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SMC Pentax-FA* 85mm F1.4 [IF] Review RSS Feed

SMC Pentax-FA* 85mm F1.4 [IF]

Sharpness 
 9.9
Aberrations 
 9.0
Bokeh 
 9.7
Autofocus 
 9.0
Handling 
 9.5
Value 
 9.5
Reviews Views Date of last review
32 180,892 Wed November 23, 2022
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Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
97% of reviewers $1,089.92 9.68
SMC Pentax-FA* 85mm F1.4 [IF]

SMC Pentax-FA* 85mm F1.4 [IF]
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SMC Pentax-FA* 85mm F1.4 [IF]
supersize
SMC Pentax-FA* 85mm F1.4 [IF]
supersize

Description:
The Pentax FA* 85mm has a different optical design than its A* counterpart and it also incorporates internal focusing (IF).

Three versions of this lens exist:
S/N 301xxxx: old-style hood and no silver ring above and in-line with the aperture ring
S/N 302xxxx/303xxxx: old style hood, silver ring above and in-line with the aperture ring
S/N 307xxxx: new style hood, silver ring above and in-line with the aperture ring (see photo).

Like for all other FA* lenses you switch between autofocus and manual focus by pushing the focusing forwards (autofocus) or pulling it towards the camera (manual focus).

SMC Pentax-FA* 85mm F1.4 [IF]
© www.pentaxforums.com, sharable with attribution
Image Format
Full-frame / 35mm film
Lens Mount
Pentax K
Aperture Ring
Yes (A setting)
Diaphragm
Automatic, 9 blades
Optics
8 elements, 7 groups
Mount Variant
KAF
Check camera compatibility
Max. Aperture
F1.4
Min. Aperture
F22
Focusing
AF (screwdrive)
Quick-shift
No
Min. Focus
85 cm
Max. Magnification
0.11x
Filter Size
67 mm
Internal Focus
Yes
Field of View (Diag. / Horiz.)

APS-C: 19 ° / 16 °
Full frame: 29 ° / 24 °
Hood
Dedicated metal. Two different hood designs over the lifespan of this lens
Case
S120-150
Lens Cap
Coating
SMC
Weather Sealing
No
Other Features
Diam x Length
79 x 70 mm (3.1 x 2.8 in.)
Weight
550 g (19.4 oz.)
Production Years
1992 to 2004
Engraved Name
smc PENTAX-FA* 1:1.4 85mm -IF-
Product Code
23080
Reviews
User reviews
Variants

Three versions of this lens exist:
S/N 301xxxx: old-style hood and no silver ring above and in-line with the aperture ring.
S/N 302xxxx/303xxxx: old style hood, silver ring above and in-line with the aperture ring.
S/N 307xxxx: new style hood, silver ring above and in-line with the aperture ring.

Features:
Screwdrive AutofocusInternal FocusingAperture RingAutomatic ApertureFull-Frame SupportDiscontinued
Sample Photos: View Sample Photos
Price History:



Add Review of SMC Pentax-FA* 85mm F1.4 [IF]
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Loyal Site Supporter

Registered: August, 2021
Location: SEVA
Posts: 3
Lens Review Date: November 23, 2022 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $725.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Beautiful images when you wrestle it into submission
Cons: Focus is slow and hunts a lot
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 8    Autofocus: 6    Handling: 10    Value: 8    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-1ii   

I bought this lens to complement my D-FA* 50/1.4 because I could not justify the cost of both D-FA* lenses, but in many ways I wish I had gone with the D-FA* 85 and found some other solution for a fast modern 50. (Why is there no FA* 50? The world may never know.) As such, I'm writing this review as a sort of comparison to the D-FA* 50, which isn't fair, but I expect that I'm not the only person who is in this position.

What I did get from this lens is wonderful, but I'll start with the frustrating stuff.

Focusing
This lens uses the old screw drive focusing system. It is loud, slow, and it hunts a lot. You won't be using this lens to shoot any fast-moving nearby objects.

We're primarily using DSLRs, so I'm focusing and recomposing. I find that in difficult lighting scenarios (strong sunlight, back light), the camera gets confused. It will focus on the bright spots (usually the model's hair), or sometimes just nothing at all. If there is a lot of 3D-pop in your photo, it will also be unsure of where you're trying to look and will focus on things in your intended foreground or background. Sometimes, being just barely out of focus on your model.

I find that in these scenarios, it is best to just pop it into manual and leave it there.

Where the autofocus works best is in a studio setting. Put the camera on a tripod, the autofocus will get you within 95% of where you want it. I will disagree with what the camera wants to focus on, but snapping the lens into manual focus and taking over is easy enough. It also works well for shooting groups where everything is farther away, but that's just putting less strain on the system.

Sharpness and Aberrations
It's frustrating that the focusing system is so lackluster because you can get some really tack sharp images out of it when you nail that focus. I use this lens primarily for portraits and I find that it is almost too sharp and I need to do a lot of post on skin texture to reel it back in a bit.... at a few stops down.

The optics on this lens occupy that strange place at the top end of film lenses without quite getting to the technical perfection of digital era lenses. Stopped down, you won't notice a difference between this and modern top-of-the-line fast 85s, but wide open it has problems. (And that's sad because it's a 1.4! Why wouldn't you use it wide open?) Wide open, you'll get pretty unpleasant CA, some ghosting, and a general lack of sharpness, especially in strong light.

Bokeh and DoF
The out of focus areas wide open are very nice, but there is nothing special. No unusual effects, not much flare. Generally, the bokeh is unobtrusive and functional. The lens doesn't easily produce unusual artifacts stopped down. Wide open, things are pleasant with some slight cats eyes at the edges of the frame. Generally, it is professional and unflappable in this department.

The DoF is interesting. Even stopped down, the in focus areas are noticably sharper than just ahead and behind. Falloff is very quick. You do not have any luxury of getting in the 'in focus' range and calling it good enough. You will notice things slightly out of focus at f4. Of course, this adds to the challenge because of focusing difficulties.

But, this adds to the 3D pop effect. Good shadows and even a few things passing through the focus distance will make your photos feel hyper real in this way. It's a real joy!

Handling
The lens handles beautifully. Snapping into and out of manual focus is quick, easy, and intuitive. The lens picks up where you leave off right away. Focus throw is short and responsive. It feels a bit plastic-y, but this might just be comparison to the Takumars and Pentax-K lenses I'm used to.

The aperture ring is badly placed, but I almost never take it out of automatic mode anyway. It is nice to have there at all. Theoretically, you could use this lens on a dumb camera, with no electrical connections.

My one complaint is that the stock lens cover can't be removed while the lens hood is in place. Also, the lens hood is solid when mounted, but it is flimsy when in the 'storage' position (backwards). Mine was broken in shipping. Just be careful with it and don't ship it assembled.

just a very basic portrait with one light plus some fill, closed down slightly. I did miss focus just behind her eye, by about 1/2"

this is unedited (except crop) to show CA wide open in demanding circumstances. Also, it is soft. But, decent bokeh, even for a full-body portrait.

we had fun on this beach photoshoot. Don't even bother with autofocus here. Just be in manual and be happy.
   
New Member

Registered: September, 2016
Posts: 2
Lens Review Date: August 25, 2021 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $725.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: legendary item, sharpness, bokeh, colors, f1.4
Cons: cannot remove lens cap with hood on
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 8    Value: 10    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: Pentax K-1   

Lens made to be loved. Absolutely sharp and lovely images straight from wide-open. The separation of the background at f/1.4 is awesome. Very reliable AF even in PDAF, in live-view the results are almost 100% in focus.

Crop at f/2.0

   
Moderator

Registered: July, 2011
Location: Melbourne
Posts: 1,183

4 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: June 30, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,500.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Portrait pop
Cons: none optically just that fragile silver paint

I have enjoyed this lens, a large hunk of glass with a delicate silver painted finish. The SMC FA* 85mm 1:1.4 IF really delivers a wow factor in portrait photos, the transition from in focus to out of focus is lovely and smooth and the bokeh is buttery smooth. I calibrated the lens using a focusing tool and it does exhibit purple and green fringing on the edge of high contrast transitions in out of focus areas. After doing the test I assumed it was going to be a month of post processing to remove the fringing in all my photos. In real world use I didn't have to do any post processing, maybe it was just the subjects and lighting I used over the month, but I never noticed any until the last day when I saw the reflections of 100 led lights on my wife's glasses frame with some fringing in the out of focus areas. Not a normal lighting setup and only seen when pixel peeping. While the lens is screw drive I never noticed any hunting when mounted on the K1 and the focus was quick to lock on. One thing that all fast lenses have a need for is accurate focusing as when used wide open the area being in focus can be down to just 1cm. I found using the single point focus and repositioning gave me good accuracy for focusing where I wanted. The minimum focus is not close , but not unworkable at all, I tried it with extension tubes and it worked fine.I used the lens to produce several pleasing photos using lightroom to stitch several photos together, this helped me when a wider view was required in landscapes and also to try the brenizer effect which I enjoyed. This lens sat in my cupboard all through the APS C years as I just didn't feel it compared to the 35mm feel on film, with the K1 it feels just right again. Used for landscape, the slight telephoto helps isolate the details in the photo. I have found my love for this lens all over again.

85 lenscal by Gary Wakeling, on Flickr

arthur by Gary Wakeling, on Flickr

loose nut by Gary Wakeling, on Flickr

taxi55 by Gary Wakeling, on Flickr

dry boat by Gary Wakeling, on Flickr

security by Gary Wakeling, on Flickr

hair today by Gary Wakeling, on Flickr

those eyes bw by Gary Wakeling, on Flickr

The favourite photo from the month came near the end of the month and I am aiming to have it enlarged and printed for my wall, thanks to this wonderful lens.

early prom by Gary Wakeling, on Flickr[COLOR="Silver"]
   
Forum Member

Registered: August, 2018
Posts: 72

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: August 28, 2018 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $900.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: The legend. Incredible build quality.
Cons: Nothing !
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-x   

My K-x camera has found its limits with this lens. A lot of difficulty for the focus.
But when it works, it's incredible.








   
Junior Member

Registered: March, 2015
Posts: 41

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: April 18, 2018 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: N/A 

 
Pros: it is a razor!
Cons: price
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 8    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: k30   

I've bought this lens a couple of years ago and when I have a look to the pictures I have done I always dazzle!
I got at the same time the M82 f2, the A*85 1.4 and the FA*85 1.4. I have to say the difference between the three is so small that you cannot notice it if you print to A4 size.
Raccomenaded.
   
Site Supporter

Registered: November, 2010
Location: New Berlin, WI
Posts: 528

3 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: March 23, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,000.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Fantastic IQ (dreamy bokeh, sharp, rich colors)
Cons: Big, heavy, loud focus, CA (from film era)
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 9    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-3   

The FA*85 F1.4 is a heavy lens with a very large hood and a fragile silver finish, definitely not the most practical lens for field photography. It's also prone to chromatic aberration, especially from F1.4 to F2.2. However this is a very special portrait lens. It delivers very sharp images, like other premium lenses, but that bokeh... is a thing of beauty, the best I've ever seen. Very dreamy.
It renders very rich and warm colors too.
Pentax definitely prioritized the IQ for portrait work with this lens, and it's a film era (discontinued) lens so I forgive the chromatic aberration, silver finish and bulkiness and only judge in terms of IQ for portrait: FANTASTIC!


   
Site Supporter

Registered: March, 2013
Location: Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, UK
Posts: 340

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: March 23, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $900.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Unmatched IQ and sharpness, focus speed, bokeh to die for
Cons: Cost, rarity, weight, hood marks easily
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-3   

I can only echo what others have said about this magnificent lens. The FA*85mm is simply the finest piece of Pentax glass I have ever owned.
Rendering and colour are simply superb. I also own the FA 77mm Ltd (i've had three copies in fact). Although a great lens in it's own right, the 77mm doesn't compare to this lens for sharpness and quality of bokeh. It is simply the king of Pentax lenses for portraiture in my eyes. The transition from in focus to bokeh is just creamy smooth. Stopped down just a little it is absolutely razor sharp.

The only downsides to the FA*85mm that I can see are rarity/cost and weight.

As a result I tend to take the 77mm Ltd out more often for family trips etc. It is far smaller and lighter. Easier to replace too, if anything unfortunate happened. The FA*85mm is just a very special lens and I count myself very lucky to own a good copy.
   
New Member

Registered: March, 2015
Location: Paris
Posts: 2

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: March 22, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,000.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: The better one
Cons: no SDM
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K20D   

For me the best Lens pentax have made
   
Veteran Member

Registered: July, 2010
Location: singapore
Posts: 467
Lens Review Date: October 17, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: sharp , excellent subject isolation, great colours
Cons: large size
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: New    Camera Used: Pentax K5   

IMGP9829 by maverick_h, on Flickr


Excellent lens for protraits. Great subject isolation, and i simply love the bokeh.

Let the picture speaks for this excellent lens.
   
New Member

Registered: May, 2013
Posts: 2

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: April 17, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,350.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Excellent color rendition and sharpness
Cons: none
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: Pentax K30   

I bought this lens based on some of the previous reviews. Just like a similar review I was hesitant that I would regret my purchase based on the price. I normally buy lenses on ebay that are worth less than my camera. This lens cost more than double of what I paid for my K30.

I don't regret my purchase and this is the best lens that I own and admire.

Here are some samples;

https://www.flickr.com/photos/96803215@N05/13883882855/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/96803215@N05/13883866705/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/96803215@N05/13883840735/

I hope you enjoy.
   
Senior Member

Registered: February, 2011
Posts: 274

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: March 1, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,400.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: excellent portrait lens, short focus distance, sharp, nice bokeh
Cons: hard to focus at long distance
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K5   

Many reviews in this section have discussed many aspects that I wished to tell. I would say the lens performs very well in term of sharpness, bokeh, and "clean" image. The focus is good for short distance; however it is always struggling for long distance objects. Here is some pictures that I took in Oct. 2012 on my K-5

@f/2.8

HIEP5578 copy by ngnhuhiep, on Flickr


@f/1.8

HIEP5580 copy by ngnhuhiep, on Flickr

@f/2.2

HIEP5588 copy by ngnhuhiep, on Flickr

And more recently, at a garden in PA, NJ


HIEP7372 by ngnhuhiep, on Flickr


HIEP7337 by ngnhuhiep, on Flickr

f/1.4

HIEP7389_edited-1 by ngnhuhiep, on Flickr
   
Veteran Member

Registered: January, 2007
Location: Warsaw
Posts: 338

3 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: November 30, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,400.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: bokeh, sharpness
Cons: quite big with hood
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 9    Value: 10    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K20D, K5   

Best portrait lens I had. My Leica 90/2 is a little similar in nature. Fantastic sharpness, great color reproduction, amazing bokeh.

Hood is great but very well fitted and durable.

These two shots are at f1.4.





Few more shots
   
Senior Member

Registered: November, 2011
Posts: 106

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: March 17, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharp, contrast 3d effect
Cons: autofocus @ infinite
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 8    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K5   

for a smile on your face at every shot, I recommend this lenses.
different apertures:

original
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7208/6990730613_500f8e6a73_o.jpg
   
New Member

Registered: May, 2010
Posts: 5

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: February 10, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,500.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Looks great on a K5 Silver, best value for the quality, fantastic output, fast
Cons: Cost
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: Pentax K5   

This is my most used lens for shooting indoor or low light sporting events. 95% of my photography activity is indoors and requires shooting at shutter speeds > 1/1000.

Bottom line, I dont even fool around with other lens because this bad boy leaves all others in the dust. I only wish that I had discovered this guy before investing in all of the other suboptimal glass
   
Banned

Registered: January, 2009
Posts: 9,675

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: January 6, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,088.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Fast focus, Sharp
Cons: CA wide open, not wheaterseald, not f1.2
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 8    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: Used   

This is my most used lens. It is a wonderfull thing when on my K-5 Silver.


Negative on it is Chromatic Aberations when used wide open (around the arms). On the other hand, it can be forgiven with the right subject.


It is great for portrait. At close range or at longer range for full body.


Great for low light scenes like concert to make the picture like you want them.


Or for that perfect shot in good light.


I would like this lens to be DA* with wheatersealing and quickshift. Maybe even as a f1.2 version.

Here is one picture at full resolution and good lightning to see how good this lens is:
https://dl.dropbox.com/u/20195454/_S5W6189.jpg
Add Review of SMC Pentax-FA* 85mm F1.4 [IF]



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