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FA 50mm f/1.4, a bit overrated?
Posted By: gawan, 08-30-2008, 03:22 PM

Just acquired my copy of this praised lens. I agree that it is one of the best lenses for the value, but I was a little disappointed though. Maybe I was expecting too much after reading the praise of its sharpness and IQ.

I have to say this is good lens but not stellar! I am still learning to like it.

I found this lens to be sharp actually only when stopped down at least to 2.0 or better 2.8. Bokeh is most of the time nice and it has decent colour rendering, but it seems to be vulnerable to CA and PF.

Here are some of decent ones I have shot so far, no PP (little cropping and some loss of quality after down sampling). What do you think? Are these technically as good as they should, or do I have a not so good copy?








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08-30-2008, 03:45 PM   #2
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I dont see anything wrong in these photos. Colour and sharpness looks ok in the focus plane.
I dont think this lens has ever been regarded as being sharp wide open, if you look here you will see 5.6 is the sharpest aperture.Pentax SMC-FA 50mm f/1.4 - Review / Lab Test Report
08-30-2008, 04:12 PM   #3
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QuoteQuote:
dont think this lens has ever been regarded as being sharp wide open, if you look here you will see 5.6 is the sharpest aperture
Would have to agree with that statement.. JIMBO
08-30-2008, 05:25 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jimbo Quote
Would have to agree with that statement.. JIMBO

x2 I thought everyone was mistaken to on how sharp it is when I was first shooting...because I was shooting wide open. But when you stop it down and shoot at anything over f/4 or f/5.6 I found it is a pretty darn sharp lens.

08-30-2008, 05:32 PM   #5
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oops posted the same thing twice
08-30-2008, 06:18 PM   #6
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I usually shoot it at F2.8 if I want a shallow DOF, wider if I want to have some really shallow DOF fun. It agree that it is very vulnerable to PF. Then again, so is the DA10-17 at just about anything wider than F5.6. Luckily, there's no real need to open it up when bright conditions that favor PF exist.
08-30-2008, 08:37 PM   #7
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I can relate...

The one thing that did surprise me a bit about the FA 50 was the PF. I had read a bunch about the lens before picking it up. I wanted that low light flashless lens for the kid shots. But it was a tad softer below f2.8 than I was expecting and there was definately noticable pf in high contrast shots with the lens opened up. Maybe that is to be expected at F1.4 and F2...

I think that is the reason that I use the tam 28-75 more often now, unless I am in really low light conditions.

Dont get me wrong I have shot some of my favorite shots with the FA 50, but in the end I probably should have got the Fa 35 as my lowlight indoor shooter. The extra width would have come in handy.

PS what is the gated rock structure?
08-30-2008, 08:49 PM   #8
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I only have the Super Tak version, although I've heard that they're optically the same... with the exception of the coating.
So I might not be qualified to say anything here.

It isn't the sharpest lens I own, and believe it or not it isn't the first lens I'll grab in most low light situations. Although it is the fastest lens I own.
However it's the first lens I'll grab for my more artistic photographs.
I just love the background blur when used right, which in my opinion is nicest at f2.8

Your top 2 pic's prove that it's good for artistic work

08-30-2008, 09:29 PM   #9
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Whats PF?

This is the only actual pentax lens I own and it is one of my favorite lenses, especially for the DOF.

Mayb i need a better paying job and buy something better, but for now I'll be happy with it.
08-30-2008, 10:58 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by gawan Quote


I found this lens to be sharp actually only when stopped down at least to 2.0 or better 2.8. Bokeh is most of the time nice and it has decent colour rendering, but it seems to be vulnerable to CA and PF.

Are these technically as good as they should, or do I have a not so good copy?
George, spot on with the summary of the lens. Again, this lens is not something I like to use because its propensity to get purple fringe. Purple flooding I would call it. Not a lens for me at all.

Regarding the sharpness, no 50mm can do it well until reaching aperture 2.8 and above. but what really bothers me is bokeh being quite nasty and ugly.

It also backfocuses a lot. It takes a lot of thinking, planning and luck using this lens. Again, with a lot of clever photographers, this lens would not be a problem for them.

Your shots reflect the kind of experiences I had with the lens. When it was only 75 US dollars on ebay 2nd hand, I found it a good bargain and a good buy. Now it was almost about 200 US brand new. I am not so keen.
08-31-2008, 05:14 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Fritzvds Quote
Whats PF?

This is the only actual pentax lens I own and it is one of my favorite lenses, especially for the DOF.

Mayb i need a better paying job and buy something better, but for now I'll be happy with it.
PF = Purple Fringe
08-31-2008, 09:04 AM   #12
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Thank you very much for the comments! Some further notes:

1. I have the cousin lens FA 35mm f/2.0 and I was looking similar performance in a longer range. This lens was to complement my 35mm and 70mm (Sigma macro) primes in between them.

2. I expected it to be soft wide open (like many fast lenses) and I should have read Klaus's review, which actually tells it exactly. But it was worse than I could anticipate.

3. I think my copy also has some back focusing, as I find it often hard to get sharp results on close subjects, regardless of how small aperture I use.

4. I was hoping to get a good low light lens, but this is not it. It seems that this is not even a cloudy weather lens.

5. About the bokeh, I find it most of the times nice, but it can be distracting also.

6. Nevertheless this lens can be excellent in good conditions, i.e. shooting subjects not too close/not to exact focus spots and shooting in bright sunlight. I'll just have to learn how and when to use it.

There is still something I like about it, but my search for the Holy Grail continues

Some more pics for these notes, all shot at f/4.0 or f/5.6 with this lens:

#1 Pleasing colours, decent sharpness


#2 Nice, but the DOF plane is not quite where aimed


#3 100% Crop, spot focused to the bug (back focusing)


#4 Rather nice bokeh


#5 Not so nice bokeh in a contrasty area
08-31-2008, 09:12 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Igilligan Quote
PS what is the gated rock structure?
It is an old tar burning site. They piled coniferous wood in the top of the structure (not in sight, as this was shot from down hill), covered it with earth and burned the wood near un-aerobically to have the woods "swet all its' tar out. The tar then flowed to the bottom and was collected to barrels in the hole you can see behind the gate. Finland you top be a major tar supplier in Europe in the time of great sail ships.

This structure is now in an outdoor museum, where I often have my walks.

Last edited by gawan; 08-31-2008 at 01:47 PM. Reason: some clarifications
08-31-2008, 01:45 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by roentarre Quote
George, spot on with the summary of the lens. Again, this lens is not something I like to use because its propensity to get purple fringe. Purple flooding I would call it. Not a lens for me at all.

Regarding the sharpness, no 50mm can do it well until reaching aperture 2.8 and above. but what really bothers me is bokeh being quite nasty and ugly.

It also backfocuses a lot. It takes a lot of thinking, planning and luck using this lens. Again, with a lot of clever photographers, this lens would not be a problem for them.

Your shots reflect the kind of experiences I had with the lens. When it was only 75 US dollars on ebay 2nd hand, I found it a good bargain and a good buy. Now it was almost about 200 US brand new. I am not so keen.
I did not pay too much of this one either, so I still think it is worth the money, I was just expecting too much of it. But I have got some nice images with also.
08-31-2008, 11:36 PM   #15
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thanks for the informative thread. making me again wonder if I was too hasty in my purchase (for $200), but budget was a big factor for me, and I have seen so many great shots with great IQ with this thing, including some of these here ;-). I am hoping it's going to be nice to me indoors and in low light...
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