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12-14-2010, 10:01 AM   #1
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DA* 55/1.4 vs Voigtlander 58, manual focus, etc.

So I am trying to decide between these two lenses. I did a search and found 2 other threads which compared them, but would still like to know more, if there's anyone who has experience with both.

I am particularly interested in the feel of the focus ring, and the focus throw. I previously owned the Voigt 58 for F-mount, but it wasn't my favorite focal length for FX. Now that I am happy with my new Pentax system, and filling out my lens line-up, I have a hole between my ZK-35 and FA77, and one of these two lenses would fill it nicely.

My F-mount CV58 was probably the nicest-feeling manual focus lens I've used, I dare say better than either of my Zeiss lenses. Silky-smooth, perfectly damped. How will the 55/1.4 compare? Also, in reading the reviews here, someone said the focus throw was too short, and someone else said it was very long. How many degrees of rotation is it, anyone know?

In the other threads I read, the boke of the 55 is described as everything from "a bit nervous" to "smoother than the Voigtlander." So, whattup? Looking at the pics in the Pentax Gallery, I see a lot of nice boke from the 55, IMO, and I have seen nervous boke from my CV58.....good-nervous, though, I always liked the character of it.

The price was going to make my decision for me initially, since I thought the 55 would be in the $800 range, but it's apparently come down, and Amazon has it new for $560. To buy the Voigt new would be $409, and there are nice used versions of both available at the moment.

Weather-sealing on the 55 would be pretty sweet. But what about SDM? I don't know if the issues I've seen mentioned are old, new, or ongoing....should I be worried, or would such issues argue for buying new vs used?

Eh....I'm just fishing for something to push me in one direction or the other...I suppose I would be really happy with either, if it came down to it.

12-14-2010, 10:16 AM   #2
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I've owned both, and ended up going with the DA*55 in the end, and I'm a big fan of the lens.

The focus throw is about 120, and it's dampened, but not anywhere near as smooth feeling as the Voigt or Zeiss lenses. It doesn't feel gritty, but kind of sounds like plastic gliding across plastic. It's typical DA* build, which has a lot of plastic and rubber, but I don't mind the feel, and I honestly didn't need to use manual focus on the DA*55 as much as I thought I would.

I guess that brings us to the SDM--it's slower than you want it to be at times, but it's very quiet and rock solid. It was my best, most reliable focusing lens, always heading straight to the target and locking.

The DA*55 is very sharp by f/2, and that's where its bokeh starts to look the best--wide open it can be nervous, but it really varies by distance. I love it stopped down to f/2.5-f/3.2. It has beautiful saturation and colour too.

The Voigtlander is nicer wide open, I thought, but I rarely shoot things standing still, so nailing it at that aperture wasn't easy. Plus--for that you should get an Pentax K or A 50/1.2 anyway

But all Voigtlanders are wonderful to use and the results are fantastic. I guess I succumbed to the ease of AF and really enjoyed having a weather sealed prime on the K20 and K-7.

The Voigtlander 58 is on sale here for $349.95, a store in Quebec, but they do ship to the US:
https://www.leicaboutique.com/shop.php?CUR=1&IDC=3&ENC=&IDSC=17
12-14-2010, 10:23 AM   #3
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Great, thanks for convincing me I want the 55, then dangling a sweet price on the CV58 in front of my face.

But seriously thanks for the helpful info, it does seem to push me a little toward the 55. How does the manual focus feel compared to, say, the FA77? With that lens, I think the feel is good, but not Voigtlander/Zeiss good. However, the AF with this lens on my K-5 is awesome, and I won't likely use MF much. So if the AF with the 55 is good, maybe that's what I want. And when I say "good," I don't necessarily mean fast, as it will be used mostly for portraits. I just need it to work, and be accurate, without hunting.
12-14-2010, 10:40 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Todd Adamson Quote
Great, thanks for convincing me I want the 55, then dangling a sweet price on the CV58 in front of my face.

But seriously thanks for the helpful info, it does seem to push me a little toward the 55. How does the manual focus feel compared to, say, the FA77? With that lens, I think the feel is good, but not Voigtlander/Zeiss good. However, the AF with this lens on my K-5 is awesome, and I won't likely use MF much. So if the AF with the 55 is good, maybe that's what I want. And when I say "good," I don't necessarily mean fast, as it will be used mostly for portraits. I just need it to work, and be accurate, without hunting.
Yeah, sorry about putting that deal in at the end, but hey, I'd feel remiss if I didn't at least tell you about it

The FA77 has a nice feel, but has those little clicks you can hear when you move the ring.

I'd say the DA*55 has just as nice a feel, doesn't have those clicks, but it does have a tiny little bit of play when you're changing directions, or when you first start focusing. I imagine that's because of the focusing ring being decoupled from the SDM or whatever happens there. Nothing big, but you'd definitely notice it vs. a Voigtlander or Zeiss lens (except for the Sony Zeiss 135/1.8 and 85/1.4, which do the same thing).

The DA*55 AF was always dead accurate, and mine didn't hunt--it slid over and locked on.

12-14-2010, 10:42 AM   #5
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I'd echo pretty much what farfisa has said, though I've never held a Voigt 58. I am positive, though, that it would MF better than the 55. But, as you have already deduced, I don't think you'll feel a whole lot of need to MF with the 55. The AF is rock-solid, at least on my copy, if not the fastest in the world.

Hard to imagine you feeling like you made a mistake with either lens, but at the price you quoted for the 55, that'd be my choice. I love mine, and if your primary use will be for portraits, it is absolutely top-notch IMO.
12-14-2010, 10:46 AM   #6
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I vote for the DA* 55/1.4 SDM, solely because it was the last lens the optical wizard in my avatar designed for Pentax.
12-14-2010, 10:52 AM   #7
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I appreciate your thoughts, guys. I just ordered the 55. I think my Pentax setup is now complete:

DA15/4
ZK-35/2
DA*55/1.4
FA77/1.8
SMC-K135/2.5

My wife hopes I can stop buying stuff now.
12-14-2010, 10:53 AM   #8
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Congratulations. And of course it's only complete for the time being. You are showing the symptoms and there's no cure for that other than buying more lenses

12-14-2010, 10:57 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Todd Adamson Quote
I appreciate your thoughts, guys. I just ordered the 55. I think my Pentax setup is now complete:

DA15/4
ZK-35/2
DA*55/1.4
FA77/1.8
SMC-K135/2.5

My wife hopes I can stop buying stuff now.
Congrats Todd, looks like a great setup!

Tell your wife we'll let her know!
12-14-2010, 11:00 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Asahiflex Quote
Congratulations. And of course it's only complete for the time being. You are showing the symptoms and there's no cure for that other than buying more lenses
I wish I could tell you that you're wrong.

For now, though, for sure. I want to really explore the FA31, but I am committed to not getting it until I have really gotten to know the Zeiss. At that point, I might pick it up and spend some time with it, then decide which I like better, or if they are different enough to keep both. My trigger isn't really tripped by the FA43 (I briefly shot both the 31 and 43 belonging to Stephen - urkeldaedalus - last week). It's a great lens, but I somehow feel it won't have the personality that I think I am getting from the 77, and could get from the 31. I admit that's kind of an advance judgement and I could be wrong, but it's nowhere near the top of my list right now. And of course, this is my system for pro use. I will undoubtedly acquire an M42 adaptor ring soon and begin checking out old Taks. But that doesn't count, they're cheap, right?
12-14-2010, 11:02 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Asahiflex Quote
I vote for the DA* 55/1.4 SDM, solely because it was the last lens the optical wizard in my avatar designed for Pentax.
And who is that guy, btw, and what other lenses did he design? I seem to recall Stephen mentioning something about the designer of the 55, and maybe it was the same guy behind the FA77?
12-14-2010, 11:03 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Asahiflex Quote
Congratulations. And of course it's only complete for the time being. You are showing the symptoms and there's no cure for that other than buying more lenses
One person's "complete system" is another's "good start."

Last edited by farfisa; 12-14-2010 at 11:08 AM.
12-14-2010, 11:07 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Todd Adamson Quote
And who is that guy, btw, and what other lenses did he design? I seem to recall Stephen mentioning something about the designer of the 55, and maybe it was the same guy behind the FA77?
It's Jun Hirakawa, who was chief optical designer at Pentax. He designed such famous lenses as -indeed- the FA77, the FA43, the FA* 85/1.4, the FA* 80-200, just to name a few. He has its own fan club in Japan.

I think that, as time evolves, you'll start to see the "fingerprint" of Mr. Hirakawa in your lenses. I do. And don't wipe off that fingerprint! :-P

The FA43 is indeed a mixed bag, but that's because it excels on FF more than on APS-C.
12-14-2010, 11:14 AM   #14
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Re: the Takumars:

QuoteOriginally posted by Todd Adamson Quote
But that doesn't count, they're cheap, right?
Sure, that's what you'll tell your wife. But once you enter the market for lenses such as the 83mm f/1.9 and 58mm f/2 Takumars, you'll soon discover that there are several levels of "cheap". There are no expensive lenses, just more and less cheap ones.
12-14-2010, 11:35 AM   #15
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I would have to disagree a little bit on the FA43. I find it to be quite magical and very obviously in the same family as the 77. pcarfan just sold his 31 because he used the 43 so much more. Check out his PPG page for some awesome shots taken with the 43. I also find it to be an ideal FL for indoor use. A nice bonus is the fact that the 43, the 77, and the DA15 fit together very nicely in that little DA Ltd. lens case. I'm not saying that you must get it right away, Todd, but I hope that you won't dismiss it without giving it a fair shot.

Asahiflex, I'm a little embarrassed to say that I've always thought that was your photo in your avatar. I'm familiar with Mr. Hirakawa and his prolific work, I just didn't know that was him!
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