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03-18-2009, 02:26 PM   #1
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FA 20-35 vs FA J 18-35

Originally wanting a lens wider than my current FA 35/2.0, I was looking at a relatively cheap solution for this that wouldn't have to compromise in IQ all too much. I was looking in the 15mm range, mostly at the manuals since they are cheaper. 20mm would be my absolute max. I found it hard to find something to fit my needs and budget in this range, most of them being manual (not the biggest issue, although I'd prefer to have AF possibilities when conditions require so I'm no pro at fast MF) and lots under 20mm seem to be fish-eye, which isn't what I'm looking for.

Then I checked out some short-range zooms, more specific the two mentioned in the title: the FA 20-35 and the FA J 18-35. Because they are still relatively cheap solution to my needs, and even throw in some extra's over a manual fixed focal-length lens: a bit of zoom flexibility and AF. However they compromise in speed and size.

The problem though is this: the FA 20-35 is no longer in production, and thus hard to find. The FA J 18-35 is still in production, but I have failed to find a place in Europe that sells these (be it off -or online). And since I've heard that you have to be lucky to get a good copy when buying one of these, second-hand is definately a big no-no and buying from the States I'd rather avoid as well. If my copy turns out to be 'faulty', I'd have to send it back across the Atlantic and hope my next copy will be a 'good' one if it even arrives at all and will be much longer under way than, say, would it be from the UK.

I guess what I'm trying to ask here is as follows:
1. Which of the two lenses proposed would you recommend over the other, and why? OR do you have any similar (IQ, focal length and price-wise) suggestions that I've overlooked?
2. Do you know a reliable source within Europe to obtain any of these, more specifically the FA J 18-35, since the 20-35 is no longer in production.
3. Is it, according to you, worth the trouble for the +- 15mm focal length difference compared to my FA 35? Especially since the zooms cover up to 35mm as well, but presumingly are of lesser IQ than my FA 35. Hereby I somewhat question my whole inquiry, but nonetheless I'd like to know your opinions on this

03-18-2009, 03:38 PM   #2
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I'd go for the 20-35/f4. I have it, and for a long time it was my most used lens. (until I got the DA*16-50). I still use the 20-35 when I want a wide-normal zoom range, and I want to travel light.

Some may find the zoom range limiting, but I haven't found it to be a problem personally.

Good luck finding one, they are hard to find, and treasured by those that own them!
03-18-2009, 04:39 PM   #3
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Thanks for sharing you experience.

I for one don't find the zoom range limited – not for what I intend to mainly use it. But if I do happen to get my hands on a copy of a 20-35, and I really like it, then I might regret my recent purchase of the FA 35.

Would you be so kind as to post some sample pictures taken with your 20-35, if you have any?

Last edited by alex.r; 03-18-2009 at 04:51 PM.
03-18-2009, 05:52 PM   #4
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There's just no comparing the FA20-35/4 to the FA-J 17-35. The FA20-35/4 is one of the best zoom lenses ever made by Pentax prior to DA lenses. Many even prefer it to the DA16-45/4. I am one of those

It's more compact than the DA16-45/4 with just as good IQ, resolving power and AF speed. It's like having 3 primes (24, 28 and 35) in one. Here are some shots with the FA20-35/4:

With a CPL:

Night shots and others. No CPL used:

For events:

03-18-2009, 06:34 PM   #5
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I love the FA 20-35mm lens. If I could only have one lens, that would be it. Wide to normal on digital, very wide on film, very sharp with lovely color rendition, yet light and compact - love it. There are usually one or two available on eBay, and I know someone was selling one in the marketplace. Not sure about the FAJ, never used one.
03-19-2009, 02:01 AM   #6
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Is FA20-35 very different (opticaly) to M20-35? I saw one of those in local shop in what seems to mint condition but was very surprised by the price tag it was bearing...
03-19-2009, 06:06 AM   #7
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The FAJ 18-35 is a good lens -- far better than it's FAJ stable mates. The 18mm reach is really great on 35mm film. But it has two limitations. It's painfully slow, so it's only good for daylight exteriors or flash work. And it doesn't have an aperture ring, so it's won't work on your ME Super.

My love of the FAJ 18-35 is what kept me to the camera bodies I own -- a Program Plus, where the FAJ can shoot in full Program mode, and an MZ-7 that has on-body aperture control.

I don't have any experience with the 20-35, but it sounds like a great lens. But if you want super-wide, the difference between 18mm and 20mm is noticeable.
03-20-2009, 09:21 AM   #8
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The FA 20-35 is a superb lens of its time - one of the best Pentax ever made. A little plasticky, but superb optically, and much more compact than the DA16-45, yet incorportaing some of the the most useful focal lengths. It's a shame it is often so expensive - were they to make a cheaper version of this optimised for digital with small improvements on the original I think they would have a winner.

But I guess in the compact/useful category that falls to the standard kit lens, the DA18-55. The quality of the FA2-35 though is well above the kit lens, and I believe above the FA-J 18-35.

03-20-2009, 12:29 PM   #9
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When I got my K100D Super, the first thing that I did was mount my 20-35 on it, the kit lens stayed in the box for a couple of weeks.

The 20-35 has a good close focus range too!

I have a set of images from the 20-35 on flickr:
FA20-35/f4 - a set on Flickr

- Chris

Last edited by apeman; 03-20-2009 at 12:30 PM. Reason: typo
03-20-2009, 05:32 PM   #10
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I have the 20-35 and love it on film. On digital I guess I don't pixel peep enough to notice a difference between it and the kit lens. They both give me the freedom to make great pictures

If you're shooting on film, you'll definitely notice a difference in view between the 18-35 and the 20-35, with the 18-35 being a whole lot wider. I've wanted to get one just for that aspect. KEH has the 18-35 for USD 105 right now, but I have not looked into purchasing from Europe.
03-20-2009, 05:37 PM   #11
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there's a Tokina 20-35mm F/2.8 available in Pentax mount.
03-20-2009, 10:41 PM   #12
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There's a 20-35 on the marketplace right now I think. Good luck! I think I'll go the Tamron / sigma 17-50 route instead =)
03-21-2009, 05:59 AM   #13
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Many thanks for all the helpful replies. The reason why I compared the two was because I though to have seen a 20-35 on sale second-hand for about 200 euros. But it turned out I was wrong, it wast he 17-35 fish eye that was for bad.

Since I don't have the budget for the 20-35, I might have to take a look at the 18-35, which I don't mind that much. It still remains to be seen if it's smart for me to order from KEH, or if I should wait till I find a place in Europe that sells them.
06-13-2009, 09:24 AM   #14
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Can I just add my endorsement of this wonderful lens. There is something very special about its rendering. It is in a different league from all the other short zooms you mention, and the Tamron 17-35 which is admired by some.

I have one caveat. I find it gives superb results on my DS, but less satisfactory rendering on my K10, even though is is certainly very sharp from wide open. Not quite sure why, But on the DS I prefer it a great deal more that the 16-45.

It was an attempt to get the same rendering that persuaded me to buy the DA*16-50. But while I love that lens in combo with my K10 (now both have been adjusted by Pentax!) I still find the FA20-35 a more discreet, faster and more accurate focussing lens on the DS, almost ideal for street shooting. Great colour and skin tones.
06-15-2009, 04:25 AM   #15
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Another fan of the 20-35 here. I would say this is a just about perfect "garden lens". Excellent close focuser, supurb color rendition and contrast. And the zoom range is perfect for gardens and landscapes. It's only "problem" is that its F4. If it was a bit faster (F2.8 or so) it would be perfect.
And I will have to say that unlike the poster above I've gotten better results with it on my K10D then on my DS.

NaCl(just goes to show you that copies of lenses can be different)H2O

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