Ricoh Adds a Digital Spin to an Analog Classic with New Pentax 50mm f/1.4 Lenses

Ricoh Adds a Digital Spin to an Analog Classic with New Pentax 50mm f/1.4 Lenses

Ricoh Imaging has announced the HD PENTAX-FA 50mm f/1.4 and the SMC PENTAX-FA f/1.4 CLASSIC lenses, both refreshes of Pentax's SMC 50mm f/1.4 for the digital world. Building on the compact design that made the original popular, each of the new lenses offers a unique twist on the "nifty fifty" prime. Photographers looking to take advantage of Pentax's most advanced optical technology should opt for the HD, while nostalgists longing for the unique optical effects of vintage glass will appreciate the CLASSIC.


HD PENTAX-FA 50mm f/1.4 (left) and SMC PENTAX-FA f/1.4 CLASSIC (right)

The primary selling point of the HD is, as its name promises, the addition of a multi-layer HD coating that reduces reflections, improving transmission to produce clear, high-contrast images with minimal distortion. It also receives a physical makeover to match Pentax's most recent FA lenses better, while retaining the compact dimensions of its predecessor.

On the other hand, the CLASSIC has been designed to produce a rainbow flare effect intentionally when shooting at an open aperture in backlit environments. Closing the aperture down to f/4 or smaller removes this effect for distortion-free images. The CLASSIC also adopts a matte-black finish as a throwback to Pentax's pre-digital era.

Although these lenses were created for DSLRs, each is backward compatible with analog SLRs with AF capabilities. Additionally, they both feature Super Protect (SP) coating to repel water and grease, an eight-blade aperture, and accept 49mm front filters.

Which new 50mm f/1.4 works best with your style? Argue about it in the Comments section, below. For more information about the new lenses, including additional features, specs, and highlights, be sure to check out the detailed product pages for the HD PENTAX-FA 50mm f/1.4 and the SMC PENTAX-FA f/1.4 CLASSIC.

1 Comment

I support transitioning all of the old "legacy" lenses (looking at you, DA12–24mm ƒ/4!) to HD coatings, as they are usually a real improvement. I own the FA 50mm ƒ/1.4, and I might consider upgrading.
I might have considered "side-grading" it to the "classic" version, if that version were a little wilder/weirder. Plenty of content on Flickr, Instagram, and YouTube about classic/old/ancient 50mm and 55mm lenses with old coatings, Soviet-era diffraction, cats-eye bokeh, and Petzval swirl to them. Had Pentax really gone all-in for the weird glass and old-school coatings, that would have been a bold and interesting move. I'd pay real money for the weirder-than-Photoshop Auto-Takumar 55mm ƒ/1.8 optical formula with auto-focus and a EXIF data chip.
Honestly, I'm about 90% sure that the "Classic" version IS my FA 50mm ƒ/1.4. I haven't particularly noticed lens flare with it, but I only use the FA 50mm in low light shots and sometimes as a portrait lens. (It's about 76mm on an APS-C sensor).
Pentax is comfortable doing weird stuff: 10–17mm zoom fisheye, pancake 70mm portrait, monochrome DSLR, green & pink body colors, maybe even a film SLR coming soon! I just wish they'd been weird enough to go full Lensbaby with their retro "Classic" fast 50.