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09-19-2009, 11:50 PM   #1
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DFA 100 macro's reviews

Just saw one of the latest edition UK photog mags on the shelf featuring a macro lens review - any one seen this?
Well I was keen to know how they fared, thinking all of macro lenses were good, and was disappointed to find Pentax's DFA 100 scoring the worst of the lot - 65% (and Tamron's 90mm Di version getting top honours at 90%).

This particular mag gave mention of the lens's sharpness (which by comparing to all other 100% crops shown in the review was by far and away the best of them all), but laboured on the fact that the DFA lacked contrast and vibrance (both of which can easily be corrected in PP, whereas sharpness cannot completely be corrected in PP), bringing down its appeal greatly according to the expert reviewers.

Then I find they're not the only ones who have a strong grudge against the lens:
Pentax SMC D FA 100mm f/2.8 Macro review from TechRadar UK's expert reviews of Camera lenses
Pentax SMC P-D FA Reviews | Best Pentax Lenses & Filters Reviews - alaTest Australia
Pentax SMC 100mm f2.8 D FA Macro

Decrying the lens for its loud AF noise, hunting, hit & miss nature of AF, poor sharpness until f/8 (?!?) and poor contrast, the reviews give Pentax a bleak picture to the public - this is what they'll read at least - who's going to prove them otherwise? Then again, it's the experts that marked it harshly and the users marking it quite generously. Is there anything reviewers hold against Pentax lenses?

I have the FA 100/2.8 macro, and although I realise this lens is optically different from the DFA I couldn't imagine it being as bad as described. Photozone themselves thought it performed optically very well, but did lack the build quality of others in its class (granted). I've used my FA version wide open quite often with stellar results. Most reviewers though the DFA is unusable wide open.

Anyone share these experts' sentiments?


Last edited by Ash; 09-20-2009 at 01:51 AM.
09-20-2009, 02:42 AM   #2
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In the past month, I saw 3 differetnt new DFA 100 macro lens with assymetrical aperture blades, so watch them carefully...
09-20-2009, 03:33 AM   #3
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More QC issues now with this lens too?
Perhaps suboptimal copies can explain the poor reviews?

So sad - if QC is made more of a priority for their lenses and cameras, I'd forsee more trust and interest in Pentax as a brand...
09-20-2009, 03:55 AM   #4
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Used both the DFA 100mm and FA 100mm as well as the DFA 50mm and FA 50mm macro lenses. The main grouse of the DFA series is more the polycarbonate plastic build quality rather than the optical performance, which is alright, though I do think the DFA 100mm lags behind the Canon, Nikon and Sony macro lenses of similar focal length. The DFA macro lenses do exhibit better contrast than the FA macros due in part to the lens coating. Now this can be both good and bad, the good being the snappy quality of the images straight from camera the downside being the occasional blooming or halation when shooting brightly lit backlit subjects into the light.

I take so called lens reviews with a pinch of salt as having bought many lenses, no two lenses are identical and there could be sample variations. I actually like the DFA macro lenses for their compact size and weight. A good lens for non-macro shooting too. If you can get over the build quality, the light weight (compared to the FA macros) and Quick Shift make a big difference when shooting macro for extended periods of time. The Tamron 90mm gets top marks because it is cheap and gives decent performance, though for a macro lens, peak sharpness is not where one normally expects for macro, which is stopped down for max DOF. Personally I've never been impressed with the Tamron 90mm macro.

09-20-2009, 04:23 AM   #5
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Thanks for shedding light on the issue with your experience Denis.
Beyond the build quality I was mainly surprised that they took so much away from giving the DFA a good wrap because of its supposed lack-lustre contrast and luminosity.

Given the DFA is indeed an improvement from the FA, then my own FA should clearly be an ordinary lens, which I just have not seen... on the contrary, I see my FA as one of my most sharp and brilliant lens, which I have used in many conditions - wide open for concerts at near infinity focus, real close up and fully stopped down, portraits at mid-aperture - and has never disappointed me. Minor tweaks of colour balance and contrast may be necessary, but sharpness throughout has been more than impressive IMO.
09-20-2009, 06:44 AM   #6
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I own the D FA 50 & 100. They work just fine for me thanks. I had read a number of reviews of them before I bought them too. Reviewers spend a lot of time blabbing on negatively about the AF qualities of these lenses. My view on that is - who cares? I use the AF to get close or on my 100 to portrait focus. When doing macro close focusing work, I shut it off and manual focus. I've used the Tamron 90 and was not impressed either.
09-20-2009, 07:07 AM   #7
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Ash, I wouldn't go so far to say the DFA is an improvement from the FA, it's just different. I personally prefer the FA series colour rendition which is a minor point as that can be tweaked during post processing. Now as to supposed lack-lustre image contrast, I think you have to consider how Pentax cameras typically try not to blow highlights, which means that for dumb reviewers who rely on straight from camera jpegs, Pentax images may lack the proverbial snap. But a simple levels or curves tweak during post processing is all that's necessary to solve this.
09-20-2009, 09:02 AM   #8
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I thought the Photodo article was a decent review with some justified critique for wide-open performance, lack of focus limiting and poor hood. More importantly they praised the IQ and contrast. Photozone praised the buttery bokeh. I use a rubber hood which travels with the front element instead of the Pentax hood.

I can't understand the Brit article. It was either an intentional hatchet job, an incompetent reviewer or a sub-standard lens. That review makes no sense in the context of other pro reviews and actual lens owners.

09-20-2009, 10:25 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
I thought the Photodo article was a decent review with some justified critique for wide-open performance, lack of focus limiting and poor hood. More importantly they praised the IQ and contrast. Photozone praised the buttery bokeh. I use a rubber hood which travels with the front element instead of the Pentax hood.

I can't understand the Brit article. It was either an intentional hatchet job, an incompetent reviewer or a sub-standard lens. That review makes no sense in the context of other pro reviews and actual lens owners.
PhotoDo has a more accurate review of the lens. one thing that is accurately distinguished by them is the buttery bokeh. that is why I'm having a hard time which lens to use for next week's event. I choose a 50 instead because the FA 100 is too long to cover a full body shot.

the FA 100 at 2.8 is sharp and have a lil bit of contrast. that's just fine because too much of it would look awkwardly defined especially at with a smooth bokeh wide open. I've been using it more for telephoto rather than for macro use. the focus limiter is big help in quick AF focusing.

if I need a close up photo of people's faces for portraiture, the macro feature always comes in handy.

creampuff is also correct to point out that the colour rendition is also one of the strong points of the FA version.
09-20-2009, 11:04 AM   #10
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I have no criticism to make of the D FA 100's colour or contrast. Very nice IQ afaic, even at F2.8. I don't know where you'd find nicer bokeh. Quick-shift is a nice feature that partially makes up for the lack of a focus limiter. Love the size of the lens too.

K20D, ISO 640, D FA 100 @ F2.8. 1/125s



Pretty sharp at F4


Last edited by audiobomber; 09-21-2009 at 09:11 AM.
09-20-2009, 05:34 PM   #11
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audiobomber, nice flowers.
09-21-2009, 02:16 AM   #12
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Nice comments and examples, all.
I never doubted the ability of any of the FA or DFA macros - creampuff, you put things quite plainly and clearly, thanks for that.
I agree many reviewers seem to lose credibility in my eyes - but I do get concerned that the public cannot see through such shortcomings.
09-21-2009, 08:38 AM   #13
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Yea I love my DAF 100mm with my K20, sharp everywhere.

One sample from last week on mine. f2.8, 800 or 1000 ISO

09-21-2009, 08:52 AM   #14
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IMHO colour and contrast are fantastic, very very pleaseing.. It could be a sharper though. The Tamron is sharper IMHo but you get tamron colour to a degree (muddy blues and greens).

AF hunting, no limiter and the loudest lens ever to AF are very annoying though.
09-21-2009, 09:20 AM   #15
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Chasseur d'Images (a French photomag) tested the FA100 Macro in it's last number, and found it to be a first class performer. An old design, but the results are still in the upper end of the scale.
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