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05-30-2011, 11:28 AM   #1
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DA* or Limited?

DA*

FA Limited.

Can someone give me a quick, down and dirty comparison, and tell me why you favor one over the other, and what are the differences in quality?

Or show me a link that answers those questions, as what I've found is all over the place.

Thanks

05-30-2011, 11:40 AM   #2
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Which DA* are you referring to?

Here are some general considerations:

the DA* lenses are larger than the FA Limiteds;
they are weather-sealed;
they have SDM (in-lens) focusing systems so are quieter (but not necessarily faster);
the DA* 55/1.4 is faster than any of the FA Limiteds, though not by a huge margin (max aperture, not focus speed);
there are more DA*s available, covering a variety of focal lengths, including in zoom formats

Meanwhile, the FA Limiteds:
are smaller;
all three are single-focal length prime lenses;
do not have quick-shift focus;
are available only in some pretty funky focal lengths that may or may not be the most useful in APS-C;
have notably unique image rendering when used to their fullest
05-30-2011, 12:03 PM   #3
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i'm just talking about the "series" in general as compared to the other. Not a particular lens.

Is the SDN focusing system reliable?

What is "quick shift focus"?

How does the image quality compare?

I'm looking at upgrading from my 18-55mm kit lens and want to have my ducks in a row when I start shopping.
05-30-2011, 12:29 PM   #4
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Well where do you want to go? For me, I'm not a fan for the 16-50 since it's performance at wide angle isn't very great and it has some chromatic aberation problems. When you have a bag of money buy the hole serie, but 50-135 and DA21mm coult do almost every trick together.

05-30-2011, 12:29 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by napawino Quote
i'm just talking about the "series" in general as compared to the other. Not a particular lens.

Is the SDN focusing system reliable?

What is "quick shift focus"?

How does the image quality compare?

I'm looking at upgrading from my 18-55mm kit lens and want to have my ducks in a row when I start shopping.
Well, if you're comparing the entire series against each other, it's important to realize the FA Limiteds are very... limited... in that there are only three relatively middle of the road focal lengths available (slightly wide normal to short telephoto). Taking the series as a whole, the DA* lenses can go from 16mm to 300mm.

The quality of the SDM focusing system seems to vary by lens, and is one of the most contentious issues in the Pentax world, with numerous reports of certain lenses suffering from SDM failure that requires repair. No official statistics are publicly available on failure rates, but in general people don't seem to complain about the focus accuracy of these lenses. Some are reportedly quite slow to lock focus, though they will do so much more silently than the screw-driven FA Limiteds (which are themselves not the most lightning-fast focusers available).

Quick shift focusing is available on all the DA series lenses I believe -- it allows you to manually focus the lens to adjust the auto focus' decision WITHOUT flipping the AF/MF switch on the side of your camera. This is unique to Pentax's newer series of lenses.

Image quality will again depend greatly on which lens you're looking at. Both the DA* and FA Limited lenses are highly-priced premium lenses and any of them have the capacity to deliver quality images -- however, trying to directly compare them against each other brings in subjective arguments of rendering characteristics, as well as utility (for instance, an FA Limited can never match the quality of the DA* 50-135 at 135mm because no FA Limited exists at 135mm).

Last edited by v5planet; 05-30-2011 at 12:39 PM.
05-30-2011, 12:51 PM   #6
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I like taking photos of flowers, trees, birds, pets, people, and some "cityscapes".
05-30-2011, 05:10 PM   #7
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Note you left DA Limited off your list. There;s really no point making generalizations about the series; just ask about specific lenses. But you'll note there are basically no lenses offered in both a Limited and * version, so there's really no case when you ever might need to compare them.
05-30-2011, 05:14 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
Note you left DA Limited off your list. There;s really no point making generalizations about the series; just ask about specific lenses. But you'll note there are basically no lenses offered in both a Limited and * version, so there's really no case when you ever might need to compare them.
I did some Googling and found quite a few horror stories about the focus motors on the DA*s. It it a viable concern, or is it the old adage about "people with problems post on the internet, while happy users are too busy using"?

05-30-2011, 05:20 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by napawino Quote
I did some Googling and found quite a few horror stories about the focus motors on the DA*s. It it a viable concern, or is it the old adage about "people with problems post on the internet, while happy users are too busy using"?
Be careful in asking that question, because it often explodes into a 10 page thread here (at least once a month it seems) with people arguing vehemently for either possibility. There are certainly quite a few cases of SDM failure, but what percentage of SDM sales these represent is not known and can only be clumsily inferred from people complaining on the internet. Jury's out on whether it's actually an unreasonably high percentage or if it's pretty normal for this type of technology across brands (not that those two are necessarily mutually exclusive, especially considering the brevity of Pentax's warranty in the United States).
05-30-2011, 05:28 PM   #10
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I definitely don't want to start any arguments.

I'm a big fan of the KISS principle. SDM seems like more that could go wrong. But I also think complaints get much more attention that praise, and not just photo gear.

I guess for me it all boils down to....because there are so many great choices, I'm nitpicking a bit to help me decide what to get. Eventually, I'll probably end up with a bunch of glass, so I don't suppose what I get "first" is that big of a deal.
05-30-2011, 06:05 PM   #11
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I like SDM, HSM etc., the screw drive sounds really noisy to me after getting used to SDM.
05-30-2011, 06:23 PM   #12
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Quiet focusing zooms - go DA* (apart from the 55)
Loud focusing primes - go FA/DA limiteds

Everything else is personal preference.
I liked the DA* 16-50 for general work, but also love the FA ltds.
Know what focal length(s) you want, and for what purpose, and you know what lens would suit you most.

Cityscapes - FA 31, DA 21, DA 40, FA 43 (small, quick and light)
Nature - DFA 100 macro (with or without WR), DFA 50 macro, Tamron 90 macro (notice no DA*s or ltds listed - those would not be my preference for closeup nature work)
Landscapes - DA 15, DA 21, DA* 16-50
People/Pets - FA 43, FA 77, DA 40, DA 70, DA* 50-135, DA* 55

And these are only the lenses I'd consider from the DA*/limited series. There are many more lenses that would fit the bill for those purposes...
05-30-2011, 09:08 PM   #13
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If you want quiet, fast, accurate auto focus, HSM is your only option. SDM is a pathetic joke; an unreliable joke that has been well documented.
05-30-2011, 09:15 PM   #14
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And so it starts again!
05-30-2011, 09:22 PM   #15
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There is no "again" if I've never been there in the first place.

But if it's a sensitive topic, just lock it. I've gotten some info out of it, and don't want any fighting.
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