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05-11-2009, 07:11 AM   #1
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Best 50mm prime for K20D?

This is my first post here!

I'm a newbie thinking of purchasing a K20D in the near future. I'm interested in getting a 50mm prime for it.

It seems, for the K20D, the options are from the Pentax-A onwards. What's the best 50mm in terms of IQ and value of money (in that order)? I don't mind MF. In particular, how does the Pentax-FA 1.4 compare to the older lenses?

Also, where's the best place to buy (both used/new)? I'm from Sydney, Australia.

Thanks again.

05-11-2009, 07:43 AM   #2
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There is a lot of information in regards to your question in this forum. I just went through the same and settled on the FA 50mm 1.4. Below is a link that will give you a start.

the Normal Lens Shootout Photo Gallery by Sean Carpenter at pbase.com
05-11-2009, 09:35 AM   #3
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I can recommend sigma Ex 50/1,4 dg. I got my own a couple days ago, and its so sharp and Fast! Usm-focus is so quiet and fast, first i thought that lense was broken
Buy it if you can afford it.
05-11-2009, 10:06 AM   #4
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Dollar for dollar, my money would be on getting an SMC 50mm f/1.7. They are cheap, readily available, high quality, and just feel right. Then, decide if you really want a 50mm on a crop body or if you'd rather get something in the range of 24mm to 40mm. I know 50mm are extremely popular, and I love my manual 1.7, but honestly my FA 35mm f/2.0 makes more sense to me as a standard walk around prime.

05-11-2009, 10:10 AM   #5
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50mm f1.4 is soft at wide open but has a nice bokeh. excellent for portrait.

50mm f1.7 is sharpest.

they have only the same focal lenght but they are 2 different lenses.

then you can choose also a DFA 50mm f2.8 macro: another wonderful 50mm lens!
05-11-2009, 10:12 AM   #6
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I bought my 50 f1.4 a few months ago. It's sharp, especially around 2.2 on.
05-11-2009, 10:16 AM   #7
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I haven't done a scientific test for IQ but for my money, I'd say FA 50mm f1.4.

I also have two MF (f1.4 and f1.7) and one other AF (f1.7), but I find the FA most dependable.
05-11-2009, 11:50 AM   #8
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The optical formula is the same for the Pentax-A, Pentax-F and Pentax-FA 50mm f1.4 lenses. The A version is easier to manually focus because its focus ring has more travel. The F and FA models are more convenient with SR because they tell the camera what the focal length is. The F version is not very common for some reason and sometimes priced high because it's rare, not better.

The other older Pentax 50mm f1.4 lenses use a slightly different optical formula but still an 8 blade aperture.

The optical formula is also the same (but different than f1.4) among all of the 50mm f1.7 lenses, including the Pentax-M. They are slightly better wide open in sharpness and contrast, with a flatter field. Fewer aperture blades mean hexagonal OOF highlights instead of octagons. Obviously the f1.7s are slower. At about f2.4 or smaller, the contrast/sharpness differences vanish. The Pentax-M model is cheap and common but is less convenient to use and some users report exposure problems. The FA model is somewhat rarer.

IQ differences between these designs are close enough that they don't matter much in the real world. I own both and have a hard time telling the difference - if it wasn't for that octagon vs. hexagon I would never know. The only one available new is the FA 50mm f1.4, and it's usually the most expensive. The f1.7 versions are usually a good price/performance value, but since they're used, price and condition vary a lot.

Your prices and purchasing options are different in Australia than for me in the USA, so you'll have to figure out your local conditions. Here, the FA50/1.4 is not a whole lot more than a good deal on an F50/1.7, without the uncertainties of finding one, condition, etc. But you may end up with a strange compulsion to collect them all, so why not start early.

05-11-2009, 12:01 PM   #9
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To my thinking, the options are FA50/1.4 if you want AF and either A50/1.7 or perhaps M50/1.4 if you don't mind sacrificing AF to save money. The A50/1.4 doesn't usually come any cheaper than than the FA50/1.4 and is the same optically, so there's really no point in going for the A50/1.4 unless the better manual focus ring is a bigher deal to you than AF. But if you're willing to forego AF, the A50/1.7 is much cheaper, and arguably just as good, as the A50/1.4. If you like the optics of the 1/4 version better for whatever reason, you can save $100 by getting the "M". Frankly, aside from a very soft extra half stop of speed, I don't see anything to recommend the 1.4 over the 1.7 versions, and since the A50/1.7 and M50/1.4 are very comparable in price, I'd pick the A50/1.7 because of the "A" features - especially on a K20D where "M" lenses can be erratic in exposure. Also for better flash functionality, which might be especially important if you're thinking of this as a portrait lens. I wouldn't bother with the f/2.0 versions - a little cheaper, maybe, but significant softer at larger apertures. You'll keep noticing the softness long after you've forgotten the $15 you saved.

Of course, there is also the new DA*55 and Sigma 50, but that's another price brakcet entirely. The A50/1.7 does well enough for me when I use (which isn't all that often - it's not a very useful focal length to me) that I can't imagine spending hundreds more for whatever marginal improvement there might be.
05-11-2009, 12:03 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Just1MoreDave Quote
But you may end up with a strange compulsion to collect them all, so why not start early.
Spoken like a true Pentaxian!

Don't rule out the screw mount 50's (with adapter). They can be used in Av and M modes, and are often easier to find at decent prices.
05-11-2009, 04:53 PM   #11
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Original Poster
I woke up this morning (I'm in Aust) and am astounded to find so many helpful responses so quickly. Thanks a lot!

I noticed "Mister Guy" pointed out that 50mm is really a short tele on the K20D, and recommended the FA f2.0 35mm instead. Yes, I do intend to have this as a walk-around lens. Just an open question: what's everyone's experience with the 50mm on the APS-C sensor, and why you picked the 50mm in the first place. I understand a short tele is good for portrait...

Otherwise, it sounds like the choice is between the A f1.7 and the FA 1f.4. I am on a budget, and I'm more than willing to forgo AF if the price difference is substantial for the same IQ. As far as I can see the A f1.7 go for at least AUS$150 incl. postage on ebay. Does this sound reasonable for an used lens in 2009? The FA f1.4 is at least AUS$4xx, but of course that is new.

Incidentally, our family owns a Asahi Pentax S1, which comes with a Super Takumar f1.4 50mm. How does this lens (it's very yellow these days) compare to the more modern lenses? I understand it's a M42 mount and requires an adapter to use on a K20D, and exposure could be tricky and slow.

Thanks a lot in advance, again!
05-11-2009, 06:12 PM   #12
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I have an "A" series 50mm f/1.7. It is much sharper than the FA 50mm f/1.4 I borrowed a couple of weeks ago. I also have an FA 35mm f/2. I bought it because the FoV on the 50 was too tight for most of my walking around shots. Unfortunately, the FA 35 can't deliver the same DoF control as the 50 can on a full frame camera.

I paid $60 for my 50 and $300 for my FA 35. It makes a good budget combo. If I could only have one it would be the MF A series 50mm f/1.7.
05-11-2009, 06:51 PM   #13
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If you like that kind of field of view (And I always say if someone superglued the 85mm on my film cameras down, it might take me a couple of weeks to notice...)


Can you say candy store?

I would suggest the FA 50 1.4 as an all around. Plentiful, available, and no vices you'd notice a while. An F 1.7 would likely serve about as well.... if you get a crack at one for a good price, may as well.

(Also, btw, I'm kind of set in my ways as a prime lens shooter, but I'm really finding that on crop a 50 and a 28 really just make me happy. Not-on-crop I'm always carrying an 85, 50 and a 35, and splitting the difference for the latter two with an effectively-42 works.

Last edited by Ratmagiclady; 05-11-2009 at 07:01 PM.
05-11-2009, 06:53 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by iht Quote
. . .

I noticed "Mister Guy" pointed out that 50mm is really a short tele on the K20D, and recommended the FA f2.0 35mm instead. Yes, I do intend to have this as a walk-around lens. Just an open question: what's everyone's experience with the 50mm on the APS-C sensor, and why you picked the 50mm in the first place. I understand a short tele is good for portrait...

Otherwise, it sounds like the choice is between the A f1.7 and the FA 1f.4. I am on a budget, and I'm more than willing to forgo AF if the price difference is substantial for the same IQ. As far as I can see the A f1.7 go for at least AUS$150 incl. postage on ebay. Does this sound reasonable for an used lens in 2009? The FA f1.4 is at least AUS$4xx, but of course that is new.

Incidentally, our family owns a Asahi Pentax S1, which comes with a Super Takumar f1.4 50mm. How does this lens (it's very yellow these days) compare to the more modern lenses? I understand it's a M42 mount and requires an adapter to use on a K20D, and exposure could be tricky and slow.

Thanks a lot in advance, again!
I really don't have much to add to the technical details mentioned in the preceding replies - I agree with everything everyone has written.

A crop captures less of the Field of View than a 24x36 mm camera (film or FF sensor). Your image appears on a K20D as if it was taken by a longer FL lens from the same distance. Although you can move back to approximate the capture of a shorter lens on a FF sensor, doing so affects the depth of field, and if you are shooting portraits you may be space-limited indoors. Properly framing a couple indoors with the 50 requires some backup room.

Many of us struggle with the format issue and adapting our existing lens collection to the smaller sensor.

If you plan to use film bodies in addition to DSLR you will have the same internal debate about the 50mm vs. the 35mm. Many of us just end up getting both lenses and learning to use them where they perform best in the APSc format.

You are in an enviable position - you have no legacy compatibility issues (unless you consider the Super-Tak).

My advice is to cure the Super Tak lens of its yellowing by exposing the rear element to sunlight for two or three weeks and start with that lens and the M42 adapter (there are threads here and sources on the internet to learn how to do this). Although you will need to learn to manage the exposure challenges on the K20 body, you will have a 50mm test bed to learn whether you like the FL. you can then decide whether an expenditure for a more modern 50mm lens will be a good one.

If you choose a 50, my personal preferences run to manual focus when I am out to play; and FA when I am serious about recording images - but I am a hobbyist and I get some fun benefit out of using every lens I own, not just out of producing the best image.

In order of preference for me:

35mm - equiv to 52mm
  1. FA35/2 - color, autofocus - $269-$289 USD (my standard lens on K10D)
  2. K35/3.5 - color, sharpness, a classic, exceptional lens $139-$189 USD
50mm - equiv to 75mm

I have these because I still shoot 35-40% film. Except for the FA50, which I bought so I would have an AF 50 when I wanted one, I have accumulated these over about the last ten years. The differences between them are barely noticeable to most users, unless you WANT OOF areas and all you have is M50/1.7.
  1. A50/1.4 - bokeh, sharpness +f/2.8 and feel; A contacts - $180-$200 USD
  2. FA50/1.4 - bokeh and autofocus convenience $180-$200 USD new
  3. M50/1.7 - sharpness $60-$100 USD
  4. SMC Takumar 50/1.4 - color rendering, bokeh, fun $75-$125 USD (your Super Tak may be sharper)
  5. K50/1.4 - classic fun with a film body - coatings not as good as later lenses; optical formula different than M; A formula changed again slightly (still excellent) $50-$100 USD

Last edited by monochrome; 05-11-2009 at 07:36 PM.
05-11-2009, 07:18 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by iht Quote
I noticed "Mister Guy" pointed out that 50mm is really a short tele on the K20D, and recommended the FA f2.0 35mm instead. Yes, I do intend to have this as a walk-around lens. Just an open question: what's everyone's experience with the 50mm on the APS-C sensor, and why you picked the 50mm in the first place.
It's a great focal length to have, because these are the cheapest truly *fast* lenses and can come in handy in extreme low light situations or when you want extremely shallow DOF for artistic reasons. But 50mm on APS-C as terrible as a basic walkaround. I mean, you can always find *something* to shoot, but it's too long most of the time. You're far better off with something closer to 35 if you want a prime, or even just the kit zoom lens. I think you can do a lot worse than sue the kit zoom for casual walkaround use and add a cheap 50 for artistic / extreme low light usage - or something 35-ish if you want it to double as a walkaround.
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