Friday, March 20, 2009

I got my new Pentax DA* 55mm SDM f/1.4. Here's some images and a short review:

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Hi Pentaxian friends.

I received my new Pentax DA* SDM 55mm lens yesterday. It was my birthday and the FedEx delivery man brought two boxes for me. One was from and one from a camera shop, which we won't name. I really really wanted to open the camera store box because I was waiting for the lens, but I opened the box with flowers from my wife, who by the way was standing at her desk looking at me. As soon as I opened the box with my lens, I installed it on my K20D and took some pictures of the flowers received. Here is what I shot.

I have to say, that for whatever reason, the lens received had a bit of back focusing problem at the widest aperture and at close proximity of the subjects, in this case the flowers. I checked it more carefully with my Autofocus chart and confirmed the slight backfocusing. Lucky enough, I have the K20D and I fixed that with the custom setting # 35, and it is now perfect. The bokeh is the best I've ever seen, better than the legendary FA 50mm f/1.4.

I played with it through the night and analyzed the results closely and came up with this unofficial review:

Pentax is the king of Prime lenses, particularly with the Limited primes, and the FA 50mm f/1.4 and the FA 31mm f/1.8 which are considered some of the best lenses ever. The DA* SDM 55mm will not be a disappointment. It has an angle of view equivalent to an 82.5mm in the 35mm format and reminds me of the SMCP-FA 85mm f/1.4.

This is now the fastest Pentax DA lens at f/1.4. The retail price is currently at $699.00 but as usual, the street price will be less than that shortly. It is weather-resistant and dust-resistant. It is an SDM lens which means it can only be used with the newer DSLRs. SDM only autofocus (manual focus on non-SDM bodies) as there are no mechanical autofocus transmission shaft, only the supersonic motor. The finish is very good, although never as good as the Limited lenses, but it is weather-resistant and dust-resistant.

The lens has nine elements, in eight groups, and has the famous Pentax Super Protect (SP) coating. The lens has nine diaphragm rounded blades which renders great bokeh. The Autofocus seems to be faster than non-SDM lenses, but what's really impressive is that the autofocus is silent. Apparently, the lens has some color fringing, but they all do and that's easily fixed in post-processing. It renders true-to-life colors and saturation. I couldn't see any barrel distortion or pincushion, and the image did not show any vignetting. I suspect the image circle is bigger than what's necessary for the APS-C sized sensor.

I think this lens will be my all-time favorite.

Thank you for reading,

Yvon Bourque
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