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02-18-2020, 01:45 PM   #1
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The P645 200s: thoughts and experiences?

The A and FA 200mm Pentax 645 lenses have a different optical design. In the review section of the forum, the FA gets a lot of love, but the A not so much.

I'd appreciate thoughts and experiences from people who have used these lenses. They're both affordable so the issue isn't money. Rather, I tend to favour the A lenses because I'll only be focusing manually (and all my other P645s are A lenses). However, if the FA is a much better lens, I'd take it over the A.


I won't be shooting either lens wide open so I'm not terribly concerned about f/4 performance. I'm also using it for digital (on a GFX 50R body) so I can tidy up minor issues like a bit of CA or distortion.


Thanks, Rob

02-18-2020, 02:02 PM   #2
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The A 200 mm f/4 is the only 645 Pentax lens that ever disappointed me (no sharpness and poor contrast). I bought an FA 200 and, for landscapes, now I hit the jackpot, it's a brilliant optic.
02-18-2020, 04:43 PM   #3
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I have tried the 200mm 645A, the 200mm 645FA and the latest design of the 200mm 67 . The FA is certainly better than the A in my experience. I have ended up preferring the 67 lens. But, to be honest, I don't think any of them is brilliant. For some reason, it seems to be a focal length that Pentax hasn't nailed in terms of delivering excellent performance by modern standards.
02-18-2020, 05:01 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ed Hurst Quote
I have tried the 200mm 645A, the 200mm 645FA and the latest design of the 200mm 67 . The FA is certainly better than the A in my experience. I have ended up preferring the 67 lens. But, to be honest, I don't think any of them is brilliant. For some reason, it seems to be a focal length that Pentax hasn't nailed in terms of delivering excellent performance by modern standards.
Thanks for the feedback Ed -- very helpful (if disappointing!). By chance have you tried the FA 150-300 to see if the 200mm mark is as good/better than the 200mm primes?

---------- Post added 02-18-20 at 05:03 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by RICHARD L. Quote
The A 200 mm f/4 is the only 645 Pentax lens that ever disappointed me (no sharpness and poor contrast). I bought an FA 200 and, for landscapes, now I hit the jackpot, it's a brilliant optic.
That's promising. Thanks Richard. There are oodles of clean looking copies available on eBay so this is definitely an option.

02-18-2020, 05:11 PM   #5
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I have used the 200mm (67) for nearly 30 years and it does very well on the 67 body. Using it on a digital camera may yield slightly different results. This lens was based on the German Ernostar design which was also used on the Leica Reflex cameras (R, SL, SL2).
02-18-2020, 06:05 PM - 1 Like   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by rdeloe Quote
Thanks for the feedback Ed -- very helpful (if disappointing!). By chance have you tried the FA 150-300 to see if the 200mm mark is as good/better than the 200mm primes?[COLOR="Silver"]
Sorry, no. Reviews of the 150-300 have never been good enough to prompt me to try that lens, especially as I have 645 150FA, 6x7 165mm f2.8 and 6x7 300mm EDIF lenses, all of which I love.
02-18-2020, 11:18 PM   #7
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My two cents worth: (or two nickels worth since we no longer have pennies in Canada) I haven't seen any glaring or obvious issues with my pristine 200 f/4. I got it for US$78 from Japan with free EMS shipping included on my way to collecting the whole A set. I've seen great results with this lens from others including some posted on the PF. While it may not be capable of the highest measured numbers when bench tested compared to some other lenses I think the results clearly show it's fine for most real life needs. The low price it usually goes for is likely more a reflection of supply and demand than the quality it can produce. The 80-160 A and FA along with the 150 models are very popular giving users a range too close to the 200 to make it desirable for most. When they want longer they go to 300 so those are much higher priced.
02-19-2020, 04:41 AM   #8
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Remember that people base their opinion of a lens on the particular individual model they are using. Statistically, a "one lens sample" doesn't mean much. Personally I had an A-200 mm f/4 that performed dismally, so much so that I decided to look for an FA version. The autofocus 200 mm f/4 I purchased was a total wonder compared to the older manual-focus version but again, just a "one lens sample", so I may have fallen on an extraordinary sample. The above picture was taken with this FA 200 mm f/4, tripod-mounted and using f/11.

Best regards
Richard


Last edited by RICHARD L.; 02-19-2020 at 10:22 AM.
02-19-2020, 06:09 AM - 1 Like   #9
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Concerning the performance of the 645 FA 150-300 mm f/5.6 zoom at 200 mm, I have this picture of fall leaves on hand. It was taken handheld @ 1/125 and f/11. Better than a prime : probably not but quite satisfying by any standard. This is a long and front-heavy lens, more unwieldy to use than the FA 200 mm f/4.


Last edited by RICHARD L.; 02-19-2020 at 06:19 AM.
02-19-2020, 08:42 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by From1980 Quote
My two cents worth: (or two nickels worth since we no longer have pennies in Canada) I haven't seen any glaring or obvious issues with my pristine 200 f/4. I got it for US$78 from Japan with free EMS shipping included on my way to collecting the whole A set. I've seen great results with this lens from others including some posted on the PF. While it may not be capable of the highest measured numbers when bench tested compared to some other lenses I think the results clearly show it's fine for most real life needs. The low price it usually goes for is likely more a reflection of supply and demand than the quality it can produce. The 80-160 A and FA along with the 150 models are very popular giving users a range too close to the 200 to make it desirable for most. When they want longer they go to 300 so those are much higher priced.
I am definitely a fan of the A lenses! The SMC Pentax-A 45-85mm doesn't get a lot of love, but for my purposes I'm finding it to be outstanding.

---------- Post added 02-19-20 at 08:47 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by RICHARD L. Quote
Concerning the performance of the 645 FA 150-300 mm f/5.6 zoom at 200 mm, I have this picture of fall leaves on hand. It was taken handheld @ 1/125 and f/11. Better than a prime : probably not but quite satisfying by any standard. This is a long and front-heavy lens, more unwieldy to use than the FA 200 mm f/4.
Thanks Richard, for both posts and the examples. I've had similar experiences, in other words, copies of lenses that were widely thought to be excellent that performed poorly, and also the other way. We are, after all, dealing with lenses that are many decades old.


Whichever one I end up getting, I will be using it exclusively on a tripod. Therefore, handheld performance is definitely not a priority. The 150-300 is heavier than my 45-85, but not by a lot, and the 45-85 mounts securely on the "adapter" I'm using within my Fuji GFX 50R (a Toyo VX23D). Therefore, if I go with the 150-300 I'm not worried about weight.


Fortunately these lenses are not terribly expensive so buying and trying is do-able. Unfortunately, resale potential is low (so the feedback you and others have provided is extremely helpful).
02-19-2020, 09:46 AM   #11
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First off, I don't obsess about image quality, so I can't comment on the difference between 200 A and FA IQ. What I can say is the FA lens is a lot easier to use. I often shoot my dogs running around the yard. Accurate manual focus, especially at or near wide open, was a huge challenge for me with moving targets. I am much happier with the FA version. I use a 645N.
02-21-2020, 04:26 PM   #12
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My FA 200 is excellent for sharpness, especially stopped down just a bit. For portraits, though, the bokeh isn’t my favorite, though it is certainly not terrible. I can adapt a CZJ Sonnar 180/2.8, though, and the rendering of that lens when used with selective focus is unmatched.

I use mine for landscapes, mostly, and it’s excellent. These were all made with the 200 FA at f/11, f/5.6, and f/8, respectively.







I’ve never owned the 200 A.

Rick “happy to use this lens for just about anything” Denney
02-21-2020, 06:13 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by rdenney Quote
My FA 200 is excellent for sharpness, especially stopped down just a bit. For portraits, though, the bokeh isn’t my favorite, though it is certainly not terrible. I can adapt a CZJ Sonnar 180/2.8, though, and the rendering of that lens when used with selective focus is unmatched.

I use mine for landscapes, mostly, and it’s excellent. These were all made with the 200 FA at f/11, f/5.6, and f/8, respectively.

I’ve never owned the 200 A.

Rick “happy to use this lens for just about anything” Denney
Thanks Rick. Your samples definitely tell the story for this lens. Interestingly, there's a nice review of many Pentax FA 645 lenses at GetDPI. The fellow who posted that had to go through quite a few (over 4 I believe) copies to find one that was excellent. It looks like you got a good one.

Your enthusiastic assessment of the A 120/4 helped me to decide to get one. Unfortunately it's going back to the seller because -- unbeknownst to her I truly believe -- it must have taken a knock at some point in its life. As I was shooting it I noticed strange areas of softness, and massive amounts of purple fringing from f/4 to f/8. That seemed quite uncharacteristic relative to all the reviews I read. Once I suspected some misalignment of the elements I put it up against a flat test chart, and sure enough it was a mess. This is a real shame because it's otherwise in spectacular condition and came with the case and lens hood! So it goes with old lenses. Fortunately, there are loads of them out there for low prices.

Speaking of the 120/4, have you ever tried it with your 1.4x teleconverter? If so, what do you think?

Last edited by rdeloe; 02-21-2020 at 06:25 PM.
02-22-2020, 08:50 AM - 1 Like   #14
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I’ve never used the converter with the 120, but I suspect it wouldn’t do any more harm than it does on the 300 and 400, which combinations I have tested (see the lens reviews). I would expect a good 200 to be better, and the 200 is so compact I don’t see enough carrying advantage to be worth dealing with the fiddliness of the converter.

Rick “preferring the converter for making the impossible possible, not simply for convenience” Denney
03-09-2020, 08:51 AM   #15
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To close the circle on my original question, my new 200mm lens is the SMC Pentax-FA 645 150-300mm f/5.6. In the end I decided that it made the most sense to use my existing 150/3.5 when I needed a lighter bag, and the zoom when I need a flexible telephoto option. I left a detailed review at the user review site. SMC Pentax-FA 645 150-300mm F5.6 ED [IF] Reviews - 645 Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database Suffice to say it's a really good lens if you can live with the slower maximum aperture and the bulk.
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