While we figure out the best Pentax lenses, a little bit of background study of Pentax is warranted. Pentax has had a checkered history of sorts in the world of photography. Once a major player in the photography scene, it has now been relegated to the backbenches, so to say. But Pentax always made great cameras and lenses. And until very recently had the backing of one of the biggest names in the industry – Sigma. But there is a dedicated fan following for Pentax. A lot of photographers love their weather sealed cameras and lenses.
Best Pentax Lenses (Existing)
- Pentax HD FA* 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW
- HD Pentax D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Lens
- Pentax SMC FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited Lens
- SMC Pentax-FA 43mm f/1.9 Limited Lens
- Pentax SMCP-DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED (IF) SDM Autofocus Lens for Digital SLR
Upcoming Pentax Lenses (Roadmap)
Pentax HD FA* 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW
The Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW lens is a great piece of equipment for photographers using a full-frame Pentax digital SLR.
Most of the best Pentax lenses are treated with a special coating. This HD coating ensures a much better image quality than non-HD lenses. This it does by suppressing flares and ghosting which is commonplace with fast wide lenses in harsh lighting conditions. The Pentax HD FA* 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW has been provided this coating.
Who This Lens is For?
Anyone really. Anyone looking for a fast standard prime. A standard prime captures the same perspective as that of the human eye. But it has to be anyone wielding a Pentax camera, across mounts and formats. Although the lens has been designed for full-frame Pentax cameras, even APS-C camera owners can also utilize this lens.
Fast Aperture Fast Shutter Speed
The f/1.4 aperture is one of the USP’s of this lens. The reason being with a fast aperture you can use a very fast Shutter Speed in good light and freeze a moment for posterity. The other benefit being the ability to produce beautiful background blur, also known as bokeh. It helps as the lens’ aperture diaphragm is produced by 9 aperture blades.
Notwithstanding, using such a fast lens has its own disadvantages. The wafer-thin depth of focus that f/1.4 produces means that the subject can easily be out of focus if it moves even the tiniest bit or your hands go back and forth after locking focus. You will invariably need a camera that has incredible face tracking.
The AW acronym suggests that the lens will work in any weather conditions without any issues. The lens has excellent weather sealing. Moisture, dust and other vagaries of Mother Nature won’t affect the lens. This is one of the many advantages of using a Pentax system. A majority of their equipment has weather sealing by default. Incidentally, this lens being a Star category lens, has weather sealing, making it one of the best Pentax lenses if you are looking for a standard prime.
Pentax HD D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Lens (Top Choice)
This is a short to medium telephoto zoom lens designed for Pentax full-frame DSLRs. That said, the lens will also work with APS-C cameras just as well, albeit with a crop factor of 1.5x. That means on an APS-C camera the effective focal length will become 105-300mm.
Best pick for Pentax DSLRs
beautiful image quality. All weather lens designed to be your workhorse.
Who This Lens is For?
This lens should interest Pentax full-frame DSLR users, preferably those who are looking for a medium telephoto lens for sports or action photos. If you are on an APS-C camera like the K-70, you may want to use this lens for birding and wildlife as well. The crop factor will extend the effective focal length. But for the best results, you may want to use a longer focal length.
The aperture of the lens is fixed at f/2.8 which makes it ideal for a wide range of photography opportunities across a lot of lighting conditions. The only drawback is that in extremely low light situations the lens may suffer a bit. This is because it is not the quickest in the business.
Pentax cameras employ a sensor-shift type image stabilization mechanism. This mechanism ensures that all compatible lenses are automatically stabilized.
This lens as well comes with an all-weather rating. Weather sealing is great to have and the lens will be able to work in humid, dusty and bad weather without any issues. Many of the more well-known brands reserve weather sealing for their top-end cameras and lenses. Pentax does that as a feature on even some of their entry-level lenses and cameras. Overall this is one of the best Pentax lenses that you could buy for your K-mount camera.
Pentax SMC FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited Lens
This is a limited quantity handmade lens designed mainly for Pentax’s film cameras. This is definitely a very old design that has been reintroduced in limited quantities for collectors. The fact that this is an FA lens means it should work with Pentax’s full-frame DSLRs as well.
Portrait Lens for your K-Mount Crop Camera
All metal robust design. Unique focal length.
The most striking thing about the lens is the exquisite craftsmanship of the unit. Everything about this lens right down to the finely etched markings on the body is done by paying careful attention to detail. The all-metal body is reassuring to hold and feel. Though I would say that you would be in for a nasty surprise if you hold the lens on a cold day without your gloves on.
Who is This Lens For?
A 77mm lens does seem like an odd choice. Especially, when the world seems to prefer the 70mm and the 85mm focal lengths for obvious reasons. Usually, the first you get with the 24-70mm and the 70-200mm lenses and the second one you get usually as an 85mm stand-alone portrait lens.
That said this lens will also work with the APS-C Pentax cameras and on those cameras, the effective focal length becomes 115.5mm. That makes it somewhat a useful portrait lens.
The lens has a fast f/1.8 aperture and works in every lighting condition. But just as I have mentioned above about the Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW, here too there is a pretty high risk of losing focus if the subject makes any movement or your hands move inadvertently. The thin layer of focus is difficult to manage if you have not shot with a wide aperture lens before. Over time, however, you will get used to it.
I have already mentioned about the metal construction of the lens. The lens feels quite hefty when you pick it up. One of the constraints of an all-metal construction is the movable parts especially the manual focusing ring and stuff like that. The manual focusing ring feels a lot different to what you may have been used to.
The overall optical quality of the lens is superb. The best sharpness appears when you stop down the lens. Which is obvious for a large number of wide-aperture lenses. Chromatic and other aberrations are suppressed because of the built-in lens elements.
But one aspect that might weigh on your conscience when making the decision is the lack of weather sealing. That means you have to be careful if you are planning to take this lens out for a spin and there is a probability that the weather can turn bad.
SMC Pentax-FA 43mm f/1.9 Limited Lens
The Pentax SMC FA 43mm f/1.9 is a limited edition prime lens designed for Pentax made full-frame film cameras mainly. But the lens also works equally well when mounted on a full-frame digital camera. Many of Pentax’s fixed focal length lenses are a bit weird in terms of the focal length that they offer. We have already read about the 77mm above then there is this 43mm.
Standard Prime for the K-mount
Definitely is an acquired taste when it comes to shooting with a full-frame camera. Fast wide aperture.
Who This Lens is For?
The 43mm is one more example of Pentax’s weird choice of focal lengths to make prime lenses. The 43mm is suitable for a wide range of utilities but mainly limited to a perspective that is close to the human eye. Mount this demure lens to the front of your camera and you can walk into any scene and capture photos without drawing attention.
The lens will work as your trusted companion for street photography. You can also shoot indoors and group photos too, but then you will be pushing it a bit too much. For groups and landscapes, you are better off shooting with a 35mm lens.
The lens offers a different set of functionalities if you are using an APS-C camera. In that circumstance, the crop factor kicks in and you would be able to use this lens for shooting some portraits at an effective focal length of 64.5mm.
I love the 40mm Canon f/2.8 STM lens. To some extent, this lens reminds me of the other one.
The maximum aperture of the lens is f/1.9. That, for all practical purposes, is good enough. At f/1.9 you can use the fastest Shutter Speed possible on your Pentax camera in good light if you are shooting wide open. As a matter of fact, you might need a two-stop ND filter just to compensate for the extra brightness if you are looking for bokeh and shooting wide open.
This is a well-built lens. The all-metal construction can take more than the average knock and bump during use or transportation.
Pentax SMCP-DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED (IF) SDM Autofocus Lens for Digital SLR
Note two things in the acronyms of the lens. The first one is DA and the next is the asterisk that follows it. Pentax’s crop sensor DSLRs use DA lenses. Don’t other mounting this on a full-frame DSLR. The second is the asterisk. This suggests that this is a fine-made lens, the best of the DA series.
Perfect short telephoto for Pentax users
Fast 200mm prime lens. Star category lens.
Who This Lens is For?
A 200mm prime designed for a crop camera translates into an effective focal length of 300mm (Pentax crop cameras have a crop factor of 1.5x). Plus, the lens offers a fast aperture of f/2.8. That means even if you use a 1.4x or even 2 stops extender, the amount of loss of light will not be too much to hamper with the quality of the images.
In any case, even if you don’t use an extender, the effective focal length of 300mm should get you to close to where the action is and help you produce stunning images. So, this lens is ideal for anyone looking for a short telephoto lens for the crop mount and capable of producing sharp images. If you are looking for the best Pentax lenses, this is one lens you can definitely look at.
A Few Upcoming Lenses by Pentax
Apart from the best Pentax lenses we have listed above, the company also has a number of other lenses in the pipeline. But like Pentax, nothing is a surety and so none of the lenses mentioned below have a confirmed release date. Pentax is known to delay their launch dates and often defer them indefinitely. We will try and update this discussion if we have a definite launch date for any of these rumored lenses in the future.
New Standard Zoom Lens
One of the first lenses that come to mind is the recently rumored DA standard zoom lens. Currently, Pentax has a few standard zoom lenses in its store. Like the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL WR and the SMCP-DA 17-70mm f/4 AL. There is also the DA* 16-50mm f/2.8 ED AL (IF) SDM which is a very popular lens for APS-C shooters. This rumored lens could be an upgrade of one of the existing lenses. Maybe even an upgraded version. It is also possible that Pentax could come out with a completely new lens. In any case, this should be interesting because currently, the choice of standard zoom lenses is a bit limited. The introduction of a new or revamped standard zoom will ensure that Pentax users have something to cheer for.
Wide-angle Prime Lens
Pentax currently has several wide-angle prime lenses including a 35mm f/2.8 macro, a 15mm f/4 ultra-wide prime, and a 21mm f/3.2 AL to name a few. What we would love to see are a 28mm and a 24mm prime. These are something that Pentax does not have at the moment. Rumors are strong that Pentax is working on a 24mm prime. We would expect that the lens would be an f/1.4 which means that it should be one of the fastest wide-angle primes that Pentax has ever produced. We would love to see what Pentax does with this lens.
This is a long-overdue lens. Pentax currently has no 85mm prime lens in its lineup. Add to that the fact that Sigma has called off its pledge to support the Pentax K-mount by stopping further production of K-mount lenses. Therefore, we can only imagine Pentax to step up and start producing more relevant lenses for its endangered K-mount system. Especially, for the fledgling full-frame Pentax cameras. The 85mm is a good choice in that regard. The 85mm is the classic portrait length for full-frame cameras. And that is precisely why we would certainly look forward to seeing the launch of this lens. There are already rumors about the name of the lens – HD Pentax-D FA* 85mm f/1.4. If and when this lens sees the light of day, (we have already seen a prototype as unveiled by Pentax a year back) this would be one of the best Pentax lenses in the business.
We had rumors of yet another zoom lens for a while now. And the word of this lens is actually been doing rounds for more than two years now. The tentative date for the launch of the lens was during the first half of 2019. Well, the first half of 2019 came and went and we are into the first half of 2020. There is still no concrete word on this lens. We can only assume that this lens will be the younger sibling to the D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8. I.e., the lens will be slightly slower at f/4 and will be lighter in build than the well-made f/2.8 lens that Pentax currently sales.
Rajib is an avid travel photographer and an overall shutterbug. He loves to test and review new photography gear. He has been writing about cameras and lenses for over 10 years now. You can consider him as your “master guide” here at PhotoWorkout.
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