Using Pentax FA Lenses on the Sony NEX-5n by Tord Eriksson – Tord’s Flickr
My name is Tord S Eriksson, I am 59 years old, married, and I drive buses in Gothenburg, Sweden, but I have been around cameras much of my life, but not taken more than a few shots in my previous life as a journalist, and editor (as illustrations to articles, or photos of my interviewees).
In my twenties I had some training as a photographer, and in studio work. We students used the school’s cameras: Nikon F-1, Canon Pellix, Leica M3, and Hasselblads of various versions, including my favorite, the SWC.
We even got a chance to try the real heavy stuff, like Sinar – lovely cameras, but certainly not your point & shoot. Soon 40 years ago, but I remember those years fondly!
I got my first SLR system as a young teenager: an old Edixa Reflex (1957 version) – one of many screw-mount cameras coming out of Germany after the war, with three primes, and a Japanese zoom – very rare in those days). I bought the whole kit very cheaply from my sister’s boyfriend, who then moved up to a Hasselblad 500C). Gave the well worn kit away ages ago, after it had sat in a box for decades, together with a lot of other camera stuff.
Began my second SLR system about 40 years later: It is by now fairly complete, with zooms from 10mm to 500mm, and a respectable range of primes from 15 to 400mm (800mm using a converter).
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Various reasons, including size, weight, and price, led me to Pentax DSLRs (my first was a K-x, with the DA 18-55 kit lens). Pretty soon I learned about the famed lenses that carry the unusual designation ‘Limited’, so I started to collect a few (not that many in production).
These Limited lenses are not the fastest there are, but all really sharp, and most with a nice bokeh. There are two groups, the DA series, optimized for Pentax APS-C cameras (thus have no aperture ring), and the FA group, which is a relic from the days Pentax made full frame cameras. The FA all have aperture rings, thus can be used in manual mode, essential if you’re going to use them on another camera system.
After having read various reviews of the Sony NEX-5N, including yours, Steve, I realized that this little marvel could be a great backup, if I could find a K Mount adapter. Amazon had both very cheap, and very expensive ones, so I went the middle of the road: a Chinese adapter for about $40.
Over the last two years I’ve have got myself a nice selection of FA Limited prime lenses, actually almost all of the FA lenses still in production: the Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited, the Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9 Limited, and access to my wife’s Pentax-FA 77mm F1.8 Limited. There are two more: the FA 35/2.0, which is still in production, but that’s not a Limited, and neither is the Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4, which my wife owns a copy of.
NEX-5n with Pentax 31 Limited
The Limited designation is not restricted to FA lenses: A few really outstanding DA lenses also have it, like the tiny DA40, equally small DA21, and the superb DA 50-135/2.8 zoom. The FA43 is much bigger than the ‘pancake’ DA40, but also quite a lot sharper, faster, and more expensive. Like the others, the FA31 is superbly sharp, with a really nice bokeh, but doesn’t handle flare as well as most modern lenses, so not ideal for all situations!
In addition to these lenses I have two other K Mounts suitable for my NEX-5N: The Tamron SP 90 Macro, a truly classic design, and a very old Pentax-M 400/5.6, both equipped with the needed aperture rings. The 400 suffer from CA at times, but overall works superbly with the NEX!
After a lot of ‘studio’ test shots with my, and my wife’s, Limiteds (and the Tamron), using Theodore the Bear as model (he never tires), I noted a few things …
Using both my beloved Pentax K-5 (my second!), and the new friend, the NEX-5N, with exactly the same lenses, at various apertures, it is evident that to get similar results you have to set the K-5 slightly lower, say -1.0 EV, or thereabout. But the K-5 can be pushed up to ISO 51200, leaving the NEX-5N far, far behind, but I did my tests from 100 up to 1600, more normal settings. All test photos are totally unedited, and you note that the AWB of the two cameras handled the light quite differently – the 5N has a yellowish tone, while the K-5 is more like my eyes saw it.
You have to have a steady hand, as neither the lenses, nor the NEX body, have any kind of stabilisation.
Or even better, use a good tripod, and a serious ball/panorama head. I used my Berlebach Reporter 3032, which has a big ball head integrated into its design, so setting it level is very easy, even on a sloping surface. You extend the legs to the approximate setting and use the spirit level to set the top perfectly level, and then tighten the clamp – as easy as it could be! I maybe overdid it slightly as I used my Wimberley WH-200 on top of that (made changing cameras so much easier).
What more to say about the NEX-5N? A little jewel of a camera, that is on par with the K-5 in most situations, and when used as a video camera, surpassing the K-5 easily! The NEX-5N is very nice to use, especially if you have the hard-to-find electronic viewfinder. The menu system is simpler on the Pentax, and I do like to have buttons to access things, like the K-5, and the NEX-7, have, but as the latter is currently unavailable.
The 5n and 18-200
The Sony E 18-200 that my wife bought for her NEX-5N is an excellent lens, even when not making videos. This lens was designed with the pro NEX video cameras in mind, so it is kind of oversize on NEX-5N. But help was at hand: For a small fee SRB-Griturn in the UK made a tripod attachment for that lens and since then attaching it on a tripod head is a simple task – the 5N isn’t quite up to being the sole support for this amazing lens.
I love the NEX-5N, and it has indeed become a perfect compliment to the K-5!
Tord S Eriksson