Lens Test: Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 AF | Popular Photography

Lens Test: Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 AF

A venerable, high-speed prime takes on a new role for Pentax-loving portrait shooters.

Lens-Test-Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF

Lens-Test-Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF

This high-speed, normal prime ($199, street) has been around for a decade. Why test it now? No other lens in the current Pentax catalog can throw backgrounds into creamy defocus like this. Even better, on a Pentax K10D, K100D, or K100D Super DSLR, it scales up to a medium-tele 75mm, a fine choice for portraits. Better still? The low price.

HANDS ON

A half-inch shorter and several ounces lighter than comparable Canon and Nikon 50mm f/1.4s, this full-framer predates digital. The small, rubber-clad, manual-focus ring's turning action is a bit rough. Distance scales are large and easily legible; ditto for the depth-of-field scale (remember those?). The AF action on our test camera, the Pentax *ist DL, was rapid and quiet.

IN THE LAB

SQF data showed sharpness and contrast in the Excellent range. DxO Analyzer 2.0 tests found only Imperceptible barrel distortion (0.08%), on par with the Nikon and better than the Canon, with Slight barrel distortion. Light falloff was gone by f/2, much better than Nikon's f/1.4, which showed vignetting to f/4. Its maximum magnification ratio at the 16.75-inch close-focus distance was 1:6.0 -- beating not only the Canon and Nikon but Pentax's claim of 1:6.6.

CONCLUSIONS

Sharp, bright, and practically distortion-free, this lens deserves a place in any Pentax shooter's bag. Wedding photographers, in particular, will like it for its defocused backgrounds, low-light performance, and focal length well suited to two-up verticals.

Specifications

50mm (51.93mm tested), f/1.4 (f/1.45 tested), 7 elements in 6 groups. Focusing turns 140 degrees clockwise.

• Diagonal view angle: 47 degrees.
• Weight: 8 oz.
• Filter size: 49mm.
• Mounts: Pentax AF.
• Street price: $199.

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-NYC-street-fruit-sta

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-NYC-street-fruit-sta

Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 AFNYC street fruit stand shot with an exposure of 1/750 sec at f/8 and ISO 400.

Photo By Linzee Karasik

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-Nectarines-glistenin

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-Nectarines-glistenin

Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 AFNectarines glistening in the sunlight. This Pentax 50mm lens did a great job at capturing detail, even when shooting into light.

Photo By Linzee Karasik

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-With-its-wide-apertu

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-With-its-wide-apertu

Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 AFWith its wide aperture and 75mm effective focal length on Pentax DSLRs, this lens is good for throwing the background out of focus. Try using it at a wedding, or maybe with just green grapes.

Photo By Linzee Karasik

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-We-wanted-to-focus-j

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-We-wanted-to-focus-j

Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 AFWe wanted to focus just on the sun-kissed grapes at the top of the pile, and the Pentax 50mm did the trick.

Photo By Linzee Karasik

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-Fun-with-mixed-fruit

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-Fun-with-mixed-fruit

Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 AFFun with mixed fruit: an interesting display and colorful background. 1/1000 sec at f/9.5, ISO 400

Photo By Linzee Karasik

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-Orange-you-glad-we-g

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-Orange-you-glad-we-g

Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 AFOrange you glad we got this shot? 1/500 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200.

Photo By Linzee Karasik

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-Grape-Expectations

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-Grape-Expectations

Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 AFGrape Expectations: fruit shot at 1/250 at f/4 and ISO 200.

Photo By Linzee Karasik

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-This-row-of-trees-is

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-This-row-of-trees-is

Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 AFThis row of trees is a great example of how to use this lens to get an out of focus background with the extremely shallow depth of field f/1.4.

Photo By Linzee Karasik

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-Impressionistic-imag

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-Impressionistic-imag

Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 AFImpressionistic image was shot using f/1.4 and a shutter speed of 1/4000 to blur out the buildings behind the tree.

Photo By Linzee Karasik

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-Again-defocusing-th

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-Again-defocusing-th

Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 AFAgain, defocusing the background at f/1.4 adds interest to this photo.

Photo By Linzee Karasik

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-The-turning-colors-o

Pentax-SMCP-FA-50mm-f-1.4-AF-The-turning-colors-o

Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 AFThe turning colors of the leaves in early fall, enhanced with an f/1.4 aperture setting.

Photo By Linzee Karasik

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