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01-31-2015, 08:00 AM   #1
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20-40mm Ltd and the 31mm Ltd ?

Perhaps this is simple LBA - but welcome views.

I already own the 20-40 Ltd. Bought early last year, I've been really pleased with it as a 'carry-around' lens - WR, zoom, great rendering. So pleased in fact that I've started to look at other Ltds. I've recently bought a 15mm and, again, I'm really pleased with it.

I've been offered a used 31mm Ltd at an excellent price (around GBP 650) and am sorely tempted. However, it is of course part of a range I already have in the 20-40. Does anyone have both? Do you still use the 31mm? Did anyone choose the 20-40 over the 31? and if so, why?

many thanks,

01-31-2015, 08:06 AM   #2
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i have both and use them for different occasions. The 20-40 is a bit more versatile but the bokeh of he 31 is nicer especially wide open. Get both!
01-31-2015, 09:15 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by kentishrev Quote
Perhaps this is simple LBA - but welcome views.

I already own the 20-40 Ltd. Bought early last year, I've been really pleased with it as a 'carry-around' lens - WR, zoom, great rendering. So pleased in fact that I've started to look at other Ltds. I've recently bought a 15mm and, again, I'm really pleased with it.

I've been offered a used 31mm Ltd at an excellent price (around GBP 650) and am sorely tempted. However, it is of course part of a range I already have in the 20-40. Does anyone have both? Do you still use the 31mm? Did anyone choose the 20-40 over the 31? and if so, why?

many thanks,
A good price would be 500 GBP. You can buy new for 650 GBP when on sale.
01-31-2015, 10:16 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by kentishrev Quote
I've been offered a used 31mm Ltd at an excellent price (around GBP 650) and am sorely tempted. However, it is of course part of a range I already have in the 20-40. Does anyone have both? Do you still use the 31mm? Did anyone choose the 20-40 over the 31? and if so, why?
I was in the same situation... I got the FA 31mm for less than 600 2nd hand... an offer too good to refuse... dont regret it

That doesn't mean the 20-40mm isn't good... its just I needed to experience the 31mm

I would still like the 20-40mm but I don't think I can justify both

If I were you I'd take up that offer on the 31mm it should hold its value well if you change your mind

01-31-2015, 10:42 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Driline Quote
A good price would be 500 GBP. You can buy new for 650 GBP when on sale.
I wish! Here in the UK a new 31mm will set you back over 1000 GBP. I've never seen it close to GBP 650 even in a sale.
01-31-2015, 11:00 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by kentishrev Quote
I wish! Here in the UK a new 31mm will set you back over 1000 GBP. I've never seen it close to GBP 650 even in a sale.
Oh, yea. Forgot. Europe's over inflated prices for Pentax Gear. My brother lives in London. I've purchased stuff for him here in the states, but he still gets zinged with vat tax and all that other crap us yanks don't have to pay.
01-31-2015, 03:46 PM - 2 Likes   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Conqueror Quote
That doesn't mean the 20-40mm isn't good... its just I needed to experience the 31mm
Yes, you do need to experience it. For me it was the hardest lens to get what I wanted out of it. But at times it was great. IQ is very good wide open - that alone makes it worth trying.


Its defining characteristic is that it's nearly impossible to tell precisely when (at what depth) objects go from in-focus to Out-Of-Focus. This can be either good or bad. It's good in that this lens' smooth transitions to OOF and smooth OOF rendering makes it almost impossible to get a harsh background. The downside is that you can't make in-focus images in the foreground stand out (appear isolated) as obviously as on most any other fast lens. If the background is far away it's obvious, of course, but not so much if the background is close or other objects are adjacent to the subject. This can require re-thinking your photography, unless mediocrity satisfies you. You can't just pick a subject and focus on it - you'll have to think about how the rest of the scene will affect the shot when this lens' unique rendering is applied to it.

Note that I usually shoot closer to wide-open. Most of my shots were between f/1.8 and f/4. It's a high quality lens that can do well stopped down to f/8, f/11, or beyond - see the MTF charts: Pentax SMC FA 31mm f/1.8 AL Limited - Lab Test / Review - Analysis I neglected this part of the lens' ability, and probably should have paid more attention to it. But many lenses can do well at f/8 or f/11. The FA31 is strong throughout the aperture range, which makes it versatile. Nevertheless, I think the main point of this lens is its wide-aperture characteristics. Possibly also its more "film like," not "digitally sharp" rendering (and even within film-era lenses it's very unique).


Watch out for these characteristics and potential pitfalls:

- I took some photos with it at a wedding photography workshop at Legion of Honor, at a spot overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Obviously the background was far away. My daughter said it looked "phony, as if I'd cut out the bride and pasted her against the background in Photoshop." How ironic that one of the world's best lenses has a natural character that made her stand out so well that it looked "phony!"

- Beware of front-focus. That's about the worst thing that can happen with this lens, and my copy had it. Either send it in for adjustment, or make sure the camera's AF adjust compensates properly. You see, with front-focus, in a typical shot everything ends up out of focus. But with this lens, rather than looking clearly OOF, everyone just looks slightly blurry and unsatisfying (e.g. with a family shot of a small group). You may not realize what's going on a first, and simply wonder why the lens is under-performing!

- Sharpness - at least the way I think about it - isn't really this lens' defining characteristic. But that doesn't bother me per se - I value other characteristics more highly anyway. Nevertheless, I found it tricky to make it produce what I wanted from it.

- Probably most importantly of all - Don't give up and take it off the camera! It can take good portraits - sometimes full-body portraits. What looks mediocre or uninteresting on the back of the camera may look quite good when you load it up on your computer. This problem is compounded by the fact that I've seen more un-interesting photos posted online from this lens than any other genuinely high-quality lens I can think of. It can take some work, and you can't even tell if you've been successful until later! So the potential for failure is real. It's not like a 135mm lens, which magically makes you look (and feel) like a good photographer simply because you can focus and compose decently while using a wide aperture. It's unlike any lens I've ever used. Sometimes I think even my FA Soft lenses are less tricky.

On the other hand, I got some fantastic shots with it indoors, like the one where my brother's kids were climbing all over him. This lens really came through. It ended up on his Christmas card.

It also seems very nice for video.


You need to get your hands on one to see for yourself. I finally sold mine, but I'm keeping my FA*24. I like the wider FL, and I just wasn't using the FA31 much. I might not have sold the FA31 if it were rare, but that's hardly the case! It really is amazing in some unique ways. Since it has good resale value, get one. You can even change your mind, sell it, and buy another some day!


Last edited by DSims; 01-31-2015 at 03:54 PM.
01-31-2015, 05:30 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by kentishrev Quote
I wish! Here in the UK a new 31mm will set you back over 1000 GBP. I've never seen it close to GBP 650 even in a sale.
Microglobe sells it for 689 GBP. And, from time to time, you might find a good offer in Amazon - check also the other European Amazon sites.
01-31-2015, 06:32 PM   #9
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I don't have the 20-40 but I do own the FA31.
Of all the lenses I own ( and I own a lot ) the FA31 the is on my K3 all the time.
Also, I also will never buy another lens without an aperature ring....the 31 is FF and has an aperature ring.
01-31-2015, 06:35 PM   #10
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I'm sort of toying with the idea of a 31 myself, having recently got the FA 43 and 77. But the rational part of me says that the value is not there at the prices it usually sells for.

You haven't said what the rest of your lens line-up is, or what you prefer to shoot. But unless you have a very full bag, I think you could do a lot more with that sort of money. 650GBP is about $A1250 at present. I got my DA 35, FA 43 and FA 77 for less than that in total. Or for another comparison, my DA 12-24 + DFA 100 WR + DA-L 55-300 for less than $A1250 altogether. For me, either of those combinations would provide a much greater range of photographic opportunities than any single prime, with very high IQ.

Of course your shooting preferences and your existing kit might produce a different calculation.

Last edited by Des; 01-31-2015 at 07:20 PM.
02-01-2015, 03:38 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Des Quote
I'm sort of toying with the idea of a 31 myself, having recently got the FA 43 and 77. But the rational part of me says that the value is not there at the prices it usually sells for.

You haven't said what the rest of your lens line-up is, or what you prefer to shoot. But unless you have a very full bag, I think you could do a lot more with that sort of money. 650GBP is about $A1250 at present. I got my DA 35, FA 43 and FA 77 for less than that in total. Or for another comparison, my DA 12-24 + DFA 100 WR + DA-L 55-300 for less than $A1250 altogether. For me, either of those combinations would provide a much greater range of photographic opportunities than any single prime, with very high IQ.

Of course your shooting preferences and your existing kit might produce a different calculation.
Good points. Right now do you want to get into perhaps the trickiest lens available, or could your kit do better with something like what's mentioned here? Because the DA35/2.4 is certainly easier to get nice shots out of, and it's very good wide open as well. That plus an FA77 will do more for most of us, I think.
02-01-2015, 03:48 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by DSims Quote
Good points. Right now do you want to get into perhaps the trickiest lens available, or could your kit do better with something like what's mentioned here? Because the DA35/2.4 is certainly easier to get nice shots out of, and it's very good wide open as well. That plus an FA77 will do more for most of us, I think.
Thank you all for the replies, especially DSims very comprehensive piece.

My current most used lens line-up is DA15, DA35/2.4, DA20-40Ltd, DA50/1.8, Voigtlander 58mm, DFA100WR. Also a handlful of 28/50/135 M Series. I guess maybe there is a gap at 77, rather than 31, but current shooting preference seems to be around the 20-40 range. But this may be because I sont have anything between 58 and 100! The 31 appealed because it is a length I know I will use, but the DOF looks a challenge to master, yet the rewards appear fantastic. Perhaps simple LBA is getting the better of me!
02-01-2015, 04:00 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by kentishrev Quote
I guess maybe there is a gap at 77, rather than 31, but current shooting preference seems to be around the 20-40 range.
It's a gap, but not really because of the focal length. It's because of the character and aperture of a lens like the FA77 or FA*85. That's what you're missing. I have the 100WR, and it's great, but it's not the same thing as having a lens like the FA77. Perhaps you need to have (or at least try) both the FA77 and FA31, but I can assure you most people will more readily get satisfactory results from the FA77. If you haven't had a lens like that you must get one.
02-01-2015, 04:00 PM   #14
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I have and use both, plus I have the 16-45mm. I prefer the way the 31mm renders photos, but sometimes I need that little extra bit of reach that the 20-40mm offers. The 20-40mm is nice when you just need to carry one lens. You are sort of limited with the 31mm unless you plan to only take certain types of pictures within a distinct focal range.


Another good reason for owning the 20-40mm is because it is virtually quiet. You can take it to museums, funerals churches etc. without raising eye-brows. Also, it is a great lens for shooting night-shots, because of the excellent flare resistance that is much better than on the 31mm.


Despite the advantages of the 20-40mm, the 31mm is the better lens. You get that easy-on-the-eye(some say magical) film-like quality instead of the clinical digital look of the 20-40mm. Unlike the 20-40mm, there is no light-fall-off and Vignetting with the 31mm. Although light-fall off and vignetting can be easily fixed in PP, it can get quite annoying if you have to edit a lot of pictures.


Tell you the truth, the much cheaper 16-45mm holds its own against the 20-40mm and in my opinion sometimes beats it when it comes to image quality. However, the flare resistance is not very good on that lens, plus it is a bit on the noisy side.
02-02-2015, 08:19 AM   #15
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So, how did I end up considering a 77mm when I started this thread (probably) hoping to be talked out of buying the 31mm? By co-incidence, the used 31mm I was offered is a silver version which, vain I know, does not interest me so much. However, I've just seen a possible 77mm.........
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