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09-24-2015, 11:24 AM   #1
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Prime 50mm f/2 lenses - A or M series?

Forgive me if this subject has been addressed many times here already, but I've tried to search the forums to find "quick" information, but I have not seen what I'm looking for - opinions about the A vs M series 50mm f/2 prime lenses. I've got quite a few Pentax K-mount SLRs and many have the SMC 50mm prime lenses on them. I do however, have many that I would like to get the 50mm prime(s) for and I'd like to ask if there is a general consensus that the "A" series is "better" than the "M" series. In my experience I've had quite remarkable results with both, but I know enough to defer to more experienced folks than I when it comes to lens quality comparisons!

Do you have an opinion or experience that makes you feel that an "A" is better than an "M"?

I'm looking at buying what I can find without spending hundreds of dollars, so I do notice that the M series are cheaper, but does that mean that the A series are "better" lenses? I do know that, if I can find them cheaply, the f/1.4 or 1.7 are preferable. I do have a couple of the f/1.2 ones and am surprised at the asking price on those! Obviously I'll keep the best of what I have/buy, but I'm gearing up for a mass eBay assault to thin out my collection (hundreds of cameras.. I kid you not), and I'd like to offer older Pentax models with a 50mm f2 prime attached, hence the question A or M?

If this issue is available already in another thread, I would love it if someone could provide a link to that thread!
Thank you in advance for your thoughts. - Mike Owens

09-24-2015, 11:40 AM   #2
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Optically there is probably very little to choose from between them - they appear to use the same optical formula.

The "A" series has the advantage on DSLRs that you can use the eDial to set the aperture, use all the camera modes (except AF) and matrix metering and PTTL flash.

The "M" series arguably have a better build - less plastic. But on DSLRs you are practically constrained to using stop-down meter in manual mode. Either through the green-button and/or optical DOF preview depending on which body you use.

Last edited by Not a Number; 09-24-2015 at 12:04 PM.
09-24-2015, 12:08 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Not a Number Quote
Optically there is probably very little to choose from between them - they appear to use the same optical formula.

The "A" series has the advantage on DSLRs that you can use the eDial to set the aperture, use all the camera modes (except AF) and matrix metering and PTTL flash.

The "M" series arguably have a better build - less plastic. But on DSLRs you are practically constrained to using stop-down meter in manual mode. Either through the green-button and/or optical DOF preview depending on which body you use.
Thanks!
09-24-2015, 12:44 PM   #4
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You should be able to find an M 50mm F1.7 in the $50 range, if that's what you'd rather get. But if the choice is between the A and M, I'd get the A for the added convenience it offers with regard to exposure.

Optically the A and M versions of the 50mm F2 are the same, and the build quality may also be the same depending on the year of manufacture. Remember that the 50mm F2 was essentially the old kit equivalent to the DA L 18-55mm, whereas the 50mm F1.7 was more like a higher-end DA 18-55mm.


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09-24-2015, 01:03 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by FlyingO Quote
Forgive me if this subject has been addressed many times here already, but I've tried to search the forums to find "quick" information, but I have not seen what I'm looking for - opinions about the A vs M series 50mm f/2 prime lenses. I've got quite a few Pentax K-mount SLRs and many have the SMC 50mm prime lenses on them. I do however, have many that I would like to get the 50mm prime(s) for and I'd like to ask if there is a general consensus that the "A" series is "better" than the "M" series. In my experience I've had quite remarkable results with both, but I know enough to defer to more experienced folks than I when it comes to lens quality comparisons!

Do you have an opinion or experience that makes you feel that an "A" is better than an "M"?

I'm looking at buying what I can find without spending hundreds of dollars, so I do notice that the M series are cheaper, but does that mean that the A series are "better" lenses? I do know that, if I can find them cheaply, the f/1.4 or 1.7 are preferable. I do have a couple of the f/1.2 ones and am surprised at the asking price on those! Obviously I'll keep the best of what I have/buy, but I'm gearing up for a mass eBay assault to thin out my collection (hundreds of cameras.. I kid you not), and I'd like to offer older Pentax models with a 50mm f2 prime attached, hence the question A or M?

If this issue is available already in another thread, I would love it if someone could provide a link to that thread!
Thank you in advance for your thoughts. - Mike Owens
Get a K55/1.8 it's an all around better lens than both the 50/1.7 or 50/2.0 versions.

Phil.
09-24-2015, 01:45 PM   #6
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He seems to be wanting the lenses to offer with film bodies he's planning to sell, not for his own use. The A lenses are more plentiful, and more useful to prospective buyers who desire cross-platform use on Pentax DSLR.
09-24-2015, 02:45 PM   #7
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All of this information is GREAT! I do enjoy recommendations for lenses to keep and use for myself, for sure - so Phil, I will hunt one of those K55/1.8 lenses down! - the other comment is correct also. I'm looking to have true SMC 50mm primes attached to the Pentax models (K-mount) that I intend to sell. I just feel that will result in a better outcome than if I have, say a Tokina or some other brand of lens on them - even though the other brands make some pretty great lenses! As a buyer, I am more attracted to an "original" set-up than a pieced together set. Maybe that's just me. But please keep your opinions and experiences coming! So far I get the feeling that the general consensus is that there's not much optical difference between the "M" and the later "A" series 50mm, and that the differences are feature-based and/or have to do with compatibility with DSLRs. I just won/bought a couple of 50mm f/2 lenses for about $15 each on evilBay. I think one is an M and the other is an A. I should really dig out my bodies that have my 50mm f/1.2 lenses and think about selling one of those bad boys. I bought most of my gear a little over 10 years ago and never paid more than $15 for a camera, and most often those cameras came with the lenses. I'm averaging $35 to $75 for those same cameras now. Granted, I have done quite a bit of small repairs on a bunch of them (light seals, shutter/mirror lock-up fixes, etc.), and I always supply fresh batteries so when the buyer gets it, they can load some film in and start shooting! I make sure what I sell are working and are in as good of shape as possible.

I know I never sought out to buy a 50mm/f1.2, but I've got a couple, or more, and the price seems to be in the hundreds for those! Thank you ALL! - Mike

Last edited by FlyingO; 09-24-2015 at 02:55 PM.
09-24-2015, 04:46 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
whereas the 50mm F1.7 was more like a higher-end DA 18-55mm.
Huh? Perhaps from a marketing perspective, but in that sense only. The performance of both the M and A 50/1.7 was top shelf at the time and still excellent by today's standards. Back in the day, the quality of the kit lens at least partially established the reputation of the company and only the lowest level cameras (e.g. K1000) were bundled with second tier optics. The notion of the "cheap kit lens" is a relatively recent concept.


Steve

09-24-2015, 04:47 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Perhaps from a marketing perspective, but in that sense only.
Yes.

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09-24-2015, 05:22 PM   #10
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Despite the consensus developing here, my experience (including lens tests back in "Ye Olde Film Days of Yore", and with more than one copy of each) is that the A is slightly better (sharper) than the M, despite what is supposed to be an optical equality. The M lenses are a bit nicer to focus with, but the A functionality is a real plus for the aperture automation provided.

For the purpose of using a 50/2 for a "fat lens cap" on outgoing bodies, I would think that the plus of A functionality would override the better build quality of the M version.
09-24-2015, 06:02 PM   #11
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Thank you fwcetus! This is exactly what I was hoping for - as is everything everyone else has contributed of course - but your opinion(s) about which is "better", even in the slightest way, is what helps me focus on what to look for. And I'm learning as well!

I must say though, that my purpose is not to provide a "fat lens cap for outgoing bodies" per se. Rather, I would like to encourage the use of analog film for young folks, for people who used to shoot film back in "Ye Olde Film Days of Yore" and such. I hope to sell/provide buyers with something they can use right away out of the box. I've been selling on eBay for 18 years now, so I know that I would make money if I were to sell everything individually, just put a body cap on and sell the camera, and put front and rear caps on and sell the lens, etc., but I am more interested in enabling new film shooters - I'm actually thinking of doing experiments of sorts by putting together complete "kits" including a bag, camera with prime attached, an extra zoom lens like a 70mm to 200mm, extra battery, neck strap... the "works", and then other smaller groupings to see which seems to sell the best. I just try to put myself in the shoes I've worn since eBay began - as a buyer - and sell what I would like to buy. Right now, trying to buy everything you'd need to be field ready gets very expensive, very fast. I'd rather miss out on $20 and help someone get into film than grab every penny I can. I know that's a crazy notion, but it's just how I feel. Everyone's opinions about these lenses are helping me tremendously and I do appreciate your time folks. Thanks once more! - Mike

I will say that it is becoming clearer to me that the A series probably has an edge over the M for now!

Last edited by FlyingO; 09-24-2015 at 06:04 PM. Reason: just adding thoughts
09-24-2015, 07:35 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by FlyingO Quote
I must say though, that my purpose is not to provide a "fat lens cap for outgoing bodies" per se. Rather, I would like to encourage the use of analog film for young folks, for people who used to shoot film back in "Ye Olde Film Days of Yore" and such. [...] I will say that it is becoming clearer to me that the A series probably has an edge over the M for now!
Agreed. I see that you have a far more noble purpose for the 50/2's than just "fat lens cap[s] for outgoing bodies" - please forgive my assumption.

I would certainly suggest the A versions, then.

If you are providing manual exposure (only) bodies, then I guess it doesn't matter too much. If the bodies provide Av (such as most of the M bodies), then it still wouldn't matter much. But, if the bodies have Program modes (Super Program / Super A or newer), then the A Program setting provides a nice beginner comfort level, and the beginners can then move on to Av or Tv, and later on all the way to "sunny 16", etc.

Good for you...
09-25-2015, 07:24 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by fwcetus Quote
Despite the consensus developing here, my experience (including lens tests back in "Ye Olde Film Days of Yore", and with more than one copy of each) is that the A is slightly better (sharper) than the M, despite what is supposed to be an optical equality. The M lenses are a bit nicer to focus with, but the A functionality is a real plus for the aperture automation provided.
I have found that out as well, my A50/1.7 is slightly sharper than my M50/1.7. However the M version does not have the plastic aperture assembly, so.....

Phil.
11-19-2015, 11:14 AM   #14
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Everyone has been great! I can't thank you enough for your insight and opinions! - Mike
11-19-2015, 11:29 AM   #15
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SMC Pentax-A 50mm F2 Reviews - A Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

---------- Post added 11-19-15 at 11:32 AM ----------

SMC Pentax-M 50mm F2 Reviews - M Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database
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