The Best Pentax Lenses: 10 Picks for Tack-Sharp Photos

Pentax is a renowned imaging manufacturer and has a decent range of APS-C and full-frame cameras. Although they often fall behind Canon, Nikon, and Sony, if you have a Pentax camera or are thinking of investing in one, you do get the benefit of some truly superb lenses.

Regardless of what type of photography you enjoy, there is a quality Pentax lens to suit your requirements. The Pentax-D FA lenses represent the latest generation of lenses for Pentax full-frame cameras, while the Pentax-DA glass is the latest generation for APS-C models. You can also use Pentax-D FA lenses on APS-C cameras.

I get that when you initially search for the perfect Pentax lens, you may feel a little overwhelmed and not know where to start. There are so many focal lengths and designations that it can all seem impossibly confusing! But don’t worry; below, I have created a well-researched list of the 10 best Pentax lenses currently available, including primes, zooms, and options for every budget.

Pentax K-3 III camera with a 16-50mm f/2.8 lens attached.

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1. HD Pentax-D FA* 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

Our Pick
HD Pentax-D FA* 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW
Great for professional portraits

The HD Pentax-D FA* 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW is the perfect portrait lens and gives superior end results every time due to the impressive sharpness and wide maximum aperture.

Price at publication: $996.95

Beautiful bokeh
Rugged construction
An excellent f/1.4 maximum aperture
Always sharp from edge to edge
It’s not the smallest wide angle lens available
It uses an older autofocus system

The HD Pentax-D FA* 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW is a superb portrait lens and one of my favorite Pentax lenses for general use. The 50mm focal length is especially popular among portrait photographers, but it can also work for landscapes, street photography, and product photography.

The main downside of this lens is its bulk relative to other similar portrait lenses: it’s larger and heavier. Regardless, I find the image quality to be superb, and you can’t fault the sharpness at all. If you want to take high-quality portraits, then this is a fantastic option. The maximum f/1.4 aperture really helps, too; it means you get that desirable background separation from your subjects and can help create stunning bokeh effects.

Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA50mmF1.4 SDM AW Single-focus standard lens New-generation, Star-series lens Extra-sharp, high-contrast images Free of flare and ghost images, Black
HD Pentax-D FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW (Image from Amazon)

It’s quite easy to use handheld despite the larger size, and with its dustproof and weather-resistant design, you can photograph outdoor events like weddings without issue.

2. HD Pentax-D FA 21mm f/2.4ED Limited DC WR

Also Great
HD Pentax-D FA 21mm f/2.4ED Limited DC WR
Great for landscape photography

The HD Pentax-D FA 21mm f/2.4ED Limited DC WR is perfect for the avid landscape photographer due to its wide angle focal length, fast operation, and excellent sharpness.

Splash-proof lens structure
Dirt-resistant coating on the front element
Nice f/2.4 aperture
Great optical technology for consistent sharpness
Good for astrophotography
Not the smallest compared to other wide angle primes

Prime wide angle lenses are a personal favorite of mine, so for me, the HD Pentax-D FA 21mm f/2.4ED Limited DC WR is a no-brainer! It’s a great option for anyone who loves landscape and street photography, though it’s admittedly very expensive.

Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA 21mmF2.4ED Limited DC WR Black Ultra Wide Angle Monofocal Lens 28040
HD Pentax-D FA 21mm f/2.4ED Limited DC WR (Image from Amazon)

The 21mm focal length is nice and wide, but the impressive sharpness allows you to capture amazing detail when photographing immense landscapes or walking around cities and exploring. It’s not the smallest or lightest lens compared to some other wide angles, but you can still comfortably use it when on the move.

As a Limited Pentax lens, the optics are virtually flawless, and you can work at both wide and narrow apertures without a noticeable loss of sharpness. I also like working with the f/2.4 maximum aperture – it offers so much more flexibility in low-light situations (e.g., astrophotography) compared to a lens with an f/4 maximum aperture.

3. HD Pentax-D FA* 85mm f/1.4ED SDM AW

HD Pentax-D FA* 85mm f/1.4ED SDM AW
Great for tighter portraits

The HD Pentax-D FA* 85mm f/1.4ED SDM AW allows you to get close-up portraits and experiment with a flattering telephoto perspective.

Price at publication: $1796.95

Maximum aperture of f/1.4
Rounded aperture diaphragm for nice bokeh
Improved SDM autofocus system
It’s relatively heavy and bulky

While 50mm is generally seen as the go-to focal length for beginner portrait shooters, 85mm is a popular choice among advanced hobbyists and professionals, which is why I recommend the HD Pentax-D FA* 85mm f/1.4ED SDM AW for serious portraitists. The extra reach will cost you, but the results tend to be wonderfully flattering; the short-telephoto perspective improves the bokeh quality and looks great on many subjects.

This prime lens is a workhorse and boasts an excellent build, so you don’t have to worry too much about shooting in rough weather. Plus, with the f/1.4 maximum aperture, you can photograph comfortably in low light and really lean into that beautiful bokeh effect. I don’t always recommend shooting wide open – it can make focusing difficult, and there is such a thing as a too-shallow depth of field effect – but if you can learn to use it with restraint, you’ll be almost unstoppable as a photographer.

Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA★85mmF1.4ED SDM Prime Telephoto lens New-generation, Star-series lens Latest PENTAX Lens coating technologies Extra-sharp, high-contrast images Free of flare and ghost images
HD Pentax-D FA 85mm f/1.4ED SDM AW (Image from Amazon)

From what I’ve seen, this lens always delivers sharp photos (assuming you use good handholding technique and choose your camera settings carefully). I also like that it’s got the newer SDM autofocus system, which is fast and accurate even in trickier scenarios. For full-frame Pentax cameras, this is a great option, and while it isn’t the smallest model on this list, it allows you to get that professional portrait look that features lots of background blur.

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

HD Pentax-D FA 24-70mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR
Great for general use

The HD Pentax-D FA 24-70mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR is the best standard zoom currently available due to its maximum aperture, flexible focal length range, and impressive optical quality.

Price at publication: $1196.95

Constant f/2.8 maximum aperture
High-quality optics
Great zoom range
Reliable autofocus
Reasonably priced for an f/2.8 zoom
Quite bulky and heavy

If you’re looking to upgrade from your basic kit lens and want an all-purpose model capable of professional results, the HD Pentax-D FA 24-70mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR is my top pick. It has the classic 24-70mm focal length, which covers many photography genres; as a result, it’s a favorite among landscape photographers, portrait photographers, street photographers, architectural photographers, and more.

HD PENTAX-D FA 24-70mmF2.8ED SDM WR High-performance standard zoom lens 24mm ultra-wide angle Weather-resistant construction Exceptional imaging power ED Glass Aspherical lens Latest lens coating
HD Pentax-D FA 24-70mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR (Image from Amazon)

I love that it has a maximum f/2.8 aperture across all the focal lengths, which is a big selling point for me. Such a wide aperture can be expensive, but in this case, the price is quite reasonable. And it ensures that you have improved depth of field control, good low-light performance, and nice background blur. The lens is also easy to use, and combined with the excellent optics, you shouldn’t struggle to get quality photos in any situation.

For a standard zoom, it’s on the heavy side. This is a trend I’ve noticed with many Pentax lenses, but you can still comfortably use it handheld without a tripod (though a sturdy monopod could be helpful!). And the bulk comes as a consequence of its wide maximum aperture, as well as its durable build, both of which are useful in the right situation.

5. HD Pentax-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8ED DC AW

HD Pentax-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8ED DC AW
Great for wildlife photography

The HD Pentax-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8ED DC AW is an outstanding telephoto option that offers excellent sharpness and a flexible focal length range.

All-weather construction for outdoor use
Constant maximum aperture of f/2.8
Tripod mount for better stability
Enhanced optics
Relatively big and heavy

For telephoto photography – such as wildlife and sports shooting – the HD Pentax-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8ED DC AW is the best of the best. It’s expensive, and it’s fairly bulky, but if you want to capture pro-level telephoto images, this is the lens for you.

The 70-200mm focal length is standard for a telephoto zoom, which means that it’s been tested by thousands of photographers. Personally, I like how it gives you some flexibility as you can do close-up shots of people, landscape details, and architecture, as well as wider shots for a more environmental approach. The constant f/2.8 maximum aperture is also a huge plus and makes the lens a solid low-light performer regardless of the focal length.

Pentax HD -D FA*70-200mmF2.8ED DC AW Silver Edition: Limited Quantity Telephoto Zoom Lens for DSLR Cameras feauring State-of-The Art Optical Technology, High-Resolution with All Weather Construction
HD Pentax-D FA 70-200mm f/2.8ED DC AW (Image from Amazon)

You also get consistent sharpness from corner to corner and at every focal length, so you don’t have to worry about losing sharpness as you zoom in. The tripod mount is a helpful addition and ensures you can have a stable setup for those lengthy days in the field as well as long exposure shots.

6. HD Pentax-D FA Macro 100mm f/2.8ED AW

HD Pentax-D FA Macro 100mm f/2.8ED AW
Great for detailed macro photography

The HD Pentax-D FA Macro 100mm f/2.8ED AW has a 1:1 magnification ratio so you can get some beautiful close-up photos.

Excellent sharpness
Quick-shift feature to make small focusing adjustments
Beautiful bokeh backgrounds
Durable aluminum body
Without a lens hood, the front element is exposed

Looking to capture gorgeous macro photos of flowers, plants, insects, or products? The HD Pentax-D FA Macro 100mm f/2.8ED AW is a great way to get started in this field of photography. I prefer a 100mm focal length for macro work – it means you don’t have to get as close to your subject – and the lens’s durable build is perfect for all-weather photoshoots.

Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA Macro 100mm F2.8ED AW Macro Lens, dustproof, Weather-Resistant AW (All Weather) Construction, Black (20320)
Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA Macro 100mm F2.8ED AW Macro Lens, dustproof, Weather-Resistant AW (All Weather) Construction, Black (20320) (Image from Amazon)

The wide maximum aperture can come in handy in a variety of scenarios, but it’s especially helpful for flower macro photography; you can use it to highlight individual elements of the plant and create beautiful abstract effects. I like the quick-shift function, too, which helps with close-up focusing. (Essentially, you use the AF first but can turn the manual focus ring to make minor adjustments as needed.)

The lens does have a 1:1 macro reproduction, which means you get plenty of magnification, and the price is quite reasonable. The optics are excellent, and with the right technique, it’s very possible to capture breathtakingly sharp macro shots. Plus, the 100mm focal length can come in handy for portraits, intimate landscapes, and more.

7. HD Pentax-D FA 15-30mm f/2.8ED SDM WR

HD Pentax-D FA 15-30mm f/2.8ED SDM WR
Great for travel photography

The HD Pentax-D FA 15-30mm f/2.8ED SDM WR is the ultimate travel lens and gives you the flexibility to shoot landscapes, people, and buildings with ease.

Price at publication: $1346.95

Superb optical quality
Constant f/2.8 maximum aperture
Weather-resistant build
Fast and accurate autofocus
It’s quite bulky compared to other wide angle zooms

The HD Pentax-D FA 15-30mm f/2.8ED SDM WR is a great alternative to the 21mm prime featured above, especially if you want a little more flexibility. I like using a wide angle zoom like this as you can make quick focal length adjustments and get completely different compositions with ease.

While a 15-30mm lens doesn’t let you crop as tightly as a more conventional kit lens, you may find that you actually prefer the wider zoom – in my experience, 15-30mm is surprisingly versatile, especially for travel photography scenarios where you’re looking to capture a mix of expansive and detail shots of a particular location.

Pentax D FA F2.8ED SDM WR 15-30mm f/2.8 Ultra-Wide Angle Zoom Lens for Pentax K
HD Pentax-D FA 15-30mm f/2.8ED SDM WR (Image from Amazon)

This is also one of the best Pentax lenses optically, as it has various coatings to reduce reflections, improve sharpness, and protect the external lens glass. It doesn’t have any image stabilization, but due to the constant f/2.8 aperture, the wider focal length, and the in-body stabilization offered by Pentax cameras, it’s still very easy to use handheld.

8. HD Pentax-DA 18-50mm f/4-5.6 DC WR RE

HD Pentax-DA 18-50mm f/4-5.6 DC WR RE
Great for beginners

The HD Pentax-DA 18-50mm f/4-5.6 DC WR RE is the perfect kit lens for folks who are just getting used to DSLR cameras and want to try different types of photography.

Collapsible design for great portability
Weather-resistant coating for outdoor use
Sharp photos due to the advanced optics
Quiet autofocus
Variable maximum aperture
Autofocus isn’t the fastest

If you want a budget kit lens for your APS-C camera, the HD Pentax-DA 18-50mm f/4-5.6 DC WR RE is an excellent choice. I certainly recommend it for beginners as well as anyone just getting used to interchangeable lenses – it’s affordable, easy to use, and offers surprisingly good optics.

Although the lens costs less than $350, it’s impressively sharp, and the 18-50mm focal length range is extremely useful, especially when you consider the effective reach on crop-sensor models. You can use it to delve into multiple popular genres, including landscapes, street photography, and portraiture.

Pentax HD DA 18-50mm F4-5.6 DC WR RE Lens
HD Pentax-DA 18-50mm f4-5.6 DC WR RE (Image from Amazon)

I love the retractable zoom design, which means that when the lens isn’t in use, it can shrink down to improve portability. It also has a weather-resistant coating so you can comfortably work outdoors. In terms of quality, the super-low dispersion glass, HD coating, and aspherical elements work together to ensure your images look great, and while I would’ve liked to have seen a wider maximum aperture, you do get a lot for a bargain price.

9. HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3ED PLM WR RE

HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3ED PLM WR RE
Great for wildlife photography

The HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3ED PLM WR RE offers enough reach for shots of distant wildlife, plus it boasts great sharpness and an upgraded autofocus motor.

Price at publication: $396.95

Collapsible design for improved portability
Versatile focal length
Improved autofocus for subject tracking
Consistent sharpness at all focal lengths
Excellent price
The maximum aperture could be wider

If you use one of Pentax’s APS-C cameras and you’re looking to get started photographing wildlife, it’s tough to go wrong with the HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3ED PLM WR RE. This zoom lens is highly versatile, and it’s quite portable despite the immense focal length range.

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I’m a huge fan of the lens’s flexibility; you can photograph nearly anything, including people, wildlife, flowers, sports players, and landscape details. Since you’ll need to use this lens on an APS-C camera, you’ll get a 1.5x crop factor – so the effective focal length range will be a whopping 82-450mm!

Pentax HD DA 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3 ED PLM WR RE Lens
HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3 ED PLM WR RE (Image from Amazon)

Compared to older Pentax lenses, this telephoto model has an upgraded PLM autofocus motor, which makes tracking and focusing on moving subjects easier. It’s built for outdoor use with several coatings to protect it from dust, water, and grease. I find the maximum aperture range to be okay, but it can’t really compete with some of the best (though admittedly much pricier) telephoto lenses from Sony, Nikon, and Canon.

10. SMC Pentax-DA 50mm f/1.8

SMC Pentax-DA 50mm f/1.8
Great for casual photography

The SMC Pentax-DA 50mm f/1.8 is highly portable; as a result, you can comfortably move through crowds and snap sharp shots with beautiful bokeh backgrounds.

Price at publication: $113.16

Lightweight and compact design
Excellent maximum aperture of f/1.8
Consistent sharpness even at larger apertures
Bargain price
The build quality does feel a little plasticky

I’ve already featured a 50mm lens on this list, but the SMC Pentax-DA 50mm f/1.8 also deserves mention. Unlike the 50mm f/1.4, this lens is inexpensive and compact – but like the 50mm f/1.4, its focal length is perfect for a wide variety of shooting scenarios. You can use it for portraits, and I also love how portable it is. It’s great if you want to walk around on the street and casually snap photos, and you can also carry it around at weddings or parties so you can capture nice event shots without getting in the way.

Pentax DA 50mm f1.8 lens for Pentax DSLR Cameras with Amazon Basics Circular Polarizer Lens - 52 mm
HD Pentax-DA 50mm f/1.8 (Image from Amazon)

With a maximum aperture of f/1.8, you can get amazing background separation, and you can create gorgeous bokeh effects to give your portrait shots that professional shine. The 50mm focal length is especially good for full-body portraits, but you can also use it to produce quality headshots.

It’s consistently sharp, but while the autofocus is okay, I do think it could be better. That said, you can expect reasonably fast focusing in most scenarios, so unless you’re planning to shoot, say, action in low light, you don’t need to worry.

Capture Gorgeous Photos with the Best Pentax Lenses

I hope you now have a clearer idea of the best Pentax glass! But which lens do you go with? For general photography, the HD Pentax-D FA 24-70mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR and the HD Pentax-DA 18-50mm f/4-5.6 DC WR RE are both great thanks to their excellent zoom ranges and solid optics.

For portraits and product photography, you can’t go wrong with the HD Pentax-D FA* 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW, the HD Pentax-D FA* 85mm f/1.4ED SDM AW, or the MC Pentax-DA 50mm f/1.8. The latter option is a great beginner choice, while the other two are ideal for more experienced shooters.

Lastly, if you love telephoto photography and want to capture wildlife or sports players, zoom lenses like the HD Pentax-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8ED DC AW and the HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3ED PLM WR RE are both fantastic options.

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About the Author
Paul Skidmore

A seasoned content creator at PhotoWorkout, Paul merges his love for traveling and photography to craft insightful articles. With a solid grasp of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, he enjoys testing new photo software, apps, and gear. His background in web development further enriches his photography endeavors.
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1 thought on “The Best Pentax Lenses: 10 Picks for Tack-Sharp Photos”

  1. Padmakar Srivastava

    This article was updated on Dec 8, 2020, but the writer is still waiting for the HD Pentax-D FA* 85mm f/1.4 lens, although it was officially announce on February 26th, 2019 and was in the market on around June 2020. An excellent, masterpiece and high quality lens. I am planning to buy it when it comes on sale at least $400.00 less. It is around $1,900 at B&H Photo.