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06-27-2016, 03:38 PM   #1
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K-1 and FA43 Limited

I wrote a rather scathing review of the FA43 based on my experience with it on the K-1. I acquired it after the announcement of the camera and used it only for a short time on my K-5IIs. The huge majority of my experience with the lens is on the K1. Here's my review:

SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9 Limited Reviews - FA Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

@bassek PMed me about the review and asked for a bit more clarification. I incorporated some of my response into an edit of the review. I will admit that I was probably more harsh than I needed to be. I'm really, really frustrated with the lens. It can produce some nice results and it looks great on the LCD screen but....man.

I can't rule out the possibility my 43 has issues. I acquired it secondhand so it's not like I can send it back. I've not heard it being subject to copy variation much but it's nonetheless possible. As for my K-1...well, with the FA77, it's insane. I can't believe the detail it produces. The FA31 is awesome. DFA100 is stellar too. Definitely has something to do with the FA43 itself or the pairing with the body. I know others have had complaints as well, although I've been a bit louder about it.

I only briefly used the lens with my K-5IIs. I suppose I could pull that out and see how it does. I was impressed with the 43 the few times I used it on that crop body. That's where my excitement came from. But now, I couldn't be more disappointed. I just reacquired an FA50 f/1.7 that I had sold because I had anticipated using the FA43 a lot. But beyond its unreliability, I've not found the focal length to my liking either.

So...anyone else out there just finding the FA43 not up to snuff?

06-27-2016, 03:55 PM   #2
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I will be interested to see what others have to say. I almost bought this lens earlier this year - I seriously considered swapping my DA40 Limited and SMC-M 40 Pancake as part trade-in for it, and was considering doing so again next year if I ran into one on my usual overseas trip. I know it has an interesting reputation - a bit like the little girl with the little curl right in the middle of her forehead - and since I am also considering a K-1 with which it would be paired (along with film bodies)... yeah, I await opinions with interest.
06-27-2016, 03:55 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by MadMathMind Quote
I wrote a rather scathing review of the FA43 based on my experience with it on the K-1. I acquired it after the announcement of the camera and used it only for a short time on my K-5IIs. The huge majority of my experience with the lens is on the K1. Here's my review:

SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9 Limited Reviews - FA Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

@bassek PMed me about the review and asked for a bit more clarification. I incorporated some of my response into an edit of the review. I will admit that I was probably more harsh than I needed to be. I'm really, really frustrated with the lens. It can produce some nice results and it looks great on the LCD screen but....man.

I can't rule out the possibility my 43 has issues. I acquired it secondhand so it's not like I can send it back. I've not heard it being subject to copy variation much but it's nonetheless possible. As for my K-1...well, with the FA77, it's insane. I can't believe the detail it produces. The FA31 is awesome. DFA100 is stellar too. Definitely has something to do with the FA43 itself or the pairing with the body. I know others have had complaints as well, although I've been a bit louder about it.

I only briefly used the lens with my K-5IIs. I suppose I could pull that out and see how it does. I was impressed with the 43 the few times I used it on that crop body. That's where my excitement came from. But now, I couldn't be more disappointed. I just reacquired an FA50 f/1.7 that I had sold because I had anticipated using the FA43 a lot. But beyond its unreliability, I've not found the focal length to my liking either.

So...anyone else out there just finding the FA43 not up to snuff?
That sucks. My buddy who has a crop sensor K-x (I think) loves the 43 and sold me his 31 because the 43 was magical to him. So I have always wondered what I am missing since I have the 31 and 77 but not the 43. I have not been able to justify a 43 purchase since I already own the SMC DA 40 Limited and the F 50 f/1.7 and the FA 35 and the FA 31. Adding the 43 seems like madness. I'll be curious what others say, but if you are looking for another lens option I would suggest checking into an HD DA 40 Limited or a DA 40 XS or a SMC DA 40. They aren't legendary in the same way but they are different enough from the 50 that you might like the focal length on the K1. (I'm shooting on the K-3).
06-27-2016, 03:56 PM - 1 Like   #4
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Can you maybe post one photo with the K-1 and FA 43mm in this thread? In the following conditions:
Av, wide open
2 sec timer, minimum ISO
Newspaper* placed around 60-80cm in front of the camera, tilted around 45 degrees
Hopefully in bright enough natural light. Maybe add EV+, if needed
Focused Manually in the middle of the newspaper in Live view, with focus peaking and digital zoom enabled.

And then one more photo with everything the same, but aperture around f3.2.

This is a simple test that can show the sharpness and DoF, and it can even show problems with decentering or other optical faults. I think this will give us an insight into just how sharp/soft the lens is, and whether it is functioning properly. And you can take the same shot with a K-5 to see if there is a difference there, if you can spare the time.

*newspaper or book or magazine. Newspaper is usually best because it is cheap, has high contrast between white paper and black text, and it is big enough to cover most of the frame and compensate even for focus problems, decentering


Last edited by Na Horuk; 06-27-2016 at 04:04 PM.
06-27-2016, 04:06 PM - 3 Likes   #5
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I think there might be something wrong with your lens. When using live view, did you try to zoom in and tune focus manually?

I've been using my 43 on the K5IIs and so far I'm very happy with it. A few of my favorite shots:









06-27-2016, 04:09 PM   #6
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MadMathMind, we all understand the feeling to have a lens that we had high hope for but performs not as well, so you don't have to feel bad about posting a negative review to a lens does not meet the standard. Bad copies are out there, unfortunately. You just posted a good review based on a bad copy -- there is nothing wrong with it. in fact, people should appreciate your contribution, so we can keep that in mind and won't through the camera on a rock when a bad lens came in.

I read your review right after you posted it, mainly because the low score shown in red on the right side of the window. . I had a short PM conversation with beery about lens copy variation and used your case as an example.

My 43 works really well on my first K1 - very sharp in the most part of frame even wide open, corners are soft before F4-5.6-- I guess that is normal. My 2nd K-1 camera came in a few days ago. But the same 43 lens needs -8 adjustment on this K1. -10 is not enough for my F85/2.2 soft lens, and it needed only -2 on the first K-1. My new K-1 has other AF problems and I need to send it back to BH. CDAF is very unreliable; in PDAF, focus point will shift when I change the camera position from portrait to landscape. Camera BF a lot at portrait position or FF in landscape position -- so again, variations are there. we are just not lucky enough to have a perfect setting.
Don't give up on 43, it is a good lens, even better on K1 than on K5. Or get a DA55 instead. corner to corner sharpness, only vignetting in corners at F1.4 - but that is normal for F1.4.
06-27-2016, 04:16 PM   #7
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I read your review. Your report of horribly poor contrast is surprising to me. Shine a light through to check for fungus or condensation inside.
06-27-2016, 04:37 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by MadMathMind Quote
I wrote a rather scathing review of the FA43 based on my experience with it on the K-1. I acquired it after the announcement of the camera and used it only for a short time on my K-5IIs. The huge majority of my experience with the lens is on the K1. Here's my review:

SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9 Limited Reviews - FA Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

@bassek PMed me about the review and asked for a bit more clarification. I incorporated some of my response into an edit of the review. I will admit that I was probably more harsh than I needed to be. I'm really, really frustrated with the lens. It can produce some nice results and it looks great on the LCD screen but....man.

I can't rule out the possibility my 43 has issues. I acquired it secondhand so it's not like I can send it back. I've not heard it being subject to copy variation much but it's nonetheless possible. As for my K-1...well, with the FA77, it's insane. I can't believe the detail it produces. The FA31 is awesome. DFA100 is stellar too. Definitely has something to do with the FA43 itself or the pairing with the body. I know others have had complaints as well, although I've been a bit louder about it.

I only briefly used the lens with my K-5IIs. I suppose I could pull that out and see how it does. I was impressed with the 43 the few times I used it on that crop body. That's where my excitement came from. But now, I couldn't be more disappointed. I just reacquired an FA50 f/1.7 that I had sold because I had anticipated using the FA43 a lot. But beyond its unreliability, I've not found the focal length to my liking either.

So...anyone else out there just finding the FA43 not up to snuff?
You made me pause and doubt my initial findings. As you mentioned it is fantastic on crop body (my K3). The only issue I had with the Three Amigos from the get go was the serious CA issue which is fixable in post. Otherwise they have been flawless on the K3. I shot the 31 and the 77 on the K1 and the images are every bit as good as on K3. I am doing some client pics in the next few days. I will try the 43 and report back.

06-27-2016, 04:44 PM   #9
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K-1 and FA 43 @ f/2.
06-27-2016, 04:46 PM - 2 Likes   #10
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I think the 43mm has the most copy variation of all the limited lenses. I had a black MIJ that CA'd like crazy. Now I have a silver early MIJ and it's amazing! Still, the lens performs best past f2.2. Maybe I haven't pixel peeped enough, but I thoroughly enjoyed using it on the K-1 and love it on the A7II.







06-27-2016, 05:29 PM   #11
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Hi MadMathMind,

I just picked up a new FA 43 on the weekend to complement my K1 as I was shy of full frame glass and the lens was highly recommended. I hadn't yet had a chance to test it out, and your post intrigued me, so I just ran a gambit of test photos with it outside in the garden. I didn't run any rigorous technical tests such as the one that Na Horuk is suggesting, but based on about 50 snaps of trees and plants in the garden, I would say that the lens was meeting my expectation of sharpness across the frame, very sharp in the middle, and exceeding my expectations in terms of bokeh. Some shots suffered CA, but standard LR profile took care of the fringing. It may be worth while to try a technical test such as the one recommended above to make sure it's not a copy issue.

Anyways, sorry to hear about your issue, and I hope we're able to figure it out...
06-27-2016, 05:47 PM   #12
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I bought a 43 specifically to use with the K-1 because 28mm was my fav focal on crop and I had the 31 and 77 already. Mine performs on the same level as it's sisters, if not better. They all can be a bit temperamental in my experience, but the 43 is more consistently reliable wrt sharpness/focus. It is the last one I would sell of the princesses.
06-27-2016, 06:25 PM   #13
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So, some sample photos with most of the requests satisfied. I still have to do the newspaper one. This probably isn't the best test for focus so let's discuss sharpness and detail.

For this first batch, I was about 4' (about 1m + some) away and focused on the chair's arm near the center of the photo. I didn't use a center focus point but rather one slightly off. ISO is 200. I didn't dial in any EV. Probably should have but this should work ok. I'm not really sure the best way to do 100% crops in posting so here's the images on my Google drive.

YOU CAN ZOOM TO 100% BY CLICKING THE MAGNIFYING GLASS IN THE UPPER RIGHT

Here's a link to the entire folder. You can download them as a zip. The files are named with the F-stop and the focus method for ease.
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1OFBPNEJpc2FqTkk

Now for individual files for those just wishing to sample things. I made the test fairly difficult because in normal usage, I'm trying to focus on eyes, nose, etc. Small features, in general. I put little worry in composition so that I could use focus points near the center.

f/2.8:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1dUNCT2FYNXB0eU0
f/3.5
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1a1V1WkJNRUFOcFU
f/4.5
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1UTEwZzFnMGNRYWc

There's not a lot of sharpness variation between these photos. They all look about the same. Focus doesn't *seem* to be off, at least not in any measurable way. At f/4.5, DOF should kick in a bit and a slight miss still should render the arm chair nice and sharp. That's not what we see. It's just flat. No contrast and there's no detail.

Then I switched to Live View. Focus point is set to the chair arm again. Roughly the same distance, perhaps a bit closer.

f/2.8
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1aHlONGtTRTRIRVk
f/3.5
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1TGRTTVJRRTc5NVE
f/4.5
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1Nm9KYzJzcXRYR1k


Then I switched to MF zoomed into the chair's arm. It outlined the whole chair arm in white so it should be focused correctly.

f/2.8
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1eE5WX3EyUVJFMkU
f/3.5
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1NnBYQjcyZEZWYjQ
f/4.0 (whoops)
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1RmlOZUJaWlRmdmc


Then I backed up to about 10' or so (~3m). I focused on the left arm of the chair. These were all done with PDAF.

f/2.8
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1S1lJQXVHR3hRRW8
f/3.5
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1UHhYWmM5SkY1U2M
f/4.5
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1UVhmQWFyS3RxOG8

What we see is that there's a front focus and none of these is terribly sharp. Detail is fairly flat.


Now for fun, let's see what the FA77 does at the same distances (within a few inches) and the same focus features. I again stayed away from center focus points. Same points of focus as before. Here's the folder:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1MEJyQjR6T3FtT3c

And individual files.

f/2.8 (close)
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1ZS1XSVVScVoxb28
f/3.5 (close)
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1S2ZkYnA4OGNjTjg
f/4.5 (close)
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1MGF6OC1RMzZMZGc

f/2.8 (far)
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1ZUhiY3NhclRkQ1k
f/3.5 (far)
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1NFV3Sldoc1hsUGs
f/4.5 (far)
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xvOLJLkOq1U19oZkp3X3dxcGcWe

We see some issue with front focus a bit--frankly, this test is probably unfair for any lens as the point of focus is incredibly difficult--as well but what's in focus is incredibly sharp. There's no contest between the two lenses. The FA77 is heads and shoulders above. Zooming in to 100% reveals sharp lines and grains of paint and metal. The FOV is tighter for the FA77 but at 10', the FA77 resolves the detail better than the FA43 does at 4'.

My FA77 is calibrated and the FA43 is not. I had calibrated it for close focus and found it to miss so badly at distance that I set it back to zero. I've been unable to figure out how to make it do both well. Either it's good close or good far but not both.

---------- Post added 06-27-16 at 07:30 PM ----------

The test I didn't do was LV when near the borders of the LV AF area. The FA43 does really bad there. The FA77 is much, much better and reliably hits eyes as I desire.

Last edited by MadMathMind; 06-27-2016 at 06:36 PM.
06-27-2016, 06:30 PM   #14
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they look not that bad to me. what do you guys think?
06-27-2016, 06:47 PM   #15
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I can't see any problems either...
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