FA 31 Limited - why is it so good?


Link Posted 24/01/2013 - 22:01
Every time I use this beautiful lens, I marvel at the quality of image it produces. I have other lenses as well but this is something else but I can't really say how and why this is so good. I look at the colours and the detail it produces and keep on saying to anyone who will listen how wonderful it is.
Please discuss!


Link Posted 24/01/2013 - 23:16
NaimKhan wrote:
I can't really say how and why this is so good. I look at the colours and the detail it produces and keep on saying to anyone who will listen how wonderful it is.
Please discuss!

I think the 'technical' term for why is 'pixie dust'
Pentax K5- Vivitar 19mm 3.8; FA35mm f2; D-Xenon 100mm macro f2.8; DA50-200mm WR...
Yongnuo YN-560; Vivitar 285HV; Cactus V4 triggers...
Pentax-MX & M50mm f1.4; Spottie & 55mm f1.8; MG & M40mm 2.8...



Link Posted 24/01/2013 - 23:22
Someone once asked me of my GSXR1100L as I picked flies out of my smile "Why are they so loved?"
My reply
"If you have to ask the question, you wouldn't understand the answer"
One day you'll find, 10yrs have got behind you.


Link Posted 24/01/2013 - 23:58
Yes, it's Pixie Dust.
I don't have the 31mm, wish I did.
It is like certain other Pentax lenses, namely the 55mm F1.8 of any flavour, the 77mm, the 43mm, the Nifty F1.7, the 21mm Ltd, the 50-135 and the FA*85mm.

They all have that magic. A certain quality that cannot easily be put into words. The image produced that only Leica and Zeiss can match, even Zuikos. A sort of liquid feel to the shots. a richness. Not an antiseptic look of others.
Some Cameras


Link Posted 25/01/2013 - 00:32
I'd add the 35mm macro Limited to your pixie dust list there, I have one and it's a beauty. I can vouch for the 77 Limited too, I bought the copy John used in his online review
Better equipment enhances my ability to display my shortcomings.


Link Posted 25/01/2013 - 08:06
I have a soft spot for all of the lenses I currently own. I'm pleased it's that way round -- me with the soft spot rather than them. I prefer using the primes (habit, and their unobtrusiveness). Of the primes, the FA31 is probably on the camera most often. Others have spoken of its optical qualities -- which are what really count -- but the aesthetics of it deserve praise. It is superbly engineered and built, a real joy for the eyes. I can even forgive it the fixed hood, which necessitates screwing on a small extension before a Lee (or similar) filter system can be used.
Regards, Christopher

Last Edited by CMW on 25/01/2013 - 08:07


Link Posted 25/01/2013 - 10:04
If I had paid in excess of £1000 for a 31mm lens - not only would I expect it to contain pixie dust - I would expect it to go out by itself and bring me back some stunning images.

Think I shall be sticking to the 35Ltd until they legalise selling children on ebay

No matter how many lenses I have owned - I have always needed just one more


Link Posted 25/01/2013 - 10:16
Try removing the price tag and see if it's still as good

I'm sure all lenses with £1,000 price tags seem as good

When Amateur Photographer tested this lens it didn't look
all that impressive They had previously been very
impressed with the 43mm which they called the Best Standard
Lens ever made
Half Man... Half Pentax ... Half Cucumber

Pentax K-1 + K-5 and some other stuff



Link Posted 25/01/2013 - 10:30
It depends how you define "good", which is not solely resolution tests. Lens testing reveals the physical characteristics of the optical performance, from which we can deduce what images will look like. But do we like this "look" for a particular lens?

I owned and tested the 31mm, 43mm, 77mm and also the 40mm and 70mm. Of these, the best performers test-wise were the 31mm and 77mm. The ones I would keep were the 43mm and 70mm. In the case of the 70mm I had that on loan and would buy one if there were spare funds available, but I still have the 43mm.

Why? The answer lies in the look of the images from the lenses. That does not mean I suggest others buy a 43mm though. It means that individuals like different characteristics in their images. This reflects our own photographic style.

The more casual photographer may see little or no difference between any of them.
Best regards, John


Link Posted 25/01/2013 - 11:06
When you look at the photos taken between a normal lens
and an expensive one there's very little difference and
both are equally usable.

This reviewer seems to have been influenced by the price
tag on the Voigtländer Nokton 58mm f1.4.

At 58mm and with 9 aperture blades you would expect better
bokeh than a 50mm with 8 blades.... hardly justifies the price.
The Pentax A 50mm f/1.7 would have been sharper.

To me there's nothing between these lenses going off
pictures alone.... and neither of them are as good
as an f/1.2 of which I have three!


Half Man... Half Pentax ... Half Cucumber

Pentax K-1 + K-5 and some other stuff

Last Edited by Algernon on 25/01/2013 - 11:14


Link Posted 25/01/2013 - 11:16
I've just had a look at that Algi, and what horrible images they are. I wouldn't like to draw anyconclusions from them really.
Best regards, John


Link Posted 25/01/2013 - 12:31
johnriley wrote:
The more casual photographer may see little or no difference between any of them.

I showed shots with the 31 and the DA* 16-50 to a non photographer friend of mine and even he could see the differene in quality. So yes, a photographer is better equipped to appreciate the difference but so can non photographers.
I am glad though that you guys have taken on the task of discussing the topic,as I had requested


Link Posted 25/01/2013 - 12:43
A while ago I borrowed the 31mm and 77mm on a ePhotozine meet
(Either with the K10D or K20D - I'd have to check)

I compared the 31mm to my FA24-90 for landscape images (at f/8 IIRC) and general shots. There wasn't really anything in it! Both were superb optically (contrast, colour, sharpness). But, of course, at wider apertures the 31mm comes into its own. It was a helpful exercise because for me (and my needs) there wasn't anything in the image to justify the expense.

Build quality was astonishing though

The 77mm was definitely gorgeous for portraiture and had a lovely rendering.

Whether that test would produce the same answer today I don't know...

...It's probably like comparing and appreciating single malts
(But that's another topic entirely!)

(For gallery, tips and links)
Last Edited by MattMatic on 25/01/2013 - 12:43


Link Posted 25/01/2013 - 20:27
I don't have any of the lenses mentioned above but have spent a while comparing and drew the conclusion that the '31' is a fantastic lens at a price, problem is the cost and the fact that I have this focal length pretty much covered so justifying £1000 ish on one lens is a little hard given the results I get from my Vivtar '28' - not as good as a '31' would be but it cost £20 ish and is mf.

I am having problems deciding between the 15mm ltd and the 12-24 but think that the '15' will win for it's flare resistance and preference to primes but that may answer the questions - what suits you is what makes any lens 'special'

If the lottery comes up for me though a full set of limiteds and '*'s would be on the cards

The '31' is one I doubt will drop of my wish list until/if I get one of course
K10D, K5 plus plenty of clueless enthusiasm.

My Flickr site link


Link Posted 25/01/2013 - 21:01
I can't see me ever buying a 31 Ltd.

I have a K28 which is absolutely superb optically and is available for 100 euros and under. Have never compared it to a 31 as I've never had one but I think I'd rather save my dosh for something else.
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