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05-23-2012, 03:14 PM   #1
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FA 31 vs Zeiss 28 F/2

Hello everyone, I am hoping to take advantage of the group's collective knowledge for some advice on these lenses. I have a K-5 and enjoy shooting with my 35 / 2.4, but I wanted to upgrade to something nicer and something with a slightly shorter focal length. I think the 28mm length is very nice for the APS-C format and I was originally only looking at the Zeiss 28mm. I think the FA 31 is a natural alternative and many on these forums seem to have very good things to say about it. The no-auto-focus of the Zeiss to me is a non-issue.

Any thoughts?

05-23-2012, 03:46 PM   #2

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If you want the Zeiss, you'll need to hurry, as it is out of production.
Popflash currently has one for as good a price as you'll find.

My own focal length preferences are different from yours,
possibly due to my conditioning from film days.
I like 35mm on APS-C, as it recalls my Super Takumar 55/1.8 on film.
On the other hand, 28-31mm on APS-C has always reminded me
of boring snapshot cameras ("point-and-shoot") on film.
So I went with the Zeiss ZK 35/2,
and have found it to be an excellent standard lens for my taste.
The ZK 28 and ZK 35 are both sharp from wide open, like the DA 35/2.4,
yet still give that special kind of rendering which attracts people to the FA 31 Ltd.

Focal lengths apart, the FA 31 Ltd does not have Quick-Shift,
and like any AF lens, it does not have the precise manual focus options
of a purely MF lens like the Zeiss. Your experience with the DA 35/2.4
should let you know whether that would be a downer for you.

Last edited by lytrytyr; 05-23-2012 at 03:51 PM.
05-23-2012, 03:57 PM   #3
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28 vs 31

I doubt that you will be disappointed with either lens. I own the FA 31 Limited and can testify to its being a great piece of glass. I have never used the Zeiss 28 but it also has an awesome reputation. If I am not mistaken though you will lose auto focus with the Zeiss lens. That may not be important to you. I use the FA 31 as both manual focus on my LX as well as auto focus with the PZ-1p and I appreciate the ability to work both ways.

I also shoot it on my K7 but with digital it turns to a normal lens so it loses just a bit of that wide angle magic that I enjoy so much on film.

This is really a great problem to have. If there is any way to do it you should try both lenses before making the final, certain to be expensive, decision.
05-23-2012, 04:29 PM   #4
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I'd also give some serious consideration to the Simga 30mm f/1.4 at half the price of either of those lenses.

05-23-2012, 04:51 PM   #5
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There is also the K 28/2
05-23-2012, 07:22 PM   #6
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I have FA31 Ltd for K5 and ZM35 f/2 for Leica M.
These lenses draw differently -contrast, richness and bokeh. Both are sharp.
I purchase K5/FA31 for the time i need AF.
If you don't need AF, go for the Zeiss. Otherwise FA31 Ltd is a very good lens.

All the best!
05-23-2012, 08:02 PM   #7
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Good Evening, From my view, you have a number of options here between the Zeiss / Pentax family of lenses. Overall, it is going to be difficult to really make a bad decision. Its all up to what you want and what you want to spend. Across the available focal lengths, you have to choose from are the 28 and 25mm, in terms of something less than your current 35mm. You also have somewhat of a choice of apertures either f2 or f2.8. You could go wider than 25mm, however both the 21 and 18mm lenses are extremely expensive.
  • 31mm - You can't go wrong with this lens. Sharp center, autofocus, it does everything.
  • 28mm - You have a couple of choices here, the "recently" discontinued Zeiss 28 f2 ZK or the 10 to 30 year old Contax Zeiss 28mm f2.8 or the Contax Zeiss 28mm f2.0 lenses. The Zeiss was discontinued about 18 months ago or so, while the Contax Zeiss was discontinued in 2005 (however production started in 1985). The Contax 28/f2 is famous - called the Hollywood lens since it is well liked for video and it is reasonably expensive. The real sleeper is the Contax 28/f2.8, which is an excellent lens and can be acquired pretty reasonably. The Contax lenses need to have their mounts changed using parts from Also, the Pentax K28/f2 is the same optical design as the Contax 28mm f2 lens (or the "Hollywood" lens that has somewhat of a cult following with the Canon folks).
  • 25mm - Pretty much the same story as the 28mm, however there is only a single Contax lens at f2.8 available.
Here is a "shootout" between the Pentax 31 Ltd and the Contax 28mm/f2.8Here are a number of links to the Forum's lens data base for the Zeiss lenses, and a number of individual lenses reviewed.A little over a month ago I acquired a Zeiss 25/f2.8 and I have 2 Contax lenses that I converted over the last couple of years. The 28/2.8 and the 85/2.8. I also have the FA 31 Ltd lens. To compare and contrast the Zeiss vs the Contax can be summed up as size and weight. The newer Zeiss ZK are absolutely beautifully made. You will never find a better made lens, however they are heavy from the all metal and glass material. Their construction is equivalent to the old Pentax Takumar lenses. The Contax lenses - actually comparing the 28mm via some reviews, are wonderful optically. Their construction mirrors the FA Limited series.

The one major difference is the newer Zeiss ZKs to close focus and their incrediable large focus throw (on the 25mm ZK its about 350 of a 360 degree complete turn). 180 degrees of which is focusing between 6 and 12 inches. The Contax lenses do not provide this wide focus throw nor the close focus capability.

A quick note here, Contax is the camera brand of Zeiss and Zeiss made all their lenses (in the later years they were made in Japan under license).

Also, here is a long running thread on Zeiss lenses.

Last edited by interested_observer; 05-23-2012 at 10:15 PM.
05-23-2012, 09:14 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Blue Quote
There is also the K 28/2
+1 for the K28/2.


05-23-2012, 09:16 PM   #9
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If you can manual focus well with the 35/2.4 on the K5 then you should have no problem manual focusing with either the ZK28 f2.0 or the ZK35 f2.0. The f2.0 will give you a brighter view. However, I found using a microprism focusing screen helps a lot. Most reviews found that both the ZK28 and ZK35 are slightly sharper than the FA31 @ maximum wide aperture, but the FA31 has slightly lower CAs. The focus rings on the Zeiss lenses are super smooth, precise, and addictive. The rendering and color of the Zeiss are different from the FAs. You can view samples and decide for yourself. Also keep in mind; the ZK28 & ZK35 are approximately 45% to 50% heavier than the FA31. If you do not need AF and do not mind the extra 150 grams then the ZKs are fine alternatives to the FA31.

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