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View Poll Results: Which is your preference?
Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 3957.35%
Sigma EX DG HSM 50mm f/1.4 2942.65%
Voters: 68. You may not vote on this poll

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08-01-2009, 10:58 PM   #31
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pentax_XTC Quote
As far as bokeh I'm mostly concerned with smooth circles.
The FA 50/1.4 has a jagged aperture shape for some f-ratios.
Many other Pentax lenses have this "feature" as well. On some critical shots, you'll see the jagged shape of the aperture. When the border is completely smooth, it is a wide open shot (f/1.4).

Great lens otherwise...

02-16-2010, 12:33 PM   #32
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QuoteQuote:
I currently have the Pentax DA 18-250 and I like the zoom function, but I'm looking for bokeh. I know that 1.4 is nice bokeh, but can anyone that has the FA50 or Sigma 50mm compare them to the Pentax DA* 50-135? this might be an option for me as well. I found some more money so I won't be in the dog house anymore or homeless from my purchase
I think you mentioned wedding photographs. I'm fortunate to have the 18-250, the FA 50 f1.4 and the DA 50-135, all 3 are worthy lenses. (BTW, I have taken photos from the 18-250 at 50mm that i have mistaken for the FA-50 until i checked)
1. The cool thing about the FA 50 f1.4 is it focuses in low light situations where the other 2 won't. I was shooting at a play dress rehearsal recently where the lighting was bad for one act; i had to switch from an F2.8 lens to the FA 50 at F1.7 and ISO 1600. Indoors, F2.8 doesn't cut it sometimes, unless you're allowed to use a flash.
2. The FA50 f1.4 outer lens sits very close to the front of the lens, and requires a hood to avoid softness that some folks talk about. I use a folding rubber hood i got from Adorama, and find the combination to be very easy to carry around and store in the camera bag. If you dont have a good low light lens yet, then get this one is my advice. Its an excellent workhorse that has never let me down for sharpness, flare, PF, etc. I've sold several pictures from it.
3. DA50-135: I bought this to do publicity shots for a local playhouse. Optical quality has always seemed "professional" level, and its quiet focusing in a theatre is an added plus. But its heavy and bulky compared to a prime. There is no lens tripod mount with this lens, and so if you mount it on a tripod in portrait mode, it tends to swivel toward the ground unless you have the tightening screw really torqued :-) For one play, i and another photographer were asked to do 20 plus actor portraits in a park setting against a cinder block building. This lens produced excellent results for those portraits and resulted in a creamy background that looked like they were taken in a professional studio setting.
I've never used the Sigma 50 that you're talking about, or the DA55, but I know that the FA 50 f1.4 in real life situations would be hard to beat. Can't speak to bokeh with the FA 50 because i'm usually trying to get large DOF when i use that lens for landscape work.
best wishes in your search,
02-16-2010, 09:36 PM   #33
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My thanks to the OP for this thread: taxes are better than I thought and a fast, AF, 50ish is one of the niches I'm looking to fill. I was wondering about these two.
02-16-2010, 09:59 PM   #34
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QuoteQuote:
Pentax XTC: I am looking for recommendations of posters that have used these lenses, ex. are they equally matched and if not which is better and why?
There are 66 independent reviews, by lens owners here:

FM Reviews - 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM

These C & N shooters are as picky about their glass as we are--I would read some of these if I were you. Nothing like a large pool of owner reviews. They may not be in Penny mount, but I'm sure much value can be had from reading here. Best!

02-17-2010, 04:17 AM   #35
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jewelltrail Quote
There are 66 independent reviews, by lens owners here:

FM Reviews - 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM

These C & N shooters are as picky about their glass as we are--I would read some of these if I were you. Nothing like a large pool of owner reviews. They may not be in Penny mount, but I'm sure much value can be had from reading here. Best!
A pool of bad reviews and herd thinking is worse than one good review, but I still find the comments interesting or hilarious. One poster complained the lens front-focused and back-focused. One reviewer blamed the lenses for focusing problems, yet his AF was fixed only when he brought in both the body and the lens to Sigma. Another poster commented that Canon 50 USM misses focus as often as the Sigma. I only noticed one poster who realized that his focusing problems were due to focus shift.

Many of the "reviewers" have nothing good to compare. 50 f/1.4 USM is not a very good lens (in spite of looking good on an 8mp sensor on photozone; look at the lenstip.com review) and Canon users aren't comparing it to FA 50 f/1.4. The newer Nikon 50 f/1.4 AF-S optical design is eerily similar to DA* 55 f/1.4, minus one optical element. I'd probably go with the Nikkor, if I had a Nikon body and wanted AF.

The bokeh of Sigma 50 is good as long you avoid f/1.4-f/1.9 or points of light in the background:

(Sigma onions/nipples) Sigma 50mm f1.4 @ 1.4 on Flickr - Photo Sharing! (just look a little closer)
(Nikon no-onions) Nikkor 50mm f1.4 @ 1.4 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

There are also Zeiss and Voigtlander alternatives...

Last edited by asdf; 02-17-2010 at 06:16 AM.
02-17-2010, 08:53 PM   #36
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Pentax XTC, I would read the DPreview analysis of Sigma lens--and compare that to their review of the Fa 50mm 1.4. Their overall conclusion is here:

Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Lens Review: 6. Conclusion & samples: Digital Photography Review


In the overall conclusion I find these words interesting, and I quote, verbatim:

"All is not perfect, of course; the 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM still can't achieve anything approaching genuine corner-to-corner sharpness on full frame at wide apertures, however it does much, much better than the other 50mm F1.4 lenses we've tested so far..."

Also, if at all possible, try to shoot with both lenses and see which of them is best for your needs. Even if the Sigma is better, is its extra cost justified, in your eyes?
02-17-2010, 11:26 PM   #37
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jewelltrail Quote
Pentax XTC, I would read the DPreview analysis of Sigma lens--and compare that to their review of the Fa 50mm 1.4. Their overall conclusion is here:

Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Lens Review: 6. Conclusion & samples: Digital Photography Review


In the overall conclusion I find these words interesting, and I quote, verbatim:

"All is not perfect, of course; the 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM still can't achieve anything approaching genuine corner-to-corner sharpness on full frame at wide apertures, however it does much, much better than the other 50mm F1.4 lenses we've tested so far..."

Also, if at all possible, try to shoot with both lenses and see which of them is best for your needs. Even if the Sigma is better, is its extra cost justified, in your eyes?
Jewell, from your very good link, the next sentence puts a different light on things:

QuoteQuote:
Also, the older 50mm F1.4 designs measurably outperform it for corner-to-corner sharpness at smaller apertures on full-frame, so if you're shooting primes for absolute image quality at F8, it offers little advantage.
From the Dpreview review:
QuoteQuote:
The standout characteristic of the Pentax is arguably its extremely low distortion, which is the lowest of the 50mm F1.4s we've tested. And when the aperture is stopped down to F2.2 or smaller, it's impressively sharp corner-to-corner, right across the APS-C frame. It's important to understand here that the 50mm F1.4 is much sharper than typical consumer zooms; even at F2.8 it surpasses both the DA 16-45mm 1:4 ED AL and the DA 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 AL shot at 45mm and their optimum apertures around F8.
Of course i'm cherry picking the most favorable parts of the reviews, but its perfect for the applications i use it for.

best wishes,

Last edited by philbaum; 02-17-2010 at 11:56 PM.
02-18-2010, 12:51 AM   #38
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QuoteQuote:
Philbaum: Of course i'm cherry picking the most favorable parts of the reviews, but its perfect for the applications i use it for.
That is okay, because you admit to it. More seriously though, this is why I posted a link to an in-depth, 6 page review. All in all, I think it is fair to say that DPreview, as good an on line authority as any, though not without their own Achilles' heel, likes the Sigma f 50mm 1.4 more than the Pentax 50mm 1.4 Fa.
QuoteQuote:
Also, the older 50mm F1.4 designs measurably outperform it for corner-to-corner sharpness at smaller apertures on full-frame, so if you're shooting primes for absolute image quality at F8, it offers little advantage.
Phil, I think the key to the above sentence is "on full-frame at smaller apertures." And, who do you know who is "shooting primes for absolute image quality @ f8"??? The Sigma has been optimized to perform, according to DPreview, in those areas where people actually use a prime like this. So, this sentence only makes sense through the lens of the opening sentence in the paragraph immediately preceding it, where, we learn, for example, this is so specifically because Sigma engineered it to be so:

"In short, Sigma appears to have taken a fresh look at how photographers now tend to use 50mm primes as a complement to zooms for low-light and portrait shooting, and optimized the lens to match, paying attention predominantly to high central performance at wide apertures over corner-to-corner evenness stopped down."

Bottom line: the Sigma lens performs best in those areas where a person buys a lens like this to perform.


Philbaum:
QuoteQuote:
The standout characteristic of the Pentax is arguably its extremely low distortion, which is the lowest of the 50mm F1.4s we've tested. And when the aperture is stopped down to F2.2 or smaller, it's impressively sharp corner-to-corner, right across the APS-C frame. It's important to understand here that the 50mm F1.4 is much sharper than typical consumer zooms; even at F2.8 it surpasses both the DA 16-45mm 1:4 ED AL and the DA 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 AL shot at 45mm and their optimum apertures around F8.
Yes, the Pentax is better stopped down, @ f2.2--but who buys a f 1.4 lens for perfromance @ f 2.2? And, in the very next sentence, which you chose not to "cherry pick," we learn the big cost the Pentax fa 50 pays for excelling stopped down:

[I]"However this excellent showing when stopped down does come at the cost of an unconvincing performance at large apertures; the lens is very soft indeed at F1.4, and while we described the Canon 50mm F1.4 as 'dreamy', the Pentax renders scenes more as though you're looking through a fine veil of mist. This is accompanied by a distinctly problematic rendition of out-of-focus backgrounds, to which it imparts a jarringly hard-edged appearance and substantial levels of green/magenta chromatic aberration. This in turn slightly limits the lens's usefulness for shallow depth of field portrait use, an application for which the (much more expensive) Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM is rather better suited."[/I]


Last edited by Jewelltrail; 02-18-2010 at 01:19 AM.
02-18-2010, 02:41 AM   #39
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QuoteOriginally posted by Darren M Quote
The Sigma is the better lens; both from my very limited use of it and from most of the reports I have read. It is quite a lot more expensive though (50% more here) and a lot bigger. There are benefits to both lenses for certain.
Agreed, that was my opinion too, as I have other 50ish lenses I use like James's Voigt 58/1.4 (I am waiting for AUD/USD parity to buy it lol) I decided the size/weight and price of the Pentax was what I wanted, but for ultimate optical performance I think the much newer Sigma is the better lens.
02-18-2010, 10:26 AM   #40
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QuoteQuote:
Pentax XTC: My main concern from the lens is bokeh, but with the subject being sharp in the foreground. My second concern is AF accuracy. I am not concerned about size or price.
I do not think there is any doubt, especially at the wider apertures, the Sigma is indeed the better lens. Since the extra money is not a concern to you--BUY THE SIGMA. I would read the DPreview though, in its entirety, just to help you appreciate what is so special about the Sigma. Best!
02-18-2010, 11:45 AM   #41
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QuoteQuote:
And, who do you know who is "shooting primes for absolute image quality @ f8"??? The Sigma has been optimized to perform, according to DPreview, in those areas where people actually use a prime like this. So, this sentence only makes sense through the lens of the opening sentence in the paragraph immediately preceding it, where, we learn, for example, this is so specifically because Sigma engineered it to be so:
Jewell,
Well.... that would be me I really did and do use the lens for doing twilight scenes on tripod which are sharp from corner to corner and F8 or smaller is probably my most common. As a second duty, i use it for lowlight capture of actors in the local playhouse for publicity photos. they don't much care about bokeh, capturing the scene without flash is the most important to them. So when i said the lens was perfect for my use, it really is. I usually don't do any portraits.

An advantage of using the FA 50 1.4 for twilight scenes is that the AF (using the light gathering ability of the 1.4 lens) can often pick up a focus point where even manual focus might be difficult. I'm not particular whether AF or MF is used, just so i get the depth of field i want. I do have 2 zooms that cover that FL, but neither one are as reliable in AF in twilight.

But i get what you're saying about Sigma, and i think its cool that a company would take a fresh look at lenses. And i get that i may not be in the majority of users of a fast 50 lens.

I appreciate the objective discussion :-)
02-18-2010, 09:48 PM   #42
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QuoteQuote:
PHILBAUM: Jewell,
Well.... that would be me I really did and do use the lens for doing twilight scenes on tripod which are sharp from corner to corner and F8 or smaller is probably my most common.
Cool, I'm glad this works for your applications. It is good for you to remind us that applications do, indeed vary from individual to individual.

QuoteQuote:
philbaum: So when i said the lens was perfect for my use, it really is. I usually don't do any portraits.
Phil, I never questioned this in any way, shape or form. My posts in this thread are for the OP, who, in fact owns the thread and who was seeking information related to the revelation of which lens is in fact better--for HIS applications, which he clearly spells out in this thread--BOKEH is paramount to him. I think the words of the DPreview people are worth repeating:


".....the Pentax renders scenes more as though you're looking through a fine veil of mist. This is accompanied by a distinctly problematic rendition of out-of-focus backgrounds, to which it imparts a jarringly hard-edged appearance and substantial levels of green/magenta chromatic aberration. This in turn slightly limits the lens's usefulness for shallow depth of field portrait use, an application for which the (much more expensive) Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM is rather better suited."

BTW, there are pics of the "problematic bokeh" at this review if anyone needs to review them.
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