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08-25-2009, 03:15 PM   #1
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The Q: Why do primes = best IQ???

I'm not sure I get it... I have a FA 50mm 1.4 - amazing IQ

What's the deal with all the LTD lenses? Other than the build quality... what makes a prime lens so much better in terms of IQ?

...and I'm referring to sharpness, colors, contrast, bokeh... etc.

08-25-2009, 03:28 PM   #2
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In theory, prime is optmized for a fixed focal length so it should provide the best optical performance and least compromise. But in reality, not all primes are created equal and some modern zooms can outperform good primes in some areas. Personally, I feel the LIMITED cult is largely based on unique built quality and myth. Not that they are poor by any standard, but not neceassily the best optically either. Imagine, of all LIMITED lenses were to put in the standard FA or DA plastic barrels, could you still imagine people worship them as they are today? But then again, one might not always need the best of everything to produce 1st class images. Just pick what you like and enjoy.
08-25-2009, 03:44 PM   #3
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Also because primes needs less optical elements than zoom. This means less flare, better contrast due to less reflective surfaces. Usually 7 to 9 elements for a prime, vs 14 to 20 for a zoom
08-26-2009, 09:44 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by wlachan Quote
Personally, I feel the LIMITED cult is largely based on unique built quality and myth. Not that they are poor by any standard, but not neceassily the best optically either.
My opinion is the Limited primes deserve their following because of their optical performance. The proof is in the pudding, its no myth. Their build quality is just icing on the cake. I shoot with a DA 40 and DA 70 because I haven't seen a zoom that can match their performance at those focal lengths. The DA* 50-135 may get close to the 70mm, but its much bigger, heavier, and much more expensive. The limiteds also get attention and respect from shooters from other camps, not because of their build, but because of the images they produce.

QuoteOriginally posted by wlachan Quote
Imagine, of all LIMITED lenses were to put in the standard FA or DA plastic barrels, could you still imagine people worship them as they are today?
What about the FA35 F2? That lense is constantly recomended over the DA40 and DA35 Macro. Its even been compared to the FA31! Its wrapped in plastic, but a lot of Pentaxians know good glass when they see it, reguardless of outward appearances.

08-26-2009, 09:52 AM   #5
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And the 50/1.4 is also a consensus great lens... main problem is low cost and 'ordinariness'.

With zooms, perhaps convenience and range are valued over absolute quality - which is a valid compromise. It's sort of like carrying 7 different tools or a Swiss army knife - both get the job done... and you get to make your own decision between convenience and portability and quality.
08-26-2009, 10:01 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nesster Quote
And the 50/1.4 is also a consensus great lens... main problem is low cost and 'ordinariness'.

With zooms, perhaps convenience and range are valued over absolute quality - which is a valid compromise. It's sort of like carrying 7 different tools or a Swiss army knife - both get the job done... and you get to make your own decision between convenience and portability and quality.
Great analogy... plus my 50/1.4 has served me so well, despite it's "plasticy" shell
08-26-2009, 10:23 AM   #7
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I have certain zooms that pretty much equal some of my primes. And it is certainly more convenient to carry around a 28-75mm lens instead of 28, 35, 43, 55, and 77 primes. On the other hand I have 4 primes, the FA 20, FA 43 and 77 ltd's and the Tamrom 90mm macro, that outperform every lens in my collection at their respective focal lengths. And it is not just sharpness, my FA 35 is very sharp, but I'm less than enthusiastic about it's bokeh. The others are simply excellent in all areas. I've other primes, that are good lenses, just not on par with the 4 mentioned above. I would ammend the OP's statement to "The BEST primes = best IQ". I would put my Tamron 28-75 as equal to several of my "better" primes, but not my "fantastic four".

NaCl(the BEST primes are just that, the best IQ wise)H2O
08-26-2009, 10:33 AM   #8
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Ordinariness and low cost aren't really problems if the results from the lens are excellent...

08-26-2009, 10:53 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by goubejp Quote
Also because primes needs less optical elements than zoom. This means less flare, better contrast due to less reflective surfaces. Usually 7 to 9 elements for a prime, vs 14 to 20 for a zoom
<pedantry>
Fewer optical elements, if the optical elements were lesser then they wouldn't be as good. <g>

Fewer elements means less flare :-)
</pedantry>
08-26-2009, 11:18 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by goubejp Quote
Also because primes needs less optical elements than zoom. This means less flare, better contrast due to less reflective surfaces. Usually 7 to 9 elements for a prime, vs 14 to 20 for a zoom
Nailed it. Less is more here.

QuoteOriginally posted by esman7:
Great analogy... plus my 50/1.4 has served me so well, despite it's "plasticy" shell
You want to see plasticky, try a Nikon or Canon 50/1.8. The build quality of the FA50 is much better...only negative is the focus ring is a little on the small side.
08-26-2009, 11:51 AM   #11
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the fa50 is a pretty poor performer on digital bodies and the build quality these days is hit or miss. i had a canon convert ask why his aperture blades weren't moving at certain settings, while mine is seemingly perfect (operational wise).

as bad as the da* 16-50 imo for that.
08-26-2009, 12:52 PM   #12
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some primes have less elements and some primes have more. however, there are primes with less elements that are really superb and there are also primes with more elements that are superb as well. in general, a prime would always have that distinction of IQ advantage over zoom lens. but not all prime lenses are superior. there will always be some bad apples in a basket.
08-26-2009, 07:07 PM   #13
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The FA 50 is a decent lens, but certainly not on the level of the limiteds. All of the limiteds I have used have been sharp from wide open (while the FA 50 is most certainly not). With the limiteds, you get a few things over a zoom. Generally they are faster (although the DA limiteds aren't that fast), they are smaller, and they are very sharp.

Zooms all have strengths and weaknesses. Even a great zoom like the DA *50-135 is pretty weak at the long end and wide open. Most people who use zooms a lot, learn those weaknesses and just avoid them. As great as they are, they will always be bigger. Just as an example the DA 50-135 weighs 685 grams and is 136 mm long, while the DA 70 weighs 130 grams and is 26 mm long.

The limiteds have a lot more engineering that went into them than the FA 50. Mine is pretty soft wide open and pretty prone to flare. I still love it, but the limiteds are better, much better.
08-26-2009, 07:42 PM   #14
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As I'm sure you've gathered by now, the limiteds are primes. As are other fixed focal length lenses that aren't limiteds. I am not a picky as some and I haven't had a bad Pentax lens. I shoot primes for two reasons. One is they are usually faster. Sometimes I need f/2 or wider. When I'm walking the streets and the sun starts down I switch from my walk-around zoom to a 35mm f/2.

The other reason is simply nostalgia. I have the 35, 50, 77--the only limited--and a 100mm macro. I started talking photos before zooms and sometimes it makes me feel young again to go work with primes. On a more practical vein, the 35, 50, and 77 have a place for portrait work.
08-26-2009, 08:22 PM   #15
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Pentax should be congratulated differentiating themselves from the rest of the pack by producing so many primes. I took a look at some Nikon and Canon zooms today and although I can speak for the image quality the build quality was pretty sad. It made those DA, FA Limiteds and all the old manual glass in my bag look pretty good.

Tom G

Last edited by 8540tomg; 08-27-2009 at 04:53 AM. Reason: typo
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