Best of 2016: Pentax Lenses


Earlier this year, Pentax released its long-awaited full-frame DSLR, the K-1, to stand atop its line of DSLR cameras, which also includes the second-generation APS-C gem, the K-3 II, the enthusiast’s K-70 and the entry-level K-S2. Pentax also offers film and digital medium format cameras, with the Pentax 645Z being the most recent offering, and the Q-S1 line of compact mirrorless cameras. With that as an introduction, let’s delve further into our subject—new lenses for Pentax cameras.

K-Mount DSLR Lenses

The most notable Pentax lens of 2016 is the HD Pentax-D FA 15-30mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR lens, with its wide to ultra-wide focal length zoom and f/2.8 maximum aperture. Extra-low dispersion glass elements reduce aberrations, and an HD multi-layer coating limits flare and ghosting. Autofocus operation is fast, with a Supersonic Direct-Drive Motor; the Quick-Shift focus system enables a swift swap from auto to manual focus modes. Its minimum focus distance is 11" and on APS-C cameras it provides a 23-46mm equivalent focal-length range. The bulbous front element is protected by a built-in lens hood and, because Pentax cameras are known for their resilience, this lens is also outfitted with dust and moisture sealing. Using filters could present a problem, due to the front element design, and it is a large lens (2.3 lb), but its focal-length range is ideal for landscape and architecture photographers and, by all reports, its optics and ability to create pleasing bokeh are outstanding.

Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA 15-30mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR Lens

Also new this year is the HD Pentax-D FA 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR lens, with an image circle designed for full-frame cameras. It’s a versatile standard zoom for general photography, from wide-angle to telephoto. The variable-aperture design keeps this lens compact, and eight weather-resistant seals permit working in inclement conditions. Super Protect coating guards the front element and High Definition multi-layer coating reduces reflections, flare, and ghosting. ED glass elements are featured in the lens design and help to control chromatic aberrations and reduce color fringing. When used on an APS-C format camera, its equivalent reach extends from 43-161mm.

Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR Lens

Well matched for the K-S2 or K-70, but compatible with all APS-C format K-mount cameras, is the HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3 ED PLM WR RE lens. A telephoto zoom lens, it has an equivalent focal-length range of 84.5-460mm to magnify distant objects and is well suited for, but not limited to, outdoor sporting events and even wildlife photography. Its compact retractable design is perfect for long hikes and its weather-resistant construction won’t send you scampering when the raindrops fall. The Pulse Autofocus motor improves the AF speed compared to its predecessor and reduces motor noise, which helps when shooting video.

Pentax HD PENTAX-DA 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3 ED PLM WR RE Lens

Perhaps in anticipation of the upcoming K-1, Pentax released the HD Pentax-D FA 24-70mm f/2.8ED SDM WR lens, in late 2015. This full-frame lens provides one of the most practical zoom ranges for working photographers and its constant f/2.8 maximum aperture enables consistency and solid low-light performance. As a lens designed for serious shooters, it is weather-resistant, durable, and as one reviewer noted, “built like a tank.” Three aspherical, three ED elements and one anomalous dispersion glass-molded aspherical element reduce chromatic aberrations and distortions throughout the zoom range and enhance sharpness, clarity, and edge-to-edge illumination throughout the aperture range. The Supersonic Direct Drive Motor ensures smooth, quiet, and accurate autofocus performance and the Quick-Shift Focus System lets you control focus manually at any time, even when working in AF mode, by simply rotating the focus ring. This workhorse lens is emblematic of the effort that Pentax puts into the physical design and optical quality of its high-end lenses.

Pentax HD Pentax-D FA 24-70mm f/2.8ED SDM WR Lens

645 Mount Medium Format Lenses

The final word in this lens roundup goes to 2015’s HD Pentax-D FA645 35mm f/3.5 AL [IF] lens, which is for medium format cameras, specifically the digital 645Z, but certainly compatible with 645 film cameras, as well. A wide-angle prime with the 35mm format equivalence of 27.5mm on medium format digital and 21.5mm on 645 film cameras, this lens is all-around useful, whether for landscape photography, street, or studio work. Its optical design incorporates one glass-molded aspherical element, one hybrid aspherical element, and one high-refractive index low-dispersion element, all of which combine to suppress chromatic and spherical aberrations. HD lens coating reduces lens flare when working in strong lighting conditions, and Super Protect coating is applied to the front element to minimize the damage that results from smudges, moisture, and dust. The included lens hood incorporates a polarizer filter window to permit adjustments without having to remove the hood, a tiny pragmatic coup for landscape photographers. An 11.8" minimum focusing distance and a 1:4 maximum magnification ratio enable close focusing and the knobby manual aperture ring dials from f/3.5 to f/32. This is the kind of lens that, once on, you may never want to remove from your camera.

Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA645 35mm f/3.5 AL [IF] Lens

We’d like to hear your thoughts on the latest Pentax lenses, especially those used with the K-1 full-frame DSLR. Post in the Comments section, below.