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SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited

Sharpness 
 9.5
Aberrations 
 8.8
Bokeh 
 9.7
Autofocus 
 8.9
Handling 
 9.4
Value 
 8.4
Reviews Views Date of last review
79 269,316 Mon October 16, 2017
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Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
95% of reviewers $886.03 9.52
SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited

SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited
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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
$996 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
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Pentaxian

Registered: January, 2011
Location: Skåne, Sweden
Posts: 422

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.
   
Veteran Member

Registered: February, 2011
Posts: 4,893
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.
   
Forum Member

Registered: November, 2012
Posts: 64

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: January 18, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,300.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp at f1.8, crazy shap at f5.6, nice feel,
Cons: Expensive, no quick shift
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K5   

Construction: + very nice (metal feel, smooth operating focus ring) - the front part extends when focusing and is not all tight leaving a little "wobbling" (I suppose there is an engineering reason for that). A big plus is the presence of the aperture ring that will allow me to use it on a film camera.

Sharpness: this lens is sufficiently sharp wide open even in the corners. It gets sharper when closed down. At f1.8, I find the FA 31 sharper than the new Sigma 35 f1.4 that I own and that I consider very sharp.

CA: less than my FA 77, DA 50 f1.8, a very little more than the DA 40. OK for Pentax lenses.

Auto-focus: fine and fast enough for what I want to use it for.

Bokeh: superb

Colors out of my K5 with the FA 31 are great. It is expensive, but I believe that it is worth it.
   
Veteran Member

Registered: November, 2006
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Posts: 419

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: October 24, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $850.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Wonderful rendering, great contrast, nice bokeh
Cons: a little CA and no quick shift manual focus, hardly worth mentioning
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 8    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-5 IIs, K-01, K-7   

There isn't much that I can say about this lens that hasn't already been said.

If you're looking for a "standard" prime on a Pentax DSLR with APS-C image sensor then there is no better lens than the FA 31mm F1.8 Limited.

The bokeh from this lens is nice and smooth even when you stop down a little for some extra DOF. The way this lens renders details and specular highlights is nothing short of exceptional. The build quality is typical "Limited" excellence.

You can find some aberrations in some but it's so minimal that it's largely a non-issue. Len flare when you're shooting toward the sun can be annoying but if you add the long end of a Panasonic FZ18 adapter tube to the lens (as mentioned several times in the forums here) the modified "hood" solves the worst of the flare issues.

Some DSLR users might find the lack of quick shift manual focus to be annoying but I've found the AF quick and reliable on my K-5 IIs and K-01 bodies and if I ever need manual focus I'll flip the switch on the body.

HIGHLY recommended.

   
Site Supporter

Registered: September, 2012
Location: Gloucester
Posts: 1,092

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: October 24, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,350.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharpness; Rendition; Build Quality; Bokeh
Cons: Built-in lens hood makes step up rings unusable
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K-5   

What can I say that others haven't said before? I never cease to be amazed by this jewel of a lens.

Update: I have now had a chance to use this lens on the full-frame K-1, a purpose for which it was surely designed. I must say, that I am blown away by the amount of detail the camera/lens combination can capture, something to which the reduced image uploaded can never do justice. The lens is insanely sharp at f5.6, and the rendition and micro-contrast are simply awesome.

   
Veteran Member

Registered: February, 2009
Location: egypt
Posts: 386

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: September 17, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,400.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: bokeh ..sharpness
Cons:
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 8    New or Used: New    Camera Used: k5   

No more here to add. the lens is the pentax charisma. the bokeh is awesome also the sharpness .
I paid 1400$ for it but no regret. it's worth
   
Site Supporter

Registered: October, 2012
Location: SF Bay Area
Posts: 1,312

4 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: August 20, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $989.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharpness, Contrast, Color Trueness, Construction, AF Speed, Fixed Lens Hood, Aesthetics
Cons: Sometimes it's too sharp.
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K-7, K1000, KM, KX, K2, K-3, K-S1, K-S2   

I've used the 31mm FA Limited for about seven months now and feel I can finally write a reasonable and informed review after my recent trip to Japan with it. In three weeks, I shot about 7,000 photos with this camera at the beach, near the ocean, being splashed by some inconsiderate jerk at the ocean, inside a bulk fuel storage tank, inside an incredibly hot fuel pump house, in two thunderstorms, and in a crowd exceeding 20,000 people. In every situation, the lens performed beautifully on both the Pentax K-7 and Pentax K1000 that I brought on the trip.

Note that during rain, when I was splashed, and in a very-find-dust environment when entering the fuel tank I kept the camera wrapped in plastic to prevent water and dust from getting into the lens. This lens is NOT weather sealed (I don't think it needs to be) and should be protected in harsh environments.

This is the sharpest lens I own. I use it for photographing people, objects, and architecture. In each case, it performs well. The AF is fast enough to focus on people moving quickly at sporting events. But sometimes the lens is TOO sharp. With some people, the lens captures so many details as to make portraits unflattering. In some cases, this lens has made the people I photograph look about ten years older. Typically, the lens is honest in how it portrays people, but for people with wrinkles or lines, it grabs onto them and really makes signs of age apparent.

For architecture and product work, this lens is tops. I think my photos will speak for themselves.

This lens, today, is going for between $1,200 and $1,300. I picked it up for $989 a couple years ago. Could I justify up to $300 more if I needed to replace this lens -- YES. Emphatically yes. This was a great purchase and has, in very short order, become one of my workhorses and a keystone in my lens lineup. In fact, this lens' quality spurred me to pick up the 77mm FA Limited lens last month.

K-3 Samples:








K-S1 Samples:






K-7 Samples:
https://picasaweb.google.com/102333270936007447976/21613K7#5846238316997078082

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-OzzkdWEEQmU/UeI9P264_NI/AAAAAAAAywI/Q_WbD...0/18%2520B.jpg

https://picasaweb.google.com/102333270936007447976/71113K702#5900731715319092290

With my K1000:
https://picasaweb.google.com/102333270936007447976/71313K1000#5911868298684970354

https://picasaweb.google.com/102333270936007447976/72713K1000#5911871739022325282

https://picasaweb.google.com/102333270936007447976/72713K1000#5911871292027066082
   
Junior Member

Registered: June, 2010
Posts: 47

3 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: March 4, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $750.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Bokeh, Sharpness
Cons: Price
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-5 iis   

I will make this one short. Do not expect sharpness across the frame at wide apertures. I am cracking up with some of the reviews that list that as a downside. If it was sharp across the frame at 1.9 we could pretty much throw away the ‘bokeh’ category… because it wouldn’t have any. That is one of the main benefits to using a wide aperture. Also folks, aperture has a relation to focal distance. Don’t expect a sharp image if you are shooting a landscape at infinity at f/2.

I would say the strongest point of this lens is the bokeh. One of the smoothest around. Produces excellent ‘portraits.’
The sharpness is the second strong point. The slice of focus at the wider apertures is very sharp.. but granted, it is just a small slice at the wide end, as it should be.
A little bigger than most primes of this focal length but it is a good universal size and weight for most cameras.

That is my short review as many others have said the rest. Love this lens!
   
Forum Member

Registered: April, 2010
Posts: 91

4 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: February 17, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $950.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharpness, background blur, uniformity across the frame
Cons: somewhat hefty, built-in hood not very useful
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K-5   

I was longing for this lens for a couple of years. I hesitated to buy it because it was somewhat pricy and I had DA* 16-50 which produces really great images around that focal length, even wide open.

However, I had had FA77 and wanted something in the same league for wider angle shots. Finally it was time to upgrade the aging K-7 I had and I couldn't resist any longer and ordered FA 31 as well.

The first impression was rather disappointing because it just wasn't sharp the way I expected wide open. FA 77 was much better at 1.8 in comparison. However, stopped down to 2.2-2.8 the sharpness of FA 31 was just brilliant in center and across the frame.

Another source of disappointment was the lack of expected 3d effect. I can point FA 77 pretty on everything and it magically produces an appealing image, often having that 3d feeling. I couldn't do that with my copy of FA 31. I blame "Assembled in Vietnam" stamp as opposed to "Made in Japan" of FA 77 but not sure since I don't have another copy to confirm that.

It was not that I didn't like it, I found it amazing at landscapes or group shots at f/4.0-5.6 but taking photos at 1.8 was something I couldn't afford myself. I decided to wait until I get used to it before making final judgement.

Now, after a year passed, I think I've finally found the way to use it properly. The point is that the lens open at f/1.8 produces great, sharp images when distance to subject is very close. I'm not sure if this is a design flaw or some feature of this lens copy or just focusing issues but now I don't hesitate to shot wide open when choose the subject properly:


All in all it is a superb lens and the competition's equivalents are just monstrous, albeit a stop faster. I hesitate to switch brands because of great Pentax FA 31 and FA 77 lens - there is simply no substitute.
   
Veteran Member

Registered: February, 2007
Location: Phoenix
Posts: 1,056

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: January 31, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $850.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharpness, color rendering, bokeh, construction
Cons: Silly lens hood and cap
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 10    Value: 8    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K100D, K20D, K-x, MX, K2   

An updated review after a few years...

This lens is nearly perfect in every way. The "personality" of the images it captures are unlike any other lens I have used. It is equally brilliant as a normal prime on APS-C and a wide angle on 35mm. In the hand it feels like an extension of one's mind...it really is that good.

I've had this lens for maybe 5 years now, so I have come to learn some of its...idiosyncrasies. The biggest drawbacks I have found have nothing to do with the images, however. The first is the silly lens hood, which is so small it seems to only be good for use at noon in the tropics. This lens is so flare-resistant a hood is unnecessary, but it would be nice to have the option of using a "real" hood if need be. I use a few old flare-prone color filters with B&W film that could really use a good hood in certain shooting conditions. The second issue is with the lens cap. It is a beautiful piece of machined aluminum to be sure, but the felt has a tendency to gather dust and grit, which has resulted in a good deal of brassing along the front edge of the lens hood. A minor point, and I personally like the look of a well-loved lens, but something to be aware of.
   
Site Supporter

Registered: February, 2012
Location: Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Posts: 5,729

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: January 31, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Magical rendering, super sharp, fast, beautifully built and a joy to handle
Cons: Absolutely nothing
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K-5 IIs, K-01, Q   

What can I add to the body of literature on this legendary lens?
Put simply, it is underrated. Even at its hefty price it is good value for money.
As an added bonus, it makes a stellar mid-telephoto macro lens when coupled to the Q.

I have no pretensions to being an elite photographer, but for those interested, a link to my "Single in January 2013" shots taken with the FA31 can be found here
   
Senior Member

Registered: October, 2011
Location: Cambridge, Ontario
Posts: 179
Lens Review Date: December 15, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $600.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharpness, amazing IQ
Cons:
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K5   

I have wanted this lens for a long time. Two months ago I found a used one at the Henry's show (lucky for me it was hidden under some Nikon boxes) and saw the price and picked it up immediately.

It is a fixture on my K5 along with my DA Limiteds. The IQ is stunning and the lens lives up to its reputation. My only regret is I waited this long.
   
Veteran Member

Registered: December, 2009
Location: USA - Delaware
Posts: 434
Lens Review Date: October 21, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,100.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Soft at 1.8 (perfect portraits), Sharp past 2.8, Bokeh rendition, color, contrast
Cons: Soft at 1.8 (for handheld at night), price
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K-7   

Amazing. Absolutely amazing. It renders like no other. Contrast and color are fantastic right out of the raw file.

Portraits: great wide open. Even thought it is a little soft, it creates glowing portraits with wonderful 3D bokeh. The pixie dust is there!



Landscape: Sharp past F2.8. Great for night photography also as it creates beautiful starbursts after F10.




I was skeptical about its value. It is EXPENSIVE! When I got it I expected it to be super sharp! It is not... Wide open it is soft(ish) but slightly stopped it is amazingly sharp. Like I said, the softness I find an advantage for portraits. I do think the price is entirely justified. Just buy it! You will not regret it!
Add Review of SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited Buy the SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited



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