31 August 2010

A Limited Liking

Recently I managed to get my hands on a DA 70mm f/2.4 Limited from a friend. I spent about two months getting acquainted with it, shooting a variety of subjects. As I already had the terrific FA 77mm Limited previously, this lens was low on my priority list of lenses to own. While this lens certainly has it's admirers, I've always wondered if it really is as good as the buzz on the internet would have me believe.

First off, it is really compact in size and is very lightweight. The original screw-on lens hood with a sliding extension is cute and adds a little length to the overall size but I seriously wonder if it is all that useful to block against flare because the hood just isn't as deep as I would have liked it to be. The lens hood is indispensable because you need it in place in order for the dedicated slip-on, felt lined metal lens cap to go on. As things go, I quickly stopped using the original lens cap for fear of losing it and thereafter used a 43mm plastic clip-on lens cap instead.

The lens does focus pretty fast and sharpness is actually very even from center to the edges of the frame, even at the maximum f/2.4 aperture. I do like the Quick Shift, a standard feature of all DA series lenses. Like other DA Limiteds, the all metal build quality is good but bettered by the FA Limiteds. Images are nice and contrasty and colors rendition is nice. So on paper it appears to check off a lot of positives. However over time there were just a few things about it that started to become niggling irritations.

Well when I first started using it, I used it for head shots as the focal length lends itself to shots of people having a natural perspective. The angle of view and perspective were just nice, with the shooting distance to the subject especially good when shooting indoors. Images were sharp even when shooting wide open but very soon it became evident that f/2.4 wasn't gonna give as smooth a background as compared to the faster and slightly longer FA 77mm Limited. With the FA 77mm's f/1.8 maximum aperture and slightly longer focal length, there's more options on hand to vary the depth of field and the smooth rendition of the bokeh. The DA 70mm always seemed to deliver backgrounds behind the subject that I often wished could have been a little less distinct.

How does it fare in non-portrait situations? To me it all boils down to whether one is used to the perspective and angle of view. It does make for a nice walkaround lens if you're just picking up specific details but the recurring wish that the maximum aperture could have been a little faster and the minimum focusing distance of 0.7m could have been a little closer for better subject isolation always seemed to come up.

Inevitably when comparing the DA 70mm to the FA 77mm Limiteds, the point in question is which lens provides more options at hand. For me the more expensive FA 77mm Limited simply offers a greater range in shooting aperture. As a caveat, the DA 70mm Limited is quite a bit cheaper and prices haven't really skyrocketed like the FA Limiteds. If your budget is limited, the DA 70mm Limited does offer good value but if money isn't the issue, the FA 77mm Limited does offer that something extra. Right now I still shoot at 70mm but only because I decided to trade the DA 70mm Limited for the DA 17-70mm f/4 SDM zoom.

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