but I've seen much worse. The 24 holds contrast against the light very well, but creates aperture shapes across the frame and such. Here are 2 basic settings conversions






CAs are there, but only past f5.6. It's hard to notice them on wider f stops, and they are not too noticable and easily correctable with good software even pass f11.

CAs and detail at f22



PF is a big surprise, to me at least. Honestly I haven't noticed much of it. Far less I was expecting, and I'd say less than 31ltd produces.

there is a bit of barrel distortion but nothing horrible IMO, and it's only very few shots where I bother to correct it in PPing (in LR3 I put +6 on distortion slider and that's it)

make your own judgement on the IQ. For my part, I like it. It has great colours, great contrast, very good sharpness, and performance against the light source is good (better than Sigma 24/2.8 or 1.8 and comparable to K24/2.8 and 31ltd IMO) with not much of CAs and PF. I'd score this 9/10 on IQ (-0.5 for against the sun, -0.5 for corners).

Conclusion:

attitude towards this lens leaves me baffled... Honestly I think that on digital APSC it's perfect substitute for 35mm lens. I'd say the best I've tried to date. It puts in very strong optical performance with great build and decent size. Fast and accurate AF and good (for AF lens) MF. If used correctly the output is on par with my ltds. There are bazzilions terrific pictures from 35mm lenses on film, and yet this lens has the reputation of unwanted underdog. The copy I own sat in the store for 3+ months, there is another store in UK that has 2 of them at the moment (1 for over 7 months now!) and they just sit there. I can't get my head around how this lens goes so unnoticed, soft corners? oh well, 43ltd has them, K24 has them, many 50s have them... and everybody still likes them, OOF? I don't think it's worse than DA*55 or 43ltd. And in certain conditions it can be as smooth as 31ltd. So I just don't get it... or is it me?

anyway, instead of parting words, few more pictures. Hope you have enjoyed the "review" if we shall call it that



















and few more here: axl's Album: Single in November - PentaxForums.com

best regards
Peter


Last edited by axl; 11-24-2010 at 08:19 AM.
11-24-2010, 08:24 AM   #2
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Nice job, Axl. I've been tempted by this lens many times. The price it fetches is high enough that it would appear there are many who have a high opinion of it.
11-24-2010, 11:25 AM   #3
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Great review Axl! You are right the images speak for themselves, though the lens does sing in your hands.

I've been lamenting the lack of a decent fast 35mm equivalent F0V lens in the Pentax line-up - and have bored many a folk on here with my exhortation on other threads - it seems an especially large gap in the DA line-up. Like you, I would like to see a nice rangefinder-like choice of prime lens - 15/21, 24/28, 35, 50, 90. Funny thing is the hardest gap to fill is the 35mm (well the 90mm is not easy without a 60mm lens but there are some fast fifties and 55's that come mighty close)! Now you have shown us there is a serious choice - with a fast usable f2....a must in my opinion! However, and as you pointed out, the primary compromise with this lens is the size - yes she's a little larger around the waist than an FA31 and with her hat on she almost doubles in size. It looks balanced on the K10/20D, but for those who are looking for a 35mm as their walk-around street lens (where this FoV is many people's preference - and certainly mine! ) you wouldn't call the K10/20D & FA*24 discreet But again, it is a compromise, and I can see that in the hands of a very capable photographer (which no-one here will debate is the case with yourself) the lens may reward a stealthy street shooter.

So again thanks for fanning the flames on my LBA. I was seriously thinking of jumping ship to film and a rangefinder so I can have my traditional focal lengths rattling around in a small over the shoulder number. But now you have me wondering whether I can, instead, sport a heftier backpack with a 35/2 counted among them.

Now if only there were more of a compromise on the price....which will be helped none by this review

Oh but must close with a ...great images here Axl! Top shelf.
11-24-2010, 01:40 PM   #4
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The FA*24 is addictive. Very useful FL, very useful aperture. I hope it will get newer, more performing relacement soon. The 24mm sigma f1,8 is not quite up to and I'm being tempted to get the Canon L version with f1.4.

11-24-2010, 01:51 PM   #5
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Excellent report on that special lens.
Well presented too.
Looks like you finally got yourself the fast 24mm prime you'd wished Pentax would give us.
Thanks for sharing the experience, and rekindling LBA again.
11-24-2010, 02:42 PM   #6
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It is reviews like yours that drive up the price

Now, I REALLY want one.

Thanks for posting.

11-24-2010, 03:00 PM   #7
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LoL. Sorry Jeff!
I couldn't help it but I feel this lens deserves some more public praise.
11-24-2010, 03:00 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by JeffJS Quote
It is reviews like yours that drive up the price

Now, I REALLY want one.

Thanks for posting.

QuoteOriginally posted by axl Quote
LoL. Sorry Jeff!
I couldn't help it but I feel this lens deserves some more public praise.
My thoughts exactly!

And my gap is worse; 15 to 31! (for AF, not counting the A24/2.8)

11-24-2010, 03:01 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by stillshunter Quote
Great review Axl! You are right the images speak for themselves, though the lens does sing in your hands.

I've been lamenting the lack of a decent fast 35mm equivalent F0V lens in the Pentax line-up - and have bored many a folk on here with my exhortation on other threads - it seems an especially large gap in the DA line-up. Like you, I would like to see a nice rangefinder-like choice of prime lens - 15/21, 24/28, 35, 50, 90. Funny thing is the hardest gap to fill is the 35mm (well the 90mm is not easy without a 60mm lens but there are some fast fifties and 55's that come mighty close)! Now you have shown us there is a serious choice - with a fast usable f2....a must in my opinion! However, and as you pointed out, the primary compromise with this lens is the size - yes she's a little larger around the waist than an FA31 and with her hat on she almost doubles in size. It looks balanced on the K10/20D, but for those who are looking for a 35mm as their walk-around street lens (where this FoV is many people's preference - and certainly mine! ) you wouldn't call the K10/20D & FA*24 discreet But again, it is a compromise, and I can see that in the hands of a very capable photographer (which no-one here will debate is the case with yourself) the lens may reward a stealthy street shooter.

So again thanks for fanning the flames on my LBA. I was seriously thinking of jumping ship to film and a rangefinder so I can have my traditional focal lengths rattling around in a small over the shoulder number. But now you have me wondering whether I can, instead, sport a heftier backpack with a 35/2 counted among them.

Now if only there were more of a compromise on the price....which will be helped none by this review

Oh but must close with a ...great images here Axl! Top shelf.
Hear you stills... On the other side, K10/20 + grip will never be discrete, even if was smaller (gripless) the noise from the shutter will give you up
11-24-2010, 03:04 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by dgaies Quote
My thoughts exactly!

And my gap is worse; 15 to 31! (for AF, not counting the A24/2.8)
I'm fighting myself not to buy 15mm. I have 10-20 but I'm more and more on the verge of selling it. I'd love 15 but then again I think of 14/2.8. But the size itself is very tempting when thinking of 15ltd...

Oh well, I have to wait for the baby to come and hope I'll save some loose change
11-24-2010, 03:16 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by axl Quote
I'm fighting myself not to buy 15mm. I have 10-20 but I'm more and more on the verge of selling it. I'd love 15 but then again I think of 14/2.8. But the size itself is very tempting when thinking of 15ltd...
I think you'd love the 15... and to be honest, I'd love to see just what you could get out of it. I own the 31, 50/1.2 and 77 in large part due to the photographs you've taken and posted with these lenses

QuoteOriginally posted by axl Quote
Oh well, I have to wait for the baby to come and hope I'll save some loose change
They don't leave you much loose change, but in my case they sparked some serious LBA.

When my first son was born 4 years ago I bought the K10D, FA35 and FA50. Then when my second son was born, 1 year ago, the real LBA started and every lens in my signature was actually purchased over the past year since he was born.
11-24-2010, 03:34 PM   #12
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Hey! Peter,

A great write-up.....I agree with pretty much everything you say, especially the sharpness at F2.
11-24-2010, 03:36 PM - 1 Like   #13
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nice one, considered one year only!
I have to say though, I'm well set up but once the budget and wife will allow, I'm planning to re-buy many lenses (K55/1.8, F50/1.7, FA100/2.8 for sure and some others maybe) and buy some new additions (14/2.8 or 15/4, 21/3.2 or 20/2.8 and so on....) But that's distant future, for now, I'll be battling with my current kit
11-24-2010, 03:46 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by axl Quote
nice one, considered one year only!
I have to say though, I'm well set up but once the budget and wife will allow, I'm planning to re-buy many lenses (K55/1.8, F50/1.7, FA100/2.8 for sure and some others maybe) and buy some new additions (14/2.8 or 15/4, 21/3.2 or 20/2.8 and so on....) But that's distant future, for now, I'll be battling with my current kit
Well, no hurry really...one would need an entire lifetime to enjoy all the fine Pentax lenses...they all have their charms, some more than the others.

The 50/1.7 which I have (well, the A version) is a very special lens indeed and you should get that back. Luckily my LBA is quite under control, and as photgraphy had taken a backseat I may even put my last FA* for sale and just get a regular zoom like the 16-45/4, 17-70/4 or the older 20-35/4.
11-24-2010, 03:49 PM   #15
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I think you're doing alright for yourself Peter.
A fine collection of useable and fast primes that will most certainly do, and the 10-20 isn't too shabby. But being a speed freak, I can see you being more tempted with the 14/2.8 than the 15/4 - but I can put it to you that the 15/4 does make images 'pop' quite nicely.
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