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05-22-2019, 12:54 PM   #1
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Pentax DA*55 mm 1.4 vs FA43 mm 1.9

Hello Pentaxians

<I realized I typed the subject of the thread wrong, it should have been 55mm 1.4 vs 43 mm. >

I am considering to buy a short telephoto prime lens. My primary use will be portraits. I already have a 50 mm 1.8, but I am seriously considering an upgrade.

I started photography around a year ago. I use 16-85 for my landscapes and as a general walkaround/ vacation lens. For portraits, I have 77mm, 35 mm 2.4 and 50 mm 1.8. A large portion of my portraits is of my son, who is 6 months old. 77 mm is my absolute favorite for portraits - I use it every time we are out of the house. But at home, most of my pictures are shot with the 35 mm or 50 mm, since I live in a small apartment. I have used my 35 mm and 50 mm extensively - but I think as a photographer I am growing out of them. I can notice a difference in the quality of pictures shot with the 77 mm vs 50 & 35 mm. My biggest gripe with 35 mm and 50 mm is lack of contrast compared to the 77 mm. So I am thinking of buying a better quality 50 mm lens.

Pros of 55 mm as I understand are nicer bokeh, WR and larger aperture. I don't care about the WR, my use will be mostly inside the house. 43 mm has that unique ltd rendering, compact size and faster focus. I do care about the bokeh but at the same time, I love my 77 rendering - which I hope 43 ltd will also provide. I also compared the sharpness of 55 mm vs 50 mm 1.8 on opticallimits website. It seems that center sharpness of 50 mm at 1.8 is higher than 55 mm at f2 . Same with 43 mm, which has lower res than 50 mm 1.8 at all apertures. How can a more expensive lens have a lower resolution? What am I missing? The slow and inaccurate focus of 55 mm also seems to be a constant critique

As you can see, I need some help to make the decision.

Last edited by Gbhati01; 05-22-2019 at 01:54 PM.
05-22-2019, 01:20 PM   #2
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Both are good lenses. For what you want, I think the 43 will have "character" for portraits. Could be the Pixie Dust in the coatings.
05-22-2019, 01:42 PM   #3
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If you've been hooked by the FA77 then the FA43 has the same build and similarly great optics, but you know what'll happen if you get it.....

...the FA31 will be next
05-22-2019, 02:12 PM   #4
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I'm assuming you have a APS-C camera but I can only really talk about my experience with these lenses on my FF K-1. The FA 43 on my K-1 is an almost perfect "normal" view and surprised how much I use it. The 43 may not be a perfect lens in some regards, as in the corner sharpness lags centre sharpness near wide open (but probably far less noticeable on APS-C). But IMO it more than makes up for that in other regards - excellent centre sharpness, nice bokeh rendering (especially for that focal length), good contrast, good colours, compact size and excellent build quantity. And in reality stopping it down to f4 or more is perfect landscapes where you get corner to corner sharpness (actually even at f2.8 its sharp enough across the frame I find). Looking through my shots I have a big proportion are around f1.9 & f2, so definitely usable at those apertures.

In comparison to FA50 f1.4... The FA50 is also pretty compact for what it is. The extra 7mm does make a significant difference in the field of view I find - so if you like 50mm then expect the 43 to immediately look wider. I would say the FA43 has better centre sharpness (at same apertures) and definitely has better contrast near the wider apertures. Border sharpness is pretty similar between the two (at matching apertures, the 50 is even softer borders at f1.4). But from looking at reviews, there is obviously a bit sample variation for both of these lenses (some are a bit better than others it would seem). As far as bokeh goes, the FA50 is no slouch but can be a bit nervous wide open (to my eyes) and so I would normally stop it down to f2 (where its better) anyway. The bokeh / rendering is nicer on the FA43.

05-22-2019, 04:07 PM - 1 Like   #5
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I have both the DA* 55/1.4 and FA 43/1.9 Limited. Both are great lenses, but if I had to keep only one it would be the DA*

It's nearly a stop faster. It's acceptably sharp wide open, but by f/1.8 it's excellent. Colours, contrast and sheer resolving power are all slightly better, and it is better corrected for coma and barrel distortion. The slightly longer focal length is ideal for portraiture. The serious hood, weather sealing, silent focus, quick shift and AF/MF switch are all bonuses. The only downside is its size and weight compared to the FA43, but by modern standards it is by no means a big lens.
05-22-2019, 04:36 PM - 1 Like   #6

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QuoteOriginally posted by Gbhati01 Quote
Hello Pentaxians

55mm 1.4 vs 43 mm
Same dilemma sometime ago and I go with DA*55 because I want the WR feature. I like to shoot in rain.
I have seen some testing image of the two here, can’t find the link. 55 seem to be the winner to me when talk about sharpness at pixelpeeping level.
But overall rendering of 43 looks very good. It is something in there which make the image looks interesting to my eyes (I can’t explain.)
2 more points adding to your list.
-43 has better looking starburst (I shoot at night a lot)
-43 seem to have better flare control, which is something hard to fix in post production.

QuoteOriginally posted by Gbhati01 Quote
I also compared the sharpness of 55 mm vs 50 mm 1.8 on opticallimitswebsite. It seems that center sharpness of 50 mm at 1.8 is higher than 55 mm atf2. Same with 43 mm, which has lowerres than 50 mm 1.8 at all apertures. How can a more expensive lens have a lowerresolution? What am I missing? The slow and inaccurate focus of 55 mm alsoseems to be a constant critique
I would go with better overall image rendering. I test all (still in production) Pentax lenses from 40 to 55 mm before I ended up with 55. Note that I live in Japan and back then most store around me had all Pentax (still in production) lenses for us to play. It was also long before the new 50 came out.
3 lenses stand out to me (Not too hard to guess.). DA40 limited, FA43, DA*55.

40 is the fastest autofocus performer but f2.8 is too slow for what I want. I had a FA50macro f2.8 back then and for what I like to do, I rate the old FA heigher than the 40 limited.
Image from 55 looks...well, it is very pleased to look at. I think most people can tell right a way that it made by an expensive lens.
43 is not far behind. But again, something there in the image produced by 43 (in a good way).
None of still in production FA or DA 50 could give me the feeling I get from 43, 55. I mean, those 50 are all good and sharp but I didn’t get the same feeling, that’s all.

My 2 cents, if I didn’t want a weather sealed lens, I would go with the 43. And it sounds like you already have 77? and like it. That is another good reason to just get the 43 and 31 next. I really like my 55* but the flare make me crazy.

Last edited by tokyoscape; 05-22-2019 at 04:45 PM.
05-22-2019, 06:39 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sandy Hancock Quote
I have both the DA* 55/1.4 and FA 43/1.9 Limited. Both are great lenses, but if I had to keep only one it would be the DA*
Would you make the same choice if you didn't have the K-1 and only used an APS-C camera?
05-22-2019, 06:45 PM   #8
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Ghbati01, for situations where a 55mm can be used, your existing 77mm may well do, and it may be that neither are wide enough in a room, so I'm going to put in another suggestion - the 35mm f2.8 Limited Macro should give you plenty of contrast and microcontrast.

05-22-2019, 07:19 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by clackers Quote
Ghbati01, for situations where a 55mm can be used, your existing 77mm may well do, and it may be that neither are wide enough in a room, so I'm going to put in another suggestion - the 35mm f2.8 Limited Macro should give you plenty of contrast and microcontrast.
And, in spite of the reservation expressed above by tokyoscape, the FA50 f2.8 Macro might be satisfactory, too. Its sharp across most of the field (certainly very good with APS-C bodies, that way) and has, as youd expect from a good macro lens, great contrast and micro-contrast.

One thing I will add is that styles of portraiture determine what sort of lens or lenses you might consider. If you stick with indoors shots, the FA77 should be fine for head or perhaps head-and-shoulders (depending on space), but not much more. Of course, if indoors includes a large, long space like a hallway, that may make a difference.

The FA43, though, has the characteristics of the FA77, and probably more (I have both). I now also have a D FA*50/1.4, which is optically superb in all respects, but the FA43 still impresses.
05-22-2019, 09:53 PM   #10

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I have DA*55, All limiteds, DFA 50/2.8 macro too. I'd say that this macro is great for macro but allaround shooting DA* and FA 43 are far better. FA has funky bokeh from 1,9 to 2,8 where it begin to be super sharp. That funky bokeh can be winner or nay, depending on who uses it. DA*55 has smoother Bokeh. But, it too has funky moments, less than FA 43.

I personally started up with DA*55 on my K-3. I felt that it was too narrow, later I did buy many lenses and then FA 43. I must say that I really enjoyed 43 as it was wider than 55. But it was lacking speed. FA 31 was what I wanted, but could not affordm untill this year. Have not used it on APS-C. FA 43 is really nice on FF and APS-C. Nice to see those clean edges. DA 55 is not sharp wide open on FF from edge to edge. For portraits on aps-c DA*55 has edge over others. Also on FF.

my 2 cents.
05-23-2019, 12:50 AM   #11
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1. Do you really need 1.4?

2. Do you need the longer focal width?

If you answered yes on both, go for the DA*55. The FA43 is simply a great lens.

05-23-2019, 12:53 AM   #12

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I had both, the DA* 55 is a better portrait lens. The DA* although heavily vignette on the K-1 under F2.8 if you ever want to use it on FF.

See my reviews for examples:
SMC Pentax-DA* 55mm F1.4 SDM Reviews - DA Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database
SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9 Limited Reviews - FA Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database
05-23-2019, 02:39 AM - 1 Like   #13

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Both are brilliant lenses – no doubt. I have both and use them on APS-C and FF. Both have different charakter. You should try them and decide. If you love the FA77 it would be logical to get the other FA Ltds. too. They are all special. The FA 43 has excellent sharpness at f4.0 and can produce a good 3D effect. But you have to learn to use it. It is a lens that will shine if you know it good. The DA*55 is faster and is better at f2, but it has no aperture ring and no screwdriven AF, if that is important for you. The DA*55 is not easy to use wide open. To get the best out of it at f1.4, you need to hold your cam very still, because the dof at f1.4 is razor thin and most people think the lens is not sharp at f1.4, because they can not manage to hold very still. all 3 lenses (FA77, FA43 and DA*55) are nice lenses for portraits ... but FA77 is magic.

One more thing: the DA*55 works better with the AF of the K3 than with the older models like K5. For wide open shots, the lens and the body have to be harmonized good
05-23-2019, 03:12 AM - 1 Like   #14
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I prefer the DA *55. A little nicer bokeh, in my opinion. A little sharper at wide apertures. It tends to fit into a better slot between the FA 31 and FA 77. Furthermore, I've never connected much with the 40-ish mm focal length. I own the DA 40 and I don't really like that focal length, either on APS-C or full frame. I usually want something a little wider or longer.

But they are both solid lenses. Look at a lot of photos and think about which focal length will work best for your style of shooting. If all else fails, flip a coin. You're a winner either way...
05-23-2019, 03:41 AM - 1 Like   #15
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You allready have a DA 50 / 1.8 ?

The DA 43 is no upgrade in means of image quality.
It has many advantages over the DA 50, but better IQ is not one of them. It is a very good lens, but the DA50 is just better.
For taking portraits the DA 43 might be better, as its has no resolution at all in the borders and corners, when shot wide open.

Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8 - Review / Test - Analysis
Pentax SMC FA 43mm f/1.9 Limited - Lab Test / Review - Analysis

The biggest issue of the DA 50 is a lack of contrast shot wide open, as you already noticed in practice. Closed down to 4.0 the lens should have at least a very good performance.

Before buying the 55 mm I would advise you to test thoroughly if it meets your expectations. It also lacks contrast when wide open, perhaps even more then the DA 50.
With the DA 50 you allready own one of the best performing 50 mm Pentax ever made. Perhaps doing a bit post processing would solve your quality problems.

There are of course some more reasons to prefer one of the better built lenses, but the DA 50/1.8 really is a plastic fantastic.

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