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04-28-2018, 10:39 PM   #1
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Which 50mm Prime

As the D-FA* 50mm f1.4 postponing saga continues, I am finding that the need to fill the 50mm gap in my lens bag has become more urgent. Therefore, I'd like to start a debate on which 50mm lens currently available new (or easily on the secondhand market) is the best proposition, taking into consideration cost-to-performance ratio. Only AF lenses are to be considered, as even though there are some awesome MF lenses (Zeiss Otus, Pentax 50mm f1.2 etc), most pros are only in the market for AF lenses.

On the market brand new (as of 2018):

Pentax DA 40mm f2.8 XS
Pentax DA 40mm f2.8 Limited
Pentax FA 43mm f1.9 Limited
Pentax FA 50mm f1.4
Pentax FA 50mm f2.8 Macro
Pentax DA* 55mm f1.4 SDM

Easily acquired on the secondhand market (as of 2018):

Sigma EX 50mm f1.4 HSM
Sigma EX 50mm f2.8 Macro

The issue, as a pro with the above lenses is that they all come with various drawbacks, some of them are technically APS-C lenses (that cover FF to various degrees), some have screwdrive AF while others have slow AF (we're looking at you Pentax DA* 55mm f1.4), and only the DA* is environmentally sealed.

In the past I have had the same problem with Pentax. I had the D-FA* 70-200mm f2.8 on order (and fully paid for) for over a year before it was finally released, and in the meantime, I had to find an alternative. I ended choosing the Pentax FA* 80-200mm f2.8, and payed a premium price for it, but have since seen the value of the lens tank on the secondhand market and am hoping to avoid the same thing happening twice to me.

Personally, I am finding myself drawn to either the DA* 55mm f1.4 or the Sigma EX 50mm F1.4, and am finding it difficult to decide which to go with, the Pentax is WR, where the Sigma had decent AF. Any thoughts? Also, !'m shooting a K-1, and I do currently have both the Pentax 40mm XS and the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art, and though I love both lenses, the Pentax is not sharp at all in the corners, and the Sigma is no 35mm however extraordinary it is. Thanks in advance guys!

04-28-2018, 11:09 PM   #2
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Of those options, even though I've never used one, I'd probably choose the 43mm limited as it's small, pretty fast and has a great reputation. However, my standard prime on the K-3 is the 35mm limited and the nearest equivalent for FF would be the DFA 50mm macro, which is also reputed to be superb.

There are people who use the DA* on FF and like it a lot but slow focus and SDM problems would put me off that one.

The other option, which I do own and isn't in your list but should be fairly easy to find second hand, is the FA 50mm f/1.7. It uses the same optics as the M and A f/1.7 lenses so it's sharper than the f/1.4. As a bonus, prices have dropped significantly since the introduction of the DA 50/1.8.
04-28-2018, 11:36 PM   #3
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I would probably go for the DA* 55mm. It sounds like you want a modern silent-focusing lens, and the release of the D FA* shouldn't affect its price much since it's a crop lens (which will presumably remain much cheaper).

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04-29-2018, 12:01 AM   #4
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For which reason dont you wa t screwdrive? Speed or noise?
I own the Fa 50 1.4, wich is a bit soft wide open. At f2. 2it is already perfectly sharp. It autofocuses quite fastly compared to many other Penrax lenses. It is a reliable lens that always behavious as predicted and also quite compact. Its reliability makes it suitable for pro use imo. A major drawback is the missing lens hood. I bought one that gets attached into the filter thread. In some situations it makes a huge difference in contrast.
The Fa43 is a nice lens too, but rather unique in rendering. I am not sure if this is the right lens for your profile. Also it seamed to be noisier and slower in af.
The da 55/1.4 is better than the fa50 wide open, but I could think of it dropping in price when the dfa arrives and it is slow in focus. I think the fa50 is better in this scenario.
I dont know enough about the sigma.
There is also the possibilitie to get a uses f50/1.7 It has a great value ratio and is quite reliable. I would also get a lens hood as with mostly every f lens. They do nwed ut more than most other series I know.

04-29-2018, 12:07 AM   #5
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I have a DA*55mm and it's optically great. Autofocus is slow but in my copy it's accurate. It's fairly good compromise between size, optical quality and build quality / weather resistance.
04-29-2018, 12:28 AM   #6
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DA*55 for WR and it's magic formula. I never use AF with 50s. It's the easiest length to manual focus for me (always has been) and the most prone a critical AF miss at shallow DOF. Which is also why I no longer own the DA55 and just use older glass (of the multitudes), many of which MF like butter. Though I do sometimes miss the sealed "insurance".
04-29-2018, 01:03 AM - 4 Likes   #7
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DA*55 like a shot. I have the FA43 Limited too, and have had the DA40 Limited and FA50/1.4 in the past (but before the K-1 was released).

The focus speed has never been an issue, but I don't use it to shoot motorcycle racing. I would take decisive and accurate over sheer speed anytime.

Although you were let down by the release schedule of the DFA*70-200, I'm confident the DFA*50 will hit the market pretty soon too, if it can wait just a little.

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04-29-2018, 01:06 AM - 5 Likes   #8
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IMO, just get the FA50/1.4 and move on.

Cheap and works.
The "not sharp wide open" is an oxymoron anyway.
Its certainly sharp enough centrally wide open and generally we want shallow DOF at wide apertures anyway which is counter to the need for all sharp to the edges.
These older 50mm designs have also never hampered any photographer from taking great photos to their vision thru history of the 50mm (including old ones from Canikon and even Leica/Zeiss).

Stopped down, it gets very sharp all round from f4 to f11.

















04-29-2018, 01:14 AM   #9
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Beautiful shots pinholecam.
I must say that I have some seller's remorse about letting my FA50/1.4 go to new home - even if it was to the late great Bruce Stephenson
04-29-2018, 01:15 AM - 2 Likes   #10
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You will appreciate the compact FA50/1.4 or the even more compact FA43 after a while...

Seb
04-29-2018, 01:58 AM - 2 Likes   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Joshua A Quote
I am finding that the need to fill the 50mm gap in my lens bag has become more urgent.
I never thought I would see finding a suitable 50mm as an urgent concern.

QuoteOriginally posted by Joshua A Quote
On the market brand new (as of 2018):

Pentax DA 40mm f2.8 XS
Pentax DA 40mm f2.8 Limited
Pentax FA 43mm f1.9 Limited
Pentax FA 50mm f1.4
Pentax FA 50mm f2.8 Macro
Pentax DA* 55mm f1.4 SDM
A quick glance at your profile page and we see you have the DA 50/1.8 and M 50/1.4. It appears that the APS-C end of things is well covered at least for the interim and the same might be said for the FF, unless you might consider the arguably better M 50/1.7 or really, really need AF and/or something brand new.

The obvious being stated, I just gotta ask, "What is the emergency?"

If you want a quality AF 50mm as a stop-gap until the D FA* releases, get a FA 50/1.4. It is a little better than your M 50/1.4 and harder to manual focus with the hood on, but will likely work just fine. For that matter, the D FA 28-70/2.8 already in the bag will do in a pinch.

Sorry about the sarcasm, but there is little that would nudge me towards purchase of the D FA* 50/1.4 at its projected price point and bulk. Regardless of the level of technical perfection attained, the fact is that most photographers, even the very serious and those that get paid and those who believe they should be paid, will ever see that perfection in their routine work.* I guess I just simply own and have shot with too many fast 50s and have used the focal length for too many years (many of those with a junk 50mm the really did suck), to get excited about exotic glass at the most common and pedestrian of focal lengths. Suffering angst is just way over the top.


Steve

* Most photos taken with normal lenses, even the good ones, suffer from mildly missed focus and/or camera motion. Both of these faults are traceable to lack of skill on the part of the photographer and are the frank realities of hand-held shooting. Either will very quickly negate even the best qualities of moderately-priced offerings and both are acceptable unless the subject is a sheet of postage stamps.
04-29-2018, 02:13 AM   #12
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+1 to what Steve said.

I have many 50mm lenses from Canon FD 55/1.2 to RF ones to Sony FE55/1.8
Ironically, I only ever sold of two 50mm lenses and they were the Sony FE55 anda Leica Cron DR 50/2.
The former being exactly the type of modern all sharp and sharp on the edges from wide open type of lens.
I simply found it to be rather bland in rendering, the wide open sharpness not really all that much and seldom leveraged on in real photos, expensive and overall, not much fun to use.
Very functional, but so are any of my 50mm lenses.

The size also irritated me a bit when it was larger than a FA, A50/1.4 and of course other 50/2, 50/1.8, 50/1.7 were much smaller
04-29-2018, 04:55 AM   #13
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For those recommending the FA 50 f1.4, this review may give some pause: Pentax SMC FA 50mm F1.4 Review & Rating | PCMag.com

Their review of the FA 43 was quite favorable.

Also this thread may help despite being apsc focused: Hypothetical Question: DA* 55 f/1.4 or FA 43 Limited? - PentaxForums.com
04-29-2018, 06:54 AM   #14
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I find myself confused by the fa* 80-200 comments. I just looked and prices still seem strong. I sold mine a few years back for $1100 in pristine optical condition and very good physical condition. I'm not seeing a big price drop.

Last edited by UncleVanya; 04-29-2018 at 09:41 AM.
04-29-2018, 09:11 AM   #15
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It depends on what your additional priorities are besides just "a 50mm lens", for example price, maximum sharpness, maximum aperture, and focusing speed. My preference is the FA43 due to the slightly wider field of view and the rendering (and I also like the size). But I also have the DA55, which is a good lens with a faster aperture and weather sealing.
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