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01-10-2011, 10:51 PM   #1
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Thinking of DA* 55m f/1.4 (and others)...

It's a long and painful story (LOL) but I'm leaning more and more towards the K5 in recent days (and away from the GH2) but I'm hoping you can all help.

Of course, if I get the K5 I'd like to have at least one smallish weather-sealed lens. I love primes (have the 40 and 70 LTDs) and own the 50-135 DA* for shooting in the theater (daughter's performances). But on those rainy and snowy days I like to go out on, I'm thinking it wise I get something like the DA* 55mm f/1.4.

I haven't seen a lot of samples with this lens... would you all mind sharing?

What are your thoughts on it? Is it generally considered a good lens?

And to throw a wrench in the works... I currently own a K-x (which I'd sell if I get the K5)... if I decide not to go with the K5 I was thinking of getting the SMC-A 50mm f/1.4... how do you all like it? How does it compare in image quality to the new DA* 55mm f/1.4?

Thanks so much all...

01-11-2011, 01:00 AM   #2
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Don't think I have any samples off hand... but I own this lens and it's my "go-to" lens for my K-7 Pentax digital SLR.

The F1.4 is stunning and having a really quiet SDM motor goes well with the really quiet shutter of the K-7 and now K-5. The weather sealing also really helps when it starts to rain or you get splashed (but mind you it's not waterproof).

Image quality... is... unique for this lens. I'd say it's rendering is... well, it's unique. I personally thing it renders the image a bit different than any other lens... but that's just my opinion.

A great lens. If you can find one for a great price, go for it.

Also consider the Sigma 50mm F1.4.
01-11-2011, 01:26 AM   #3
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Do you want the DA 55 for DOF control / portraits, or general photography?

I'm wondering if you will notice a huge difference between it and the DA 70 for portraits / low DOF...
01-11-2011, 01:32 AM   #4
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I have tried DA*55 for around week before returning it. Nothing wrong with the lens. I actually think it's great but there is one (two depending how you look at things) better 50ish lens. And that's K or A 50/1.2. If it wasn't for those I'd keep 55. I think it's terrific lens, with bit too busy bokeh wide open but otherwise great for everything.

My 2p

01-11-2011, 02:34 AM   #5
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The Pentax Photo Gallery has over 100 examples - this link takes you to one of my favorites.

PENTAX Photo Gallery

I haven't owned a DA*55, so I shouldn't say too much, but it's one of 3 lenses on my list that I'm looking at getting next. However, I have used it in the store a couple of times and I wanted one immediately. But I've owned the F50/1.4, M50/1.4, and A50/1.7 (I still have the latter two) which are about as close to the A50/1.4 as you can get, so I can still give you some comparison.

From my experience, it breaks down like this. The top models to consider for IQ (all of which I've owned, save the DA*55), in approximate order from good to better, are:

FA50/1.7
A50/1.7
M50/1.4
F50/1.4 (should be similar to A50/1.4)

FA43
K50/1.2 (should be similar to A50/1.2)
DA*55/1.4

The latter group is clearly better than the former, although my A50/1.7 could possibly make the latter group because the shots can have impressive impact, somewhat like the FA43. The FA43 has the richest color and often produces the most impressive shots (mine is from the supposedly better mid- to early production runs) but is a bit slower and may not have the best bokeh. The K50/1.2 does have the best bokeh and may be the best overall. It should normally be stopped down one or two clicks to ~f/1.6 or f/2.0. The DA* has great bokeh sometimes but can be somewhat harsh at other times. However, it has AF, WR, and does better close to wide open than any of the other lenses mentioned here, except maybe the 50/1.2. It's really nice at f/1.8 and often very good at f/1.6. None of the Pentax 50's (except the 50/1.2) nor the FA43 give nice IQ until f/2.0 or f/2.2.

The bottom line is dpreview underrated, and possibly misunderstood, the DA*55, which is largely designed as a portrait lens to "replace" the Pentax FA*85/1.4 on a cropped frame. It does things no Pentax AF 50 before it could. Only the 50/1.2 is as fast in practice.

Are you considering getting just a few more lenses before moving from the K-x to the K-5 (or is your collection larger than you mentioned)? I sold my K-x before getting a K-5. I rather wish I still had the K-x as a second body. I'm happy with the K-5 but I was almost just as happy with the K-x, and still think I got out-of-the-camera results I liked with the K-x more easily. I wouldn't trade back, but in a few situations I've genuinely wished I still had my K-x to use instead.

Last edited by DSims; 01-11-2011 at 02:51 AM.
01-11-2011, 05:15 AM   #6
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I recently got the DA *55 (used to own the FA 50 f1.4, which is optically the same as the A50 f1.4). Basically, I got rid of the FA 50 due to the fact that it was pretty soft till about f2.4-2.8. I also didn't really like the focal length -- just a little short for portrait shooting IMHO.

The DA *55 is a nice lens. It actually comes with a lens hood, unlike the FA 50. It is bigger than the FA 50, but not by a lot (unless you include the lens hood in your size assessment). First of all, I find it usable from f1.4 on. It is amazingly sharp from f2 onward. Contrast and colors to my eye are a lot better than the FA 50 and it is much less prone to flare, even when shooting without the lens hood. The auto focus is not the speediest, although I never found the FA 50 to be super-speedy either. Bokeh can get a little "busy" at f1.4.

Here are a couple of photos shot at f2 and then 100 percent crops of each one.







01-11-2011, 06:42 AM   #7
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@DSims:
That's a nice reply you posted there.
But I have to respectfully disagree on few points.
a) K50 and A50/1.2 are optically the same AFAIK
b) DA* being better than K50/1.2 and FA43
Now, not in my experience. DA* is a nice lens but: wide open it's OOF definitely isn't better than FA43. Just about the same IMHO and leagues behind K50/1.2.. Stopped down the circular aperture shows marked difference when compared to FA43 but K50 holds it's own bit better. Out of these three 43 is sharpest wide open, followed by 55 and then 50. But hey, we're comparing f1.9 > f1.4 > f1.2. I have hard time believing 55 is sharper than 43 at ANY f stop. 50 vs 55? At f1.4 the DA* is sharper but 50 has better OOF by f2 the 55 might have a slight edge and by 2.8 sharpness of those two is so good and close that it doesn't really matter IMO but 43 is still better. DA* has quite some issue with PF. It happens way too often, way too easily and in this respect the lens is worse than both FA43 and K50. AF speed of 43 and 55 is just about the same but of course 55 is quiet.
I do agree with you on the point that dpreview misunderstood DA*55 and I'd say it's terrific lens but optically it's not better than 43 (which is smaller, lighter and slower) and definitely worse than K50/1.2 which of course lacks any automation at all.
Ideal solution? Get all 3 IMO. 43 is smallest, slowest but very portable and practical with glorious rendering, 50/1.2 beats them all in OOF and subject separation but it's the heaviest one and 55 is probably the best for portraits and great for bad weather...

Good luck
01-11-2011, 10:43 AM   #8
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I agree that the f1.2 lenses are best as far as bokeh and probably sharpness as well. Photozone does report that the DA *55 has equivalent mtf scores at center and higher mtf scores on the borders at f1.4 compared to the FA 43 at f1.9. Looks like FA 43 catches up at f4, but is not as sharp as the DA * prior to that point (I doubt that these differences are really visible in real life shooting).

I personally chose a DA * because of auto focus and also because of sealing. I do shoot in the elements a lot and like to have a sealed lens to go with my sealed camera. Since none of the limiteds have sealing, this is next best option.

01-11-2011, 01:08 PM   #9
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Thanks so much for the great input everyone.

I wish there was a 35mm or 40mm that was weather-sealed... I'm a little concerned the 50mm might be too long on the APS-C sensor... but I do like the idea of a prime for going out in the rain and snow. Too bad the Limiteds aren't weather-sealed
01-11-2011, 03:08 PM   #10
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I really liked images from the DA*55. Unfortunately on my K20D, the AF was slow and unreliable.

Here's an image at f2.2:

01-11-2011, 06:49 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by axl Quote
@DSims:
That's a nice reply you posted there.
But I have to respectfully disagree on few points.
a) K50 and A50/1.2 are optically the same AFAIK
b) DA* being better than K50/1.2 and FA43
Now, not in my experience. DA* is a nice lens but: wide open it's OOF definitely isn't better than FA43. Just about the same IMHO and leagues behind K50/1.2.

Out of these three 43 is sharpest wide open, followed by 55 and then 50. But hey, we're comparing f1.9 > f1.4 > f1.2. I have hard time believing 55 is sharper than 43 at ANY f stop.
@axl: Thanks for the very good input.

I'm not sure we actually disagree that much. I put the lenses in two different groups intentionally, to show that the top ones are in a different "class." And I said approximate order, meaning (especially with the top 3) I'm not completely convinced of this ranking. I'm especially not certain that the DA* is "better" than the other two. I'll need to get a DA*55 to know better. But even with the limited use I've had of the DA*55 I'm confident it has less image degradation close to wide-open than the FA43. I simply won't shoot my FA43 wide-open, whereas I sometimes will with the other FA Ltds. As I recall reading from others as well, I find the FA43 almost wants to be used at f/2.8 or smaller. OTOH, I liked the DA*55 at f/1.6 - which was rather a (pleasant) shock after having owned the top rated AF 50's!

I'm really liking what I'm seeing from my K50/1.2 as I'm using it more, so I won't be surprised if I end up deciding it's the best of the 3 overall, but I'm not convinced it's the sharpest either. But it does render some beautiful images.

BTW, I don't believe I actually said the A50/1.2 and K50/1.2 were optically different - I simply said they should give "similar" results because I've never used the A version. But I've always noticed a difference between families, even when they have the same "optical" formula. Based on the photos on the PPG, I might even prefer my K50 version over the A50 if I ever got one, but I doubt there's much difference and I I'm pretty happy with the K50.

QuoteOriginally posted by axl Quote
I do agree with you on the point that dpreview misunderstood DA*55 and I'd say it's terrific lens but optically it's not better than 43 (which is smaller, lighter and slower) and definitely worse than K50/1.2 which of course lacks any automation at all.

Ideal solution? Get all 3 IMO. 43 is smallest, slowest but very portable and practical with glorious rendering, 50/1.2 beats them all in OOF and subject separation but it's the heaviest one and 55 is probably the best for portraits and great for bad weather...

Good luck
This is why I already have two of them and am considering the third. Each one can produce a good type of result you simply can not get from the others. This is generally not true with the 50/1.4s and slower, where I simply could have settled on only the F50/1.4, had I not later purchased the FA43 which "obsoleted" it for me.
01-11-2011, 06:55 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
I agree that the f1.2 lenses are best as far as bokeh and probably sharpness as well. Photozone does report that the DA *55 has equivalent mtf scores at center and higher mtf scores on the borders at f1.4 compared to the FA 43 at f1.9. Looks like FA 43 catches up at f4, but is not as sharp as the DA * prior to that point (I doubt that these differences are really visible in real life shooting).

I personally chose a DA * because of auto focus and also because of sealing. I do shoot in the elements a lot and like to have a sealed lens to go with my sealed camera. Since none of the limiteds have sealing, this is next best option.
Actually, I believe these differences are visible in real life shooting.
01-14-2011, 04:44 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by DSims Quote
I simply won't shoot my FA43 wide-open, whereas I sometimes will with the other FA Ltds. As I recall reading from others as well, I find the FA43 almost wants to be used at f/2.8 or smaller. ...
again, I respectfully disagree. All of the following are with 43ltd at f1.9, would give you crops, but have to go to work...











and
with crops at 100%






+100% crop from picture no.5



that much for "IQ degradation of FA43ltd wide open...."
01-14-2011, 07:23 AM   #14
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Why not the 16-50? SDM issues should be fixed and it's a perfect walk-around-zoom.
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