Forgot Password
Pentax Camera Forums Home
 

Pentax Lens Review Database » Film Era Pentax K-Mount Lenses » FA Prime Lenses
SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited Review RSS Feed

SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited

Sharpness 
 9.5
Aberrations 
 8.7
Bokeh 
 9.7
Autofocus 
 8.9
Handling 
 9.4
Value 
 8.3
Reviews Views Date of last review
75 249,639 Sun March 5, 2017
spacer
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
95% of reviewers $893.12 9.53
SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited

SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited
supersize
SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited
supersize
SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited
supersize

Description:
This Limited lens features all-metal barrel and a built-in hood. It is known for delivering exceptional wide-angle image quality.



SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited
Image Format
Full-frame / 35mm film
Lens Mount
Pentax K
Aperture Ring
Yes (A setting)
Diaphragm
Automatic, 9 blades
Optics
9 elements, 7 groups
Mount Variant
KAF
Max. Aperture
F1.8
Min. Aperture
F22
Focusing
AF (screwdrive)
Quick-shift
No
Min. Focus
30 cm
Max. Magnification
0.16x
Filter Size
58 mm
Internal Focus
No
Field of View (Diag. / Horiz.)

APS-C: 50 ° / 42 °
Full frame: 70 ° / 60 °
Hood
Built-in
Case
Dedicated pouch
Lens Cap
Dedicated metal push-on
Coating
SMC,Ghostless
Weather Sealing
No
Other Features
Diam x Length
65 x 68.5 mm (2.6 x 2.7 in.)
Weight
345 g (12.2 oz.)
Production Years
2001 to Present
Pricing
$1096 USD current price
$880 USD at launch
Engraved Name
smc PENTAX-FA 1:1.8 31mm AL Limited
Product Code
20280 (silver), 20290 (black)
Notes
One aspherical element, one ED element, one high refraction low dispertion element.
Variants
Black and silver

Features:
Screwdrive AutofocusBuilt-in HoodAperture RingAutomatic ApertureFull-Frame Support
Purchase: Buy the SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited
In-Depth Review: Read our SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited in-depth review!
Sample Photos: View Sample Photos



Add Review of SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited Buy the SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited
Author:
Sort Reviews by: Date | Author | Rating | Recommendation | Likes (Descending) Showing Reviews 1-15 of 75
Site Supporter

Registered: October, 2008
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Posts: 5,115

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: March 5, 2017 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,250.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharp, fast and great handling.
Cons: A bit overrated, cheaper lenses are just as good optically.
New or Used: New    Camera Used: Pentax film bodies (K1000, KM, KX, K2, K2DMD, ME, MX, LX, Super A/Program, P50)   

The FA31/1.8 was released in 2001 and is still in production today. Pentax produced a similar focal length K30/2.8 from 1975 to 1984, so you could consider the FA31/1.8 a refresh of that older manual focus lens. The FA31/1.8 is also the third and last of the FA Limited’s lenses to be released.

Optics:
Excellent, which should be no surprise considering the cost of the FA31/1.8 and the optical “extras” added to the lens. (Aspherical element, high-reflection low dispersion element, anomalous dispersion element & a floating lens system)

Focal Length:
I find the 30-31mm focal length on FF is not quite wide enough when I’m choosing a single wide-angle for a three prime lens travelling kit and usually go for something wider, like a 20-28mm lens. I find the 30-31mm focal lengths work better as a second wide in a larger kit along with a 20mm lens or as a one lens option on a day trip.

On an APS-C camera you have the perfect “normal/standard” focal length, so I can see why the FA31/1.8 has been so popular on digital over the last decade.

Build:
The build of the FA31/1.8 is good for a FA Series lens, but is not as solidly built as any Takumar/K/M Series lens I own.

Usage/Handling:
The FA31/1.8 is a nicely sized well balanced lens that is easy to handle and the best out of the three FA Limited’s. I have no issues manually focusing the FA31/1.8 or using the aperture ring. The distance scale is the “compressed” style, but you get used to it. Overall not bad for an Auto Focus lens.

The FA31/1.8 has a built-in “tulip style” lens hood and accepts 58mm filters, which screw-on inside the ridged hood. The lens cap is a push/slip-on like the rest of the FA Limited’s and is also prone to falling off. I’ll substitute it with an older Takumar 58mm lens cap when I’m travelling, so the OEM cap doesn’t get lost. The FA31/1.8 originally came with a red soft lens case marked “PENTAX 31/1:1.8”, which was later replaced with a black one.

Speed:
F1.8 is very fast for a wide-angle lens and it makes the FA31/1.8 the fastest wide angle lens ever made by Pentax. (Excluding the prototype M35/1.4)

The FA31/1.8 vs my favourite 28-30mm wide primes:
I also own the K30/2.8 and several 28mm lenses, my favourite being the K28/2. All three lenses have excellent middle aperture sharpness and I don’t really see any difference between the three. The K28/2 is the best wide open and the FA31/1.8 the worst, though I’m unlikely to ever use any of these three lenses wide open. (Note it’s hard to evaluate/compare these three lenses wide open as each lens has a different maximum aperture & focal length.)

Build/handling wise the two “K” Series lenses are better and the K28/2 has the best minimum focusing distance. The FA31 wins the speed race, but is the least wide of the three.

The K28/2 however has a “3D” effect that I just don’t get with the other two lenses, so that’s by far my favourite wide angle lens overall. There is something about the legendary Pentax/Carl Zeiss designed K28/2 that is magical, the FA31/1.8 & K30/2.8 are excellent but not in the same league.

I rated the K28/2 a perfect 10 and the K30/2.8 a 9.5, the FA31/1.8 also gets a 9.5.

Summary:
The FA31/1.8 is an excellent wide angle lens, however there are much cheaper manual focus options that are just as good or better overall.

Price:
I bought my FA31/1.8 from an online camera store and paid $1199.00 Euros. It was in LN condition, boxed with all the original paper work. It’s a silver low serial number MIJ, with a red soft pouch.

Sample shots taken with the FA31/1.8. Photos are medium resolution scans from original negatives. Both shots were taken in Vancouver.


Camera: P50 Film: Kodak Portra 400 ISO: 400




Camera: Super A Film: Kono Kolorit 125T ISO: 100
***Note this is old expired Kodak Tungsten movie stock film, so yes it's grainy***

   
Site Supporter

Registered: April, 2015
Location: Boston,MA
Posts: 203

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: November 30, 2016 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $720.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: IQ,rendering, bokeh
Cons: size, a bit soft at 1.8, price
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 8    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K1   

First of all, I like the focal length a lot, 28mm is a bit wide and 35mm sometimes is not wide enough for me. 31mm is perfect on the FF for me.

Not razor sharp below f2, but still pretty good, perfect for portrait. Once you step down to 2.8 the sharpness jumps to a different level.

Rendering of this lens is just special,not as contrasty as the ZK 35 but the overall feeling is slightly better than the ZK .Another great thing about this lens is that it's sharp at all distant,so you can use it for landscape, street shooting and portrait, not like my M28mm f2 , which is great at close distant but not so good at infinity.

Last but not least, the bokeh. IMHO the 31mm produces the best bokeh I've seen from a wide angle lens, the transition from in focus area to OOF area is so smooth.

Cons:it's not cheap and I wish it can be a little smaller just like the 43&77, it would be great to add WR in the future.
Overall, this is probably my favorite Pentax lens.


   
Site Supporter

Registered: April, 2015
Posts: 922

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: April 13, 2016 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $475.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Great color and bokeh, built like a tank
Cons: Not super sharp wide open
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K3ii   

I recently purchased a used 31mm lens. Boy was it beat up, it was really "ugly". I've shot it extensively for about one month now and found that it works like a new lens, and it still makes wonderful images. Auto-focus is dead on although of course not the fastest. This lens is built like a tank, and will just keep on working - period! Now that's quality!

The colors it produces are exceptional as is the bokeh.

Could be better at f/1.8 and f/2, but hey, no lens is perfect - though this one is very close.

I spent a day comparing this lens to my Zeiss ZK 35mm f/2 lens. Overall, I just liked the IQ of this Pentax 31mm lens a bit better, so I've put my Zeiss 35mm lens up for sale.

I also compared this lens to my Sigma Art 18 - 35mm f/1.8 lens. At 31mm, the Sigma is a bit sharper at all apertures than is the Pentax 31mm lens. Also, at f/1.8 and f/2, the Sigma Art images are overall better than the Pentax 31mm. However, the Pentax 31mm lens has this terrific rendering that's just hard to describe. So, I'm keeping both lenses. Will use the Sigma where precision is needed, and will use the Pentax where I am going for an "artistic" rendering.
   
Senior Member

Registered: May, 2011
Location: Hanoi
Posts: 191

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: August 27, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $900.00 | Rating: N/A 

 
Pros: metal build, silver edition
Cons: nil
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: Pentax K3   

The legend!

TIMES yoga, on Flickr


TIMES yoga, on Flickr


TIMES yoga, on Flickr
   
New Member

Registered: May, 2015
Location: Setúbal (near Lisbon)
Posts: 5

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: August 23, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $796.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: all
Cons: none
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: New    Camera Used: Pentax K20D   

My best lens and maybe one of the best lenses ever made. Pentax should make a full frame camera for this lens.



   
Veteran Member

Registered: June, 2012
Location: Boise Idaho
Posts: 464

6 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: January 6, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $850.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Contrast, Color, Resolution, Metal Construction, Perfect FOV, Manual Aperture Ring,
Cons: Permanent Hood (no filters), Price (understandable)
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: k5   

Bar none, this lens is the best lens in my bag. PentaxForums took a poll to see what the greatest lens was of all time and this lens was second I believe.

At f8
Tack sharp! This thing is amazing with color, contrast, sharpness, I mean you go down the line and it scores 10's on everything. I found the construction to this lens to be on above the top Canikon lenses and have had Canon shooters admire this glass. If you're looking for a do-it-all-focal-length for digital & film, this is your best prime option. I've found the 31 to be my favorite lens in my bag and I can't wait until FF comes out. I would like to take advantage of the native FOV it was intended for.

At f/1.8
At 1.8 this lens is good, but not amazing. sharpness lowers dramatically, but all-in-all, the lens is pro glass.

All-in-all
You're paying for what you get in this case: an amazingly built quality piece of top Pentax engineered glass. PM me with any questions and I'll try to answer asap.
   
Site Supporter

Registered: May, 2014
Location: Minnesota
Posts: 1,182

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: January 4, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $800.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp, Well built, Colors, Magical Bokeh
Cons: Some CA wide open
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-5 IIs   

This is my favorite lens out of my collection of Pentax Limited and non-limited lenses. One of the reasons has to do with the focal length which is perfect for my style of shooting. The thing I noticed about this lens, unlike other lenses I own, is that it does not matter where you focus, or place the focusing-point, everything else in the image sort of falls into place in perfect harmony with the main subject that was singled out for focusing.

It's hard to explain, but this lens acts like a more expensive Cinema lens than a DSLR lens . The colors are extremely accurate. I rarely have to tweak an image in PP with this lens. The images are great right out of the camera.

Another great thing about this lens, is the magical way some of the pictures are rendered. Talk about thrills, you are left excitedly wondering how an image is going to come out, or you can't wait to get home to download an image because you know you nailed it. Even the most ordinary "snap shot" takes on this magical quality.

I'm not sure if it has to do with the DOF, but the little added depth gives an image this realistic 3D quality instead of the 'Blahze' 2 dimensional images most of us are accustomed to. This 3D quality is also mentioned in regards to the much more expensive Leica and Carl Zeiss lenses, so the 31mm is in good company.

I'm glad that Pentax could achieve this type of quality at a lower price, which by the way is still not cheap by any means. At first I balked about purchasing this lens since I already own the 16-45mm f4 , the 35mm f2.8 Macro and the 20-40mm f2.8-4 which all cover that range, but this lens is so unique, that it stands unchallenged on it's own.

Now instead of choosing which lens I will use on a certain day, I choose which additional lens am I going to take with me to complement the 31mm which has been stuck on my camera ever since I got it.


FYI- I gave this lens a Value of 9 because I purchased it Used, at a little under $800 in Mint condition. However, I think this lens is definitely worth more than that.
   
Pentaxian

Registered: July, 2014
Location: Paris
Posts: 1,804

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: January 4, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $550.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: color, bokeh, build
Cons: focus
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: New   

Mine is a "Assembled in Vietnam", I don't want to add anything, others already reviewed this magic lens thoroughly. I'll let the pictures speak ^^





   
New Member

Registered: January, 2013
Posts: 2
Lens Review Date: December 8, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $773.42 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Wow - amazing
Cons: None
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K-7   

I am a novice, so I cannot add much more value than the other experts in this forum. Yay, for Black Friday sales!
   
New Member

Registered: September, 2014
Posts: 1
Lens Review Date: October 1, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $900.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: sharpness, bokeh, colour rendition, bouild quality
Cons: some CA
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 6    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K10D   

Stunning lens, fantastic 3d rendition, great bokeh, razor sharp. Build quality is fantastic.
   
New Member

Registered: December, 2012
Location: Moscow
Posts: 13

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: September 2, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $900.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Build quality, IQ, size, bokeh
Cons: PF, price, wish it would be /f1.4
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 9    Value: 8    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-30   

Unique prime with fantastic bokeh and wonderful colours. If only it could be /f1.4 - should be splendid!


My other shots by this lens
   
Pentaxian

Registered: January, 2011
Location: Skåne, Sweden
Posts: 418

5 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: August 10, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $950.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Build quality, unique offering, character
Cons: Value, focal length on APS-C
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 7    Handling: 9    Value: 7    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-5, K-3, K-01   

This review is for a mint condition silver 'Made in Japan' FA31 bought second-hand in Sweden, serial nr in the 0027xxx-range.

PROS
  • Build quality
  • Look and feel
  • Unique offering (like all other Limiteds)

CONS
  • Inconsistent autofocus
  • Wide open sharpness
  • Value for money

I USE IT FOR
  • General purpose (normal lens on APS-C)
  • Low light
  • Travel

The first Limited I got was the DA40, and soon I started to buy them one by one as mint second-hand samples came on the market. After a couple of years I got all the DA Limiteds and I was pretty well covered (I don't shoot much longer telephoto). There was something mythical about the FA Limiteds though, so after a while I started to look for them as well. The FA31 was the last one I got of the "three amigos" (FA31/43/77).

Most of my serious work is portraits and I was well covered with the FA43/77 AND DA40/70 (the plan was to sell the DA's, still haven't a couple of years later...). I get that at fast wide-angle is expensive, and considering the parameters of the FA31 for what it offers on full frame it is simply outstanding.. but on APS-C it becomes a pretty expensive normal lens.

To go trough the basics first. The lens is sharp. Like all lenses it is softer wide open, but it builds up gradually. It is sharp enough to use wide open for most applications, but I still feel a little bit disappointed. If I don't need the speed I will stop down to f/2.2 for a boost in sharpness. With nine apertures blades it the bokeh stays nice at most apertures, so you don't need worry about stopping down with respect to that. The bokeh is very pleasing, with a bit of character as well, just as I like it! One of the drawbacks of the lens is various aberrations, where lateral is an easy fix in PP, but where longitudinal is not. It might be disappointing if you are looking for perfection, but it hasn't bothered me. It adds to the character, just beware of it before spending the cash. I've read a few comments about "medium format feel" on APS-C, and I get that a fast wide angle is rare and shallow DoF with that wide (not so wide on APS-C) angle is not so common, but I don't feel that the FA31 offers something that other similar combinations would in that respect.

Autofocus is fast, but not as fast as the DA Limiteds. I don't mind the screw-drive noise, but in these SDM-days it is worth mentioning. I have used the DA*50-135 for a while and even though it has SDM it was slower than the Limited-lenses (although more silent). Also I wouldn't think that I should miss quick-shift from my DA Limiteds, but I guess that I use it more than I thought. It can be small situations like when you are about to put the camera in the bag, you want to retract the lens (focus to infinity), and then you have to fiddle with the AF/MF-switch on the camera. Small things, but I think it is worth mentioning. Build quality is otherwise on par with the DA Limiteds, which is to say very good - tight tolerances, nice materials. The aperture ring has a very slight play though, but as does my FA43 and FA77, so I think it is supposed to be like that. The leather case of the FA Limiteds are a bit sturdier than the DA Limiteds, also the cap has a nice green felt, great premium feel The size of the lens is pretty small, but I just keep thinking that it would be really amazing on a FF sensor, now it is more what the FA43 would have been on FF. A letdown if the FA31 is autofocus consistency. On the K-5 it both front- and back focused so I rarely used it even near wide open, but on the K-3 it has gotten better (not perfect though). Actually, it fits very well on the K-01 and with its contrast detect it doesn't show the front/back focusing problems. It is also a good match for both size and looks It is not optimized for manual focus though, focus throw is very short (as with most AF-glass), but has a slightly longer throw than the DA-series.

I have mixed feelings for this lens. It is not perfect, with a few aberrations and focusing problems (phase detection). It also goes from being a rare fast wide angle to becoming "just" a fast normal lens on APS-C. I keep thinking how wonderful it would be on FF (and that has been shown on film and the Sony A7-series). But, I don't feel that there is any real replacement. It has a nice character, it serves several purposes, and it has a very nice build and feel. If you are willing to compromise there are options like the Sigma 18-35, FA35/2, DA35/2.4 or Sigma 35/1.4. Each is a compromise of build quality and/or size, although they are cheaper

Pentax K-01, SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 Limited. 1/80 sec at f/2.0, ISO 1600.


Pentax K-5, SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 Limited. 1/60 sec at f/3.2, ISO 100.


Pentax K-3, SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 Limited. 1/180 sec at f/4.0, ISO 100.


My pictures on flickr with this lens
   
Site Supporter

Registered: November, 2010
Location: New Berlin, WI
Posts: 511
Lens Review Date: August 8, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,000.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Amazing IQ (sharpeness, colors, contrast, bokeh), Metal construction
Cons: Some noticeable CA, Price
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K-3, K-5   

Just an exceptional lens. Amazing image quality, including razor sharpness and very smooth bokeh (very smooth). A bit of CA on digital sensor, but this lens was designed for film so... That's the only point that doesn't make it perfect. Built quality is superb.
For photographers who only want the best.
   
Site Supporter

Registered: February, 2011
Posts: 4,892
Lens Review Date: August 4, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $900.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Bokeh, Rendering
Cons: No quick shift, no WR
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 6    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 8    Value: 8    New or Used: New    Camera Used: Pentax K-5   

It's tough to reasonably imagine a much better lens.

Bokeh is the best I've ever seen for a wide-angle. Pretty sharp.

Aberrations are only OK, but controllable.
   
New Member

Registered: November, 2013
Posts: 3
Lens Review Date: January 25, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $954.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: My copy is very sharp even wide open.
Cons: A bit expensive...
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 8    Value: 7    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-3   

I've always wanted an FA Limited but am unable to afford one until now. I find the most useful for me to be the 31mm focal length. It's really amazing, i've never had a lens like that even if mine is a used copy... i would only go for a Made In Japan copy over an Assembled In Vietnam copy... I found one that is almost perfect.
Add Review of SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited Buy the SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited



All times are GMT -7. The time now is 05:30 PM. | See also: NikonForums.com, part of our network of photo forums!
  • Red (Default)
  • Green
  • Gray
  • Dark
  • Dark Yellow
  • Dark Blue
  • Old Red
  • Old Green
  • Old Gray
  • Dial-Up Style
Hello! It's great to see you back on the forum! Have you considered joining the community?
register
Creating a FREE ACCOUNT takes under a minute, removes ads, and lets you post! [Dismiss]
Top