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03-20-2009, 05:49 PM   #1
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FA* 85mm vs. A* 85mm

For those of you that have been fortunate enough to try both, which do you prefer? I have seen comparisons between each lens and other lenses, but never any comparisons between these 2 lenses themselves.

03-20-2009, 06:22 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by Votesh Quote
For those of you that have been fortunate enough to try both, which do you prefer? I have seen comparisons between each lens and other lenses, but never any comparisons between these 2 lenses themselves.
I prefer the A* for more "all-around" shooting, as well as for portraits. I tend to view the FA* as more of a dedicated portrait lens. However, that is an oversimplification, because the FA* also does well for other uses besides portraits - but, if you have both, and if af versus mf is not an issue (and, when using these lenses, it usually isn't - I usually use the FA* as an mf lens anyway, since its focus clutch works so well), you tend to take the best lens for the job (even if it's only a little better).

I think the A* is just a bit sharper overall, both for distant as well as for close subjects, but the difference is small. Both lenses do have excellent bokeh.

The FA* is a bit more, well, ~obvious~ (and maybe even for some subjects, a bit more intimidating), due to its larger barrel size and silver color (not that the A* is a "midget" by any means).

An old page of mine - The Great Pentax 85mm Lens Shoot-Out

I'd be curious to see how the "new 85/1.4 on the block" (Vivitar, etc.) compares to the ol' workhorses...
03-20-2009, 06:40 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by fwcetus Quote
I'd be curious to see how the "new 85/1.4 on the block" (Vivitar, etc.) compares to the ol' workhorses...
Fred, have you seen my long and painful screed on the Vivitar/Samyang 85/1.4?

Spam photos, oops, I mean comparison photos versus the A*/FA* 85s are included... https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/46479-review-s...erical-if.html


Some people just own too many short tele-portrait lenses...

03-20-2009, 06:51 PM   #4
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Thanks for the reply and that comparison.

I currently have the A* and have found it to be superb in the month or so that I've had it. Just after I started the thread I also pulled the trigger on an FA* 85mm, so I suppose I'll be able to figure out which I prefer soon enough. I was going to use this as a "should I buy it" thread, but my LBA got the best of me before I could even get a reply . Unfortunately I'll probably have to sell one of the 2 when I decide which I prefer. I suspect it will be a legendary battle between the 2 lenses for a place in my bag.

I wouldn't have even considered buying the FA* if it wasn't for AF, because the A* is just that good. However, AF is a luxury I quite enjoy, although it isn't really a deal breaker.

I'll post my preference in this thread when I have both, and some time on my hands. Of course everyone can still feel free to add their opinion.

03-20-2009, 07:45 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by tranq78 Quote
Fred, have you seen my long and painful screed on the Vivitar/Samyang 85/1.4?]
No, I missed it. (Sorry.) I've just taken a quick look through the thread, but I've got to go back and look at some of the testing again. (Thanks!)

QuoteOriginally posted by tranq78 Quote
Some people just own too many short tele-portrait lenses...]
Indeed... ;-)
03-20-2009, 11:53 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Votesh Quote
I'll post my preference in this thread when I have both, and some time on my hands. Of course everyone can still feel free to add their opinion.
Votesh,

I'm looking forward to read you review since these lenses are also on my top list
03-22-2009, 12:13 PM   #7
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Here's a shot I took today at sunrise with the A* 85mm. The FA* is gonna have some catching up to do when it gets here.
04-02-2009, 07:40 PM   #8
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Well, I now have both of these lenses in hand and have taken some initial shots with the FA*. I must say, it is quite impressive. As is often stated, this lens thrives at closer distances, but I also think it does quite wll at infinity. There is some degradation, but not as much as I had expected considering the fact that that is what everyone says when reviewing it.

I haven't shot the A* and FA* side-by-side as of yet, but I have noticed a few major differences just from normal use:
The FA* seems to suffer more from flare than the A*.
The A* seems to display more CA and PF wide open.

These are the 2 main differences I've noticed so far. When I get some time, maybe this weekend even though the weather's supposed to be bad, I'll try and do some testing of the lenses in similar conditions. I'll also post some normal shots taken with both of them when I get the time to process some images.

At the moment, I think I'm a little bit more impressed by the FA*. The A* has some horrendous PF wide open, in high contrast areas, which has been my only real gripe as far as it's concerned. The FA* appears to have this under much better control. The only downfall of the FA* is at infinity, and this doesn't even appear to be that bad from the pictures I've taken with it so far. Maybe it will be more apparent when I take some comparable shots with the 2.

04-09-2009, 07:37 PM   #9
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I must say, I'm loving the FA* more and more every time I use it. Granted, I haven't even mounted the A* on the camera since the FA* arrived, but the FA* is just an all-around great performer. I'll get on the ball and do come comparison shots soon.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures I took with the FA* on a little photo trip last weekend. The birdhouse picture is from a nearby wildlife area, and the marsh pictures are from Cheyenne Bottoms marsh. All are wide open.




I don't know why but I really love taking these landscape shots wide open. For these it was actually required due to the 40mph winds making standing still for long enough to get a clear shot impossible at a smaller aperture.
04-15-2009, 07:51 PM   #10
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Well just before sunset I did a side by side(actually one after the other) test mainly on a subject just for resolution judging purposes. Due to slight difference in the exact focal point the wider few apertures are hard to judge. It appears that the A* may have the resolution edge at these wider apertures, but the FA* is right up there. At smaller apertures, the differences become even smaller. They both do very well resolution wise, and are very near each other as far as I can tell just looking at the images at 100%.

One interesting thing I noticed is that the A* is a slightly longer focal length than the FA*. Another thing I noticed is that while both show some PF wide open, as is to be expected, the FA* hase more soft edged fringing than the A*, and the A*'s is more noticable.

I'll either post the photos from this test, or do another, better test and post those pictures in the next few days. So far I'm still liking the FA* more, although it really is a close call. Unfortunately I don't have any portait subjects available as I'm working away from home until the end of May, but I've decided to hold on to both lenses until I can give them a go photographing what they are best at.
04-15-2009, 08:39 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Votesh Quote
It appears that the A* may have the resolution edge at these wider apertures, but the FA* is right up there. At smaller apertures, the differences become even smaller. They both do very well resolution wise, and are very near each other as far as I can tell just looking at the images at 100%..
From my experience I would tend to agree with that.

QuoteOriginally posted by Votesh Quote
One interesting thing I noticed is that the A* is a slightly longer focal length than the FA*. Another thing I noticed is that while both show some PF wide open, as is to be expected, the FA* hase more soft edged fringing than the A*, and the A*'s is more noticable.
I think that the focal length of the FA* varies a bit, becoming a bit shorter at closer focus distances. For example, ...





Notice that, when focused at infinity, all the 85mm lenses had very similar FL's, but at closer distances, the FA* 85/1.4 seemed to have a shorter FL than the others.

( The rest of my old 4x6 scans from way back in the pre-digital days are at The Great Pentax 85mm Lens Shoot-Out )
04-16-2009, 10:50 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Votesh Quote
Here's a shot I took today at sunrise with the A* 85mm. The FA* is gonna have some catching up to do when it gets here.
Gosh...I love this photo.

Votesh, I'm waiting for your complete test result.
Thanks for doing this.
At least it helps me during the waiting period before I can own this wonderful lens
04-19-2009, 05:12 PM   #13
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Well, I have now done three side-to-side tests with these two lenses, and I think my last one is about as good as I will be able to get, so it will be the last one I will do unless anyone wants to see how either lens performs under specific circumstances. Now that I know their performance characteristics, I can just worry about taking regular pictures with them.

My conclusions:
The sharpness of the A* wide open is noticably better than the FA* wide open. The resolution seems to be fairly similar, but the contrast of the A* is just superb. Along these lines, both lenses can make the in focus object "pop" out from the OOF areas of a photo very well, but at the widest apertures the A* does it better IMO. I believe this is due to the better contrast giving the subject of the photo a more defined edge. The difference in contrast(or microcontrast) isn't too large, as images from the FA* can be imparted a look similar to those from the A* with a little PP. Up to about f5.6 the A* is the winner in sharpness but from there on they're are very close.

Where the FA* shines in my eyes is color. It produces colors more true to life than the A*. It also has a warmer tone than the A*, which produces quite cool colors.

The FA* is also much better in suppressing CA. Like I said before, the A* can show very bad PF at wide apertures. It is strong and hard edged. When PF shows up in images from the FA* it is much more diffuse and less noticeable.

As far as bokeh goes, they are both superb performers. I would say that the FA* has a dlight edge, however. The bokeh of the FA* is very creamy and smooth. The same can be said of the A*, but just to a very slightly lesser degree.

As far as other qualities go, I prefer the cosmetics and handling of the A*. The smooth black finish is unassuming and manual focusing is a dream with it. The FA* is nice too, but the all to scratchable siver paint is a cause for concern and will no doubt draw looks. I was actually walking on the trails in a park and passed two guys carrying Nikons and one of them said hi, and then looked down at eh FA* like it was some alien device. For an AF lens the FA* is very nice to focus, and the focus clutch makes switching between the two modes very easy, but the MF just doesn't compare to the A*.

Now for the good part, the test photos. I'm only putting one set of test photos up because I simply don't have enough room left on my flickr account for this month to put up more. Also, since I don't have a Pro Flickr account these won't be viewable at full size. The pictures were taken an hour or so before sunset on an overcast day. The camera was on a tripod, with the SR turned off, and the shutter was fired with a IR remote with 3 second mirror lock up. The camera was in aperture priority mode and the ISO was set to 100, and not all the shutter speeds for the same aperture are the same for both lenses. EV compensation was left at 0 in the camera. In PS Lightroom I gave all photos the same white balance and tried to adjust the exposure so that they were as close to as each other as possible. Other than that the photos are straight out of the camera.

FA*:
1.4
Flickr Photo Download: FA- 85mm Tree Test
2.0
Flickr Photo Download: FA- 85mm Tree Test-2
2.8
Flickr Photo Download: FA- 85mm Tree Test-3
4.0
Flickr Photo Download: FA- 85mm Tree Test-4
5.6
Flickr Photo Download: FA- 85mm Tree Test-5
8.0
Flickr Photo Download: FA- 85mm Tree Test-6
11.0
Flickr Photo Download: FA- 85mm Tree Test-7

A*:
1.4
Flickr Photo Download: A- 85mm Tree Test
2.0
Flickr Photo Download: A- 85mm Tree Test-2
2.8
Flickr Photo Download: A- 85mm Tree Test-3
4.0
Flickr Photo Download: A- 85mm Tree Test-4
5.6
Flickr Photo Download: A- 85mm Tree Test-5
8.0
Flickr Photo Download: A- 85mm Tree Test-6
11.0
Flickr Photo Download: A- 85mm Tree Test-7

The lens buying addict within me wants me to keep both, and for the time being I will. At least for a couple more months. If I can find the money(meaning if I can find another job right after the seasonal job I'm currently doing is over in June) I will hold on to both lenses indefinitely. I've found I really love this focal length, and the large max aperture and great IQ of both lenses is just the icing on the cake. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, but if I had to pick one right now to sell, I'm thinking it would be the A*. As great as it is, its greater sharpness than the FA* only really reveals itself at high magnifications. On the other hand the better color, in my mind, and the less apparent PF of the FA* can be seen even at smaller sizes.
04-19-2009, 06:52 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Votesh Quote
Well, I have now done three side-to-side tests with these two lenses
Thanks for your testing and the detailed comments.

My experiences are similar (although, since you have examined the differences more carefully than I ever have, your specific comments hold more value than almost anything I could add - <g>).

I guess my only addition might be that I think the A* might be just a bit more resistant to flare than the FA*.

Thanks again.
04-19-2009, 07:32 PM   #15
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I agree about the flare resistance. I was stunned that I could get the shot I posted of the sun rising above the prairie with the A*. I tried to get similar shots with the FA* and it just wasn't working. I got some others from that same morning with the A* with the sun just out of the frame, and there is a little bit of flare but it's almost nothing, and I wan't even using the hood. Once again, I tried similar shots with the FA* and they were unusable, even with the hood. I suspect it might be due to the fact that the front element of the FA* is more convex than the front element of the A*.

I really expected all this testing to show a clear "winner", but it's only made it that much harder for me to pick the "best" one. They're each exceptional, but just in their own ways. I can't wait to get a chance to do some portaits with both of them. I've done some with the A* already and they're very good, but I suspect that might be another area where the FA* shines. I'd try to do some of myself but I suspect it wouldn't work too well.
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