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Detailed Commentson Pentax K-Mount Lenses

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[Last revised 21 November 2001]

Short Prime Lenses
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Short Prime Lenses
(SMC K-Mount)



Antti-Pekka Virtanen - I've had it [15mm f3.5] for a couple of years and I seem to use it more and more compared to the other SMC lenses that I have. Seems like I go for the extremes, since the other SMC lens that gets very much use compared tothe others is the A* 300/2.8. The 15 for landscapes, halo and aurora phenomena and the 300 for nature and astrophoto.

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Michael Adams - I have had my 15/3.5 for two years now.

> What is your opinion of this lens?

Very good. Makes a 28 look like a normal lens. Rectilinear correction is excellent.

> What do you use it for?

Mostly fireworks, and Northern Lights. You can never have too much coverage with the Northern Lights.

> What do you like about it?

The sheer 100 degree of coverage on one axis.

> How is the lens handling (weight, size, etc.)?

Heavy, must take precautions when tilting the tripod head for portrait shots that the camera does not rotate due to the weight.

> How about optical qualities: resolution, contrast, color, distortion,
> bokeh, light fall-off, etc.?

Bokeh? I almost always use it wide open, at infinity. Not applicable. VERY PRONE to GHOSTING (flaring ?) when any source of light outside the field of view manage to reach the front element. I have had numerous shots of Northern Lights ruined by a lone street light some distance away that was not blocked properly. Ended up getting a gobo (Flare Buster) to try to improve things. Other than that, it is an astonishing lens, and my favorite one.


David A. Mann - Regarding the wide-open vs stopped-down performance, my own observations (from a brick-wall shoot) agree with Rob's comments. Sharpness and light falloff are terrible wide open but improve greatly when stopped down by any amount. The lens has a ton of contrast but the flare pattern is a little annoying (there's a _large_ pentagon which is hard to "hide" among the scenery).


tv - It is more flare-prone then other lenses, but I suspect that's because it's a fisheye. It's a little difficult to focus, since everything looks more or less focused. On shots when I can avoid flare and get it focused properly, it seems to be sharp and have good color and contrast. It's beautifully made.

michael.hubbard - . . . I love mine. It has a reputation as being one of the very best fisheye lenses available -- better than Nikon's fisheyes. The build quality is absolutely top-notch... definitely a professional-quality lens. An ebay rarity at that. If there arent any fungus or scratches, and no dents or dings its gotta be worth close to $400. Other features you should know about: this lens has three internal filters that you can flip between (red, yellow, sky) and a rear gel-holder.


Yoshihiko Takinami - an excellent lens, IMHO. It's spherical and coma aberrations seem far better than those of an A20/2.8. Its coma wings are also smaller than those of K24/2.8, K28/2, or K30/2.8.

Yoshihiko Takinami (again) - very sharp, good color saturation, well flare controlled, few light-fall-off even at wide open

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Pål   - . . . I love the 18/3.5 lens. I bought mine new in 1978 and I'll guess I will keep it forever. . . Its a lens thats capable of sharp images. Avoid wide apertures and F:22, where corner sharpness really suffers. It also a bit warm in color; it has skylight, cloudy, red and orange filters built in and you have to use one of them.

Pål - [Again] . . . This is a lens with "faults". It isn't really sharp until F: 5.6 and it has very soft corners at F:22. Its also very warm and when I have shots one the same roll with this lens and my other lenses I can easily pick out the ones shot with the 18mm due to its color cast. These factors may be serious for some. For me it doesn't matter; I usually use a wide angle like this at F: 5.6 and smaller apertures and the color cast doesn't usually bother me much.

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Barry Brevik (From the Web) - Excellent lens, one of my favorites. I have been using the 18mm f3.5 for about 15 years. This is a superb ultra-wide. Flare is extremely low and the lens is very sharp. It is physically similar to the 20mm f4 (which I also use) except for a rear mount gelatin filter clip and a built in filter wheel. You are forced to use one of the four filters on the wheel, one of which is a skylight. The skylight does not seem to influence the color rendition in any way when compared to the 20mm f4 (with no filter) on the same role of film. Hands down, one of my favorite Pentax lenses, and one of my favorite lenses regardless of maker. Filter size is 58mm, but in practice most filters vignette.

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Joe Cali (From the Web) - The 18mmf3.5 is a very sharp contrasty lens even at fairly wide apertures. I occasionally use it at f3.5. The image quality suffers a little at the edges. Stop it down to f5.6 and wow, the images really pop out at you. The colour saturation is fantastic. I sometimes joke that it must have a built in polarizer. It has built in skylight, yellow and orange filters. The filter thread is 58mm. You can hold a bare cokin type filter in front of the lens but screwing anything in the filter thread results in vignetted corners. With the built in filters and the high contrast of the lens, I've never found this to be a problem. In Australia, I've only ever seen one of these lenses for sale second hand. I bought it and didn't regret it. It really is a superb lens.

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Yoshihiko Takinami  - An excellnet performer !! Few distortion, great flare control for an 18mm lens. It also has remarkable uniformity in image quality from center to corners. I really love this lens. :^)

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Pål - Hmmm. Mine is certainly soft in the corners wide open and at F:22. Otherwise I agree that its a great performer.

[and in another comment . . . ] Avoid wide open and F:22. Excellent quality at mid aperture. Very warm color rendition. Flare control good for an 18mm lens.

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Daphne - . . .this is a fan-tastic lens!!! resolution is great, light loss at the corners is minimal, it is sharp... and i just love the field of view.

Oh Cheng Yu [from the web-response form] - no noticeable light fall-off at full aperture, but softness at edges. Very sharp slides when stopped down to f/8


Ken Kuo - The SMC-A 24mm/2.8 is a gem . . . . . . it's my standard lens. Razor sharpness, no noticeable distortions, excellent contrast, compact, and has no "polycarbonate" parts.

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Douglas J Stemke - . . . I love this lens; I've only had it for a short time but really enjoy it. Very sharp. The biggest problem is the hood; Pentax sells it for $80 which seems way too high to me for something that is really that simple. . . Although I haven't used it a great deal, I can't yet claim to see any significant distortion on it, but will look more critically on some of my shots tonight and give you a better idea.

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> For mostly deliberate landscape shot, which do you recommend, FA or A, and why?

Yoshihiko Takinami - I prefer A20/2.8 to FA20/2.8, and actually own a A20/2.8. They are optically identical except the number of aperture blades. . . I recommand MF for this range of focal length because you would not tend to focus on the subject but on the hyper-focal distance. As for the number of aperture blades, you won't be able to distinguish between the two, five or six. The only one exception would be bright spotlights in background, six lusters by six blades, and ten lusters by five blades.

> A version is considerably more expensive than FA version, why?

I suppose the helicoid mechanism of MF lens is more expensive to produce than gears of AF lens.

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Rob Studdert - I also own the Pentax A20/2.8 and would like to add that it is of exceptional build quality and as a consequence is a joy to use.

[and in an added later comment from Rob] . . . It is a great lens (great contrast, high resolution and good flare resistance) but it is expensive (even used).

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Yoshihiko Takinami - . . . I own A20/2.8, which is optically identical to FA20/2.8 except the number of aperture blades; FA has 6 blades and A has 5 blades. This optic is the best one among the Pentax 20mm lenses, IMHO, with great contrast and excellent color rendition.

It's a pity but its not so good in resolution, coma aberration and contrast in corners as K15/3.5 or K18/3.5, even closed down. To confess the truth, I prefer K18/3.5 or K15/3.5 to A(FA)20/2.8 in terms of optical quality. Unfortunately K18/3.5 seems very rare and K15/3.5 is expensive.

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Patrick Rendulic - I did some tests with this lens and must say that its performance is quite amazing. I am also very happy that there is no visible vignetting when using a Pentax SMC UV filter (67mm thread) or my Contax linear polarizer. So tomorrow I will go and order some Pentax SMC 67mm filters for B&W photography. Just wished they were not so expensive (the UV cost $US65).

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Fred - At the 20mm focal length, I am familiar only with the A 20/2.8, but I can recommend it without reservation . . . It has become my most used wide-angle below 28mm. (In fact, I recently sold my A 24/2.8, not because I didn't like it, but I found that I just didn't use it as much anymore, after getting the 20/2.8.) While I am unlikely to dig out and lug around the A 15/3.5, unless I know I have a need for it, the A 20/2.8 goes with me everywhere whenever I'm "photo-equipped".

Except for the wide (67mm thread) filter mounting flange in the front of the lens (which nicely helps avoid vignetting when using filters, and I frequently do use a polarizer on it), the lens is actually quite compact. It is fast, . . . and that is useful, but it is also both sharp and quite low in distortion. Its flare performance is good and its contrast is quite high. On the other hand, its "official" "dedicated" hood is sort of a screw-in "big round pie plate with a hole in the middle", and I do wish that Pentax had come out with a rectangular hood for this lens instead. (I don't use the hood too often on the lens, but I am able to get 75 satellite channels on it when hooked up to the TV.) Oh, I almost forgot to mention, . . . the A 20/2.8's build quality is very high. . .


jostein.oksne Sep 1997. . . I've had the lens for one and a half years. It is rectilinear and pretty much so too. Hard to see any bending lines at all. It suffers from a weakness common to almost all super-wideangles, though. A kind of distortion that works like this: if you focus on a circular dot in the center of view, and move your camera so that the dot goes towards a corner, it will gradually change shape to a droplet. And I don't think it comes out excellent in MTF-tests either.

Nevertheless, I use mine often, and think of it as a very convenient lens. Manual focussing is ok (I've got an MX), and it can take Cokin filters without vignetting. . . The horizontal view is 118°.

- [additional, more recent, comment from Jostein] - I've had the lens for 3-4 years. I used it a lot the first six months, but less with time. These are my experiences:

Sharp, also in the corners. probably less than half a stop vignetting in the corners. Takes a Cokin P-series polarizing filter (4mm thick plus ring) without vignetting (tested this in a situation where I was sure there would not be any light falloff from the polarising).

Very low barrel distortion.

One problem, though: there is what I call "droplet distortion" towards the corners. It works this way: A circular spot will be circular at the center of the frame, but if you move the camera so that the spot approach a corner, the spot will take on the shape of a droplet with the pointy end towards the frame center. To me this is quite annoying sometimes, especially if there are highlights in the corners.

Rob Studdert explains . . . I think that you will find this "droplet distortion" apparent in any photographs captured with lenses with a wider than normal field of view. The design of a rectilinear wide-angle lens causes elongation of objects radially from the centre of the frame, the wider the angle of view (lower the lens focal length) and the further from the centre of the lens the distortion becomes more apparent.

This distortion can be minimised by re-mapping the rectilinear image to a cylindrical view (panoramic) using Panorama Tools from Helmut Dersch http://www.fh-furtwangen.de/~dersch however new (but possibly less distracting) distortion is introduced (vertical linearity is preserved but horizontal lines become distorted).

[Editors note: Imagine a cone of light . . . smh]

[Editor's second note: A polar bear is a rectangular bear after the appropriate transformation . . . smh]

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Daphne - . . . [this] was my favorite lens [since sold] - razor sharp excellent contrast no distortion..came in useful for both indoor shots and background foregrounds effects. Actually i liked it so much that i bought its A equivalent. . .

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Roberto Burgos S. - I do own this lens and find it superb. I recently shot some landscapes for a cliente, and while making a couple of 8 x 12 enlargementes (Kodak royal 25 film), ther was one white spec on the negative that seemed like dust. After close inspection and cleaning of the negative, it happened to be a house! about 3 miles away. We made an enlargement of the section (equivalente to a 40 x 60 inch inlargement) and surprisingly, found that not only the Kodak Royal 25 film is great (grain similar to a 400 ISO FILM on a 12 x 18 inch enlargment), but the little spec on the negative, had the house and we could count the windows!

Beware only of thick ring filters, even regular polarizers because they will vignette (67 mm filter size). I found that Cokin Optilight filters which have a thin ring do not vignette.

Yes the FA20/2.8 is a great lens, but its also very pricey (about $550 mail order) and more expensive than the FA24/2* (which I also have but I like the 20 better). I do not have the FA28/2.8 but I've heard its one of the best damm 28's ever built by any manufacturer. If you can go for the 20/2.8 (F, FA or A, they are all the same optically) you will never regret it. Its a superb lens.

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Yoshihiko Takinami - . . . I confirmed that A20/2.8 and FA20/2.8 are optically identical except the number of aperture blades. . .


Gerjan - please avoid this lens unless you want it as a fine 'collectible'. Also avoid the SMC Pentax-M 1:4 20mm. Both lenses have a double form of distorsion (barrel and pincushion). The edges of the image are unsharp unless you stop down to f/11 or higher. Edge contrast is quite fine though. If you want a good 20 mm you should buy the 1:2.8/20 A or the new 1:4/20-35 mm AF zoom.

Gerjan - [again] Although some mebers of this group tend to disagree on this 20 mm topic, I still think that the 2.8/20 or the new 4/20-35 are the only viable alternatives. I don't like the 4/20 K nor the 4/20 M for their distortion. The 2.8/20 and the 20-35 zoom are not 100% distortion-free either, but if you do not take pictures of walls directly from upfront you will not see any distortion. The 2.8/28 M/A is not one of Pentax' best products (except for weight and dimensions), the FA 2.8/28 is far better, but not 100% distortion-free either. If you really need an almost distortion-free wide angle lens, go for the 3.5/28 K or M. Distortion is under 0.5% for both.

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Barry Brevik - . . . for me this is a great lens. It is, in fact, one of my all time favorites in terms of image quality, and the coatings are superb. If the front element is clean enough, I can take pictures that contain the Sun without getting any lens flare. . . . As for polarizers, I have not yet found one thin enough to not vignette. My only problem with the 20mm is that the f4 max aperture coupled with the dim viewfinder of the MX is a drag, so you might want to look for the more modern 20mm f2.8 M series lens, depending on which body you are using.

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Gianfranco Irlanda - I do not use it very often due to its aperture (I tend to prefer something faster) but I think it is a good lens. The sharpness is great in the center, but it tends to be rather soft towards the corners when wide open (the corners do not satisfy me much but I haven't done any serious test). It has a noticeable light fall-off @ f/4 that disappears when closed around f/8. It is a nice lens for its weight and size. I payed something like . . . quite expensive for a very used one but it was the only 20mm Pentax I'd ever put the hands on...


[see Gerjan's comment on 20 mm f/4.0 above.]

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Texdance - I have the SMC-M 20/f4. I carry it everywhere. It is extremely small, and certainly fast and sharp enough for my purposes. My 20mm gets used less than my 24mm and more than my zoom that goes to 18mm. 

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Michael Sharkey - . . . At f/4 the corners are rather on the soft side. The corners are quite sharp at f/8 and then the overall sharpness seems to drop off a bit as you get to f/16 and beyond.

On the same roll of film, I shot the same wall area with my KA 28 f/2.8 just for comparison and got much more pleasing results toward wide open end. Anyway, I think the 20/4 will likely prove to be a nice lens for shooting outdoor 'scapes. :)  


Darren Sutherland. . . I can tell you . . . that the 24mm is a dandy of a lens. It's my 2nd most used lens (Behind my FA*80-200 f2.8). It appears to be the sharpest of its kind around, not to mention having the fastest aperature at f2!

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David - ZX5Lx - The FA 24 f2.0 lens is a good performer...although not quite as exceptional as the 28 FA. Wide open it is quite soft and a bit susceptible to image degredation due to flair, but in the right type of light it can give an acceptable small print. At f2.8 it sharpens up a bit. Things really improve by f4.0 and by f4.5 and beyond it appears to have good sharpness. At f8-f11best resolution is obtained.

The lens generally exhibits excellent contrast.I was amazed at the performance of all the K (K, KA FA) Pentax 24's. Their performance characteristics are virtually identical, including the SMCT 24 screw mount lens. It makes a nice coupling with the FA 85 f1.4 and the new 43f1.7 would fit nicely in the middle of the two.

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Arne Lie - I have one [FA*24/2.0], and I do recommend it. I previouosly had a Vivitar 24/2.0 -- what a difference! The FA* has a VERY good mech. build. Optics are about the best 24mm for SLR you can get (with SLR you cannot make the wide angle lenses straight forward due to the mirror -- a real 24mm would have distance from film to lens centre = 24mm, only Leica M6 , Contax T2 etc have this...)

Beware of matrix metering and slides if you have Z1p or similar, large dark forest etc (i.e. dark backround in general) will make your subject overexposed, thats my experience.

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Paul G. Dileanis - I own both the FA*24/2.0 and the 17-28 zoom. I bought the 24 to replace a Sigma AF 24. The Pentax 24 is a very good lens, retaining good edge to edge sharpness even wide open. ( I could see the difference in 8x10 prints, especially those shot at f 5.6 and wider. At 11x14 the photos were unacceptable. I have enlarged images taken with the Pentax 24/f2.0 to 24x36.) The Pentax is however a very heavy piece of glass. If you are not in need of the wider aperture and you travel, you might considerbuying a used 24/2.8 Pentax A lens ( I've seen them for about $125-$140US). With the wider angle lenses Autofocus is not as critical. As for the 17-28 zoom, this is a great lens also and I use it a lot,especially for subjects which do not require lines to be straight.

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John Tollefsrud. . . The FA24mm is also a pleasure, if much heavier. . . I had the infamousSigma 24mm (see the archives) for a while, and it served me well. Mechanically it's a clunker compared to a Pentax product, though.

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Cameron R. Hood - Jan 1998 - Just got back my first roll of film taken with this lens, and it's FABULOUS!!! I had an F 28mm f=2.8 that I traded in on this. . . and I must say, it was nowhere near as sharp, contrasty, or as accurate as this lens is. The detail on close subjects is phenomenal, much like my F 300mm f=4.5, and the distant subjects remain sharp, clear, and highly detailed. It is an absolute delight.

I find all of the lens tests and postings on the 28mm 2.8 lens to be misleading; it is rated much higher than the 24mm is, but in my humble opinion, in real world use, the 24mm is a far superior optic. It is much sharper, and all elements in the composition, from front to back, are much more highly detailed than the 28mm was. I guess you just can't believe everything you read (except this post, of course).

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Ralf Engelmann - Sometimes there is more than one truth. The SMC-F 2.8/28mm is not identical to the SMC-FA 2.8/28mm AL, which has fewer elements, but additionally an aspherical surface. The price increased around 50% when the FA version was introduced. . .SMC-FA always got excellent results. Wide open it is even better than the FA* 2.0/24mm AL (IF), which has the "handicap" of the very fast speed here. Stopped down at f=8 or so, both lenses should be excellent performers.

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Carlos Royo - I have the FA 24 f2, and I can say it is an excellent lens. I haven't used the M 28 f 2.8 I also own for years, as I prefer so much the FA 24mm. It is optically excellent,. . . and also very usable in manual focus, thanks to the broad manual focus ring it has.
 

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Derek Rader - I have a FA 24/2 and although the color and sharpness are excellent there is curvature in the corners. I usually try to put as much in the center and then crop in to compensate.

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Stephan Schwartz - I take many architecture slides and use this lens mainly for indoor pictures in buldings like churches and pictures from illumaneted building in the night. I use it very often with wide apertures because I don't need to take a tripod with me. The lens is very sharp with all apertures and a little bit soft with open aperture. I is made from metal and very robust not as many FA plastic lenses like the 50mm or 28mm. I don't noticed the slight fisheye effect which is reported from other users. The angle of view is wide and phantastic. I am very satisfied with this lens.

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Alan Chan - This is an excellent lens for manual focus. I have been using this lens for 2 years mostly on manual focus bodies. The aperture ring feels very good too.

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Gerald Cermak - I really like the lens. I've gotten great pictures with it. The angle of view is wonderful. It's as sharp as my FA 1.4/50. Also, very nice looking lens on my ZX-5n with the tulip hood attached.

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Roberto Burgos S. - It is big, it is heavy, it is silver colored, comes with nice hood, it is optically a very good performer, super sharp from 2.8 to 16 and very expensive.Want honesty? If you do not need the f/2 speed, you will not tell the difference with a SMC-M 28/2.8.... which is another great performer.

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. . .between getting an FA* 24/2 or the FA 20/2.8, perhaps with a 35 to fill the gap up to 50. Is the 20/2.8 also comparible in quality to the other lenses mentioned?

David (Zx5Lx) - I have shot with both these lenses (simultaniously) and optically (f stop for f-stop) they are very close in performance (relatively speaking when distances are adjusted so they can be compared). In terms of handling, the FA 24 f2.0 in my opinion gets the nod, especially when used as a manual focus lens due to it's focus clutch mechansim whereby you pull back on the focusing ring which now has a relatively nice manual focus feel. In addition it's intergral matching pedal shaped hood is nicely designed and comes with the lens. Hope this helps.

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Henry Bloomfield - Just one more point - the 24/2 has a rather cool 'declutching' focus ring which enables you to switch from auto to manual focus very easily, and the feel of the focus ring in manual mode is very nice - not loose and rattley like some AF lenses.

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Mark Roberts - If I were forced to get rid of all my lenses (of all focal lengths) but one, the one I'd keep would be my FA*24/2.0. 'nuff said.

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Cameron - Great Lens!!! For best results, be prepared to get dirty, down low on the ground. Knee-pads and or a drop sheet are essential items. It can vignette with even one filter on it; I would recommend getting a good (B+W) circular SLIM-LINE polarizer. Remember the Ansel Adams maxim of the 'near and far' dicotomy of subjects with wide angle lenses. Also, if you spring for a reverse adapter 52mm and a couple of step up rings, you will obtain an incredible 4:1 macro ratio (albeit at a working distance of about 1 inch, with almost zero depth of field), great for fly's eyeballs, and such.

My favorite lens; depth of field about 12" to infinity! Keep the camera back parallel to the subject plane, or you will get distortions (converging verticals); ladders are sometimes necessary to get the right viewpoint. Be careful around cliffs; take your eye off the camera! Watch that rear element though; at extremes of focus it sticks out quite a bit, making it easily damaged when removing it. Also, don't EVER try this lens with a teleconverter; you'll ruin them both when the elements of each crush into each other. Good luck! It took me about a year to like it and get the most out of it. It is amazing just how different it is from even a 28mm.

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Bob S. - The FA*24/2.0 is truly special. . . . [it is] an especially sharp lens with an aspheric element. I have had extraordinary pictures with this lens, outperforming everything else I owned until I acquired some of the [other] * star lenses.

[later adendum] - Although I love the FA24/2, I have to . . . [admit that the] FA24/2 with hood attached is easily twice as big as anything else, twice the diameter and twice the length. . . . The tulip hood will store reversed on the front of the lens, making things more compact, but this is still a 'fat' lens. . . .

[additional appended addendum] - It's big. It goes on the PZ-1. And it gives great results.

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David Mann -

Alberto writes:
> Hardly ever I used it in manual focus mode, and for this reason only
> yesterday I noticed that the focusing ring doesn't stop turning.
> What I don't know is if it is a problem or is the normal behaviour.
> Actually I can feel it slightly hardening in the point that should
> corresponds to the end of the scale, but after that point you feel no more
> resistance.

There's nothing wrong with your lens, Alberto. Mine does exactly the same thing. It's quite a weird feeling if you're used to the old manual focus lenses.

> By the way the lens works perfectly both in MF and in AF mode (where the
> ring is actually locked as it should)

The ring isn't totally locked when in AF. You can still turn it but it has no effect on the focus, and "clicks" in similar fashion to the aperture ring (although it turns quite a long way between clicks).

 


Yoshihiko Takinami - very sharp, good color saturation/rendition, scarce distortion

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Michael Hubbard SMC K f2.8 24mm lens . . . optically the same as the A version. Apparently there was no M version of the lens. Its a really nice lens. Noticeably different view than the 28. Maybe a tad less contrasty than my A lenses, but great nonetheless. . .

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Gerald Cermak - . . .[My girlfriend] and I have had occasion to shoot the same subjects, her with a K24/2.8 on an ME Super, and me with my FA*24/2 on a ZX-5n. The13x18cm prints are essentially indistinguishable from each other (when shooting ~f/8 in daylight). I haven't tried any more extensive comparisons, but I know the K24/2.8 has never produced a disappointing picture from a technical standpoint.

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Paul.Stregevsky - . . . The lens makes me look like a better photographer than I am. What color! And it feels oh so nice in the hand. . .


Bruce Rubenstein. . . I bought a Pentax-A 24/2.8 . . . has no plastic anywhere and is built like the best KM lenses. . . it seems to be very good. A little soft wide open, but sharp by f4. . . . seems to have great contrast and saturation.

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Pål Jensen - The A 24/2.8 is not one of Pentax best lenses. It is fuzzy wide open and never really great. However, I would not trade in mine for the FA 24/2.0 lens. The lens is fair enough but nothing to write home about. It is recommended, but not enthusiastically.

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William Cornett - I have the A 24mm 2.8, and I would put the resolution and overall performance up against any other 24mm 2.8 on the market. I love it. As an added bonus, it focuses quite close.

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Glenn Swan - I have the Pentax 24mm f2.8 manual focus and I love it. It's well built, and has excellent optical performance. I almost bought the 24mm f2.0 but most of the time I am shooting landscapes with the wide angle lens and I have it stopped down anyway. Why pay for the extra speed and auto focus whenyou don't need it?

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Bruce Rubenstein - I have the Pentax 24/2.8 A lens. I don't think that you can get better than this in a Pentax mount. The color and saturation are better than any other Pentax lens I have. Like most Pentax lenses it is very resistant to flare and ghosting, which is important for wide angles because it is diffucult to make an effective lens shade. The construction is first rate. Also like most Pentax lenses, it doesn't get very sharp until it is stopped down a couple of stops, but most wide angles are used stopped down anyway. At typical f-stops it's good for tack sharp 11x14's (with fine grained film). A great percentage ofmy "keepers" are this lens, on my LX with Reala.

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Bill in Saskatchewan - I love mine. Sharp, straight and really well protected from flare. I paid premium for mine. Worth every penny. One of the last things I bought out of the US of A before our $ became a nickel.

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Bob Waldken - this is a very good lens indeed. Mine has/had quite a lot of light fall-off at wide apertures though. There aren't many around, so grab it while you can, but please check the s/n first. If its 5205241 then it's my stolen lens, so arrest the seller, please!

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Pål - This is an OK wide angle thats not very sharp wide open.

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Bob S. - The A24/2.0 is truly special. It's wider and faster than the A28/2.8, but it's also an especially sharp lens with an aspheric element. I have had extraordinary pictures with this lens, outperforming everything else I owned until I acquired some of the * star lenses.


Joe Blumberg (from the Web auto-response form) - One of the great ones... sharp, contrasty, distortion-free and built like a tank!

- - - - - -

Paul Stenquist - I have one. It seems reasonably sharp, perhaps not quite as sharp as the K 28/3.5 but quite adequate, particularly at f8 or f11. Like all SMC lenses, it is quite good at handling flare. The focus feel and aperture ring movement are very nice. An excellent example of solid construction.


General Discussion of 28 mm lenses . . .

3.17.99 - Valentin observed:

> Now, it's interesting that Yoshihiko is mentioning the "F" in the "keep away from" list.
>What's wrong with it ? Let's say when compared with the "FA" ?

- - - - - -

Yoshihiko Takinami replies:

F28/2.8 is optically identical to M28/2.8 (later model) and A28/2.8, if I remember correctly.

FA28/2.8AL was newly designed when FA lenses were introduced. FA28/2.8AL is a bit soft at wide open, and slightly soft at f/4, while K28/3.5 is very sharp even at wide open.

My personal ranking for Pentax 28m lenses are follows;

K28/3.5, K28/2 >= M28/3.5 >= FA28/2.8AL >>> M28/2.8 (old) >M28/2.8 (later), A28/2.8, F28/2.8

So F28/2.8 is never comparable to FA28/2.8AL in point of optical performance.

Yoshihiko Takinami [again] - I have something to add.

Try Hama rectangular hood (52mm) for this lens. It seems the best hood for K28/3.5 I have ever seen. It also works well with K24/2.8, K28/2, K30/2.8, K35/2, and K35/3.5 in my experiences.

[and in respose to another query . . .]

> I'm out looking for a cheap but good mf (28 or wider) wideangle lens.
> I was thinking maybe one you have a good lens that you are willing to
> give up, or maybe you couldjust give me a tip about what lens I should
> buy.

Go for a used K28/3.5 (SMC PENTAX 28mm f/3.5), a cheap but optically excellent lens, IMO. It is the sharpest 28mm lens that Pentax ever made.

Or go for a used M28/3.5 (smc PENTAX-M 28mm f/3.5), a cheap but good lens, IMHO.

[and in response to yet another query . . .]

First of all, please note that a resolution test is a resolution test. It only shows a part of the optical performance of the lens tested.

As for the K-mount 28mm lenses of Pentax, I have/had experiences with K28/2, K28/3.5, M28/2, M28/2.8, M28/3.5, and FA28/2.8AL. I have resolution test results of K28/3.5, M28/3.5, and FA28/2.8AL among them.

I had been disappointed in the performances of M28/2 and M28/2.8 comparing then to the K lenses and sold them several years ago. So I couldn't test them in the recent resolution test. I actually tested K28/2. But after the test I found it need to be repaired, and deleted the K28/2 result. I will test it [again] . . .

The best among the lenses above, IMHO, is K28/3.5 in point of sharpness, contrast, resolution, and aberrations. The next will be FA28/2.8AL. This is just my opinion.


 


Bibi Kwa (From the Web) - Very good lens Very sharp, some distortion. Beautiful colors and bokeh.


JCO - I would chose a 28mm f2.0 vs. a 28 F3.5 everytime as the faster lens allows more accurate focus and composition every time, even in bright light. . . .

- - - - - - - -

[see Gerjan's comment on 20 mm f/4.0 above; he discusses several 20mm and 28mm wide angles.]


G.T.Addison - . . .like most SMC pentax primes, very good in every way.

- - - - - -

SUBHASIS - I find my SMC-M 28mm F2.8 excellent in every respect. It's probably the best lens I have ever used in my limited experience.

- - - - - -

tv - softer and less contrasty than my other Pentax lenses.

- - - - - -

Bob S. - just isn't as sharp as the M 50/1.7 or the M 135/3.5


David Collett - . . . I have an A28/2.8, FA28/2.8 AL and a 28/3.5. The f3.5 is probably the best of the three at f8 or f11 with nice crisp contrast. The A28 is a good all rounder, the FA28 is, I would guess as good as the f3.5 at f8 or f11. The FA has problems with light fall off in the corners when used wider than f5.6 but otherwise it is an excellent lens.

- - - - - -

Collin Brendemuehl (from the Web auto-response) - An underrated value. Excellent resolving power. Best at f8 and f11 -- one could easily use this as a normal lens. Good wide open and still respectable at small apertures of f16 and f22. Easy to handle and focus. Decent flare control, but a short hood would be practical as with any wide angle.

[Collin again . . .] Great color rendition. Excellent contrast. Very sharp, but perhaps a bit "rough" at large apertures. Light fall-off is typical of standard 28mm lenses. All-around, a lens you can't go wrong having.


Sterling Rorden - My understanding is that [ the Pentax F series 28mm lens] is slightly better optically than the FA series lens.


"Roberto Burgos S.". . . I do not have the FA28/2.8 but I know is one of the best 28's ever made. Front element does not rotate and it is optically superb.

- - - - - - - -

Bruce Rubenstein - I have the FA 28/2.8. The front element doesn't rotate. The plastic outer skin looks tacky and the focus ring is narrow: typical AF lens stuff. Manual focusing is OK: not much feel, but silky smooth. AF is reasonably fast on a ZX-5. Optical performance is classic Pentax: a little soft wide open, but super sharp a couple of stops down. Compared to my FA 28-105, the FA 28/2.8 at around f8 is a little sharper in the center and distinctly sharper in the corners. . . .

- - - - -

Michael Webber - Fri, 3 Oct 1997 - A little known oddity of the FA 28mm 2.8 (which has tested very sharp indeed) is that it is much more of a 30mm lens than a 28 according to Pop Photog's focal length test information (29.5mm? 29.8?). . . .most 28-? zoom lenses, for example, are more like 29 or 30mm at the wide end, it is common for lenses to vary from their stated focal length. And most "50" mm lenses are more like 52mm (Konica used to actually label their normal lens as a 52. . . ).

- - - - - -

ZX5Lx@aol.com - Having had the opportunity to use the FA 24/2.0 as well as the FA 28/2.8, I can say they are both fine lenses. In terms of absolute sharpness the 28 is definitly sharper, but its a little like comparing apples and oranges. . . .but in optical performance [ the FA 28] was excellent and left little desire for better performance. . . .

- - - - - - - -

John Tollefsrud - 1 Dec 1997. . . I love the sharpnessof the FA28mm as well as it's size and light weight.For the price, it's a great lens. I believe it is an improvement over their previous 28m designs, given the AL lens design.

- - - - - -

Ralf Engelmann - . . .The SMC-F 2.8/28mm is not identical to the SMC-FA 2.8/28mm AL, which has fewer elements, but additionally an aspherical surface. The price increased around 50% when the FA version was introduced. . .SMC-FA always got excellent results. Wide open it is even better than the FA* 2.0/24mm AL (IF), which has the "handicap" of the very fast speed here. Stopped down at f=8 or so, both lenses should be excellent performers.

- - - - - -

Marc Polman - Just got a mint, used FA 28mm f2.8 AL from a local shop. It looks very well built, better than my FA 50mm f1.7 .Feels good too, nice & light, focussing is just tight enough and fortunately no rattling or loose elements here! It has the same flat front element as my FA 28~70 f4 AL. Must be the AL element..

- - - - - -

Pascal De Pauw - Very sharp lens and almoust no distortion.

- - - - - -

Bruce Rubenstein - I got one of these about 6 months ago. I don't use it too much, but only because I tend to use my 24mm more. I find the build quality very high with very good AF and MF. Like most Pentax lenses, it's not great wide open. In more normal wide angle usage (f5.6 and smaller) it's excellent. Sharper in the corners than either the Pentax or Tamron 28-105 with less distortion. It's probably sharper in the center also, but just by a little. Perfect for landscape work where there's lots of detail and you want everything sharp.

- - - - - -

Bruce Dayton - I can tell you that the FA 28 f:2.8 really shows the light falloff at wider apertures. It looks as if you put a filter on and it vignettes. You really need to stop it down to about f:8 to get rid of that problem. It is not one of my favorite lenses.

Yoshihiko Takinami - There's very noticable light fall-off at f/2.8-5.6 though FA28/2.8AL is very good, or even excellent, at f/8-11, IMHO, with very well corrected aberrations and excellent contrast.

- - - - - -

David Collett - . . . I have an A28/2.8, FA28/2.8 AL and a 28/3.5. The f3.5 is probably the best of the three at f8 or f11 with nice crisp contrast. The A28 is a good all rounder, the FA28 is, I would guess as good as the f3.5 at f8 or f11. The FA has problems with light fall off in the corners when used wider than f5.6 but otherwise it is an excellent lens. [later addition . . .] the only thing that I don't like is the level of light fall off at f5.6 & wider. At f8 to f16 it works very well, no technical tests, just a critical eye on my slides!

> Yoshishiko: Did you notice this with your sample? I can't remember if
> you mentioned it.

Yoshihiko Takinami - Yes, FA28/2.8AL has light fall-off at corners wide open. It is also quite soft wide open, and a bit soft even at f/4.

But wait, this lens is not a fast lens, and is even compact and light weight. It performs really excellent at f/8 and f/11. Aberrations are well corrected even wide open. Contrast and color rendition are quite excellent.

I think FA28/2.8AL is a very excellent performer next to K28/3.5 for general use. Just my opinion.


Yoshihiko Takinami - K28/3.5 is quite excellent, though there's . . . noticable light fall-off wide open, . . . I think K28/3.5 is best 28mm lens Pentax ever made because of its resolution, aberrations, color rendition, contrast, etc.

[a more complete review from Yoshihiko, 7.16.99 . . .] The . . . K28/3.5 . . . is really excellent in performance, IMHO, and is very comparable in size and weight to M85/2. Yes, it seems a big lens for a usual 28mm lens. Whereas M28/3.5 is also an excellent performer and is comapct in size. Comparing the performances of the two, K28/3.5 is a bit better in point of corner resolution, light fall-off towards the corners, and the correction of spherical aberration and coma, IMHO.

M28/3.5 is very comparable to FA28/2.8AL in my point of view.

The only two defects in K28/3.5, IMO; one is its size and weight, the other is some severe light fall-off towards the coeners, which seems better than M28/3.5 or FA28/2.8AL in comparison, but it does exist.

K28/3.5, IMHO, is the best 28mm lens Pentax ever made in opticalperformance.

Go for K28/3.5 when you concern performance, and go for M28/3.5, or FA28/2.8AL, when you concern size and weight besides performance.

- - - - - -

David Collett - . . . I have an A28/2.8, FA28/2.8 AL and a 28/3.5. The f3.5 is probably the best of the three at f8 or f11 with nice crisp contrast. The A28 is a good all rounder, the FA28 is, I would guess as good as the f3.5 at f8 or f11. The FA has problems with light fall off in the corners when used wider than f5.6 but otherwise it is an excellent lens.

- - - - - -

PAUL STENQUIST - I shot half a dozen rolls with the K 28/3.5 a couple of weeks ago. I love it. Very sharp for that wide a lens and great color and saturation. It seems to be far superior to the SMC tak 28/3.5. I've never tried the M version.


J Vanderaalst - absolutely the sharpest lens that I ever owned

- - - - -

fritz polesny (from input on this website)- an excelent optic, even for close ups. i like this optic. i get best results using it with extension tubes or a retro ring for close ups of insects, spiders and mites.


Joe McAllister - 23 Nov 1997 - I've had one in my possession for the past few months, and have enjoyed excercising it on the water tank across the street.. . . It works. . .It's sharp. . . It rotates as well as shifts (pick your shift from a rose compass of 12 directional settings) and shift far enough to get a 1.3 million 65' tall water tank corrected and in a vertical frame from less than 60' away.

[Additional comment from JoMac . . .] - It can shift enough to vignette the opposite end of the frame, if you let it. Built in filters. (3) I have and use the 28mm/3.5 shift lens with my LX and PZ-1p.  There is a difference between measurable and percievable. I've never "noticed" any distortion in photos I've taken with buildings and towers using this lens. I've never seen any flare unless the sun was at the edge of the image. If you are shooting Pentax gear, then buy or borrow one of these lenses and see if it fits your needs. If you find it lacking, eBay will get rid of it for you for around what you paid for it. It is a desirable lens to a collector and to Pentax shooters. The techno geeks can find fault in any optic, any mechanism. And of course, they ARE there. . . .Even NASA has problems from time to time.

- - - - - -

Arnold Stark - The 28/f3.5 Shift lens is of course ideal for pictures of buildings, towers, etc., even though I sometimes prefer to go farther away and take the picture with a normal lens or even with a tele lens, if that is possible. The shift lens is not really very sharp until f11, but in most cases it is no problem to stop down to that value. Distortion is low, and flare is not much of a problem due to the SMC coating (but of course some flare exists when shooting directly at the sun). The lens is a mechanical dream like most orginal K lenses. The lens has so many rings [1.) Filter selection ring, 2.) ring for selection of the aperture, 3.) ring for stopping down to the selected aperture, 4.) focusing ring, 5.) shifting ring and 6.) lens rotation ring] that the handling requires some practice, but as soon as you are used to them, you will enjoy turning all those rings. However, the lens is rather large and heavy when compared to constructions of other manufacturers. It is recommended to use the lens together with a tripod and a grid screen, but I successfully use the lens without either most of the time when traveling...

- - - - -

Bucky - I have the lens. I find it easy to use, once you play with it a bit (like any equipment). use it at f/8 or f/11 for noticeably better results, although I generally find it quite a good lens to begin with. Not as sharp as my 28mm f/2.8 was (before I got rid of it). I has 3 built in filters: skylight, orange, and yellow, plus a clip at the back end for gels. Flare can be a problem, particularly because you can't use a hood on the lens due to vignetting with shifts


Dave Richards - . . . It seems to be plenty sharp although my 28mm f/2 is much easier to see through so I use that more. I suppose I'll keep it around for a curiosity.

- - - - -

Fred said:
> 30/2.8 never seemed to sell too well (or, at least, there are not too many
> around). Why, I'll bet even Yoshihiko doesn't have one. Or, then again, he
> probably does... <g>

Yoshihiko Takinami replies - Fred, I own one and am quite happy with it. :^)

It is excellent optically; well corrected aberrations, very few distortion, very high actual/visual resolution, good color rendition. K30/2.8 is far better than M28/2 nor M28/2.8's, IMHO.

Recently I found the FA43/1.9 and K30/2.8 combo seemed great for snapshots, travel photography, etc.

> The fact (or at least my perception) that it's a bit uncommon does not
> necessarily have anything to do with its quality or performance, but probably
> has more to do with the fact that it is so close in focal length to 28mm, a
> focal length that "everybody" bought, and few probably saw the need to get
> another lens so close in focal length.

I think it interesting that Zeiss Jena had 28/2.8, 29/2.8, 30/2.8 M42 lenses in their catalog sometime in 60s or 70s, though I doubt they needed all of the focal length. So it is never surprised that Pentax had K30/2.8 besides two 28mm lenses, K28/2 and K28/3.5, at the same time, I think.

[And Fred again . . .] I think you'll find the 30/2.8 to be a "typical" K (pre-M) lens in most respects. . . which is to say that you'll probably love its feel. It is built well, of course - I've never seen a K-era lens that wasn't. In my opinion, it would seem to be similar in overall performance to the K 28/3.5, the K/35/3.5, and the A 28/2, and it might be just a bit better than the M 28.2.8 and the A 35/2.

I really haven't used my own 30/2.8 all that much (using an A 28/2 or an A 35/2 more often, or the wide end of an A 28-135/4), and I hold onto it (inside of its dedicated SMC 2.8/30 case and box) mostly as a collector's item, I guess

Yoshihiko Takinami - I love this lens. :^) I like K30/2.8 better than any 28mm lens Pentax ever made. It's compact in size and very well built. It has great resolving power visually/actually, excellent contrast and good color rendition. Distortion and light fall-off seem very slight, and its bokeh is really good.

I have placed a sample photo taken with this lens at

<http://www.takinami.com/yoshihiko/photo/gallery01/p&f0004.html>

It was dim, cloudy morning I take that photo. The lens rendered the scene with quite impressive contrast and color, IMO.

- - - - -

Alexander Krohe - . . . I use this lens and like the 30mm lens a lot (more than the A-35mm/2 that I also have) for two reasons: (1) It's optical performance, which is IMO a bit special: I like the color reproduction, which is a bit on the cool side (this very obvious on test shots on slide films side by side with the A-35mm/2 lens). Maybe the colors of the 35mm/2 lens look more "saturated", but I have the impression that the 30mm lens is better in reproducing fine nuances in color tones. The blue rendition is much better than that of the "ordinary" K- and M-series lenses. Also black and white shots with the 30mm lens appear to render extreme details and sharpness (but stop the lens down). All this together (color reproduction, details and sharpness) give the image a somewhat unique characteristics IMO (I dare to say "3-dimensionality"). (2) The second reason why I like the 30mm lens is its angle of view that is IMO ideal for 'environmental' portraits, street shots etc. In my biased view, the characteristics of the 30mm optics seems to be closer to a 35mm than to that of a 28mm lens (i.e. less distortion at close distances than a 28mm lens), however, with a noticeably larger depth of field compared to the 35mm lens. This is a plus when shooting at close distances (e.g. needed for environmental portraits) and when shooting with hyper-focal distance settings etc. I guess I use the 30mm lens about 4x more often than the 35mm lens.


Mike Wilson - Seems to be an excellent performer. Very little vignetting, no obvious colour cast, astonishing flare resistance, bright look in the viewfinder, fast and quiet in AF, easy to focus in MF, high resolution. Negatives: big, silver, expensive. . . a fixed hood and the lens cap pushes on over it. The cap is lined with green velvet and I suspect that, overtime, this would become quite loose. Feels good when it is new...


David Collett - My experience with 35mm has been with the A35/2.8, FA 35/2, and the K35/3.5. I borrowed an M35/2.8 a few years ago (as you can see I like 35mm lenses!).

Of the ones that I have used I would put them in the following order for sharpness and contrast (not scientific, just based on my own prejudice):

The K35/2 has had some good comments made about it although I haven't used one myself. If you are after a 35mm then I would suggest you look for a 35/3.5, they tend to be pretty cheap and are excellent - the only draw backs are the lack of A setting and the relative slowness of the lens.


ZX5Lx@aol.com - David. . . If AF wasn't a concern, then I would put Pentax's 35mm f2.0 in this group of excellent lenses [ FA's 50 1.4 and 28 2.8], with the provision that the 35mm f2.0 is soft at f2.0 but other than that is an excellent performing lens. 


Ron Bhanukitsiri - I have the 35mm f/2 M lens . . .and I love it. . . . I really didn't like it on the AF body: too slow to focus, no aperture information in the finder. . .However, the 35mm f/2 is my most often used lens on my MX and it's a pleasure to use, easy to focus, a very fine lens indeed. . . The lens is sharp and very contrasty. I'll never part with the lens as long as I have a manual focus body to go with it.

- - - - - -

John Vanderaalst - I think the Pentax SMC M 2/35 is quite good at full opening. It seems that *every* wide angle lens of F2.0 or more has some minor problems at full opening, even lenses from Leitz. . . .

- - - - - -

Bibi Kwa (From the Web) - My favourite lens. Very sharp, virtually no distortion and nice bokeh. Beautiful color rendition.


rharris2@pipeline.com - I have a 35 f2 "A" lens, which I think is optically the same as the "M" with additional contacts added for camera interface. It is one of two MF lenses I kept when I shifted to AF . . ., and I still will carry the 35 when I want to go with only one fast lens, . . . I love it.

- - - - - -

Bill Robb - I use the Pentax 35mm f2 A. and have been very happy. Even have one Kodachrome I shot directly into the sun, and no flare is evident.


>How's the manual-focusing capability of t35 mm f/2.0 FA? Is it easy to grip, hold, and turn?

Doug Brewer - It doesn't compare very well with a good manual focus lens, but it's pretty good for an AF lens. The focus ring is about twice as wide as that on my FA50/1.7. . . With the hood on it, it's easy for the fingers to "know" where to grab for the ring; it's just behind the hood. Hood off, it's no problem either. I can rest the winder in the palm of my left hand, put the tip of my left middle finger on the aperture ring, my left index finger on the focus ring, and my left thumb can swing back and forth between the two rings. Your reach may vary. The damping is much better than that on the FA50/1.7. It has a slight whirring sound that may be similar to what Fred complained about on the 43/1.9 . . . but I had to hold it pretty close to my ear to hear it.

Conclusion: It ain't an old brass and glass lens, but manually focusing it probably won't cause hives.

Doug Brewer (again, later) - . . .thought I'd let y'all know my first feelings about it. . .

Build: It's light for its speed, maybe a touch heavier than the FA50/1.7. It's not a Takumar, but on the other hand, I bet a Tak would be a bitch to autofocus. [Later confession: I was being a bit goofy about AF on a Tak. All that brass and glass might take a heavy-duty motor to turn them. . .] I like the tulip hood, with the door in it like the 20-35/4 has for adjusting filters, though, again, I predict a whole machine at the factory producing nothing but replacement doors.

Design: The manual focus ring is wider than many of the previous FA lenses I've handled. It's roughly twice as wide as that on the FA50/1.7, and it's better damped. The MF is smooth and sure, with a high confidence factor.

But looking through it is where it shines. This lens seems to pop into focus. I ran it mostly on an LX with an FK-60 "Golden Section" screen, and man, the contrast and details just jump out at me when I focus. It gives an incredible dimensionality to the subject I've not seen in many lenses in this price range.

- - - - - -

Yoshihiko Takinami - FA35/2AL is superior to K35/3.5 in point of correction, color saturation, and uniformity of image all over the frame. They are the two best 35mm (focal length) lenses Pentax ever made, IMO.

- - - - - -

Gerhard Fischer - . . . I have the new SMC FA 35/2. in my opinion, it is a superb lens. I photographed winter-forest. From the lightened parts to the dark trees and the snow-ground the slides I saw gave brilliant, sharp and contrasty results. I also photographed an old man (alzheimer-patient) for a newspaper-report. I am impressed by the detailed pictures. It is really a wonderfull optic. Unfortunately, I yet lost the little, reversable element of the lens hood that allowes filter-use. It is not verry well fixed and during a outdoor-trip I lost it in the snow. So pay attention, if you do the same. If lens hood is used, the manual focus ring is not easily to reach, not even for my small fingers.

You also have to hold the lens exactly horizontal during close photography to avoid non-horizontal, falling lines.

The 35/2 will be my standard lens. . .

- - - - - -

Ralf - As I have told a while ago, I have been looking for a standard (prime) lens for a long time now. Over the years I had bought and sold several 50mm F and FA lenses because of getting bored with them (what a problem... :-)). Now I got the 35mm, and I think this is it. The lens is great in any respect. Even though it's the typical FA plastic construction, the precision of fit and design of the lens is better than the older 28 and 50mm FA lenses. It's simply more intelligent made. The focussing ring is broader, a hood mount is included, the lens comes with matching bag and hood, automatic focussing and manual focus feel is very good. It is fast enough to be used indoors without flash (f2.0 plus 35mm-> 1/30s shutter speeds), and the focal length is truely universal. Generations of viewfinder cameras had a 40 or 35mm lens as the standard solution, and there is a reason for this. The viewfinder image is clear and contrasty, I have no doubts that this lens is sharp and an excellent performer. I'm very satisfied.

- - - - - -

Doug Brewer - . . . It . . . feels comfortable with my PZ-1p (with grip strap attached) and my LX (with winder attached) to give a nice balanced feel. Performance has been excellent in field use. . . . So far it has lived up to expectations admirably.

Whether it should be purchased instead of an FA50/1.7 is a personal choice . . . but it is certainly a consideration. I also own the FA50/1.7 and see the 35 as a complementary length rather than a replacement, simply because I can't imagine photography without a 50mm lens. The 35 is certainly an admirable lens that rivals the 50 for sharpness and contrast.

- - - - - -

Your descriptions of FA 35 f2.0 making me lust for that lens. Please let us know how the pictures come out.. . .

Stephan Schwartz - I have bought the FA 2/35mm AL at the end of december 1999 in Wolfenbüttel Germany for 649,00 DM. I took it with my MZ5-N at a short journey to Cologne at new-years eve. I used a Agfachrome 200 precisa. I made pictures in churches and outdoor pictures by rainy weather, so often I must use open or near open aperture (2.0 to 3.5). My first developed slides from this journey are very sharp and have very good brilliance. The lens seems for me better than my FA 1.4/50. I will take it as a standard lens, because it's angle is wider as from a 50mm and not so big as from a 28mm and it's very compact, light and the hood is encluded. Unfortunately it's made of plastic like the FA 1.4/50 or the FA 2.8/50, but it has not the ugly plastic feeling like the earlier power zooms FA 3.5-4.5/28-80 or the FA 4.5-5.6/70-200. My first impression and experience: The FA 2/35mm AL is a mechanically a good and optically a phantastic lens.

- - - - - -

Gerald Cermak - It has a cool looking tulip hood. The pictures are fabulous. You will like it.

- - - - - -

Arnold Stark - I had this lens for a while. Optically it is great. Sharp, nice bokeh, little or no distortion, few flare problems (the hood does not really improve anything). However, the barrel is made of plastic, much like the FA50/f1.4 or FA28/f2.8, and this is something that I do not like. I much prefer the FA43/f1.9.

- - - - - -

Len Paris - I don't think there's another K-Mount lens in this focal length that performs nearly as well. It's a wonderful lens.


G.T.Addison - . . .like most SMC pentax primes, very good in every way.

- - - - - -

Jostein Øksne (From the Web) - Sharp, neat, and I like it. The lens likes to be cool, though...The lens has no vignetting, is resonably sharp at full opening, and razor sharp from f/5.6. Sharpness does not deteriorate at f/22. It is marked as having optimal performance at f/8, but the results at f/11 are indistiguishable from f/8 even at extreme magnification (I haven't compared any other apertures).

There is one negative thing to say too. Because of its construction, the lubricant can "leak"onto the aperture [blades] if exposed to heat (probably >30 celsius). This makes the [blades] sticky...


Pål - I'm not very happy with this lens. I don't think its razor sharp at any aperture and is soft wide open.


John Vanderaalst - The K3.5/35 is probably one of the cheapest in the K-series, and also one of the best. I have the K3.5/35 as well as the M 2/35 and to tell you the truth, I like the K3.5 better...sharp, contrasty, insensitive to back-light. The contrast of the K3.5 is that good that focussing is, despite its limited aperture, quite easy.

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Yoshihiko Takinami - I have/had K35/2, K35/3.5, M35/2, M35/2.8 and FA35/2AL. Go for K35/2 if you do need the extra speed. Go for K35/3.5 if you do need fine prints. I prefer K35/3.5 to K35/2 in point of center resolution/sharpness and better correction of aberrations.

Yoshihiko Takinami (again) - very little light-fall-off even at wide open, amazingly sharp, good color rendition, great color saturation, scarce distortion, natural bokeh, great resolution

Yoshihiko Takinami (again) - . . . one of the best Pentax lenses. . . Its color rendition and 3-dimensionality are really great. FA35/2AL is superior to K35/3.5 in point of correction, color saturation, and uniformity of image all over the frame. They are the two best 35mm (focal length) lenses Pentax ever made, IMO.

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David Collett - If you get a chance buy a 35/3.5, IMO it is the best "cheap" 35mm second hand lens you can buy. It has good contrast and is very sharp between f5.6 and f11. This may push the price up then perhaps I can sell mine for an inflated price and buy a[new] FA35/2 :-)

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Timo Hartikainen - a really great lens! . . . I'm very pleased. The image quality is really good, even at f3.5. .

David Mann - . . .Its small, light and really sharp.


Normal Prime Lenses
(SMC K-Mount)

Christophe Birkeland. . . But the 40mm, while very handy since it's so small, does not qualify as superb or even very good optically IMO. My experience is that flare is a problem, and also the simple fact that it is just a f2.8 makes it not such a jewel after all. Oh, and the focus ring is so tiny that it's hard to get used to. . . .

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Samuel Tam - light weight, sharp, great for travel

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Mark Cassino [two comments merged] - . . . Well, it is an OK lens, about on par with the ~$25 M 50 mm f2. It's a little more than 1 cm smaller (no big deal, frankly) and the focus ring and aperture ring are annoyingly small to work with. the focal length is quite nice though. IMHO -- not worth it. While I like the perspective of 40mm, the other attributes of the lens undercut it's value. But, when coupled with an ME Super, you have an SLR not much bigger than most point & shoot cameras. However, if you don't care about the size, get a good 50mm and forget the pancake.

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Barry Brevik - It is a superb lens, but after using it for 15 years, I don't feel it quite lives up to it's reputation.

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Fred - I have had the chances over time to test five of these critters, for high-contrast resolution only (USAF lens targets), and found that the 40/2.8 is indeed not spectacular (despite some glowing claims I have read previously), but is certainly quite decent. Most notable result from the testing was that the sample-to-sample variation with the 40/2.8 was markedly less than in any other bunch of "identical" lenses tested.

Star tests show nearly-pinpoint star images at f/2.8, even near the edge of the FOV, and the images do become pinpoints at f/4.

Vignetting is fairly low at f/2.8 and absent at f/4. Flare rejection is pretty good. Distortion is not noticeable. Subjectively, I find the bokeh with this lens to be somewhat harsh.

> it's fairly slow at f2.8,

Yes. Definitely not much of a dim-light lens. (But, as a "snapshot lens", I'll bet that most 40/2.8's are used at f/8 and f/11 in bright light much of the time, anyway.)

> the angle of view is nice, but not much different than a 50mm,

...and even closer to the 43/1.9 - <g>.

> and the narrow focusing ring is a pain to use.

Perhaps, but I find the lack of a non-rotating surface on the pancake, which makes mounting and dismounting just a bit more difficult than in other lenses, a bigger pain. However, these pains (focusing and mounting/dismounting) have to be accepted as a necessity with a pancake-style lens, I guess.

> But, when coupled with an ME Super, you have an SLR not much bigger
> than most point & shoot cameras.

I personally think that the A 50/2 would be a good "not-quite-so-small-but-otherwise-quite-adequate-and-a-helluva-lot-cheaper-besides" replacement.

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Peter Spiro - I notice several people claiming that this lens is a poor performer. Perhaps, relative to its price, if you don't consider its size, weight, and wider angle compared to a 50mm lens as advantages.

The magazine tests that were published when it came out, and more recent tests by PDML members, indicate that it is in fact quite a decent lens by most standards, although not quite as sharp as the standard 50mm lens. . . All in all, it's quite a good lens, with a very useful focal length for travel photography. It's angle of view is 21% wider than for a 50mm. I use it a lot on my MZ-M. The whole package fits neatly in a coat pocket without much of a bulge, and weighs slightly less than one pound.

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Fred - responding to the following question:

> Which is better (optically), the 40mm pancake or the 50mm f1.2?

Well, first, the K and A 50/1.2's are ~much~ better than is the 40/2.8 at all apertures wider than f/2.8 - <g>. For resolution, the 40/2.8 does not seem much different from the 50/1.2's at apertures such as f/2.8, and f/4. However, while the resolution of the 40/2.8 is (rather uncommonly) fairly constant at most apertures (and, therefore, does not keep rising very much at smaller apertures), the resolution of the 50/1.2's keeps rising through the mid-apertures, so that the 50/1.2's have a better overall resolution.

I have found the bokeh of the 40/2.8 to be a little harsh, while the bokeh of the 50/1.2's seems a lot smoother.


Fred - . . . if you want an ~AF~ lens with a slightly wider perspective than a 50mm lens, that is superb at mid-apertures (unless you're shooting something with straight lines near the edge of the frame), you just might find the 43/1.9 to be a good addition to your camera bag. . . . for some situations it's a great lens - but I just did not enjoy . . . its mechanical "whirring" while manual focusing . . .

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tv - I use mine *in place of* a 50mm. In some situations I might get the 50/1.4 out, but in reality I haven't touched it since I bought my 43 . . . if I can take a shot with the 43 I will. It's superb. Lately I've been carrying around the 20-35/4, 43 amd 85.

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Pål - I find that the 43mm can replace both a 50mm and a 35mm giving me one less lens to carry. It isn't that sharp wide open, but what Pentax lens in this focal length range is?

[later comment from Pål ]. . . I've spent the day organizing my slides from the last two years field work. (I'm a volcanologist working on processes and products from subaquous eruptions - more specifically subglacial eruptions. Most of my slides are therefore of various volcanic rocks and sediments). Last years shots was made with the A 35/2.8 while this years shots were made with the 43mm Limited lens. The quality difference between last years shots and this years are nothing short of astonishing.

The A 35/2.8 may not be the worlds best lens but its hardly a dog but the difference is huge. You do not need a loupe to see this; its totally obvious. The Limited lens resolution, contrast and three dimensionality has to be seen to be believed. It reaches this astonishing quality at mid apertures. Its not particularly good wide open but from F:4 to F:11 the lens is certainly among the best ever made. No wonder Amateur Photographer magazine use it as their new refernce. Its hard to admit but the sharpness of this lens really make Pentax 35mm system dangerously close to the quality obtainable with the 645 system. The medium format still has the edge regarding tonality and gradation but in pure sharpness the 43mm is very close. With more Limited lenses and a matching camera pentax is really up there with best quality 35mm can offer.

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Roger Stockton - I use and think very highly of my FA43/1.9; it sharpness is at least the equal of the best results from my 50mm primes, and its color and contrast are the best of any of my Pentax lenses. But, I don't own an AF body, so I can't comment on its AF speed, etc. (though I would expect a physically small, largish-aperture lens such as this to focus quite rapidly).

I would not hesitate to use it in place of any other "normal" prime, but I'm not sure it would be the best choice for "documentary-style travel and family pictures". "Documentary-style" for me brings to mind situations better served by a fast prime in the 24-28mm range, where smaller apertures and greater DOF (plus lower "safe" handholdable shutter speeds) allow capturing the subject and their enviroment more rapidly. While I realize your 28-70/4 does reach this range, it is not particularly fast, and is known to be weak at the short/wide end (besides, I can't imagine using a zoom in place of a small prime for this sort of thing). Good things have been said of the FA28/2.8AL here, so while I don't own one myself, I suggest it for possible consideration. The 24mm length is also supposed to be a Pentax strong point...

Of course, a 28 or 24 will be a bit on the wide side for conventional family pictures while the 43 is actually quite suitable for full-length portrait/small group family pictures. Perhaps the 43 would be a better choice after all (better still might be the 24/43/85 trio of fast primes).

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Pål - This is a terrific lens. Its razor sharp at F:8. Its not very sharp wide open where it also suffers from some light fall-off at the corners. Its sharp from F:2.8, very sharp at F:4 and razor sharp at F:8. Its start to soften up at F:11 (not much!). The lens has some different qualities thats hard to describe. Pictures have a more three dimesional feel than usual. However, I heard about people not happy with this lens. The arguments goes as follows: at the price you should expect better performance wide open. And, at mid apertures, all lenses are sharp in this focal lenght range. To each his own.

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George Stanley - I have been using both the 43mm and 77mm Limited lenses for more than a year. I have been fully delighted with the performance of both lenses, but have not done any formal testing with either lens. I regard both lenses as "Swell" optics--to use an ancient word. . . .

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David A. Mann - This lens is small, I find it almost too short for comfortable manual focussing. My long fingers naturally rest on the lens hood so I have to bend them back a little to focus. The field of view is good, slightly wider than 50mm (as you might expect:). . . It is also incredibly light. . . .This lens would suit an M- or MZ-/ZX- series body pretty well for a really nice, lightweight combo. . . . The manual focussing feel is really nice. I don't mind the whirring of the gears and I definitely like the knurled metal focussing ring (which I would have preferred to be a little longer). I don't think there's any plastic in this lens - it's just metal and glass, all that a lens should be :) I am surprised that there is no lens-mount index like every other Pentax lens has. . . The AF (on a Z-1p) is pretty fast but not as fast as I expected it to be. . . . . This lens just looks too weird on the Z-1p but it suits my chrome K2 pretty well. . . Adding filters makes it look even stranger (my filters have black rims). Then again, as far as I'm concerned, the view from behind the camera is more important :)

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Ed Mathews - Why buy the 43 over a 50?

1. It looks cool on a ZX series box.

2. Slightly more DOF.

3. Includes just a tad more of the scene.

4. It's a real good performer at mid apertures at any distance, and even better at almost all apertures at close distances.

5. It has nice bokeh (excluding actual light source renderings, which are sometimes donut shaped or round).

6. It has good MF feel (but talk to Fred about the mechanical noise which doesn't bother me). :)

7. It's really small and light, and very well built. Kind of sexy, huh?

8. It automatically enters you into the exclusive and elite "Pentax Snob" club.

9. It's not a "me too" lens.

10. It's a great conversation piece?

So, is it worth all the extra money? No way. But if anything above is important to you, then I feel sorry for you, because you'll never be happy until you get it. And by the way, those of us that own one have all made a secret deal to continue to justify it's cost by constantly reminding the list that it's special, so be prepared.

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Fred again - . . . The FA 43/1.9 Limited lens is extremely well built and finished. Its flare control seems superb, as does its contrast. Its resolution is not spectacular wide open, but is very high after stopping down just a bit. Its manual focusing action is just a bit "busy" for my tastes (though R2D2 would probably like it). Not counting its silver or chrome color (which I still can't get used to, though I guess I've now stopped trying), its major drawback is its slight barrel distortion, at least in my own humble opinion.

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George Stanley - I own this lens, and have given it limited usage during the past 8 months. I agree with most of the comments from other list members here. Yes, wide open it is not as sharp as the SMC Pentax-FA 50mm f/1.4, at f/2. This is disappointing. Flare is well-controlled. At f/5.6 and smaller, the 43mm F1.9 is very sharp. This is purely subjective-- but I like the feel and handling of this lens. I enjoy using it!

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Bruce Dayton - The build quality is quite awesome and the focus is very smooth. It felt good on both my MX and PZ-1p. I have to agree . . . that it looks odd on the all black PZ-1p. . . I know that Fred had mentioned the slight whirring sound when manually focusing. It is there, but doesn't bother me.

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Fed yet again - . . . Actually, I should have pointed out that it was not actually the whirring ~sound~, but the whirring ~feel~, that bothered me while focusing. I actually had a chance to try two 43/1.9's, and they were identical in this regard. And, I should point out that the subjective effect seemed less so to me than in the AF 37-70/2.8 and F 50/2.8 Macro lenses. Still, I much prefer the clutch arrangement of the FA* 85/1.4, which allows ~smooth~ manual focusing (even if the feel is a bit "light").

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Pål - I have not compared the Limited with any of the 50mm. However, the 50mm lenses are among the best out there and nothing compares to them regarding optical quality for the money. However, the 43 Limited have some superb qualities apart from built and finish; its excellent bokeh that gives subject a three dimentional look that provides depth to the photos hardly avaiable from other lenses. So you really have to decide what you want from a lens; value for money or that particular Limited look. Also, 43mm gives a quite different perspective than a 50mm and in my opinion is far more versatile.

 

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Yoshihiko Takinami - I have/had experiences with almost all types of 40-55 mm lenses Pentax ever made.

I cannot say that FA43/1.9 Limited is better in point of optical quality than FA50/1.4 or A50/1.7; yes, I like these two lenses best in Pentax 50 mm lenses. It has very large coma wings wide open, and also has some distortion larger than expected as a modern normal lens. But still it creates exceptional image qualities as Paal wrote. I would recommend FA50/1.4 in point of optical quality and would recommend FA43/1.9 Limited in point of image quality. I would go for FA43/1.9 Limited if I had to choose one.

Mike Johnston - My take is:

1. That the 7mm difference in focal length is much more significant than one might think; 43mm is "dead normal" and seems much more relaxed and inclusive than a 50mm. The 50mm can be a slight challenge for some subjects because it's just a wee bit telephoto. 40mm is my personal favorite focal length, with 35mm a close second and 50mm third. 40 to 43 is a "same difference" kind of thing; 43 to 50 is not.

2. The mechanical M 50/1.4's from the S.-M.-C.-Takumar to the M lens are all wonderfully built, wonderfully balanced, and beautiful handling. (The A and FA lenses, while fine performers, don't give the same sense of quality or pleasure.) However, the 43mm is one of the nicest AF lenses ever made: great size, drop-dead looks, and a very pleasing metal hood and hood cap standard. The S.-M.-C.-Takumar is still the paragon of all manual-focusing lenses for me, but the 43mm is wonderful for an AF lens.

3. If cost is a factor, the 50/1.7's are great, generally underrated lenses, and quite cheap, especially used. The 43mm is pricey for a normal lens. (Of course, my personal motto for years has been "You can never spend too much on your lenses." In general I think it's more usual for cameramakers to suck value OUT of lenses than it is for them to put extra value IN, so any tendency towards the latter--of which the 43mm is certainly a good example--ought to be encouraged.)

4. I think the 43mm is plenty fast enough, although I do quite often use my 50/1.4-M wide open because I think it gives very pleasing results.

5. For me the "look" of the 43mm is better suited to color film, and better suited to slower, higher-resolution color films than coarser, faster ones. The SMC 50/1.4's in particular look spectacular with black-and-white, _especially_ with faster, coarser films. There is hardly a better lens for Tri-X. This is just my personal aesthetic judgment.

Imagine a 43mm on an MZ-S, rounded out by the 77. What a fantastic combo.


Valentin - Unlike some other companies, Pentax uses the same high quality standards for both the FA 50/1.4 and FA 50/1.7 lens. Any of them is a good one. . .

The most important differences you will notice between the two FA will be: 1) the brighter viewfinder image that the 1.4 produces - especially important if most of your photography happens in dim light 2) the shape of the out-of-focus highlights - hexagons for the 1.7 and octogons for the 1.4

If most of your photos are done at infinity/long distance (landscapes, citscapes, etc.), than the 1.7 is an excellent choice. If you like close-ups, with blurred backgrounds that you want smooth and nice, and are frequently doing photo in dim light, the 1.4 would justify its extra cost.

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Fred - In my own resolution tests (<http://www.cetussoft.com/pentax/resolutn.htm>) of three A 50/1.4's, five M 50/1.4's, two A 50/1.7's, and three M 50/1.7's, I found that, in the case of the M versions, the f/1.7 lenses were slightly sharper at wide apertures, but they were virtually the same at all other apertures. However, with the A versions, the reverse turned out to be true - the f/1.4 lenses were slightly sharper wide open, but they were about the same at all other apertures. In these tests, the A lenses showed themselves to be a little sharper than the M lenses, but the difference from M to A was larger between the M and A 50/1.4 lenses than it was between the M and A 1.7's.

While the Pentax 50/1.7 lenses (M, A, F, and FA) all appear to be essentially optically identical to each other (small coatings differences notwithstanding), it appears that the longer series of 50/1.4 lenses does not show quite the same uniformity. While the Super Takumar, Super-Multi-Coated Takumar, SMC Takumar, SMC Pentax ("K"), SMC Pentax-M, SMC Pentax-A, SMC Pentax-F, and SMC Pentax-FA 50/1.4 lenses all have about the same configuration 6 groups of 7 elements (with visually indistinguishable lens diagrams) (ignoring coatings differences over time), Yoshihiko has pointed out previously that the 50/1.4 design underwent a little bit of "tweaking" at the time the A 50/1.4 was being developed. Therefore, there is a slight difference between the M-and-older 50/1.4 and the A-and-newer 50/1.4 lenses, and the higher cost of the newer 50/1.4 lenses does reward with slightly higher resolution as well as a half-stop of higher speed.

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Mike Johnston - I have owned or used the Carl Zeiss Contax 50/1.4, the AF-Nikkor 50/1.4, the Canon EF 50/1.4, the Leica R 50/1.4 (the old one with the 55mm filter thread), a Yashica 50/1.4, The Leica M 50/1.4, and the Voigtlaender Nokton 50/1.5. For all-around image quality in real pictures, the Pentax 50/1.4 is my favorite of them all. The FA 50/1.7 (which I have used) is a very good lens. But the FA 50/1.4 is a great lens.

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> . . . K 50/1.2 vs. the A 50/1.2?

Yoshihiko Takinami - Basically K50/1.2 and A50/1.2 have the same optical design. The only difference is the number of aperture blades; K50/1.2 has eight blades and A50/1.2 has nine blades.

> I suppose A50/1.2 might have better or more advanced coating?

I once have both K50/1.2 and A50/1.2 and tried to compeare the two. I thought differences in the image qualities were so small that I scarcely pointed out which photo was taken by which lens.

The one apparent difference was the description of bright [highlight] in the background. [from a later message . . .] The difference between A50/1.2 and K50/1.2 is the number of aperture blades; A50/1.2 has 9 blades and K50/1.2 has 8 blades. I prefer A50/1.2 to K50/1.2 because the [highlights] in the back-ground is rendered more natural with A50/1.2 than with K50/1.2.

You can see the resolution test results of the two lenses in my web site at <http://www.takinami.com/yoshihiko/photo/>.

They both are very soft wide open because of flare, IMO. I keep A50/1.2 because its image qualities at f/8 or closer are very excellent and very different from those of 50/1.4 or 50/1.7 lenses. I mean I will hardly use A50/1.4 lens wider than f/5.6.

I prefer 50/1.4 or 50/1.7 lens to A50/1.2 when I use one at f/2 or even at f/4.

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> . . . M vs. A?

Yoshihiko - "A" is not optically identical to "M".

The optical design of Pentax 50/1.4 lens was slightly changed mainly for better resolution in corners, I heard, when A50/1.4 was introduced. That means there are two different optics in Pentax 50/1.4 lenses; one is "K" and "M", the other is "A", "F" and "FA". My own experiences support it. My lens resolution test result also seems to prove it . . .

I would prefer "A" to "M" based on my own experiences of the two 50/1.4 optics. Just my opinion.

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Fred - Comparing the M's (and K's) versus the A's, amongst the 50mm lenses:

1. The 2 K f/1.2's were essentially the same as the 1 A f/1.2.
2. The 3 A f/1.4's were distinctly sharper than the 5 M f/1.4's.
3. The 2 A f/1.7's were slightly sharper than the 3 M f/1.7's.
4. The 2 A f/2's were slightly sharper than the 5 M f/2's.

From the data, it seems the biggest difference (improvement), from M (or K) to A, occurred in the 50/1.4's. (. . . Yoshihiko . . . explained previously that Pentax "tweaked" the optics of the 50/1.4 when designing the A version, which would suggest that the A, F, and FA versions should be slightly improved over the M, K, SMC Tak, S-M-C Tak, and S Tak [Model II] versions.)

However, while I've sold off most of these test lenses by now, I've still kept an M 50/1.4 (as well as an A 50/1.4), because using the M lens is simply such a pleasure. "They don't make 'em like this anymore" surely applies to the SMC Pentax-M 50/1.4 lens. The A 50/1.4 is a nice enough lens to use, but the M 50/1.4 is a ~really~ nice lens to use. If I were you, I'd hang onto that M 50/1.4 you already have, even if you do stumble into a good deal on an A 50/1.4.

As for the heavy, bulky 50/1.2 models (both K and A), they tested very much the same as the 50/1.7's overall (which is to say that the 50/1.2's are sharper than some have suggested, in my opinion, because the 50/1.7's are pretty good lenses, with a good reputation). I did keep one K 50/1.2 (to go with my black K2, to be used only occasionally when the K2 is out for "exercise"), and I did keep the A 50/1.2 (strictly as a dedicated dim-light lens, for occasions that call for it). However, the normal lens I take most places with me is either the M or the A 50/1.4.

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> . . . 1.4 vs. 1.7?

Fred - [Based on my tests,] the three A 50/1.4's were sharper than the two A 50/1.7's at most apertures, while the five M 50/1.4's were just slightly sharper than the three M 50/1.7's.

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Greg E. - In March 99 our own Thomas N. Vanveen quoted this from the Auto Extension Tube K manual:

"Lenses not included in the close-up tables are not appropriate for close-up work with extension rings. The 50mm f/1.2 and 50mm f/1.4 lenses are not suitable for close-ups of flat subjects such as documents, but can be used for regular close-ups in which the area of the subject does not reach out to the edges of the picture format."

From this it appears that Pentax is warning you that the 50mm 1.2 and 1.4 lenses don't have as flat a fieldas the f1.7 lenses (f2 lens not mentioned).

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Yoshihiko - Go for FA50/1.7, if you look after visual sharpness even at wide open. Go for FA50/1.4, if you look after rich tonal color rendition.


Houston, Jerry - Sep 1997. . . I had [a 50mm f/1.2] many years ago. . . In recent years, as I've re-acquired Pentax gear, I've never been remotely tempted to buy another f/1.2. You'd have to really need the additional low-light capability to justify owning one. . . Unlike the relatively painless step from 1.7 to 1.4, the step up to 1.2 does mean lower optical quality, much higher cost (partly due to rarity), and much greater size and weight.

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John Mustarde - At f1.2, it is "not very good" in terms of the sharpness we like to see at f8. ..at f8 with the SMCP 50/1.2 it's a "very good" lens. . . would never actually buy the SMCP-50/f1.2. . . too expensive. . . the 50/1.2 is not a very good choice, and the 50/1.4 or 50/1.7 are equally good choices. . .

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William Robb - . . . My 50mm 1.2 is truly vile wide open, but down less than a half stop is already tightening up, and at f 2.8 is very good indeed.

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Gerald Cermak - I've used my K50/1.2 often, and like it. . . . It's true the K50/1.2 is a little soft wide open, but even with 1600 speed film, I've shot handheld in light that only offered 1/30s shutter speed. A 1.4 wouldn't have allowed the shot handheld. At f/8 and f/11, the K50/1.2 is truly very sharp, probably sharper than the 50/1.4s. Is it worth the extra money? It depends on what you pay for it. My used K50/1.2 was only slightly more than a new FA50/1.4. And the K50/1.2 also matches well with my LX. :)

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Alexander Krohe - I traded my old K-series 50mm/1.4 lens against an A50/1.2 and I have never regretted that. When stopped down, compared to the K50/1.4, I find images taken with the A50/1.2 sharper and much better defined. I found the K-lens was soft until f8 (at least my sample was).

At maximum aperture, the major problem of the 50/1.2 lens are, apart from low contrast, coma wings around light sources. This seems to be typical for all such fast standard lenses . . . So this lens is not suited (wide open) for sky photography, fire works and such kind of photography, where light sources form a main subject of the image. However wide open, the A50/1.2 is able to deliver nice results when used for high contrasty scenes such as night street scenes. The build quality is superb.

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William Robb - I love my 50mm 1.2. It sure is soft wide open, but most leses are. Down two stops and its real nice. I didn't buy a 1.2 for it's open aperture performance. I bought it because it is easy to focus in dim chrches and dark auditoriums during wedding dinners and dances. I don't think I ever actually use it wider open than 5.6, where it is more than adequate for my anal retentive eye, Truth be to tell, I don't like any lens . . . wider open than f 5.6.

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Daphne - yielded astounding pics in all weather, WAAAAY better than my 50/1.4-K and in spite of some dust inside which almost made me return the lens untried . . .


Pål - Pentax made SMC Pentax 50/1.2 and SMC Pentax-A 50/1.2 lenses (I guess they are of the same optical design). The A-lens is not particularly good unless stopped down to about f:8. It's particularly bad wide open (useless if you ask me). However, the lens is absolutely beautifully built and gives an extremely bright viewfinder and is a joy to focus with. . .

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Yoshihiko Takinami - . . . A50/1.2 is an excellent performaer at f/8-11 with very high resolution and very good visual sharpness. Its visual sharpness at f/8-11 seems comparable to K55/1.8, or K55/2, at the same apertures in my own experiences.

Fred - I agree, Yoshihiko, but all of the A 50mm lenses seem to do very well at f/8-f/11 (and, in fact, this is where most lenses, of any variety, tend to do best). My testing (both for resolution figures as well as for "normal" photos) with the A 50/1.2 shows that it is a good lens at such apertures, but not better than its less expensive siblings (and not as good as the A 50/1.4).

The A and K 50/1.2's really are nice to use for their focusing ease, and in dim light they may be the only lenses that can do the job at all, . . .

- - - - - -

Lu San-Hwan (from the Web) - the lens feels very nice and it is an item worth having, and it actually is not very heavy nor large. Downsides: the aperture is not that different from an 1,4, neither in regard of lowlight use nor in regard of DOF; also there is noticeable pincushion distortion
 
 


Mark Roberts - . . . it's a beauty. Great optically of course, but the heft and "feel" of the thing is just unsurpassed. . .

[and in a later thread . . .] It is a *great* lens optically, and what's more, it's mechanical construction is simply magnificent. Manual focus at its finest.


Aaron - I have a 50mm f1.4 M, and I love it. It performs fabulously in flare-y conditions. It is very very very solid. I've never had reason to complain about the sharpness, and I usually shoot with it at 1.4. I have a nice 16x20 from it on the wall of the store if you find yourself in Oakville. :)

- - - - - -

[Editor's note: This is a site for other people's opinions, and I have tried to avoid putting too much of my own opinions into the comments or the way I have edited/presented the comments. However, I cannot let this fine lens sit quietly here with only one favorable comment! This is the lens that everyone should buy as their first lens when they buy an older Pentax camera - i.e., one without Program and AutoFocus features. It's wide aperture will allow you to see what you are shooting, it's fine optics will yield a good undistorted image of what you shot. See Fred's comments in the general discussion of 50 mm lenses above, and go buy either this lens or the 50 mm f/1.4 A. Or both. . . smh]


Collin Brendemuehl - An excellent, general-purpose lens. Good flare control, easy to handle and use, easy to focus. Given that the price is a modest amount on top of the A50/1.7, it's a really good value as well.


Frantisek - . . .my SMC F 50/1.4 is optically superb. With slow low-grain film, It almost rivals a MF for quality. From 2.8 to 8, it is supersharp (only corners improving to f/8, where they are _as sharp_ as the center). At 1.4, 13x18cm or 20x25cm (8x10") are entirely possible, especially at f/2. At smaller apertures than 2, 30x45cm are entirely possible, and good larger enlargements too (although medium format has the edge from 30x45cm for my taste)

Of the several 50 primes I owned, this is the sharpest. And it picks up the sharpness very quickly upon stopping down even a bit. Although photodo rates the FA and F 50/1.4 differently (4.6 and 4.2), I simply don't believe them. The A,F,FA are same optically and any variations in sharpness are IMHO only from condition or batch variations. . .


mwebber@juno.com Aug 1997 . . ., both the 50 1.7 and 1.4 are great lenses from Pentax,. . . The 1.7 isn't even expensive. And if you are willing to buy used and go non-autofocus, the 1.7 gets even more reasonable. Stay with an "A" mount version, though, so you can use program and shutter preferred modes on your camera; the older (and even cheaper!) "M" mount lenses will only run in aperture preferred and manual mode (and on the latest MZ50 won't even do that).

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Houston, Jerry - [RE: f/1.4] It's an amazing lens, truly legendary. . . .

- - - - - -

PETERSON. . . a very good lense. . . . I use one on my PZ-1p fairly often.

- - - - - -

William Ashbless - We're talking a f0.3 increase in your aperture. It ain't gonna make any noticeable difference in shooting ease. As for quality, I find they're about the same and sometimes contrasty wide open. Mind you the rubber grip on mine has come unglued from the lens barrel, just spins on its own, but I doubt that's common.

- - - - - -

Christophe Birkeland - I agree that the 50/1.7 is a nice lens, and most 50mm are since it is the simplest lens design !. . .

- - - - - -

"Roberto Burgos S." - I have the FA50/1.4 and it is superb. SHARP SHARP SHARP lens. Front element does not rotate (uses 49mm filters). Fast focusing. . . .

- - - - - -

Arne Lie - The FA50/1.4 does not have inner-focus, but the front element does not rotate. Excellent performer, compact, good built. I can recommend.

- - - - - -

David M Anthony - Sep 1997 - Last week, I had an opportunity to try out an FA 50/1.4. . .. the focus ring was snug, yet smooth, and nicely, slightly lightly, damped. I liked it better in feel than my SMC-A 50/1.4, in fact. The main difference was that the FA had a thinner, smooth rubber focus ring. . ..

- - - - - -

Joachim Hein - . . . after doing research on this list and elsewhere, I got a new FA50/1.4 recently. I am completely taken by the results I get out of it. So far I took pictures of peoples and scenics. It is just amasing how theobjects stand out of the photograph. It looks 3-dimensional. Some of thepictures look like paintings. I like the way the lens handles contrast andcolour. The flare controll is excellent especially for such a fast lens.

The focus ring is very well damped when using it manually. Not quite likemy old MF lenses (Minolta MD), but very well done. The aperture ring has too strong dents for my liking, I would like it to run more smouthly, but that is a minor nigle to me, since the rest of this lens is very satisfying.

I use the lens with a MZ-5n. It gives a pretty tiny unit, almost a compact camera. The small and discrete size of the camera together with its large lens aperture opens new opportunities in ambient light shots. Compared to some hugh cameras around you can get back into why 35mm photography was invented in first place. . . .

The tiny flash of the MZ-5n becomes actually quite usefull with this lens, even when using ASA 100 film. In P mode it selects aperture 2.8 which gives a range of 4m, I doubt you want to use it for much longer distances because of the red-eye issue. This 4m distance corresponds to a field of view of 2.9m, which is a very reasonable value in my view. This large aperture has the advantage, that it integrates a lot of the ambient light. For sure you don't get too much depth of field.

Due to the high speed of the lens, you can use high quality 100 speed film handheld in overcast conditions and get good results. I have severe doubts even a 2.8 zoom delievers that. Anyway, the 2.8 zoom would destroy the compactness of the unit.

In my view a MZ-5n with the 50/1.4 gives you plenty of photographic opportunities in a small and compact package. I question why Pentax doesn't promote its possiblities more. I hold the money I spend for the lens to be well invested.


John Papandreou - M-1.7 50mm is one of the sharpest lenses Pentax made, . . .

- - - - -

Stanley Sun -Sep 1997 - I am planning to buy a fast standard lense for my ZX-5, because I frequently take photos on dim light situations and I seldom carry tripod. I have two candidates :

1) Pentax SMC FA 50mm/f1.4

2) Pentax SMC FA 50mm/f1.7

I have read the Practical Photography Test of Pentax SMC F 50mm/f1.7. And its performance is quite good. Does the FA 50mm/f1.7 have the same optical design? How about the FA 50mm/f1.4 ? Does it perform as well ? Or better? Or worse?. . .

- - - - - -

Dario Bonazza - According to MTF tests the F (and I bet the FA) 1.4/50mm is better than the 1.7/50mm at all diaphragms, not much better but better.

- - - - - -

Ling-N. Zou - A FA 50mm/1.4 costs between US$60-100 more than a FA 50mm/1.7 and almost twice as heavy. I don't think the incremental image improvement and extra 1/2 stop is worth it. . . .

- - - - - -

Jonathan N Winkler . . .Why are autofocus 50-mm f/1.4 lenses so much more expensive than the manual-focus Super and SMC Takumar equivalents? Is a lens design other than Tessar used, or does the bayonet mount require more glass. . . How much . . .does the autofocus mechanism add?. . . I'm used to buying used 50-mm f/1.4 lenses for no more than $30. . .

- - - - - -

topaz1@ix.netcom.com . . . In 1969 the Super-Takumar 50mm f1.4 lens was priced at $121.00 If you convert that to 1997 dollars, the price of a new AF model isn't that bad. . . .

- - - - - -

Dario Bonazza - I believe the main reason is production batch. Once upon a time all cameras were sold together with 50mm lenses, while today's SLR's have 28-70 or 35-80 zoom lenses, so that 50mm lenses are manufactured in very limited quantities, strange but true.

- - - - - -

John Mustarde - The SMCP 50/1.2 is, in fact, both "not very good" and "very good". Let me explain. At f1.2, it is "not very good" in terms of the sharpness we like to see at f8. But - if you need f1.2 it's the only way to go. With today's good ISO 800 print film, there is not much need for a lens as fast as f1.2.

If you shoot at f8 with the SMCP 50/1.2 it's a "very good" lens.

But - I would probably never actually buy the SMCP-50/f1.2. It's too expensive, and there are a lot of excellent Pentax 50mm f1.4 and f1.7 lenses available for a fraction of the cost. I own the SMCP-50/f1.2, but I got mine essentially free attached to a nice used K2 that I bought for $150 US.

As the owner of many Pentax 50mm lenses, I most often use the F 50/1.7 on AF bodies, and the SMCP-A 50/1.4 on MF bodies. These lenses are sharp, fast, and very affordable on the second hand market.

Normally, I choose the lens that is smallest in size if speed and optical quality are suitable for my purposes. . . relatively small lenses like the M 20/4, F 50/1.7, and F* 300/f4.5.

Beware of "speed lust". This is the mental event that I experienced when I all I could afford was the SMCP-A 50/f2 on a simple A3000. I looked at brochures with the beautiful Pentax lenses, and that compelling "f1.7" on the lens ring, and pined to own the SMCP-A 50/1.7. I wondered how I could ever justify the cost of it. I could not bear to even look at the SMCP-A 50/f1.4 - its astronomical price made it totally unthinkable for me at that time.

The bottom line is that the 50/1.2 is not a very good choice, and the 50/1.4 or 50/1.7 are equally good choices depending on your present and future needs. Eventually, you probably won't use the 50mm for much except snapshots, so don't worry too much about which one you buy.

- - - - - -

Yoshihiko Takinami - I agree with this opinion. But IMHO, I prefer Ricoh's Rikenon 55mm/F1.2 to any Pentax 50mm lenses. It's really a great lens, I think.

- - - - - -

Douglas J Stemke - I agree with most of what John says, but not his last statement. I sort of 'rediscovered' my 1.4, a SMC 1.4 Takumar I dislodged from my dead Spotmatic. I use the screw to K mount adaptor and use this as my lens of choice on my P30T or Super Program in museums that shake their head at tripods and flashes. Generally I don't like to use flash anyway as it disturbs not only others at the museum, but ruins the lighting they have used to present the museum's artwork.

And this old screw mount lens is sharp; my photots blown up to 14X11 (inches) handheld are really fantastic. . . .I've sold a fair amount of glass-lit artwork all with my old 50 mm 1.4. . . .

- - - - - -

Houston, Jerry. . . Other things being roughly equal, faster IS better. Since you already have the 50mm range covered with an f/4.0 zoom lens, I assume that if you go to the trouble to remove that lens, put it somewhere, and attach the 50mm prime lens it's because you need its sharpness, ease/speed of focusing, shallow depth-of-field, or its light gathering ability. All those things are enhanced in the f/1.4 lens over the f/1.7, so if spending the extra $50 doesn't constitute a big sacrifice . . . it's probably well worth it.

Those who want to defend their decision to buy the f/1.7 instead will remind you that there's only 1/2 f-stop difference, and that the f/1.4 is heavier as well as more expensive. The half stop, however, may make the difference between shadow detail or no shadow detail in a picture, or it could mean being able to shoot at [a faster shutter speed]. It definitely makes a dimly lit image pop in and out of focus easier. I really don't think that small difference in weight really matters, given all the advantages that you get in return. . .

- - - - - -

Martin Puranen (From the Web) - Sharpness, balance, usefulness - it´s all there!

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Michael Zirngibl (From the Web) - Fine lens. Good to start with, relatively cheap on the used market, sharp and focusing feels good.



Bill Cassleblad - I have the F50mm f1.7 & it is a very good lens as far as I can tell. easily as good as my 55mm Takuma lenses, if not better. Got it for $25 at a 2nd hand & am well satisfied w/ the expenditure.


Ralf Engelmann - Excellent lens optically, good mechanical construction too, but the small focus ring is a pain.



Ralf Engelmann - Compared to autofocus lenses, this affordable standard lens uses astonishing amounts of metal and has a good built quality. Optical performance is as good as the faster 50mm lenses.

- - - - - -

Roger Stockton - the best bang-for-the-buck K-mount normal lens . . . sharp, contrasty, and *dirt* cheap!

- - - - - -

Dan Johnson (from the Web auto-response form) - The 50mm f2.0 is as good a buy as one will ever find. It's tack sharp, well-made, and contrasty. It is very cheap, new, and a great buy as a used lens. Unless you really need a faster lens, this one is the one to buy. I used Nikon for years and this lens is as good as anything I ever used with that system.


Fred - . . . If speed is not a really important issue, I'd suggest looking into the 50/2.8 macros. I've found that the A 50/2.8 is quite sharp and rugged, as is the F 50/2.8 (I have no experience with the FA 50/2.8), and would be of course very versatile (macro to infinity), while being only a stop slower than the 50/2's, a stop and a half down from the 50/1.7's, etc.


Roberto Burgos S. - I have the FA50/2.8 macro and when using it a macro range, I always turn to manual focus and use the focus lock mechanism on the lens. Autofocus is simply not up to macro work, especially with moving subjects (insects, wind blown flowers, etc.) I also use it as a normal lens, always with autofocus.

Phil - I have both these lenses [FA50/2.8 Macro and FA 100/2.8 Macro] and use them a lot. I can't compare them to any other brand lenses because they are the only Macro lenses I've ever used but I can say (although a little expensive in comparison to some other macro's) I've never had a problem with either of mine. They have preformed flawlessly for about 2 years now. The FA 50/2.8 is really good for flat work and general photography in small rooms. The FA 100/2.8 is my all time favorite lens, I've used in not only for macro photography . . . So far as sharpness both are very sharp although I think the FA100 is a tad sharper. No scientific proof here just an observation. . .

smhalpin@concentric.net writes:
> . . .unless you really really need a 50mm macro, don't do it. For macro,
> buy the 100mm instead. The extra working distance is very helpful with
> "normal" subjects like flowers.

Fred points out that I was hasty in my judgment - Personally, I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss the ol' 50mm macro lens. As part of an upcoming "special" in the Lens gallery, I've been spending a lot of time with five macro lenses (the M 50/4, A 50/2.8, F 50/2.8, A 100/4, and A* 200/4). For something like flowers, at focus magnifications such as 1:2 or farther, there's a decent amount of working distance in front of the 50's.

It is true that, at 1:1 with the F 50/2.8, the lens does have to get pretty close to the subject (while the 200/4 could be still in the next county - <g>). However, remember that a lot of macro lenses are used at usually more modest magnification ratios, especially for a lot of casual hand-held flower shots, and the like.

On a recent late afternoon, I burned 3 rolls of film at a friend's house, taking photos of her fantastic flower gardens and of her brand-new kittens. The light was of a nice quality, but there was not a whole lot of it, and I found the A 50/2.8 macro lens to be very useful for all the (hand-held) shots. A 100/2.8 (which I didn't have in my arsenal, anyway) would have made hand-holding a bit more difficult, with its longer focal length (for greater danger of shaking and its reduced DOF). If I had used my 100/4, I would also have lost a stop in speed, making these two problems even more likely. If I had tried using the 200/4, hand-held under these conditions, I think I would have been ~very~ frustrated.

Now, admittedly, I was not trying for 1:1 magnification (but how often do most of us use a macro lens at that ratio, anyhow?), and I was not trying to get very close to bees, or aphids, either. But the A 50/2.8 lens made for easy framing and focusing for moderate close-ups of flowers and kittens, and I don't plan on getting rid of it, due to its ease of almost "casual" use for macro photos.

I think I'll probably end up keeping just the A 50/2.8 and the A* 200/4 macro lenses. The F 50/2.8 goes to 1:1 (while the A 50/2.8 only focuses to 1:2), but I don't care much for the look or feel of the F lens (though it's construction is actually pretty decent), and the M 50/4 loses a stop of speed to the 50/2.8's without appearing to be any sharper. The 100/4 is not a bad lens, but I think I'd want the speed of a 100/2.8 more, if I were to stick with 100mm for a macro focal length. The A* 200/4 is a ~really~ sharp lens (probably the sharpest lens, overall, that I've ever owned, macro or otherwise), but I wouldn't ordinarily plan on trying to use it for macro work without a tripod (although it is easily handheld in reasonably bright light when merely employed as a superb telephoto lens for "normal" telephoto subjects).

I do think that there's a definite, useful niche for the 50mm macro lens.

smhalpin@concentric.net writes:
> Thanks Fred. I bought one, and I like it. You were right as usual . . .

- - - - - -

Arnold Stark - Optically it is the best Pentax lens I own...

> What do you use it for?

Macro work of course, and sometimes also as a normal lens. If I can take only one lens with me, I often choose this lens...

> What do you like about it?

Optical quality. Compact size. Solid feel. . .The lens feels solid, as good as it can get with non-star FA lenses. The barrel seems to be a mixture of metal and polycarbonate. However, I had to bring the lens to Pentax once because of mechanical focusing problems. . .Weight and size are just right for a 50mm macro lens. AF is very fast. Manual focusing feel is good and smooth with tightened "clamp" screw, however, that screw will not stay permanently in the clamp "on" position. A switch or FA*-lens type focusing clutch would be much better. Best resolution of all my lenses (veryfied by my own formal resolution tests) Very good even wide open. Equally good at infinty and at 1:1. Very homogeneous from corner to corner.

> contrast, color?
Perfect
> distortion?
None
> bokeh?
Very smooth. Very little double image
> light fall-off, etc.?
Hardly noticable little light fall-off. One has to have the sun in the frame to be able to notice any flare. One of the very best Pentax lens coatings. I will never let go of mine! A 100 mm lens may be nice for its bigger working distance, but it is much larger, too. Might be a nice addition, though...


Barry M. Wilson Sep 1997 - I've used one for more than 20 years. I also have used the screw mount lens with the old spotmatic years before my present 50mm Macro. Both are good, sharp lens. . . one drawback is that you are very close to an object at 1:1. In flash situations you may be throwing shadows onto the scene. . . I have also used many of the brackets that are made for macro work and again, at close up you may have problems with shadows if you aren't careful. . . Pentax also made a 100mm macro lens . . . I used one for 5 years until it got stolen and I also highly recommend them.

- - - - - -

George Stanley - Optically, this lens is a real gem! I had one, and used it for many years as a normal-distance lens, not as a macro lens. The tiny glass lens is very deeply, deeply recessed inside this large focusing barrel. This makes it a perfect lens to use to minimize flare (late afternoon beach shots), and allows some shots that would be totally washed-out with most other lenses. The optics are also very, very sharp. This is a classic Tessar/type design, with 3-group, 4-element construction.

- - - - - -

Rodger Whitlock - It's a great lens. It was the first Pentax lens I ever bought . . . and I was thrilled to pieces a couple of years ago when I got a replacement for the original, which had died in a flood. . . It is a true macro lens with flat focus plane and optimized for close up work, but I had great success with it photographing all sorts of neat things. Ah, those were the days! . . .

- - - - - -

annsan - It is a great lens - sharp as a tack, easier to hold steady than the 100mm macro but to get real super close ups of little beasties they best not mind you being up close. I used to put that guy on one camera and my 28.mm on the other for quick access and just walk around with those two if I didn't want to lug more, with TX in one camera and PKR 64 in the other.

- - - - - -

Jaros"aw Brzeziñski [editors note: I think I don't have the right font to properly display this person's name; sorry . . .] I have this lens and it's really good. Since it's relatively slow, the front element is small and so deeply recessed that the lens is very resistant to flare and ghosting. . .


Anthony Farr - I have both this and the M100/4 Macro, and regard this as the sharper of the two. Whether the focal length is as useful is another matter, though, as it gives rather close working distances when working "in the wild". The 100mm makes it easier to get lighting in, or not to frighten the wildlife too much. Where it once shone was on the copystand when the original artwork was around 8in x 10in and bigger, and the 100mm called for too much height. That sort of copywork is now mostly done by scanners if the desired result is a print, so unless you're aiming to get 35mm slides out of large (A4 to A3) artwork it might be better to look for a 100mm (or 90mm depending upon the brand).

- - - - - -

William Robb - . . .I have found this lens to be most excellent at close distances, at any aperture. However, it is not a really great lens beyond a few feet focusing distance. In normal shooting distances, I would put it on par, optically, with the 40mm f/2.8. . .

- - - - - -

Stephen J. Krogh - This is a fine flat field macro for close up work.

- - - - - -

annsan - I have it - I love it. Sharp as a tack. . . easier to hold steady than the 100mm macro but to get real super close ups of little beasties they best not mind you being up close.


Fred - . . . very soft from maximum aperture until about f/8, when all-of-a-sudden it [gets] very sharp throughout the middle apertures.

- - - - - -

Todd Stanley - I have this lens, but haven't really gotten a really good feel for how it performs optically yet. It is a well built solid lens (typical of the K series). It seems to have a weaker version of that 3d affect of the limited lenses are noted for. No tests, but it's sharp, but I feel my A 50mm F1.4 is sharper, and maybe the A 50mm F2 also. One really nice thing about the lens is that it has a long throw on the focus, which makes very precise focusing a breeze. As for pespective I don't see any difference. Magnification I can tell a difference when shooting with both eyes open. It makes my Ricoh's viewfinder close to lifesize, which is why I like to use it on that body. It is also fairly easy to use on the KX in this regard, but 50mm seems more comfortable to me. On the ME the magnification is higher so a 50mm is the normal lens of choice.




  

Long Prime Lenses
(SMC K-Mount)


>I'm interested in purchasing another lens (this time an SMC Pentax-
>version) and am wondering what people's preference for the best
>all-around portrait lens is. From the standpoint of focal length as
>well as recommendations for specific Pentax lenses.
>Usage will be for one or two person portraits of the wedding and high
>school senior variety.

Pim Rietbroek - My all-time favourite is the SMC-A* f/1.4 85mm (usually stopped down, although it's already very good for portraits at f/1.4). Beautiful results in all circumstances.

Before I had that one, I used the old SMC f/2.5 135mm (the Pentax K version, not the Takumar!) quite a lot. Contrast and sharpness are superb. Heavy and bulky for a 135mm, but build quality is second to none. If you don't need the A setting, this is a good candidate. Can be bought quite cheaply, too.

If you can find one (it took me more than three years), the SMC-A* f/1.8 135mm is also very good: good contrast & good sharpness for such a fast lens. But if you are not into available light photography, get the old SMC-Pentax f/2.5 135mm (K).

(The consensus of opinion seems to be that the SMC Pentax A f/2.8 135mm is not a very good one. And personally I do not like the SMC-M f/2 85mm very much: you really have to stop it down quite a bit to get good sharpness. But its contrast is good, and it is light and compact.)

- - - - - -

Bruce Dayton - I have found that 135 is just a little too long. My 135 gets very occasional use. For portraits, especially more than 1 person, you will want to be in the 85-100 range. I am extremely pleased with my FA85 f1.4 lens. It was really made to do portraits. Some on the list have had less than expected results, but these were when the lens was put to other uses. I also have the FA100 f2.8 macro. It does a decent job as a portrait lens while also doubling as a great macro lens. Neither of these lenses is cheap or light. I also use to have a M 100 f2.8. This was a lovely lens for portraits. Pluses are weight and size (49mm filters) and price. Typically goes for about $170 on KEH. The FA's are nice but are more than twice the weight and many times the price.

Again, when having more than 1 person in the picture, 135 is going to be too tight unless you have a lot of working room.

- - - - - -

Fred - We've "kicked around" the effect of focal length on portrait distortion on this list before. Despite a lack of unanimity on this, I think you might like the 85mm focal length for your intended use ("one or two person portraits of the wedding and high school senior variety"), although I would think that anything from the "new 77mm lens" (<g>) up to the 135mm length would be OK. Personally (and not everyone agrees with these impressions), I find that 135mm may tend to flatten a subject's face just a bit, while 50mm or 55mm tends to distort (exaggerate) facial features somewhat, and I think that 85mm to 100mm or so provides the most pleasing portraits for most subjects. Also, if you go for the 135mm focal length, keep in mind that you may need plenty of working room in front of the subject (behind the photographer), since you may find yourself backing up quite a bit, more so that with, say, the 85mm lens.

I think I could modify the famous photojournalist quote for a portrait recommendation - "85mm and be there". <g>

Coincidentally, I have started work on a . . .comparison of seven 85mm lenses that I've (temporarily) collected together (FA* 85/1.4, A* 85/1.4, M 85/2, K 85/2.2 Soft, K 85/1.8, SMC-Tak 85/1.8, and S-Tak 85/1.9).

I've already started getting the obligatory brick wall shots (at moderate distance as well as at "portrait distance") and some infinity-focus scenery shots. I still want to try some comparative astrophotographs, but (probably most importantly) I have yet to come up with some way of adequately demonstrating portrait usage. (I don't plan on putting actual "people portraits" on the web, and I've been leaning toward using a rather large teddy bear" for a subject instead - <g>, . . .

I can't say too much yet for actual portrait usage (which is, of course, not the only thing to use an 85mm lens for), since I've been concentrating on more distant focus images so far. (I am quite familiar with many aspects of the A* 85/1.4 and K 85/1.8 lenses, having used them for some time now, but the other lenses are relatively new to me.)

Preliminary results show that ~all~ are in the proverbial "a joy to use" category, due to uniformly high build quality (and I was also quite pleasantly surprised with the nice manual focusing feel on the FA* 85/1.4).

Not counting the 85/2.2 Soft lens (included for completeness, and because it looked interesting, or at least weird), the least sharp so far seems to be the ol' screwmount 85/1.9, which is quite soft wide open and for several stops closed down (though this may not be a problem for some portrait uses).

The FA* lens does not seem to be spectacularly sharp wide open, either (remember, though, this is ~not~ at "portrait distances"), but it is "none too shabby" either, and is very close to the A* lens (my overall favorite - I don't claim to be unbiased here - <g>) at f/8 and above.

The two 85/1.8 lenses do seem quite respectable, and are also very similar to each other (and I think they are the same basic design, though Yoshihiko should be consulted on this point - <g>).

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the M 85/2 gives the other lenses "a good run for their money", too. Despite some reservations previously expressed by some Pentaxers about this lens (which, it has been suggested, might have a lot of sample-to-sample variance), I have found it to be a really neat little lens. Maybe I just got a "good one".

The 85/2.2 Soft is the weirdest lens I've ever used, but it's been a lot of fun to play with so far. Weird, though. (Did I mention that it was weird?)

Yeah, kinda weird...

Please keep in mind that ~all~ of the above comments are tentative, and are based on preliminary results, and that almost none of these results so far are from "portrait distances". I have not checked so far for distortion or for flare, and I have done nothing that involves bokeh as of yet. There's still a lot of testing to do before I have "solid" comments to make, and before I finally send some of these "critters" on their way to new homes. (No, I don't need seven 85's - I do think that just two or three - er, well, maybe four - should be enough for anybody - <G>.)

The only other direct recommendation I could make, Gary, if you're looking at 135mm lenses, is for the A* 135/1.8, a really strong performer. (I don't have any experience with other 135's.) If you are looking at 135mm as a good focal length for you, then you might just look for this one. I have heard that the 135/2.5 and the 135/3.5 are good lenses, too, and that the 135/2.8 is a bit weak, but I don't know if there are multiple designs of any of these configurations (that may vary from each other), and I guess I'm just repeating what I've heard anyway, so please treat this as hearsay - <g>. You might also take a look at one of the 100mm or 105mm lenses, too - I've heard some good comments on these before, as I recall.

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JoMac on Soft Focus -

>as you say: "weird". Does anybody have one of these, and use it? What
>advantage does it have over, for example, buying a sharp lens and a Softar
>filter or 2 to put over it? It's always seemed to me that it's a lot better
>to buy a sharp lens and make it softer, because if you buy a soft lens you
>can't make it sharper.

Here's the difference: A Softar filter softens the light before it enters the lens, so that in the image everything is softened, even the edges of things.

A "Soft" lens like the Pentax creates a sharp image, at all apertures, but scatters the light that is allowed in wide open (at the outside periphery of the outer element or group), and even a stop or two down. Stop down all the way and you have almost eliminated the softening effect.

A filter with a clear center and a frosted outer 10mm band would behave similarly. But you'd need a set of filters with 5mm bands, 10mm bands and 15 and 20mm bands to have the control approaching the variable fogginess of the Pentax 85mm 2.x Soft lenses.

Saw a photo of a black automobile fender once, shot with a Pentax soft. The edges of the fender were sharp as a tak, the spectral highlight reflection of the sun was starred and sharp, yet the overall image had a soft, foggy feel to it, from the light scattering capabilities of the lens.

Try one, you'll use it often, I bet!

[and from an earlier JoMac message . . .] I have the Soft Focus] lens in front of me now. It has a range of only four f-stops: f2.2, f2.8, f4, and f5.6. A manual diaphram right behind the front element.

Looking at a window from inside, there is still some flare in the corners at f5.6. The central 80% of the image area is sharp and unflared. But at f2.2 the hazy flare is evident almost to the center of the screen.

The edges of anything in focus are still sharp and defined, but where there is great contrast, the lighter area blends over into the darker, on top of the sharp subject. Thsi is something you can't do by squinting your eyes when they are watery. Squint and everything goes soft. This lens goes hazy like that, but you can still read the newsprint or computer screen.

Great for portraits of those with skin feature that do not add character, only age or abuse. NOT a good lens as a medium telephoto at the county fair, except maybe at night, or to illustrate a dream sequence.

( Should have mentioned that my lens is a SMC PENTAX SOFT, not an FA.)

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Anita Hill - Does any have a recommendation for Pentax F or FA lens that are excellent for portraits?

Henry Bloomfield - FA 135/2.8 :small, fast and sharp.

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Roberto Burgos - Indoors/studio: FA85 f/1.4 (still on my wish list)
Outdoors: FA200 f/2.8 (still on my credit card statement)

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Gary Richards - I second the 135mm/2.8 if you have room to shoot it.

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Bob Waldken - I go along with the many suggestions that an 85mm is best. I'll add that for full-length portrait of a 6-foot tall person [with a 135mm] - something I guess you'd need to do for graduations and so on - you would have to stand 23ft away, whereas with the 85mm you'd only be 14ft away.

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Bruce Dayton - I have both the FA 85 1.4 and the FA 100 2.8 Macro lens. My experience has been that the 85 is a better portait lens. You should look on Valentin'sLens Gallery at the samples of portraits taken with the FA 85. It appears that Pentax specifically designed the lens for portrait work as it does great at short distances and poorly at infinity. The 100 macro is reasonable as a portrait lens but not as good. The inability to get extremely shallow depth of field is noticed and the bokeh is not as nice. My recommendation is that if you are really looking for a portrait lens and that is it's only use, the FA 85 is the right choice. If you are looking for an all around lens for multiple uses, the FA 100 Macro is the better choice.


Winston Setiawan - 1. The lens is extremely well built ( and I mean that !) (2.) Much heavier than the 43/1.9 (3.) Makes my MZ5n focuses hardly (4.) A great manual focus lens ! (5.) Very sharp centrally at f/1.8 (better than 43/1.9 and 85/1.8 Nikon) (6.) Slight pincushion distortion at the edges, but not very noticeable, better than the 43/1.9 (7.) Ruggedly built, reminds me of the Summicron and Sonnar (8.) No equal camera body to match, too bad...Highly recommended !

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Andreas - . . . I'm very very satisfied with my example. It is sharp wide open - not as sharp as the FA100/2.8 macro but sharper than the FA50/1.7 and stop down at F4 it *is* sharp . The color rendition is very good and ´bokeh´ is really great. Well I must say that I only took photos in short distances so far . . . Mechanical it is a little step better than the FA43/1.9.

. . . on Thursday I had the first chance to use this lens outdoor at good wether. I used my half hour break at work to shoot a film (Fuji Sensia II 100) in the garden of the company.

I'm really impressed with the quality. Quite sharp wide open and really fantastic color rendition and absolut fine look of the out of focus area. All photos were taken in the near distance (<10m) so I can't say anything about the quality at infinity. As someone mentioned the AF sounds 'loud' as if the motor has to work harder to move the well damped focus ring.

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Yoshihiko Takinami - . . .FA77/1.8Limited is exceptionally good in contrast, color saturation, color rendition, visual sharpness and visual resolution. Its optical character seems very similar to those of K85/1.8 but with very small coma wings and better coating.

[and from a later message:] . . . As for FA77/1.8 Limited, it is really an excellent performer with great sharpness, excellent contrast, and remarkable color rendition. The only drawback I noticed is its relatively poor, but still good, flare control for a modern Pentax lens.

[and from a later later message:] . . . It also produces rich tone, great color rendition, smooth and natural bokeh, and good contrast. And I must stress its extraordinary 3-dimensional effect. I love this lens overall. The only flaw of this lens would be the inside reflection of the lens barrel behind the front element, which causes some kinds of flare in side-light situations. So you need an effective hood for this lens.

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George Stanley - I have been using both the 43mm and 77mm Limited lenses for more than a year. I have been fully delighted with the performance of both lenses, but have not done any formal testing with either lens. I regard both lenses as "Swell" optics--to use an ancient word. . . .

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Ed Mathews - . . . build quality, resistance to flare, handling, and weight are all just about perfect. Optically, the lens is the extremely free of linear distortion, almost none at all - the best I've ever seen. Resolution is also very good both at center and edges, and very consistent, both at close focus and infinity. I would not say that it blows other lenses away in maximum resolution at middle apertures, but it is very, very good. At maximum aperture, resolution is good by Pentax standards at infinity, but close up there is the simple problem of such a limited DOF at F1.8, that resolution can sometimes look just OK, but I feel that's mostly a DOF problem . . . Bokeh is very smooth and nice for most shots where there is no highly reflective object in the background, but I've seen some really annoying round highlights from shiny objects like out of focus doorknobs, lightsources, etc. The 43 is the same in that respect also. They are similar in that the apertures produce very round smooth out of focus highlights, but they can be very strong for some reason, and often lean a little toward the center axis of the lens when the apertures are big. All in all, I love it . . .

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tv - . . . Color rendition is superb, sharpness is very high, it's beautifully made and it's got the ghostless coating. I only wish it focused a *wee* bit closer.

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Brian Walsh - This site includes several portraits taken with various lenses including the FA*85 and the FA77 Ltd. Apparently, the portraits were shot on the same day, at the same location, of one model and on one film. [editors note: This was originally posted 7-23-01. At some point the links below will break; don't blame me . . . smh]

http://www.t3.rim.or.jp/~azuma/html/camera/lenses_test/001123/wakana.html

Those of you who need a quick comparison might just look at these two examples:

For the FA*85/1.4

http://www.t3.rim.or.jp/~azuma/html/camera/lenses_test/001123/wakana.html

For the FA77/1.8 Limited:

http://www.t3.rim.or.jp/~azuma/html/camera/lenses_test/001123/wakana.html

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Cesar A. Matamoros - In a nutshell the impression I have is: AWESOME! The first two rolls taken were at a softball game in the early evening under lights. . . . The sales clerk commented on a couple of action shots I took, she liked the stopping of the action and the quality of the images. I would have to agree with the crowd in terms of how the subject tends to have a "stand out", 3-D quality about them that makes them stick out. I am not sure, and I have not really studied all the shots and compared them to other lenses, if it is the subtle fuzziness you get with the depth of field. I understand now the difficulty in explaining the effect. I do know that I have had everyone who has seen an image or two or three comment on the great shots. And the subjects were ordinary objects or informal portraiture. . . .Of course, you cannot overlook the size of the lens. It is extremely compact with a 49mm filter ring size. It is basiclly the size of my 50mm f1.4. this with the all metal construction really makes it a must have lens. I used the lens in both auto and manual focus mode. The manual focusing has a great feel to it. It takes a little getting used to with the aperture ring so close to the camera body. But still a good grip and easy to use. And its attached hood is easy to use and convenient.

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William Robb - . . .It is sharp at all apertures, but is best stopped down to f/8. At that point it is incredible. Wide open, the DOF is pretty shallow, but what is in focus is excellent. It doesn't seem to matter what distance the lens is focussed to, it is sharp. I hav used it at infinity, normal portrait distances, and on an extension tube for macro work. In all of these applications, the lens has performed superbly. . .

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Alan Chan - . . . The 77 is way better [compared to the 85mm FA* 1.4 ] optically and mechanically (faster AF). Not to mention the 85 is too front heavy for small bodies without batter grips.


06-30-99 - In response to questions about relative merits of different 85 mm lenses

David (Zx5Lx) - I have pitted these lenses (Pentax SMCT 85 f1.8 vs. FA 85 f1.4 , also used in one test the SMCP 85 f1.8 ) (side by side) against each other (on many occasions) to define differences. Briefly though my findings were the following: In close to mid distance shooting, the 85 f1.8 puts the subject in focus more towards the middle of depth of field than the f1.4 version, which appears to somehow put it more towards the back edge. As we all know, the closer to the center of a depth of field a subject is, the sharper it appears to be relative to rest of DOF. I believe by placing subject towards the back of DOF in f1.4 lens, creates a soft background just behind subject and is quite pleasing but at a sacrifice of ultimate sharpness of subject at f1.4, f2 and f2.8 in f1.4 lens. The len's Bokeh is excellent. Subject in focus with f1.8 lens, is much sharper at f1.8 and f2.8 due to I belive subjects more central location in depth of field. This can be confirmed when observing not only other objects in pic frame and those in front of and behind it. Diffuse background with f1.8 lens is not as soft as f1.4 yet still pleasing with good Bokeh. The advantage of the f1.8 besides price and size, is it may be the best compromise for most wanting relative sharpness wide open as well as stopped down...something some have been disappointed in with the f1.4 lens. Color rendition is a bit different between the two lenses...but would have to say there is as Derby put it a "creamyness" to the texture of the image created with the f1.4...possibly due to characteristics described above..I just don't know for certain. I wouldn't describe the f1.8 's texture as being "grainy"..but it's level of apparent sharpness at f1.8 to around f4 compared to f1.4 lens, appears to create an image with "more bite". To be honest, if one likes to shoot all day at f8 then not sure the 1.4 would be worth price difference.....but if wide open to around f4 is one's preference then what I described above should be a guide. It was also noted that performance for landscapes at infinity at the widest apertures is better handeled by the f1.8lens. Guess one could say the f1.8 lens is a excellect all around performer, whereas the f1.4 would excell at sloser up portarit and other work where ultimate image quality with a undefined appealing characteristics abound....much like those found in Leica lenses in my opinion. Needs will dictate choice.

And then Fred said: << If the FA* 85/1.4 achieves a "higher maximum optical quality in the F:8 - F:11 range", it must be One Sharp Lens at those apertures.

OT - We really need someone to do a direct head-to-head comparison of the A* and FA* 85's.

=========

[editor's note: Fred did this later; see: http://www.cetussoft.com/pentax/85compar/]

=========

OT - Boy, it ~sure~ must be difficult to design a lens that's both very fast and very sharp. >>

David's RESPONSE:

1. Yes, the Fa 85 f1.4 lens is very sharp in the f8 range but so is the 85 f1.8 K.

2. Yes, thats been what I've been hoping for too! (A comparison of the "A* 85 f1.4 vs. the FA 85 f1.4".) IF what I observe in most samples of the FA 85 f1.4 lens is true..notably that the subject focused on is placed at the trailing edge of the depth of field...giving rise to a more blured background at more open apertures....then Pentax obviously introduced a trade off of sorts when comparing both these lenses. The "A*" is sharper in the more open apertures whereas the bokeh and softness of the background is enhanced in the FA version. AS I mentioned in previous posts, I can really sharpened up subject in ocus with the FA 85 f1.4 at f1.4 and f2 just by focusing ever so slightly behind subject...which in turns puts subject squarely in center of "zone of focus"...rendering them razor sharp...with a loss of background blur. Whether this phenominon iwas part of the actual design of the lens, I don't know. A comparison of these two 85mm lenses would answer quite a bit.

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7-23-99: The battle of the 85mm lenses!

David (Zx5Lx) - A few weeks ago I performed an . . . extensive test of four different Pentax 85mm lenses...the FA 85 f1.4, 85 f1.8 K mount, 85 f1.8 SMCT screw mount and 85 f2.0 K mount.....unfortunately I didn't have a A* 85 f1.4 lens to compare with the rest..but maybe some trusting sole could lend me one for a few days in order to complete this test. The lenses were tested at both "Portrait distances" as well as infinity at all major f-stops. In a nutshell, the results were the following:

At Portrait distance: With all lenses shot at their max. aperture, the FA 1.4 lens outperformed the rest. Both 85 f1.8 lenses (they always performed identical in all tests even when examined under 10x from corner to corner)..were good but a bit soft wide open. The 85 f2.0 was also soft wide open but wasn't close to the both 85 f1.8 lenses. If all lenses were compared at f2.0 hen things chencged quite a bit......both 85 f1.8 lenses were sharper than the FA 85 f1.4 or 85 f2.0 lenses...but the pleasing soft but fairly sharp central core of the FA 85 f1.4 had a appealing quality that was unique for portrait work and beautiful bokeh. The 85 f1.8 lenses were no sloches in this department either. The 85 f2.0 still shot wide open for this comparison lagged behind considerably. By f2.8 both 85 f1.8 lenses still had the edge in sharpness, with the FA 85 f1.4 sharpneing up nicely still exhibiting a nice balance of sharpness and slight softening, making it ideal for portrait or reportage photography.....with very appealing bokeh in abundance. The 85 f2.0 lns at f2.8 has sharpened up quite a bit but still lages behine both 85 f1.8 lenses. By f4.5 the FA 85 f1.4 overtakes all lenses in sharpness, with the 85 f2.0 lens still behind both 85 f1.8 lenses. This continues till f8.0 where it's extremely close between all lenses but the edge is still given to the FA 85 f1.4, then both 85 f1.8 lenses with the 85 f2.0 pulling up the rear, and although quite sharp doesn't quite compare with the 85 f1.8 lenses.

At infinity as Fred has suggested, the FA 1.4 lens wide open is apparently much softer than at portrait distances. Both 85 f1.8 lenses are also a bit soft wide open at infinity...but whereas they become quite sharp by f2.0, the FA 85 f1.4 lens at f2.0 (at infinity) is mealy good). The 85 f2.0 again lags behind all. By f2.8, the FA 85 f1.4 lens at infinity is good to very good, but still behind the 85 f1.8 lenses. By f4.5...the FA 85 f1.4 at infinity is the equal of both 85 f1.8 lenses...and if one was to stop down further (at infinity)..the FA 85 f1.4 lens edges out or at the very least equals both 85 f1.8 lenses. The 85 f2.0 as usual lags behind although it's a competant performer.

Again, if there was some way for someone to loan me a A* 85 f1.4 a comparison of all these lenses can be made. My suspicion based on Fred's interesting observations and those of others, is the A* 85 f1.4 will behave much like the Pentax 135 f1.8 as well as similar to the 85 f1.8 lenses....that is, excellent with just a touch of softness wide open, and extremely sharp once slightly closed down. The one elusive quality the FA 85 f1.4 lens has is a unique presentation of the subject in a most flattering light (way)..unique to almost any Pentax lenses I've shot with...truly beautiful under the right lighting conditions and subject distances....something even the sharper 85 f1.8 lenses can't duplicate. It's somewhat similar to that elusive quality that some older Leica lenses exhibit..and cant be quantitated by shear measurement of absolute sharpness. Clearly a different lens that the A* 85 f1.4 as Fred and many have pointed out.

85 mm f/1.8 vs. 85 mm 2.0? Both vs. FA 85 f/1.4?

I checked out Boz's site and I found that those lenses have differences in optical design. Can you tell me more about overall performance of these lenses, especially when wide open? I suppose these lenses are not as good as Ptx-A 85/f1.4?

David - In the samples I tried, wide open the 85 f1.8 was a bit sharper edge to edge than the 85 f2.0....but if both were compared at f2.0 then the 85 f1.8 lens is the clear winner..really sharpening up nicely. Wide open the 85 f1.8 had much more pleasing bokeh too.

I compared both these lenses against the FA 85 f1.4 (not the 85 A* f1.4) and observed some interesting results. Comparing all lenses wide open at a mid-distance range, the 1.4 lens was the sharpest with outstanding bokeh. If I compared the all lenses set at f2.0, then the 85 f1.8 lens was the sharpest (since the 85 f1.8 lens real;ly sharpens up by f2.0) but the 1.4 lens still had a nicer bokeh. With all lenses set at f2.8, the 85 f1.8 lens again was the sharpest followed closely by the other two. By f4-f4.5 the 85 f1.,4 caught up and overtook the 85 f1.8 lens in sharpness up to f8 where they are were very close in performance. It seemed the 85 f2.0 lens almost equaled the 85 f1.8 lens but at a step that was closed down an additiona; f-stop (in comparison to the 85 f1.8 lens)....for example, the 85 f2.0 lens at f5.6 almost equalled the sharpness of the 85 f1.8 lens set at f4. In terms of bokeh, the 85 f1.4 was clearly superior to the other two lenses with the 85 f1.8 lens doing nicely. This is where the 85 f2.0 lens fell behind somewhet, not quite having the snae degree of pleasing out-of -focus background as either the 85 f1.4 nor the 85 f1.8.

Bob S. waxes nostalgically . . . David, Nice to hear somebody not trash the 85 f2.0. I can't compare them as you did, but I do know I really like/liked the M85 f2.0. I bought it new in the '70's and it has logged more time on my ME and then Super Program than any other lens (serious time on the PZ-1 too). The view is perfect for people pictures. The f2.0 was sure an improvement over the f3.5 on the 135. And I learned to hand hold it indoors for candid photos. Maybe I'm just sentimental, but the M85 f2.0 has given me very good service.

and Bob Blakely tries not to be scarey. . . I now have both K85/1.8 & A*85/1.4. With my samples (there may be variances, unit to unit), By f/2.8, my images seem ~identical quality for all practical purposes. At f/2 I really can't tell, haven'y used the A*85/1.4 at this aperature and (of course there's no detent at 1.8)

My 85/1.8 is a very sharp lens and I use it in the daytime. The 85/1.4 is a comparative monster. I'm not gonna mount the thing during the day unless I want to scare small children.

Fred adds . . . The 85/1.8 has an aperture detent at f/1.8 (of course), but it ~also~ has one at f/2. (Most f/1/8 lenses that I've seen "jump" to f/2.8 for the next stop after f/1/8.) This is a useful feature . . . because there ~is~ a difference in sharpness between f/1.8 and f/2 in my 85/1.8.

and David agrees . . . I completely concur with Fred. . . Wide open the 85 f1.4 is a bit sharper and has better bokeh..but at f2.0 the 85 f1.8 is sharper although the 85 f11.4 still has more pleasing bokeh. I too find it incredibly useful that the 85 f1.8 has a detent setting at f2, where it really sharpens up over it's f1.8 wide open setting.

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11-17-99 - Renewed discussion of 85 mm lenses . . .

David (Zx5Lx) - Actually it's just a matter of opinion, but if one was to have two (not three <grin>) Pentax 85mm lenses, I would opt for the K 85 f1.8 and FA 85 f1.4 . They are two very different lenses and as has been discussed, the FA 85 f1.4 has some wonderful and unique properties as a portrait lens....(not to sneeze at it's general purpose prowess). The K 85 f1.8 makes a nice smaller traveling companion for lite packing or reportage type of work, where one wants to be less noticed and it's performance is superb and more general purpose than the FA 85 f1.4. Of course some might pick the FA 85 f1.4 and A* 85 f1.4 as their two 85's but then both lenses are approx equal size and weight and similar in this regard compared to having a smaller but excellent 85 in the K 85 f1.8. Just some thoughts.

RE: difference between A* and FA* lenses . . .

David's Response: There have been numerous posts regarding the FA 85 f1.4 unique properties as it's used for portrait work. Close up at f1.4 and even a stop or so down, it retains a sharp central core but with a lovely degree of softness thats extremely flattering for portrait work. Also it's bokeh is superb (maybe one of the best) and it's color rendition under certain lighting conditions is also quite special. Thats not to say it can't be used as a general purpose 85mm lens but for mid distance and infinity shots, the lens will have to be stopped down to at least f4 and beyond.

Shel asks for clarification: so, this (FA* 85 mm 1.4) is more of a portrait lens than a GP piece of glass. . .

David's Response: Of course that's subjective and many say that but I've had some lovely landscapes that had a certain quality of subtle hues and clors that I've not achieved with any other Pentax lens (in addition to it's nice bokeh. I would say that from f1.4 to f4 it makes a beautiful portrait lens nd beyond that (f-stop wise) can be a lovely general purpose lens with not having the absolutre best reolution until f8 where it can hold it's own against other 85's. A very unique lens that won't suit everyone's needs but has properties that others can't duplicate.

Bob Blakely questions a comment by Barry comparing the Pentax lens to a Contax lens . . .Your statement "blows it away" indicates a gross difference in performance between the two lenses wide open which is at odds with two separate, independent, controlled, objective, formal evaluations by independent parties. Do you think it unreasonable, given I accepted your observation as valid, that there might be a problem with your particular lens?

Barry Brevik replies . . . OK, in a nutshell it is my opinion that the SMC A* 85 f1.4 is great lens that is a bit more suitable for portraiture than for general photography. It is also my opinion that the Contax lens is sharper and contrastier wide open, but this very quality makes it less suitable for portraiture. If I had less experience I might be concerned[with the construction of my Pentax lens], but I think it's at least as likely that the Contax lens may [actually] be sharper. That's why I have multiple camera systems... I believe that no individual lens is perfect for every photographic situation. Each lens has it's strengths and weaknesses.In engineering, every design is a compromise (in some way.)

Fred says "it all depends . . ." . . . some people want a portrait lens that is a bit soft to start with, while I prefer one that will show every detail (and if I want to soften the image, I'll use a soft filter). So, what would make a good portrait lens for me (show me every wart, freckle, and mole) may be unsatisfactory for some others, and vice-versa.

And after a bit more flaming back and forth among others, Fred comes back, cites some test data, and again says "it all depends". . . So, it would seem to me that both lenses should generally compare quite well with each other, with the Pentax probably doing better under some real-world conditions, and with the Contax doing better under others.


John Tollefsrud. . .But my favorite lens? My A85mm f1.4. This puppy is almost always on my body. It's heavy, but I love it, especially the warmth in the portraits I get with it using window light. Many people praise the FA85mm f1.4 as a better lens, and it may be. The FA85mm is easier to find of the two. . .

[later comment] I use my A*85 1.4 on my LX, it is absolutely wonderful for head shot portraits. Bokeh: just perfect. The lens is an absolute sensual pleasure to use. Isaac, you'll be one happy shooter with this combo . . . The hood (accessory), by the way, is a metal can with straight sides, not nearly as elegant as the FA85 hood (included).

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Fred - My experience with the A* 85/1.4 (two specimens) is that it is a bit soft at f/1.4, but quickly sharpens at smaller apertures. I can recommend the A* 85/1.4 without reservation. Despite the "1:1.4/85" similarity in the names, the two 85/1.4's certainly are two different lenses in optical design, with the A* having 7 elements in 6 groups, and the FA*, 8 in 7. . .

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Bob Waldken - My own experience of the A* 85/1.4 is that it is staggeringly good (subjective) and that it is massively better than my SMC M 50/1.4 (comparisons made under controlled conditions).

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Bob Blakely - The SMC-A* 85/1.4 is one of the best lenses Pentax ever made and one of the best, if not the best, fast 85mm lens ever made.

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Antti-Pekka - regarding the A* 85/1.4 vs the FA* 85/1.4. For my purposes (nature, landscape and astrophoto) the A* is a lot sharper, especially when focused at infinity and used wide open or stepped down one. The FA* propably makes a better portrait lens...


Pål - Nov 1997 - My FA* 85mm lens is not somewhat soft wide open. It is fuzzy and unsharp. It is still not sharp at 2.8. At 2.8 it is comparable to the A 35/2.8 and A 24/2.8 wide open. Those lenses are sharp when stopped down one stop. I have compared the FA* 85/1.4 with the A* 135/1.8 and the A* lens is in a completely different league in optical quality. The A* lens yields sharp pictures wide open. Interestingly, the A* 135/1.8 is supposed to be not quite as good as the A* 85/1.4. Consequently, I doubt that the FA* 85/1.4 is better than the A* 85/1.4 at least if my lens is representative. My FA* 28-70/2.8 was unsharp wide open but still far sharper than the FA*85/1.4.

[later comment, Feb '00] A strange lens. At least mine is. Very sharp at all apertures (except maybe wide open) at close focusing distances. However, at infinity it isn't really sharp until F:4 something that makes it rather pointless for my use (low light landscapes). I'll replace it with the 77 Limited and save some weight in the bargain.

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David - ZX5Lx@aol.com - What I'm about to say is of course just my opinion. I use the FA 85f1.4 and agree with Pål that wide open at f1.4 it is somewhat soft.....but soft in a good sense in that for portraits, it has just the right mix, of sharp detail with a pleasing softness, to be flattering. By f2.0 it really sharpens up quite a bit, with again just the slightest amount of edge taken off for portraits. At f2.8 it is extremely sharp. A good compromise lens in terms of speed and sharpness is the FA 100 f2.8 macro. At f2.8 it is very close (if not better) in "apparent" resolutiion to the FA 85 f1.4 and beyond that is just as sharp. I believe that Pentax deliberately had design the FA85 f1.4 to have that kind of softness wide open....since most buy that lens for portrait work...and you can see that the depth of field (zone of focus)extends from well in front of the subject you focus on, till just barely reaching subject...thereby keeping the background as blurred as possible. A lens designer once told me that where the depth of field starts and ends for a given f stop and lens can be controlled during manufacture. The FA 100f2.8 macro, has the depth of field put the subject almost in the middle to front of the depth of field, thereby having the subject appear sharper atf2.8 than a lens that barely puts the subject in the zone of focus...so its not just optical resolution that determined sharpness but where the subject falls relative to depth of field. Pål , I'd be curious if you took a series of test shots with your 85 f1.4 lens at f2.0 Focus on something, but see if items just in front of the subject are sharp...indicating that they are mor ein the center of zone of focus than the subject itself.....2 different design effects. I saw this difference comparing the FA 85 1.4 vs. Pentax's screwmount 85 f1.8 At f1.8 (f2.0), the subject was sharper with the screw mount lens. Yet upon further examination I noticed that items in front of the subject were sharper with the FA 85 f1.4. Apparently the screw mount lens puts the subject squarely in the middle of the depth of field whereby the FA85 f1.4 puts the subject almost but not quite behind the depth of field. Of course the FA 85 f1.4 had a more pleasing blurry background, as expected from these observations.

[later comment]....apparently Pentax might have opted for a fast 85 f`1.4 that filled the bill of a general purpose 85...whereupon wide open, the resolution may have been "poor" at best (regardsless of distance)...(and why so many fast 85's are 1.8 rather than 1.4). Pentax may have then decided to skew performance wide open for close up range..thereby sacrificing infinity..hense more useful in portaraiture at open aperture. From this point optimization at f1.4 continued, by desirable placement of aperture blades, # of blades and other factors which would contribute to performance at this distance, not to mention subject placement at back of DOF. Once stopped down to f4 and beyond, lens is significanly sharp at all distances. It's correct to say softer effect is quite different than true soft focus lens where controlled sperical aberations are introduced and I've tried to compare the two as best as I can between two very different lenses.

[even later comment] If one desires a portrait that renders subject with a slightly soft but detailed core and with beautiful bokeh..then the FA 85 f1.4 does this superbly.

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Steve Graham. . . the 85mm is possibly one of the very best lenses available from any manufacturer for a 35mm SLR. The 85 . . ., is absolutely solid, with a big metal hood. Build quality is very good indeed on it . . .

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Bruce Dayton - The FA* 85/1.4 is a fine lens if used for portraiture. If used for landscape or astrophotography it is not on par with other lenses.

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Len Paris - This lens is a fantastic performer. I use it for portraits most of the time. I'm not sure if it's really any softer wide open or if it just seems to be softer because of the shallow depth of field at portrait distances using it at f/1.4.

It can't be beat for low light cabaret photos. There are other lenses as good, like the CZ T* 85/1.4 and the Nikkor 85/1.4 but I don't think they are any better. Keep in mind that lens performance can be rather subjective, so my opinion is just that, an opinion. If you buy the lens, chances are that you will be very happy with its performance.

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Bob S. - I agree. I did some casual shots of the seniors around after our Thanksgiving dinner table this year. The results were great with the images leaping off the slides. The lens is great, and used wide open, the depth of field seems to make things have that 3 dimensional quality we talked about with the limited lenses. I suspect lots of folks on this list would jump at a chance to pick one up. I searched for 18 months before I found one.

[Additional discussion on the surprising (?) reactions of some users to this highly rated lens: . . .]

[Another PDML member asks: . . .]
> Dear Pål , did you buy tour 85mm f/:1.4 FA new or second hand ???

Pål - I bought it new. I promptly sent it back for repair because optical quality was substandard. They couldn't find anything wrong with it. They test shot it and compared to other FA* 85/1.4 lenses and couldn't find any difference in quality. They even contacted Japan who suggested it could be due to extreme low temperatures and wide apertures. However, the optical performance was independend of temperature. After getting the lens back I test shot the spines of my CD's and except for wide open, the lens was very sharp. However, focus on anything farther away than, say, about 10m and performance is really bad. Wide open every shot is strictly for the waste basket; hell, almost anything shot wider than F;4 is ready for the waste. I never used the lens at wider aperture than F:4 due to this.

I mainly used the lens for landscapes, where F:8 was mandatory for optimal sharpness, and for Aurora Borealis at F:4 after giving up on wider apertures. For this use the 77 Limited is way sharper. Actually, the FA* 28-70/2.8 at 2.8 is sharper than the FA* 85/1.4 at 2.8 at farther distances.

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Gianfranco - Hi Pål, I cannot believe that you really wrote this... Maybe the FA* 85/1.4 I own is a completely different lens, but I've never seen a lens so sharp wide open... comparing it to a cheap consumer zoom is something close to blasphemy... I don't know what kind of shots you were used to take with it, but I can assure anybody that its performance is way beyond my needs (and I'm pretty demanding from this point of view...). I've just made an enlargement on 24x30cm paper of a portrait taken with this lens. The sharpness and the out of focus background are astonishing. And I can assure you that it is the same if you use it for something different than portrait. I took a lot of shots in July with it in Denmark and Germany and they were sharp as they should be. I almost never use it stopped down more than f/4.

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[Another PDML member comments: . . .]
> I'm still vacillating between this and the 77 Limited.

Pål - I replaced the FA* 85/1.4 with the FA 77/1.8 Limited. There isn't even a contest. The Limited is a much better lens that provides much better sharpness at farther distances due to its fixed rear elements. It also offer better bokeh and more 3D look. Its also cheaper and smaller.

Pentax have really killed the case for the FA* 85/1.4 with the 77 Limited. The 77 Limited is both a better all rounder and a better portrait lens. The latter fact really kills the FA* 85/1.4 because I suspect it was optimized as a portrait lens. Unless of course that you absolutely need that 1.4 speed and can't do with 1.8.

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Cameron Hood - . . .in my view, it is a magnificent beast, and well deserved of its reputation. . . .

Bruce Dayton - I can only second your feelings [Cameron]. This is certainly one of my favorite lenses and consistently turns out great portraits for bokeh and DOF control (providing I do my part right). I keep thinking about the 77 limited, but not too sure because I am so pleased with my FA 85.

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Bruce Dayton - This has been an interesting issue. It seems that those of use who use the lens as a *portrait* lens, really like it and those who use it as a general purpose lens find it to be less than suitable. I did tests for the lens gallery which seem to prove this out. At close distances, the lens performs wonderfully, but at further distances, as Pål has stated, it is poor until f8.

Simply put, for portraiture, the FA *85 or the 77 limited are great. But for general purpose, the 85 is not the best choice. Personally, I never use my FA *85 for anything but portraiture. If I need general purpose, I go for the FA 100 Macro. The 85 is never in my walkabout kit. I suspect the 77, if I had one, would be in that kit.


David (ZX5Lx) - I have shot 2 samples of the FA 85 1.4 (some say early production was a bit sharper) and found from f1.4 to f2.8 good sharpness but couldn't say outstanding...one reason is that it appears they designed the lens so that the subject is at the very back of the "zone of focus" (depth of field) resulting in an extremly blured background just behind subject...although extremely desirable for portrait work. I tested these 2 samples against the screw mount 85 f1.8 (which is identical to the K mount version. The 85 f1.8 puts the subject squarely in the middle of the zone of focus...therefore when you match f-stop for f-stop of the FA 85 f1.4 lens with the 85 f1.8 lens...the 85 f1.8 was as good a performer..up till approx f4.5-5.6...at that point the edge would have to be given to the 85 f1.4...although the result were surprising close. Made all the more remarkable that the 85 f1.8 can be picked up for approx. 1/3 the price or even less. The 85 f1.8 as well as the 135 f2.5 are 2 of the best (there are some others) Pentax lenses....especially considering their cost.

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Dave Stratton - I recently acquired a smc 85/1.8. After a few weeks shooting . . .The lens is tack sharp from f2 -f16 (passable at f1.8, thou my judgement might be in error as the DOF is SO narrow, and my eyes are 60 years old.). The color is pentax great. I have an old rollieflex sl 35m that I keep an love because of a ziess sonnar 135/2.8. It is, by far, the best tele I have, or was....the new 85/1.8 is in the same class with a stop to spare. Hopefully I will be using the 85 for a long time (an the focal length is a real pleasure for me to work with).

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George Stanley - I have actively used the SMC Pentax 85mm F:1.8 lens for many years. It is superb!! I think that it is one of the two best Pentax lenses that I have ever come across. (The other is the old SMC Pentax 105mm F:2.8). . .

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Yoshihiko Takinami - good color rendition, attractive image rendition


George Stanley - For a short while in the mid-80's, I also tried the SMC Pentax-M 85mm F:2.0 lens. I was quite disappointed with this lens, and got rid of it FAST! Physically, it was nice &small & light-- but decent performance required stop-down to F:5.6.

George Stanley -[again] If you seek a manual K-mount portrait lens in the 85mm--135mm range, all the Pentax lenses (but not K-mount Takumars) are good choices, with two embarrassing exceptions. These exceptions are: The SMC Pentax-M 85mm F:2.0; and the SMC Pentax-A 135mm F:2.8. Both of these lenses are 4-group designs, and are quite mushy when used wide open.

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Marc Polman - It was this opinion [George's opinion above] on the list that kept me from buying this lens. A few months ago, however, I had the chance to buy one for a fair price. I bought it and have been very content since!

It performs remarkably well at f2, just a tad of softness. From f2.8 and on I do not notice any softness at all. It performs way better at f2.8 than my SMC-A 100mm f2.8 does at f2.8!!

Mind that I mostly shoot 100ASA slide film...

After purchasing the lens I shot a series of "portait" slides of my cat sitting on his favorite "looking post" on the balcony. Mostly shot at f2. They turned out very well, you really can count every hair... Bokeh is quite well, but I've seen better. Maybe it is something for the upcoming "Pets" theme.

So my opinion is that there have been some production tolerances in the production period of this lens. Can't explain otherwise, there have been too many different user-reports over the last few years...

Luckily my specimen performs as well as it does.

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David (ZX5Lx ) -. . . The K mount 85 f1.8 turns out to be he better lens at matching f-stops, but that is not to say the 85 f2.0 isn't good. On the contrary it is...just that the 85 f1.8 is exceptional including it's bokeh. The f2.0 lens is actually smaller and lighter . . .

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Bob Waldken - I was one of the people who has owned one and didn't much like it. The reason I disliked it was entirely due to its handling and had nothing to do with the optical quality of the lens. The focusing ring on mine was very slow to turn - although it was smooth it had a lot of resistance - and you have to turn it through more than 360 degrees, if I remember correctly, to go through the full focus range. Neither of these issues is a problem if you doing tripod-mounted and fairly static portraits, for instance, but for my kind of thing it was just too slow.

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Bibi Kwa (From the Web) - Very good lens. Very sharp and contrasty. Beautiful colors and bokeh. very light and in combination with 35 mm perfect travel gear.

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Fred - . . . I decided to test a number of 85mm lenses side-by-side, so I (temporarily) obtained a few more, so that I could test these 7 models: Super Takumar 85/1.9, SMC Takumar 85/1.8, SMC (K) 85/1.8, SMC (K) 85/2.2 Soft (for the fun of it), M 85/2, A* 85/1.4, and FA* 85/1.4. because there have been comments on the PDML about sample-to-sample variances in the sometimes-maligned M 85/2, I actually got hold of two of them, to get some insight on the variances (and yes, I do know that 2 specimens of a lens still could not provide definitive results, but it certainly is better than one sample of a lens for testing).

To be specific about the results for the M 85/2, I found that, despite its small size, despite its relatively simple optical design, despite some of the complaints about it historically here on the PDML (from whence those negatives on Stan's Lens Comments Site come), and despite my own preconceptions, the M 85/2 is actually a pretty good little performer. It was clearly not in the same league as the A* 85/1.4 for overall sharpness.

It did not have as good a bokeh as the A* or FA* 85/1.4's. However, [HERESY ALERT !!!] it was not altogether different from the K 85/1.8 (no, not as good, but not horribly worse, either). The M 85/2 turned out to be "the sleeper" in my tests. Furthermore, both M 85/2's seemed to be as identical as I could judge them to be.

Since I was pleasantly surprised by the lens, I had actually, for a time, decided to keep one of them (to go along with the A* 85/1.4 and the K 85/1.8 that I will likely be buried with, unless they are pried out of my cold, stiff fingers by some cursed-to-be Pentaxer - <g>). I even tracked down instances of the dedicated hard lens case and hood for the M 85/2. But, I eventually decided that I really don't need three 85's (and the M 85/2 was really not all that much smaller than the K 85/1.8, which was still going to be my "compact" 85, anyway), so I have since sold both of the M 85/2's. (And, because of how similar the two specimens were, it would have been a "toss up" as to which one I would have kept, too.)

So, my opinions on the M 85/2 have changed over time. At first, before owning one, I thought that its simple design might have justifiably caused it to be maligned by some users. After briefly owning two of them, I found that the 85/2 is a lot better lens model than I had previously thought. However, I did finally sell my two specimens, and I am now an ex-85/2-user, so I suppose that says something, too. (And, I should point out, I think that the $411 that one of them recently garnered on eBay is unreasonably high.)

Well, I think that, if the K 85/1.8 could be "the poor man's A* 85/1.4", then the M 85/2 could be "the poor man's K 85/1.8". (I am not sure how the FA* 85/1.4 fits into this reasoning <g>, but I digress...) And, I do agree with Bob (Rfsindg@aol.com), who recently said:
> It's a nice, compact and fast lens and will let
> you go places the zooms will never take you.

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Jens (Denmark) - I have had one for some months now - I got a good bargain. The focus ring must be turned a long way - not 360 degr. but about 270 degr. Optically it is very good - not outstanding. It is (almost) as sharp/contrasty as my SMC F 70-210/4-5.6, which is VERY good for a zoom lens (one of the best ever made in this focal length area). The color images of the 85mm/2.0 are very beautifull. It is better for "glamour-shots" than for super sharp/contrasty news shots . . .

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Bob S. - I used it for years with great pleasure. It . . . had several advantages. It is very small, just a touch longer than a 50/1.4 and lightweight. At 85mm it is easier to isolate your subjects than with a 50mm, but not as restricting as a 135mm is inside the house. And at f2.0, you can take pictures in subdued lighting without a flash. This is especially nice now that 400 & 800 film speeds are so available. It makes candid shots easy.

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Arnold Stark - The lens has rather low resolution not only wide open but also when stopped down. All other Pentax 85mm lenses are superior in that respect. Maybe ALL other SMC Pentax primes offer better resolution.With just 5 spherical elements one probably cannot construct a fast lenswith very high resolution. However, high resolution is not necessarily what you really want in a portrait lens. I did some very nice and natural portraits with this lens. Nicely blurred background. Beautiful colours. The M85/f2 is almost as small as a normal lens, so one can easily take it everywhere without intimidating the peolpe you want to portrait, and mechanically it is really wonderful. I should not have sold mine. But of course the FA77/f1.8 is still a greater joy...

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William Robb - The M85mm f2 is one of the mor maligned lenses on the list. I have heard more bad about this lens than most any of the primes. Personally, I don't think it deserves the rap. It is a pretty solid little picture maker. Ideal for portraiture. . . I always enjoy using it, and am pretty happy with what it does for me. I haven't used it outside the studio much, so I don't know how it does in general use.

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William in Utah - . . . I just picked up one of these . . . about a week and a half ago, and I . . . like the long throw of the focus ring. It seems that it makes it easier to use for portrait pictures. I have so far been satisified with the optical performance (most photos taken between f/2 and f/4) and it seems to do a pleasing job with both color and b&w. A very likable lens, IMO.


Gerald Cermak - I've got one of these lenses, and for portraits it is nice. The aperature settings, while performing the indicated light changes, also change the amount of softness. That is the meaning of the scale. At 2.2, the maximum softness occurs, with less softening in the center than the outer portions (unlike a filter alone could provide). At 5.6, it has almost no softening in the center (quite sharp actually), and only modest softening towards the edges. At one point I had posted pics of my gf taken at the different settings to show the differences, but can't find the url. It truly does a great job at what it is supposed to do. After seeing some shots with it, one of my gf's friends asked to have some portraits of her taken with it. Next time she visited, we trucked it out to the beach one cold afternoon, attached to my LX with Supra loaded, and she loved the results.

[and in a later post . . .] The soft effect of the soft lenses is variable from the center outward, with the aperture controlling the amount of softness overall. In addition, the soft effect is combined with a crisp set of edges, providing a very pleasing effect.

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Flavio Minelli -[commenting on Gerald's lens which he had the chance to see for himself] . . .It's a really weird lens. . . The lens has only 2 elements in 1 group. This means you can stick a finger through the diaphragm from the back of the lens itself, although the iris itself is deep into the barrel. The visual effect was most unusual and it got stronger as you opened up. At 2.2 it was so strong you could barely get it to focus correctly. The aperture went only to 5.6, IIRC and the metering was stop down. All in all a very specialised lens but with very interesting characteristics.

What I can't understand is the use of a *wide* soft lens. Would you shoot soft group shots with it? Or foggy landscapes in bright sun?


Bob Blakely - A soft focus lens does not introduce aberrations (as in it's sharp and then we screw it up). It is designed for a controlled amount of spherical aberration to produce a specific effect. The general appearance of a well exposed photo using a soft focus lens is as though highlights "bleed" slightly into dark areas. This gives a soft, pleasing appearance to faces (or anything else you want to rub a little harshness off of) while maintaining the appearance of sharpness.

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Ralf Engelmann - Mechanically the best Pentax lens I ever owned, a lot of metal, excellent manual focus ring and feel. The lens is sharp from f=6.7 on (stop down aperture from f=2.8-4.5), and works nice with a 1.4x converter as a 120mm macro and portrait lens too.

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Roland Mabo - The soft focus effect is at it's peak at f/2.8, then it vanishes more and more to be gone at f/5.6. From f/5.6 and above, it gives a good sharp quality performance. Since the soft focus effect is controlled by the aperture, you use this lens in aperture priority and manual only.

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David- I have two comments on this lens. First, if you read the lens manual it says that the F version uses stop down from 2.8-5.6 and the FA version uses stop down metering from 2.8-4.5. I would get from this that the FA is soft only to f4.5. The manual also says that both lenses have open aperature metering and a fully automatic diaphragm from that point on. This would lead me to believe that as long as you used it beyond these "soft" points that you could use it as a regular lense in program and shutter priority as well as aperture priority and manual modes. Remember, it does say Automatic Diaphragm. Also, I think, unless you really needed the soft effect that you would be better off with the FA*85 1.4 although it is so expensive. I thought about purchasing the "soft" 85 because I doubt I would be able to afford the other one, but when I thought about the fact that I would have to use it beyond f4.5 I realized that I wasn't gaining much that a regular zoom wouldn't get me. I would generally go for the prime lens for its sharpness and speed, but the FA85 f2.8 Soft doesn't get you the speed unless you want the softness and doesn't get you the sharpness unless you sacrifice the speed. So, using soft filters would probably be the best bet. Unless of course you do a lot of portraits and can justify the expense.

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Gerald Cermak - . . .The soft effect of the soft lenses is variable from the center outward, with the aperture controlling the amount of softness overall. In addition, the soft effect is combined with a crisp set of edges, providing a very pleasing effect. . . .

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Paul M. Provencher - . . . It is reasonably light and compact, handles nicely, and requires little to delivery great images of the type it was designed to produce. There is no need to fiddle around with soft-focus filters, diffusers etc. Just mount the lens and shoot away. It is not automatic so "what you see is what you get". The lens is well made, has the familial look and feel of other SMC lenses, albeit the manual aperture, and narrow focusing grip. It has the resolution of a Coke bottle bottom, as intended. Contrast is quite good, colors are nice and bright, and distortion appears to be kept to a minimum. The bokeh is pleasing to my eye, but I think that is a subjective assessment. I have not observed light fall-off or any other problems that would defeat the purpose of this lens. . .

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Anthony Farr - . . . I've only ever used it for portraits at f5.6 and wider. At f5.6 it's subtly soft, at f4 it's has nicely balanced halos of diffuse light and at f2.8 it's extremely soft focus. Even so there's always a core of sharp image at the centre of the diffusion, and there is no sign of chromatic aberration amongst the softness. The bokeh is unusual and I really should do a wider test of it. The out of focus area forms a distinct cloud of softness but with a short transition to the background rather than merging away into the background as is more common. . .


Jostein - good performers, even at full opening. . . a 49mm filter thread. . .surprisingly small and light, and I rather use it than the pentax 135/2.5, which I also own.

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George Stanley - . . . The 100mm is OK, but no-where near as good as the 105mm non-M which it replaced.

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Bob S... Ideal for your backpacking. . . I have used . . . very sparingly but thought [it was] at least comparable to the M 135/3.5 in sharpness and perhaps better but slower than the M 85/2.0 . . . I like the size, weight, and sharpness . . . [and later:] This is a really small, fast lens that will easily go anywhere with you. Its image quality will beat any zoom you can afford.

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Wolfgang - I have been using my M 2.8/100mm since 1979 (with MX, Super A, LX and Z-1p bodies), and I really do like it. It is good quality, although not super-sharp, but no doubt incomparably more so than [a] 50mm + 2x converter combination . . . It is compact and light-weighted, but still from a period when robustness could be taken for granted. The only problem is that (as in my other M series lenses. . .) the rubber coating of the focusing ring has expanded and now sits loose, which also does not look too nice.

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Joachim Hein - . . . the lens I bought gave excellent results so far. We are very pleased. I shot some panoramics, 10x4 enlargements look very decent, but didn't enlarge beyond. Compared to marco lenses the focusing is very fine (you have to turn alot) like all Pentax M and A I came across. This makes acurate manual focusing ( on MZ-5n) very easy. At 2.8 I got some excellent portraits with track sharp eyes. . . So highest recommendation if you don't want a macro feature. It is a pity that this one is not offered in a small FA barrel.

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Marc Polman - I own [the -A version of this lens.] Compared the the "M" the only differences seem the be the "A" setting and the built-in metal hood. Which is, indeed, a little short.

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Mark Winter - I have had similar good luck with the 100/2.8 M. It is truly a great lens, compact & light weight; fast andsharp. I also have the 135/3.5 M; which is more common and cheaper, but not as nice a lens.

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Colin - I've also found mine better for landscapes than close work (i.e., portraits). It's also excellent for macro work when coupled with extension tubes. (Very close or very far, but not median distances.) I wouldn't call it a "great" lens, but it's definitely a very good lens and well worth the price of acquisition.

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Bruce Dayton - I always like the old M 100/2.8. Reasonably fast, light weight and sharp. My FA 100/2.8 macro is MUCH heavier to work with.

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Gianfranco Irlanda - The M 100/2.8 is one of my favorite lenses, maybe the most favorite lens at all, although I use it mostly for candid shots and do very few portraits with it. It is sharp and has a nice bokeh. . .

[Gianfranco again] - I can only say that I love it! Maybe it is not tack sharp wide open, but I've never been disappointed by its performance. You can have an impression of its quality looking at <http://pug.komkon.org/00nove/Matisse.html> I'm quite sure I took that shot wide open. I really like how it renders the background. The color rendition is very good, too. . .

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Jose Rodriguez - I used to own this very nice short telophoto. I bought it for . . . portrait use. I liked it; good color, good bokeh, and very easy to handle. I shot some very nice portraits with it. However, my only complaint with it was that it was not as sharp as I would have liked it to be.

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Jostein - The SMC-M 100/2.8 was my favourite lens for a long time. I have found it reasonably sharp, especially stopped down a bit. It has very nice bokeh at full opening and f/4, imo.


Collin Brendemuehl (from the Web auto-response) - There's a great sense of depth in photos taken with this lens. This good design makes this lens suitable for 35mm portraits or anything else for that matter. It's just plain good.


Boz - Wonderfully sharp lens. Somewhat large and heavy, but definitely worth carrying around in one's photo bag. The base of the lens tapers towards the aperture ring, and when mounted on a body, it might be a bit tight for someone with large fingers to reach the aperture ring. Care should be taken not to scratch the easily accessible rear element. It is quite large and protrudes a bit from the mount. It also does not move when the lens is being focussed. Focusing is definitely geared too fast, but there is no other way because with about one complete turn the lens must focus between infinity and 0.31 meters (1:1). The lens is somewhat rare, . . .

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William Robb - I have yet to see a sharper lens, and I have seen a lot of lenses.

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Bob Waldken - it's an absolutely superb lens. World-class build quality. Very easy to use, smooth focussing. Optical quality is outstanding. Very worthwhile lens to own.


Douglas J Stemke - I have the 100 mm f4 'A' macro lens and really love it. However, the 100 mm f2.8 FA is said to be the best macro lens in this range, very sharp, etc. It is also said to be an excellent portrait lens. I understand it is somewhat heavy and rather expensive which are probably the biggest problems with it. Macro lenses in the 100 mm range are much more useful for general nature work than a 50 mm macro, especially if you are going after critters . . . I use a 50 mm macro. . . in my lab a great deal which works fine for fine detail with a copy stand etc, but the working distance seems too close for most of my nature macro shots. I find I also like the 100 mm length to isolate subjects in my nature shots, even non macro ones, so it is the one lens that always comes with me when I go on nature hikes.

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Busse - I have the FA100 macro for about one year and never regret the buy. . . even wide open it is sharper than the Sigma 28-105 and the F100-300 stopped down. The contrast and flare control is also much better. . . If you also use it as a normal 100mm lens (a very nice and good 100mm lens) the autofocus is quite useful, for macro work I always use it in MF- very good with the friction control. . . a bit heavy for a normal 100/2.8 lens, but it is a solid metal construction and on the MZ-5 it feels very good balanced. . .

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John Mustarde - The FA 100/f2.8 Macro is a great lens. Sharp, contrasty, resistant to flare, sturdy, easy to focus. It will help make your Macro photography a lot of fun. Get the 100mm instead of the 50mm. Eventually you will use the 100 a lot more than the 50, both for Macro and for other photographs.

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Doug Brewer - I have the FA100mm/2.8 and love it. It's the sharpest lens I've ever had, and at a length I find very useful.

[additional comment . . .] If your primary goal is macro photography, you can't go wrong with the FA100/2.8 Macro. It's a stunning macro lens, and serves well as a portrait lens. Some folks find it too sharp for portrait work, but that's something you'd have to judge for yourself.

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Roberto Burgos - The FA100/2.8 is designed as a true macro tele lens, meaning that its inner body (glass group) has to be able to extend quite far from the film plane (in order to achieve 1:1 magnification). This causes that the lens body has to be really big and bulky, compared to [the FA135/2.8] . . .

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George Stanley - . . . a superb lens. Six months ago I bought [this lens] for about . . . and have not regretted it. Actually, all of the 90-105mm macro lenses available have tested-out similarly excellent. The OEM Pentax is built solid like a tank--and if you can get it for the same price, or slightly less than 3rd party competitors, go for it!! The only possible reason for NOT buying this Pentax 100mm, is because it is slightly heavier & larger than most competitors. It does not balance well with the ZX-Series bodies, unless used together with the Battery Grip FG. But at $350 it is certainly a fine bargain.

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Phil- The FA 100/2.8 macro is a fantastic lens. I've used this lens for just about everything. Before I got my FA 80-200 ED IF I used the FA 100/2.8 Macro a lot. It was pretty much my work horse. I used it for portrait, sporting events (tennis) and of course Macro photography. Macro work is where this lens really shines. It has a wonderful "Bokeh" so isolating your subject is a very desired effect with this lens. When using it on a tripod, I found that it was incredibly sharp from f4 to 22. If you are not going to make prints bigger than 8 X 10 or 8 X 12 it is sharp at all apertures. Using it at f32 once I remember a few Macro shots I blew up to 16 X 20 that were not as sharp as I would of liked around the edges. Other than that I can not remember any situation that this lens disappointed me.

I don't notice the AF being anymore noise than my other lens and I don't find it to hunt much more than the others either.... All AF lens (at least the ones I have) hunt to a certain degree... You learn after a while to recognize the situations were they might hunt and simply go to manual focus.....

Phil - [Again] The FA 100/2.8 is my all time favorite lens, I've used in not only for macro photography but at times for portrait work. The Bokeh is extra special IMHO.

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[NOTE: see also discussion under 135 mm Summary below. smh]

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Roberto Burgos S. - I have (and praise) the Pentax FA100/2.8 macro. It is a superb lens. tack sharp at all apertures. Very well corrected flat field and built like a tank. When used with the focus limiter as a standard medium tele, it can do wonderfull jobs in portraits and such. If you want it for macro work only, be prepared to turn off the AF in your camera, because hunting is excessive. Hunting is not because of the Pentax lens, its because of the shooting conditions. It will happen with any macro lens at very short focusing distances.

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David A. Mann - I have one and I love it. It's an ugly looking lens (IMO) but it's nice and easy to manually focus as the focussing ring is in just the right place. It's fast enough to use handheld and goes 1:1 without an adaptor.

[and in a more recent comment . . .] I like it because of its sharpness, its speed, its comfortable handling in manual-focus and the fact that the AF is geared so that at non-macro distances it can be really _fast_ to focus. . .

Mark Roberts - . . . Kinda bulky for a 100mm but built like a tank and fantastic optics. . .


Sas Gabor - My favourite Pentax lens! Extremely sharp, good SMC, well built, compact.... It's 1:2. It has a nice aspect ratio scale on it. It works well on bellows, tubes, etc., so the 1:2 is only a limit of the mechanics, not the optics.

Chris Brogden - . . . it's a superb lens. Very sharp, and with smooth bokeh.


Bob Blakely - This lens came with the "Bellows A" that I bought, along with slide copier and a special cable release (two cables joined so that lens can be stopped down just before tripping the shutter. The lens is optically identical to the 100/4 macro (dental, etc...), but has no helicoid for focusing. It can be used with the Pentax extension tubes (focus by moving the whole camera) and/or with the Pentax helicoid extension. In this case, you will have to use it like a "preset aperture" lens. It works fine, very sharp, very flat field, but the regular 100/4 macro is more versatile.

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William Robb - . . . absolutely fine optic. . . [One good way to ] use it is on the helical extension tube. Focus is from infinity to a couple of feet with it used this way.


Yoshihiko Takinami - charm of SMCP85/1.8 with good resolution, natural bokeh, great color rendition, distortion free

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Shel - The K105/2.8 is an exemplary lens. It's sharp, it has good bokeh, it's built very well, has a great feel when focusing - IOW, it's a classic. The M100/2.8 is a mediocre lens. It's a downsized plastic toy by comparison. It's neither as sharp nor as well built. The K105/2.8 is also rather scarce. It, along with a number of other K lenses, is considered by many to be amongst the best lenses ever produced by Pentax.

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Jose Rodriguez - . . . the SMC-K 105mm f/2.8 is definitely a better performer than the SMC-M 100mm f/2.8; this is not to say that the M 100/2.8 is a poor performer by any standards. I have owned both and the K 105/2.8 produced much sharper images with excellent bokeh. . . . the K 105/2.8 rarely shows up on eBay or camera stores very much...

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William in Utah - . . . it is very sharp and extremely pleasant to use. The focal length is very useful for a variety of subjects.



Bob S... Ideal for your backpacking. . . I have used . . . very sparingly but thought [it was] at least comparable to the M 135/3.5 in sharpness and perhaps better but slower than the M 85/2.0 . . .

Joe.Cali (From the Web) - The 120 mm f2.8 M lens is one of my favourite lenses. It's very compact and lightweight and quite sharp at f2.8. Two of the pictures I've taken at full aperutre with this lens have sold over and over and won awards in every competition that I've entered them in. Sometimes when I go hiking, I just take my 18mm and this 120mm lens.

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JTodd - I had a 120 2.8 M and a 50 1.4 M for years as my only 2 lenses, so naturally shot alot with both. The 120 is a great portrait lens. Probably the best thing about it is the ability to shoot it at 1/125th sec hand-held, which you may not be able to do with a 135. In all honesty, though, I found it a bit mushy when shot wide open, kind of like the 85 2 M.


7 Feb 2000 Gerald Cermak

I've used the Takumar (BAYONET) 135/2.5 lens and find that while it is quite sharp, the color and contrast are not up to par with even my older M42 mount Super-Multi-Coated Takumar lenses. It was a cheap (budget) lens at the time that was not SMC coated, and shows this today in it's lack of image quality. Avoid this lens unless you are really on a budget. . . .

The SMCP 135/2.5 seems to be uncommon on the used market. Either not many were produced, or it is highly valued by its owners and is not sold often. It has the same optical formula (6 groups 6 elements) as the later M42 mount SMC Takumar 135/2.5. I have the earlier M42 S-M-C Takumar 135/2.5 (5/4), and find it great wide open as a portrait lens, but soft and infinity, even at f/4 (possible sample variance).

I have no experience with the other lenses, but according to Boz's site, the various optical formulas for the 135 lens are:

SMCP 135/2.5: 6 groups, 6 elements (also SMC Takumar 135/2.5, but not Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 135/2.5)

SMCP A 135/2.8: 4 groups, 4 elements

SMCP A* 135/1.8: 6 groups, 7 elements

SMCP F and FA 135/2.8: 7 groups, 8 elements

SMCP 135/3.5: 4 groups, 4 elements (also SMCT 135/3.5)

SMCP M 135/3.5: 5 groups, 5 elements

TAKUMAR (BAYONET) 135/2.5: ? groups, ? elements

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Matjaz Osojnik - I went through the same dilemma one year ago. I knew that M 3.5/135 is regarded as very good lens, especially for it's price, but wanted more speed. So my first buy was Takumar 2.8/135. What a mistake. It was a dog, with a big flare problem. So I bought SMC M 3.5/135 instead and it proves to be a very nice lens.

I don't know nothing about 2.5/135 though, they are considered as good lenses too. Whatever You decide, I'd suggest SMC version, since my experience with non SMC 2.8/135 Takumar is bad.

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Fred - I have had experience with three 135's, as follows:

I used to have, at one time, an A 135/2.8, but I found that it was not particularly good wide open, and was not a whole lot better stopped down. The soft images from it may have been the result of a cheap 4/4 optical construction (of which Pentax should maybe not be too proud). I think its flare performance was not too bad, though, as I recall. In any event, I wouldn't recommend this lens, which might not have been one of the high points in Pentax Lens History.

On the other hand, I can highly recommend the SMC ("K") 135/2.5 lens, which is extremely well built and really quite sharp. However, do not confuse this lens for the all-too-common "Takumar [Bayonet]" 135/2.5, which apparently suffers from being designed as a "budget lens for the masses". (It seems that, what the Takumar lacks in resolution and contrast, it makes up for with flare - <g>.) The SMC 135/2.5 is not nearly as common, but they do show up on eBay at perhaps something like a 1 to 10 ratio, as compared to the "Takumar [Bayonet]" 135/2.5's. I'm going to go out on a limb and call the SMC 135/2.5 "The Poor Man's 135/1.8". Apparently there are a few others who might at least partially agree, because the selling price for these chunky little beauties, it seems to me, has started to rise a bit over just the last few months.

Then there's the <drum roll, please> A* 135/1.8. This lens has sometimes been called "legendary", and its reputation is well deserved, I do believe.

I carry around an SMC 135/2.5 in my kit bag quite routinely, and only lug out the A* 135/1.8 when there's a need for the extra speed. Most of the time, I don't find I'm missing too much with "just" the K 135/2.5 (but, to be honest, most of the time I'm merely shooting 4x6 prints). And then, to be perfectly honest, many of my 135mm shots have been taken with the long end of an A 28-135/4 zoom, so I guess I must admit to not being much of a 135mm purist, either. So, take all the above comments from whence they come - <g>.

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I am looking into purchasing a telephoto lens and cannot decide between the mentioned lenses. I don't really do any macro photography so this feature (100mm lenses) is not essential for me. As far as focal length, I'd be happy with either 100mm or 135mm.

Roberto Burgos S.- I have both the FA135/2.8 and FA100/2.8 macro. They are both good for what they were designed to. If you care more about focusing speed, do not do macro and are concerned a bit about cost investment, then the FA135/2.8 IF is a beauty. The angle of coverage is a bit close for indoors portraits, but its a great short tele for general use. Its lighning fast focusing and tack sharp at all apertures. Small and fits great on any ZX body or even the PZ1P.

OTOH, the FA100/2.8 macro is a beast in construction and performance. Focusing is slower than the FA135 but it has a focus limiter that allows you to "limit" the focus on "far range" or "close range", reducing the focusing time lag a lot.

Both lenses are worth every penny for their price (new), considering regular retail prices (about $325 for the FA135 and about $525 for the FA100 macro). You will not go wrong with either of this lenses.

The FA100/3.5 macro is another class. It is more consumer oriented and even though it can give you nice and sharp pictures, they will not stand as big enlargements as the other two f/2.8 teles. Remember that its almost a full stop slower, and that sometimes makes a big difference.

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Arnie Lie - . . . After I purchased the 100/2.8 I stopped using the 135mm for a while, but have now re-descovered this lens. Its so small and light compared to the Macro lens. Both are very well built, and optics are excellent. The out-of-fucus is very nice on the 135, perhaps due to the use of 9 aperture blades. If portraint outdoor: go for the 135mm. If indoor, the 100mm. The 100/3.5 has gotten excellent reviews I've heard (for its price), so if your budget is limited, it might be not that bad alternative.

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Bruce Dayton - I have both the FA 135 and the FA 100 2.8 Macro and have shot the 100 3.5 Macro. If you are not going to use the macro function I think that the 135 is much nicer. It is smaller and lighter and has a built in lens hood. It is faster to focus and costs less. I haven't noticed any real difference in optical quality between these two. My experience with the 100 3.5 was positive. It is very light and inexpensive. For the price, it seems to be a good buy. If you are really tight on money get the 100 3.5. If not, go for the 135.

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David S. (From the Web) - The K mount Takumar 135 2.5 is better then the SMC Pentax A 135 2.8. The SMC Pentax A 135 2.8 is not a sharp lens, I think Pentax even admitted that. . . . The SMC Pentax FA 135 2.8 is a very sharp lens and better then either of the other two.

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Bob S. - I've been very happy with wide open pictures and the ease of focusing with the A* 135 f1.8. Since acquiring it, I've shot a lot of indoor - theater/auditorium stuff. It balances well on the PZ-1 with a monopod and delivers great results wide open.

I've run some comparisons between the M135/3.5, K135/2.5, and A*135/1.8. The old K135/2.5 is clearly a much sharper lens than the M135 (not to bash it). The A*135 is another giant step better than the K135/2.5. You can see the difference in simple 3x5's from the drug store!

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Kent Gittings - The 135 came in 4 flavors of manual focus:

  1. The 135/2.5 SMC-P (we call the K lenses)
  2. The 135/2.8 SMC A
  3. The 135/3.5 SMC M
  4. The 135/1.8 SMC A*

If you can't afford or find #4 then I personally would go for #2 next, #1 second, and the M #3 last.

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Mark Gosdin - I can add a #5 to Kent's list, The 135/3.5 SMC-P "K" lens. It's a nice sharp lens, closer to the 135/2.5 in appearance and finish. It uses a different number of elements & groups than the 135/3.5 "M", and also does not have a built in hood. I like it in preference to my 135/2.8 Takumar and 135/2.8 Rikenon.


Fred - The A* 135/1.8 [has been] described as "quite soft" wide open, . . . I would say that the 135/1.8 is quite sharp even at f/1.8 - no, not as sharp as at smaller apertures, of course, but still quite sharp in its own right (and ~not~ "quite soft" at any aperture, including wide open).

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Pål - the A 135/1.8 is a great lens on all apertures except wide open where its quite soft, but still better wide open than most other Pentax lenses. The lens is highly recommended and beautifully made.

[later comment] A very good lens with surprisingly good results wide open. It doesn't reach the same level of resolution as the FA* 85/1.4 at its best aperture, but it isn't far behind but much better at wide apertures. A very good lens.

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Fred (again) - . . . The 135/1.8 impresses me the most as having incredible wide-open performance - a truly superb low-light telephoto. . . .

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Bob S. - . . . this is one of the 3 best lenses Pentax made, along with the A*85/1.4, and A100/2.8 Macro. . . 


NOTE: The following comments refer to the SMC lens with 58 mm filter thread - not the Takumar

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Pavel - 135/2.5 is very sharp lens (I feel one of the sharpest lenses in that range).

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William Cornett - I have a Pentax 135 f 2.5 Takumar. I've never been happy with the resoloution, but the danged thing has at least five magazine cover shots to its credit, and I've never been able to make up my mind about replacing it until recently. [NOTE: this Takumar (Bayonet) 135 f/2.5 is NOT the same as the 135 mm f/2.5 K-mount lens with SMC coating. smh]

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tv - Maybe the worst prime Pentax ever put out, in terms of resolution and contrast. Built like a tank. Good as a portrait lens, if you want to soften things up a bit.

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Bob S. - The old Pentax K 135 F1:2.5 with the 58mm front . . . is sharper than the M 135 F1:3.5 by a lot and only less sharp than the A* 135 F1:1.8 by a little under most conditions.

[Bob again . . .] . . . K-135/2.5 with a 58mm front end... is worth the hunt. It is a great lens at a good price, and few except those on this list know about it. I've done some informal tests on the A*135/1.8, K-135/2.5, M-135/3.5, and Tak-135/2.5. The Tak-135/2.5 (52mm filter) isn't very good. The A*135/1.8 is expensive, $500+ if you can find one. The K-135/2.5 is the next best and if you are lucky, you will find one in the same price range as the M-135/3.5. . .

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Paul Stenquist - The SMC 135/2.5 is among my favorite lenses, and I use it frequently. This is the focal length I prefer for shooting head shoots in a crowd or children at play outdoors. It gives me enough focal length to remain unobtrusive, yet it's short enough for hand held work in bright light. The SMC 135/2.5 is extremely sharp to my eye, although I haven't tested it. In terms of color, it seems to produce brighter more saturated color than my other 135, the M 135/3.5. The bokeh is subtle and very pretty.

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Arnold Stark - Mechanically superb and a pure joy, optically very good but not superb. [I use it for] portraits, snapshots, details, low light. . . The mechanical quality is superb and pure joy. The focal length is one of my favourite ones, and the lens is fast enough for easy focusing and low light shooting. It is much heavier than the M135/f3.5 but makes a better combination with the LX. On an M camera, however, the M lens feels better. . . Resolution is good but not better than that of the M135/f3.5, and the FA135/f2.8 seems to be slightly ahead of them both. [With respect to bokeh, . . .] here the lens is at the (high) Pentax standard, neither below, nor above. As one would expect from a 135mm lens, the background is very nicely blurred if it is far away, however, sometimes narrow lines like thin branches double noticeably, especially if they are closer than the main object... The FA77 is better for sure...

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PAUL STENQUIST - The Pentax SMC 135/2.5 . . . [is] a magnificent piece of glass and should never be mentioned in the same sentence as the K-Mount Takumar 135/2.5. . .

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george de fockert - Big, heavy, excelent built SMC lens in K mount version. Its a pity that the hood is plastic. I did some astrophoto test some years ago . . . At 2.5 it shows some vignetting which is gone at 4.0. The K 2.5 and K 3.5 perform both equally well, but only the 2.5 has no vignetting at 4.0


Arne Lie - . . . I think you should avoid this one. It has 4 elements/4 groups,. . . It was replaced by the F135/2.8 in 1989, which is the same optically as the FA135/2.8 which I own and love. The latter has 0.7 meters min distance, as compared to the 1.2m for the A-model. I think the M135/3.5 is far better, though slower.

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George Stanley - . . . Wide open at f/2.8 the resolution and contrast is very, very poor, and the lens does not get really sharp till f/5.6. Pentax tried to cut costs with this lens, and made it a 4-group, 4-element design. Even their SMC Pentax 135mm f/3.5 (M & non-M) had 5-element designs. Their latest SMC Pentax-FA 135mm f/2.8 lens has a 7-group, 8-element design. At the time, the various magazine test reviews on this SMC-A 135/2.8 were embarrassingly bad, and it was discontinued after a short & sad life.

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David S - I had the 135 2.8 A, it is not a sharp lens & you should avoid it.

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Yoshihiko Takinami - . . . As for the optical performance, K135/3.5 is far sharper wide open than A135/2.8. A135/2.8 is a bit soft.


Yoshihiko Takinami - In my experiences with K135/2.5, K135/3.5, and F135/2.8[IF], which is optically identical to FA135/2.8[IF], I do not think F135/2.8[IF] is optically comparable to K135/2.5 nor K135/3.5 in point of sharpness. The only advantage of it over the two K lenses, IMHO, is its shorter minimum focal distance, 0.7m.


Derby Chang - Small and pretty solidly built. The barrel is metal and the focusing ring, while not large, is a decent size and rubberized. Internal focusing is handy. I use it wide open all the time, and it is quite sharp.

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George Stanley . . . have never done any . . . resolution testing, I find it to be a splendid performer. With the built-in hood, flare resistance is also excellent. Highly recommended! . . .very sharp, small & rugged, it can focus to about 4:1-- close enough for eyes & nose only! This lens is a bit pricey . . . but it's a real gem!

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PETER J. POPP - . . . I'm very impressed with the lens with the exception of the rubber focussing ring, . .. the ring appears to be somewhat sloppy or wobbly in mounting, [and] . . . the damping of the ring in manual focus mode is not what I expected. . . I've great success photographing cyclocross races with it, with cyclists running straight at me, and it seems to autofocus very quickly. Depending on whether or not you are going to be autofocussing with it, I would highly recommend it.

[additional later comment from Peter . . .] The only negative comment I have about my FA 135/2.8 is that the manual focus ring has a bit of a sloppy feel to it. When I got it I posted a question asking about this, and half of the people who replied said their lens was the same way. Since I live close to Pentax in Colorado I took it in to make sure it was OK. They said the lens was working fine and that the loose feel in the focus ring had nothing to do with the internal focussing mechanism. And it doesn't - you can prove this by turning the focussing ring and watching the internal elements through the rear of the lens.

Now, having said that, I quickly started to ignore this 'not really a problem' problem, and just started using the lens. And it is fantastic. Built like an aircraft carrier. Great built-in hood. Optically excellent. And you will really learn to love this focal length. You won't regret buying this lens or paying the price for it. Perfect for when you need a bit of reach. Enjoy it.

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George Stanley - . . . have actively used it for more than a year. Optically, this lens is excellent/ and mechanically it appears to be very sturdy. On my particular lens, the focusing ring is NOT "sloppy or wobbly." But, yes, this ring does turn very freely and is not damped. I believe that this is normal, in order to facilitate fast autofocusing and to minimize strain on the autofocusing motor in the camera body.

George Stanley [again] - The . . . SMC Pentax-FA 135mm f/2.8 happens to be one of the finest and best lenses in the current Pentax lens lineup. Very, very sharp, close focusing, light, a pleasure to handle, and reasonably priced. Frequently available at local swapmeets for less than $200. Highly recommended!
 
 

Roland Mabo -. . . I'm very, very pleased with it. Excellent mechanical construction and build quality with a nice built-in lens hood. Also very nice optical performance. It's the fastest of my autofocus lenses, thank's to the internal focusing mechanism.

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Roberto Burgos S. - . . . a heck of a lens. Great built, great optics and lighning fast focusing.

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Yoshihiko Takinami - In my experiences with K135/2.5, K135/3.5, and F135/2.8[IF], which is optically identical to FA135/2.8[IF], I do not think F135/2.8[IF] is optically comparable to K135/2.5 nor K135/3.5 in point of sharpness. The only advantage of it over the two K lenses, IMHO, is its shorter minimum focal distance, 0.7m.

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Martin L - The FA135/2.8[IF] still provides a good contrast, and small prints looks sharp. Unfortunately,I cannot say the same about large prints.

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George Stanley [again] - Overall, I am happy with the optical performance of this lens. Now-- if only the damn thing didn't rattle!!

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Roberto Burgos S. - The FA135 is a superb lens. Lighning fast focusing and tack sharp center to edges. I can see the difference even in 4 x 6 machine prints. The two extra f/stops will make you very happy. The FA135 is also built like a tank. All metal barrel (it looks plastic because it has the same flath black finish) but it feels cooler to the touch, meaning its metal!. Has built in hood and takes 52 mm filters. Non rotating front element (as with any prime...).

The only con I can think of the FA135 is the fixed focal length, but this is widely surpassed by the image quality you get.

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tv - . . . While I wouldn't quite put the FA 135 in star territory, it's much better made then one of the plastic zooms, and optically *is* in star territory. It's built much like the FA macro lenses: solid, but not bomb-proof. It's main drawback is focus feel. It's a little loose in that area.


Daphne - . . . I got a K (pre-M) version of the 135mm f3.5 . . . I was amazed by the fantastic quality of the pics - every single one taken (indoors at objects from close, outdoors scenery) with this lens came out incredibly sharp, saturated, contrasty - almost three-dimentional! way better than my ex-120/3.8mm SMC M lens, actually as good, or better than my ex-SMC 105/2.8. I really cant rave enough about this lens - I can feel that this odd focal length is gonna become a fave. If you happen to bump into this lens, GRAB it!

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Mark Gosdin - . . . It's a nice sharp lens, closer to the 135/2.5 in appearance and finish. It uses a different number of elements & groups than the 135/3.5 "M", and also does not have a built in hood. I like it in preference to my 135/2.8 Takumar and 135/2.8 Rikenon. YMMV.


Nick. - I've always found the 135/3.5 M to be an excellent lens, sharp and easy to use. It gives good results, even when used with close-up accessories.. . .

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Richard G. Brennan - I have a Pentax 135 M 3.5 lens that I bought for my ME Super. I still use it on my PZ1. Tiny thing, and very inexpensive - but sharp as a tack. It is still my favorite.

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Fred - I used to have an M 135/3.5. It was quite sharp as I remember, and quite small, too. It still is probably the best "first telephoto prime lens" for a new user . . .

- - - - -

David Viles - I think the M 135 f/3.5 lens is an excellent lens. It is very sharp and you only lose half a stop of light compared to the f/2.8. Also, it is very compact and relatively light weight with a built in hood that extends whenever you need it. . . . I would suggest . . . the K 135 f/2.5. It is truly an outstanding lens. The only one that might be better would be the A 135 f/1.8, but I've never used that one.

- - - - -

Ed Mathews - I used to own this lens (135 F3.5M) and used it with my Super Program and ME Super bodies. I loved it and got great results with it. Then I sold all my Pentax gear. Now that I'm back with the ZX5N, I just ordered this lens again from KEH . . . I can't wait until it comes, as I'm sure it will balance well with the new light, ZX series.

- - - - -

Ron Kerkhove (From the Web) - I [have] a 135mm SMC (M) 3.5 and I like the old Takumar 135 mm f/2.5 more.That [the 2.5 Takumar] is a very good lens in my opinion; sharp, bright, not to heavy for a 2.5 tele, and has a nice contrast ( great portrait lens ).

- - - - -

William in Utah - I have one of these, small, good feel, nice built in hood, and very sharp. Plus, it is usually cheap . . .

- - - - -

Matjaz - . . . it is a nice little lens. . . It's quite good optically, with no big flare problems (it comes with nice built in pull-out hood) and with nice mechanical feel . . .

- - - - -

Bob S. - It's a good lens. Sharp, compact, and well built.

[addendum] - Of the manual focus Pentax 135mm lenses, it is the most cost effective.

- - - - -

Alan Chan - . . . the SMC-M 3.5 is a very sharp yet dirt cheap lens with built-in hood.


bbb - This is the only Pentax lens I have dumped because I did not like the images. I feel the lens has exceptionally low contrast compared to other Pentax lenses. I much prefer the 120mm f2.8 K and 135mm f3.5 M. [and then in another conversation . . .] I got rid of mine because it seemed to have lower contrast than any telephoto I've used. I also have the 120mm f2.8 and the 135mm f3.5 M, both of which are great (IMO).

- - - - -

Bill Robb - I like my 150 a lot. It is a real gem of a lens. It seems very sharp and contrasty, I like the bit of extra length it has over the 135. I don't know how it compares image wise to that lens. . .

[addendum] - Certainly not up to the standard of the A100 2.8 macro, but certainly it is no a dog. The bokeh of the lens is quite pleasing also.

- - - - -

Shel Belinkoff - It's a little jewel. The bokeh is very nice, and the lens handles well. It's not quite as sharp as the SMCP 135/2.5, but it's better than the SMC-M 135/3.5. Overall, I'm quite pleased with my copy.

 


Oh Cheng Yu [from this site's response form . . .] - very sharp lens, have made 20x30 enlargement from portrait taken at f/8


Barry Brevik - My 200 f2.5 . . . is a really superb lens both optically and mechanically (heavy though.)

- - - - -

MadDogMorg - I have the SMC Pentax 200mm f2.5 lens. I bought it new in 1978 for $604.00 (US) and have used it a lot, particularly at indoor sporting events. It's a big chunk of glass: it uses 77mm filters. I have been very satisfied with the results I get with this lens. I don't use it as often as I once did, however, because I now use my SMC Pentax-FA 80-200mm f2.8 in its place.

- - - - -

Kent Gittings - It is not an "M" lens; it is a pre "M" version. I have one and it is excellent although heavy, similar in weight to an 80-200/2.8. An excellent lens to use with the AF 1.7x on an AF body.

- - - - -

>How does compare the SMC-200/2.5 with other 200mm Pentax lenses with
>respect to optical quality and construction?

JoMac - It's brighter in the finder, less depth of field, equal to the M*200/2.8 in sharpness and construction, and heavy (77mm filter size, to give you a feeling for front element size).

Fred -  The SMC ("K") 200/2.5 is virtually as sharp as the A* 200/2.8, though it is a little longer, a little heavier, and perhaps a little more rugged. The 200/2.8 does have an LD element, I guess, but I don't think this appears to be too significant at 200mm (as it starts to be by 300mm or so, in my experience). The 200/2.5 is, of course, a little faster than the 200/2.8 - they both use 77mm filters, but the actual diameter of the 200/2.5's front element is definitely a little wider than that of the 200/2.8's front element.

The 200/2.5 seems to focus a little more stiffly than does the 200/2.8, but this is simply because the 200/2.8 focuses "softer" than most of the other manual focus Pentax lenses. I've owned a couple of the 200/2.8's over time, and I still had one of them when I obtained my mint 200/2.5. I liked the 200/2.5 so much (call me old-fashioned - <g>) that I ended up selling the 200/2.8.
 
 The only other 200mm lens that I've had any experience with was a A 200/4, and there really was no contrast between either of the big 200's with the A 200/4, which seemed to have lower resolution and contrast. Although the A 200/4 was not a bad lens overall, it was just simply not a particularly strong performer (at least that was the story with the sample that I had).
 
Also, I should point out that the A 200/4 is a different lens from both the K and M 200/4's (of which I have no experience), so this statement should not be routinely applied to those lenses. Furthermore, I neglected to include the A* 200/4 Macro in [my] 200mm comparison, but that lens is almost in a class of its own, and it's almost unfair to compare other lenses with it - <g>.
 
 One additional thought: Both the K 200/2.5 and the A* 200/2.8 do show a bit more light falloff wide open than I would like (both about the same amount). This would be in comparison to, say, the 200/4 Macro, the A* 135/1.8, the K 135/2.5, or the M*/A* 300/4, all of which seem to be more free of this negative than the two fast manual focus 200's, at least in my experience. 


Mike Breen - The 200 f/2.8A is probably as good as any fixed focus 200mm lens made. At this quality level differences are subtle. It is sharp corner-to-corner wide open yielding contrast I can depend upon. . .

- - - - -

David S. - I used to have the A*200/2.8 & thought it to be very sharp. I did trade it in on the FA*200/2.8 & am happy. Which one is sharper? I am not sure, I have never done resolution tests on them but I use the 200 a lot & have used both at all apertures. They are both good. Why did I trade the A* in for the FA*? 1. Autofocus capability. 2. I like the FA* internal focus 3. the FA* focuses down to 1.2m, the A* only goes down to 1.8m. I can just about fill the frame with a mouse using the FA*. You can also do macro with a 100mm extension tube on the FA*.

- - - - - -

Valentin - . . . the Pentax A* 200/2.8 ED and the Leica 180/3.4 are the best in their class. If I were to choose, I'd take the Pentax (larger max aperture).

- - - - - -

Aaron - . . . I adore this lens. I use it primarily in low to very low light . . . Great contrast, sharp enough to cut the paper you're printing on, and the viewfinder image in my ME Super is unbeatable. And yes, a dream to focus. And so well built that I can't even think about those new AF lenses (other than the limited ones).

[Aaron again . . .] . . . easily the best lens I own, and either the best or second best that I've ever used (I'm still evaluating the negs from when I borrowed . . .[a] FA* 24mm f2.0).

[Aaron again . . .] . . . I've found that the results from the A* 200mm f2.8 wide open are phenomenal. The depth of field is quite shallow, but the sharp area is really sharp, and the out-of-focus areas look magnificent. I've never shot formal portraits with it, but have shot numerous "face" shots of musicians performing, and I love the results.


[see David S. coments above concerning this lens and the 200mm f/2.8 A* ED]

- - - - - -

Bruce Dayton - . . . I recently purchased the FA *200 f2.8 due to the desire to have AF, as well as a sharp, high speed telephoto. I adore mine too. It is really sharp and a dream to use. I tend to use it on a PZ-1p where it balances quite nicely. I find that the focus is very smooth and well damped for an AF lens. It is surprisingly light weight for what it represents. And to top it off, it fits neatly in my camera bag. The hood, however, is another matter to fit in the bag. . .

[Bruce again . . .] I have this lens and love it! The size and weight make it very handy to take along with a converter. As with most * lenses, this one is very sharp. I have used it quite often with the 1.4XL (yes, it can use the XL version) and with a Tamron AF 2X 7 element converter. I find the Tamron to lose a little contrast, but not bad. The Pentax 1.4XL doesn't seem to degrade at all. I'm sure it does, but I can't see it . . .

- - - - - -

David Sheppard - Excellent lens, I have used it with a 100mm extension tube & also used it with the Pentax F 1.7AF teleconverter. Sharp contrasty images from both combinations.

- - - - - -

Jan van Wijk - I have used that lens a lot, it is a really good and sharp lens. I have used it a lot with the 1.7x AF converter as well, and that combo still performs nicely. It also works very good with the 1.4x-L and 2x-L converters (manual focus) but I don't own these long enough yet to be able to compare ... (I expect less vignetting though) I tend to use the 2.8 200mm a little less lately, because I very often take the A* 4.0 200mm instead ... I sometimes take the 2.8 200mm (plus 1.7 converter) with me if I need the tele, but don't want to carry the 300mm 2.8 with me :-)


Glastonbury, John - Sep 97. . . I have and use both K mount and Screw mount versions of this lens, and although I prefer to use the K mount version because it has a built-in lens hood and is lighter, both are optically and mechanically very good even at full aperture. Generally, all SMC Pentax fixed lenses are optically excellent I've found, . . .

- - - - - -

Thomas Haller - I have the old SMC 200Macro f4 lens and love it. I picked it up used,. . . few years ago. I like it a lot, very sharp, good contrast, . . .

- - - - - -

Roberto Burgos S. - I had the SMC-M 200/4 and liked it very much. It is very sharp. Very nice bokeh too. I sold it when switched to AF, because my sight was not very good any more.

- - - - - -

Fred - It is like many of the other K lenses, which are generally high in quality, but are usually not as common as are the M lenses that supplanted many of them (starting with the introduction of the M bodies in 1977).

They [the K and the M version described below] are indeed different lenses (different optical designs), and not really contemporaneous either, since the M version replaced the K in the Pentax lineup in the late 70's. Personally, I think they are both good lenses, although I think that the K version has slightly higher contrast. On the other hand, the built-in hood on the M version is a nice touch (although somewhat shorter than ideal, of course). The compact M version is also a little smaller and a little lighter than the "chunky" K version, and makes a good "traveling lens". The K lens is much less common and may be slightly better optically, however, so I would suggest that, if you were to decide to keep just one of the two, you should keep the K 200/4.


Roberto Burgess S. - Ahhh! superb optics, great handling

- - - - - -

[see Fred's comments above.]



Pål Jensen - The Pentax-A* 200/4 ED Macro lens is one of the greatest Pentax products ever. It is still available new. . . It was recently tested in a German photo magazine and was found better than all the competition . . including the new Canon 180/3.5 macro and Nikon 200/4. A fantastic lens.

[later comment] This is a brilliant lens. There's nothing negative to say about it.

[and again] I would like to add that its particularly in the far focus range that its brilliant. Not that its not brilliant in the Macro range; but all Macro lenses are. However, it is its unique attributes as a super sharp all-round lens, however you use its that makes it that great. It is also supperb with teleconverters. (Both the Pentax L-type converters. . .work very well withthis lens.) A truly brilliant lens and it is indeed my candidate for the best pentax lens ever.

. . . using this lens with the 2X-L converter in order to get razor sharp 2:1 magnification for insect photography. The result is razor sharp and you can cound every hair on a fly's legs, or even a midge.

[Editor's note: I think Pål likes this lens. smh]

- - - - - -

can this lens be used for general photography as well as macro, in lieu of other, more conventional 200mm lenses?

David (Zx5Lx) - Absolutely! It's performance at both infinity as well as 1:1 macro is superb and combined with it's relatively small size and weight and excelent well thought out removable tipod mount, this lens, has to rank up there with the best! [However,] With the A 1.7 AF converter, I would have to say, corner sharpness and light fall-off left something to be desired.

- - - - - -

Fred - It's a good lens, all in all, . . . It's sharp, fast, lightweight, and an absolute ~dream~ to focus manually. I think it has a little more light falloff wide-open than it should have, though. And I think that the protruding rubber bumper around the leading edge of its built-in hood does as much harm (by snagging on things) as good (by protecting the hood somehow), when using the lens in the field.

Fred (again) - the 200/4 Macro impresses me as having the highest resolution of any lens I've ever seen, from macro distance (1:1 magnification) all the way out to infinity.

and Again - It is the sharpest lens that I have ever used (and at infinity, too, not just at macro ranges). It is compact, solid, and has a really neat removable tripod mount . . . For macro work, it goes to 1:1 "in style"

[Editor's note: I think Fred also likes this lens. smh]

- - - - - -

Bill Peterson (From the Web) - My most used macro lens. Excellent optically and mechanically. Unlike some internal focus lenses, this lens' focal length does not shorten. Loss of light at minimum focus does not present a problem. Considering size and weight of competitors (except Nikon 200mm AIS), fantastic lens. Sure would like to see well built AF version.

- - - - - -

Fred - I personally have never used a lens as sharp, at any distance from macro range to infinity, as the "SMC Pentax-A* 1:4 200mm Macro"


Pål - Seems like we have another legend. My inital test proves that this lens is simply amazing! I can't see any differences in optical quality between the apertures. Pentax claims that it represents the pinnacle of Pentax design and its seems to me that they were right.

How does it compare to the A* lens? I haven't done any side by side tests but gut feeling is that the FA* is a tad sharper wide open. I also suspect it has smooter bokeh (not tested) since this feature has priorities in later Pentax lens designs.

- - - - - -

Pål (later) - I replaced the old manual focus one with the new AF lens. Regardless of the fine qualities of the manual focus lens the new FA* 200/4 ED macro is simply astonishing. Its incredibly sharp at all apertures (includes wide open and F:32) and has a bokeh to die for. It also offers inner focusing something that gives far better handling than with the old version. Its larger and heavier though. In spite of urban myths to the contrary, AF is VERY useful for macro.

Its quite possible the best Pentax lens ever.

- - - - - -

Daryl wrote:
> What is the groups opinion on the possibility of trading in a SMC Pentax
> K-mount manual focus 2.5 200mm on the new FA* 4 200mm macro? What would
> be the pros and cons of such a trade for example:
> Manual vs Auto Focus
> Weigh of Lens
> Loss of Speed on the FA*4

Pål - For one thing you get a 1:1 Macro lens. Another thing is that you get quite possibly the best ever 200mm made with the FA* 200/4 ED IF.

Manual focus is excellent with its clutch mechanism and inner forcusing design. The 200 Macro is as good in manual focus as any lens.

The importance of loss of speed can only be measured by yourself. Do you use the 200/2.5 wide open a lot?


Lens (filter size(s)) Tripod Mount?

FA* 300 2.8 EDIF (43/112) Rotates, removable

FA* 300 4.5 EDIF (67) No

F* 300 4.5 EDIF (67) Rotates clicks every 90 deg, removable

A* 300 2.8 (49) Rotates, removable

A* 300 4.0 (77) No

M* 300 4.0 (77) No

K 300 4.0 (77) No


Pål - The pentax-A 300/2.8 lens is one of the truly classic Pentax lenses. Its simply outstanding. It so sharp that I can't imagine a lens like this being sharper. You do, however, need to stop down at least one stop when using the Pentax 2X-L converter; and then the combination isn't particularly fast and quite useless as bird lens. The 1.4X-L converter works great with this lens and I frankly cannot see any significant image degradation.

[Pål - later comment] Another gem. Sharp wide open. Razor sharp at all other apertures.

[Pål - detailed review, 23.9.99 . . .] The A* range of lenses are Pentax's best manual focus offering, with several (such as the lens reviewed here) still being offered for sale.

Build

One of the main drawbacks of the A* 300/2.8 lens is related to its build quality - due to it's heavy duty construction it weighs all of 3kg, making it the heaviest manual focus lens of its type. Although the lens is heavy, it is quite compact - short and fat being a fitting description. It's all metal, including the supplied lens hood, which is of the slide type and locks with a small screw. A leather lens cap that fits the whole front part of the lens is also supplied, as is an aluminium trunk case that's completely useless for field work, but nice for transportation. 49mm filters can be used via a drawer close to the lens mount, and a tripod can be used on the sturdy, non-removable mounting which is fitted. The barrel of the lens is painted white and is more durable than the silver metallic finish of the Pentax auto focus lenses.

Optical

The lens is a 8 element 8 group construction featuring internal focusing (IF) and ED (extra-low dispersion) glass. It is very sharp at all apertures, but razor sharp from F4, although there is realy very little difference between the apertures. Slides are very contrasty - resolution and sharpness are absolutely first rate. Studying feather details of birds with a loupe on the light table is nothing short of a joy. I have aslo used the lens for low light landscape work where its performance is extremely impressive. Performance with the dedicated Pentax 1.4X-L and 2X-L convertors is also very good - particularily with the 1.4x where any performance dedication is so slight as to be insignificant. When using the 2X-L converter its recommendedto stop down by at least one stop in order to achieve maximum optical quality.

Handling

Handling such a heavy lens is not easy so, due to its weight, this is a typical tripod lens. Its really too heavy for handholding although I have used mine for shooting birds from a Zodiac inflatable boat. The lens is a dream to focus because of its speed and nice internal focusing mechanism - the subject pops into focus and I'd not miss auto focus except when shooting from my boat.

The hood unlocked offers enough friction to leave it that way at all times,which is fortunate as the lock screw is a bit of a pain - it gets hooked up in everything. Mine eventually broke off! The inside of the lens hood is painted matte black, but this area often shows some wear with use due to the sliding motion of the lens hood.

Compatibility

The lens is 100% compatible with all Pentax K-mount bodies. The only thing you don't have when using it on auto focus bodies is auto focus!

Price

The lens is very expensive and costs more than most 300/2.8 auto focus lenses, including Pentax's own. It is not a difficult to find on the used market, where it seems to have a slightly higher price than the more common Nikon and Canon 300/2.8 lenses. In August 1998 some of the photo.net recommended retailers were listing this lens for around 5,150 USD, while the FA* 300mm F2.8 auto-focus alternative will set you back around 4,700 USD.

Conclusion

The lens is highly recommended if you can take the weight and cost (and AF isn't an issue for you). 300/2.8 lenses only make sense if you have use for the speed and/or want to use them a lot with converters. Remember, the Pentax FA* 300/4.5 cost less than 1/5 and weigths less than 1/3 of the A* 300/2.8 lens.

- - - - - -

Antti-Pekka [combination of two comments] - I agree with everything Pål said plus I want to add that this lens is really stunning in astrophotography (wide open). The star images are pinpoint thru-out the image, even in the corners. Also, I cannot see any light falloff. (The image circle of this lens would propably almost cover 6x6 format) It is the best lens for astrophotography I have ever used. I use it for nature as well, it's extremely sharp and contrasty lens with a beautiful bokeh. The built in hood is great as well. Simply, it is truly amazing :-) It is a bit heavy though...

- - - - - -

David S. - . . . I have the SMCA* 300mm f2.8, 1.4x-L teleconverter & 2x-L teleconverter. The 1.4x does not seem to have any noticeable image degradation when used with the lens wide open but I can see some difference between wide open or 1 stop down with the 2x. For that reason I try to have the 300 down at least 1 stop when I have the 2x attached to it unless I need the faster shutter speed in low light situations.

- - - - - -

Jarl Fr. Erichsen [from the web] - Very sharp but heavy. I used this lens in my vork as an photojournalist, for som years, and it was very sharp, but a little too heavy. It also worked fine with the 2X-L konverter.
 
 


Philip J. Hoffman - I used a FA 300/2.8 for shooting football at "Pro Player Stadium" (Dolphins) on several occasions and can tell you from first hand experience that it's a terrific lens. . . .Anyway, so far as the lens it's self.. what can I say...it's great. I've gotten shots that were as good as it gets. It's sharp at all aperture even wide open, which is where I use it most times, with 400 film... If you decide to bit the big one, and purchase this lens you will never be disappointed with it's performance. Just a little side note. Once you use this lens at f2.8, I don't think you will want to put a TC on it...... Even thought it sounds like you would get a pretty good 420mm/4 or a 600/5.6, the true beauty of this lens is at 2.8....

- - - - - -

John Francis - I've used the A* 300/2.8 with the 1.4X-L, and with the AF 1.7 adapter (which gives me an auto-focus 500/f4.5). I'm well satisfied with the results. I don't (yet) have a 2.0X-L, but everything I've heard would suggest that this works very well with the 300/2.8, too.


Gianfranco - I think the K 300/4 is a very good lens: sharp, contrasty, good bokeh; I've never tested flare but it seems not a problem too.


[Few comments included here, but this lens is on the all-time-favorite-Pentax-lens list for many PDML members. smh]

- - - - -

Jens Bladt - It's a great lens. I've only tried it a few times with a converter - with not very good results. Maybe my converter is too cheap (Kenko, Macro converter). Or maybe I used to slow speeds. The lens itself is certainly excellent (sharpness, contrast).

- - - - -

Texdance - I had the M* 300/4 for awhile. I liked the lens, but it was simply too difficult to focus on fast moving objects, and even frustratingly slow when composing static objects. I decided that autofocus was needed. The M*300 is a beautiful lens, but I sold it and bought the F* 300/4.5 instead. I was also disappointed with the contrast of the M*300, but I was comparing it to the A* 200/4 Macro at the time, so maybe it was an unfair comparison. . .

That said, one of the best squirrel photos I ever shot was with the M*300 and a Vivitar 2x Macro Focusing TC on a tripod. If I could afford *everything*, I would have kept the M*300. Since I can't afford everything, I am happier with the F* 300/4.5 than with the M*300/f4.


Bob Walkden - . . . The A* is easily handholdable from the weight and balance on LX pov. It is *much* smaller, though rather heavier, than the SMC A 70-210/4; it is quite close in dimensions to the A 35-105/3.5. I hardly need add that the quality is staggeringly good.

- - - - -

Fred - . . . best lightweight hand-holdable long telephoto there is in all of God's creation.

[Additional comment from Fred] - I have both the A* and M* versions of the 300/4 lens, and I do believe (from personal inspection and use) that they are mechanically and optically identical. The only apparent variances are in minor M-versus-A trim differences, the presence of the A electrical contacts on the A* version, and an apparent difference in SMC treatment (judging by the different colors to the reflections, as is the case with many M compared to A "twins").

I love the lenses. I've previously described . . . the M*/A* 300/4 lens design as "best lightweight hand-holdable long telephoto there is in all of God's creation". It is quite compact (although still somewhat heavy). It is quite sharp, even in the corners (even wide open), with very little vignetting (even wide open). On the down side, the built-in lens hood is a little skimpy for really effective coverage (although flare is well controlled, even without a hood). And, despite its small size, I really would have preferred it if there had been a provision for a tripod bracket (such as the neat removable design used on the A* 200/4 Macro). Also, the bokeh may sometimes appear to be just a bit harsh, though this is not unusual for a long telephoto.


John Mustarde - the F* 300/4.5 is hard to find second-hand (who would want to part with one of Pentax' best lens ever?) and even second-hand it costs almost as much as a new FA* 300/4.5. But the F-series version is worth the price. The F* 300/4.5 has the same great optics as the FA* version, but the F* also has a removeable rotating tripod collar. The F* also has an almost white finish, which has proven to be very durable . . . The F* 300/4.5 is almost always with me. It is just too fine an optic to leave at home no matter what I plan to shoot.

- - - - -

Cameron R. Hood - I have the F* version, made of white coloured metal with the tripod mount, and it is fabulous. Very sharp, accurate, and although the autofocus hunts a bit, it is a beautiful lens. . .

- - - - -

Carlos Royo - I've had one since 1991, and it's one of my best lenses. The optical quality is simply superb, and also its build quality. Fast AF on MZ-5 and Z-1 bodies; I took some bird pictures in India with it and the MZ-5, and the AF tracking of moving subjects given by the MZ-5 worked perfectly, which surprised me quite a lot. The removable tripod socket is very useful, too.

- - - - -

>Well, I solved the problem of the lack of a tripod mount on the FA* version of this lens by purchasing the F* instead. It came today, and what a beauty. . .it feels like it is built like a tank. But with one exception: the sliding lens hood is loose, or floppy. <

John Mustqarde - Take that hood and... Screw it. Seriously. It locks into place by screwing. It locks in the open and closed positions. Just give it a spin or two at extended or retracted position, and your looseness becomes tightness. It's really a wonderful design for a hood. Never off the lens, so never lost. Doesn't need reversing like some other large hoods. Also, the rubber bash ring comes in handy, at least for me. But, you can't replace the front lens cap without retracting the hood, . . .
Also, the tripod collar from the A* 200/f4 Macro fits the F* 300/4.5 (but not vice-versa). So if one is lucky enough to have both lenses, they need carry only one tripod collar, the much smaller one from the 200 Macro.

- - - - -

Winston - . . . the F300/4.5 I have is absolutely excellent. . . .Very slight pincushion distortion, great close focus performance, lightweight,tripod mount, and high resolution.

[Additional comments] It . . . has an excellent tripod mount. The bokeh is surprisingly nice. . . Contrast is excellent. . .Slight pincushion is noticable, but normal, and - I don't care. Overall, it's sharp, sharp, and sharp. The close focus performance is also excellent . . .Also, this lens picks fine details very well. Manual focusing? WOW, it made me forgot if it's an AF lens, very well damped. But for an IF lens, the autofocusing is on the slow side, and too much hunting with the PZ70, again, not a problem for me. . . Oh, it has an excellent hood, too.

- - - - -

Gary - I have the F version which has a detachable tripod mount. I find it fantastic for motor sport photography and even when using the lens hand held the tripod mount is great for stability. The FA version "improved" on this version by removing the tripod mount. As far as picture quality goes I think both versions would meet your requirements.

- - - - -

Doug Brewer - I found the resolution of this lens outstanding, and was impressed with the feel and balance.

- - - - -

Wolfgang - Shortly after the F* 300/4.5 was released, I did a side-by-side test comparing it to the A* 300/4. I found the F* to be noticably sharper at open aperture. But our friends on this list who know the A* lens better seem to agree that it is a very fine lens too. As far as I know, M* and A* are optically the same. The F* and FA* are also optically the same (Ibelieve), but the F* is the only one of all the 300mm lenses mentioned which has a tripod collar. This may help you to minimize tripod vibration problems, especially if you plan to use the lens with a converter. But be careful - this is a tricky suject. The only original converter that fits the FA* 300mm is the A 2x-S. For the other lenses I don't know.

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Mark Stringer - I bought mine about a year ago . . . It is the most exciting thing I have done in 35mm photography. Imagine a 300mm lens that gives results like shooting with a 50mm lens. I almost wept on seeing the first pictures I took. I couldn't believe the sharpness. I will always have a Pentax camera and this lens. I want more lens like this. I could give up 6x7 if I had a bag of lens that took pictures this good. BTW, I use the tripod collar a lot (i.e. remote taking pictures of hummingbirds at a feeder. How else would you do this?)

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Alan Chan - I have the F*300/4.5 which is quite all right without the tripod collar when used on Z-1p (but also depends on the tripod and tripod head too of course). However, I would not recommend using it without the tripod collar when TCs or extension tubes were used. There would be too much vibration to obtain pin sharp pictures. Other than the tripod collar, built-in hood is another reason to choose the F* rather than the FA*. However, with the F*, you have to set both the lens and the body to MF mode in order to focus manually. For the FA*, you only need to switch the lens only.


John Mustarde - The FA* 300/f4.5 is *almost* a great lens. It is optically great, but lacks a tripod socket.

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Bob Keefer - I've had the FA* 300/4.5 about five months. It's very, very sharp, even wide open. I enjoy using it handheld, as it's quite light. On the down side, it doesn't have a tripod collar and that is a definite problem, especially using it with a teleconverter. I would look for the F* version (which has one) instead if I were shopping for the lens right now. As it is, I use a ($50) Bogen long-lens support on the tripod. Works, but ungainly.

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KenWaller - I've had the 300mm f4.5 FA lens for several years now and use it a lot by itself and with a Pentax 1.4 XS convertor. I have had absoluely no problems with it and am very happy with the results I get. It produces sharp images (I mostly shoot it from a tripod) and has a robust feel to it. Yes I would like a tripod mount on it but it did not deter me from buying it and I would do it again. For serious field use you really have to be concerned about the weight you are carrying around and for 300mm this lens is light. When you consider the cost and weight of the 300mm f2.8, the f4.5 is a tremendous lens.


Mark Cassino [two comments merged] - . . . last summer on the used market when I decided to take the plunge with big glass, I went with the A* 400 f2.8 . . ., and have to say it is certainly on par with the A* 200 macro in sharpness. I see no difference in sharpness with the lens wide open vs smaller apertures, and with the 1.4x-L there is also no apparent degradation. The 2x TC impacts sharpness very slightly - but even so, this lens with the 2x-L is sharper than my Tokina ATX 400 with no TC, even at it's best aperture.

First impressions -- this lens is BIG and HEAVY. I upgraded to a Bogen 3036 tripod, since the lens was pushing the limits of the 3021 I already have. Between the lens, tripod, head and camera this is about 30 lbs to lug around. But surprisingly, the lens was not much more difficult to maneuver and aim than the now seemingly light Takumar 500 I was using prior. I do, however, miss the Takumar's gun sights.

As for the optical performance -- between work, weather, and familycommitments I've been unable to do any more that run a couple of rolls of film through it. I did the classic brick wall test (using print film) and found the lens to be astoundingly sharp. I poured over the brick wall tests using a reversed 50mm lens as a loupe. Even the most minute grains of sand in the mortar are discernable in all the shots, from f2.8 to f16. There is a very slight improvement in quality as the lens was stopped down, but overall it was excellent at all apertures.

What's really remarkable is that the 1.4 x teleconverter introduces almost no degradation of image quality. Looking at the same minute grains of sand, the lens was able to resolve them even wide open and with the TC, though the edge definition is slightly less crisp. One random sot I tookwas of the screen on my porch. The sun was hitting it at an oblique angle and I wondered if the lens could resolve out the individual wires in the screen. Remarkably, with the lens wide open and with the 1.4x tc on it, and from a distance of about 60 feet, the image does indeed show the grid pattern of the window screen. The openings in the screen are a little more than 1mm wide, and the wires themselves are a fraction of that size. Really amazing!

I also fired off a few shots of squirrels and sparrows etc in the yard. The narrow DOF makes for very pleasing bokeh's, but makes precise focusing essential. But you could count the hair's on the squirrel's chin!

[later . . .] I've had the lens for . . . 5 months [now] and haven't worked with it extensively, but the filter holder seems to work fine. The only drawback is that it seems like it would be difficult to use a polarizer with this lens, since you have to remove the rear filter holder to rotate the filter.

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Stephen Moore  - . . . the 400/2.8 is one heavy s.o.b...


 

Paul M. Provencher - . . . my impressions of this lens FORMULA (I have the same lens in screwmount) is that it is terrific. You won't regret it. But you will want to break out that nice sturdy tripod. It balances nicely in the tripod ring, is pretty easy to focus, and gives sharp images as long as you remember that depth-of-field is nil. You also need to use stop-down metering and remember to close the aperture before you shoot. Beat's the heck out of those 400mm f/6.3 generics!



Jostein - I have . . . the FA*400/5.6 . . ., and I've put some comments on my webpage at:
<http://home.c2i.net/jostein.oksne/Utstyr/fa400/fa400-test.htm>

[Later comment . . .] I wrote [the above comments] . . . last year, and since then I've grown more an more fond of it. I can now add that I think the best resolution power of the lens is achieved at f/9.5 or f/11, but that it's quite good even wide open.

[And still later, in response to a query from Pål . . .] . . . my only true point of reference is the M-400/5.6, and [this lens] is certainly better than that in all respects but handling.

On the optical side . . . IMO, the FA*400 is good enough for shooting animals at wide open, but (still only my experience) that resolution improves at f/8 and f/9.5. I haven't stopped it down further for this purpose. However, I have used it for landscape details, and afa I can see, the results are good. I recently sold a 50x60 cm Ilfochrome enlargement from a slide taken with this lens at f/32, and the image still looked good blown up. The motif was a single birch in a large field some place in Vestfold. It needed real resolution power to resolve the details in the canopy and crops.

The handling is really nice in AF, but the focus collar is too wide for easy handling in MF. It occupies almost half the length of the lens. There's no good way to balance the camera and lens in your hands without chancing to turn the lens out of focus. And a touch is enough, even though (IMO) the MF is _reasonably_ well damped. You can of course compensate much by putting the thing on a monopod or tripod.


JCO - Very good optics but the manual aperture makes it difficult for sports.

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Globetrotter-UK [from this site's response form . . .] - A very sharp and extremely cheap super-wide, extreme telephoto lens - especialy for a non-ED/APO lens. Quite lightweight for a 500 4.5, and built to a standard that is rare to see in a modern 'plastic-everything' age.

The resolution and 'crispness' improves on stopping down one or two stops, but this is true of even the best and most expensive of ED glass. Often I use the lens wide-open, and even if you don't, the sheer clarity of the viewfinder when used with a Pentax LX makes it a dream to focus. I have had photos taken with this lens published World-wide since I bought it secondhand in 'mint' condition....at a rock bottom price. Find one and buy it! This lens may not be as fast to work with as my FA autofocus telephoto lenses, but once on a tripod, and as long as you use good technique, this 500 4.5 from Pentax will not let you down.



Pål - The manual focus is just as fined tuned as focus on the A 300/2.8 lens; great in other words. Its also one of the few totally rattle free AF lenses. Dissapointing wide open. It vignettes visibly at max aperture and sharpness isn't very good. The light fall-off is quite similar to the FA 85/1.4 but the 600 appears slightly sharper wide open but I still find it too fussy to be of any use at this aperture. At F:4.5 light fall-off isn't noticable anymore and at F:5.6 the lens is sharp. F:5.6 is the working aperture. F: 4.5 can only be used in emergency and F: 4 should be avoided. There's very little difference between F: 5.6 and smaller apertures. Another curiosity is that wide open images are 1/3 under exposed compared to the other apertures. F: 4.5 is also very slightly underexposed while theres no difference in exposure between the other apertures . . . I have no idea whether this is due to the lenses or the camera (Z-1p). . . Otherwise the 600/4 is very heavy. The tripod mount formed as a handle is brilliant; the filter drawer is not and needs to be taped in place in order not to accidentally fall off.

[additional comment] Slightly soft wide open with visible light fall-off at the corners (performance very much like the 43 Limited wide open). Sharp from F:5.6. Also very sharp at its smallest aperture. Generally small diferences between the apertures.

[and a follow up comment from another discussion: ] I would like to comment a bit on[a]...rave review on the FA 600/4. [posted seperately - not included here.] I agree on the most part but have some critical comments. I do not find the lens THAT good wide open but still yield publishable results. There's a slight light fall off at the corners at F:4, negligible at F:4.5 and gone at 5.6. Its not annoying; only visible if shooting against an evenly colored surface (such as a blue sky). The lens is very sharp at F:5.6; my working aperture.

The filter drawer is a pain in the ass. You need to tape it in place if you don't want it to fall accidentally off. I also find the sliding hood to be somewhat cumbersome in use. You must be very careful so that it don't wobble when retracting it; if not, it get stucked.

...the tripod mount is formed like a handle; a brilliant idea on such a heavy lens and makes it easier to handle and carry around. There's also provisions for a strap. Also handy. I for one do not like the silver colored finish. It is very easy to scratch and not very durable. The white finish on the A* 300/2.8 is much more durable and resistant against wear. The focus limiter also doesn't feel that solid. I do, however, find the built in sliding hood to be a royal pain in the ass.

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John Mustarde - In my opinion, it is a truly fabulous lens and worth every penny of its price.

It is very sharp at f4, extremely sharp at f8. It is sharp wide open with the 1.4 XL TC; same with the Kenko AF 1.5X TC (autofocuses well with this, but has some light falloff in the corners). Wide open with the 2.0XL TC it loses a little sharpness, but most of the sharpness loss could be attributed to the normal problems associated with getting crisp shots at 1200mm.

My only gripe is that the filter holder can easily come loose if a sleeve or something else accidentally gives a slight rotation to the filter holder knob. I was carrying it in the ballpark one evening and the filter holder fell out with a crash, the holder fell at my feet, the filter became dislodged and rolled away into the crowd. Fortunately, a couple of strangers saw the situation and rounded yup the pieces for me - I was completely busy just carrying the lens itself. Everything went back together and nothing was broken. So I have a piece of gaffer tape securing the filter holder on my multi-thousand dollar lens.

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[more recent additional comment from Pål ] . . . Remember that there might be sample to sample variations between lenses. I don't find mine very sharp wide open. Its definitely soft and also show visible light fall-off at the corners. This is gone at F:5.6. I'm hardly able to detect any difference in optical quality between the apertures from 5.6 and F:22. Hence, mine is "glued" at F:5.6 where the lens provides very sharp results. However, if someone put a gun to my head I have to admit that this lens is not as good as the A* 300/2.8 or the A* 200/4 ED Macro. Its a great lens anyway and offer real value for money. It performs very well with the Pentax L-type converters. There are no visible degradations with the 1,4X-L converter.

[and a follow-up from John . . .] That's an interesting observation about softness and light falloff in the corners at f4. I have not noticed that with mine.

Because I have to shoot so often at f4 (due to film speed and available light and available camera support), if it were soft or exhibited any other negative characteristic at this aperture I would have sold it long ago.

If not sharp at f4, I see no reason to own a 600/4 lens except to get 840/5.6 or 1200/8 with teleconvertors. For me, a soft-at-f4 600 lens would force me to replace it with a good 300/2.8 and teleconvertors. That f4 aperture at 600mm is what this lens is all about - and to get it means carrying a lot of extra weight and bulk compared to a 300/2.8 and 2X TC. Interestingly, I am aware that some nature shooters have to be reminded that their 600/4 has more apertures than f4. It could be a bad habit on my part to shoot wide open so often. It makes logical sense that any f4 lens would be sharper at f5.6 than at f4. But with the type of support and range of shutter speeds I can use, a lot of time I choose f4 as the best available option.

Mounting this lens on a monopod and shooting at 1/180 is about normal for baseball shots; tripod mount at 1/500 is what I prefer when possible. But I have had my share of mirror-prefire shots at slowshutter speeds. I will start taking some comparison shots at various apertures andlook for the increase in sharpness you describe. . . Nevertheless, I would not rate my particular sample as "soft" at f4. Yes, my M 85/2 is soft at f2, and it is very noticeable. My 50/1.2 is also soft wide open, as was my M* 300/f4.

I would rate my 600 at f4 as "sharp", certainly the equivalent sharpness of my lost and lamented A* 200 Macro at f4 or even f5.6. Just behind these two (but not by much) in wide open performance I rate my F* 300/4.5, which I would also call sharp wide open. As for light falloff in the corners, I only see that when using the Kenko AF Teleplus 1.5x TC, which is not an optimal design for a long lens such as this. I would think this could be vignetting due to the fairly small diameter elements of this TC design.

So maybe my 600 is a good sample, or maybe my understanding of sharpness is flawed. Neverthless, we are in agreement that it is a fine lens and a bargain among the available 600/4 lenses.


Brian - I like my A* 600-F5,6... but they are kinda hard to come by, I don't think they are still in production. . . .I find the lens quite sharp, even wide open . . .



Zoom Lenses in SMC K-Mount


J.C. O'Connell - Pentax has never made a circular fisheye for 35mm. All their fisheyes were full frame including the zoom.

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Robert Harris - It is a full frame fish-eye at 17mm end, an uncorrected 28mm at long end that shows curvature at edges, although not as much as at the 17 length, so that for not linear subjects it may not be very noticeable. I have one and like it,. . .

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David - ZX5Lx@aol.com - It is a full frame fisheye..and a good one at that, especially if stopped down a bit.

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Greg Silverman -- I would like to add a fisheye (between 15-20) to my collection of lenses (with current "widest" angle a Pentax SMC-M 28/f2.8), and would be sharing this lens with my wife (she has a SF-1n and I have a KX -- so, I wouldn't get benefits of AF unless I used her camera). . . I have read that the Pentax 17-28 doesn't even have threads for a filter. . . ). . .

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R. Burgos - While is it true that the Pentax 17/28 has NO POSSIBLE WAY to use filters (nor front or back), it is the ONLY zoom lens that will give you true fish eye 180 degree coverage. . . If you care only for the 17 mm setting (180 degree fisheye), the only lens that I can think of that can give you tha same coverage, for about the same price, is the Sigma 16mm. But anyway, this is a fixed lens (not zoom).

When you consider the need for a fisheye (180 degree), this Pentax 17/28 beats them all hands down. You get the extreeme coverage at a reasonable (as compared to the rest of the bunch) fisheye lenses, with the advantage of zooming (fine trimming your super wide photos).

Now, if you consider this lens more on the 28 mm side, let me tell you it can be a little dissapointing because spherical aberrations are extreme at this end too.

Optics are very good but. . . there isn't really another similar lens (either aftermarket or OEM fron N, M or C) that can be compared to. Autofucus is not a major concern. This lens has so great deph o field that AF is really not needed.

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Paul G. Dileanis - I own . . .the 17-28 zoom. . . the 17-28 zoom is a great lens also and I use it a lot, especially for subjects which do not require lines to be straight. . . .Get a minimum of actual noticeable fisheye.

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Pål - I've said some nice things about this lens before but suspect that I have mixed up some shot with this lens and those shot with the 24mm. The fish-eye zoom isn't particularly sharp at any aperture although the result are usable.

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Roberto Burgos S. - I am quite happy with mine. I call it "the little monster in my camera bag" because no one would believe its capacity by its appearance. Its size is about the same as the cheap F35-80 but built is a lot better.

Optically is a weird sucker. It gives full 180 deg (diagonal) fisheye at 17 mm, and zooms to 90 deg (diag) at 28 mm. Barrel distortion is always present even at 28 mm. It is not a lens for architectural work, unless you want the barrel distortion, but for nature and landscapes is a beauty. If you manage to center the horizon line, then unless the spectator know the place, it is difficult to tell its a fisheye picture. Optically is fine and has good sharpness, very good flare control and almost not light falloff. I think its worth every penny. (I paid for mine $420, new, in store).

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Bruce Dayton - I have this lens and use it quite alot. One of the unique things about it is that it zooms from about 180 degrees down to a view that is close to a standard 20mm rectilinear lens. It sort of allows you to dial in the curvature that you want. I use the zoom quite a bit as many images don't need 180 degrees, but just cropped in a little. I think this capability makes it worth considering over third party choices. I would also guess that at this wide FOV that flare would be a big issue. I believe that the SMC coating will make a big difference compared to the third parties. It's one sweet lens. . .

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Mark Cassino - . . . The fisheye distortion is pretty pronounced at 17mm, but slight at 28 - though the angle of view at 28 is more like a conventional 24mm. It's a fun and interesting lens.


Aaron Reynolds - March '99 - I met this lens on Tuesday, and liked it so much that I ordered it immediately. . . It is available in Canada. Why did I like it? Let me share my impressions...First off, it looks a lot like the 28-70 f/4 AL in terms of size and cosmetics. I'd say that it's a little smaller, but there wasn't a 28-70 around to directly compare it to. The focus ring was amazingly smooth with the exactly right amount of resistance when I went to manual focus. The ring isn't very large, but it was adequate and I didn't have a problem finding it. It has a cute little pull-out tab in the hood so that you can adjust your polarizer with the hood on. Through the viewfinder it looked great. No noticeable distortion anywhere in the range, and my store has a black and white checkered floor. The lens focusses incredibly close! Less than a foot, I think...I have the specs at the store, I'll dig out the exact number, but I was really amazed. It focussed closer than my SMC-M 28 f/2.8, if that helps anyone.

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tv - It's probably tied with the 43mm as my most used lens. It's the only zoom I use w/ any regularity. I think it's excellent . . . It's very light, makes a good combo with either zx-5n or pz-1p. Comes with a tulip hood. Focusing ring isn't great. Sharp, contrasty, forgivable distortion for a zoom, good flare control.

[added later - smh] I really love [my FA20-35/4]. It's light, reasonably compact, and sharp. It doesn't have the build quality or MF feel of M or A lenses (or even FA primes), but I've trekked hundreds of miles with mine stuffed into the top of my pack. . . . The one drawback to this lens is that there might be a QC issue. Someone on the list went through 3 of them before he got one that performed well. I, otoh, got one that was fine on the first try. I regularly make 11x14's from mine.

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Aaron - The manual focusing on the 20-35 f/4 was quite surprisingly excellent. Certainly looser than my M lenses, but not sloppy or slippery, and felt quite nice.

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Gerjan - At 20 mm its has a hardly noticable barrel and pincushion distortion (far less than the 'old' K or M lens), outer corners being optimal in sharpness and contrast from f/8 or f/11. At 24 mm the test results are better, even less distortion. At 28 mm there is absolutely no distortion (like in the 'old' K and M 3.5/28), sharpness and contrast are fine over the entire picture frame. At 35 mm this lens is at his best, even the full aperture can be used, even under critical circumstances. I have used this lens on my MZ-3 and MX. Manual focusing being no problem. As for lugging around your equipment: the 20-35 is a bit large (the giant flower shaped lens hood with the special 'hatch' for rotating your pol-filter, can be put on in reverse though), but it's not a heavy lens (only 235 grams). You should keep your fixed focal (prime) lenses for their speed and for 'old time's sake', unless you really need the money to buy the zoom.

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Ralf - The lens is definitively a wide angle version of the FA 28-70mm f4.0 AL, both in mechanics and in optical standards. I enjoy the size and the optical quality, which is absolute sufficient for normal use. Nevertheless I have to warn all the people that expect a pro grade PJ wide angle zoom, like the Canon or Nikon 2.8/17-35 or 20-35mm. The Pentax 20-35mm is all plastic, and sharpness and contrast are not on the level of the $1500+ class naturally. The wide angle zooms have been tested recently in the german photo magazines, and while e.g. the new Nikon AF-S 2,8/17-35 got excellent ratings in the 90 point class, reported to be absolute comparable to good wide angle primes, the Pentax rates 10 points below in the amateur zoom range. If you take this into account, you will be very satisfied with this handy and (for it's price) good performing lens. If you need pro grade wide angle performance and built quality, take the F/A 2.8/20mm prime lens.

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Roberto Burgos S. - . . . I have noticed certain flair problems at the wide end, but when comparing with my FA28/2.8 its about the same (under the same conditions). Coatings look similar to other Pentax primes I have, but I guess todays coatings are as good as everybody elses coatings. If this lens has the Tamron BBAR coating instead of the Pentax SMC, I wouldn'g mind at all. It is my belief that the coating issue should be taken into account when comparing non coated vs. single coated vs. multicoated lenses.

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tv - Distortion seems better than my K 24/2.8. I don't really see a difference between it and my M 28/2.8 or M 35/2, but I'm not exactly an expert and I haven't compared them head to head. . . As far as ruggedness, it's a typical FA, not like a star lens. It's plastic. The hood is very nice, and very handy. I stuck it the soft pouch it came in, then inside a hydroseal stuffsack, inside a backpack, and schlepped it around the mountains of colorado for a week. It did fine. I like it alot.

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Leonard Paris - The FA 20-35mm f/4 is a very nice lens. Seems to be very sharp with good contrast, too.

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Pete - I recently bought the PENTAX SMC-FA 20-35mm f/4 AL and LOVE it. The contrasty, full-frame sharpness, and distortion-free images have been phenomenal. The lens also handles well, and is relatively small. Yeah, it's f/4, but the one-stop loss vs. size is often handy. It is, without a doubt, one of the nicer lenses I own (though I hear the 20mm Pentax is sweet, too... probably even better.) I have run a ton of stuff through this lens in the three months I have had it, and all the shots are flawless. No flare, no soft edges. . .


Andre Langevin (From the Web) - Small, likes landscapes on slide, huge distorsion at 24mm (forget buildings), contrasty at "good" apertures, flare can be a problem, find a hood (has to be round) or use your hand.

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Bob Waldken - I would highly recommend the M 24-35/3.5. Beautiful little lens, well made, lightweight, metal, very good handling and first class optics. [added later . . .] it's one of the best you can get, both ergonomically and optically.

[Bob again, another thread . . .]. . . It seems to be quite a rare lens which probably explains the dearth of mentions. However, it is certainly one of the best zooms Pentax ever made. The size is excellent, the quality and handling are 1st class. I was always happy to use it and always pleased with the results it gave me. For shooting at f/5.6 or smaller it was very convenient; I'd recommend it to anyone, although I'm not so sure about it replacing primes - some of the f/3.5 primes have excellent reputations for optical quality.

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Shel - Bob, it was your comments about the lens that ultimately motivated me to get one. . . .I don't care much for zooms, but this one is different. It's small, light, agile, has a relatively short throw through the focal range, and is pretty sharp and contrasty. It's not sharper, nor will it replace any of the good Pentax primes in that range wrt ultimate image quality, but it does come reasonably close, especially if one is content with print sizes up to about 8x10, maybe 11x14 if using the proper fim/developer and taking care while shooting. Compared to the various Pentax 24~50 zooms, which a few people like for their focal range, this lens is about 1/3 lighter and about 1/3 smaller. The constant aperture is a great feature, and the lens is just about as fast as some of the well-regarded primes it might replace, such as the K24/2.8 or K24/3.5, the K28/3.5, and the K35/3.5. . . . It's a great lens for working with people as it's small enough that it's size is not intimidating. It's one great general purpose lens, and my equipment case would be much the poorer without it.

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Joe Wilensky - . . .I really like it, but hardly see it mentioned on this list or on eBay. I know it wasn't made for that long . . . To me, it has great construction quality (best "feel" zoom of the M series?) and seems good enough to replace primes at 24mm, 28mm and 35mm -- especially if the primes you'd be replacing would be f3.5 -- no loss of speed, something unusual when choosing between primes and a zoom covering the same range.

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Clive Williams (from the Web auto-response form) - Good value for its price and weight. I got mine, not long ago, for UK£80 and an unwanted Sigma 35-70, and it does a good job. If it distorts, even at 24mm, I haven't noticed it, and the sharpness seems excellent. It's usefully small too - on a recent city break, I carried only an MZ-5N, an FA 100/3.5 and the M 24-35. One lens on the camera, one in my coat pocket and I don't think I missed too much.


Jim Brooks - Mine focuses a little beyond infinity, but not as much, I would say about a millimeter beyond the infinity mark on the ring. It is a nice handling lens, with a solid feel to the zoom and focus rings - I found one in mint condition in a box, and replaced my old 28-80 non smc with it. My only complaints with it are the lack of flare resistance, and the fact that it isn't all that easy to focus precisely. It does not "snap" into focus the way that the FA28-70/4 does when used manually, or a 50/1.7 (but that would be asking a lot). Overall it is very nice to use with a metal bodied camera like the ME super, but when I want speed of use and great flare resistance I will use the 28-70.


James Brooks - . . . the build quality and"feel" of the A is wonderful, making it a pleasure to use with the MEsuper. Likes: Build, feel, well matched to MEs, overall sharpness Dislikes: Flare, range, difficult to focus compared with A50/1.7 I guess this makes it usable only for the tactile experience :), as the FA28-70 outclasses it in all other respects.

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Shel - I've got one, and I'm not particularly thrilled with it. I find it a bit soft for my tastes, and much prefer the M 24~35 to the A 24~50. . . . However, it's a nice focal range. I find the lens to be a bit "bulky" for my taste, and flare can be a real problem unless you've got a good hood. I've a very odd Tiffen hood that seems to be ok, but the focal range is too great to get an excellent solution, although I'm still playing around with some obscure Nikon hood, step up rings, and assorted bits of foil and cardboard. The factory hood sucks - big time. Don't even think about it. If you've got a hood that'll work well at the long end, it'll vignette at the short end. If you've got a hood that'll work well at 24mm, then 50mm gets no protection.



Raimo - I just got my hands on the new SMC Pentax-FA 3.5-4.5 24-90 IF & AL. Looks quite good. Externally the mode of construction is similar to the current way of doing these things which means internal focusing (front lens does not rotate), no window over focusing scale and all plastic (except the lens mount, and glass). It appear to be very well built, better than Sigmas and even the 28-70 FA AL. It is quite chunky but handles well with MZ-5n and battery pack Fg. Manual focusing is well damped but the ring is thin - and it is VERY varifocal. It is quite light, too. . .

[and a follow-up comparison from Raimo: this lens vs. the A 35-105 . . .] . . . The lenses have quite similar quality, the 24-90 perhaps having a little bit more contrast and sharpness. The difference is not big but the new lens is much lighter (due to more plastics) and much more versatile. The 24-90 is my new favourite, expensive but worth it. . . .24-90 is very good for general photography, for travel e.g.

[and another comment from Raimo:] IMO Pentax 3.5-4.5/24-90 AF is a very, very good lens, but a bit expensive, though. Useful focal length range.



Phil - Sep 1997 - I'm in the market for a short zoom lens and I think I want the FA 28-70/2.8 AL. There has been a lot of talk about the FA 28-70/4.0 AL of late and I was wondering if someone could give me an opinion on which lens was optically better and a little info on build qualty. I have a FA 80-200/2.8 ED(IF) and want a lens with the same kind of qualty. . . . Is the 2.8 lens an (IF) lens? . . .

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Darren Sutherland. . . the FA* 28-70 f2.8 AL has not gotten the same super-favorable reviews that your FA* 80-200 f2.8 EDIF has gotten. It is NOT an internal focusing lens, therefore, the lens barrel rotates when focusing. . . there seems to be only one or two bad reports.

The FA28-70 f4.0 AL is a decent lens for it's price. It is fairly sharp and will do the job quite nicely. There are many on this list who own one (including me) and I haven't heard any bad reports. . . .

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Pascal De Pauw - One of the best zooms of it's class.

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Steve Graham - I was quite happy with the SMC-FA 28-80 though, it's really not that bad. (I was actually quite happy with my results from the SMC-FA 100-300 as well). . . The FA* 28-70 is optically a superb lens.. probably the only one of the current consumer spec pentax short zooms which is optically significantly superior to the SMC-FA 28-200

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Mafud - A Cracker Jack lens . . . Buy it, even if you have to drive a Taxi at night to get the money. You'll never regret it. When you really want to impress a bunch of fellow shooters out on a birding or Butterfly jaunt, show up with it wearing that big OEM lens shade. You'll hear the Gomer Pyles say: "Gollly-lee! What's THAT!?" It does remind one of the muzzle brake on a 106mm recoilless rifle.

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Bob Harris - The only times I have regretted it have been when I have carried it around all day. Weighs a ton, and I now mostly carry the 28-70 f4.0 instead.

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Phil - I've owned and used the FA 28-70/f2.8 lens for a little over two years and find it to be great. There has been many a discussion about the build quality of this lens and although some have said they feel it is not the best built Pentax lens, I am of the opinion that it has a very good buildquality. I've put this lens through it's paces many times and it always stood up to the conditions and delivered good pictures. I've used it to photograph sports; I've used it on the beach; I've used it at the zoo; I've used it on vacations. I've used it on my PZ-70; I've used it on my PZ-1p and never had a disappointing result. I would highly recommend this lens to anyone who is interested in taking sharp pictures. The only drawback to this lens is that it is a bit heavy.

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Pål - A zoom lens that can cure zoom lens scepticism. Very sharp except wide open in the telephoto range.

[but, after further experience, Pål added the following . . .]

In my opinion (I know many would disagree and have had no problems) this is the one Pentax lens that should never have been made. Its very delicate lens and quality of construction is compromised. This is for two reasons: 1) Power zoom and 2) auto focus. Normally, these feature shouldn't be disastrous in themselves but some smart bean counter at Pentax figured out that they wouldn't cost inner focusing on this lens. As a result, focusing is done by moving the whole front tube of the lens. Because there is so much to move, the front lens tube is made of plastic to save weight. This means also plastic filter thread. It also means a rotating front element and filter thread something thats a pain in the ass when using Cokin filter system and polarizers. It also means that the power zoom has to move all elements and lens tubes something in most cases don't manage if not the lens is pointed downwards and thereby get help from gravity. Many samples (most?) are unable to power zoom past the 35mm setting.

My lens in particular had constant recurring problems; 1) the zoom scale window was loose (of course). 2) The button for powerzoom got stuck in the "in" position. This needed to be repared (several times - I believe three or four - actually the lens needs to be sent to Belgium because most Pentax centers can't repair it, or more correctly; can't open it. Its too complicated). 3) The lens refused to stop down atomatically during exposure. 4) Power zoom may stop completely after using it a few times. Then it worked again after the lens "rested" for about one hour (actually this freak sympthom was disbelieved by the repairman. After he managed to induce the same behaviour after testing it, he was completely astonished - solution to this mystery below). These problems were never fixed. That is, they were fixed but keept on comping back.

(Alexander asked: If someone stole the lens would you purchase another one?)

Pål - Are you Joking! After two years I threw mine literally in the garbage.

Before throwing it away I dissasembled it. I finally found out why they (Belgium) never were able to fix it. It was designed in a way that auto stopdown and power zoom couldn't work simultaneously. You have to choose one or the other. I found out that the power zoom contacts touched the aperture mechanism so that it prevented the lens to stop down by the spring action. If you bent the power zoom contacts away from the aperture mechanism then they wouldn't couple to the power zoom contacts on the lens mount then giving no electricity to the lens.

I'm sure some people are happy with it. However, you wanted real field experience; here is mine. Oh..its great optically...

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tv - the usual conclusion reached is that it's optically excellent, mechanically so-so. . . Mine was owned by a sports photographer before I got it, and was fairly well beat up. It's a bit loose, but it works fine and produces excellent images.

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Cameron - I have owned this lens for four years now, and have been a professional for the last year, and I have never had any of the build quality qualms that others have talked about, and I bought it used. It is as sharp or sharper than most good primes, has wonderful colour definition and contrast, and is my 'normal' lens, always on my camera. My one complaint about it is that the filter holder rotates during focus, making polarization a little more difficult; but, the hood is large enough that you can rotate the filter without removing the hood, something that you cannot do with the mighty FA* 85mm f=1.4 that everybody raves about (which I also own and rave about). A magnificent lens, but the hood sucks; you cannot put the lens cap on when the hood is in place (well, you can, but it is very dicey and you risk scratching the front element), and although it is internal focussing, you have to remove the hood to rotate the polarizer initially, negating the point of internal focussing. So, in this respect, I have absolutely no qualms about recommending the 28-70 2.8, and I love the powerzoom feature in my newfound profession of pet photographer.

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Pål - The lens is NOT internal focusing

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[Cameron again, this time via the Web auto-response form. . .] Superb optically, lovely for portraits at 70mm 2.8; powerzoom feature is very handy for pets/sports/action photography. The much heard of commplaint of the powerzoom clutch causing problems has only occured once on my lens, and disappeared soon after a good cleaning; probably sand or some other crud got in there. Good close focusing, I have even used it with reverse adapters and extension tubes for macro stuff. Although it is pricey, once you sample FA* glass, you will never go back to regular stuff.

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Alexander Grigolia - I've only had the FA* 28-70mm zoom for a few weeks but I love it. . . If you like compact Pentax 35mm lenses this zoom might seem "heavy" at first. But as I've used the Pentax 67 II the lens seemed "light." The lens balances perfectly on the PZ-1p so after a few rolls you shouldn't notice the weight. And the build quality is superior to my 43mm 'Limited' lens. I never use either the auto focus or auto zoom capabilities. (Ok, I admit it, I'm a manual snob.) Operating the lens manually is quick and easy even in low light The negatives are sharp and crisp. 8x10 prints are not quite as sharp as prints made from my FA* 24mm prime lens, but are sharper than any zoom I've tried. For general photography this zoom will be my lens of choice. If I have the time and desire for a fine print I'll switch to my FA* prime lenses & a sturdy tripod!


Pål - 19 Sep 1997. . . The 28-70/4 is an excellent lens. If you want something better buy primes. Optically its fully comparable to the FA* 28-70/2.8 and probably better built. If there is a difference its most likely only of academical interest. I doubt you will see a difference between the two lenses. Remember, the FA* 28-70/2.8 is soft wide open (at least mine was). The drawback with the FA 28-70/4 is the narrow focus ring. The FA* 28-70/2.8 have a nicer focus feel and the nice clutch mechanism that all FA* lenses has.

Theres no reason to buy a more expensive lens if you don't need the extra speed (then it is a better idea to buy a couple of primes anyway).

Unfortunately, you have the two worst Pentax AF lenses made [ the SMC-FA 28-80 F3.5-4.7 and the infamous SMC-FA 100-300 F4.5-5.6]. The F 28-70/4 is of a completely different quality.

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R. Burgos - The FA 28-70 f/4.0 is a superb lens. I bought mine just a couple of weeks ago, replacing my not so trusty all loose up FA 28-80. Since I do only prints (no slides) I havent noticed vignetting. I understand the FA 28-70 f4 will vignnette at 28 with any wide mount filter, as a Kenko or old Hoyas. If you plan slides this should be a concern.

Another thing in favor of the F28-70 is CONSTANT APERTURE, not found on any cosumer priced lens. This is a great lens. . . .Is a heck of a lens, and very light. . . .

Roberto (again) - The lens is a very good performer. A lot better than the former or new 28/80 consumer grade Pentax's. I have mine mady in Japan and a friend has his made in Viet Nam. So far we have not been able to tell them apart, either optically or mechanically.

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Dave Anthony - The 28-70/4 is beautifully compact and light lens and is optically very highly regarded. The 28-105 is also highly regarde optically although it is heavier than the 28-70/4. Also, I think that the 28-70 is a bit short on the 70mm end (i.e. 60mm actually) and that the 28-105 is still f/4.5 at 70mm.

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Pascal De Pauw - Very good (sharp), but much distortion at 28mm.

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"Thomas N. Vanveen Jr" wrote:

> I've been considering this lens for use as a backpacking lens, but I've been hesitating because of reported poor performance at the 28mm end.<

Alin Flaider - It's not poor, rather poorer than that at 70 mm. . . .This lens is virtually vignetting free. Perhaps just a slight shadow at 28mm, f/4 and very close focus.

Bill Robb - I have not noticed vignetting, and I will not use a zoom when distortion may be a concern, so I have not put the lens to that test. It is a nice scenic lens, and I have shot the occassional wedding with it, and have not noticed any problems. I stress that I don't particularly "test" lenses, perse. I put them on the camera and use them. If they don't do the job, I either get rid of them, or only use them when deficiencies that I notice won't be a problem. . .for my needs, the 28-70 f4 Pentax AF has been a fine lens, and I do have the bar set pretty high.

Ed Mathews - My 28-70 F4 is a real dog. . . My cheap 35-80 F4-5.6 is a much better performer, but from what I've read, I'm sure mine must be a lemon.

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> I have an oppurtunity to sell my 35-80 and want to get a replacement which is either a FA 28-70 f/4 or a FA 28-105. Thanks for any help.<

Ralf - To my knowledge the 28-70 AL is a moderate to good performer, and most problems derive from the use at the 28mm end wide open. If you need the wide angle only occasionally, you will be satisfied with the lens. In my opinion it fits perfect to the F 80-200mm, to form an affordable and compact zoom lens pair for MZ-cameras. The 28-105 in contrast is an universal lens that combines well with many other lenses, be it FA* 24 and 200/300mm primes or a tele/wide zoompair (17-28FE or 20-35 & 80-320 or 100-300). Again my warning: the lens feels not comfortable on a MZ-5N.

David - ZX5Lx - Ralf's assesment of the 28-105 and it's virtues is quite complete and I couldn't agree with him more. If I may be permitted to add something though to the comparison of the Pentax 28-70 f4 to the Pentax 28-105 f4-5.6, it's basically that the optical performance between 28 and 70mm is quite similar except at 28mm. Here is where the 28-70 f4''s aspherical element added substantially to the 28-105's 28mm performance. Although not spectacular, the 28-70's performance at 28mm is good to very good, even wide open, whereas at 28mm, the 28-105 must generally be stopped down somewhat to equal 28-70's performance at this focal length. Other than that, the two lenses are close and the 28-105 ability to get to 105 is a assest that overshadows slightly less than steller 28mm optics. A sort of good rule of thumb is if using a Zx5n, then prefer balance of 28-70 f4...if using a Pz1p, then I like the28-105 Pentax lens...

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David Collett - I use the 28-70 (on a MZ5N) and my son uses a 35-80 on his MZ50. I have not carried out any serious comparisons but my impression is that the 28-70 is overall a better lens. Pictures taken in similar situations seem to show a better control of flare and marginally higher contrast with the 28-70, it also feels a bit less "loose" that the 35-80 but that might just be the lens I have. The biggest plus factor is the slightly wider angle, the constant aperture is also really helpful if you use a hand held meter or do a lot of flash pictures. IMO variable aperture zooms can be a real pain under some circumstances.

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Dick Graham - I have this lens and the zoom is a little loose but not bad. The results I have experienced are very good to excellent. There is a little light fall off at f/4, image sharpness is good, there is some edge distortion at 28mm. All in all I am very satisfied with this lens.

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Moses Knopfler - The 28-70 is an excellent lens (barring the case where you get a lemon; try not to buy it mail order, but get it at a store where you can return it -- Pentax quality control isn't quite what it should be). It is noticeably sharper than the 35-80 in the corners, even in a 4x6 print. I have compared it at f/5.6 against pictures taken with my 50mm f/1.7 A, and you need an 8x magnifier to see the difference (but yes, the 50mm prime is a touch better).

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Gary Richards - I have been pleased with the lens. It is small, lightweight and sharp.

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Clive Williams - Nice lens too, although everything I've read here about sloppy manual focus is true. Makes it a pain to use with a polarizer, as the focus changes when I try to adjust the filter.

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OkiPedro - I LOVE this lens. The constant aperature is nice, and while the lens looks smallish and plasticky, it actually works very smoothly and delivers very sharp, contrasty pictures. I'd buy another without question. On casual trips, etc., the small size is also a big plus.

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Carlos Royo - I think the FA 28-70 4.0 is a very good zoom, with an excellent price-performance ratio. My wife and I have used this lens for about 3 and a half years, and it is really sharp, except the edges at the maximum aperture at 28 mm. and it has very good resistance to flare. This is the lens my wife uses the most on her MZ-5, as her standard travel lens.

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DG - I have used this lens on my ZX-5n for the past 2 years, it is has performed well, center and edge sharpness is good at all focal lengths. As with most zooms, contrast is not as good as it would be with single focal length lenses or as good as my SMC A 70-210 zoom.

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Chris Brogden - The 28-70/4 is a very sharp lens, and if you want a good-quality zoom lens that's relatively affordable, it's the best that Pentax has right now. The only thing I really don't like about it is that the zoom and focus rings loosened up very quickly on my 28-70/4. Also, it's a relatively short zoom range. Personally, I'm waiting for the 24-90 to be released, but optically, you can't go wrong with the 28-70/4.


Ralf Engelmann - Mechanically a very cheap lens with noticeable play in the focussing helicoid; moderate optical quality.

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Jostein Øksne (From the Web) - Pentax' underdog. Don't buy - except for the kid's first camera. This was my first lens. I had it for 6 years. Built like a tank, except the large front element which is not very well protected. Nice macro function, but not the kind you would prefer for serious macro work. Good lens for the young novice. You can afford that it get damaged... Vignetting at all apertures at 28mm with filters that protrude >4mm Not *very* sharp at any focal with or aperture.

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Jens Bladt - . . . It may not be the worlds greatest lens - but it's not that bad.


Ken Waller - I have one (over 12 years old) that continues to see very heavy comercial usage. It has held up like a tank. It has an industrial/amoured feel to it. I have no objective optical data for it but I regularily get enlargements from it that I have no problem with. I've never noticed any obvious distortion with it. I've never seen any flare with it and I shoot it mostly without a hood. . . . I can focus to about 15", this with the zoom ring in the macro (green) end of the zoom range, just to the left of 80mm. The .8m must apply to the non "macro" close focus. The lens exterior is mostly made up of metal, with the zoom ring & aperature set ring being of a rubberized plastic. The filter attachment end appears to be metal. I would recommend this lens and wouldn't hesitate to buy another if the need arose. . .

[Ken again . . .] . . . I have one that I've used heavily for 13 years. (I shoot 150 to 300 rolls a year). I have experienced no problems what so ever, and it is holding up just fine. I use the "macro" feature all the time. I haven't done any objective performance tests on it, but I haven't noticed any issues with the images taken with it. I like the semi "armoured feel" it has, like some of the better field glasses. If you need a lens in this range, I would recommend it. . .


R. Burgos S. -Nov 1997 - This lens has gotten kind of famous because its construction problems. It simply becomes loose after not much use. You can easyly note the front elements group wobble when focusing, either by AF of manual. If you take a close look thru the vewifinder, and zoom the lens from one end to the other, you will notice that the image shifts center position, the moment it hits one end (I cant remember which one), meaning that the elements are not well centered and actual axis shifts during zooming.

R. Burgos S. [again] - Stay away from the new FA28/80 f/4-5.6 zoom lens. (it comes in silver finish). It may look good with a ZX5n, but its optically crap.

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Pål - one of the the two worst Pentax AF lenses made [ the SMC-FA 28-80 F3.5-4.7 and the infamous SMC-FA 100-300 F4.5-5.6].

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Steve Graham - I was quite happy with the SMC-FA 28-80 though, it's really not that bad. (I was actually quite happy with my results from the SMC-FA 100-300 as well). . . The FA* 28-70 is optically a superb lens.. probably the only one of the current consumer spec pentax short zooms which is optically significantly superior to the SMC-FA 28-200

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Jens Bladt (From the web) - [This lens] is not that bad at all. I have been using the Pentax 28-80mm f/3.5-4.7 for 7 years. It may not be the worlds greatest lens - but it's not that bad. Lately I've been testing it against Tokina AT-X PROII f/2.6-2.8, which is highly regarded and rated "Super" in Fotomagazin. Honestly I can't see any difference at all in my testshots on Kodak Elite II 100 ASA! The Tokina lens tends to result in overexposed frames when using small apertures like f/5.6-11. Considering the difference in price and speed, the Pentax lens is good value for money.

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Joe Cali (From the web) - The FA 28-80f3.5-4.7 is definitly not the greatest lens Pentax has ever made. It's bulky, heavy, not especially fast and the optical quality is average. Not good or bad just average. Mechanically it is all plastic and the zoom clip button fell off after just 3 years. I was travelling at the time and it's been held on with a band aid since 1997. I wouldn't recommend this lens.

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Charles Hardwick (From the web) - I'm very pleasantly surprised by this lens! I have been using the "EOS" system and got tired of trying to compensate for its metering shortcomings. This may come as a surprise to some and to others it will be received with joy. But all I can tell you is I seem to get more properly exposed pictures with my used PZ-10 and 28-80 f3.5-4.7 lens than I usually do with some of Canon's best.



Dave Anthony - . . . The 28-105 is also highly regarde optically although it is heavier than the 28-70/4. Also, I think that the 28-70 is a bit short on the 70mm end (i.e. 60mm actually) and that the 28-105 is still f/4.5 at 70mm.

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Ralf Engelmann - The SMC-FA 28-105 can make the points of being an original Pentax lens, not changing size very much when zooming, plus having the shortest size around 50mm (two things I like very much), and having a very good macro ability of 1:3. The filter size is Pentax standard 58mm. The powerzoom doesn't cause trouble and can be switched off, but indeed is not a bonus.

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David (ZX5Lx@aol.com) - [two reports merged] . . .The Pentax FA 28-105 f4-f5.6 is an excellent lens optically, with weakness just at 28mm wide open. Here it is soft with some distortion and field curvature. About a stop down it improves significantly. Between 28 and 70mm (having an aperatureof f4-f4.5 at this range) it almost matches the 28-70 f4 Pentax lens inperformance . . . It is fairly well built and the power zoom works perfect..never any reported problems. Some think power zoom and its features is just not necessary, but it works perfectly for those who favor it

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Bruce R. - [two reports merged] . . .a 28-105 zoom generally covers about 90% of what most people use, and If I was limited to one lens, that would be it . . . the FA28-105 can deliver excellent pictures only 1 stop down, and very good ones wide open; . . . I think the power zoom is a waste, but it's a very good lens. . . Optically, this [Pentax 28-105 Zoom ] is probably the best 28-105 lens you can get in a Pentax AF mount. It's just a little soft wide open, but very sharp 2 steps down withgood contrast, particularly in the middle of its zoom range (in the 6/92Pop Photog it was reviewed and at 65mm was "A" at f8-11 @ 20x24). It's pretty much my "standard" lens when there's enough light. It does have some mechanical draw-backs: It focuses slowly, it's big and heavy and I did havethe rear element group develop some excessive slop (which Pentax fixed).Unless Pentax came out with a smaller, lighter, faster version I wouldn't trade it.

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Ralf Engelmann - Probably the best standard zoom in the current program, very good optics, excellent 1:3 macro ability, mechanically good, but without the powerzoom it could be even better. A bit large for the new MZ-series bodies.

Ralf Engelmann (2nd posting) - Though it's a powerzoom lens and big, I like the 28-105mm very much. I think it's one of Pentax best zoom lenses available, and it fits perfect to the Z-1/1P it was designed for in 1992. Pictures are usually sharp and contrasty, and the zoom range is the most useful I can imagine. It is no inner focussing design and therefore has a very good macro capability of 1:3 at 105mm. It's only drawback is the relatively high price (2.5x a FA 28-70) and the superfluous power zoom feature.

David - ZX5Lx - Ralf's assesment of the 28-105 and it's virtues is quite complete and I couldn't agree with him more. If I may be permitted to add something though to the comparison of the Pentax 28-70 f4 to the Pentax 28-105 f4-5.6, it's basically that the optical performance between 28 and 70mm is quite similar except at 28mm. Here is where the 28-70 f4''s aspherical element added substantially to the 28-105's 28mm performance. Although not spectacular, the 28-70's performance at 28mm is good to very good, even wide open, whereas at 28mm, the 28-105 must generally be stopped down somewhat to equal 28-70's performance at this focal length. Other than that, the two lenses are close and the 28-105 ability to get to 105 is a assest that overshadows slightly less than steller 28mm optics. A sort of good rule of thumb is if using a Zx5n, then prefer balance of 28-70 f4...if using a Pz1p, then I like the28-105 Pentax lens...

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Sandeep Kaul - I dug up the June 1992 issue of POP PHOTO and found their test of the Pentax FA28-105 f4-5.6 (also tested the PZ-1 (pre-PZ-1P version)): . . . My practical experience supports what others report -- a bit large/heavy, but a great lense to take along if room permits only one lens. My photos are sharp and contrasty, though I would recommend the lens hood when shooting into bright light.

[The Pop Photo report is too lengthy to reproduce here. If interested, see Pentax Discuss Archives, 2 March '99. smh]

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Marc Polman - . . . Although the old 28-105 lens is, IHMO, a bit slow, it has quite low distortion levels and vignetting for it's class. The optical performance is not bad either. The short focussing distance is a real bonus!

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Mark Cassino - I picked up one of these used a while back, and have been very happy with it. I like the 28-70 f4 AL a lot, but the 28-105 give you that extra bit of reach and seems to be as sharp. The only drawback, IMHO, is that it is fairly heavy . . .

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Bruce R. (again) - By all accounts, the power zoom (FA) 28-105 is one of the better 28-105's around. It was my primary lens for 2 years. Not as good as primes, but pretty close in the center, stopped down.

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Derek Rader - . . .I have the FA 28-105 f/4-5.6 Power Zoom in black finish not the newer Tamron reissue. The lens is terribly sharp at 28 and [on out to] very near the end of its focal length although I've seen some degradation when nearly fully extended. All in all, an outstanding lens, I can't recommend anything else in the price range. I work for a studio and we use, Sigma, Nikon, Canon, Pentax, for 35mm and it beats them all hands down for the range and f/stop. One word of warning this is a SLOW LENS, if you want to seperate your background from the subject buy some fixed lengths, you'll find that the performance is better and that you will save money in the long run by not having to go back and buy them all anyway like I did. If you just want a great lens for most if not all subjects unless you are a professional or aspire to be one, I think this lens will fit you very well. It combines with many other focal lengths very well, 80-320,100-300 etc.

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John Francis - The Pentax 28-105 4.x/5.6 is arguably the best consumer-grade 28-105 on the market. I bought one as the standard lens for my PZ-1p, and I have been very happy with it. . . .

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Gene Poon - The FA Power Zoom 28-105 is definitely of high caliber. I have some fine 16x20 prints done with it. It is probably the best 28-105 I have ever tried out from any manufacturer. . .

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Joseph Tainter - . . .best in class is Pentax's FA Power Zoom 28-105. It's sharp and has macro capability of 1:3. It's heavy . . .

[from a later message:] If you have an MZ/X camera, though, you should try it first. It is a big, heavy lens for these petite cameras. The image quality is so good for a zoom, through, that I don't mind lugging mine around (on a PZ-1p).

[editors note: yes, it is heavy. smh]

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Roland Mabo - Good build quality, optically it's the best standard zoom Pentax has. A bit on the heavy side, . . . 58mm filter thread.

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John Coyle - . . . may be the best all-round general purpose lens to be had. . .


Roberto Burgos S. - Today I dropped by the Pentax rep and took a close look at the new FA28/105 f/4-5.6. I also took a camera body and my FA28/70 f4 to do some tests with film.

First impressions: The lens feels very well built. Its plastic bodied as all the consumer grade zooms. It is undoubly a Tamron regbadge. It comes with matching tulip hood and finished in silver. It is an internal focus zoom and the front element does not rotate. The focusing ring is VERY WELL damped for manual focusing. In fact, it is the best damping I've felt from any AF pentax zoom lens. It uses 62 mm filters.

Tests: I mounted the camera on tripod and placed it at the store entrance facing out. there was an aluminum plaque with engraving about 15 meters away, so I chose it as my target for resolution. I shot with the new FA28/108 at two stops from wide open at 28, 70 and 105 mm settings. I also framed the plaque at center and at the lower left corner. Later, I did the same set with the FA28/70 f4 at 28 and 70 mm setting. Just for the critical comparisson, I did the same shots with my FA28/2.8 AS @f/4.

Got the negative developed and then scanned (high resolution equivalent for a 9 x 13 inch print at 300 dpi) a section of the negatives (the plaque) from all the frames. I took close notes of every frame and conditions. Last I placed all the frame segments on a Corel 9 file on a grid for comparisson purposes. Printed the file on my HP 1120C at highest resolution possible on Ilford Photo Inkjet paper.

Results: At 28 mm, the new FA28/105 shows a bit more detail than the FA28/70 f4, and about the same detail as the FA28/2.8 at center. At corners, the new FA28/105 clearly outperforms "my" FA28/70 but none of the zooms is as clear and sharp as the FA28/2.8. At 70 mm the new FA28/105 shows about the same results as in 28 mm, and it shows slightly less light falloff as the FA28/70.

At 105 mm the FA28/105 shows good sharpness and contrast at center, but shows incresed contrast at corners.

Due to shooting testing conditions (heavy overcast day), I could not test for flare, but seems that the new lens has it well controlled. Also, I would have liked to test putting on and off the hood with a polarizer filteron, because with my former FA28/200 the hood would not go in if a polarizer was on.

Conclusions: The new FA28/105 lens shows good performance, very well built, extraordinary damping on the focus ring and optically, it performs as "good" as MY FA28/70 f4. I make special emphasis in MY FA28/70 since this lens was dissassembled for cleaning a weird stain on one of the inner elements, but after cleaning there still shows "something" where the stain was, like the coating was removed or such. . .

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Roberto Burgos S. (follow-up report) - I had the older FA28/105 (4 years ago) and now have the new FA28/105 IF. To be honest, I cannot tell the difference between both lenses. I would have to do really big enlargements in order to be able to notice a difference. The good thing about the new 28/105 is that the front element does not rotate, so I have it fitted with polarizer 100% of the time. Also, it comes with a very nice and usefull tulip shaped matched hood. BTW, it uses 62 mm filters, while the old version used 58mm filters.

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Roland Mabo - Pentax FA 28-105 f/4-5.6 IF Silver: Decent build quality, optically not as good as the power zoom but the differencies are quite small. Lighter than the power zoom. 62mm filter thread and non-rotating front lens element. This is actually a Tamron lens, often you can buy the Tamron AF 28-105 f/4-5.6 IF for less than the Pentax branded.


Roland Mabo - I got the FA 28-105 f/3.2-4.5 AL (IF) yesterday . . . I won't comment on optical performance, since I haven't shot a single roll with it yet. * Design and build quality It's incredible small! It's amazing that Pentax has suceeded in designing a 28-105 lens with a 58mm filter thread and f/3.2 aperture! . . . It's almost of the same size as the FA 28-80 f/3.5-4.5 - or just little bit bigger than the tiny 28-70 f/4 AL. It do extends quite much when zoomed out to 105, but at 28 it's hard to believe that this is a 28-105 lens. The zooming collar has the same design as on the 27-70 f/4 or the new 24-90. It's slightly heavier to turn than the 28-70, but it's more optics to move also... It's much lighter than my Tokina and balances very well on my MZ-bodies (5N and 10), even without the FG battery pack (which was a must with the Tokina attached). It has a plastic outside, but the lens mount is metal. It lacks the focusing window of past FA-lenses. Instead the distance info is printed on the outside of the focus ring (as on the FA28-80 f/3.5-5.6 and 24-90). The aperture ring is wide and easy to turn, much more pleasant than the tiny and stiff aperture ring on my Tokina. Sadly, the aperture numbers are not engraved on the ring - they're just printed and the paint may scratch off with time (but only time will tell). Overall, the lens feels solid. Nothing feels loose, nothing rattles. The focusing ring feels more damped than on the 28-70 f/4. I rate the build quality slightly higher than the 28-70 f/4. The lens hoods "clicks" easily into place and feels very good. When removing a plastic cover underneath, one gets a "window" so you can turn, for example, a polarizer without removing the hood. (something that's impossible with my Sigma AF 24 f/2.8 and it's "clip-on" hood). * Autofocus It sounds! Perhaps this has to do with the more damped focusing ring than the FA 28-70 f/4 or the Tokina 28-105. Maybe the sound will lower itself with time. But straight-out-of-the-box the whirr-sound is unpleasant. The AF speed seems slightly slower than the 28-70 f/4 (in bright conditions, this may change at lower light levels where the wider aperture of the 28-105 is likely to help the AF), but it feels quite secure. * Final conclusion . A well made and compact lens that's well suited to travelling. I hope it performs as good as it looks. Mounted to my MZ bodies, the lens looks very nice indeed. I like it's silvery-finish with black lettering.


fockert@natlab.research.philips.com - What I remember about tests : Good lens except the tele range, not very sharp at 135mm. So (in its time) too expensive compared to the competition because of the mediocre performance at 135mm.

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Fred - . . . has become my most used "everyday" or "walking around" lens . . .

[later additional comments . . .] Yes, David, the A 28-135/4 ~is~ heavy (and it's "front-heavy", too, adding to the problem of balance). I dislike using the lens on an ME Super, Super Program, or an LX without the winder and grip. However, the addition of the winder and grip makes it an easy lens to use, in contrast. The transformation is remarkable.

I used a couple of them yesterday for shooting at a bridal shower. One setup (used the most) had the A 28-135/4 on an LX (with grip), without the winder, but used with an AF400T flash, mounted on its bracket. This was quite comfortable only because of the handle of the flash provided support and helped with balance. The backup setup (used only for one stretch when I was caught "between rolls" with the main setup) had another A 28-135/4 on a Super Program, mounted on an ME II winder, with an AF280T mounted to the hotshoe. (Although I did not actually use the ME II for winding, I appreciated it being attached for its "grip" function, for balance with the ~heavy~ 28-135.)

I have never used a ZX-5N, but I did hold one once in a store, and I can imagine that the A 28-135/4 would be rather awkward to use on it for any length of time.


Fred Sweeney - [snip] I've had mine since mid January, and am VERY pleased with it. It's just about perfect for those occasions when you want to travel light. . . I find the balance on a P/Z-1 good, and the controls are light and positive. . . AF seems to me as least as quick and precise as the. . .28-80 FA f3.5-4.7. If you want to use manual focus, the whole of the smooth section between the zoom ring and the focus ring proper can be used. It's all one piecewith it The focal length range means you'll rarely be caught out, and close focus is pretty respectable. . . The BIG question, how's results ? . . . all I can say is that they're a helluva lot better than the naysayers lead me to expect - I'm pleased with the sharpness of my 10x8s. [snip] I found virtually no barrel distortion at the short end and just a trace of pincushion at the long, and flare is pretty well under control &endash; much better than I could ever have hoped for ! No way is it gonna replace fixed focal lengths, but then no way are they gonna compete at its game. What it does, it does exceedingly well.

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Doug Hohenstein

I find it EXTREMELY useful. It's not the sharpest lens in my box, but it's definitely the handiest. I leave it on my Z-1p when it's in the bag, in case I'm presented with an unexpected photo op. . . .the lens is bearable as a "macro" lens. . . maximum magnification of 1:5 at 135mm. . . The lens also seems very sharp at 135mm. I can't use the built in flash on my Z-1p with this lens wider than 70mm (I understand it's 80mm for the MZ line because of the flash placement. I find the fact that the camera knows this quite amazing). The focusing ring is wee, though. A pain in the butt when focusing manually. Fortunately this lens focuses VERY fast in AF because of the short focus ring turn.

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Jerry Houston - . . . I have to admit a certain grudging admiration for the 28-200 Pentax lens . . .For an AF lens, its manual focusing isn't bad at all. It comes with a very good bayonet-mount lens shade which reverses to store on the lens. Optically, it's one of the best zoom lenses I've ever seen. . . . For a single lens to carry when you don't know for sure what you'll be photographing, it prepares you for nearly any eventuality. I haven't figured out yet how they've been able to sell it for such a very low price.

Jerry Houston (again)- . . . the 28-200 is an OUTSTANDING lens for its implied purpose: a single lens that will provide the angle-of-view of just about every focal length that many photographers will ever require. . . . For a lens to take with you when you only want to carry one lens, or when you're touring somewhere where you've never been and don't know what to expect, it's a GREAT lens. . .

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Patrick White - . . . The lens isn't quite as crisp as that 50mm, nor do people seem to think it is quite as crisp as zooms of smaller ranges. When you start to see that difference for yourself, then you'll know it's time to supplement it with some primes and you'll also know which would be the best selection of primes for what you want to shoot.

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Roberto Burgos S. - Well, just to second Jerry's overview of the FA28/200, it is simply the best compromise ever achived in a, "universal" lens, if it can be called that way. For me, I love mine, but sometimes at look at it and think: "this sucker is making me lazy.... I get good results so I am forgeting to use my other lens arsenal...."

Roberto Burgos S. (more recent comment) - If I was on a trip and wanted to travel light, this is the lens to go as an "all prupose". But to be honest, compared to any of my other Pentax lenses (zooms or primes), it really shows its flaws, especially in flare and contrast. The lens is extremely prone to flare (big front element, wide angle of view - 28 mm). In general, focusing is fast, the supplied hood does a fine job (never shoot without it) and general performance is ok. As I stated above, If wanting to travel light, its OK. But OTOH, if on assignment, this baby stays home...

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Ed Mathews - I concur with Roberto, and would add that the lens does fine for most general purposes, snapshots, and vacation pictures of moderate enlargement. Actually, I've been quite impressed with some shots from it at the mid tele end, around 135mm. Distortion is not real bad, but overall, it is not as sharp as more moderate range zooms. . . .But I would hesitate to use it for serious landscapes or long telephoto shots outdoor near the 200mm range.

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Leonard Paris - It's not the sharpest lens in the world but, as a "people shooter" it does a very nice job. Use it on a body like the ZX-5N or the PZ-1p with a good TTL flash, like the AF500FTZ, and you're ready for anything from group shots to portraits. Being a tad soft is not a disadvantage for shooting people, at least in my opinion. As you can guess, that's what I do more than 95% of the time.

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Nenad Djurdjevic (from input on this website) - the FA28-200 is quite an underrated lens. It is quite good by any measure between 28-135 but is soft at 200. The FA28-200 (which is in my opinion is actually a 28-190) is quite sharp and contrasty with well controlled distortion and little light fall-off. In fact, it is quite an underrated lens. It is quite good by any measure between 28-135 but is soft at 200 (actually 190). In fact, in that range it is as sharp wide open, as my A50 f1.4, wide open. Of course the 50mm has much less edge distortion and stopped down is sharper.


Bob Blakely - The AF sensors are in the ME-F camera. (I have one of these too, identical to ME Super, but with focusing aid and OLD STYLE autofocus electrical connections. You must have an ME-F to autofocus the lens. The batteries, as well as the motor, are in the lens (AAA cells I think, but I've not touched the lens in 6 years). Manual focus with lens sucks. As a mater of fact, the lens sucks. This lens has value only on the shelf of a collector where it should remain in all it's glory as the FIRST Autofocus lens. (This is a bone of contention too, as it has to do with what one means by first.) The ME-F will give "focus confirmation" with any lens. It's not very useful, and sucks up camera batteries like a starved cat lapping milk. The ME-F body is good, takes 4 batteries. I leave the autofocus circuitry turned off in my ME-F. It still uses up the four batteries a little faster than my ME Super uses up two.


Mark Stringer - I used a Pentax M 35-70 f/2.8-3.5 for years on an ME-Super. It is fast, photos were excellent and [these lenses] have come down a lot in price.

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Bob Waldken - Mark's post reminded me that I've seen a couple of the f/2.8-3.5s recently. I was intrigued enough by the speed to have a look at one of them and take some pix with it. The thing I liked about it was that it was a better size for me than the f/3.5~4.5, the handling seemed very good, and the build quality felt better than the A f/4. The particular one I looked at had a small mark on the lens but . . . I was quite tempted to buy it. The pix I took - just B&W snaps of the street outside the shop - seemed to be pretty good optically, as far as I could tell. In the end I decided against simply because I have that range covered already by several primes and the 35-105/3.5, and for the generic reasons I mentioned in my first post. [below, in the A 35-70/3.5~4.5 discussion]

Tom Addison - I too have this 35-70 2.8-3.5M, it came with my LX..Shot a roll of 100 slide with it and found it to be very good, sharp and contrasty for an older zoom. I ... [also have] a Pentax . . .35-70 3.5-4.5A (. . . a bit sloppy mechanically but it's just fine for snapshots on family days out...)...So look for an old M or a newer A you won't be disappointed.....


Fred - . . . It's a pretty good little zoom, in my opinion, . . . Most impressive, actually, is its macro performance - better than most of the other so-called "macro zooms" that I've tested.  Its focus action is about the most friction-free I've ever felt on a zoom (and that's from handling three different samples). . . It does have a bit of barrel distortion at its short end (35mm), but not at 50mm or 70mm.  It's 2:1 zoom ratio is not overly generous, but overall it's a pretty good little zoom, I'd say.

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Alan Chan - Based on my experience, the f4 constant aperture one is sharper.  It is a 2 touch zoom.  The other one [SMC-A f3.5-4.5] is much smaller with a 1 touch zoom design.

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Malcolm Sales FRGS ARPS ABIPP - . . . its a lovely lens and will make a welcome addition to your camera bag. When I had mine (before it was stolen) it was my preferred lens for my LX's. Distortion is well under control for a zoom, and it is indeed very light. Especially when compared to the 3 prime lenses it replaces.

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Bob Waldken - I used to have an A 35-70/3.5~4.5. It's a very compact lens, more compact than the f/4 version, and the quality seemed pretty good. I got rid of it for 3 reasons: I don't like the 70mm max. focal length (I have a 35-105/3.5 now), I prefer a constant max. aperture for when I'm metering manually and I didn't find the push/pull zoom very convenient on such a compact lens.

I've heard that the f/4 lens is better optically, though I don't have personal experience of it. However, given the choice I would go for the constant aperture every time. It's also larger, which suits me better, but that is very much a subjective thing.

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Jens Bladt - I have this lens. It's an OK consumer zoom. But there is a lot of Barrel -/Pillow distortion (you can see it in the viewfinder). . . It's nothing compared to the very sharp, excellent (discontinued) FA 4.0/28-70mm! I use mine for travelling with my Super A . . .


Carlos Royo - This lens, although it is a better performer than most 35-70 or 35-80, except wide open at the 35 mm. setting, does not have a true macro capability. In the same fashion than many lenses in the late eighties, it has got a "Macro" mechanism which works at the longest focal length (in its case at 70 mm.). Then the closest focusing distance becomes 0.32m. instead of the regular minimum focusing distance of 0.45 m. The maximum magnification when using this "macro" setting is 0.25x


Robert Harris - 10 Nov 1997 - I had one [35-70 mm f/4.0 A] and loved it -- regret selling it when I went to AF. It was pretty much my general walking around lens for years, with an LX. Sharp andgood close focusing -- at 70mm. I believe it got to about .35x magnification.

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Alan Chan - Based on my experience, the f4 constant aperture one is sharper.  It is a 2 touch zoom.  The other one [SMC-A f3.5-4.5] is much smaller with a 1 touch zoom design.

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Fred - The A 35-70/4 is an unpretentious but effective little zoom lens. It has a bit of barrel distortion at the wide end (only), but it is quite sharp, and it has a ~really~ nice macro function (for a so-called "macro zoom") (better than any other "macro zoom" I've tested).

Fred - [again] The A 35-70/4 is not a bad 2-touch zoom lens at all. The build quality seems less solid than on, say, the A 28-135/4 or the A 35-105/3.5, but it is decent enough, and this does help to make it light, I guess. And, it's not a whole lot bigger than a larger normal lens to carry around. The focusing is smooth, although the focus feel is a little "light" (for my tastes - I would appreciate just a bit more resistance when turning the focus ring). There is some barrel distortion at 35mm, but not at 50mm and at 70mm, and this lens has a surprisingly good macro function (better than on some of the other A zooms, certainly). Light falloff at maximum aperture is not too objectionable, and wide-open resolution is really not too bad, either. Some people (such as I) appreciate a constant maximum aperture, too - not all the 35-70's have this, of course. If the 2-to-1 zoom range is not too much of a problem (i.e., if you don't find yourself bumping into the 35mm limit or especially the 70mm limit too often), it's a good lightweight carryaround lens.

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Gene Poon - In addition to its excellent optics, something else to like about the Pentax-A 35-70/4 is its excellent close focus capability at 70mm. Some of the others close focus at 35mm only.

Fred - That's right, Gene. This is where the so-called "macro" capability of the A 35-70/4 really shines. "Macro" with this lens is not just a "buzz word", as it is with so many of the ubiquitous "macro zooms". When a 70mm lens focuses to about 10 inches (about 1/4 meter), you're focusing quite close! I think the spec is for 1/2.7 macro magnification.


Ralf Engelmann - Moderate optical and mechanical quality, but for the price it's really o.k.. Contrast doesn't improce when stopping down.

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Moses Knopfler - The 35-80 tends to be fuzzy in the corners until you stop down to f/8, but it is certainly not a bad lens, having good contrast and low flare. It tests about equal to similar lenses from its competitors.

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Michael Zirngibl (From the Web) - This one sucks. Only buy this one when can't afford another - or get a used 50mm/1.7, it's cheaper and in most situations you don't really need a 35-80...

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Ed - I own the F version, black, which is optically identical to the newer FA silver version. It's actually quite good, especially from about 45mm - 80mm. There is little distortion in that range, but from 35mm to 45mm the barrrel distortion limits it's use somewhat. Overall, it's a real bargain, extremely light and compact, and focuses well and accurately. If you can live with it's slow speed, and accept that it's good, but not great at the wide end, then it's a real sleeper.

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Artur Ledóchowski - I also have the F version, which is far better built than the FA one. For me it's the best standard zoom in it's class on the market. Pretty sharp, little distortion, low price for nice quality:) It's not very fast but one can live with that. . . I'm pleased with its performance.

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Brendan - I have a 35-80 and it is ok for a low end zoom, at 35 there is some barrell distortion and at 50 and 80 it is fine. Very contrasty but you need to shoot at f8 to get good sharpness, it's a little soft wide open.

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Joe Tainter - For an inexpensive, default lens, it is surprisingly good. An acquaintance borrowed a negative shot with it, and had a 20 x 30" print made. At any viewing distance except right next to it, the print is quite sharp. . . . Then I decided to try the (now discontinued) Tokina AF 28-105, which is rated on Photodo as a sharper lens. In my experience with images scanned and printed at about 8 x 10", the Pentax F 35-80 was sharper than the Tokina, and the images had more contrast. Shots with the Tokina seem to lack contrast. I no longer have the Tokina. So, yes, this is overall (in my experience) a pretty good lens, and a bargain at the price.



Bill Kane - I . . . have the A version. I have to say it's my favorite by far. The focusing range is great, and I can take about 85% of my shots with it. I can't tell the differance between pictures I have taken with this or my 50mm prime. The f3.5 constant aperture is also very nice.

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Tom Addison - I find that while it does take great slides in good light, the performance wide open is not so good so it is really a f5.6 with a bright V-finder . . . It is a really solid item with metal all thru' and my example has lovely smooth zoom and focus controls.

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Jerry Houston - I have one, and love it. It provides the versatility that you use a zoom lens for, without exacting a terrible cost in lost sharpness and contrast. Under most circumstances, I would be at a loss to tell which pictures I'd taken with my 35-105 and which I'd taken with my prime lenses. It's "macro" capability isn't true macro, of course, but I just think of it as "close focusing," and it comes in very handy at times. Filter size is 67mm, so it shares filters and accessories with a number of other Pentax lenses. The fixed aperture is great for someone who uses an external meter. . . It's a true zoom, and doesn't wander in and out of focus as you zoom from one end to the other. Build quality is very high.

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Richard S. Ross - I'll add to all the praise for the A 35-105/3.5 lens. . . . optically it is just about as sharp as any prime. I can rarely tell the difference on my chromes and use this lens along with my 24 and 200 for just about everything when I'm trecking around. The few draw backs are: 1 - More pincushion distortion at the long end than more modern designs. . . 2 - Rather heavy,. . . 3 - flare prone . . . This is one of the best MF zooms around in any mount IMHO.

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Doug Hohenstein - I have and use the A 35-105. It is a fantastic lens. Sharp as a tack, and very bright and contrasty. It is my favorite lens. I don't know about the F version but the lens design in the F lens should be exactly the same as that in the A lens, which is excellent.

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Fred - . . . seems to be an excellent lens, in my experience. . . . quite sharp, low in linear distortion, and surprisingly resistant to flare.

[Fred provides a longer review . . .] The 35-105 is a well-made and high quality MF zoom lens. It is not going to equal a good prime lens within its range, but will give good results overall. (Even an inexpensive M or an A 50/2 will do better than it at 50mm, for example.) I use both the 35-105 and the A 28-135/4 zooms, favoring the heavier 28-135 for its wider zoom range when I don't have to lug the beast very far, while I will switch to the 35-105 when I want to trim down the dead weight a bit.

I have submitted a number of .JPG images for the Lens Gallery just recently, . . . Most of the shots are brick wall photos (sounds pretty boring, eh?), but such photos will show:

At 35mm there is some barrel distortion. At 50mm the images are relatively distortion free. At both 80mm and 105mm there is slight pincushion distortion. At f/3.5, at any of these focal lengths, there is some softness in the corners, though the center appears to be quite sharp, and there is some noticeable light fall-off (of course), worse at 35mm. At f/8 the corners had all sharpened up nicely and light fall-off was not visible. Macro shots showed pretty much the same story for both resolution (soft in the corners at 3.5, sharp at f/8) and light fall-off (noticeable at f/3.5, negligible at f/8).

Of course, nobody buys a lens just to shoot brick walls, and in many types of everyday photos, much of the above will not appear too obviously. From personal experience, I have found the lens to be quite effective at f/5.6 and f/8, where I have probably used it most of the time. For a lens with 15 elements (and umteen glass surfaces), it is quite resistant to flare (thank you, SMC). . . .

As for any 28-200 zoom (with its 7:1 zoom range), I would be surprised if it could possibly be as sharp as the 35-105 (with its more modest 3:1 range). I would be very surprised if it could even approach the optical qualities of the humble 50/2's at 50mm or thereabouts. I think it would be asking an awful lot of a 28-200 lens to expect otherwise. However, such a zoom ratio has to be very useful for its versatility, and you might come to really appreciate that. However, you just might not making 8x10 blow-ups anymore - <g>.

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Bob Blakely - I have the 35-105mm f/3.5 and love it. To tell the truth, it stays on my main daytime LX and gets the most use. I've not done anything like lens tests, but my photos are sharp to my tastes. . .

[Bob again . . .] I consider the SMCA 35-105 f/3.5 to be excellent as zooms go, especially 3:1 zooms. It will not compare with primes, but compared with other zooms it is, sharp with good contrast. It does show a small amount of barrel distortion. It is prone to some flair as are all zooms, perhaps a little more so than the SMCA 70-210 f/4, but having a shortest focal length of 70mm makes shading it easier. (The SMCA 70-210 f/4 has an integral, pull out shade.) Of the 24 Pentax lenses I own, the two zooms I chose to own are the SMCA 35-105 f/3.5 and the SMCA 70-210 f/4.

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Mike Breen - the Pentax 35-105A is a constant aperture lens, f/3.5 all-the-way, and one of best zooms Pentax has made according to all tests I've seen, and in my experience. It too is a fairly heavy lens, but I've carried it for weeks at a time as my standard lens on trips.

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Todd Stanley - The A 35-105 is an excellent lens, I find the zoom range more useful than the 28-80 lens I had before it. The Macro setting can get quite close (makes up for the otherwise not very close minimum focusing distance). My only real complaints are pertty minor, first is the zoom seems stiff (but that could just be my sample), the second is there is no distance/magnification markings on the barrel when you are in the Macro mode (just a green line).

[Todd again . . .] It's a good, constant aperture zoom lens. Well built, optically a good performer. Mine has shown no mechanical problems as of yet. The disadvantages are weight, 67mm filters, and a large minimum focus distance, leading to always having to change into the "macro" mode in order to get close.

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Bob S. - nice lens if a bit heavy, good walking around lens

[Bob S. again . . .] I've used the A35-105/3.5 as a walking around lens on the Super Program. The results are good with the rare exception of mysterious flare. The lens is well built, but heavy. 2 primes weigh about the same. . . And like Bob Blakley . . . [above], it's one of the few zooms I use versus a wide collection Pentax prime lenses.

[and again . . .] . . . during an off afternoon went out to Calloway Gardens in Georgia. There were plenty of butterflies, but the results were disappointing. I just couldn't get close enough with the lens. It's fine for normal photos, but not much of a macro.

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Rob Smith - I now have a Pentax A35-105 3.5 in front of me now that arrived yesterday morning. . . First impressions are that this is a typical heavy/quality construction Pentax lens from that era and handles well on an LX. Mechanically there is a little play in the focusing which almost entirely goes when you are using the 'macro' range, apart from this the only things I really don't like about the lens are the lack of DOF/ hyperfocal markings on the barrel and the front element rotating when focusing.

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Martin Trautmann - I like it a lot - it's my common lense for travelling around and survived this better than the camera (super A). A minor drawback is the color on the aperture ring - after heavy rain the numbers were floating around. The rubber coating wears out after some years. Thus you may have to fix the rings by 2k-glue. Another drawback may be the size of the filters: 67 mm required the bigger Cokin P series. Otherwise the optical quality is pretty good, while the mechanical quality was just perfect up to now.

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Steve Larson - As others have said, it is a great lens optically. Mechanically, I think it lacks just a tad, seems a little loose. If I`m going out with one lens in daylight, that is the lens of choice. I used it basically all last weekend, and am still amazed at how sharp it is, and color rendition. I shot a building at sunset with the sun glinting off of the dark glass, and the SMC`s almost erased it, as I wanted it to show more in the pic, I think the SMC Pentax filter helped there too. Shooting @ f8 you won`t be disappointed, sharp as a Tak. . . Don`t think of it as a replacement for primes though, if you can carry them, carry them, but if you have a wife and kid in tow, and the load is already high, the A35-105 3.5 (constant) is an excellent choice IMHO. I found a hood for it (in a hood bin in a camera shop) that is rather nice, it says "Tokina AT-X 35-200" on it, and it is perfect for it. Some might say that the 35-105 is heavy, but that`s the price you pay for good optics, I`ll pay that price.

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Dave - The 35-105 is an outstanding lens, one of the best Pentax or any other manufacturer has made, according to my experience AND the tests. . .


Jan Schuur - I've the 35-105 f4-5.6 Pentax AF lens and I'm satisfied with it. The lens is sharp, contrasty, and lightweight and has got a usefull macro setting. The draw backs of this lens are it is slow and it shows some distortion at the wide end. . .

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Michael Hubbard - Im very pleased with my 35-105 F series lens. . . I don't think its a real common lens. Doesnt flare, contrast is nice, and the macro abilities are decent. Its small enough and certainly light. The length is ~2" to 3" when zooming all the way out. Manual focus feel is a little light for me, but it works and snaps right into focus. For a zoom, its not wide enough for me. Ill trade it off for a constant aperture zoom one day (hopefully the f2.8 28-70 FA lens). I use it on my manual focus bodies when I need it. Overall, I would recommend it, but consider its drawbacks (its AF and its not that wide).


David B. Vance (From the Web) - It is big compared to modern standards, but it is sharp and contrasty with minimal flare. Recently used for a trip to Alaska with good results. A wonderful indoor lens with flash for "people pictures". Sharp, with great color saturation.


 


Nenad Djurdjevic (from input on this website) - Disappointing wide-open. Soft, especially at the edges and lacks contrast. Improves stopped down but then is hard to hand-hold. Distortion well controlled though detailed: This is a bulky and heavy zoom that appears to be well-made but perform disappointingly. Wide open it is soft at the edges and lacks contrast. It performs quite poorly between 35-50 and at 210. It's best at 85 but still not very sharp wide open. Stopped down it is quite satisfactory all the way through the range but this defeats the purpose of having a (reasonably) fast wide range zoom. Thus the only good things about the 35-210 are the wide range, and that it has very well controlled distortion. By comparison the FA28-200 f3.8-5.6 (which is in my opinion is actually a 28-190) has more distortion but is sharper and more contrasty.


Bob S. - This was the first zoom for the M lens series, where Pentax offered a zillion lenses in fixed focal lengths (20, 28, 35, 40, 50, 85, 100, 120, 135, 150, 200, 300, and 400). I think philosophically they were resisting zooms and trying to stay away from them. This was a compromise saying they could make one, but...

The reputation on the lens from day one has been weak. It was panned at release for not being as sharp as it's contemporaries from other manufactures (Vivitar). I have a copy and it is OK, but not as sharp as the A series zooms. It also has a funky 'push-pull', varifocus design.


Steve Scott - I've found it has excellent contrast and sharpness

[and then added later . . .] I've used my Pentax 45-125 for over 20 years now. It is my favoritelens. Not the fastest or lightest lens I own but very handy focal range and sharp as a tack for a zoom. I've owned some non-Pentax zooms in the 80-200mm range but this one beats them hands down. I rarely go anywhere without it. Haven't tried it for portraits. I'd probably want something softer and a little faster to control DOF.

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Pat White - I used a 45-125 for over 15 years and was quite pleased with it. When I bought it used from a photography instructor, the zoom ring was a little loose (guess it was a high-miler), but it never got any worse. I noticed a little pincushion distortion at 125mm, but other than that it seemed fine. By today's standards, who knows? Anyway, I liked the focal length range (it was my everyday lens) and the constant aperture, as well as the constant focus (focus sharply at 125, then zoom back to the length you need). When I got my MZ-5n in '97, I got new lenses to go with it and gave the MX outfit (camera, M 28/2.8, M 50/2.0, K 45-125/4.0, M 200/4.0, K T6-2X doubler, plus flash, etc.) to my daughter, who was a reporter/photographer for a small newspaper in northern Ontario at the time. As far as I know, she's still using it.


Tonghang Zhou - This FA 70-200 (f4-5.6) is a terrible lens. I had one once and got rid of QUICK! The resolution is not the worst, but the color and contrast really stinks.


Sep 1997 R. Burgos - I have the FA70/210 4.0-5.6 and its a good lens. It doesnt come loose as the 28/80. Great lens for portraits. . . . Personally I do not like motorized zooms since they draw too much battery power. But if you want to use Image size tracking and Zoom memory, you need the FA . . .


Alan Chan - There are two Pentax A 70-210/4 . . . - one is SMC, and one is not. The SMC is the better one, . . . If it is the SMC one, the lens itself is printed "SMC" clearly.

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Ralf Engelmann - A good and optically brilliant lens, but mine had some mechanical problems with the macro setting. Pretty big compared to modern telezooms.

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Jerry Houston - I have a 70-210/4, and like it a lot. Since it's not an AF lens, the option was open to make it a "one touch" zoom, and Pentax did that. It is very convenient to use, and it was made at a time when Pentax lens build quality was about as high as it's ever been.

Unlike "two touch" zooms, this one has some limited depth-of-field information on the lens barrel. Optically, it's quite good. It's a little heavier than a typical plastic varifocal lens, but I'll gladly carry a few extra ounces in exchange for the solid construction, smooth functioning, and constant maximum aperture. Since it was designed from the start to be a manual-focus lens, focusing is smooth and precise. It feels and works the way a zoom lens should. . .

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João Vale - The Pentax-A 70-210mm f/4 zoom lens is a superb lens.I use this lens with both my cameras, a Pentax P50 and a Pentax MZ-5,and the results are very good.I do a lot off backpacking, and that lens is my favorite lens.The zoom is very sharp, and very resistant, I had never a malfunctionwith the lens.I have taken several thousands of pictures with this lens, with very good results, and the best thing is the price, . .

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David Cook. . . it's the first lens I have with full SMC coating, and flare is very well controlled. I took some slides recently facing directly into afternoon sunlight filtered through trees, a situation my other lenses don't handle well, and can see no problems. Also note that at 70mm it has a macro mode, focuses to 1:3 magnification, which I've found quite useful. . . it's the lens I keep on a camera at all times now.

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Tom Addison - The pentax 70-210 f4 SMC-A has consistently good reports from this group, I have one, I love it. It is heavy and really well built and the optics are very good for a zoom.

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Alin Flaider - stick with your A 70-210/4. None of the available AF zooms are a match for it. Brightness, constant aperture, focus kept while zooming, think twice before you trade all these for AF.

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Fred - The A 70-210/4 ~is~ a sharp, solid lens. The older Pentax SMC M 80-200/4.5 is also good, and is a little more reasonable in price (though actually harder to find sometimes).

Fred [again] - [ The A 70-210/4] has been my most used all-around nature photo lens for a long time . . .

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David Collett - IMO the 70-210/4A is the best short telephoto Penatx zoom that I have used. It is robust, makes nice pictures and has a constant aperture - what more could one want? If you see one buy it, you will not be disappointed.

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Cesar Matamoros - As a hobbyist that enjoys photography but has not gotten into the extent of blokeh, resolution, etc. this is my view of the lens. I presently own my second one. I retired the first after ten years of abuse. I have nothing but high praise for the lens. The photos I have gotten have great clarity to them. The lens is comfortable to use. I have used it with everything from an MX, SP, LX, to even a ZX-5. . .

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Mark Lindamood - I recently got an SMC-A 70-210 F/4 Zoom as part of a package deal and compared it to my SMC-M 80-200 f4.5, and found to my great horror, given the reputation of the 70-210, that the 80-200 was clearly sharper at 4.5 than the 70-210 was at 4.0. Color rendition was the same. The 4.5 is smaller, and the extra 10mm on either end is negligible. If you do not necessarily WANT an A lens, get the M. It's smaller, lighter, and better optically - at least my sample is.

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Bob Walkden - the SMC A 70-210/4 is a very, very good zoom, with excellent optical quality and superb build quality. It handles beautifully, particularly on an LX with attached winder. If this is the lens you're looking at then I recommend it highly. [and continuing that thought in another discussion . . .] In fact, for most purposes I'd recommend it over an f/2.8 zoom because of the greater ease of handling. The optical quality is 1st rate and it's very well built (make sure it's the SMC version).

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Collin - Went into [photo store . . .] They've got the A70-200/4 and the Tak-A70-210/4. So we put them on a body to compare. WHAT A DIFFERENCE -- even in the finder.

Mechanically, the Tak focuses much more quickly. Some might like that. It might be a result of the optical design. Visually, the A seems to have a larger circle of nonconfusion. That is, what is in focus is noticably sharper, clearer, and more distict as a result, at the same aperture & on the same body. While both are rated f4, the Tak-A appeared a hair darker. Probably more like a 1/2 stop difference. There's no comparison. AVOID THE TAKUMAR-A!

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Bill Peifer - This is one big, heavy lens -- 150 mm long and 680 grams. I bought one in very nice condition earlier this year . . . I love it. The glass was in excellent condition, . . . I like the one-touch zoom feature -- much quicker for action and candid shots than a two-touch zoom. One thing to watch for on these is looseness in the zoom/focus collar. The collar on some lenses will slip, thus causing the focal length to change, when the lens is pointing straight up or straight down. It's easy enough to fix -- simply roll back the rubber sleeve on the collar and tighten the screw. Another thing to watch out for is dust inside the lens. I'd stay away from any with internal dust. . .

There are some non-SMC 70-210 and 70-200 f/4 zooms. Don't confuse these inferior lenses with the SMC-A 70-210 f/4. They're not as high in quality or price. For more comments on the optical performance and a comparison with other lenses, see comments on Stan's site at http://www.concentric.net/~smhalpin/. . .

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Jim Brooks - . . . My A70~210 f4 was getting loose on the zoom / focus ring. Although the mechanism itself was nice and tight, the ring wobbled. After a little investigation I found that the ring is held to the lens mechanism by a metal ring about 3mm wide, fastened with four small (hobby-screwdriver size) Philips screws. This ring resides beneath the grip rubber at the camera end of the zoom / focus ring. There is no need to remove the rubber grip, simply peel back a few mm at this end. Tighten the screws (maybe add a smidgen of thread locker) and the lens is as good as new. Apologies if this is common knowledge but it saved me a trip to the repairer so it may help someone out there!


Alin Fleider - If you can, get your hands on a F 70-210/4-5.6, discontinued now. It's by far the best optically among its peers (FA 70-200/4-5.6, F 80-200/4.5-5.6, note the nuances).

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Gene Poon - The SMC Pentax-F 70-210 4-5.6 was discontinued several years ago when the PZ-1 was introduced, so is available only on the used market now.

I have two of these. Very happy with optical performance of both. Not so happy with build quality, though only one has the problem which concerns me. This lens is plastic-barreled with adhesive labels for the distance indicator window and the grey matte panel which circle the lens barrel. On one of mine the grey matte panel is beginning to peel. Same thing is happening on my Pentax-F 50/1.4. It is really no big deal, since the parts cost about $3.00-5.00 each from Pentax; there is no effect on optical performance.

In side-by-side use-testing, the SMC Pentax-F 70-210 seems to be marginally sharper than the SMC Pentax-FA 70-210. The SMC Pentax-FA has power zoom, which may be of advantage on a PZ-70, which continuously autofocuses as you zoom. No advantage on my PZ-1, which doesn't do this.

Do not confuse either with the Pentax-F 70-200, however. That one is a Canadian marketed lens which was sold in the USA as the Takumar-F 70-200. Note that it is not marked SMC. I can see the difference; though it is not a bad lens, the SMC are better. . . .

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Jens, Denmark - I didn't like my FA 70-200/4.0-5.6 much. Not bad, but not very good either. I sold it and got myself a F 70-210/4.0-5.6 (made for the SFX): It is remarkably better.

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Stephan Schwartz - SMC F 70-210. . . is one of the best lenses Pentax ever made. It has a excellent optic quality, a sturdy metal tube, only the zoom and the aperture ring are made of plastic. I had this lens for many years and was very satisfied wih it.

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herbet brasileiro - The Pentax SMC F 70-210/4-5.6 is an excellent lens. The best ever made by Pentax in this range. . . The inner barrel is metal, very solidly constructed. The filter size is 49mm what means less expensive filters. The only drawback is the rather slow autofocus. But anyway, great lens for the price.


G.T.Addison - I have 28/2.8, 35/2.8 and 75-150/4 all 'M'. . . .The zoom is worth special mention, by keeping the range of zoom low Pentax made a very useful, highly portable, fine quality lens which has only been replaced in my bag by the 70-210 f4 SMCA, even now it has it's place when weight is a factor.

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George Stanley - . . . the 75-150/4 is Really, Really Excellent! Because it has only a 1-2 zoom ratio, the designers were able to achieve really superb optical performance.

George Stanley [again] - The very best zoom lens I ever used was the M-series 75/150 f/4.

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Shel Belinkoff - My least favorite lens is the M75~150/4.0 zoom. It's too "soft" for my taste, especially below about 90mm and above 135mmm or so, and too big and bulky compared to the primes it replaces. I much prefer using the M150/3.5, the K105/2.8, or the K85/1.8 (or the M85/2.0) instead of the zoom. The lenses provide sharper images and, for me, are easier to hand hold, which means I can work faster and easier.

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Dave Weiss - I have owned this lens for awhile and it never has disapointed me. It always renders sharp and contrasty prints. As opposed to Shel's comments, I have never noticed any image degradation at either end (I have not really tested it as such, just my observations.)

[and from a follow-up message . . .] I mostly use it for portraits which always look as sharp as any prime lens I use. Maybe I use it in the middle more, the sweet zone as Shel has described.

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Bill Sawyer - . . . The Pentax lens brochure of the time boasted "...it ranks among the best - matching the performance of it's fixed length counterparts..." and that it was part of a "new generation" of Pentax zooms. I hope they weren't exaggerating too much - they were generally more conservative throughout the rest of this brochure. . .

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George Stanley - I used this lens for many years. Performance is Superb! Best zoom I ever owned. Unfortunately, deterioration in my diabetic eyesight now forceme to use Autofocus lenses-- otherwise I would never have parted with this GEM!

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Skip - Sharpness: Excellent for a zoom. Not a whole lot of difference (at the more open apertures anyway,) between it and my FA 50/1.4. Recently took some pictures of hemlock trees and flowers. The bark on the trees is finely detailed, and the flowers look almost as if they were taken with a macro lens (almost), at 150mm and aprox 24". Flare: None in my recent photos. . . . Lens has a good built-in hood. Bokeh: At f4, bokeh is round and soft. Cloud-like. Pleasing, to me. Other pluses: The lens is all old-style solid metal and glass. It's also not too heavy, and being a 2x zoom, is compact. (Not only is it not long, it's 'slim' also.) Focuses and zooms quite easily with one-touch operation, although it took a little time for me to get used to its non-plastic feel and its slimness.

Minuses: Only one so far. Focal length occasionally moves by itself slightly. I think this may be caused by the weight of the wide one-touch zoom/focusing ring and the easy smoothness of its action. (It sort of floats... But the problem doesn't happen often, and when it does it usually only requires one short deft touch to put it back right again. (And hey, for under $75, I should worry?) IMO, it's a great older lens. A forgotten jewel!

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Paul Stregevsky: Collected comments on the 75-150

George Stanley: "Really, really excellent! Because it has only a 1:2 zoom ratio, the designers were able to achieve really superb optical performance. Grab it!"

Tom Addison: "By keeping the range of zoom low, Pentax made a very useful, highly portable, fine quality lens which only been replaced in my bag by the 70-210 f/4 A. Even now it has its place, when weight is a factor."

Dave - ". . .I just wanted to echo Mike's opinion of the 75-150 f4M. Wow! Very sharp for any lens.

George Stanley: "I used [another Pentaxzoom] for many years and the image quality is excellent at f/4 and smaller. Another excellent choice would be the SMC Pentax-M 75mm--150mm f/4 zoom lens, which equals it, and is positively the sharpest zoom lens I have everused."

JCO: "If you dont need wider waist-up type shots the SMC-M 75-150 F4 is also an excellent portrait lens."

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FstopTraveler - In a recent message someone implied that the old M zooms were not that good. I must beg to differ. . . I used to have the 75-150 f/4 M zoom and that one was superlative. Perhaps it was the more limited zoom range, I don't know, but I have many, many, sharp, beautiful photos taken with that lens.

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Timothy Stark - I have a 70-150 4.0, bought it used . . . I love this lens. It is very sharp, has super colour rendition on regular film, and is compact. I use it on both my ME Super and PZ-1.

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Sas Gabor - It's one of my favorite optics on my LX. I found the results sharp an contrasty even wide open. The only drawback is the 150mm [maximum length] compared to the usual 200 or more.

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Wendy or Paul Beard - . . . I bought mine new, not long after buying my MX in the early eighties. I love it. I later bought a M 200 f4 because I wanted something a little longer than the 150 . . . reached. I prefer the M 75-150 in all respects, it feels great to use and I have found it to be sharper thank the 200 too. Probably unusual to say that I prefer a zoom over a prime, but I really like this lens.


Doug Brewer - Count me among those who think the FA*80-200/2.8 is great to live with. Like most things photographic, there are compromises one is willing to make, and while the weight issue is real, I consider the resultant photos worth the trouble. I'd estimate that 70 percent of my current work is done with this lens. If you only include portraits, the percentage goes up to about 80. Trying to compose a portrait of an 18-month-old with a tripod-mounted fixed focal length lens can make you old before your time.

[later comment, responding to "negative" reports in some "testing" site . . .]

. . . I have and use this lens and can tell you from my =real world= use, it's simply outstanding. I can't speak to photodo (hell, I can't understand photodo), but out here where a lens is put to work, I have nothing to complain about.

I put very little stock in graphs, preferring to judge a lens by its photos, which is probably heretical, and I frankly can't figure out why anyone would sit in front of a computer, read a rating on photodo or whatever and then pronounce a lens either a dog or the best thing ever. Good grief, we're =photographers=; go out and take some pictures!

I recall when the advice was to borrow or rent a lens to try it out before buying it. Now everyone wants a =rating= from some test that has as much to with actual real world performance as a Civics class has to do with Washington politics.

Would you buy a car you had only read about on the Internet? No. Why would anyone buy a lens that way, especially a lens that costs this much?

Doug (wanders off, grumbling)

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Phil - I can attest to the Pentax FA 80-200/2.8 ED IF. To start with, this is a great lens. Optically, I have never been disappointed with its performance. Although it's been said many times by this discuss group that this lens is a bit soft wide open, at both ends of it's focal length (80 mm and 200mm). After literally thousands of shots, I have only noticed a little softness around the edges while using the lens wide open at those focal lengths. At all other apertures and focal lengths this lens is tack sharp. I'm really not sure if the softness (when using it wide open at 80mm and 200mm) is entirely the lens , it might be a combination of lighting, type of film and developing technique that effects the final product. I think this may befood for a later discussion.

I have had a chance to use a Nikon 80-200/2.8 on an F5 and noticed the same softness around the edges, so it could be just inherent to zoom lens in general. BTW after using the F5 and 80-200/2.8 for about 3 hours I was glad to get back to my PZ-1p and FA 80-200/2.8 ED IF rig.

The Pentax 80-200 is larger and heavier but the extra weight does not seem to bother me, in fact I find it a plus. Because it is as big as it is, I don't hand hold it. I put it on a Monopod all the time. Yes, it can be hand held but for me I prefer to have the stability of the monopod. That's where the extra size and weight actually seems to be a plus. I'm not a big "Prime lens" user so I don't have much experience with the "build quality" of older lens, but I have used my FA 80-200/2.8 for about 1 1/2 years with out any problems. I think it is built like a tank.

Now, you are probably going to hear all about "how the power zoom feature" is to blame for the extra weight and size and how it is a useless feature. It (the power zoom feature) is also blamed for making it a more expensive lens. I will only say that there are a few of us that like the power zoom feature and although it is an added expense if you can afford it and it makes you happy go for it. I am so used to using the power zoom feature that I am almost lost with out it.

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SudaMafud - No one, not even PENTAX, makes a better mid-range zoom.

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Carlos Royo - I have the FA* 80-200 mm. 2.8, and it is a great lens. It is not avaliable in black, and here in Spain it is too expensive, about $ 2000. In Germany it seems to be cheaper ($ 1750). . . I have used it with two different teleconverters: A Kenko AF 1.5x and the Pentax AF converter 1.7x. The Kenko teleconverter gives very good results with my F* 300 mm. 4.5, with very small loss of sharpness, but in the case of the FA* 80-200 2.8, the results are much better with the Pentax AF 1.7x. Besides, with the Pentax you also have a sort of "manual focus control" while using AF and that is a very interesting feature, at least for me.



FstopTraveler - In a recent message someone implied that the old M zooms were not that good. I must beg to differ. I have the 80-200 f/4 5M zoom and it is good, though I would not compare it to the 80-200 f/2.8 Pentax of today. . .

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[from this site's response form - no name] - It's a lens that perform very stable image quality...I haven't had bad picture since I had it.But it's heavy and huge,not easy to hand held. . . it's good,non-floating aperture and built-in lens hood makes it useful.


Ralf Engelmann - A nice compact telezoom with nearly constant aperture and internal zooming, mechanically without problems, optically moderate to good quality with some problems full open.


Douglas J Stemke - . . . I use it quite a lot. It is very light and although it 'appears' to not be the best lens in the world (all that plastic anyway), I've grown to really like this lens. You're right; it is slow. But I've taken really lovely photos with it. . . . I took some knockout head/shoulders photos of a Golden Eagle with it . . . which I've blown up from a slide to 8X12 inches and it still retains great sharpness.

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Ralf Engelmann -I own one since two years, and I bought it . . . as a compact and affordable standard telezoom. . . . it's the most convincing offer in the Pentax telezoom range, since it does more than one would expect from the price and size. Optical quality is o.k., mechanical quality is pretty good and I like the internal zooming feature. Centering and the (non-)wobble is much better than on the powerzoom constructions. I use it much more than I thought, and in combination with a short prime tele like e.g. the FA 2.8/135, you get a tele lens pair suiting all needs and costing less money (and weight/space in your bag) than the 2.8/80-200 kind of zooms.


Ralf - . . . definitively a step back. If you can get the former SMC-F 4.7-5.6/80-200mm, buy that one. Same optics, but considerable better mechanics than the new silver FA version. The story with the better data transfer of FA lenses is a marketing blurb meanwhile. It was true maybe till 1996, but not today.


Ken Kuo - 22 Sep 1997 - I went to check out the new 80-320/f4-5.6 zoom. Good overall lens, but no significant change from the 100-300. My observation : . . .

- same general construction (plastic)

- feels fairly light, good balance with MZ-5n.

- zoom ring is loose (IMHO doesn't give a confident "tight" feel)

- same min. focus distance as the 100-300 (approx. 1.5m). No macro settings.

- lens barrel extends to max. length about 10" by my estimation ( the 100-300 remains same length.)

- slightly wider MF ring, but no more than 3/4".

Would I buy this lens ? . . . probably not. . . .lacks macro feature. Also I tend to like heftier and tighter feeling zooms (ie: SMCA 70-210/f4).

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Pascal De Pauw. . .the new Pentax FA80-320. There is a test in the latest issue of Chasseur d'Image (nB0 199, yes 199). So I make a little translation.

The results are very good at 80 mm, but the perfomance degrades logical when the focal lenght increases. The quality give satisfaction till 150mm. Without overacting, the vignetering and geonemetric distortion are sometimes noticable (subjects, even bright background,..) and after 200mm. . . .Every brand makes this type of telezooms, where you can step into telephotography without having to think to much. This one fully fulfill to this philosophy, thanks to is 4x zoom factor it offers a sympathetic "plus" to the usual 100-300mm and 70-300mm.For the rest, some advantages and desaventages are the same : it's light and compact but it's possibility's are retricted due to its big aperture. So you have to use a fast film emulsion ( 400 ISO ) to take the best out of it. . . .

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David (ZX5Lx) - About a month ago I had the chance to test the new 80-320 against the original 100-300 (both Pentax). Although a short test, both were tested one right after the other, tripod mounted, good contrasty lighting conditions with both print and slide film. I found they were extremely close in optical performance, virtually identical, with maybe a very slight edge going to the 80-320 in terms of contrast. Test targets were at mid-distance as well as infinity. I would feal more comfomtable making any pronouncements about performance of these 2 lenses, pitted against one another, upon further testing. Hope this helps a bit.

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Derrin Auerswald - Jan 1998 - I have an 80-320, but so far have only used it for colour prints. I can say it is solidly built, and nicely balanced. Autofocus is a little slow (on a PZ1p) but the upside of the compromise is very good manual focus feel. It hunts less than my FA 28-80, posibly also because of the low geared focussing mechanism. The prints taken so far are sharp, and punchy, with very good control of flare, even with the sun in picture. A recent test in an english magazine, I think Amateur Photographer, found the lens to be an excellent optically, far superior to the Tokina 80-400. Overall I think it is lens I really enjoy using.

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Roberto Burgos S. - I bought my 80/320 about three months ago (late October). Before that I was using a sigma 70/300DL. The Pentax is slightly lighter because its all plastic construction (glass elements of course). From 80 to about 250 is tack sharp, then it softens towards the 320 end. Flare is very well controlled, far better than the Sigma. Focusing ring is wide enough for MF operation, with good damping. AF tends to be a little slow since the focusing ring has to turn about 180 degrees, compared to the Sigma which needed only about 1/4 turn for full range. I am very happy with this lens, to the point I sold my Sigma.

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Pascal De Pauw - Better then FA100-300, but still soft above 200mm. Good build, reasonable. . .

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Roberto Burgos S. - I like my 80/320 very much. It is a well balanced price/compromise performer. Sharp from 80 to about 250 mm. then it softens a bit. Best aperture to work with is @ f/8-11. It does not come with a hood so try to get one (generic aftermarket 58 mm for telefoto). Focusing is fast enough compared to similar zooms from Sigma, Tokina, Nikon and faster than the Pentax FA100/300.

Well solid built (plastic skin). Zooming is well damped. Takes 58 mm filters and the front element DOES rotate when focusing. For the price/performace of this lens, its not worth looking into Sigma, Tamron or Tokina for any of their 70/300 zooms.

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Mark Cassino - I've been satisfied with my FA 80-320 zoom. . . I recently had [a chickadee] image blown up to 11 x 14 inches -- the image of the bird is bigger than real life, and it's still very sharp.

Main advantages -- it's sharp, contrasty, well designed, light, compact, and affordable. AF is reasonably fast. The images I've taken with the lens have a richness and color saturation that I've seen in few others.

Main disadvantages -- somewhat slow at f5.6, front element rotates, plastic construction would not stand up to being bashed about, only focuses down to 1.5 meters, no tripod mount.

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Pierfrancesco Caci - I have it. It's worth evey cent you pay for it. What I don't like is that the zoom changes its setting if you place the lens in a vertical position

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Bubba (Rob) - I recently got this lens and find it sharp up to a little over 200mm after that it softens a bit but still very much usable. As for the the creeping zoom this is a pain in the ass when walking but when shooting i find that using the normal shooting hold you stop the lens from creeping. . .

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Mark Cassino (again) - The 80-320 is . . . a decent performer. It's a fine lens up to 200 or so, and then quality starts to slide a bit, especially when wide open. But at f8 it's quite sharp even at 300. What I really like about this lens is the way colors get punched up - it delivers a very saturated and contrasty image. It's also nice and light, and is a good choice for a walking around lens.

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Bruce Dayton - I have an 80-320 f4-5.6 and have found it to be pretty good. It is definately soft at the long end. . . . It seems that all consumer zooms noticeably soften up at 300mm.

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Ralf - The FA 80-320mm is a kind of luxury solution in my lens collection, since I own already the F 100-300. The main reasons to buy it were: 1st) I wanted a wide spanning tele lens to go with the 20-35mm as a duo (and I wanted a start at 70 or 80mm); 2nd) I wanted a more compact telezoom lens for my MZ-5N. Now, I got what I wanted.

The lens is still pretty big, but feels very good on the MZ-5N. The zoom range is very versatile, and I cannot see significant built quality differences compared to the 20-35mm, except for a slight wobble due to the long extending lens tube. This of course is the unavoidable design trick to make it small at 80mm. From the viewfinder image, I am surprised about the good color brillance. A comparison with the 100-300 showed clear differences here. However, when looking at object details, it is clear that there are no real resolution differences between the lenses, and that not all colors are more brillant with the 80-320mm. So the reason might be a slightly different (and more catchy) color balance on the 80-320mm. With print film of course, this will be difficult to judge. So it will take a while till I have shot some slides to tell the truth about this. The focussing way of the 80-320mm is shorter (more steep) than on the 100-300, which makes my Z-1P slightly more hunting, but this is working good on the MZ-5N. I think I still don't have the ultimate telezoom here, but two lenses that are complementary. The 100-300mm will stay with the 28-105 on my Z-1P, wheras the 80-320mm will be my universal partner for the 20-35, especially on the MZ-5N.

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Alin Flaider - It is also my impression that this lens is built within higher standards than most other consumer zooms. Zoom and focus feel much tighter and more fluid than FA 28-70/4 - my reference in terms of poor build. The mount is metal indeed and AF works well on MZ-5N, if you can hold it steady enough beyond 200 mm. I also did some informal tests with the camera mounted on a steady tripod. At 80 and 200 mm 13x18cm prints look very sharp and contrast and the lens certainly has resources for 20x30cm. At 300 mm the target is still contrast but unfortunately too coarse to be conclusive. It certainly delivers better optical quality than most consumer zooms . . .

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Treena Harp - I have the 80-320, purchased for its very useful range -- great for newspaper. I had also heard that there were some problems with softness, but I haven't experienced that much yet. I know there's been some discussion about what Pål terms the 3-D effect, but I can tell you it's true. I bought it a couple of years ago, and I tested it at our local wild safari. The results were excellent. I was shocked when I looked through the loupe and saw my furry subjects standing out from the background in an almost 3-D sort of way. I wasn't disappointed in the scans and prints, either. I get very good color and contrast from this lens, and every time I publish something shot with it, I get comments from other staffers about the quality of the shots. If you want something with this wide a range, I think it would be a good choice. It's one of my favorite lenses.

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Alin - It's surprisingly good at close distances, while at infinity and beyond ~250 mm it is affected by colour separation. Still, the picture conserves an excellent overall contrast and if taken at f/11 can be enlarged up to 20x30 cm.



Andreas Busse - 8 Aug 1997

. . . I think for that price it is worth every cent. I can not compare it directly . . . but Im satisfied with the quality. Maybe it is not one of the best lenses from PENTAX but it is really no junk . . .Till now the only shortcoming I realize is that it lacksa bit sharpness wide open.. . . I often use a tripod with this lens and close it 1-2 stops. . . . think that I could not get a better lens so cheap. If you search a telezoom for daily work and if you want to shoot almost wide open, I think you have to look for another lens and spend more money.

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Ralf Engelmann - Rather big telezoom with constant size due to internal zooming, feels well on a Z-1P, but unbalanced on MZ-bodies. Focus way is a bit long. Optically a sharp lens, but some contrast problems beyond 200mm. Films with high color saturation, use of a hood and holding support will allow the use even with a 1.4x converter, as a 6.3-8/140-420mm tele. Then the internal zooming will become a big plus too.

Ralf Engelmann - (Again, in response to some less-than-favorable comments about this lens . . .) Protest! My SMC-F 100-300mm feels more solid than my [much more] expensive FA 20-35mm. And I don't know why, but I never had any sharpness problems with this lens. Maybe something is wrong with mine? Many people dislike it, I know, but I think this is more the feel of the combination with a 15,5 cm long lens on the small MZ-5 body than really complaints about the pictures. The internal zooming is absolutely great, and on a Z-1(P) the lens feels absolutely well balanced and works flawless. Together with the FA 28-105 and a 24mm prime it makes a great trio on a Z-1P.

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Raimo - . . . It is not quite sharp at the long end and full aperture - if you close it down a couple of stops you might be quite satisfied . . .


Derrin Auerswald - The Pentax FA100-300mm f4,5-5,6 seems to have a reputation of being something of a dog. Also what does it do particularly badly, or particularly well ?

Udi Efrat - Aug 97 - Voicing a minority opinion, I like my AF 100-300 on the MZ-5. Watching slides in a living room setup, the sharpness and contrast look good. I may have gotten the only good item out of the entire production lot, or maybe I am trying to avoid a post-purchase cognitive dissonance, but I'm happy with it.

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Steve Graham - I have the SMC-FA 100-300, and while I'd not consider it a total dog it is certainly not one of Pentax's better efforts. It's quite soft at the 300 end, and build is not great. It's still useable though.

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fritz polesny (from input on this website) - this optic brings good results if you use it only between 100 and 200 mm. at 300 mm you should work only from 11 - 22, otherwise the pictures are very soft. it is no more available. the price was much too high in relation to the quality you got (optics + mechanics).



rob - I picked up one of these in the UK, I am very impressed....

It weighs nothing compared to a 400mm lens. The f8/12 is no problem focussing in normal daylight.

(MZ-5n & LX with grid screen). Very pleased with sharpness of pictures shot on Kodachrome 200 with and without tripod, the handhelds were shot faster than 1/250th on a nice day. The fixed DOF is most noticable at close focussing distances, ie. have to be careful to isolate subject from background via composition not DOF. . .

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Donald Ross - I've had this lens for many years. It's very compact and light for the reach it gives you and can be handheld in good light, however I prefer to use a tripod. Because of the fixed aperatures, the use of ND filters are required to control exposure in bright light if you're using fast film. The donut bokeh can be a curese or a blessing depending on you artisic preference. . .


Non-SMC Lenses
(K-Mount)


>I've also been considering the 'A' 28-80 f/3.5-4.5. Anyone have experience with it? Couldn't find anything in the archives.<

Valentin Donisa - The "A" comes in two versions. SMC and non-SMC. I have the "wrong" one (non-SMC). I took good slides with it anywhere in the 28-60 range. At 80 it's soft (nice portrait soft-lens :-) It's said to have distorsions (barrel?) at the 28mm end, but that didn't bother me. Vignetting? Never bothered me either. . . The SMC and non SMC versions also look different. The SMC looks like a grenade launcher with a mounted grenade, whilst the non-SMC has a "normal" look. Both are turning around the front lens when you're focusing, making it very painfull to use a polarizer. I'd go for the FA 28-70 instead if possible. Or the F (not the FA!) 28-80.



Dan Johnson (from input on this website) - This is the original 28-80 zoom sold for the SF-1 and SF-10. It's a fairly heavy lens, especially compared to the newer zooms in the same zoom range. This is the best zoom lens I have ever used, bar none. Maybe I got lucky but...this lens is sharp, even at 28 and 80 mm focal lengths, and has lower-than-average distortion. I borrowed this lens to shoot a wedding after my NIKON died and found this PENTAX lens astonishingly better than the NIKON lens I had been using, and it was a good lens!

I bought the lens from my friend and have not regretted it. Many who try it do not like it because it is so heavy compared to the newer models and it isn't the best choice for the current lightweight ZX bodies but would be a great choice for the PZ-1p.

I've tried the newer lenses (28 - 80 and 35 - 70) and liked them but they feel cheap and fragile compared to the old AF unit.

It's a great lens. If you find one, snap it up! You won't be sorry. Problems? It's focuses rather slowly due to the weight (quality) of the internals. (The SF-1 I now use focuses very fast with the new lenses.) Also, the front element is not recessed and would be easily scratched if one didn't use a protective UV or Skylight filter. Also, the front element rotates when focusing which makes it a little less convenient when using a hood or polarizer. 


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