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Pentax smc FA 50mm 1:1.4 review

November 2008 | By Andy Westlake

The Pentax smc FA 50mm F1.4 is something of an anomaly in the company's current lens lineup, as the last of their film-era primes featuring plastic construction and an aperture ring. This actually reflects the fact that Pentax are probably the leading proponents of modern-design fixed-focal length lenses, with their range of compact 'pancake' lenses and 'Limited' series high quality primes being the envy of users of other systems. Indeed we can probably presume that the 50mm F1.4 will itself be superseded by the recently-announced Pentax-DA* 55mm F1.4 SDM lens, but in the meantime it stands as the most obvious option for users seeking a fast prime for low light and portrait work.

The 50mm F1.4 features a traditional design of 7 elements in 6 groups, with all of the lens surfaces spherical in profile. In this regard it's very similar to the Canon EF 50mm F1.4 USM and Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm F1.4D which we've reviewed recently, and therefore looks somewhat dated when compared to the all-new, aspheric-element Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM. The 'smc' designation indicates treatment with Pentax's 'super multi coating' for the minimization of flare, and the 'FA' designation indicates that, unlike the newer 'DA' digitally optimized lenses, its image circle covers the 35mm full-frame format.

With Pentax concentrating their attentions on the APS-C format, the function of this lens has subtly changed from the days of 35mm film, and the 1.5x crop factor means it now acts more like a classic short 'portrait' telephoto, instead of the general purpose 'standard' lens it was designed to be. The question to be asked is therefore whether it's well suited to this role, especially given the high resolution demands of the smaller sensor. Read on to find out.

Headline features

  • 50mm focal length
  • Fast F1.4 maximum aperture

Angle of view

The picture below illustrates the angle of view on APS-C (see here for comparative shots using the 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens):

50mm (75mm equivalent)

 

Pentax smc FA 50mm F1.4 specifications

Street price • $200 US
• £170 UK
Date introduced 1991
Maximum format size 35mm full frame
Focal length 50mm
35mm equivalent focal length (APS-C) 75mm
Diagonal Angle of view (FF) 47º
Diagonal Angle of view (APS-C) 31º
Maximum aperture F1.4
Minimum aperture F22
Lens Construction • 7 elements / 6 groups
Number of diaphragm blades 8
Minimum focus 0.45m
Maximum magnification 0.15x
AF motor type • 'Screw drive' from camera body
Focus method Unit
Image stabilization • None
Filter thread • 49mm
• Does not rotate on focus
Supplied accessories • Front and rear caps
Optional accessories • PH-RA49 screw-in round plastic hood
• RH-RC49 screw-in round rubber hood
• PH-SA49 clip-on rectangular plastic hood
• S70-70 soft case
Weight 220g (7.8 oz)
Dimensions 63.5mm diameter x 38mm length
(2.5 x 1.5 in)
Lens Mount Pentax K only

* Supplied accessories may differ in each country or area

Foreword / notes

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read some of our Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / recommendation / ratings are based on the opinion of the author, we recommend that you read the entire review before making any decision. Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of them, click to display a larger image in a new window.

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Dpreview use calibrated monitors at the PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally also A, B and C.

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