40 or 35… 40 or 35… that is the question…
When it comes to a “normal” on the pentax aps-c dslrs, the best options seem to come down to the DA 40 limited and the FA 35.
When I first switched to the Pentax system, what lured me (in great part) was the appeal of the tiny, “jewel-like” DA primes – often known as the “pancake primes” due to their diminutive stature. My first 2 lens purchases were the DA21/3.2 LTD and the DA40/2.8 LTD.
Not having used the DA 40 or the FA35 before, I did a great deal research on the pros and cons of each lens for a normal prime. Eventually I settled on the DA40.
Until LBA struck. I should have known it would happen. Of course, now I have them both.
Now I’m not going to do a “pixel-peeper” oriented comparison of test charts and LW/PH measurements. If you want that, I would point you to the *excellent* photozone.de lens tests:
These are just my personal impressions having had and used both lenses for a fair amount of time. I will preface this by saying that both lenses are absolutely top-notch when it comes to image quality, definitely what you would expect from a high quality prime. In terms of image quality, you cant go wrong with either one (pixel peeping aside) So without further ado:
First off, FOV (field of view). At first, this didn’t seem that important to me. The DA40 translates to 60mm (taking the 1.5 crop into account) and the FA35 to ~53mm. Thats only 7mm right? not a huge difference… or so I thought… To me at least, the difference is huge. My photographic style tends toward wide-normal lenses, and I just can’t help feeling a bit constrained by the FOV of the DA40. The FA35 feels perfectly natural to me when I look through it, wheras the DA40 always feels like I’m “being squeezed” just a tad. This is just a personal preference, I know some people love the 40/43 FOV – to me though its just kind of awkward. That being said, I am still comfortable using it as a slightly long normal.
Secondly, Speed. The FA35 is a full stop faster than the 40. nothing much to say bout that, it is defintely an advantage – we’re talking the difference between using ISO 800 vs 1600 indoors. Definitely something to consider if you do a lot of low light photography. (the FA35 is perfectly useable wide open btw, as is the 40)
Third, handling. Both perform very well. The build quality of the DA40 is spectacular – all metal, tight tolerances. wonderful to hold. The FA35 is definitely not as good, but still decent. much more “plastick-y” but still head and shoulders over the build quality of, say, the kit lens.
Both lenses focus very quickly on the K10d, although the DA seems a *bit* faster and maybe a bit better in low light (ironic since the FA is the better low light lens).
The FA35 also has the advantage of being full frame, thus will work on film bodies as well. (Apparently the DA will too, but it is not designed as such and edge performance suffers along with vignetting.)
The DA (being a DA) has the “quickshift” feature – meaning that after the camera autofocuses it automatically disengages the clutch and allows you to manually focus/fine tune without changing the AF setting on the camera (Similar to “Full-Time-Manual” focus). The FA does not have this feature – you must change the switch on the body to manually focus it. I find the quickshift focus very useful, so nod to the DA there.
Finally the big clincher is actually size. If not for this I would have bought the FA and never looked back (despite the DA’s better build quality and quick-shift advantage) However, the one thing that keeps me going back to the DA is it’s unbelievably tiny size. Serously, you have to mount this thing on the camera to appreciate how small it is. It looks almost like a large body-cap rather than a lens. As far as I know it’s pretty much the smallest SLR lens on the market, and at a weight of 90 grams (IIRC) it could almost float away. Stick it on the K100d or the *istDS and you’ve got a kit that’s practically pocketable with SLR+Prime quality. Almost like the “poor man’s Leica” (grin).
I like a compact camera kit, since I like to carry it everywhere. The k100d+da21+da40 are just about as small as you get in the SLR world, and give you a 35mm equiv. and a normal. Hard to pass up, and this keeps me coming back to the DA40.
So as it stands, I’m still undecided which I like more. I find myself using the FA35 more and more now because of the better FOV and speed, but I just can’t give up the size and quality of the 40. It seems to be that the FA is living on my k10 (I guess the rationalization is that it’s already big, so the added size of the FA doesn’t make as much difference) while the DA is pretty much stuck on my k100 for when I want a super-compact “grab and go” camera.