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02-21-2013, 01:10 PM   #1
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Quality difference between FA and DA lenses

So looking at the user reviews there is a noticeable difference in overall ratings between the FA series and DA series. I know making generalities may not be all that accurate but the numbers are significant.

In the zoom category there are 20 FA lenses and only 8 with a rating of 8.0 or more. There are 16 DA lenses listed with 11 over 8.0. So the FA series has 40% rated over 8.0 and the DA series has 70% rated over 8.0.

So do you think this is because of an improvement in Pentax build quality, because DA lenses are used on APS-C which they were designed for, or because they are newer and get more reviews, or because of an improvement in coatings? Or some other reason?

02-21-2013, 01:16 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by jatrax Quote
So looking at the user reviews there is a noticeable difference in overall ratings between the FA series and DA series. I know making generalities may not be all that accurate but the numbers are significant.

In the zoom category there are 20 FA lenses and only 8 with a rating of 8.0 or more. There are 16 DA lenses listed with 11 over 8.0. So the FA series has 40% rated over 8.0 and the DA series has 70% rated over 8.0.

So do you think this is because of an improvement in Pentax build quality, because DA lenses are used on APS-C which they were designed for, or because they are newer and get more reviews, or because of an improvement in coatings? Or some other reason?
A single number isn't enough to evaluate the overall performance of a lens. While I believe that DA lenses will generally do better on APS-C because of their newer optical designs, there's a lot more to consider than that, and it really depends on the individual lens.

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02-21-2013, 01:21 PM   #3
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Could it be because most of the FA lenses, especially zooms, were just mid-late '90s crap? Take the F series for example. Only the 35-80 really gets any hate.
02-21-2013, 01:43 PM   #4
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The FAs are somewhat hurt by the multiple versions of the 28-80 / 28-90. Even if the optics are tolerable, they feel cheap. To me, the DA kit lenses feel better-built than the FA kits.

That said, so long as people make price a major factor in their overall rating, I think all lenses will eventually reach a steady-state of 7.5-8. If a lens is crap, it gets bad numbers, resale prices go down, bargain hunters buy it and say it's "a 10 at this price", overall rating goes up, demand increases, prices go up, it loses the "bargain bump", ratings go down, etc. etc. etc...

02-21-2013, 01:57 PM   #5
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I have an FA 43mm Limited and just acquired a FA 20-35. Of course my 43 LTD is top notch, but comparing the 20-35 zoom to my DA Limiteds in "feel" and construction I am very impressed with the little zoom.
02-21-2013, 02:06 PM   #6
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The standard DA's are sooooo much better in feel and build quality compared to the old plastic awful designs of the FA series (excluding the limiteds). I'd get myself an FA35 if it wasn't for the god awful build/design. This is purely my opinion so different strokes for different folks, but I couldn't buy any non-Limited FA's because of their build.

Optically, the primes were very good but the zooms (AFAIK) weren't top notch. Purple fringing is an issue with all of them on APS-C cameras since they were designed for FF.

I would still prefer buying a DA series equivalent (unless there is none) because of quick-shift, newer coatings, and build.
02-21-2013, 02:07 PM   #7
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From what I gathered when doing some similar research a while ago - there's a big difference between Prime and Zooms. I'm not interested in the FA series zoom lenses, but very much interested in the primes.
Or, I should say, some of the primes.
02-21-2013, 02:13 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
A single number isn't enough to evaluate the overall performance of a lens.
Agree 100%, it just seems that the FA zooms don't get much respect. And in general I guess I agree, I don't think I own a single one though I have a lot of F glass. No come to think I still have an FA 28-70 f/4 which I used a lot for awhile, very light and good range, just started carrying other stuff in the bag.

Mostly I guess I was wondering if there is an indication that general build quality is better with DA than FA on average. Leaving Limiteds and *lenses out of course.

02-21-2013, 02:15 PM   #9
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My thinking is to have a few good FA's in my bag to be ready when FF comes along.
02-21-2013, 02:17 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by GDRoth Quote
comparing the 20-35 zoom to my DA Limiteds in "feel" and construction I am very impressed with the little zoom.
I wouldn't be surprised to see it reworked as the DA Ltd zoom promised on the roadmap.
02-21-2013, 02:37 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by NitroDC Quote
I'd get myself an FA35 if it wasn't for the god awful build/design.
Huh? I own the FA 35 and will take its build over any non-limited/DA* in the DA line. My only beef has been the thin rubberized band that substitutes for a focus ring. Beyond that manual focus is very smooth and works well due to a generous focus travel. On the other hand, the build quality of your average DA lens is, well, better than similar-priced Nikon or Canon glass, but nothing to brag about.


Steve

Back to the OP's question...I suspect the ratings difference might be due, in part, to most of the DA lenses being purchased new and at a premium price. Most people are unwilling to admit that they paid big money for an average optic.


Steve
02-21-2013, 02:43 PM   #12
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Anyone who would like me to take their crap* FA24~90 off their hands please PM. I'll even do you a favor and pay for the postage.

I couldn't care less what my FA primes look like. They're solid, the optics are wonderful (the ones I own anyway) and they have an aperture ring so I can use them with a Super Program, too. Hell, I can use them with an LX or KX. And I actually like the looks of F lenses on certain cameras.

*Note the preponderance of PF ratings on the lens are strong 8, 9 or 10. there is a 2 from a 2008 review which drags down the overall since there are only 12 or 13 entries. Reviewer had a bad build lemon and rather than return for waranty, sold it to KEH. Not a fair use all around IMHO

Last edited by monochrome; 02-22-2013 at 04:52 PM.
02-21-2013, 02:44 PM   #13
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The biggest difference I've seen between FA primes (such as the FA 50mm 1.4 and the FA Limited 77mm) and DA primes (like the DA* 55mm 1.4 and the DA Limited 70mm) are:

1) DA primes usually have better edge-to-edge sharpness while FA primes are super sharp in the center and usually softer near the edges.
2) DA primes usually have faster AF.
3) DA primes usually have less CA.
4) DA primes are not specifically designed for full-frame sensors (although some have been confirmed to work on full frame).
02-21-2013, 02:53 PM   #14
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I find a number of factors missing to make the ratings consistently meaningful.

For instance, the lack of information about the reviewer's background and experience, especially with that specific generation of lens and type of body used. Many persons reviewing the F-generation lenses were upgrading from M- and A-class glass with equivalent camera body styles whereas the arrival of FA lenses was accompanied by a general change in the consumer population and experience with camera complexity and shooting modes.

Without actually having done the analysis, I'd expect to find certain rating biases among the reviewers with significantly different experience in BOTH bodies and technological functionality. Auto-focus and matrix metering and their effects on lens satisfaction based on image quality during the first few months of ownership -- when some reviews are submitted -- being examples of undocumented criteria.

I'd personally find a three point "recommendation" system more useful. One using 'Unsat", "Sat" and "Exceeded Expectations" with objective notes as to gear pairing and experience with that type of gear. That might also dampen the enthusiasm of some well meaning folks for offering hasty opinions and others for basing cost vs. value decisions on meaningless numerical values. It wouldn't be confidence inspiring to discover someone whose dissatisfaction with a len's AF performance was later posting questions about AF calibration procedures or metering modes for the body used!

The most useful reviews are obviously based on objective remarks with specific comparisons and supported by the scope and variety of the reviewer's submissions and general forum contributions with the gear reviewed.

H2
02-21-2013, 03:04 PM - 1 Like   #15
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Really good question

Can I suggest a theory:
FA lens reviews probably have been written by long time pentax users and they have had the lens for a long time, so their writeup is very sober and considered
DA reviews are written within weeks of the lens coming out of the box and the new owner is over excited (I am guilty as charged)
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