Pentax FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited performance

Started Dec 26, 2013 | Discussions
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monoblocks Regular Member • Posts: 105
Pentax FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited performance

I am a new comer with Pentax. I had recently bought a K3 after using very briefly a Nikon Df and Canon 6D. In spite of being an APSC format camera, I think K3 is a better choice for my need. I love standard lens and right now I am now using new Sigma 35/1.4 HSM on my K3 and find it totally satisfactory. However, I am also keen to know the performance of the Pentax lens. My question is : how is the FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited compared with the Sigma? The only issue I have with Sigma is its weight and size, can the smaller Pentax gets as good results ? Apparently, Pentax is upgrading its line of lenses, or shall I wait ?

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monoblocks

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ozdean
ozdean Forum Pro • Posts: 22,942
Re: Pentax FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited performance

Think carefully about a DA20-40 wr limited.

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N.B. All my Images are Protected by Copyright

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John Cafarella Contributing Member • Posts: 985
Re: Pentax FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited performance

You're going to get some great replies on this one!

The FA31 is one of the most respected lenses in the lineup, it has achieved.. wait for it.... LEGENDARY status.

It is one of the "Three Amigos" the FA31,FA43 and FA77 Limiteds.  I don't have the 31 myself, but I have the other two, and they are fantastic lenses and all have an amazing look and feel to the shots taken with them.  The 43 and the 77's only fault is that they suffer a little from fringing, I believe that this a consequence of the same design decisions that make the pictures look awesome but I'll let others that have first hand experience advise you if the 31 also behaves like this.  In any case lightroom does a good job of neutralising it in most cases.

I don't believe I have ever heard anyone say that they are disappointed in the 31.

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John Cafarella
Melbourne, Australia

citrontokyo Contributing Member • Posts: 812
Re: Pentax FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited performance

You're going to get some great replies on this one!

The FA31 is one of the most respected lenses in the lineup, it has achieved.. wait for it.... LEGENDARY status.

It is one of the "Three Amigos" the FA31,FA43 and FA77 Limiteds.  I don't have the 31 myself, but I have the other two, and they are fantastic lenses and all have an amazing look and feel to the shots taken with them.  The 43 and the 77's only fault is that they suffer a little from fringing, I believe that this a consequence of the same design decisions that make the pictures look awesome but I'll let others that have first hand experience advise you if the 31 also behaves like this.  In any case lightroom does a good job of neutralising it in most cases.

I don't believe I have ever heard anyone say that they are disappointed in the 31.

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John Cafarella
Melbourne, Australia

Lenstip is disappointed in it. A couple of users each on both pentax forums and kakaku.com are not impressed.

However, the vast majority seem to thoroughly enjoy the 31.

To the OP, if size/weight is that big of a deal, I would think you should go for it, but if you think you're going to get some kind of uber-sharpness out of the 31 in comparison to the Sigma, you'll probably be disappointed. Most people seem to like it for it's build quality and "rendering." From the pictures I've seen, it has particularly smooth out-of-focus background rendering.

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Winder Senior Member • Posts: 1,449
Re: Pentax FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited performance

monoblocks wrote:

I am a new comer with Pentax. I had recently bought a K3 after using very briefly a Nikon Df and Canon 6D. In spite of being an APSC format camera, I think K3 is a better choice for my need. I love standard lens and right now I am now using new Sigma 35/1.4 HSM on my K3 and find it totally satisfactory. However, I am also keen to know the performance of the Pentax lens. My question is : how is the FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited compared with the Sigma? The only issue I have with Sigma is its weight and size, can the smaller Pentax gets as good results ? Apparently, Pentax is upgrading its line of lenses, or shall I wait ?

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monoblocks

I have the 31mm and my copy is really sharp from F/2 and up.  At f/4 and F/5.6 the images really have a special look to them if I'm at the correct subject distance.  It is becoming my most used lens for my K-3.  That said, if I had the Sigma 35mm F/1.4 I'm not sure I would trade it in for the 31mm LTD.  If Pentax does release a FF I think the Sigma 35mm will be the better choice for the FF sensor.  For APS-C though the 31mm is a jewel of a lens given its size and image quality.

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DAVID MANZE Veteran Member • Posts: 3,488
Re: Pentax FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited performance

Hi,

Your Sigma 35mm 1.4 is optically a very good and very sharp lens and of very recent design, the 31mm Pentax is a renowned lens but it's an older design, there are many reviews of this lens and it seems to be slighly less sharp fully open on larger sensors. Personally if you can live with the size of the Sigma I think it's the better option bearing in mind that you already own it and the 31 is one of the most expensive limiteds. With the money for the 31 you could buy yourself two other limiteds, say a DA21 and a DA15mm  or whatever takes your fancy!

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VaLeX Senior Member • Posts: 1,067
Re: Pentax FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited performance

I have the 31 for some years now, but I know nothing about the Sigma. I'm using it with an old K 10 (bought both of them at the same time, years ago, when Pentax K10D was the new hype ... and the 31 mm significantly cheaper). I'm very satisfied with its overall rendering (sharpness, out of focus rendering) as well as with the build. But keep in mind that its an older design and it's relying on motor for focusing.  It's not as fast, nor as accurate in auto-focusing as newer generations. At least this is the case with my copy, on my old K10D. And since it has a very short throw, manual focusing can be a nightmare.

I guess the best advise is to try one ... at least for me, a lens is not only about image quality, but also responsiveness and interaction with camera.

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Cynog ap Brychan
Cynog ap Brychan Regular Member • Posts: 114
Re: Pentax FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited performance

The 31mm focusses quickly and accurately when attached to my K-3, so I don't think there is any need to worry in that respect.  It is reasonably small and superbly built, and has a lovely rendition, but it is screw driven, so is audible when it focusses.  It is also very sharp.  I cannot speak for the Sigma which, from the reviews I have read, is a fine lens.  If you are happy with the results you are getting from the Sigma, perhaps you might consider another lens in the Limited line up, like the 77mm f1.8: this is a stunning portrait lens, or the 15mm f4.

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DAVID MANZE Veteran Member • Posts: 3,488
Re: Pentax FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited performance

DAVID MANZE wrote:

Hi,

it seems to be slighly less sharp fully open on larger sensors.

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Dave's clichés

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I meant to write;  on higher pixel sensors
Dave's clichés

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Rod McD Veteran Member • Posts: 3,841
Re: Pentax FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited performance

Hi,

I own the 31mm (not the Sigma 35mm) and I'm very pleased with it on my K5.  I haven't seen it on FF.  If I have a minor grumble it's that it can flare.  You're really seeking a side by side comparison, and I can't think of two lenses where you're less likely to get one.  They're both very expensive and I doubt many people would buy both because the FLs are so similar.  Given the excellent reports on the Sigma there's probably no point in changing over unless you want to save a bit of weight.

Cheers, Rod

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Brett St Pierre
Brett St Pierre Veteran Member • Posts: 7,021
Re: Pentax FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited performance
1

I tend to agree with others comments. I've had the FA 31mm F1.8 for about 8 years and used it on various Pentax models. It is an excellent lens in terms of edge to edge sharpness (very good at F1.8 and excellent from F2.8) and pleasing bokeh / rendering. I've only had my K-3 for a week but the combination with my FA 31 is looking as positive experience as I've had previously. I love it as a short portrait and general purpose/walk about prime.

But it's well known the Sigma 'Art' 35mm F1.4 HSM is a high quality lens with excellent centre sharpness (see Photozone test below which show the FA31 has better edge to edge sharpness) and generally good optical qualities so it's hard to see you switching from the Sigma unless it's the extra weight (almost twice the FA31 which is already the biggest & heaviest Pentax Limited).

Here is a snap at F1.8 of one of my boys yesterday

is

K-3 + FA 31mm 1/60 F1.8 ISO 200

Original cropped http://www.pbase.com/shreder/image/153914289/original

It could have been better focused, I was focusing for the eyes but haven't fine tuned focus for this lens yet. DOF is narrow.

As mentioned, Klaus from Photozone tests comprehensively and his test of the FA 31 on a 16mp K-5 is here.

http://www.photozone.de/pentax/735-pentax31f18k5

Although he points out you shouldn't compare lenses shot on different cameras, you can see his test of the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM on a Nikon 7000, which all but has the same Sony 16mp sensor as the K-5.

http://www.photozone.de/nikon--nikkor-aps-c-lens-tests/793-sigma3514dgdx

I think all you can get from this is that both lenses deserve applause. The Pentax FA 31 tests as having better/ even edge to edge sharpness (which has become really important to me over the years) but the Sigma has a sharper centre.

From what I see there and other reading, test and photos, I'd personally see no reason to switch from the Sigma to the Pentax (except for the edge to edge performance - important to me when shooting groups of people at weddings / events and architecture) but likewise there isn't anything about the Sigma that would lure me to double the weight of my general purpose prime.

PS Having said that, I've ordered the Sigma 15-35mm F1.8 HSM but that will have an entirely different use (event + corporate photography along with my DA*50-135mm F2.8) that what I use my primes for.

Regards,

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Brett
www.pbase.com/shreder
The Journey is the Thing

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monoblocks OP Regular Member • Posts: 105
Re: Pentax FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited performance

I find your photo very beautiful bearing traces of excellent Pentax lens and camera combination. Such combination brings a unique Pentax colour signature which is still very new for me. Having said that, it won't go wrong for me to keep the Sigma 35mm, it is just a bit on the heavy side. And thank you all for the helpful comments.

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monoblocks

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miles green
miles green Veteran Member • Posts: 5,082
Re: Pentax FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited performance

I have the 31 I use with the K5. I've never used the Sigma.

The newer lens corrects chromatic aberrations a little better (LOCAs). They are both very sharp wide open..

But the FA Limiteds render beautifully. I haven't seen enough of the 35 Art to be able to tell. As a bonus, all limiteds are wonderful to hold, and to look at, they are small and easy to travel with....

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Miles Green
Pentaxian with chronic LBA
Corfu, Greece

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solarider Veteran Member • Posts: 4,338
Re: Pentax FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited performance

Another idea in the murmerings, the FA Limiteds will be updated with the new HD coatings - whether Pentax updates one or two internal lenses to better deal with digital sensors, who knows.

It that pans out it could be an interesting offering. One would best have the old and the new one (assuming the rumor pans out) and sell the one you like least - heck they both might be great but in different ways, so in that case, if you have the means, keep both

Looking forward to what lies ahead with new goodies coming our way.

Nic

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Jim Beverlin Veteran Member • Posts: 3,251
Re: Pentax FA 31mm/1.8 AL Limited performance

miles green wrote:

But the FA Limiteds render beautifully. I haven't seen enough of the 35 Art to be able to tell. As a bonus, all limiteds are wonderful to hold, and to look at, they are small and easy to travel with....

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Miles Green
Pentaxian with chronic LBA
Corfu, Greece

+1 and 100% agree.  I have all the "3 sisters" (31,43 and 77) and could not agree more with your comments.

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JRB

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