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05-13-2009, 07:20 AM   #1
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Professional test of DA*55/1.4

Lenstip.com - the english version of Optyczne.pl (one of the most popular Polish portals on technical aspects of photography) has posted the new review of the latest Pentax *DA55/1.4.

*DA55/1.4 Test

You might be also interested which UV filter to buy. Then read UV review

05-13-2009, 08:09 AM   #2
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While the testers measurebate, the photographers photobate?
Or something.
This gallery was shot with the DA*50/1.4.
Lynds as Christine
It's a little short for this particular model, but the lens itself is superb.
05-13-2009, 08:33 AM   #3
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That test seems to confirm my suspicion that we would be hard pressed to notice a difference in performance that would be worth the huge difference in price compared to the classic FA 50/1.4.
05-13-2009, 08:58 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by GeneV Quote
That test seems to confirm my suspicion that we would be hard pressed to notice a difference in performance that would be worth the huge difference in price compared to the classic FA 50/1.4.
I'm starting to feel the same way. Great at F4 would describe a lot of lenses out there. The only thing lacking on the FA50 is build quality...

05-13-2009, 09:07 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by maxwell1295 Quote
I'm starting to feel the same way. Great at F4 would describe a lot of lenses out there. The only thing lacking on the FA50 is build quality...
Yeah but you could break a couple of FA50s and still not spend as much.

And then there is the A version in MF--great build quality if you like to find your own focus.
05-13-2009, 09:14 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by GeneV Quote
That test seems to confirm my suspicion that we would be hard pressed to notice a difference in performance that would be worth the huge difference in price compared to the classic FA 50/1.4.
This is why taking pictures is sometimes better than reading test charts.
While I haven't compared both lenses under absolutely identical circumstances, my impression is that the DA is a substantially better lens, especially wide open.
I think that f/8 is kind of the great equalizer, in that if you shoot everything stopped down to around there, you probably won't see much, if any difference between the two.
I like shooting at wider apertures though, and I appreciate that I can use the 55/1.4 wide open and still get very sharp images, something that I just can't do with the FA50/1.4.
Whether this is worth the price of admission is for individual photographers to decide, and I expect most won't, but the open aperture performance must acount for a fairly large increase in cost.
I suspect a little corporate greed is also at play, it wouldn't surprise me if they drop the price of the 55/1.4 by a significant % to see if they can boost sales of it at some point.
It is much slower to focus than the FA50/1.4 by a huge margin, which puts the edge to the FA under the shooting conditions that most people would find themselves in.
The AF speed of the DA55/1.4 is embarassingly slow.
I'll keep both in my kit, they are really two very different lenses for very different applicatons, even though they are of very similar FL and maximum aperture.
05-13-2009, 09:36 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
This is why taking pictures is sometimes better than reading test charts.
While I haven't compared both lenses under absolutely identical circumstances, my impression is that the DA is a substantially better lens, especially wide open.
Here's a quote from the review:

"Another thing to notice when comparing the new and the old Pentax is the fact, that the new model at maximum aperture gives higher overall contrast, that is higher MTF values for 80 or 90% contrast. It manifests in the pictures as the lack of characteristic “mist” that is the domain of the old Pentax or e.g. Canon 1.4/50 USM."

Their main gripe is the price (2500 PLN which translates to 900 CAD today.)

EDIT: Did you ever try Sigma 50 f/1.4 HSM?
05-13-2009, 09:53 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
This is why taking pictures is sometimes better than reading test charts.
While I haven't compared both lenses under absolutely identical circumstances, my impression is that the DA is a substantially better lens, especially wide open.
I think that f/8 is kind of the great equalizer, in that if you shoot everything stopped down to around there, you probably won't see much, if any difference between the two.
I like shooting at wider apertures though, and I appreciate that I can use the 55/1.4 wide open and still get very sharp images, something that I just can't do with the FA50/1.4.
Whether this is worth the price of admission is for individual photographers to decide, and I expect most won't, but the open aperture performance must acount for a fairly large increase in cost.
I suspect a little corporate greed is also at play, it wouldn't surprise me if they drop the price of the 55/1.4 by a significant % to see if they can boost sales of it at some point.
It is much slower to focus than the FA50/1.4 by a huge margin, which puts the edge to the FA under the shooting conditions that most people would find themselves in.
The AF speed of the DA55/1.4 is embarassingly slow.
I'll keep both in my kit, they are really two very different lenses for very different applicatons, even though they are of very similar FL and maximum aperture.
Actually, F4 can be the great equalizer of fast 50s.

My conclusions are based mostly on the fact that I have used the predecessors of the FA 50/1.4 for 30 years, on films that leave a 10-14mp sensor in the dust. The classic Pentax 50/1.4 is such a good design that I find it hard to imagine what could be worth more than twice the price. Frankly, the test (including photos) would have to show some pretty amazing results to tempt me to add another 50 to my bag at any price.


Last edited by GeneV; 05-13-2009 at 10:27 AM.
05-13-2009, 10:53 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by GeneV Quote
Actually, F4 can be the great equalizer of fast 50s.

My conclusions are based mostly on the fact that I have used the predecessors of the FA 50/1.4 for 30 years, on films that leave a 10-14mp sensor in the dust. The classic Pentax 50/1.4 is such a good design that I find it hard to imagine what could be worth more than twice the price. Frankly, the test (including photos) would have to show some pretty amazing results to tempt me to add another 50 to my bag at any price.
Your conclusions are based on an internet test.

I'm a 50mm lens junkie, and have samples of every K-mount 50/1.4 as well as several f/2s, 1/8s, 1.7s and 1.2s. I know 50mm lenses.
All Pentax 50s are good lenses, there is no doubt about it. However the 55 has smoother bokeh, and better contrast, wide open, which is where Pentax 50/1.4s (especially) traditionally perform fairly poorly.
The DA* is very usable wide open. The next best 50 I have is the A50/1.4 (the A50/1.2 is pretty close), but isn't really getting sharp until f/4.
The FA50/1.4 is starting to get good by f/4, but I wouldn't say it has come into it's own until f/5.6, by which time they are all preforming quite well, unless the backgrounds are busy.
The M50/1.4 is about 1 stop slower than the A lens before it is getting really good, the K50/1.4 tightens up quite a bit by f/2.8, but has the worst bokeh of the lot, which limits the usefulness of that sharpness.
For me, this gives the DA* 3 full stops of more usable aperture.
If we were talking zoom lenses, it would be like comparing a crapola f/5.6-f/6.3 zoom to a pro grade constant aperture f/2.8, and no one would be sawing off about the price.
The only knock I have against the DA55 is AF speed, but it's optical properties allow me to forgive it this failing.

If the 55/1.4 is too rich for you, by all means don't buy one.
I realize that passing judgement based on no first hand experience is the accepted way of doing things these days, but don't knock it until you've tried it.
05-13-2009, 11:40 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
Your conclusions are based on an internet test.

I'm a 50mm lens junkie, and have samples of every K-mount 50/1.4 as well as several f/2s, 1/8s, 1.7s and 1.2s. I know 50mm lenses.
All Pentax 50s are good lenses, there is no doubt about it. However the 55 has smoother bokeh, and better contrast, wide open, which is where Pentax 50/1.4s (especially) traditionally perform fairly poorly.
The DA* is very usable wide open. The next best 50 I have is the A50/1.4 (the A50/1.2 is pretty close), but isn't really getting sharp until f/4.
The FA50/1.4 is starting to get good by f/4, but I wouldn't say it has come into it's own until f/5.6, by which time they are all preforming quite well, unless the backgrounds are busy.
The M50/1.4 is about 1 stop slower than the A lens before it is getting really good, the K50/1.4 tightens up quite a bit by f/2.8, but has the worst bokeh of the lot, which limits the usefulness of that sharpness.
For me, this gives the DA* 3 full stops of more usable aperture.
If we were talking zoom lenses, it would be like comparing a crapola f/5.6-f/6.3 zoom to a pro grade constant aperture f/2.8, and no one would be sawing off about the price.
The only knock I have against the DA55 is AF speed, but it's optical properties allow me to forgive it this failing.

If the 55/1.4 is too rich for you, by all means don't buy one.
I realize that passing judgement based on no first hand experience is the accepted way of doing things these days, but don't knock it until you've tried it.
You obviously know more about what is in my mind than I do. Of course you know better than I do whether I have also had experience with multiple 50mm lenses in 40 years of SLR photography. Of course you know better than I do how I base my opinions. Of course, that is why you know I have no basis whatsover for being happy with what I have--other than this "internet review."

Other than the condescending cr*p, it is a fairly informative post. Why can't you keep it at that?
05-13-2009, 11:49 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by GeneV Quote


Other than the condescending cr*p, it is a fairly informative post. Why can't you keep it at that?
I have a hard time respecting opinions based on ignorance?

Unless you've compared the DA55 to your other lenses, you don't have a solid basis for making a judgement?

I'm in the fortunate position of having a good relationship with a bricks and mortar store that allows me the privledge of trying equipment before I buy?

Fourty years of working as a photographer has turned me into a bitter old curmudgeon?

You can take your pick, the last reason is probably the most likely though.
05-13-2009, 12:05 PM   #12
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Sourcing all the data from various sites and shooters the new lens is leaps and bounds better faster than f/2.8 imho.
05-13-2009, 01:18 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
Your conclusions are based on an internet test.

I'm a 50mm lens junkie, and have samples of every K-mount 50/1.4 as well as several f/2s, 1/8s, 1.7s and 1.2s. I know 50mm lenses.
All Pentax 50s are good lenses, there is no doubt about it. However the 55 has smoother bokeh, and better contrast, wide open, which is where Pentax 50/1.4s (especially) traditionally perform fairly poorly.
The DA* is very usable wide open. The next best 50 I have is the A50/1.4 (the A50/1.2 is pretty close), but isn't really getting sharp until f/4.
The FA50/1.4 is starting to get good by f/4, but I wouldn't say it has come into it's own until f/5.6, by which time they are all preforming quite well, unless the backgrounds are busy.
The M50/1.4 is about 1 stop slower than the A lens before it is getting really good, the K50/1.4 tightens up quite a bit by f/2.8, but has the worst bokeh of the lot, which limits the usefulness of that sharpness.
For me, this gives the DA* 3 full stops of more usable aperture.
If we were talking zoom lenses, it would be like comparing a crapola f/5.6-f/6.3 zoom to a pro grade constant aperture f/2.8, and no one would be sawing off about the price.
The only knock I have against the DA55 is AF speed, but it's optical properties allow me to forgive it this failing.

If the 55/1.4 is too rich for you, by all means don't buy one.
I realize that passing judgement based on no first hand experience is the accepted way of doing things these days, but don't knock it until you've tried it.
Thanks for this... Perhaps it is because Pentax is such a small brand but there seems to be far too many opinions based on far too little experience (often no experience at all). I've suspected that this is a gem of a lens and you've helped confirm my suspicions. I'll have to try it for myself before I can know if you're truly trustworthy but it looks like a reasonable assessment
05-13-2009, 01:22 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by kunik Quote
Thanks for this... Perhaps it is because Pentax is such a small brand but there seems to be far too many opinions based on far too little experience (often no experience at all). I've suspected that this is a gem of a lens and you've helped confirm my suspicions. I'll have to try it for myself before I can know if you're truly trustworthy but it looks like a reasonable assessment
As nice as it is, I do think it's over valued somewhat right now. I really do think I could have saved myself some money by not being so quick on the trigger. I paid just over $800.00 for my copy, I think if you wait a month or two, they'll probably drop the price by 20% or so.
I keep intending to go out and try it against all my 50s (I have 8 or so of them) as well as the Nokton, but every time i have time, it friggin snows again.
It's just miserable here today, yesterday was t-shirt weather.
05-13-2009, 01:36 PM   #15
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There seems to be a backlash against this lens because of its price (which in Canada is now in line with the rest of Pentax's lineup). I think though that the chatter about this one is going to turn more positive the more people get their hands on them.

I've tried a DA*55 a few times and even got to borrow one for a weekend. There's nothing I don't like about this lens. AF is slow, but it's very smooth and just goes to where it's supposed to go and locks. No back and forth.

Above all, the images are just gorgeous. The colour, contrast and bokeh are all fantastic. To be sharper than other lenses in its class at wider is worth a lot to some people--doesn't matter if it loses its advantage at f/4 or beyond to me.

It's next on my list, definitely. Whether it makes me stop using my 43, FA 50 1.7, Voigtlander 58 or 77 ltd, only time will tell!
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