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01-14-2011, 07:27 AM   #1
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Best AF "nifty fifty" replacement

Hi, I've spent hours reading through the forums and can't seem to make up my mind, so I'd love some input!

I have the wonderful A series 50mm f/1.7 and it takes outstanding photos, but there have been too many instances where I have lost some otherwise brilliant candids and portraits due to the lack of AF. So I want to upgrade this lens to one of its newer, AF siblings. But which one?!?

I mainly shoot candids, portraits and street-photography, plus the occassional detail and macro (NOT insect). I love the intense DOF and lovely bokeh at f/1.7 and am not at all fussed about corner/edge softness, so I'm leaning more towards another fast lens. That said, I'd like something smaller in size and fast/reliable with AF. I'd also like the ability to take some macro shots if they present themselves, but I'm not adverse to using (shock, horror!) close-up filters or extension tubes, etc.

I'm planning on getting the 70mm Limited for longer reach situations, but what about in the "standard" range?
  • Sigma 50mm f/1.4 (380 new)
  • Pentax-DA 40mm f/2.8 Limited (350 new)
  • Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited (400 new)
  • Pentax-D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro (400 new)
  • Pentax-FA 50mm f/1.4 (330 new)
  • Pentax-FA 50mm f/1.7 (used only)

I'd normally pounce on the 1.4/1.7 FA, except that the build quality doesn't seem anywhere near the affordable (<400) Limiteds, which my budget will stretch to.

Biggest factors: Bokeh & reliable AF

I'd love to hear your experiences!


Last edited by 9littlebees; 01-14-2011 at 07:46 AM. Reason: Included UK retail prices on the lenses
01-14-2011, 07:35 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by 9littlebees Quote
Pentax-DA 40mm f/2.8 Limited
That would be my pick, but you do sacrifice a good deal of DOF control. It is overall one of my favorite lenses due to it being lightning fast, super-high contrast, great colours, really good wide open, and super sharp stopped down, with nice unassuming bokeh.

DA 40 has nice a smooth bokeh, but nothing as blurry as a sub-f2 lens. The AF on it is incredible. I suppose you could flip those statements for the FA 1.4/1.7.

I would get the 1.4 for optimal bokeh at a wide range of apertures, but the 1.7 is really just as good.

DA 35 is great for macro + everyday, but it's not exactly a replacement for a fast 50. If the 40 has less DOF control than the 50 1.7, the 35 has even less.
01-14-2011, 07:58 AM   #3
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I can vouch for the Sigma being great on both bokeh and AF and the image quality is outstanding but since you said you are into street photography you should be aware that it is huge and heavy.

Worth every penny.

or pence... do brits have that saying?
01-14-2011, 08:09 AM   #4
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the 50mm 1.4 and 1.7 are spectacular. i cant really say much for the limiteds but the macro 35mm is a great walk around lens in my opinion. You can always save a little more and plunk own the dough for a 31mm 1.8 limited =)

01-14-2011, 08:10 AM   #5
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The DA40 is my default lens - it's tiny, robust, has very quick AF and is optically great.

However, I recently bought an A series 50mm f/1.7 to complement it. So, I'd say it's not a complete replacement - it won't do some of the things your 50 can do, primarily low light stuff and super-shallow DOF (though the bokeh is good).

If you're happy with 50mm, one of the FA50 options would seem the best choice though I don't have direct experience.
01-14-2011, 08:11 AM   #6
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Don't know what prices are like where you are, but I am loving the 43mm F1.9 Limited - I personally have always found the 50mm to be slightly too tight for general use, and the 43mm gives just enough more in the frame. The new DA 35mm F2.4 might also be a solid inexpensive option as well.
01-14-2011, 08:14 AM   #7
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I would have recommended an FA 50mm, except that its purpose is pretty similar to a 70mm. IMO, you'd be better off partnering a 70ishmm with a 35mm (FA 35 2.0, DA 35 2.4 or DA 35 2.8 Ltd).
01-14-2011, 08:33 AM   #8
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You already received some solid advice. Let me share my own experience. I know that you would prefer a AF lens, but there is nothing wrong with a good MF lens. In fact, in very low light conditions, MF is easier to use than AF.

About 14 months ago, I was looking for a fast prime like a "nifty fifty". I got some excellent advice from this Forum and I made my decision for the Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f1.4. 14 months later, I believe that it was a great choice and I would recommend you to consider the Voigtlander Nokton 58m f1.4, even if it is a MF lens.

The Voigtlander Nokton 58m f1.4 is a MF lens with excellent IQ and great bokeh. The lens is superb in low light, although many Pentaxians would say that it is an excellent lens in any conditions, low light or not. The price is reasonable (US$379).


All in all: I have an all-around zoom lens and 3 primes. Among all my lenses, I regard the Voigtlander Nokton 58m f1.4 as the most stunning lens, even compared to the FA31mm Ltd! Simply the Voigtlander Nokton 58m f1.4 was a nice surprise and my best lens investment to date.

I hope that the suggestion will assist....



Last edited by hcc; 01-14-2011 at 08:39 AM.
01-14-2011, 09:31 AM   #9
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I have to recommend the FA 43mm limited. Fast and small, great bokeh. Not sure why it isn't in your list up there. It might be a little more expensive than the rest though.
01-14-2011, 11:55 AM   #10
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I have upwards of 170 lenses now, but only one AF prime: the FA50/1.4, a good workhorse. I can't comment on the other AF primes. Mostly I shoot manual primes, even on fairly dim streets. My other low-light lenses are a PK Vivitar-Komine 24/2 (US$150), an M42 Sears-Tomioka 55/1.4 (one was US$35, the other was TWO BUCKS!!), and a Nikon 85/2 modded for PK (that was US$9 but I got lucky). Add my fishy Zenitar 16/2.8 (US$175), and there's my basic town kit: 16-24-55-85.

I use all those MFL's with CIF (Catch-In-Focus, the poor hominid's AF). Have you tried CIF with your A50/1.7? Alas, CIF isn't for the dimmest situations, but any AF has problems there too.

What, there's more to macro than shooting bugs ?!?!?!?
01-14-2011, 12:20 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by GatorPentax Quote
You can always save a little more and plunk own the dough for a 31mm 1.8 limited =)
QuoteOriginally posted by pxpaulx Quote
Don't know what prices are like where you are, but I am loving the 43mm F1.9 Limited - I personally have always found the 50mm to be slightly too tight for general use, and the 43mm gives just enough more in the frame.
QuoteOriginally posted by enoeske Quote
I have to recommend the FA 43mm limited. Fast and small, great bokeh. Not sure why it isn't in your list up there. It might be a little more expensive than the rest though.
I agree, the IQ and large apertures on these more expensive Limiteds would be the ideal solution (esp the 43mm!).

However, they are way out of my price range (more than 650 for the 43 and 1,000 for the 31 new!).


QuoteOriginally posted by mikemike Quote
Worth every penny.

or pence... do brits have that saying?
Yeah, we have that saying. Pence is the plural of penny, so it works on both sides of the pond. And I just saw a pic of the Sigma mounted on a D-SLR over at Photozone and it is far too big for my use!


QuoteOriginally posted by hcc Quote
...I would recommend you to consider the Voigtlander Nokton 58m f1.4, even if it is a MF lens.
Yeah, that Voigtlander looks quite nice, and it got a glowing review at Photozone, but unfortunately it would not solve my issue of ruining/missing that perfect shot because:

a) it could still take too long to find focus or
b) I might think I have focus and find out later it was out.

This is especially frustrating for candids/street photography, where you can't ask someone to hold/recreate a pose while you try again.


QuoteOriginally posted by paperbag846 Quote
I would get the 1.4 for optimal bokeh at a wide range of apertures, but the 1.7 is really just as good.
QuoteOriginally posted by timh Quote
If you're happy with 50mm, one of the FA50 options would seem the best choice though I don't have direct experience.
QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
I would have recommended an FA 50mm, except that its purpose is pretty similar to a 70mm. IMO, you'd be better off partnering a 70ishmm with a 35mm (FA 35 2.0, DA 35 2.4 or DA 35 2.8 Ltd).

Yeah, looks like I'm leaning very much towards the FA's (probably the 1.7 as it seems to be rated just as highly and won't cost as much if I can nab a bargain).

The recommendation on the 35mm is also interesting. I've compared the 50 and 70 FOV's on my 50-200 and there isn't a lot in it...

Timh, I think you actually may be onto something. The 40mm really does seem to be the ideal lens, except for the DOF. Maybe I'll follow suit and get the 40 and keep the A 50. Plus that always leaves the gap in focal lengths to get the 70!


QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
I use all those MFL's with CIF (Catch-In-Focus, the poor hominid's AF). Have you tried CIF with your A50/1.7? Alas, CIF isn't for the dimmest situations, but any AF has problems there too.
Just tested the CIF function and I can't seem to get it to work... Interesting feature if I can nail it, so I guess it's off to the forums for some tutorials!!
01-14-2011, 01:11 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by 9littlebees Quote
Timh, I think you actually may be onto something. The 40mm really does seem to be the ideal lens, except for the DOF. Maybe I'll follow suit and get the 40 and keep the A 50. Plus that always leaves the gap in focal lengths to get the 70!
I think the 40 is absolutely outstanding - there are obviously some compromises to get it that small but happily not in image quality. As always there's a DA/FA debate between the 40 and the 43 (which you didn't mention but may want to consider - the 43 is a bit faster).

QuoteQuote:
Just tested the CIF function and I can't seem to get it to work... Interesting feature if I can nail it, so I guess it's off to the forums for some tutorials!!
It works well, as long as you don't mind your focal point to be dead centre. You'll need:
1) CIF turned on in the menu
2) single-shot mode (slightly irritating, as I default to burst mode)
3) autofocus on

It seems to 'time out' if you take more than a few seconds to focus.. You'll know when it's working - try to take a very blurry photo and nothing will happen.
01-14-2011, 01:20 PM   #13
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QuoteQuote:
Yeah, that Voigtlander looks quite nice, and it got a glowing review at Photozone, but unfortunately it would not solve my issue of ruining/missing that perfect shot because:

a) it could still take too long to find focus or
b) I might think I have focus and find out later it was out.

This is especially frustrating for candids/street photography, where you can't ask someone to hold/recreate a pose while you try again.
That can happen with Any lens, particularly (b) when you find out your AF lens is either front focusing or back focusing. You may or may not be able to adjust for it.

Based on my own experience, I would go with either the FA43 or the DA35 f2.8.. But then, I like the Limiteds.

01-14-2011, 02:39 PM   #14
hcc
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QuoteOriginally posted by 9littlebees Quote
Yeah, that Voigtlander looks quite nice, and it got a glowing review at Photozone, but unfortunately it would not solve my issue of ruining/missing that perfect shot because:
a) it could still take too long to find focus or
b) I might think I have focus and find out later it was out.
This is especially frustrating for candids/street photography, where you can't ask someone to hold/recreate a pose while you try again.
You need to remember that all these large aperture lenses have a shallow DOF, but also the focus ring can be set to infinity when the target is more than 6-8 m away.

I shoot often outdoor and I set simply the focus ring to Infinity when the target is more than 8 m away. That is not difficult and I do not miss any shot...
01-14-2011, 03:44 PM   #15
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One other to consider: the Pentax-F f/1.7 - I have one, and the images it produces are complete magic. They tend to go for around $200, and are worth every penny. Great DOF possibilities along with really good sharpness...
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