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02-27-2012, 01:03 PM   #1
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Fast lens addiction.. which one next?

I'm addicted to fast primes. I think this is mostly because my first lens was the M 50 1.7, and I LOVE it. It just makes things feel so much more "romantic" and special... I find it hard to take a bad picture with this lens... In my hunt for fast primes I have yet to acquire anything else that is faster than 2.0 in any other focal length.

Lately I've been addicted to my Tamaron 90mm Macro, but its a bit slow for low light photography, especially when I'm shooting live music in dark bars and other venues. So I've been looking for a fast 80 ish lens to accompany my 50.

This would probably become one of my most used lengths as my previous most used lenses before I grabbed the Tamaron has been 50mm and 135mm. So I don't mind spending a little extra cash to get something really special.

I was going to spend some money on the DA* 55mm f1.4, but cannot see any real reason to buy that to replace my M 50 aside from WR and SDM. SDM on my 16-50 hunts too much in the low light conditions I'm shooting in, and the WR doesn't have a whole lot of advantage for me.... so that frees up quite a bit of cash for my "fast 80" as long as my tax return comes back as healthy as it has in the last few years.

The contenders:
Carl Zeiss ZX Planar T* 85mm f1.4
Pentax FA Limited 77mm f1.8
Pentax A 85mm f1.4
Sigma DG EX HSM 85mm f1.4
Rokinon/Samyang/Bower Aspherical 85mm f1.4

The Carl Zeiss, Pentax Limited, and the Sigma are readily available new in box, all for similar price points ($1000-$1200). The Sigma and Limited I can get local, the Zeiss I gotta order out of the states. The other two (Pentax A, and the Bower) are going to be tougher to track down (especially the bower)

The question I have is: Is the Carl Zeiss worth it over the Sigma? Are either better than the Pentax?

I'm looking for overall sharpness WIDE OPEN, color rendition in poor lighting, and a good bokeh when I start doing more portraits (something I've been wanting to do for quite a while)

The Zeiss seems to have the ultimate both sharpness and bokeh. The Pentax Limited is well... the famed 77mm Limited which I've heard much about but never touched. The Sigma... I don't know a thing about.


These are older shots from my M50. I got newer ones on my Facebook, but its set to private, I'll have to uploaded them in the future.



02-27-2012, 01:18 PM   #2
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This Sigma is very good, with that said, it is a little bit big and I do prefer the FA* 85mm over it.
See this review: Sigma 85mm F1.4 HSM - Review - PentaxForums.com

If you want to save a lot of money, the Bower is really quite good optically, but obviously also manual focus:
Vivitar (Samyang) 85mm F1.4 - Review - PentaxForums.com

The A* 85mm and FA 77mm limited are pretty much identical except the A* is faster, has manual focus, is more espensive, is harder to find, and will give you more aberrations on digital.

The Zeiss is sharp but overpriced IMO, especially consider it's manual focus.

So, overall I would go for the FA 77mm as it is probably the sharpest overall, is nice and compact, and has AF. I would say get the FA* 85mm because it's faster and has IF (and IMO is just as good when stopped down to F1.7), but as it's not on your list!

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02-27-2012, 01:36 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
The Zeiss is sharp but overpriced IMO, especially consider it's manual focus.
I paid less than four figures for my ZK 85/1.4.
Although it is certainly manual focus,
it has enough central sharpness at f/1.4 to make focusing quite fast.
A sheer joy to use, and even better when you see the photographs it takes.
02-27-2012, 01:48 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by lytrytyr Quote
I paid less than four figures for my ZK 85/1.4.
Same of me. Including shipping to Australia, I pay less than four figures for the ZK85/1.4.

A great lens, that I can only compare to the Tamron 90mm f2.8 which I have. I have never tried/tested the other lenses. So far I love the ZK85mm f1.4. I use it nicely for indoor sports and low light (sunset and dawn). In these conditions, I favor MF and the ZK85mm is perfect.


02-27-2012, 04:07 PM   #5
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77Ltd. and Rokinon/Samyang/Bower Aspherical 85mm f1.4 - if you like shallow depth of fields buy the samyang, if you want AF - 77Ltd. It's shame but pentax doesn't have and probably will not have cheap nice 85 or something in this range with AF for people like is who wants primes to be fast .
If you want to try another 50mm try the KMZ Zenitar-M 50 1.7 - It's like M 50 1.7 but much more smoother the bokeh is similar SMC Tak 85 1.8 .
Personally me - I'm going for the Samyang 85 1.4 when earn some money to buy it.
02-27-2012, 04:21 PM   #6
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Sigma 85/1.4 - no contest, modern, hsm, very very good according to reviews and cheaper than others with exception of samyang clones
02-27-2012, 04:51 PM   #7
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I don't know about the other lenses, I would like to get the Bower/Samyang 85.1.4
but I do know that the FA* 77 f/1.8 is a truly wonderful and magical lens.
02-27-2012, 06:15 PM   #8
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Thanks guys for the feedback. It sounds like I can't go wrong with any of them as everyone seems to love the ones that they have used.

Adam, I missed the A* 85mm entirely when doing my checks, don't know why I kept skipping over it. It sounds like THE lens to own in this focal length, if one can be found. I am also not that worried about Manual vs auto focus as I do prefer manual focus lenses.

The Sigma is actually the most expensive one on that list @ $1150 locally. The Zeiss and 77mm limited I can grab for $950. (limited locally, Zeiss I can get in Canada after some searching, but not local)

Depending on what comes through the pipeline @ tax time I may be stupid and grab both the Zeiss and the 77 limited, run them for 15 days (within the return policies) and decide on one or the other. I got about 6 weeks or so to decide. I just like doing my research early.


Regarding other fast primes. I just grabbed a 50mm 2.0 M series, a second M 28mm 2.8, and a Takamur 135mm 2.5. Surprisingly, even without the coating, the Tak provides much richer and truer colors shooting the same subject, same conditions, same settings than my M series 135mm does. My two M 28mm's are vastly different as well in color rendering (the newer one being way more accurate with greens, but shallow and flat feeling with the blues. The 2.0 50mm color and contrast are slightly better than the 1.7, but sharpness....blah.

I'll keep my eye out for KMZ 50 mentioned in this thread as well.


Is there anything on this 70-100mm range that gives the "3d like feel" of the 31mm limited?


and heres some more photos of low light fun.




(DOF effect was on purpose)



yay 100th post


Last edited by Wired; 02-27-2012 at 06:22 PM.
02-27-2012, 08:00 PM   #9
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I have an FA*85 and the FA77ltd.

I'd say get either the FA*85 or the 77ltd.
They are two very different lenses.
The FA*85 produces fantastic shallow DOF effects and nice bokeh at almost every situation. Very good for any portrait from headshots to full body due to the FL and f1.4 aperture.
To me, the FA77ltd is different. It has a unique drawing (ie. outlining of the subject) that I don't see as much on the 85mm. Coupled with its sharpness, and high contrast, it produces a 'pop' to the subject more often than the FA*85. Easier to use too due to shorter FL.

This is not saying that the 77ltd is better than the FA*85, just different. The FA*85 will do what the 77ltd can't and vise versa.

The other lenses you listed, the CZ and A* don't have AF, and I'd not pay current prices for them because of this. AF is certainly faster and pretty accurate with the shallow DOF of such lenses.
The Sigma, while getting pretty nice reception, has not 'wowed' me much in terms of samples I've seen on the internet. It is very competent, but to me, thats about it. No 'Oomph.." (YMMV of course)
Its also not that cheap where I am, and I'd rather spend less for a 77ltd or pay that $200 more for a FA*85.

Last edited by pinholecam; 02-28-2012 at 01:51 AM.
02-27-2012, 08:47 PM   #10
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I own both the Zeiss 85mm f1.4 ZK and the Pentax 77mm f1.8 ltd. These are *very* different animals, and I would offer the following comments.

The Pentax 77mm is small, sharp, and easy to use. It has the (typical) warmish colour rendition of the FA limiteds, and it is a great general purpose lens. Not as fast as the others. But f1.8 is still pretty fast.

The Zeiss 85mm is--though capable of truly spectacular images--a difficult lens to use (especially at close range). And this is because of 'focus shift'. The lens has a good deal of uncorrected spherical aberration (a design 'feature' according to Zeiss), and when stopped down the plane of sharp focus moves away from the camera a bit.

This is not an issue shooting wide-open. However, to get precise focus between f2 and f4 you really need to focus stopped down or with live view. (Increasing depth of field at f5.6 and beyond effectively hides this problem.)

I love my Zeiss 85mm. However, you should be aware that it is not a 'shoot from the hip' lens.
02-27-2012, 09:11 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wired Quote
the Bower) are going to be tougher to track down (especially the bower)
Your profile says you're in Canada, so here you go. Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 Aspherical Lens for Pentax | Rokinon 85M-P | Cameras & Camera Accessories | Camera Lenses & Filters | Sale Discount Deal - Canada Post Comparison Shopper
One out of two tracked down.
I'm going to a wedding later in the year and might order one for that. It's one of those "for the price" decisions for me though.
02-27-2012, 10:19 PM   #12
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Aliuropoda; thanks for the links. I haven't hunted those down yet... Thats a great price for what looks like a fantastic lens.

I keep coming back to the, limited and FA*. The CZ sounds like I would still get my mileage out of it, but the two Pentax lenses sound like they would be more useful.

But now I'm more confused than ever between the two.

The limited has that high contrast color pop I love about my May series glass. But I'm intrigued by the bokeh that is hyped up from the FA*
02-28-2012, 01:47 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Byrd-2020 Quote
I own both the Zeiss 85mm f1.4 ZK and the Pentax 77mm f1.8 ltd. These are *very* different animals, and I would offer the following comments.

The Pentax 77mm is small, sharp, and easy to use. It has the (typical) warmish colour rendition of the FA limiteds, and it is a great general purpose lens. Not as fast as the others. But f1.8 is still pretty fast.

The Zeiss 85mm is--though capable of truly spectacular images--a difficult lens to use (especially at close range). And this is because of 'focus shift'. The lens has a good deal of uncorrected spherical aberration (a design 'feature' according to Zeiss), and when stopped down the plane of sharp focus moves away from the camera a bit.

This is not an issue shooting wide-open. However, to get precise focus between f2 and f4 you really need to focus stopped down or with live view. (Increasing depth of field at f5.6 and beyond effectively hides this problem.)

I love my Zeiss 85mm. However, you should be aware that it is not a 'shoot from the hip' lens.
This is a very good post the OP should pay attention to.

I have the older but fabulous Contax Zeiss 85/1.4 (is this optically identical to the ZK ? I believe it is but may be wrong) and the Pentax 77 Ltd. They are, as Byrd says, completely different animals. I use the 77 Ltd a lot of the time and rarely the CZ .... but I still wouldn't sell it (and in perfect condition it only cost me ca. US$680 pus another $50 for the PK mount conversion) as it is unique. BTW CIF works wonderfully with those MF lenses.

I've tried the Sigma 85/1.4 vs the 77 Ltd. The Sigma is very sharp, very fast AF and a lovely (if heavier) lens, it has received superb reviews. However I found the CA is worse than on the 77 Ltd and the rendering is very different.

Rikenon / Bower (and under probably a dozen other names) 85/1.4 is amazing value for money .... but why buy this if you want the best/better and have the money for it ?

The Pentax A & FA lenses are waaay over-priced. Of course a lot of that has to do with their rarity (though there are plenty of the FA versions where I shop) and not just how very good they are.

For the OP. Sorry to say but those low-light photos you've posted wouldn't hold up in print, for me at least they wouldn't be worth it. Maybe the AF of the 77 Ltd would give you far more keepers ? Check out the FA Limited thread here on PF for hundreds of scorching shots from the 77 - the bokeh of which is just gorgeous BTW.

IMHO - get the 77 Ltd and the Sigma 30/1.4 (another superb low-light lens) !
02-28-2012, 02:02 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wired Quote
I was going to spend some money on the DA* 55mm f1.4, but cannot see any real reason to buy that to replace my M 50 aside from WR and SDM.
-Also half a stop faster.
-Sharper
-Better bokeh.
-9 rounded aperture blades (M 50 1.7 has only 6 straight blades)


Plenty of reasons FWIW my copy is very precise is low light, and better than any of my lenses.
02-28-2012, 02:10 AM   #15
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Personally I have the hots for the Voigtlander Ultron and Nokton (the 40mm and the 58mm), I just need to find a good disguise so I can rob a bank...

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