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12-31-2006, 11:32 PM - 1 Like   #1
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Review: SMC Pentax-FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited

This is one of three pentax limited series. It is supposedly designed for protrait use and it is quite a sought after lens across the globe.

This lens has attracted quite a substantial controversy over the years as it is often being compared to Pentax Fa* or A* 85mm f1.4 or Da 70mm f2.4 limited. Other competition brand fanboys often regard this lens as an enemy number one as popular photography magazine and other websites did rate this lens better than the rest of competition brands using various subjective testing and parametres.

Although this is a limited lens, there are certainly plenty of them around. Sure this is not as limited as it sounds in terms of quantity produced. There are many great protrait photographers like Scott Rylance (Geelong Australia), Darren (Pro Canadian in Taiwan) owning this lens and I know they are really busy to put up a review. Please offer your criticism and point out my mistakes without hesitance.

Appearance:

There are two colour finish: silver and black





Black colour is often preferred rather than silver as its re-sell value is higher on ebay. Silver colour is often regarded as more resistant to "paint loss". I own a silver one and I love it. It does not look odd to me having a silver lens on a black k10d body.

Specifications:

Focal length 77mm
Max aperture f/1.8
Filter size 49mm
Mounts Pentax K SMC-FA
Weight 270g
Dimensions 48mm x 64mm

Angle of view 32°
Min aperture f/22
Focusing type AF
Minimum focus 70cm
Filter size 49mm
Stabilised No
Blades 9
Elements 7
Groups 6
Mounts Pentax K SMC-FA


Construction:


FREE (Fixed Rear Element Extension) design

All metal construction. Contrary to the common belief, polycarbonate is more thermally stable than metal so the metal consutrction is not really an advantage to Fa 77 ltd compared to other Fa plastic contruction. Its AF accuracy is superb in deed but it does hunt a little in low light. Manual focus ring is smooth and firm. A beautiful finish from top to bottom. Really classic. Sluggish AF speed though.

Image quality:

Definitely sharp wide open, little difference in resolution with increasing aperture. Sharpness extends to the edge equally even wide open. One of the fantastic thing about pentax limited is this edge sharpness superior to other brands. In fact, the sharpness is never the reason why I use pentax lenses. It is the colour, bokeh and overall impact that pentax lenses render on the final images printed out on papers that makes me do the switch.

My personal experience of owning this lens tells me that fa77 ltd suffers lack of details and softening of images in harsh lighting with colour temperature > 5000K; Fa 77 ltd works the best in ambient lighting as it does enhance image colour so much more that it gives vividness and prosperity to the final images - I call it the touch of pentax baptism hehe

Bokeh

The common criticism of this lens is the bokeh CA, usually a problem with background highlights. Otherwise its bokeh is just impeccable against other lenes unless macro lenses are to be included in the comparison. (I want to own A* 85mm f1.4)

I have canon 85mm f1.2L and 135mm f2L. I prefer Fa 77 f1.8 because of its ease to use, compact size and light weight. Pentax limited lenses always keep its market value while canon lenses can only go down in values in 2nd hand market.


1) Semi-macro (1:4 roughly)

Used on floral shots, this lens is my favorite. Given there is a huge range of variety of Pentax macros available, this lens's floral shot might not be on the same par of these macros. Here are a few examples ...

Close up filters can be used to 1:2 macro. It is not a bad combination.

1/500s f/4.0 at 77.0mm iso200 full exif



1/250s f/1.8 at 77.0mm iso200 full exif




An example of Bokeh CA,

1/1000s f/1.8 at 77.0mm iso200 full exif



2) Low light shooting

I love to use this lens to do art abstract with a playful intent. Always aperture wide open and use this lens to paint with light - hence photography.

Examples,


1/60s f/1.8 at 77.0mm iso400 full exif



1/90s f/1.8 at 77.0mm iso200 full exif



1/90s f/1.8 at 77.0mm iso400 full exif



1/90s f/2.0 at 77.0mm iso100 full exif



3) Landscape

With ambient lighting, this lens renders green colour very well. As long as no harsh lighting within the frame, the images will not dissapoint you.

1/4s f/22.0 at 77.0mm iso200 full exif



1/8s f/1.8 at 77.0mm iso400 full exif




4) Protraits

This is my weak area and I hope someone will post their outstanding shots to back up the beauty of this lens. The skin tone is always natural like Fuji Reala film skin colour rendition. I cannot capture people's subtle expressions well.

This lens is really sharp; my mum's protrait photo was full of wrinkles even with aperture wide open. Sometimes being too sharp might not be a good thing...

Few shots here



1/4000s f/1.8 at 77.0mm iso200 full exif



1/180s f/4.5 at 200.0mm iso400 full exif



Handibility:

The cap falls off all the time because I screw on a B & W filter on for protective purpose. The paint loss risk is high as a result of this.

Small and light weight. At work, I whack this lens on the k100d body, snapping away people's X rays as records. Very handy!

Conclusion

Great buy if you can get one.

Contrary to what everyone thinks, the price is not a weakness at all. To get a similar lens like this in other brands would cost at least twice as much plus depreciation of value over time.

The only thing I might dislike this lens is the minimum focusing distance of 0.7 metre. This limits the indoor use of this lens ... Pentax 31mm f1.8 Ltd would be more useful in that kind of situation in deed.

Call me biased but I love this lens!

Other fellow pentax users who owns this lens. Welcome to post your winning protrait shots


Last edited by roentarre; 01-03-2007 at 08:21 PM.
01-01-2007, 12:54 AM   #2
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Just a few more shots to follow:



1/180s f/4.0 at 77.0mm iso100 full exif



1/20s f/1.8 at 77.0mm iso200 full exif



1/60s f/1.8 at 77.0mm iso200 full exif



1/180s f/2.4 at 77.0mm iso400 full exif



1/180s f/8.0 at 77.0mm iso200 full exif



1/90s f/1.8 at 77.0mm iso200 full exif





1/3s f/22.0 at 77.0mm iso200 full exif





1/90s f/1.8 at 77.0mm iso400 full exif





Happy snapping
01-01-2007, 04:34 PM   #3
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Very good review James. More indepth than I would have done...great job. I did start it, but got caught up with my brother comming down from Sydney.
I'll just add a couple of pics. Any yes, this lens is worth every cent I paid.




01-01-2007, 08:18 PM   #4
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Hi Scott

They are amazing protraits, similar to what I saw in shots done by Joe Mamma (the canon guy who is obsessed with only protrait shots in DPR - a fan boy of 85L, 50L, 35L and his protraits of his daughter are just similar to yours).

Their expression and personality are shown through your examples. Especially your daughter is just so adorable. Maybe I should hurry up having a few children for protraits too. hehe

I have waited for a long while as I have little experience with protraits. The protraits are usually done to reveal the intricate nature of a person - for the emotion to come through the photography.

I know Luzart and Mskad all have 77 ltd as well. Hopefully there will be more examples to see.

The reason I put this up is because of lack of information on line that provides reviews regarding pentax lenses in general. A google or yahoo search will find lots of sites comparing prices of the a particular lens but not much analysis regarding pentax lenses.


Last edited by roentarre; 01-01-2007 at 10:58 PM.
01-03-2007, 05:04 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by roentarre Quote
This is one of three pentax limited series. It is supposedly designed for protrait use and it is quite a sought after lens across the globe.
Hi James,

It's a nice little review you have made here!

There are however a few things that can be commented:

One of six limiteds rather, but one of (the first three limiteds) the FA models made for 24x36mm imageners.

The FA77 is not made for portraits. I'm not saying it is bad for portraits but it really is designed as an all purpose lens, just as the A*85/1.4. The FA*85/1.4 is made for portraits. Fred goes more into depth on this in his post over at DPR:
Two Brothers and a Cousin - the A* 85/1.4, FA 77, and FA* 85/1.4: Pentax SLR Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review

You mention the FA*80 and A*80 a couple of times... They really are 85mm as mentioned above.

QuoteQuote:
mistakes without hesitance.
Yes, I try...

QuoteQuote:
Its AF accuracy is superb in deed but it does hunt a little in low light. Manual focus ring is smooth and firm.
It should be mentioned that the AF is slow and there is no QuickShift. Manual focusing feels good for an AF lens and I guess many use it in this mode most of the time.

QuoteQuote:
Other fellow pentax users who owns this lens. Welcome to post your winning protrait shots
My Better Half - thread; the picture of Elisabeth is taken with the FA77 and I think it did what I wanted it to do.

In my opinion the FA77 generally is a little long for portraits. But that is different for everyone and depends on what sort of portraits you are looking for, and shooting distance preferences. It is an excellent short/medium tele lens. The CA is a little disturbing but can most often be fixed in PP when needed to.

Compared to the A*85/1.4... The A*85/1.4 has one notch better resolution, maybe also half a notch smoother bokeh. The FA77 is more contrasty though. Wide open the A*85/1.4 has even more CA but it clears away faster when stopping down than with the FA77. The size and weight of the FA77 is hard to beat though.

regards!
01-03-2007, 08:23 PM   #6
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Thanks Jonas for your comments. I had made some alterations but still kept some of the things the way they are so people will read your reply as clarifications.

Jonas, do you mind to post your Elis protrait here as examples too?

Much Appreciated for your feedback
01-03-2007, 09:22 PM   #7
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2 samples

QuoteOriginally posted by roentarre:
Thanks Jonas for your comments. I had made some alterations but still kept some of the things the way they are so people will read your reply as clarifications.

Jonas, do you mind to post your Elis protrait here as examples too?

Much Appreciated for your feedback
Thank you. No, I don't mind, here she is again:

Above: DS, FA77, f5.6, up and close


And another sort of portrait, in color:

Above: DS, FA77, f4, distant shot


...with a 100% crop to go with it:


regards,
01-04-2007, 06:59 PM   #8
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I want even more badly now! I placed an order (didn't take my credit card info, but will call when it arrives) the other day. Now I have to wait for one to show up in Canada!

01-05-2007, 03:52 AM   #9
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This is a great buy!

QuoteOriginally posted by balofagus Quote
I want even more badly now! I placed an order (didn't take my credit card info, but will call when it arrives) the other day. Now I have to wait for one to show up in Canada!
This is in deed a great buy. I have also used the lens with close up filters.

Some examples here:

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/post-your-photos/2084-attempt-floral.html




Good luck with your order

Cheers
01-08-2007, 03:09 AM   #10
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Here's my offering with the 77:

03-21-2007, 06:32 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by roentarre Quote


The cap falls off all the time because I screw on a B & W filter on for protective purpose. The paint loss risk is high as a result of this.
The green felt is very high end, but it does indeed fall off a lot!

A 52mm lens cap fits over the hood and holds very securely.
03-22-2007, 04:18 AM   #12
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Stop it you guys, this is too much for me .

I really want this lens, but I can't afford it at the moment. Seeing your bueatiful photos makes me want one even more.
03-23-2007, 10:30 AM   #13
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Thanks James (and others) but one question

Thanks for the comprehensive review James, maybe this should be also posted over the in the lens review section. I have one question. I have seen it posted (either here or over at that other place) that the 77 isn't as sharp wide open as the DA 70mm ltd pancake. And yes I realize that the 77 is f1.8 and the 70 is 2.4. Could anyone who has owned or used both comment on this? I've wanted to get the 77 for the longest time, but the 70mm is considerably cheaper and easier to find. Obviously a subjective opinion but I would like to hear which one is the "better" lens.

NaCl(if I win the lotto, I won't have to worry and can buy both, but...)H2O
03-23-2007, 10:55 AM   #14
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Nice photos! The FA 77 ltd is amazing! Argh too bad its out of my price range.

..and when it does in the future, Ltds may no longer be uniquely "Pentax".
03-23-2007, 02:47 PM   #15
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dark room, F1.8, first ISO800 second ISO1600


ISO200, F3.5
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