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04-23-2012, 09:51 AM   #106
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QuoteOriginally posted by jsherman999 Quote
Well, there is this disturbing review, and the disparity between lenstip's and photozone's findings. Photozone (31's great!) tested a MIJ cop, and Lenstip (31's not great) tested a MIV copy.

It's of course not about Pixie Dust, but if the integrity of the lens has been compromised by weak QC, Pixie Dust would be one of the first things to drain out.

Quote from Lenstip's summary:

"...Comparing the results of the tested lens to those achieved by such lenses as the Nikkor 1.8/35 or the Sony 1.8/35 and taking into account the difference in price, it would be difficult to describe the performance of the Pentax in positive terms. Of course the question how representative the specimen we got for testing was might need some explaining as well – it was a new lens, from an official distribution channel, which had gone through the quality control process at the factory. The opinions of Pentax users describe this lens as an instrument which is very sharp already from the maximum relative aperture; our testing model was obviously not such a thing. It is also not completely clear whether the positive opinions concern mostly the lenses which had been produced previously in Japan and if they also concern the devices produced nowadays in a Vietnam factory. It certainly might be a problem because the laboratory results we got during the tests of other “Made in Vietnam” lenses such as the Pentax smc FA 43 mm f/1.9 Limited or the Pentax smc DA* 16–50 mm f/2.8 AL ED IF SDM also differed greatly from the opinions of users. It would be difficult not to go one step further and notice a significant decrease of control quality which took place after moving the production from Japan to Vietnam. Our statistics, based on a quite limited sample but still supported by the results of our tests, shows that one Pentax lens, produced nowadays, out of very small number of other specimens, is flawed; the fact that it also concerns the best and the most expensive products of this company is especially painful.
I can only comment that my MIV FA43 is like a fine jewel, and it functions flawlessly. There can be bad copies of lenses from any manufacturer (including Leica) coming from any country. My prior post was in response to concerns that the "pixie dust" was specific to MIJ lenses.


04-24-2012, 03:51 AM - 3 Likes   #107
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As a Canon, Nikon and Leica photographer I think I will chime in...

The FA limited lenses are all extremely good, the FA31 is simply a jewel, as is the FA77 - I never really warmed to the FA43, but that is because I only have one in LTM which I only really use on my Leica M8.2 - I was never comfortable with the FOV on the M9 because the framelines aren't really suited to it. But I can say on the M9 the SMCP-L 43mm f/1.9 Special is an excellent lens, optically it isn't as good at wider apertures as the Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH, but that is perhaps the best fast 50 on the planet and not really a fair comparison because it uses aspherical lenses.

The FA31mm f/1.8 ASPH is a clear cut above the 40 year old Canon 35mm f/1.4L, the Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 optically isn't in the same league as the FA31 - though the new G version of the lens certainly is. The Minolta(R.I.P) 35mm f/1.4 G was a lens that is very average in terms of performance - I cannot imagine Sony spending much R&D on correcting the multiple flaws in the design of that particular lens. And as for Leica, the 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH is simply amazing, but even the FA31 can rival it. The FA31 slightly edges out the 35mm f/2 Summicron-M from Leica when it comes to corner sharpness - on FF at least. I would say the principal advantage the FA31 has over all the aforementioned lenses is its overall sharpness across the frame and its high level of micro-contrast.

When it comes to the FA77 f/1.8 - I can think of a few lenses f/2 or faster in that focal range of 70mm-90mm that can provide superior image quality, but they are hideously expensive, all of them are out of production and therefore quite rare and often more trouble than they are worth to get the mount changed*. As far as current pickings are concerned the Canon 85mm f/1.2L is even softer than the FA77 is in the corners - the 85L is also a brick of a lens, and it focuses by wire like all of the modern Olympus lenses do**. The Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 actually has a few optical characteristics in common with the FA77: purple fringing - However the EF85 f/1.8 has lower contrast than the FA77 does, and considering that the EF 85 f/1.8 isn't an L lens you have to purchase the lens hood separately..which is a stupid policy. The Zeiss (Cosina) 85mm f/1.4 is just as bad***, if not worse than the Canon 85L when it comes to corner sharpness. The Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 G is superb but I prefer the rendering of the D version, even though the D version has a bit of a coma problem. The minolta(R.I.P) 85mm f/1.4 was heralded as perhaps one of the best portraiture lenses for 35mm, but the lens is pretty much unusable wide open on the A900 resolution and contrast do improve at f/4 though. The Leica 80mm f/1.4 Summilux-R which I use on my Canon 1Ds MKIII is extremely good, it has higher contrast and corner sharpness than the 85L but I would say the FA77 offers an equally high level of micro-contrast as the Leica lens does - at a fraction of the size (and cost).

You will note I haven't mentioned the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG ASPH or the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC ASPH - because I do not work with either lenses and for my purposes they are both inferior mechanically and optically to what I am accustomed to working with. Yes, I am prepared to admit I am a bit of a snob.

QuoteOriginally posted by Todd Adamson Quote
Most gearhead fanbois disagree with me, but I think the D had a presence which the G lacks
I agree, the original Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 D was derived from a sonnar lens design - every time I see a shot from that lens the first word that pops into my head is "Sonnar".

* Though in the native pentax K mount there is the FA* 85mm f/1.4 Lens which is absolutely first class, but unfortunately it has been discontinued for some time. The FA*85mm f/1.4 is impressively sharp in the corners - which is noticeable when compared to the Canon 85L

**focus by wire: meaning that manual focus is achieved by using the AF motor to shift the lens elements while the focus ring is electronically controlling how far forward/backward the lens elements are moving. And you get no tactile feedback as to where you are in the focusing range, the scantily damped focus ring keeps turning when you hit infinity or when you hit the MFD. Considering that I grew up with manual photography and properly made manual focus lenses I loathe lenses that use wire focusing and avoid them at all costs.

*** Though the original Carl Zeiss contax Planar T* 85mm f/1.2 Made for the Contax SLR cameras back in the 90's was absolutely stunning lens,and still commands prices upwards of $4000. The main difference between that lens and the current Cosina made Zeiss labelled lens is the loss of 1/3rd of a stop in aperture and the absence of the leaded glass that the original f/1.2 version used.

Last edited by Digitalis; 04-26-2012 at 06:17 PM.
04-26-2012, 09:48 AM   #108
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QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
I agree, the original Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 D was derived from a sonnar lens design - every time I see a shot from that lens the first word that pops into my head is "Sonnar".
Very glad to hear you say that. I'm completely clueless about optical design, and I've never know what words like Sonnar, Distagon, Biogon, etc. mean. But I know what my eyes like, and they loved the D, and found the G a bit flat, for lack of a better word. If "Sonnar" means anything at all that translates to beauty in my own eyes, that might explain why I am so impressed with the Contax Vario-Sonnar I recently acquired.

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