A Jim of All Trades

A New Lens!

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I got a new [to me] lens! It’s another film era manual focus prime, a 50mm 1.4 Pentax M lens. Often referred to as a “Nifty Fifty” or a “Fast Fifty.”


I love it. And I got a good deal! I got it online and the seller had very little detail and poor pictures. So it was a gamble, but it paid off; I got it for a good bit less than the going rate. In the ad there even looked like there was some damage to the front, which I think attributed to it selling for cheap, but when I got it low and behold there was a filter on the lens and the filter was damaged, not the lens itself. I just took off the bad filter and I was good to go.

There are many positives to this lens. For one, its largest aperture is 1.4, which is great for low light shooting. It also has very good optics and is capable of taking quite good quality photos. I’ve found that the color and contrast is very good right out of the camera using this lens with little processing needed. Another plus is the bokeh it produces. In case you don’t know, and using google’s definition here, bokeh is “the visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photographic image, esp. as rendered by a particular lens.” You know the blurred background in portraits or macro photography? Yeah, that. Different lenses have different personalities when it comes to bokeh, and this one produces a very nice effect. At least in my opinion it does; taste in bokeh is subjective, so you may or may not like it…


It really helps the object that’s in focus stand out.

I did a run through shooting the same object to see how the results change as the lens is stopped down. Look below to see the changes as the lens goes from wide open to stopped down a good bit. As it’s stopped down, the background becomes less and less out of focus, and the effect is less extreme. At the same time, the sign in focus becomes sharper and sharper. All lenses do this as they’re stopped down, how exactly (amount of sharpness and bokeh…) the image changes is due to the specific lens’ characteristics.







It isn’t perfect though. For one, manual focus is less than ideal. I spoke about this in my other post about using manual focus primes on Pentax DSLR bodies. Pentax made it pretty easy by having built in features that aid in focusing and metering, but it’s still time consuming and you have to have a good eye. In low light especially, it can be difficult to get good focus. It also isn’t quite as sharp as I’d like. It is adequately sharp, but even when stopped down this isn’t quite what I was hoping for. The images are usable and good, just not quite as detailed as I was expecting. But I shouldn’t complain; again, it is sharp enough, and realistically, wide open, or at least very open, on any lens isn’t going to be sharp. The benefit with having this lens is I can take shots in poor light that I can’t get with any other lens without using a flash. So what if they aren’t razor sharp, I still got the picture. It is a little susceptible to chromatic aberrations and purple fringing, too, depending on lighting and the settings. I’m getting a cheap hood off of eBay and that should help.

Overall I’m very pleased. I’m going to leave this on my camera as my go to lens for a bit, it’s a lot of fun to shoot with! Another plus to it is that it’s considered a good portrait lens. 50mm is a good distance and due to the pleasing bokeh and softer optics it should yield good results. I’m going to have to talk some people into letting me shoot them, I have basically no experience shooting portraits and my wife was less than thrilled when I tried practicing on her while she was watching tv.

Following are some photos from testing out the lens over my first weekend with it; nothing exciting, I was just playing around with it. Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading!

f4 2.8/4 split 4/5.6 split IMGP8240xs IMGP8252xs IMGP8253xs 2.0

These last three were all shot around 8:00 in the evening when it was getting pretty dark out. They’re nothing special, but just show what can be done with a fast lens. These were all taken hand held with out flash, I’d have had to have a tripod or used the flash to get equal results with the kit lens…

IMGP8173xs IMGP8171xs IMGP8163xs

Happy Shooting!


Written by Jim

August 25, 2013 at 8:56 pm

One Response

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  1. Looks super sharp and love the bokeh! So glad you got a great deal on this! :)


    August 26, 2013 at 3:51 pm


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