A Viewfinder Darkly

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Pentax’s New Pro Level Telephoto Lenses

January 29 2008

by Phil Northeast

Pentax is making up for lost time with an avalanche of new cameras and lenses at PMA 08 in Las Vegas. The scarcity of quality Pentax telephoto lenses may be over.

The announcement of two new pro level telephoto lenses suggests Pentax are finally going to resume supplying long focal length lenses for their excellent DSLR range. In recent years, the Pentax range of lenses under 100mm focal length is second to none. However, it seems that they stopped making their existing telephoto lenses without replacement producing models.

DA*  200mm lens

Pentax DA* 200mm lens

The price of second hand * model 300mm telephoto lenses reached up to over three thousand dollars US. The star in a Pentax lens model indicates it is one of their top range lenses, comparable to Canon using “L” to separate their top lenses from the rest. With Pentax digital camera’s ability to use older lenses eBay became a competitive hunting for Pentax owners seeking lenses for sports and wildlife photography, driving prices to those ridiculous levels for second hand manual focus lenses.

The optical quality is there in the older lenses but as photographers discovered there are more quality DSLRs out there than Nikon and Canon, the hunt for quality long focal length glass intensified.  Another factor is Pentax’s shake reduction system built into the camera body gave these classic lenses the benefit of modern image stabilization.

The appearance at PMA 08 of  the DA*200mm and DA*300mm should restore some sanity into the Pentax lens market as the projected prices are just over a thousand dollars each. These are modern lenses designed to complement the capabilities of Pentax’s latest K series models. These two lenses feature weather and dust resistant bodies, necessary for lenses intended for photographing outdoor activities.

Pentax have finally caught up with Canon and Nikon in adopting an autofocus drive system using ultrasonic motors built into the lens body. The Pentax SDM system is smoother and quieter than the old system using the camera body mounted motor and mechanical coupling to the lens. The smoother mechanical action should also improve help improve autofocus operation.

DA* 300mm

Pentax DA* 300mm telephot lens

The lenses are for the smaller APS size sensor allowing the designers to reduce the size and weight of the lens without sacrificing optical quality or mechanical reliability. Both feature Extra low Dispersion lens elements, with Pentax’s Super Multi Coating for optimum optical performance by reducing chromic aberration and ghosting due to internal reflections. Finally, there is good news for filter users, the lenses use internal focusing elements so polarizing filters stay put during focusing.

Just to prove how idiosyncratic this Japanese maker can be they also have a premium lenses that do not use the star designation. These are a range of odd focal length prime lenses under 100mm that are of exceptional quality and are termed Limited.

DA 35mm Macro

Pentax DA 35mm Macro Limited

A new member of the Limited emerged in Las Vegas and strangely has a very logical focal length. With the 1.5 crop factor of Pentax cameras the DA35mm has the same angle of view as a52.5mm in the old 35mm film format. This is equivalent to the perspective of human eyes and was the standard focal length lens for SLR cameras before the advent of zooms.

This is a high performance and compact macro lens with one-to-one magnification in a normal focal length featuring high-grade aluminium construction of the lens barrel, hood, and cap. The large f2.8 maximum aperture for a proper macro lens is an indication of its quality optical design.

originally published by suite101.com


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