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01-14-2014, 12:49 PM   #1
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Sigma 50/1.4 EX vs. Pentax FA 50/1.4 and DA 55/1.4

Been giving this focal length a lot of thought and was planning on getting a Pentax lens with nice bokeh and AF for portraits and general shooting. Then I purchased the Sigma 30/1.4 EX on a whim... and I must admit despite the size and weight it is pretty amazing. I may have a rare example that doesn't require any focus adjustment on my K-5IIs. Corners are hopelessly soft at almost any aperture but center of the frame crazy sharp from 1.8 on, and the light-gathering ability for night and indoor shooting is incredible. As someone who appreciates Limited series lenses (having the DA 40 and 70) I almost wish it wasn't as good, because now I'm rethinking my whole setup...
So my question is, for those who have used the (even bigger) Sigma 50/1.4, is size/IQ trade-off worth it compared to tough competition from Pentax's offerings?

01-14-2014, 01:58 PM   #2
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I haven't had the opportunity to use either of the pentax ones to make a personal AB comparison but when I bought the Sigma I bought it over the DA* 55 because that was back in the day when SDM was considered dodgy and there was a minimal price difference between them. Now SDM is less of a concern but there is a huge price gap between them, especially with Sigma's new 50 mm on the horizon.

I don't regret choosing the Sigma and I get awesome pictures out of it but I am super tempted to try the DA* because as I have used more pentax lenses, I like certain qualities about them better - bokeh, ergonomics, and colors although they are slower aperture and not quite as technically sharp.
01-14-2014, 06:29 PM   #3
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That's interesting... I was considering the Sigma because of the seemingly excellent bokeh, in addition to sharpness. I also have the Super-Tak 55/1.8 and Helios 44M/2 lenses which have interesting OOF characteristics, but not having AF makes them less than ideal for most subjects.
01-14-2014, 06:40 PM   #4
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I have been looking at the same set of lenses the sigma the FA and the DA*55 and not sure what one but I am leaning more to the sigma but like I said I dont know yet

01-14-2014, 07:10 PM   #5
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I don't have the FA50, but I have the Sigma 50 F1.4 and the DA*55 F1.4

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/10-pentax-slr-lens-discussion/247858-pent...-pictures.html

The Sigma is the bargain of the two, but I prefer the DA* for the WR and the bokeh.
01-14-2014, 08:32 PM - 1 Like   #6
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If you settle on (not for) the FA 50 f1.4 be dude to check the marketplace here.

Hint. Hint.
01-15-2014, 02:51 AM - 2 Likes   #7
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The DA*55 easily wins here, though the Sigma has its virtues. What these casual samples (and almost any professional lens test you'll ever see, for some stupid reason) don't show you is how they perform stopped down by only 1/3 and 2/3 stops. Very few lenses are great wide open (and most that are cost $1000+ or $1000+++), but the sign of a top performing lens is how it does before it's stopped down by a full stop. If it takes a full stop to get good IQ the lens is marginal, at best. That's what's so impressive about the DA*55 - like the FA*85, it has very high IQ at f/1.6 or f/1.8. That's excellent performance, especially for such a fast lens.

BTW, the FA50/1.4 (or any of its F/FA brethren - I've owned 3 of the 4) can't hold a candle to the DA*55 until stopped down to at least f/2.8 (which defeats the whole purpose of having a fast 50, after all). The DA*55 (or the FA43, for that matter) is a much better choice. (However, in terms of usable images, the DA*55 is still at least a full stop faster than the FA43 in practice).


The DA*55 can have absolutely beautiful OOF backgrounds. But you also need to be aware that in a few situations it can create some of the harsher backgrounds I've seen from a lens (for example, some backgrounds with bushes or similar elements come out poorly - to the point of distraction, I think). However, IMO it's worth the risk for the high quality it usually produces. If you haven't already looked, please see the PPG for examples of both the impressive sharpness and image isolation at f/1.6 or f/1.8, as well as the harsh or busy backgrounds in (fortunately) only a few of the images.

PENTAX : Select a PENTAX interchangeable lens camera or a lens model

Despite its one potential shortcoming, the DA*55 is one of the most impressive, fast lenses available on any DSLR, especially amongst AF models.

The Sigma may have less defined OOF areas, with a more blurry effect. Some people prefer this. The problem is the IN Focus areas exhibit similar characteristics. Thus your subject stands out more nicely with the DA*55, despite the risk of occasional harsh backgrounds.

Last edited by DSims; 01-15-2014 at 03:33 AM.
01-15-2014, 07:38 PM   #8
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Thanks everyone for the advice. How useful is the 43/1.9 Limited compared to these lenses? That was originally my first choice, but then reviews of the uneven sharpness and finicky bokeh scared me away.

01-15-2014, 08:42 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by DonovanDwyer Quote
Thanks everyone for the advice. How useful is the 43/1.9 Limited compared to these lenses? That was originally my first choice, but then reviews of the uneven sharpness and finicky bokeh scared me away.
I've got the FA 43 and have not experienced any of those problems. It is without a doubt my best lens. That being said however, if I had the chance to buy the DA*55 I most definately would. I could see the DA*55 and the FA 31 as a lethal combo. A pair that would leave Canikon users shaking in their bunny slippers.


Last edited by Driline; 01-15-2014 at 08:48 PM.
01-16-2014, 02:22 AM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by DonovanDwyer Quote
Thanks everyone for the advice. How useful is the 43/1.9 Limited compared to these lenses? That was originally my first choice, but then reviews of the uneven sharpness and finicky bokeh scared me away.
I've broken this down before, but basically there are 3 outstanding 50ish Pentax K-mount lenses: DA*55, FA43, and K (or A) 50/1.2. Each is distinctive in a way that won't be confused with the others:


The DA*55 has the best sharpness and speed, as I've discussed, while sometimes having harsh backgrounds.

The K or A 50/1.2 (much like the FA31) is nearly impossible to get a harsh background with. It renders the most beautiful images of the three. But images don't appear as sharp - at least not between f/1.2 and f/2.

The FA43 captures the most vivid colors (but not unnaturally so) of any lens I've used (although the DA15 and DA10-17 come close). But it won't be mistaken for the other two. It needs to be stopped down to at least f/2.2, and really doesn't exhibit optimal sharpness until at least f/2.8 (Nevertheless, at wider apertures it has better sharpness and IQ than any of the F/FA 50s when used at the same stop). It also has average backgrounds. I skipped the DA40 because the FA43 was clearly better.


They're all great lenses. I don't think you should let anyone scare you away from any of them. Now you need to decide with your own eyes. Both the strengths and weaknesses will show up if you do a careful study of images taken with these lenses.

PENTAX : Select a PENTAX interchangeable lens camera or a lens model
Missouri River Sunrise _IGP0540.jpg photo - Frank Comisar photos at pbase.com
Full-size sample photos from Pentax 43mm F/1.9

Remember, the bottom line is this: If some of the images from a lens don't grab your attention and make you like them, you need to buy something else.
01-21-2014, 09:52 PM   #11
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Thanks everyone for the insight. Now I'm looking at the FA 77 as it may have the best bokeh of a Pentax prime that I've seen (well, at least on Flickr and this site...)
01-22-2014, 02:19 AM   #12
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First of all, I'd say stay away from the DA 55mm, atleast for now. since the rumours about a FF is no longer rumours alot of high end pentax users (aka the ones with DA 55mm and DA limited lenses) will change to the FF system and used prices on the DA 55mm and Limiteds are bound to go down (except the ones that will work on FF aswell, like the 40mm) So either, get a used sigma or FA 50 that will work on the FF system aswell (unless they change the mount) or if you have no intention to upgrade to the FF system keep cool and get one once the FF system has been launched and people start to sell of their old EQ.
01-22-2014, 05:55 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by discharged Quote
First of all, I'd say stay away from the DA 55mm, atleast for now. since the rumours about a FF is no longer rumours alot of high end pentax users (aka the ones with DA 55mm and DA limited lenses) will change to the FF system and used prices on the DA 55mm and Limiteds are bound to go down (except the ones that will work on FF aswell, like the 40mm) So either, get a used sigma or FA 50 that will work on the FF system aswell (unless they change the mount) or if you have no intention to upgrade to the FF system keep cool and get one once the FF system has been launched and people start to sell of their old EQ.
Just an FYI - the DA*55 works well on FF.

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/10-pentax-slr-lens-discussion/31629-da-l...ts-thread.html
01-22-2014, 12:02 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by JinDesu Quote
Good to know...
01-23-2014, 05:58 AM   #15
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Forget what everyone else has told you, and get the Sigma 50mm. The size will impress your friends and confuse your enemies.
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