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01-22-2014, 11:26 PM   #1
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Revisiting the HD DA 20-40mm Limited

BACKGROUND

So I have been shooting Pentax for 7 years and a week ago I upgraded to the K3. In another thread, I mentioned that I also purchased a 20-40 and my preliminary report was that I wasn't impressed with the lens. But then I decided to be more thoughtful and less judgmental. In that same thread, I stated:

"By forcing myself to follow my normal workflow through completion of raw image development using Silkypix Pro, I am now better able to judge (vs just looking at tons of picks on my camera)..... The DA 20-40 is holding its own. It does exhibit that Pentax character in the images it produces. The bokeh is very nice, and it can be sharp and exhibit dimensionality, but not in every single image. This lens seems to have a gradually increasing sweet spot as you go from the upper 20s to 40mm. regarding noise, the 20-40/K3/Silkypix combo has resulted in some outstanding images (even with 1600 or 3200 ISO)."



I have spent additional time with the 20-40, but I didn't stop there. I purchased an FA31 to compare. The methodology was to shoot booth lenses at the same exposure (Aperture - 4.5, Shutter - 180, ISO - 100). I was indoors and used bounce flash to ensure consistent lighting. The 20-40 was set to 30/31 to match the field of view of the FA 31. The scene included various items (including stuffed animals courtesy of my daughters). Some were simple items with edges which could demonstrate sharpness. Other items were material and fuzzy (like fake fur) which could demonstrate detail. The scene also included a bunch of things about 5 feet in the background (furniture, picture frames, etc.). The 5 feet of distance allowed me to sample bokeh (alternating between focusing on the background and the main scene).


RESULTS TO DATE
The results are pleasantly surprising. At least on camera LCD, the images are very close. I notice a bit of difference in Bokeh, but not much. Specifically, There is plenty of detail in both. Both exhibit a great Pentax dimensionality. I still need to process these pics in Silkypix before I can judge others things such as actual sharpness, but not for the purpose of pixel peeping.

CONCLUSIONS SO FAR
This is tough. I have grown to appreciate the 20-40. It is a very useful focal range for me. The picture quality is great. I definitely prefer the quiet focus vs the screw driven FA 31. Given the cost, I never imagined buying both! But I know there are times I am going to need the extra f-stops of the 31mm....do I need it that much? Since I like a small kit, it means my 21 and 40 can't also stay. I will have to sell them.

WHAT'S NEXT?
I am going to keep shooting with both, under real world everyday conditions. I will keep you posted, and I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

01-22-2014, 11:46 PM - 4 Likes   #2
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we all make excuses to justify our purchase, especially regarding to lenses, it's OK.

Hi, my name is Lee, I have LBA too.

01-23-2014, 12:00 AM   #3
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Controlled addiction. 😃 I have been using the same three lenses for some time. Thus I am merely revisiting my option in light of an evolving world. In all seriousness, I wish there was one lens that did it all....
01-23-2014, 04:40 AM   #4
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Kindly shoot/compare the controversial f4 at 40mm :-) and let us know whether the asking price of that lens is deserving optically,

Thank you

01-23-2014, 05:17 AM - 1 Like   #5
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Great to hear. Every lens has a learning curve, where the photographer has to learn its character, how to use it best, where its IQ sweet spot it, how to process shots taken with it.. and only then do photos come out great. Its not "justifying a purchase" - its learning how to use a complex tool. I think this lens will get many more favourable reviews once more people get the hang of it. And once lens profiles for pp come out.
The trick is not to give up when the keeper rate is low at first.
01-23-2014, 07:19 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
Great to hear. Every lens has a learning curve, where the photographer has to learn its character, how to use it best, where its IQ sweet spot it, how to process shots taken with it.. and only then do photos come out great. Its not "justifying a purchase" - its learning how to use a complex tool. I think this lens will get many more favourable reviews once more people get the hang of it. And once lens profiles for pp come out.
The trick is not to give up when the keeper rate is low at first.
what you are talking about sounds like justification to me. A good photographer should be able to do something really nice with just about any lens, in my opinion, especially lenses which don't have any highly unusual characteristics. I have never heard any of the best professional photographers I have met talk about having to learn the things you just mentioned about their expensive lenses. It seems to me like the lens should work for the photographer rather than the photographer working for the lens.
01-23-2014, 07:21 AM   #7
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Glad to hear you're enjoying the lens. And like what Na Horuk said,lenses are tools and it does sometimes take time to figure out all of nuances to bring out the best. It's a brilliant lens have fun.
01-23-2014, 07:45 AM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by fuent104 Quote
I have never heard any of the best professional photographers I have met talk about having to learn the things you just mentioned about their expensive lenses. It seems to me like the lens should work for the photographer rather than the photographer working for the lens.
Interesting concept - lens as a tool that should self-produce perfect work, but it sure isn't true for framing hammers. There are $220 framing hammers for pros who know how to use them and $42 framing hammers that make things easy for weekend warriors. Of course the $42 framing hammers are brutes that require little technique, whereas when using a fine framing hammer, a practiced wrist and elbow snap are required to properly strike a nail and drive the head below the wood surface without actually striking the wood. A $220 framing hammer allows the best craftsman to perform this task with much less effort over an entire day of work than a $42 brute-force framing hammer.

It isn't clear whether a weekend warrior xcould produce clean work with it. But there you go.


Last edited by monochrome; 01-23-2014 at 01:10 PM.
01-23-2014, 08:10 AM - 1 Like   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by fuent104 Quote
what you are talking about sounds like justification to me. A good photographer should be able to do something really nice with just about any lens, in my opinion, especially lenses which don't have any highly unusual characteristics. I have never heard any of the best professional photographers I have met talk about having to learn the things you just mentioned about their expensive lenses. It seems to me like the lens should work for the photographer rather than the photographer working for the lens.
Well duh, you've also never seen a good photographer take a bad photo - its because they don't show you those. There is a reason why good artists and artisans never show you their failed work, their experiments, their practice work. And they don't tell you about all the doubts they had, about the failures. But please, if you prefer to believe that there is a thing called "being good" rather than processes like "learning" and "skill" and "improvement", good luck. Maybe some day you will find that special organ that makes a person a "good photographer" and the rest of us, born without it, can just stop trying.
Of course, someone with a lot of experience and knowledge, who has used similar lenses in the past, will figure out a lens faster. But this lens is fairly odd/unique, not many lenses like it, historically. (and thats not a good or a bad thing, it just a fact to accept) So its learning curve might be different from many other lenses. This is, in fact, what we usually call "character."
01-23-2014, 09:37 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by fuent104 Quote
what you are talking about sounds like justification to me. A good photographer should be able to do something really nice with just about any lens, in my opinion, especially lenses which don't have any highly unusual characteristics. I have never heard any of the best professional photographers I have met talk about having to learn the things you just mentioned about their expensive lenses. It seems to me like the lens should work for the photographer rather than the photographer working for the lens.
The first shots that people were complaining about were test shots or ones from obviously misaligned samples. When it comes to actually taking photos, the reports have been quite good.

This reminds me of the initial impressions of the K-3. The first copies showed up in Canada in November, the land of little light. It was raining for weeks, and the conditions have been what can be described as 50 shades of grey. Oh, it doesn't have pop, noise, etc.

That isn't the story anymore.

Last edited by derekkite; 01-23-2014 at 10:04 AM.
01-23-2014, 01:07 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
Well duh, you've also never seen a good photographer take a bad photo - its because they don't show you those. There is a reason why good artists and artisans never show you their failed work, their experiments, their practice work. And they don't tell you about all the doubts they had, about the failures. But please, if you prefer to believe that there is a thing called "being good" rather than processes like "learning" and "skill" and "improvement", good luck. Maybe some day you will find that special organ that makes a person a "good photographer" and the rest of us, born without it, can just stop trying.
Of course, someone with a lot of experience and knowledge, who has used similar lenses in the past, will figure out a lens faster. But this lens is fairly odd/unique, not many lenses like it, historically. (and thats not a good or a bad thing, it just a fact to accept) So its learning curve might be different from many other lenses. This is, in fact, what we usually call "character."
These are good points you make in general. The people I was talking about were teachers, employees coworkers, and friends, though, so they would be less likely to care to keep a mystique of perfection. I would agree with you in regards to photographers I don't know, though.
01-23-2014, 01:09 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
Well duh, you've also never seen a good photographer take a bad photo - its because they don't show you those. There is a reason why good artists and artisans never show you their failed work, their experiments, their practice work. And they don't tell you about all the doubts they had, about the failures. But please, if you prefer to believe that there is a thing called "being good" rather than processes like "learning" and "skill" and "improvement", good luck. Maybe some day you will find that special organ that makes a person a "good photographer" and the rest of us, born without it, can just stop trying.
Of course, someone with a lot of experience and knowledge, who has used similar lenses in the past, will figure out a lens faster. But this lens is fairly odd/unique, not many lenses like it, historically. (and thats not a good or a bad thing, it just a fact to accept) So its learning curve might be different from many other lenses. This is, in fact, what we usually call "character."
QuoteOriginally posted by derekkite Quote
The first shots that people were complaining about were test shots or ones from obviously misaligned samples. When it comes to actually taking photos, the reports have been quite good.

This reminds me of the initial impressions of the K-3. The first copies showed up in Canada in November, the land of little light. It was raining for weeks, and the conditions have been what can be described as 50 shades of grey. Oh, it doesn't have pop, noise, etc.

That isn't the story anymore.
I like your point, as well. When I have that kind of weather ok look forward to shooting in it, but I do see people who don't like working with that kind of lighting calling it "bad" weather.
01-23-2014, 01:13 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by monochrome Quote
Interesting concept - lens as a tool that should self-produce perfect work, but it sure isn't true for framing hammers. There are $220 framing hammers for pros who know how to use them and $42 framing hammers that make things easy for weekend warriors. Of course the $42 framing hammers are brutes that require little technique, whereas when using a fine framing hammer, a practiced wrist and elbow snap are required to properly strike a nail and drive the head below the wood surface without actually striking the wood. A $220 framing hammer allows the best craftsman to perform this task with much less effort over an entire day of work than a $42 brute-force framing hammer.

It isn't clear whether a weekend warrior xcould produce clean work with it. But there you go.
Yet another good point.
02-09-2014, 12:47 PM   #14
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I don't understand most of the posts here. You test a lens by comparing it to some other lens with as many factors controlled as possible. If the lens doesn't measure up, it doesn't, end of story. The better the lens, the less you should have to "work around" any issues with it, whether you're a novice or experienced user. It seems like the more a lens costs, and the more physically appealing it is, the more people want to make excuses for it.

I don't understand the framing hammer analogy either. If it's framing, why does it matter whether there are hammer marks? You're just going to drywall over it anyway. If it's important framing, wouldn't an experienced framer use glue-and-screw, and not use a hammer at all? Is there really a $200 hammer that any inexperienced person can't use with similar results to a $20 hammer? I'd really thought the main difference in framing hammers was fatigue (primarily for the operator, not the hammer.) Is the argument that if I hand a novice a K50 with a 17-70mm "consumer" lens, their pictures in the 20-40mm range should be superior to what they can, at least initially, create with a 20-40mm DA*? Why?
02-09-2014, 11:24 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
I don't understand most of the posts here. You test a lens by comparing it to some other lens with as many factors controlled as possible. If the lens doesn't measure up, it doesn't, end of story. The better the lens, the less you should have to "work around" any issues with it, whether you're a novice or experienced user. It seems like the more a lens costs, and the more physically appealing it is, the more people want to make excuses for it.

I don't understand the framing hammer analogy either. If it's framing, why does it matter whether there are hammer marks? You're just going to drywall over it anyway. If it's important framing, wouldn't an experienced framer use glue-and-screw, and not use a hammer at all? Is there really a $200 hammer that any inexperienced person can't use with similar results to a $20 hammer? I'd really thought the main difference in framing hammers was fatigue (primarily for the operator, not the hammer.) Is the argument that if I hand a novice a K50 with a 17-70mm "consumer" lens, their pictures in the 20-40mm range should be superior to what they can, at least initially, create with a 20-40mm DA*? Why?
This is also interesting. I personally would expect that a more expensive lens would perform well (optically) in a more diverse range of conditions (and I don't just mean weather) than would an inexpensive lens. I would expect to learn about the few instances in which such a lens wouldn't perform well, rather than learning about the few in which it would perform well. Those are my personal expectations, though. I haven't heard of someone buying a Canon 70-200 f2.8, then needing to learn how to use it because its images don't look very special in general circumstances. However, Ricoh is its own company.
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