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

Started Jul 12, 2014 | Discussions thread
fakuryu Senior Member • Posts: 1,329
Just something to keep in mind

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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There is no such thing a "Pro" level gear, just Pro level work.

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