what about that DA* 55mm? (pros, cons, and opinions sought)

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yardcoyote
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what about that DA* 55mm? (pros, cons, and opinions sought)
5 months ago

My first anniversary with the K-30 is quickly approaching.  It's amazing how much this crazy chunk of camera has gotten under my skin.  Apparently I am still a photographer of sorts.  Who would have known it?  I'm still on the beginner side of the learning curve, but the decent shots are getting to be less accidental and more on purpose.

In that year I've collected a small stable of primes-- the 21 Limited and 35 macro Limited, which are exactly as advertised and entirely satisfactory, and the FA 50mm, which is an obstreperous little #$%&.  I have a love/hate relationship with this lens-- it's optically excellent when I can get it to settle down and get to work, but it is as stubborn as I am and if it does not want to focus it refuses to cooperate.  Low light sets it off, or any attempt to focus on anything close to its minimum distance. And sometimes it just acts up seemingly at random. Helping it out with a little manual focus the way I do the 35 macro is a no go, since it has a tiny, stiff focusing ring that is almost impossible to use. (It also show a weird magenta cast when taking pictures in one particular room of one particular house and nowhere else-- this is really strange and I plan a whole post on the subject in the next couple of days, but it's off topic here.)

Add to these problems the fact that this lens is just plain too short to satisfy my personal aesthetic, honed as it was by many, many years behind an 85mm on full frame film.  As the lady says, I have a bag, and in that bag I have a thing, and my thing is an 85mm prime lens.  If the 50 behaved perfectly, I would live with it being too short, just as I would live with it if it were the perfect length but badly behaved.  But both ...

I've been trying out various solutions for this problem, ranging from buying a used FF camera and a real 85 and shutting up about it, to buying a Fuji XT-1 and either the 56mm portrait monster or the 60mm macro and shutting up about it, but right now I am leaning toward keeping right on using my K-30, which I am really getting to like, and getting the DA*55mm and shutting up about it.

So, if you are a fan of this lens, and you think it would serve me well as a general shooter, share all of its great qualities with me.  Likewise, if you think it is profoundly flawed, tell me all about that.  If you have pictures you've taken with it that illustrate any of your points, that would be great, especially if they are not portraits.  Not that I have anything against a good portrait and I like to try my hand at them, but this lens will not be used as a portrait lens, but as an all purpose, all day walk around lens most of the time.  If it is set up optically to be flattering rather than brutally honest, then it isn't what I want.

Buying this lens (even used) would be a major step for me, since doing so will take all of what remains of this year's gear budget and part of next year's.  I'm not in a huge hurry and don't plan to buy until at least after Photokina, since there are all kinds of possible developments that could change my mind.  Buying the DA* would almost certainly mean committing to crop sensor Pentax for the foreseeable future, and that's a big step.  Thanks ahead of time for the opinions and help.

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Heie2
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Re: what about that DA* 55mm? (pros, cons, and opinions sought)
In reply to yardcoyote, 5 months ago

I love mine. Don't use it enough, and yes, the AF is slow, but it's not a lens you need fast AF for, so I'm ok with it.

f/2.2

f/2.8

f/1.4

f/2.2

f/1.4

f/4

f/2.8

-Heie

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yardcoyote
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Re: what about that DA* 55mm? (pros, cons, and opinions sought)
In reply to Heie2, 5 months ago

Thanks.  You can certainly get a fine image with this lens.  I found the portrait of the soldier with the red flag and the food shot particularly striking.  Can you speed up the focusing process by prefocusing manually?   All the images of the lens show what looks like a very useable focusing ring.

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ozdean
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Re: what about that DA* 55mm? (pros, cons, and opinions sought)
In reply to Heie2, 5 months ago

It's pro glass - the rest is up to you............

100% crop of the above

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N.B. All my Images are Protected by Copyright

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ozdean
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Re: what about that DA* 55mm? (pros, cons, and opinions sought)
In reply to yardcoyote, 5 months ago

There is no problem with the focusing - or the sharpness - this is Pentax's portrait prime - perfect. Don't take any notice of some reviews, they don't know the character of a good portrait lens.

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yardcoyote
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Re: what about that DA* 55mm? (pros, cons, and opinions sought)
In reply to ozdean, 5 months ago

Yeah.  Some beautiful cityscapes, which are definitely more general work, as well as the informal portrait/people shot I would expect a lens like this to be good at.  If I decide to blow the budget on a 55, it's going to have to wear all the hats.

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britcam
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Re: what about that DA* 55mm? (pros, cons, and opinions sought)
In reply to yardcoyote, 5 months ago

Here's a snapshot from two years ago using the 55.

If that's the focal length you want, there is no better lens, simple as that.

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Rich S (britcam)

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robbo d
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Re: what about that DA* 55mm? (pros, cons, and opinions sought)
In reply to ozdean, 5 months ago

WOW, great image quality Dean, that lens looks like a stunner and the various reviews seems to indicate it, the first shot at the wedding is a nice capture, the detail, especially when blown up, its even more impressive..... just could have eliminated that Canon logo in PP.... just Kidding 

I have the Sigma 50mm f1.4, which is probably similar in size, but not quite as nice as that, it does however seem to have a nice translucent or 3D quality, with nice colours in some shots i've taken.

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britcam
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Re: what about that DA* 55mm? (pros, cons, and opinions sought)
In reply to britcam, 5 months ago

Here's another ...

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Rich S (britcam)

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jay_akita
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Re: what about that DA* 55mm? (pros, cons, and opinions sought)
In reply to yardcoyote, 5 months ago

This is the lens I miss the most after switching to Olympus/Nikon (never owned any of the FA limiteds though).  If you can nail focus the results are awesome - sharpness, color, and OOF redering are all incredible IMO.

I found the AF paired with my K5 was a dog though, and I really struggled to nail shots with my kids to the point where I hardly used it not wanting to deal with the frustration and missed shots.  Combine the AF with the K5 flash performance if you really want to see how far you can be pushed before throwing your camera out a window  Might be a lot better on the K3 though AF-wise?

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yardcoyote
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Re: what about that DA* 55mm? (pros, cons, and opinions sought)
In reply to jay_akita, 5 months ago

Thanks for the honest opinion. I am hardly shooting with a K3 here-- just a humble K-30, although its autofocus seems to work quite well with my other lenses. I'll admit I'm slightly concerned about the focus issues I've been reading about, but I am not a fast paced shooter, but rather plodding and deliberate, and the FA 50mm has got me pretty used to missed shots.

Still hoping somebody can advise me on whether a quick dose of manual prefocus will speed things up. This technique works very well with the 35mm macro Limited, which is inclined to run out to its full length when going from macro work out to subjects at a distance.

Optically, there seem to be no questions left to ask.

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soheil
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Re: what about that DA* 55mm? (pros, cons, and opinions sought)
In reply to yardcoyote, 5 months ago

I've got this lens after long doubtful thinking because I have too many lenses covering this FL (50/1.4 , 50/2.8 macro, 16-50, 50-135, 60-250, 55-300). But I don't have any regrets from the very first shots. On my K5IIs, the focus is spot on, and in the darkness, I could beat my friend's 7D+70/200 2.8 II IS each and every time regarding focus accuracy and speed. Comparing it's IQ with 50/1.4, I love 55's much much more.

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yardcoyote
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Re: what about that DA* 55mm? (pros, cons, and opinions sought)
In reply to soheil, 5 months ago

Thank you.  This is especially interesting because I am definitely open to adding a K5II body to my stable eventually.  That camera appeals to me strongly, more than a K3 in many ways.  And if this lens represents a deeper commitment to the whole crop sensor thing, that makes a second body a very reasonable option.  (There's a whole new debate, particularly if the rumored K-60 appears.)

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soheil
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Some shots
In reply to yardcoyote, 5 months ago

I've posted these before but I don't have anything else right now

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yardcoyote
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Re: Some shots
In reply to soheil, 5 months ago

Lovely shots, and no one could argue with the range of subjects!

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HozicEmir
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Re: what about that DA* 55mm? (pros, cons, and opinions sought)
In reply to yardcoyote, 5 months ago

Best of the best, I like it a lot. Super sharp form f2.0, sharp f1.6, usable at 1.4 (my copy), rock solid, very good balance, on k-5 make one solid peace of equipment.

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fakuryu
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Just something to keep in mind
In reply to yardcoyote, 5 months ago

yardcoyote wrote:

My first anniversary with the K-30 is quickly approaching. It's amazing how much this crazy chunk of camera has gotten under my skin. Apparently I am still a photographer of sorts. Who would have known it? I'm still on the beginner side of the learning curve, but the decent shots are getting to be less accidental and more on purpose.

In that year I've collected a small stable of primes-- the 21 Limited and 35 macro Limited, which are exactly as advertised and entirely satisfactory, and the FA 50mm, which is an obstreperous little #$%&. I have a love/hate relationship with this lens-- it's optically excellent when I can get it to settle down and get to work, but it is as stubborn as I am and if it does not want to focus it refuses to cooperate. Low light sets it off, or any attempt to focus on anything close to its minimum distance. And sometimes it just acts up seemingly at random. Helping it out with a little manual focus the way I do the 35 macro is a no go, since it has a tiny, stiff focusing ring that is almost impossible to use. (It also show a weird magenta cast when taking pictures in one particular room of one particular house and nowhere else-- this is really strange and I plan a whole post on the subject in the next couple of days, but it's off topic here.)

Add to these problems the fact that this lens is just plain too short to satisfy my personal aesthetic, honed as it was by many, many years behind an 85mm on full frame film. As the lady says, I have a bag, and in that bag I have a thing, and my thing is an 85mm prime lens. If the 50 behaved perfectly, I would live with it being too short, just as I would live with it if it were the perfect length but badly behaved. But both ...

I've been trying out various solutions for this problem, ranging from buying a used FF camera and a real 85 and shutting up about it, to buying a Fuji XT-1 and either the 56mm portrait monster or the 60mm macro and shutting up about it, but right now I am leaning toward keeping right on using my K-30, which I am really getting to like, and getting the DA*55mm and shutting up about it.

So, if you are a fan of this lens, and you think it would serve me well as a general shooter, share all of its great qualities with me. Likewise, if you think it is profoundly flawed, tell me all about that. If you have pictures you've taken with it that illustrate any of your points, that would be great, especially if they are not portraits. Not that I have anything against a good portrait and I like to try my hand at them, but this lens will not be used as a portrait lens, but as an all purpose, all day walk around lens most of the time. If it is set up optically to be flattering rather than brutally honest, then it isn't what I want.

Buying this lens (even used) would be a major step for me, since doing so will take all of what remains of this year's gear budget and part of next year's. I'm not in a huge hurry and don't plan to buy until at least after Photokina, since there are all kinds of possible developments that could change my mind. Buying the DA* would almost certainly mean committing to crop sensor Pentax for the foreseeable future, and that's a big step. Thanks ahead of time for the opinions and help.

That it is really hard for almost any camera to always and accurately nail focus @ f1.4 100% of the time but I'm sure that the DA*55 is a fantastic lens.

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EHDesigns
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Re: what about that DA* 55mm? (pros, cons, and opinions sought)
In reply to yardcoyote, 5 months ago

So this has come up a few times before. I know I've seen Dean and some others praising this lens. I like this lens a lot. It is on my K-5 most of the time, until I need wide angle, reach, or macro.  I know of no cons.

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EHDesigns
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Re: what about that DA* 55mm? (pros, cons, and opinions sought)
In reply to yardcoyote, 5 months ago

Oh, and this page with some tests of various lenses in the 50mm range. The 55* shines.

http://www.arnoldstark.de/pentax/Pentax_50-55.htm

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yardcoyote
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Re: Just something to keep in mind
In reply to fakuryu, 5 months ago

So true-- and believe me, I am not expecting autofocus miracles at f/1.4, particularly in low light.  I will probably do most of my "small aperture" shooting at around f/2 anyway, so I won't imagine it would be an issue very often.

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