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Pentax FA 31mm f/1.8 Limited vs Leica glass?
Old 02-25-2006   #1
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Pentax FA 31mm f/1.8 Limited vs Leica glass?

I am looking into getting the Pentax FA 31mm f/1.8 Limited and have been searching for some comparisons with other lenses, but no luck.

I am wondering if any Leica users here have had an opportunity to compare their best Leica glass to this Pentax lens. I hope this is not a silly question and would love to hear some opinions.

Thanks a bunch,
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Old 02-25-2006   #2
Kim Coxon
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Hi,
Im am not a Leica user quite yet but I do have the Pentax 43 in K mount. AP, one of the leading magazines in the UK tested it when it came out and promptly started using it as their benchmark lens because it was just about the best lens they had ever tested and I can see why. I am about to run some more tests in the near future and the collapsible Summicron will be among them (as soon as it arrives) For my own interest, I was going to run some of the Pentax glass alongside. I can easily send or post a comparison with the cron and 43mm.

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Old 02-25-2006   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kim Coxon
...I am about to run some more tests in the near future and the collapsible Summicron will be among them (as soon as it arrives) For my own interest, I was going to run some of the Pentax glass alongside. I can easily send or post a comparison with the cron and 43mm.

Kim
Kimm, that would be great! The Pentax 43mm f/1.9 Limited is next on my list, would be nice to know how it stacks up.
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Old 02-25-2006   #4
Kim Coxon
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Sorry, Misread the first post. I will do all 3 of the ltd lenses including the 77.

Kim
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Old 02-25-2006   #5
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Andy, the same issue of Pop Photo which had the test of the CV 50/3.5 Heliar which
got our FrankG in such an uproar also had a test of the Pentax 31. I just tried to find
my copy, but, gee, it just doesn't seem to be where I thought I left it. And I'm so
neat and orderly. Uh, anyway, that lens received such a superb review that it would
be a close call as to which lens was really superior.
I believe they archive their tests on their website, so I highly recommend checking it
out. BTW, Pentax made a very small number of the 43/1.9 in M39 mount, sold only
in Japan, like that enticing 50/1.3 which popped up on Mike Johnston's blog. They
keep all the best toys for themselves and send us the leftovers.

Fred (wishing I had some Valium so I can sleep tonight)
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Old 02-25-2006   #6
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I found the test results by Pop Photo for the Pentax 77mm f/1.8 Limited AF here (PDF file link)

http://www.popphoto.com/article.asp?...article_id=772
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Old 02-25-2006   #7
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Here is the test of the 31mm by Pop Photo: http://www.popphoto.com/article.asp?...article_id=333

All test results for Pentax lenses (list with links): http://www.popphoto.com/article.asp?..._id=287#Pentax
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Last edited by akptc : 02-25-2006 at 16:45.
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Old 02-25-2006   #8
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The 31 test is here
http://www.popphoto.com/article.asp?...article_id=333
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Old 02-25-2006   #9
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Too slow again!
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Old 02-25-2006   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kim Coxon
Too slow again!
Hey, don't feel bad, I am from the Wild West - shooting fast is a way of life here ..
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Old 02-25-2006   #11
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"My kingdom for an MTF graph". These tests drive me crazy, but notice how consistent the performance is? There is nothing but depth of field to be gained by
stopping down, which suggests the lens has no significant aberrations, and should
provide even performance from center to corner. For me, this is a textbook example
of the kind of lenses I like.

Fred
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Old 02-25-2006   #12
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What's more they feel like a real lens and are an absolute delight to use. Not like most of the polycarbonate offerings these days.
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Old 02-25-2006   #13
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I have the 43 and 77, but not the 31 (it's awfully big and I got the *ist DS as a portable digital street shooter to fill in until an affordable digital rangefinder comes along). These are amazing lenses both optically and in their construction. They don't focus manually as nicely as the older real manual lenses, but considering that they autofocus too their movement is a nice compromise. The only part that gets tricky is the wonderful performance of the Pentax 50/1.4 and 1.7 lenses which can be had for much cheaper than the 43. I have the 43 and a 50/1.4 right now and am trying to decide if I should keep both or which one to sell. B&H right now has a $100 rebate on these lenses, and did have the black Limited Editions in stock for a while (don't know about now), so the price gap has shrunk for anyone considering buying new right now. I would eventually love to get the 31 also, but the size is counterproductive for me. Otherwise it would be a perfect normal lens on a 1.5x digital sensor. By all accounts the 31 is as good or better than the 77, and in my opinion my 77 is sharper than the 50 lux pre-asph I used for a while.
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Old 02-25-2006   #14
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I don't find the 31 to be too big on the D. It also gives a nice ballanced feel to the camera due to it's weight. It is actually much smaller than most of the zooms and as you surmise, it makes a fantastic "standard" lens for the format.

Kim

Quote:
Originally Posted by dgray
I have the 43 and 77, but not the 31 (it's awfully big and I got the *ist DS as a portable digital street shooter to fill in until an affordable digital rangefinder comes along). These are amazing lenses both optically and in their construction. They don't focus manually as nicely as the older real manual lenses, but considering that they autofocus too their movement is a nice compromise. The only part that gets tricky is the wonderful performance of the Pentax 50/1.4 and 1.7 lenses which can be had for much cheaper than the 43. I have the 43 and a 50/1.4 right now and am trying to decide if I should keep both or which one to sell. B&H right now has a $100 rebate on these lenses, and did have the black Limited Editions in stock for a while (don't know about now), so the price gap has shrunk for anyone considering buying new right now. I would eventually love to get the 31 also, but the size is counterproductive for me. Otherwise it would be a perfect normal lens on a 1.5x digital sensor. By all accounts the 31 is as good or better than the 77, and in my opinion my 77 is sharper than the 50 lux pre-asph I used for a while.
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Old 02-25-2006   #15
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Yeah, Kim, my post could give the wrong impression. For a DSLR set up, the 31 is not overly big at all - in fact it is quite moderate for a prime and downright small compared to zooms, of course. But for me, I switched to the*ist DS and Pentax lenses from Canon because I was looking for the smallest DSLR kit possible. I almost got the 40 pancake lens to make a REALLY small package, but I use Pentax film bodies also so I went for the full frame 43 instead - without the hood it is actually quite close to the pancake's size. When I'm in regular SLR mode and don't care about size, I bring out the 77, a zoom..., but when I'm in "woe is me there is no affordable digital rangefinder yet" mode, the 31 is too big.
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Old 02-25-2006   #16
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Check out Photodo: http://www.photodo.com/nav/prodindex.html for the MTF on the 43/1.9. With an overall score of 3.6, I wasn't blown away.
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Old 02-25-2006   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by awilder
Check out Photodo: http://www.photodo.com/nav/prodindex.html for the MTF on the 43/1.9. With an overall score of 3.6, I wasn't blown away.
Well this sure puts a wrinkle on my enthusiasm.. How does one reconcile this score with the almost universal acclaim for this lens?
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Old 02-25-2006   #18
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Here's another review that includes the 43/1.9, 77/1.8 and 31/1.8 where the 77/1.8 and 31/1.8 fare better than the 43/1.9. Like the MTF in photodo, the 43/1.9 lags a bit wide open compared to others: http://www.photozone.de/active/survey/querylens.jsp
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Old 02-25-2006   #19
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I know I'm not really "adding" anything to this conversation but; as a guy who still has a K1000, I've oft considered the 77mm and 43mm lenses as the build quality (from what I've heard) is awesome and the manual focus is just like the "old school" pentax lenses.

I've also heard that these limiteds are uber sharp.

Cheers
Dave
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Old 02-25-2006   #20
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There is no doubt that the 43 wide open isn't up to quite the same standard as the rest. Check out the photo.net static review of the ist DS for a couple of comments comparing the 43 and the 50/1.4. There is a quality to the images made by the 43 that is very beautiful, even when it is not at its sharpest setting. I love super sharp images, but it's not everything, and this lens looks nice. Still, if money is an issue, the Pentax 50s are also awesome for a LOT cheaper (and with gorgeous bokeh). I agree with awilder's post that the 77 (and 31, I hear) is in another class - simply superb. Dave is right about the build quality, but what you've heard about the manual focusing is not exactly correct. The LE lenses are not damped as nicely as the older true manual focus lenses - they have to move more freely than that to autofocus. Because the 43 is such a nice small lens, it has quite a thin knurled ring making it a little clumsy to reach as well. But they are lightyears better to manually focus than most other autofocus lenses. I use mine frequently in both modes, and as I mentioned before, they are a nice compromise between the two. As far as the original question goes, I would not put the 43 in the same optical category as new Leica glass, but the other two I would. If you search around for honest opinions on the 43, you'll quickly see that most people concede it is a step behind the others, yet its combination of small size, build quality, metal construction, ability to autofocus and manual focus well, included metal screw in lens hood, metal felt lined lens cap, nice depth of field scales with a decent (about 75 degree) throw to the focus range, and very, very good optical quality all add up to a lens that lots of people are still excited about and paying a lot of money for. Pentax just discontinued a great deal of their lens lineup, yet this seemingly overpriced, weird focal length, standard prime is still going strong.
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Old 02-25-2006   #21
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Thank you so very much everyone for your advise and info on these lenses. This is tremendous help for me as I put together my (ambitious amateur) Pentax kit. Once again, I feel very indebted to the awesome folks at RFF and wish I had something other than questions to contribute (give me a few years ).
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Old 02-25-2006   #22
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Nice summation by dgray. Since he owns one and can attest to optical and mechanical attributes not shown in MTF tests, I can understand why the 43/1.9 has a cult following.
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