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06-21-2016, 03:03 PM   #1
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New prime lens: Pentax DA 1:2.4 35mm

I was on the fence between buying a new camera and investing in new lens(es) for my Pentax K5. I did a lot of research online and talked to other photographers. The result was I decided to buy a new prime DA 1:2.4 35mm lens because all the reviews raved about how superior the images it produced over their kit zoom lenses. I have to say, I'm not very impressed. Attached are two shots I took, one with the 18-55mm Pentax zoom I bought with the camera and the other with the new prime 35mm. Both images were sharpened with the exact same settings in Lightroom (don't focus on color settings didn't necessarily match). When zoomed way in I can see a slight difference, but hardly enough to convince me it was worth the investment in a new lens, especially when my zoom can shoot the same focal length and then some. I feel like I made the wrong decision and should have put money into a full-frame DSLR or mirrorless. I don't shoot for money so I have to justify every expense. Am I missing something about prime lenses? Why don't I see a visible difference in these photos?

First shot: 18-55mm zoom
Second shot: 35mm prime

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PENTAX K-5  Photo 
06-21-2016, 03:18 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Honestly, felt the same way about my da 35mm so you are not alone. I have recently upgraded to the da 35mm limited and am waiting for it to arrive. Hope it will address the very similar issues you and I both have. If you can return it and see if you can find a nice used 35 limited. That's my advice.
06-21-2016, 03:21 PM - 2 Likes   #3
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For a start, the focal length is different, the exposure is different, and the colours are different, so detailed comparison is pointless.

Although the background is a little blown, I much prefer the prime image.
06-21-2016, 03:24 PM   #4
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Well bearing in mind that it's hard to do a proper comparison while having different settings between your shots, the second one looks CLEARLY better than the first to my eyes.

06-21-2016, 03:32 PM - 1 Like   #5
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It is a question of need. If you have not a need for a faster aperture single focal length you ought not buy one.

People buy primes for a specific purpose - if 18-55 is meeting your needs why buy another "normal " focal length?

Time and again the folks over in the Single In group have proved the utter competence of the kit lens.

Enjoy your photography and dwell less on gear.
06-21-2016, 03:35 PM - 2 Likes   #6
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From the exit it looks like the kit lens was actually zoomed to "28.1mm". Next, the kit lens actually has its sweet spot around the middle, near 35mm. You are comparing the kit lens at its best zoom, in controlled undemanding conditions.
Here are the obvious differences: DA 35mm has faster aperture, better low light performance, will AF in dimmer light. You won't see this in a well-lit test. Next is flare resistance - the kit lens will sometimes give you odd flares. The DA 35mm flares very, very rarely. Again, this is not something a test without demanding light conditions will show. You cannot compare a Porshe and a Dacia in a parking lot.

And I do see a difference between the two photos you posted. Look at the individual hairs above the nose. With DA 35mm they stand out, the contrasts are better. With kit lens, it is all slightly muddy.
Look at the basket - with the kit lens, there is fringing on the wires. With DA 35mm, there isn't. And look at the rendering of the out of focus areas. DA 35mm is slightly smoother (does not look like you are looking through a glass bottle). You said to ignore colours, but there would probably be differences there. (Btw, did you apply lens profiles? Like CA correction, diffraction correction, vignetting correction? If you apply these, then differences will be minimized yet again. Keep in mind that all "automatic" PP strives to neutralize lens character)
You cannot expect a lens to breathe magic into a photo of a stuffed animal in a white room, but there are differences. With this scene, the biggest difference would be if you used f2.4 on the DA 35mm and the widest possible aperture on the kit lens at that focal length. Then the DoF and bokeh would be more different. Or if you take landscape photos - the DA 35mm would resolve more detail, have less CA.

Now, the Pentax kit lens is not the worst lens ever, it is not a terrible lens. And in good conditions, in its optimum settings, it can produce good results, no doubt. The difference between it and another lens will mostly become apparent in demanding conditions and in capable hands. Just like with the car metaphor earlier.

Anyway, if you don't like it, feel free to send it back and buy an FA 31mm ltd, or Sigma 35mm Art. Maybe then you will notice a difference. What I know is, after I learned how to use my DA 35mm, I practically never use my 18-55mm.

Last edited by Na Horuk; 06-21-2016 at 04:38 PM.
06-21-2016, 03:44 PM   #7
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I think the kit lens is pretty good. Though, I think the main advantage as matt said is really the aperture. f/2.4 will allow you to shoot in many more situations compared to f/4. For that reason I almost never use the kit lens, and instead use a fast prime. Also you can get shallower depth of field. If neither of these is important to you then you probably won't be very awed by this lens.
06-21-2016, 05:09 PM - 1 Like   #8
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I ended up selling both kit lenses and replaced them with primes at 21, 35, 40, 50, 55, and 90mm.... have never looked back....

06-21-2016, 05:12 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
Next, the kit lens actually has its sweet spot around the middle, near 35mm. You are comparing the kit lens at its best zoom, in controlled undemanding conditions.
Here are the obvious differences: DA 35mm has faster aperture, better low light performance, will AF in dimmer light. You won't see this in a well-lit test. Next is flare resistance - the kit lens will sometimes give you odd flares. The DA 35mm flares very, very rarely. Again, this is not something a test without demanding light conditions will show.
And I do see a difference between the two photos you posted.
Now, the Pentax kit lens is not the worst lens ever, it is not a terrible lens.
Totally agree with Na Horukʻs comments. I do see the difference, and also the color rendition is much better in the prime. Perhaps itʻs not as dramatic as you had expected, but to my eyes, it is significant and well worth the cost.
06-21-2016, 05:25 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Alex645 Quote
Totally agree with Na Horukʻs comments. I do see the difference, and also the color rendition is much better in the prime. Perhaps itʻs not as dramatic as you had expected, but to my eyes, it is significant and well worth the cost.
The color is different because I enhanced it in one photo and not the other- which is why I added the comment to ignore color. My issue has to do with the image sharpness and detail. Yes, there is a slight improvement with the prime. And yes, I understand a bigger difference may be seen under more demanding lighting conditions. This wasn't meant to be a scientific comparison, just an initial test upon receiving the lens.
06-21-2016, 05:47 PM - 1 Like   #11
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My DA 35 f2.4 is much better than my DAL 18-55. There is some variation, so it's possible you have a great 18-55 and a sub-par 35.
Also, to really compare, make sure your settings are more similar. The kit was shot at f4 and the 35 at f5.6. Usually that would give a benefit to the prime, but your shutter speed was really slow which can cause problems.
The DA 35 is really nice, so I hope you find it's value!
06-21-2016, 07:32 PM   #12
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I had the 21 mm, 35 mm, and a 40 mm xs. All excellent lenses but I replaced all of them with the 20-40 limited after test shots showed the 20-40 consistently came out on top. Check the user reviews which will tell you to discount the forum review. I agree as the 20-40 has been a wonderful lens for me up here in the Pacific Northwest (we get a little moisture occasionally!), I also kept my 18-55 as backup but it is the model with the metal mount and weather resistance and takes surprisingly good pictures
06-21-2016, 10:09 PM - 2 Likes   #13
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+1 what Na Horuk said... I think that you are underestimating the DA35 lens.

I have DA35mm and I like it... I did compared to the Sigma 35mm 1.4 ART (have it but keeping it at my uncle's house as he needs to take pictures of his art works) and of course the Sigma is better in terms of resolution, but still the DA35 is really good. On rare occasions I need to get Sigma while the DA35 does the job. The thing is that the individual copies of the lens varies from lens to lens. I am glad that Henry's Store who had multiple copies let me go through several copies and choose one of them which works best with my body.

and here are few examples...





06-21-2016, 10:51 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by mattchoo63 Quote
The color is different because I enhanced it in one photo and not the other- which is why I added the comment to ignore color. My issue has to do with the image sharpness and detail. Yes, there is a slight improvement with the prime. And yes, I understand a bigger difference may be seen under more demanding lighting conditions. This wasn't meant to be a scientific comparison, just an initial test upon receiving the lens.
Sorry, I missed that about the color. Also keep in mind that what you see on your monitor will also limit the resolution compared to a print and the size of the enlargement. I am happy with my zooms until I start trying to make A3+ (13x19") or larger prints. Then I can a significant difference with all the details of good or mediocre technique and/or equipment.
06-22-2016, 03:51 AM   #15
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Another thing to keep in mind is the DA 35mm is one of the most affordable in the Pentax lineup. You can also get FA 35mm f2, HD DA 35mm macro, FA 31mm limited. There is a reason these cost so much more than the DA 35mm f2.4.
An interesting thing someone mentioned above is the lens variation. This reminded me of a thread where someone compared 18-55 lenses. They had quite a few, and some were terrible, most were average, and one was outstandingly good (it surprised many). While there is variation in any lens, it is usually bigger with cheap lenses. So it is possible you got a weak DA 35mm or a strong 18-55mm.
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