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12-08-2010, 09:06 PM   #1
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Comparison of two 50mm primes

SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4 or SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.7

I've read the reviews of both on the Lens Review database, the 1.7 gets markedly higher opinions, albeit in fewer reviews.

I've read the FA 50 1.7 is rarer

I'd like a 50mm prime in my bag, I've narrowed to these two. Differences in performance, IQ, application, etc? I see plenty of the 1.4's for sale, but have only seen one SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.7 available, which I purchased (but can return)

the 1.7 is mint, in box w/ all packaging and paperwork, as new.. Mint
new Bower 49mm screw on hood
Kenko 49mm PL Polarizing filter
I paid $375, perhaps overpaid (I'd cite the eBay listing for opinions, but not sure if this is allowed on this forum....

nonetheless, is there a preferred lens here? I'm relatively new to primes, but plan on indoor shooting, portraiture, all round shooting. (I also have the SMC 40mm f/2.8 LTD)

Thoughts?







12-08-2010, 09:11 PM   #2
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The 1.7 is sharper than the 1.4, but the 1.4's bokeh is creamier (and obviously a little bit faster). People will swear by either!

This page has lots of neat photos from a 50mm competition:

the Normal Lens Shootout Photo Gallery by Sean Carpenter at pbase.com

You won't find your exact lens, but the 1.4's and 1.7's are pretty much the same in K-mount IQ wise.

Personally I have the A series 50mm 1.7 and like it a lot. I wouldn't consider "upgrading" to a 1.4 version unless it was free, and even then I'd keep the 1.7. Food for thought... :P
12-08-2010, 09:31 PM   #3
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I admit to wasting time on this very issue myself, and owning both optical formulas. (Mine are the A50/1.4 and the F50/1.7.) However, it almost certainly is a waste of time, maybe money too. You will find slight differences that will be totally lost in real photos. If the f1.7 had 8 blades, I would have a really hard time figuring out which lens took which photos.
12-08-2010, 09:31 PM   #4
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The 50mm 1.7 is a great lens (my experience is the with the A version). I think there are people on both sides of the fence, and I won't try to persuade you either way. My major motivation for buying the FA 50 1.4 was autofocus.

They are much more similar than they are different, but in my experience:

1) The 1.4 is softer. At 1.4, things glow. It's really useful if you want that ethereal look, but it's certainly got a "look" . I like it occasionally for portraits.

2) At 1.7, the 50mm 1.7 is sharper than the 50mm 1.4. The 1.4 has more "bleed" and softness to it, which makes it nicer for portraits, and less nice for other things.

3) Past 2.8, the only difference between the lenses is the bokeh really. The 1.7 resembles a monet painting, while the 1.4 resembles watercolors (much more creamy). They are both nice.

4) Lens tests state that the 1.4 is sharper past 2.8 than the 1.7, but I can't see it in real life.

5) The 1.4 is more prone for chromatic aberrations.

If I sold one, it would only be the 1.7 because it is manual focus, not because I like it less. I don't think either is a flat out better lens... it depends on what you are using it for. The 1.7 is sharper by a hair, the 1.4 is creamier by a hair. Let's not split hairs . I would shoot some portraits with it at f2 and f2.8 and see how you like it. If you don't like the bokeh, only then consider the 1.4.

If I had an autofocus 50mm 1.7, I'm not sure I would have bothered with the 1.4. But autofocus is very nice for locking focus with eyes in low DOF situations.

One thing is for sure, right now you own the rarer lens, which is kinda cool in itself.

EDIT: However, I think you overpaid. Unless you are a collector and want a rare lens in mind condition, I would return it and buy either the 1.7 or 1.4 used, for between 200 and 250. IMHO. I think you paid what you did because that lens is very rare to find in the condition you describe, so it was not a bad deal per se... the question is, are you a collector?

You also might want to consider the 1.4 over the 1.7 for one reason: you own the DA 40, which is sharper and contrastier than either 50. The 50 1.4 is a nice soft complement to the sharp DA 40.


Last edited by paperbag846; 12-08-2010 at 09:38 PM.
12-08-2010, 09:52 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by paperbag846 Quote
EDIT: However, I think you overpaid. Unless you are a collector and want a rare lens in mind condition, I would return it and buy either the 1.7 or 1.4 used, for between 200 and 250. IMHO. I think you paid what you did because that lens is very rare to find in the condition you describe, so it was not a bad deal per se... the question is, are you a collector?

You also might want to consider the 1.4 over the 1.7 for one reason: you own the DA 40, which is sharper and contrastier than either 50. The 50 1.4 is a nice soft complement to the sharp DA 40.

thanks for the candid input, i take it you found the listing. was quite the enticing presentation, no? I agree with you on the thoughts on the 40mm.

I'm looking at item # 160515952318, a 1.4 at 2 $100 less. Thoughts?

Last edited by rrwilliams64; 12-08-2010 at 09:55 PM. Reason: needed to
12-08-2010, 09:54 PM   #6
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...and moreover, to your point, I'm not a collector. the allure of the rarity of such a mint copy impacted my judgement. i really need just solid functionality of a good piece of glass, and the 8 blades/bokeh result of the 1.4 may make more sense
12-08-2010, 10:06 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by rrwilliams64 Quote
...and moreover, to your point, I'm not a collector. the allure of the rarity of such a mint copy impacted my judgement. i really need just solid functionality of a good piece of glass, and the 8 blades/bokeh result of the 1.4 may make more sense
Yes, maybe. You might prefer the 1.7 though, some people who have owned both have sold the 1.4 to keep the 1.7. You should be able to find the 1.7 for about 150 though, in "normal" condition . The 1.7 really great. I suppose I don't want to steer you too far in either direction because they A) are both very similar, and B) both really good.

It's a question of whether you want a soft image with creamy bokeh, or a sharper image with more busy bokeh. I'm not sure which you would prefer more .

As for the FA 50 1.4, if you decide to go that route, pay no more than 250. I've seen it go for 200.
12-08-2010, 10:17 PM   #8
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I believe someone stated the 1.4 equaled the 1.7 when paired with a lens hood (which the 1.7 somewhat has built-in).

12-09-2010, 12:31 AM   #9
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Words are meaningless and I can't sleep. Here's something I whipped up.

I can't guarantee that both lenses were focused 100% identically. I corrected white balance in post.

FA 50 1.4 on top, A 50 1.7 on the bottom:

F1.7




F2.0





F4.0



Last edited by paperbag846; 12-09-2010 at 02:04 AM.
12-09-2010, 01:47 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by rrwilliams64 Quote
Thoughts?
FA 50/1.7 was my first Pentax prime lens. Presently my daughter shoots with FA 50/1.4 and my 50 mil of choice is A 50/1.2. However, the differences are so minute that one would be really hard pressed to tell apart these lenses. Except obvious differences in speed these lenses are practically identical in IQ. You would need to blow up your pictures really big, like A3 and bigger to spot the differences.

Oh, one more ever so slight difference between them. FA 50/1.7 has smaller and somewhat recessed front element so that you don't really have to have a hood for it. FA 50/1.4 has bigger and more prominent front element so that you may be advised to use a hood with it.
12-09-2010, 01:49 AM   #11
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I have the FA1.7; I have both Ms, the 1.4 and 1.7. I used to have the FA1.4. My impression is that the 1.4 does 'glow' a bit wide open, as someone else has said, but the assertions that the 1.4 is 'softer' wide open are overdone - it is a bit but it's more a loss of contrast, correctible in pp. The real challenge there is accurate focusing. Using them for landscape or architectural shots I have found the 1.4s are better around the edges and corners than the 1.7s, even stopped down quite a bit. These are very minor differences though - whichever you have I'm not convinced the effort to get the other is worth it. Yeah the 1.4 bokeh is a bit better but without a side-by-side comparison you probably wouldn't notice.
12-09-2010, 01:55 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by timo Quote
I have the FA1.7; I have both Ms, the 1.4 and 1.7. I used to have the FA1.4. My impression is that the 1.4 does 'glow' a bit wide open, as someone else has said, but the assertions that the 1.4 is 'softer' wide open are overdone - it is a bit but it's more a loss of contrast, correctible in pp. The real challenge there is accurate focusing. Using them for landscape or architectural shots I have found the 1.4s are better around the edges and corners than the 1.7s, even stopped down quite a bit. These are very minor differences though - whichever you have I'm not convinced the effort to get the other is worth it. Yeah the 1.4 bokeh is a bit better but without a side-by-side comparison you probably wouldn't notice.
I think the A/50/1.4 has its uses wide open too though.
Here's a shot taken at 1.4 after CLA which doesn't seem soft or with edge hazing:

12-09-2010, 02:03 AM   #13
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Great shot John! It's that sort of look that I wanted the 1.4 for... a beautiful softness .

I think that the term "soft" carries a negative connotation that is unwarranted. There is "fuzzy soft", which simply looks lo-fi, and then "creamy soft" which looks like the image you just posted. I find this sort of softness very desirable.
12-09-2010, 02:06 AM   #14
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Here are a couple of links which involve comparison of 50/1.4 and 50/1.7 (though not necessarily the FA versions):

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/112640-my-lens...on-thread.html

Nifty 50 Shootout ERPhotoReview

Hope you find these helpful...
12-09-2010, 02:41 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by paperbag846 Quote
Great shot John! It's that sort of look that I wanted the 1.4 for... a beautiful softness .

I think that the term "soft" carries a negative connotation that is unwarranted. There is "fuzzy soft", which simply looks lo-fi, and then "creamy soft" which looks like the image you just posted. I find this sort of softness very desirable.
I agree. It is often maligned. It applies to other lenses too. With the K501.2 which I had before it was stolen, it was one of the lens's most appealing characteristics. The K105 2.8 is horrible at 2.8 if you want clinical precision, but very appealing if you want a mood.
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