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12-21-2012, 09:10 PM - 3 Likes   #1
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FA31mm f1.8 vs VL Nokton 58mm f1.4

Beforehand let me clarify. This thread is neither a rant nor a truly-detailed comparative study. It is a personal experience with these two lenses.

I purchased my K-7 about 3 years ago and the DA18-250mm was my first lens. It is still my 'workhorse' lens. My next two lenses (LBA) were the Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f1.4 (9.44/10, SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited Reviews - FA Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database) and the Pentax FA31mm f1.8 (9.62/10, Voigtlander 58mm f1.4 Lens Reviews - Voigtlander Lenses - Pentax Lens Review Database). Three years later, and with a few more lenses (LBA, LBA...), the VL58mm and FA31mm remain my favourite primes.

Recently I spent a few days in the Great Barrier Reef (Australia) with my K-7, and 3 lenses (DA18-250mm, FA31mm, VL58mm). I decided to use
the primes for a whole day each. Off course the lighting conditions was slightly different between these two days, but the weather was similar. I enjoyed working with both and I enclose two examples taken at sunset: the first one with the VL58mm, the second with the FA31mm.

This experience lets me reflect upon the two prime lenses (FA31mm and VL58mm) and my personal usage. I am not a professional. I shot about 32,000 picture with my K-7 in 3 years and I tend mostly to use the Hyper-mode (P) with auto-ISO. PS: I shoot outdoor mostly and my opinion may be slightly biased accordingly.

A few facts:
*The VL58mm is MF while the FA31mm is AF.
* Both lenses are FF.
* Both are fast primes (f1.4 vs f1.8); this is important because the K-7 is not at its best at medium to high ISO (ie above ISO 800).
* The focal length is slightly different, but it did not bother me because both work great for landscape shots of the reef.
* The VL58mm is now out of production, while the FA31mm is still in production.
* Pricewise, the VL58mm costed 40% of the FA31mm when I bought them. Nowadays, the VL 58mm can only be purchased second-hand and its price is closer to 50% of a new FA31mm price (during special offer).

My own experience now, and this is very subjective...

The FA31mm is the reference lens IMHO. Its focal length is very nice: not too wide, not too long. The IQ is outstanding. I get my best keeper rate with the FA31mm. Highly recommended.

What about the VL58mm? The VL58mm is very sturdy (more than the FA31mm IMO) and perfect for harsh outdoor conditions. The IQ is superb. While I tend to prefer usually the IQ of the FA31mm, the VL58mm is extra-ordinary (IMHO) in poor lighting conditions: e.g., fog, smoke, smog. In these conditions, I prefer the VL58mm. Lastly the VL58mm is superior in very-very-low light when the AF does not lock. The MF ring of the VL58mm is very smooth and easy to use, superior to the MF ring of the FA31mm.

In summary: both lenses are truly exceptional and their IQ is outstanding. The FA31mm is possibly my favourite all-around prime lens, but the VL58mm is not far behind, sometimes superior to the FA31mm.

Attached Images
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PENTAX K-7  Photo 
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PENTAX K-7  Photo 

Last edited by hcc; 12-22-2013 at 03:23 AM.
12-22-2012, 12:09 AM   #2
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Thanks - I found your observations very interesting
12-22-2012, 02:10 AM   #3
hcc's Avatar

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QuoteOriginally posted by Bob from Aus Quote
Thanks - I found your observations very interesting
Bob, thanks.

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