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03-29-2012, 04:45 PM   #1
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FA 50 1.4 vs M 50 1.7

I've owned an FA 50 1.4 for a while now. I managed to get a good deal on an M 50 1.7 a few days ago, and it finally arrived today. Luckily, no one else was home, so that meant that I could play around with my new lens. I took a couple of shots with it, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I haven't had a chance to make a direct comparison between the two yet, but at least from memory, the M 50 seems to give pictures a much warmer tone, while the FA 50 seems to give pictures a cooler tone. I think (and I have to say think at this point) that I really like the tone on the M lens a lot more.

Has anyone else found the M lens to offer (I know this is subjective) nicer photos than the FA lens? Shouldn't it be the other way around? At least from just playing around with it for a few minutes, the sharpness seems to be better, and the colors seem more pleasant. Am I just behaving like a kid that got a new toy and the effect will wear off soon?

It doesn't make any sense to me, but I really seem to enjoy the tones that older lenses give more than the newer lenses. I know that manual aperture and manual focuses are a huge trade-off, but it seems like a worthy trade-off. Maybe it's because I only shoot for fun.

I was really hoping to avoid LBA, but I think I'm hooked. Anyone know of a place that gives top dollar for blood?

03-29-2012, 04:59 PM   #2
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There are a number of threads on the comparison between the optics in the 50/1.4 and 50/1.7. One essential to note is when you observe the design and placement of the front elements of each. The 1.4 is basically fully exposed while the 1.7 is recessed. This is why the 1.4, to perform at its optimum, requires a hood - period. Try comparing them, if you haven't already, with a hood on the 1.4 and see if you see a more similar output from them.
03-29-2012, 05:05 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Docrwm Quote
There are a number of threads on the comparison between the optics in the 50/1.4 and 50/1.7. One essential to note is when you observe the design and placement of the front elements of each. The 1.4 is basically fully exposed while the 1.7 is recessed. This is why the 1.4, to perform at its optimum, requires a hood - period. Try comparing them, if you haven't already, with a hood on the 1.4 and see if you see a more similar output from them.
I usually (but not always) use a hood on the FA 1.4. When I don't, it usually because I forget to do it. I have noticed a difference when the hood is on or off. That is probably still my favorite prime that I own. It's fast, takes great pictures, and is so lightweight. The colors on the M 1.7 just seem warmer (I'm starting to think I prefer warm over cold).

While I've got some people's ears (or eyes), is a hood also a good idea on the 1.7? How about on a 28 mm?
03-29-2012, 05:08 PM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by reivax Quote
I usually (but not always) use a hood on the FA 1.4. When I don't, it usually because I forget to do it. I have noticed a difference when the hood is on or off. That is probably still my favorite prime that I own. It's fast, takes great pictures, and is so lightweight. The colors on the M 1.7 just seem warmer (I'm starting to think I prefer warm over cold).

While I've got some people's ears (or eyes), is a hood also a good idea on the 1.7? How about on a 28 mm?
Ohhhh, hood question, batten the hatches and run up the gale warning flag!

Seriously, I can't think of a lens that doesn't benefit in most situations from a hood. It really helps control stray light and increase contrast in many situations. I prefer to do that physically at the time I take the photo and minimize post work in CS or LR. The only lens I own that I do not routinely use a hood on is my M50/4 Macro because the recess to the front element is further than many hoods!

03-29-2012, 05:17 PM   #5
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I've found hoods to be a great help on my manual 50s & 28s when used on a dslr. I use a "standard" depth metal hood, or the 3-stage rubber ones set at one of the shallower settings. Both work well for me.

I don't have an AF 50mm to compare it with, but I also love the M50/1.7 rendering. Something very pleasant and "right" about it No wonder it's considered the 'gateway to LBA' prime!
03-29-2012, 05:50 PM   #6
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Agree with above comments - a hood certainly makes a significant difference to most of my lenses. In fact I have Super Tak 50 f1.4 that I'm looking for a bigger hood for, its soooo sensitive to stray light!

My FA-100 f2.8 Macro is good without a hood. But then the front element is deeply recessed and the lens is already huge. Lovely lens.
03-29-2012, 07:21 PM   #7
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I always use hoods unless an objective is deeply recessed. My M50/1.7 isn't recessed enough to do without a hood. My SuperTak and FA 50/1.4s definitely need hoods.

I have a hard time seeing significant color differences between the M and FA. Of course, I generally tweak WB in PP, so any such differences are difficult to attribute to the lenses. That said, while I won't give up my M, it sees much less use than the FA. I guess the M needs some more LOTD (lens of the day) sessions, eh? But then it must compete with the Meyer Oreston and Olympus 50/1.8s, and the Rikenon and Sears-Cosina 50/2s, and a pile of 55/1.7s, etc. It's a tough neighborhood.
03-29-2012, 07:41 PM   #8
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I just got one of these from "heavystars" on ebay for my FA50 and it's fantastic, so much better than the clip-on square off hood that has no capacity for a cap and kept coming off the lens when I pulled it out of the bag.

03-30-2012, 08:25 AM   #9
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FA and M should give you roughly the same performance on a DSLR (the coatings might be a little different on the FA, but I don't notice too much of a difference). I did notice a big difference in colour saturation between the K series (close to M in age) and the FA, but not as large as the difference between FA and DA, so YMMV.

The biggest difference between the two is autofocus vs. excellent manual control (assuming we are talking about two 1.4s). The FA can be soft wide open for two reasons: 1) lack of hood (duh), 2) missed focus with a small DOF.

Sometimes, manual lenses make it hard to nail focus quickly enough (and it isn't so easy to see if you are in perfect focus with a dslr screen). On the other hand, the FA has a looser focusing ring, which isn't as smooth, so if you are shooting manual with the FA, it can be harder to nail focus than if you had the M! Furthermore, AF is not perfect (especially with lenses like the 1.4s), so sometimes it is actually faster to jump into manual mode and take over. In good light, however, the FA usually wins and lets you take home many more keepers.

So it really comes down to this: if you are buying the 1.4 for low light stuff, just get the M. The FA is just more expensive for very little gain. If you use the 1.4 a lot for shooting portraits in decent lighting / or generally anything in decent light, the FA will help you take home more keepers in my experience.

--

As for the 1.7 vs the 1.4, they are very similar at the wider apertures, but I personally like the 1.4 much better in the f2.4 - f4 zone (where I mostly shoot) because the backgrounds tend to be less jagged with the 1.4. So it again comes down to style. They are both super sharp lenses, and largely indistinguishable, close to wide open or stopped down past f4. The 1.7 is also a smaller, lighter lens, and tend to be less prone to flare, so cheaper does not equal worser in this particular case. It is more a question of style and preference.

Paper "if he could only keep one lens it would likely be his stupid FA 50 1.4" Bag
03-30-2012, 09:04 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by twitch Quote
I just got one of these from "heavystars" on ebay for my FA50 and it's fantastic
That one looks too short for a 50mm on APS-C. I have one of these and it doesn't even vignette with the DA 35/2.4.
03-30-2012, 10:24 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ikarus Quote
That one looks too short for a 50mm on APS-C. I have one of these and it doesn't even vignette with the DA 35/2.4.
The site doesn't say, could you tell me - how deep is that hood?
03-30-2012, 10:37 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by paperbag846 Quote
.. the FA will help you take home more keepers in my experience.
<...>
Paper "if he could only keep one lens it would likely be his stupid FA 50 1.4" Bag
My FA50/1.4 is my gotta-get-the-shot lens; and if the only-keep-one-lens fantasy-nightmare scenario ever occurred, choosing between it and the DA18-250 would be really tough.

We generally buy fast lenses so they can be used wide-open. Stopped-down performance is nice too, since that's where bokeh lives, etc. But the need for speed lets us overlook small imperfections. We don't buy f/1.2-1.4 lenses for edge-to-edge flatfield sharpness; we use them to grab otherwise-impossible shots. We don't necessarily buy them for subtle color renderings; we use them for action, low-light, thin DOF -- and because they *DO* perform well when stopped down.

Parallel: I have a Vivitar-Kiron 24/2 in PKM mount. It's my second copy. Like my first, the iris blades are stuck wide open. I should have it repaired, or try that myself. I also have a couple 24/2.8 lenses (Albinar-Sigma and Paragon-Cimko), and some zooms that cover 24mm. So if I want stopped-down thick-DOF 24mm shots, I have those options.

But I get fine photos just shooting the crippled 24/2. If light is too bright, I add a CPL. If my K50/1.2's iris were to stick open, I'd take the same approach, using a CPL or ND to cut light for reasonable exposures. (But I'd get it fixed pretty quick too.) These fast lenses just get results that slower glass can't.
03-30-2012, 02:05 PM   #13
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I used to own a hoard of 50mm glass. I had more than 20 at one point. The M 50mm f1.7 was among them. I'm down to two (for Pentax, anyways) now -- the FA 50mm f1.4 and the SMC Takumar 50mm f1.4. I prefer the former because it's autofocus, consistent and good. The SMC Tak is a little sharper wide open, and I prefer the bokeh a little more out of it. It's also usable with my M42 gear and K mount gear, so it's slightly more versatile.

The M 50mm f1.7 was a lens I never liked that much. It was sharp for sure, but I never cared for the overall look out of it. The bokeh it produced could occasionally come off as downright harsh. Since the FA 50mm f1.4 was just as sharp at any given aperture, there really was no reason for me to keep it. Unlike some of the 50s I've sold or given away (Sear 55mm f1.4 comes readily to mind!), I don't regret getting rid of the M 50mm f1.7 at all.
03-30-2012, 02:26 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by paperbag846 Quote
FA and M should give you roughly the same performance on a DSLR (the coatings might be a little different on the FA, but I don't notice too much of a difference). I did notice a big difference in colour saturation between the K series (close to M in age) and the FA, but not as large as the difference between FA and DA, so YMMV.

The biggest difference between the two is autofocus vs. excellent manual control (assuming we are talking about two 1.4s). The FA can be soft wide open for two reasons: 1) lack of hood (duh), 2) missed focus with a small DOF.

Sometimes, manual lenses make it hard to nail focus quickly enough (and it isn't so easy to see if you are in perfect focus with a dslr screen). On the other hand, the FA has a looser focusing ring, which isn't as smooth, so if you are shooting manual with the FA, it can be harder to nail focus than if you had the M! Furthermore, AF is not perfect (especially with lenses like the 1.4s), so sometimes it is actually faster to jump into manual mode and take over. In good light, however, the FA usually wins and lets you take home many more keepers.

So it really comes down to this: if you are buying the 1.4 for low light stuff, just get the M. The FA is just more expensive for very little gain. If you use the 1.4 a lot for shooting portraits in decent lighting / or generally anything in decent light, the FA will help you take home more keepers in my experience.

--

As for the 1.7 vs the 1.4, they are very similar at the wider apertures, but I personally like the 1.4 much better in the f2.4 - f4 zone (where I mostly shoot) because the backgrounds tend to be less jagged with the 1.4. So it again comes down to style. They are both super sharp lenses, and largely indistinguishable, close to wide open or stopped down past f4. The 1.7 is also a smaller, lighter lens, and tend to be less prone to flare, so cheaper does not equal worser in this particular case. It is more a question of style and preference.

Paper "if he could only keep one lens it would likely be his stupid FA 50 1.4" Bag
Just to stir the pot, the f1.7 and f1.4 lenses have different optical formula. The real difference between the 2 usually comes down to personal preference.
03-30-2012, 04:27 PM   #15
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I've ever compared all my M and A 50's. (2.0, 1.7, 1.4)
With a deep hood, I wound that they were all pretty similar in sharpness.
The 50/1.7 is a good deal price/speed/performance wise, but its lack of aperture blades does show in the bokeh every now and then (Hexagonal OOF highlights) and bokeh itself isn't as good as the f1.4.
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