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09-02-2009, 10:50 AM   #1
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Is the new DA* 55 worth the money??

I know that this is going to sound a bit like heresy to some but I am wrapping up a DA* 55mm f1.4 for return right now.

I took a few photos with it and compared them against my 50mm 1.4 ($250 US) and my 50mm 1.7 ($160 US) and I just can't justify the $650 dollars it will take to keep it. Don't get me wrong, it is a beautiful lens and the pictures it takes are very, very nice. I would love to keep it but the image quality just isn't stunning enough to justify the $400 premium over the SMCP FA 50 1.4.

I am a borderline gear junkie, and I am a long, long way from an expert on this topic, but I am having a really hard time telling the difference between the pictures from my FA 50 1.7 and this new DA* 55 1.4. I am not a pro photographer and probably never will be. I am just a hobbyist who loves to take pictures so I am definitely not in the same league as many of you on this site. I didn't take any pictures of square grids or do any other official tests. I didn't test for chromatic aberrations or distortion, I just tested this lens by using it as I would use any of my other lenses.

Not only couldn't I tell any difference between the image quality but neither could my wife or my daughter when I printed out samples from the 55 and my two 50s. Additionally there was a noticeable difference in focus speed and accuracy, the FA 50 whipped this new DA* hands down in that regard. I had a terrible time getting the DA* to focus on my cat for a test picture in decent indoor light, but when I switched to my 50 1.7 I was able to auto-focus and snap a decent picture in what seemed like milliseconds. In fact, my kit lens (the DA 18-55) was able to focus and take a picture in the same room. That performance was so disappointing that I took the lens off right then and packed it back in the box.

I am only one person, and my opinion probably only matters to me and to a few other people in my small circle, but $650 dollars is a whole lot of money to pay for a 50mm lens and I better get a measurable, real-world improvement for that money. Pentax sold me on their camera because I could put any of my older lenses to work with it. Unfortunately for them that means that this lens just doesn't cut the mustard compared to their older versions.

09-02-2009, 11:40 AM   #2
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you can shoot in the rain with it

sometimes there is no price tag for something like this

you either hide under a tree, or you go out and take the shot you need

its your call

plus its SDM vs Screw, ie, silence vs whrrrrrrrrrrr
09-02-2009, 11:47 AM   #3
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Well for a borderline gear junkie, it's borderline get all the fast fifties...
You may not tell the difference much between them, but the SDM/WR premium is always there for a DA* lens.... build quality is as a result a vast improvement, although the FA 50/1.4 is not a cheapy in anyone's standards.

Your call...
09-02-2009, 12:43 PM   #4
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I went with the DA*55/1.4 to get a little extra reach and for hopefully better wide open performance as compared to the FA50/1.4. The reach is there, I am much more comfortable with the 55 than the 50, but frankly, there isn't really a lot to write home about regarding the quality difference. The DA is definitely sharper wide open, but by f/4 they are very close, by f/5.6 virtually identical.
The DA does have nicer out of focus rendering, but you are right, it's a lot of money to spend to get some rather marginal gains in performance.
I happen to have a very good FA50/1.4, mine is actually reasonable wide open. I have heard some horror stories about the FA being rather soft.

09-02-2009, 12:49 PM   #5
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Thanks for reading my little rant. Obviously I was disappointed with my purchase.

You have a point regarding price tags. Price and value definitely depend on the buyer's viewpoint.

But I think the rest is a bit over-rated. I've shot film and, recently, digital for over 30 years and a $30 umbrella works great unless the wind gets to blowing. As for that silent auto-focus, it would be a nice plus, if it worked just a tad quicker. My manual focus lenses are pretty quiet as well and they are a lot quicker when pre-focused and a lot less expensive.

As I said, I am not an expert. I don't own all the fast 50s, and I don't do this for a living. My experience with SLR is mostly with film and, even then, most of my attempts look like everyday snapshots but, once in a while if I try, I get a keeper. Obviously, as in all things, there is a place in the world for this lens. But if you are looking for fast glass that actually works fast, my experience from the last two days (and 200+ pictures) indicates that you may want to consider your other options. The image quality is very good. That, combined with the weather proofing and silent focus, may make it worth the price for some.

I guess that's why I like Pentax. For those who want, you can buy some really nice new lenses. For others, the older, less expensive glass works just as good. I guess for now I'm in the older camp...probably in more ways then one.
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