Friday, April 24, 2009

The DA LImited 15mm F4 Round-Up

Earlier this week, I was thrilled to see Yvon Bourque enjoying his new DA 15mm on a trip to the San Bernardino Mountains, because the lens seems to do fantastic things in the bright light, especially stopped down to F8 or higher. Check out the contrast in this picture:

This makes me just as giddy as when I first saw Ned Bunnell's blog postings in February about how the lens looked, and what the new DA Limited 3x case was like. It really made me want this lens as part of a trio (DA 15mm, 35mm, and 77mm). Ned's early test shots out at San Clemente Pier and the follow-up shots were mouth watering, too, such as this close-up:

So, now that proper reviews are coming in, notably today's DP Review test of the DA Limited 15mm, I'm a bit surprised they didn't like the lens as much as I was expecting. Everyone else raves about it. According to their test, MTF sharpness peaks at about F7.1-F8:

Considering that it barely touches 1500 on the MTF-50 scale for their test is really difficult for me to relate to the sharp images I've seen with the lens elsewhere. And the sharpness drop-off and light fall-off in the corners that DP Review experienced is also surprising. I'm sure they didn't get a bad lens, but my gut intuition tells me that your personal mileage may vary with this lens. Particularly because of Mike's first snaps at The Online Photographer just a little while ago this month:

There's something special about the DA 15mm's clarity, especially in the better shots I've seen lately, that comes not from the accumulation of small details (the lens is sharp) but the overall handling of light, color, and contrast, so much so that it reminds me of Leica wide-angle lenses. It's there even with the CA and corner issues. That's my overall feeling on the matter. I hope this lens has more legs to it than the first numerical testing reviews imply, because I have a feeling it's a sleeper hit for Pentax.


Yvon Bourque said...

If you look at the pictures posted by DPReview, some are great pictures. Look at the close-up of the red flower. You want Chromatic Aberration, shoot tree branches with a blue sky or better yet with a white cloud and at maximum aperture. You will have CA for sure. Although technical testing can be useful, alway rely with what your pictures look like. Take real world pictures and compare.

Michael said...

Seriously, you're right. Andy Westlake took some very crisp photos for the DP Review sample section of that review. I was surprised that they went almost purely by what they saw in the tech measurements and hesitated at giving the lens a "Highly Recommended" instead of just "Recommended." All the more personal comments about the lens design and its craftsmanship tell the story as if they were really impressed. But they hedged their bets: "it's also a finely crafted piece of kit which is a delight to use - a somewhat frivolous reason to choose one, perhaps, although still perfectly valid in its own way."

Anyway, Yvon, please post more pics from it when you get the chance!

Sune said...

Thanks for your thoughts on it. As you mention, the overall handling of light, color, and contrast seem on par with other limiteds. And this is always very welcome.

We discussed the review some with Andy :

Tyler Monson said...

DA15 does well without bright sunlight, too! Posts on my MORA blog for April 30 and May 1 were all done with this lens.

One striking feature is the near absence of linear distortion. I also enjoy the smooth, 'natural' rendering of detail (opposite of the Flickr school of digital exaggeration).

Also important is the compact size, since I always have my camera with me.

[Found a rubber Nikon 54mm lens cap that just fits tightly over the collapsed lens shade.]

Anyway, I follow the Carl Weese philosophy in testing: put the lens on the camera and go shoot the sort of pictures you normally take, then see how you like those.

I like what I'm seeing.

Bella said...

Very nice and impressive post .
I'm glad to see this post .

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