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09-04-2017, 11:37 AM - 2 Likes   #1
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SMC Pentax-FA* 24mm f/2 AL versus Sony Distagon T* 24mm f/2 ZA SSM on Sony A7R II

I tested on Sony A7R II the only two autofocusing 24mm lenses with the speed of f/2 ever marketed: SMC Pentax-FA* 24mm f/2 AL [IF] and Sony Distagon T* 24mm f/2 ZA SSM, The entire test is available at my blog/



The test is in Polish but the captions under photos should be self-explanatory. Besides test photos taken with Sony A7R II, there are also a lot of photos in the gallery taken with a Pentax K-1. Below is the most part of the test summary in English, which can be found at the end of my blog entry:


Modern 24mm f/2 lenses - a happy medium or neither fish nor fowl

This is a test of the only two autofocusing 24mm f/2 lens models ever marketed: SMC Pentax-FA* 24mm f/2 AL [IF], manufactured from 1991 to 2004, and Sony Distagon T* 24mm f/2 ZA SSM, produced since 2010, via adapters on a Sony A7R II camera. Sony Distagon T* 24mm f/2 ZA SSM is a technically better lens: more solidly built, equipped with a silent AF motor with full-time manual override and some performance strengths over the Pentax. While in terms of vignetting and barrel distortion both lenses are well above average, with the Sony only slight edging the Pentax, then CA is visibly better corrected in the Distagon. Both lenses are resilient to flare and ghosting – a testament to the quality of both SMC and T* multicoating. Pentax also displays excellent contrast. Its weakest point is edge sharpness: fairly poor wide open and not really catching up with the centre – which is reasonable at f/2 and excellent already at f/2.8 – until about f/5.6. The Sony’s sharpness is much more uniform across the frame, and edges are good already at f/2. Sony has more neutral bokeh, but its technical perfection is only half of the story, and appears dull at times, while images taken with the Pentax have more character, most likely attributable to its imperfections, and some images taken with it look both warmer and more three-dimensional.

The Distagon can be thrown at any photographic task without hesitation, and it will always deliver technically sound pictures. In the case of the Pentax, one needs to know it flaws and use it skillfully. Near full aperture opening it will work well in reportage and portraits, where central sharpness matters most while fuzzy edges even help to focus attention on the main subject. In the range of f/5.6-f/11 the quality is excellent across the frame so the lens can be successfully used in architectural or landscape photography. The lens works very well on Pentax K-1, and it can join the trio of Limited primes. I can recommend it to K-1 users, but finding one is not easy.

On Sony A7R II the usefulness of the Pentax lens is restricted by sometimes poor quality of adapters – it took me a whole day to blacken mine inside as it was reflecting silver bayonet mount back to the sensor, ruining almost every shot. On the other hand the Distagon works perfectly via LA-EA3 on Sony A7R II.

Now back to the question asked in the title of the test: does a 24mm lens with the speed between lightweight and tiny f/2.8 optics and ultrafast f/1,4 ones make any sense? Definitely yes, if it is of Sony Distagon T* 24 mm f/2 ZA SSM quality. Its combination of price, built and image quality is attractive, while sensor stabilization built in such cameras as Sony a99 II or A7R II offsets the one-stop advantage of 24mm f/1.4 lenses made by Canon or Nikon.

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09-04-2017, 12:05 PM   #2
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Fascinating...

I know I'm biased, especially since I owned that lens for over 20 years, but I think the Pentax blows the Zeiss away, personally. I like 90% of the Pentax images better that the Zeiss, and the colour rendition is vastly superior, IMHO.

Thanks,
Cameron
09-04-2017, 12:07 PM   #3
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Thanks for posting this. Very interesting, though not too surprising given the respective ages of the lenses in question

Of all the lenses I own, my absolute favourite - optically, at least - is my Sony Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 24-70mm F/2.8 ZA SSM in A-mount. For a zoom lens, it's quite outstanding, and I can only imagine the primes like this Distagon T* 24mm are better still. The only real downside of the 24-70 is its weight, which is to be expected given the fast constant aperture and exceptional build quality... but still, it's a not a lens I'm happy to carry all day (either on my camera, or in my shoulder bag). Often, I'm happier shooting with a humble Tamron 28-75 f/2.8, simply because it's so light
09-04-2017, 12:12 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by JaroslawBrzezinski Quote
Now back to the question asked in the title of the test: does a 24mm lens with the speed between lightweight and tiny f/2.8 optics and ultrafast f/1,4 ones make any sense? Definitely yes, if it is of Sony Distagon T* 24 mm f/2 ZA SSM quality. Its combination of price, built and image quality is attractive, while sensor stabilization built in such cameras as Sony a99 II or A7R II offsets the one-stop advantage of 24mm f/1.4 lenses made by Canon or Nikon.
You have a strange way to qualify a wide angle lens. Practically, the most use on a fast 24mm on FF is to shoot night skies, and you never use image stab over a 2 minutes exposure on a tripod. Do you use a 24mm @f2 indoors, with or without image stabilization, nope, at f2 even f4, the DoF make it 50% in focus without really have any decent bokeh (if that's the intention). For landscape it's the same, you want everything in focus, f2 is pretty useless. However, 24mm f1.4 is very nice to have for photographying night skies, and you don't need autofocus for that, a Samyang 24 f1.4 is all right and cheaper than both the Zeiss and the FA*24.

09-04-2017, 01:06 PM   #5
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Interesting assessment but what is the address of your blog ?

I am biased too. I aquired my FA*24mm 10 years ago and love it. There is a sense of occasion when I fit a classic lens like this to the camera.

Two real world examples from a recent trip, one taken at f2.0 and one at f11

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09-04-2017, 01:40 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Cambo Quote
I know I'm biased, especially since I owned that lens for over 20 years, but I think the Pentax blows the Zeiss away, personally. I like 90% of the Pentax images better that the Zeiss, and the colour rendition is vastly superior, IMHO.

Thanks,
Cameron


And those are my findings too. DIstagon is better, but I prefer Pentax rendition.
Best
Jarek

---------- Post added 09-04-17 at 01:41 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by pschlute Quote
Interesting assessment but what is the address of your blog ?

I am biased too. I aquired my FA*24mm 10 years ago and love it. There is a sense of occasion when I fit a classic lens like this to the camera.

Two real world examples from a recent trip, one taken at f2.0 and one at f11


Towarzystwo Nieustraszonych Soczewek: Wspó?czesne obiektywy 24 mm f/2 - z?oty ?rodek, czy ni pies, ni wydra, co? na kszta?t ?widra

---------- Post added 09-04-17 at 01:44 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
Thanks for posting this. Very interesting, though not too surprising given the respective ages of the lenses in question

Of all the lenses I own, my absolute favourite - optically, at least - is my Sony Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 24-70mm F/2.8 ZA SSM in A-mount. For a zoom lens, it's quite outstanding, and I can only imagine the primes like this Distagon T* 24mm are better still. The only real downside of the 24-70 is its weight, which is to be expected given the fast constant aperture and exceptional build quality... but still, it's a not a lens I'm happy to carry all day (either on my camera, or in my shoulder bag). Often, I'm happier shooting with a humble Tamron 28-75 f/2.8, simply because it's so light


Yes, this is the case of "newer is better" but i love the images taken with the Pentax.
Best

---------- Post added 09-04-17 at 01:50 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
You have a strange way to qualify a wide angle lens. Practically, the most use on a fast 24mm on FF is to shoot night skies, and you never use image stab over a 2 minutes exposure on a tripod. Do you use a 24mm @f2 indoors, with or without image stabilization, nope, at f2 even f4, the DoF make it 50% in focus without really have any decent bokeh (if that's the intention). For landscape it's the same, you want everything in focus, f2 is pretty useless. However, 24mm f1.4 is very nice to have for photographying night skies, and you don't need autofocus for that, a Samyang 24 f1.4 is all right and cheaper than both the Zeiss and the FA*24.


Well, I have used fast wide angle lenses wide open many times in tight interiors to isolate poeple or to take close-up portraits of pets outside with vast but defocused backgrounds.
Best

---------- Post added 09-04-17 at 01:52 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by pschlute Quote
Interesting assessment but what is the address of your blog ?

I am biased too. I aquired my FA*24mm 10 years ago and love it. There is a sense of occasion when I fit a classic lens like this to the camera.

Two real world examples from a recent trip, one taken at f2.0 and one at f11
BTW love your images - they show how diverse topics can be covered with a wide angle lens.
Best
09-04-2017, 01:58 PM   #7
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Thank you
09-04-2017, 06:40 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by JaroslawBrzezinski Quote
I tested on Sony A7R II the only two autofocusing 24mm lenses with the speed of f/2 ever marketed: SMC Pentax-FA* 24mm f/2 AL [IF] and Sony Distagon T* 24mm f/2 ZA SSM, The entire test is available at my blog/
I had the FA*24/2 and the A7 and then the A7 Kolari modded.
The additional thing to add is that the thick filter stack of the A7 line of cameras does make the FA*24 worse at the off center.

That said, I generally find that the FA*24 seems more of a "street" photographer's lens than a landscaper's lens.
Meaning that its combination of shallowish DOF, contrast and stronger center sharpness as well as curvature adds pop to an image, while its not as good as a edge to edge sharp landscape lens.
(which is the reason I sold it)

The FA*24/2 is already not a small lens for my preference and the Zeiss is bigger (so that another point that is seldom touched on in reviews)

09-04-2017, 09:46 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by pinholecam Quote
That said, I generally find that the FA*24 seems more of a "street" photographer's lens than a landscaper's lens.
Meaning that its combination of shallowish DOF, contrast and stronger center sharpness as well as curvature adds pop to an image, while its not as good as a edge to edge sharp landscape lens.
(which is the reason I sold it)
You need to really stop it down to f/11 for the corners to be ok. They're pretty mush at f/5.6 even. The distortion is pretty obvious too. It does also fringe LIKE CRAZY at low apertures. But it's pretty cool around f/10.
09-04-2017, 10:30 PM   #10
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I use the DFA24-70 @ 24mm@f2.8, not only it is sharp wide open by today standards, but the 4 stops of stabilization of the K1 sensor stabilization makes the f2.8 becomes f1.0, AND I can benefit from the continuum of focal length choices from 24mm to 70mm. Therefore I am not interested in buying either the old FA*24 2, not the Sony system. If it was for photography stars with astrotracer, I'd not be interested in a FA*24 or Sony Zeiss f2, because those would only be one stop faster than the zoom, I'd be interested to spent money to gain 2 stops of light over the DFA zoom, in that case currently it would be the Samyang 24 1.4 because it is manual focus (no problem in low light), sharp and must cheaper than any Zeiss lens.
09-05-2017, 04:08 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by pinholecam Quote
I had the FA*24/2 and the A7 and then the A7 Kolari modded.
The additional thing to add is that the thick filter stack of the A7 line of cameras does make the FA*24 worse at the off center.

That said, I generally find that the FA*24 seems more of a "street" photographer's lens than a landscaper's lens.
Meaning that its combination of shallowish DOF, contrast and stronger center sharpness as well as curvature adds pop to an image, while its not as good as a edge to edge sharp landscape lens.
(which is the reason I sold it)

The FA*24/2 is already not a small lens for my preference and the Zeiss is bigger (so that another point that is seldom touched on in reviews)


Yes, I am aware of the issue of thick filter stack in A7 series cameras contributing to deterioration of edge sharpness in wide angle lenses. This is particularly so in rangefinder lenses - e.g. Contac G. And I agree that Pentax FA 24mm f/2 excels as a street camera. I don't find its size a problem but of course YMMV.
Best

---------- Post added 09-05-17 at 04:12 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
I use the DFA24-70 @ 24mm@f2.8, not only it is sharp wide open by today standards, but the 4 stops of stabilization of the K1 sensor stabilization makes the f2.8 becomes f1.0, AND I can benefit from the continuum of focal length choices from 24mm to 70mm. Therefore I am not interested in buying either the old FA*24 2, not the Sony system. If it was for photography stars with astrotracer, I'd not be interested in a FA*24 or Sony Zeiss f2, because those would only be one stop faster than the zoom, I'd be interested to spent money to gain 2 stops of light over the DFA zoom, in that case currently it would be the Samyang 24 1.4 because it is manual focus (no problem in low light), sharp and must cheaper than any Zeiss lens.
I understand your points and in terms of value for money the Samyang can't be beat. For your uses the Pentax FA 24mm f/2 brings nothing "to the table". ButI find something endearing in its "draw". To each their own.
Best
09-05-2017, 06:34 AM   #12
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A useful and insightful test. I bought my second FA*24 for sentimental reasons, having enjoyed my first copy on film through a PZ-1p. I think it's just a really good looking lens and very unique, even in the "old" Pentax lineup. On digital, I process my DNG's in-camera as "reversal film" and then lighten the shadows somewhat.

PS off topic -- Was there a thread here once on someone who rebuilds DA15's freelance?
09-05-2017, 08:25 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marktax Quote
PS off topic -- Was there a thread here once on someone who rebuilds DA15's freelance?
I'd recommend starting a new thread to ask that. It keeps this thread on topic, and makes your question more visible to our wider membership
09-05-2017, 09:07 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by pinholecam Quote
I had the FA*24/2 and the A7 and then the A7 Kolari modded.
The additional thing to add is that the thick filter stack of the A7 line of cameras does make the FA*24 worse at the off center.

That said, I generally find that the FA*24 seems more of a "street" photographer's lens than a landscaper's lens.
Meaning that its combination of shallowish DOF, contrast and stronger center sharpness as well as curvature adds pop to an image, while its not as good as a edge to edge sharp landscape lens.
(which is the reason I sold it)

The FA*24/2 is already not a small lens for my preference and the Zeiss is bigger (so that another point that is seldom touched on in reviews)
I have some magnificent landscapes from that lens, especially from the film days. I remember when I first got it, as I also owned the F series 28mm at the time. Getting my first roll of film back, I was SHOCKED by how different it was - colour, resolution, sharpness, clarity, contrast; all great attributes of this magnificent lens.

For it to even hold it's own against a $1400.00 US ($1850.00 Can) brand new Zeiss computer-designed and controlled optic is remarkable - to have blown it away as it has shows the strength and the depth of Pentax optics. This was a lens that was UNDER $500.00 CDN brand new.

BTW, here is is, handheld, in a TV studio during a live filming, on the *istD...




QuoteOriginally posted by MadMathMind Quote
You need to really stop it down to f/11 for the corners to be ok. They're pretty mush at f/5.6 even. The distortion is pretty obvious too. It does also fringe LIKE CRAZY at low apertures. But it's pretty cool around f/10.
Fringe, smynge. It was designed LONG before that was a problem, and with modern processing, it's not once again. And people are great exaggerating this corner issue, as usual. This lens has been 'misunderestimated' since the film days.

QuoteOriginally posted by Marktax Quote
A useful and insightful test. I bought my second FA*24 for sentimental reasons, having enjoyed my first copy on film through a PZ-1p. I think it's just a really good looking lens and very unique, even in the "old" Pentax lineup. On digital, I process my DNG's in-camera as "reversal film" and then lighten the shadows somewhat.

PS off topic -- Was there a thread here once on someone who rebuilds DA15's freelance?
Love that lens, but was never fond of the aspect ratio on APSC. LOVED it on full frame; it was also the lens that taught me about photography - I had SO much trouble with it early on until I discovered the joys of the hyperlocal scale; then, it was magic.

But the L15 now TOTALLY blows it away on APSC.

All of this totally unscientific, real-world IMHO. If you want to 'measurebate' in the corners with your 'software', knock yourself out. The FA*24 F2 is one of the greatest lenses ever.

Cheers,
Cameron
09-05-2017, 03:32 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marktax Quote
A useful and insightful test. I bought my second FA*24 for sentimental reasons, having enjoyed my first copy on film through a PZ-1p. I think it's just a really good looking lens and very unique, even in the "old" Pentax lineup. On digital, I process my DNG's in-camera as "reversal film" and then lighten the shadows somewhat.

PS off topic -- Was there a thread here once on someone who rebuilds DA15's freelance?
Thank a lot. When I was using PZ-1P this lens was not available here in Poland. I just had two power zooms and M-series primes. So this is my first encounter with the lens - it is extremely rare in Poland. And this is a lens that proves something also true of people - nobody is perfect but sometimes those are imperfections that we come to love.
Best

---------- Post added 09-05-17 at 03:36 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Cambo Quote
I have some magnificent landscapes from that lens, especially from the film days. I remember when I first got it, as I also owned the F series 28mm at the time. Getting my first roll of film back, I was SHOCKED by how different it was - colour, resolution, sharpness, clarity, contrast; all great attributes of this magnificent lens.
Cheers,
Cameron
I am here with you, And your shot from TV studio is outstanding.
Best
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