Pentax FA31mm ltd and DA35mm ltd macro resolution comparison
***Updated Apr 7/08***

I'm a fan of the FA31ltd and was curious how the newcomer to the limited series - so close in focal range - was by comparison. While it might seem a bit apples to oranges because the 35 could exist alone on its macro merits, those merits are in fact somewhat 'limited'. While the field of view on an APS-C sensor is equivalent to 50mm, the magnification is not. Its still just 35mm which means about 1 inch of working distance at 1:1. This makes it difficult to use the lens in a traditional macro style, especially for shoots involving moving subjects, so it is also a competitior for the FA31s turf as a 'normal' lens (on APS-C). I did find its focal length advantageous to casual macro shooting of static objects however. The close proximity makes handholding at 1:1 quite easy with little to no tremble to ruin the shot. This gives the DA35 a niche as a good 'walkaround' macro as it would be easy to use without a big set-up and is small enough to take up very little space in ones bag. I wanted to find out if this little guy had enough going for it to replace the 31 in my set-up or even perhaps to earn a berth on its own merits along side it.

My findings, briefly:

-The DA is slightly softer at infinity than the 31, which says quite a bit for the 31 as the 35 possess 1:1 macro capabilities and sits 4mm farther from the sensor. With this minor (8.8%) advantage in magnification, I expected to see this reverse result. Having said that, the differences are not dramatic. I would call the inifinity sharpness of the 35 good overall, and the 31 excellent.

- It is possible to note that the images made by the 35 are slightly darker at equal settings. A slight EV boost would have been required to correct this. At closer ranges it is more prominent. The 31 having the wider aperture is quite bright however, definately a plus.

- I noted that AF for both the 31 and 35 was not perfect with my K20 body. I will need to adjust for this. All shots in the test were thus focused manually.

- Not seen in this first crop comparison is fringing. I can tell you that the 35 seems well resistant to fringing, while the 31 can be made to fringe. The 35 gets an advantage here.

- Price, in this case may be the great leveller for those making the decision from scratch. The DA35 macro comes in at half the cost, approx 800 vs 400 here in Canada. With the 31, you get a faster, sharper lens known to perform well on the FF for future consideration, while the 35 gives you good sharpness which improves into close focusing (macro is tricky) and an even smaller package than the already diminuitive 31.

I would recommend that if you are an owner of the 31, curious as I was whether the newcomer was worth it, I personally say no. If the wide-angle macro aspect of the 35 is interesting to you specifically, you could carry both easily but you wouldn't likely use the 35 for anything you could shoot with the 31. OTOH, if you are simply looking to fill this focal range, neither will disappoint. The 35 is good for the price. I would now think that unless you specifically required the macro, it should be weighed against the DA40 which is noteably less expensive again as a 'normal' solution if you are concious of cost.

Pros :

DA35 - price, size, quick shift, wide close-focusing/macro capabilities, resistance to fringing, build quality, easy to handhold at 1:1 on static subjects.
FA31 - superior image, build quality, speed, full frame performer, dedicated aperture ring.

Cons :

DA35 - a little dark?, lose a stop, not quite as sharp on distant subjects, hard to use macro at 1:1 in traditional environments, no aperture ring.
FA31 - price, price. . . the cost... pedestrian close-focusing next to the DA35 (1:6.25 from about a foot, satisfactory for most subjects outside of the macro realm however). Can be made to purple fringe when pushed. 45 degree focus throw isn't much, though this lens was traditionally an autofocusing wide angle where manual focus precision was less of a consideration.
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