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06-02-2012, 10:35 AM   #1
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DA* 55 vs FA 77 LTD?

If you had a choice, which would you pick? Since being awarded first place in the Holiday Giveaway, I feel that gift card could be well put to a portrait lens that I do not have. I am not looking for nostalgic and sentimental defenses for either, but rather from those that have experience with both lenses.

I currently LOVE the DA* lineup, and I feel the weather sealing is a huge boon, however is that the only thing the 55 has over the 77?

I am looking for a portrait lens for pure image quality.

How does sharpness compare wide open? Stopped down? Bokeh between the two? Is 55 @ 1.4 similar in quality to 77 @ 1.8?

If you had to pick only one, which would be it? If you also had the DA* 50-135, would it be unnecessarily redundant? I have the 50-135, so would either lens be a waste? If that's the case, what is your recommendation? My lens lineup is in my signature.

Lastly, FF is not that important to me, so the benefit of guaranteed FF coverage is not a priority - I don't see a reason to ever upgrade to FF when the APS-C offerings from Pentax are this amazing in IQ and compact, but that is neither here nor there.

Thank you very much for your assistance!

-Heie

06-02-2012, 11:17 AM   #2
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I have very limited experience with DA* 55 lens (no pun intended here). Yet I own FA 77 for quite a few years by now. I think that FA 77 is excellent optically. Just today I was shooting some casual portraits of my girls outdoors - they came out very well. Since I normally don't publish my family album photos, here is another one taken on the same location:



It was shot at f/4.5 and believe me, it is very sharp so that you can see all the "veins" of these backlit leaves.

OTOH, I am absolutely certain that people who shoot with DA* 55 can post images that will far surpass my modest offering. In fact, I don't think that you can really go wrong with either of these lenses. Notice however that FA 77 has longer focal length and therefore the way it projects the world to the sensor of your camera is going to be different than that of DA* 55.

Finally, if you buy one of the two and decide it is not your cup of tea, you can always sell it either with minimal loss or even without any loss whatsoever on the forum marketplace and buy the other one.
06-02-2012, 11:38 AM   #3
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da*55 nad k5 are something best after fire, wheal and peanut butter.

My is razor sharp from 2.0, very good form 1.4.
One more thing, da*55 not extending during focus, inside outer barrel is inner barrel that moving visibly inside outer barrel back and forth, just put good filter in front of lens and get rock solid portrait kit. I do that with b+w multicoated that have declared harder coating than glass and for my opinion is rock solid and very convenient combo now.
06-02-2012, 11:43 AM   #4
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Quick Shift! The DA* has quick shift!

On a side note, neither is made redundant by the 50-135 as they're much smaller and faster. The DA* less so though. Which is the main benefit of the FA 77 from what I hear. By the looks of things the FA 77 has better bokeh, probably by nature of it's longer focal length. The DA* still has fantastic bokeh though. I prefer the in-focus rendering of the DA* but the out of focus rendering of the FA 77.

I yearn for the FA 77, but I will probably buy the DA* one day just because of the quick shift. Weather sealing is awesome too but quick shift is, for me, the best thing since the reflex mirror. I'm not sure whether the FA 77 has SP coating either, which is very handy. It probably does, but not sure.

06-02-2012, 11:50 AM   #5
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The DA*55 is my most-used lens. Its portrait-sharp at 1.4, decently sharp at 1.7-2.4 and razor sharp from 2.8 down. Its got beautiful bokeh, has no distortion and no vignetting issues to speak of. The WR is very handy, since I live in San Diego and spend quite a bit of time shooting beach portraits. There are two issues with the lens however:
1. It flares. If the sun is anywhere in your frame, expect flare. That being said, the flare works quite well for what I shoot and the only time I would see flare as an issue is in-studio, in which case I switch over to my tamron 17-50
2. CA can be a bit of an issue at times. It really only shows up in extremely contrasty situations and isn't too noticeable, but its there.

with that being said, the real advantage of the lens is how it renders skintones for me, they're simply just gorgeous with this lens.
06-02-2012, 12:11 PM   #6
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I can't comment on these specific lenses other than to repeat that they both have sterling reputations. I'll talk about focal lengths and apertures instead. You already have the DA*50-135 -- what focal length(s) suit you best for portraiture? Are you dissatisfied with what you can do with it?

I personally find that 75-80-85mm at around f/3.5 gives the best modeling of human features, whether on half-frame (including APS), full-frame, or medium format (up to 6x6) frames. Wider apertures are good if you want ethereally-thin DOF, like one eye sharp and everything else soft. I'll rig an optic as 75/1.4 or 82/1.2 for that effect. But for realistic portraits, around 80/3.5 is hard to beat. That's why I often use a 75/3.5 enlarger lens on a 16-35mm focusing helicoid on my K20D for sharp portraits.

A Fifty on APS-C means either a closer working distance or a different sort of portrait: 1/2- or 3/4-body rather than H&S or close headshot. (I use 127-135-150mm for further headshots or subject isolation.) I don't avoid 50-55-60mm lenses at headshot distances (about 1m) as I don't see perspective distortion there -- noses don't grow too long! But some subjects are uncomfortable with that proximity. Again, try your 50-135 at these focal lengths and see what you like.

Sharpness and bokeh: They depend. Bokeh of almost any lens can be finessed by proper lighting and background and distance. Sharp portraits -- well, sometimes yes, sometimes no. Back in the day, I shot (un)official portraits regularly. For official shots: sharp but not too sharp, and definitely thicker DOF. For unofficials: many of my fellow troops wanted every detail visible, every scar and pore and pockmark and sweat-drop. I'd use f/8-f/11 and a high-contrast film+filter. For them with their ladies, a much softer approach was welcome. "Brutally sharp" doesn't work with everyone.

One last comment on portraits: Lenses are about at the bottom of the list of priorities, just above cameras but below photographer, light, and subject. Great portraits can be shot with almost any lens, IF THE LIGHTING IS RIGHT. I have an old Kodak guide to studio portraiture. It mentions lenses exactly twice, recommending the equivalents of 40mm (3/4- or full-body) or 55mm (H&S). 90% of the material was about light; the rest dealt with posing and make-up.
06-02-2012, 01:38 PM   #7
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I own both and I am more than satisfied with both. They are both very sharp wide open, although from 1.8 I think the 77 is a little sharper than the 55 from 1.4. (but that could be since the 55 is 1.4 maybe?) Stopped down they become incredibly sharp with excellent image quality that I don't believe anyone could complain about unless they were dealt a poor copy. I did buy the 55mm lens before the 77 since it had weather sealing, so that was an important factor for me. Then subsequently I purchased the 77mm cause I wanted the longer reach and the reputation of the limited series. I also like that it has an aperture ring so I can use I on my K1000.

If I had to choose between them I think that I would pick the 55mm. But I hope I never have to because both are awesome.
06-02-2012, 01:44 PM   #8
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Hard to say. I would put the bokeh as better with the FA 77. The DA *55 is very smooth from f2 on, but can get pretty busy between f1.4 and f2. Sharpness is probably awash -- although the DA *55 is about as sharp as I have seen. Quick shift and weather sealing are pros for the DA *55. Builds are both good, but very different -- think traditional DA * build for the 55 and sturdy metal for the FA 77. Auto focus is not particularly speedy with either. DA *55 has a hood that is probably more useful for APS-C (but also a lot bigger).

In the end, it really comes down to a question of focal length. Which one works best for you. Tape your 50-135 at 55 and try it for a little and then at 80-ish and see which you like better. For me, the 55 won out, but I can understand a lot of folks liking the FA 77 better.

There are plenty of examples of great photos with both of these on the web (and on this forum), but only you can figure out which fits your style of shooting better. Good luck!

06-02-2012, 02:49 PM   #9
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You currently have 3 lenses with those focal lengths. Are you absolutely set on those 2 lenses? If I had to choose between those two, I would go for the 55. I had a DA70mm, and while a good lens, I found that I didn't use that focal length very often. I find it too long for indoors (unless you are in a hall) and it is too short for outdoors use. Of course, that is highly subjective. I use my FA50mm all the time for both landscapes and people shots.
06-03-2012, 03:26 AM   #10
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I would (and did) go for the FA77 due to its focal length and weight/size. I really like 77mm focal length, I prefer it quite often to the 85mm 1.4 Sigma which I also have. I've also had a Pentax 50mm twice but never really felt comfortable with its focal length.
I bought a FA43 as a supplement to the FA77. They make a perfect pair. I also love the 43mm. I prefer it to let's say 30mm. So first the 77mm 1.8 and someday, if you want, the FA43 as a supplement

Some examples for the FA43 Limited 1.9 http://pentaxians.iphpbb3.com/forum/viewtopic.php?nxu=40456504nx51499&f=46&t=875

and for the FA77 Limited 1.8 http://pentaxians.iphpbb3.com/forum/viewtopic.php?nxu=40456504nx51499&f=46&t=866

Last edited by zeitlos; 06-03-2012 at 04:12 AM.
06-03-2012, 05:08 AM   #11
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Original Poster
QuoteOriginally posted by Barbarosa Quote
da*55 nad k5 are something best after fire, wheal and peanut butter. My is razor sharp from 2.0, very good form 1.4. One more thing, da*55 not extending during focus, inside outer barrel is inner barrel that moving visibly inside outer barrel back and forth, just put good filter in front of lens and get rock solid portrait kit. I do that with b+w multicoated that have declared harder coating than glass and for my opinion is rock solid and very convenient combo now.
Can you send me a link to the filter you are talking about? As a person that NEVER shoots with filters unless it is a CPL, I am a bit skeptical - I really don't like using filters as I feel they degrade the IQ.

QuoteOriginally posted by Mareket Quote
Quick Shift! The DA* has quick shift! On a side note, neither is made redundant by the 50-135 as they're much smaller and faster. The DA* less so though. Which is the main benefit of the FA 77 from what I hear. By the looks of things the FA 77 has better bokeh, probably by nature of it's longer focal length. The DA* still has fantastic bokeh though. I prefer the in-focus rendering of the DA* but the out of focus rendering of the FA 77. I yearn for the FA 77, but I will probably buy the DA* one day just because of the quick shift. Weather sealing is awesome too but quick shift is, for me, the best thing since the reflex mirror. I'm not sure whether the FA 77 has SP coating either, which is very handy. It probably does, but not sure.
Hmm, I really don't use QS all that much...I guess I should start taking advantage of it a bit more...

And yes, the sealing is a huge boon for the 55.

QuoteOriginally posted by adpo Quote
The DA*55 is my most-used lens. Its portrait-sharp at 1.4, decently sharp at 1.7-2.4 and razor sharp from 2.8 down. Its got beautiful bokeh, has no distortion and no vignetting issues to speak of. The WR is very handy, since I live in San Diego and spend quite a bit of time shooting beach portraits. There are two issues with the lens however: 1. It flares. If the sun is anywhere in your frame, expect flare. That being said, the flare works quite well for what I shoot and the only time I would see flare as an issue is in-studio, in which case I switch over to my tamron 17-50 2. CA can be a bit of an issue at times. It really only shows up in extremely contrasty situations and isn't too noticeable, but its there. with that being said, the real advantage of the lens is how it renders skintones for me, they're simply just gorgeous with this lens.
Can you post some examples of these skintones you are referring to? I would love to see them

QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
I can't comment on these specific lenses other than to repeat that they both have sterling reputations. I'll talk about focal lengths and apertures instead. You already have the DA*50-135 -- what focal length(s) suit you best for portraiture? Are you dissatisfied with what you can do with it? I personally find that 75-80-85mm at around f/3.5 gives the best modeling of human features, whether on half-frame (including APS), full-frame, or medium format (up to 6x6) frames. Wider apertures are good if you want ethereally-thin DOF, like one eye sharp and everything else soft. I'll rig an optic as 75/1.4 or 82/1.2 for that effect. But for realistic portraits, around 80/3.5 is hard to beat. That's why I often use a 75/3.5 enlarger lens on a 16-35mm focusing helicoid on my K20D for sharp portraits. A Fifty on APS-C means either a closer working distance or a different sort of portrait: 1/2- or 3/4-body rather than H&S or close headshot. (I use 127-135-150mm for further headshots or subject isolation.) I don't avoid 50-55-60mm lenses at headshot distances (about 1m) as I don't see perspective distortion there -- noses don't grow too long! But some subjects are uncomfortable with that proximity. Again, try your 50-135 at these focal lengths and see what you like. Sharpness and bokeh: They depend. Bokeh of almost any lens can be finessed by proper lighting and background and distance. Sharp portraits -- well, sometimes yes, sometimes no. Back in the day, I shot (un)official portraits regularly. For official shots: sharp but not too sharp, and definitely thicker DOF. For unofficials: many of my fellow troops wanted every detail visible, every scar and pore and pockmark and sweat-drop. I'd use f/8-f/11 and a high-contrast film+filter. For them with their ladies, a much softer approach was welcome. "Brutally sharp" doesn't work with everyone. One last comment on portraits: Lenses are about at the bottom of the list of priorities, just above cameras but below photographer, light, and subject. Great portraits can be shot with almost any lens, IF THE LIGHTING IS RIGHT. I have an old Kodak guide to studio portraiture. It mentions lenses exactly twice, recommending the equivalents of 40mm (3/4- or full-body) or 55mm (H&S). 90% of the material was about light; the rest dealt with posing and make-up.
Hmm, some very interesting points that I appreciate you bringing up. As for right now though, I am mostly focusing on natural/ambient light before doing the whole studio thing. It's something I'd love to learn for sure, but I'd rather "master" ambient light before adding another variable to the mix (which comes with infinite variables itself...).

QuoteOriginally posted by Zaphodmonster Quote
I own both and I am more than satisfied with both. They are both very sharp wide open, although from 1.8 I think the 77 is a little sharper than the 55 from 1.4. (but that could be since the 55 is 1.4 maybe?) Stopped down they become incredibly sharp with excellent image quality that I don't believe anyone could complain about unless they were dealt a poor copy. I did buy the 55mm lens before the 77 since it had weather sealing, so that was an important factor for me. Then subsequently I purchased the 77mm cause I wanted the longer reach and the reputation of the limited series. I also like that it has an aperture ring so I can use I on my K1000. If I had to choose between them I think that I would pick the 55mm. But I hope I never have to because both are awesome.
Would you be willing to post comparison shots of the two lenses? I'd love to see them side by side (the actual lenses), as there is much talk of how much smaller the 77 is. Also, can you include the hood in a reversed manner, as that would be how I store the lens in my camera bag? Thank you.

QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
Hard to say. I would put the bokeh as better with the FA 77. The DA *55 is very smooth from f2 on, but can get pretty busy between f1.4 and f2. Sharpness is probably awash -- although the DA *55 is about as sharp as I have seen. Quick shift and weather sealing are pros for the DA *55. Builds are both good, but very different -- think traditional DA * build for the 55 and sturdy metal for the FA 77. Auto focus is not particularly speedy with either. DA *55 has a hood that is probably more useful for APS-C (but also a lot bigger). In the end, it really comes down to a question of focal length. Which one works best for you. Tape your 50-135 at 55 and try it for a little and then at 80-ish and see which you like better. For me, the 55 won out, but I can understand a lot of folks liking the FA 77 better. There are plenty of examples of great photos with both of these on the web (and on this forum), but only you can figure out which fits your style of shooting better. Good luck!
Excellent suggestion, I will practice with my 50-135 taped when I get the chance. Never thought of that

QuoteOriginally posted by cali92rs Quote
You currently have 3 lenses with those focal lengths. Are you absolutely set on those 2 lenses? If I had to choose between those two, I would go for the 55. I had a DA70mm, and while a good lens, I found that I didn't use that focal length very often. I find it too long for indoors (unless you are in a hall) and it is too short for outdoors use. Of course, that is highly subjective. I use my FA50mm all the time for both landscapes and people shots.
No, I am not 100% set on then, however I felt they might compliment my set a bit better since I don't have neither portrait nor FAST primes.

QuoteOriginally posted by zeitlos Quote
I would (and did) go for the FA77 due to its focal length and weight/size. I really like 77mm focal length, I prefer it quite often to the 85mm 1.4 Sigma which I also have.
Thanks for the comment! I will definitely add 85 to the list with the before suggestion of taping the lens. See how I like each FL.

Thank you all very much for the assistance, I really appreciate it.

-Heie

Last edited by Heie; 06-03-2012 at 06:12 AM.
06-03-2012, 05:32 AM   #12
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btw. I just saw that you're living in Bavaria. That's were I live, too. If you should happen to live more or less in my area maybe there's a change to meet so you can at least test the FA77 (and the FA43 and Sigma 85mm 1.4) with your camera if you want.
Well, just a spontaneous idea if you feel like testing

Last edited by zeitlos; 06-03-2012 at 05:45 AM.
06-03-2012, 10:25 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Heie Quote
I currently LOVE the DA* lineup, and I feel the weather sealing is a huge boon, however is that the only thing the 55 has over the 77?
Of course not. It's a completely different focal length. IQ, schmi-Q. Either you prefer the wider FOV provided by a 55mm lens and the perspective produced by the shorter working distance it requires to get a given framing, or you prefer the FOV provided by a 77mm lens and the perspective produced by the longer working distance it requires to get a given framing. These differences are *enormous*; obvious even in a small thumbnail. Whereas the IQ difference will never be noticed by *anyone* not pixel peeping from the original RAW file, and even then they might not see it or disagree as to which is "better".
06-03-2012, 05:20 PM   #14
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Hope these help man!

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06-03-2012, 06:40 PM   #15
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Just looking at that pic makes me think to myself, one think Pentax could do to differentiate themselves from other camera companies, include a Damn aperture ring on their lenses. You don't realize how much you miss them until they are gone. Ok, sorry for the hijack
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