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Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM Interchangeable Lens Review

Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM Interchangeable Lens Review - A compact super-telephoto lens with a silent focusing motor, full time manual focus override, weather sealing and a bright f/2.8 maximum aperture.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Pentax SMC-FA 200mm f/2.8 ED (IF)
Price : £699
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Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

SMC-FA 200mm f/2.8 ED (IF)
Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at this compact super-telephoto lens with a silent focusing motor, full time manual focus override and a bright f/2.8 maximum aperture, which gives an equivalent field of view of a 300mm lens on a 35mm camera.

This weather sealed professional quality super telephoto lens from Pentax costs around £720 and sports a silent focusing motor with full time manual override. Being one of Pentax's DA* lenses it sits at the top of their range, providing an equivalent field of view of a 300mm lens on a 35mm camera.

Those looking for alternatives from third party manufacturers will probably look towards the 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses offered by Sigma and Tamron. Sigma's 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG Macro MkII costs around £650 and offers the flexibility of a zoom at the expense of extra size and weight. Tamron's SP AF 70-200mm f/2.8 lacks the silent focusing motor of the Pentax and Sigma lenses, but only costs around £610.

Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM: Handling and features
Being one of Pentax's top of the range starred lenses, the build quality is superb. The lens barrel is made of metal and feels like it will easily take the daily rigours of professional life in its stride. The lens is sealed against weather and dust too, so it should be able to take whatever the British (or otherwise wet weather wherever you are) throws at it. Unfortunately the lens' surfaces don't have the water repellent coating found on some of Pentax's most recent optics.

Focus is performed internally and is very quick in good lighting conditions. In lower lighting conditions I found the lens would hunt a little on the K-7 body used for testing, but the hunting ceases very quickly as the lens finds its target. As the lens has an SDM silent focusing motor manual adjustments can be made to the focus at any time.

For a lens designed to give a field of view equivalent to a 300mm f/2.8 lens on a 35mm camera, it is very lightweight and compact. Weighing only 825g and being only 134mm long, you'd be forgiven for thinking the lens doesn't have a bright f/2.8 aperture. As a result I found the lens very easy to handhold in low lighting conditions. When the lens is coupled with the in-body stabilisation on the K-7 body used for testing, it is a formidable combination for low light shooting.

I really enjoyed using the lens during testing. The light weight, excellent build quality and fast focusing make this a very decent lens to use.

Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM: Performance
If only all lenses performed like this! From maximum aperture the resolution in the centre is already approaching excellent levels and stopping down only improves matters. Peak quality is achieved at f/8, where the sharpness across the frame is as close to perfect as I have seen.

Resolution at 200mm How to read our graphs
The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Pentax K-7 using Imatest.
Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM Resolution at 200mm

Chromatic aberrations are kept below acceptable levels. At f/2.8 they reach 0.67 pixel widths towards the edge of the frame, which may show in very large prints with high contrast areas near the corners.

Chromatic Aberrations at 200mm How to read out charts
Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Pentax K-7 using Imatest.
Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM Chromatic Aberrations at 200mm

Click on the thumbnails for a high resolution image.
Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM @ 200mm
Incredibly sharp images with low distortion and CA are produced by this lens.
Control of falloff of illumination towards the corners is also excellent. At f/2.8 the corners are only half a stop darker than the image centre and stopping down to f/4 results in visually uniform illumination.

Distortion is as close to negligible as it could be. Imatest only recorded 0.0262% barrel distortion, which shouldn’t pose any problems, even in the most critical of applications.

When shooting into the light, this lens is reasonably resistant to flare and only a slight loss of contrast is noticeable in extreme circumstances. A deep lens hood is provided which does an excellent job of keeping extraneous light off the front element, eliminating flare and ghosting from light sources outside of the frame.

Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM: Verdict
Pentax have created a near-perfect super telephoto optic in the 200mm f/2.8. It is capable of producing images with outstanding sharpness, low levels of chromatic aberrations, and negligible distortion. All this from a compact, lightweight package that focuses quickly, has sealing against dust and moisture and only costs £720. In my mind this lens is a bargain.

Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM Editors Choice Award Logo
As close to perfect as you can get in a super telephoto for Pentax.
Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM: Pros

Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDMOutstanding resolution
Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDMAlmost zero distortion
Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDMLow CA
Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDMFast focusing
Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDMWeather sealing
Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDMBuild quality
Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDMLight weight

Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM: Cons
Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDMIt doesn't fit other makes of camera to allow everyone to enjoy this lens.

FEATURES Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM
HANDLING Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM
PERFORMANCE Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM
VALUE FOR MONEY Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM
OVERALL Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM

Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM: Lens specification
Price £720.00
Contact www.pentax.co.uk
Filter size 77mm
Format APS-C
Construction 9 elements in 8 groups
Angle-of-view 8.1 degrees
35mm equivalent focal length (on APS-C body) 300mm
Internal focusing Yes
Image stabilisation No (Pentax Stabilisation system is in body)
Minimum focus 1.2m
Maximum aperture f/2.8
Minimum aperture f//22
Weight 825g
Size 134mm x 83mm
In the box Front cap
Rear cap
Lenshood
Soft case

The Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM costs around £720 and is available from Warehouse Express here: Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM

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Comments


solar1 5
29 Jun 2011 5:32PM
This is a truly superb lens by all accounts by many reviewers and photographers alike.

There is one little quibble regarding this sentence from the otherwise glowing review: "Unfortunately the (DA* 200's) lens' surfaces don't have the water (dust and oil) repellent (SP) coating found on some of Pentax's most recent optics."

The DA*200 does indeed have the SP coatings - source pentaximaging.com - http://bit.ly/iuN1jl


Thanks for the great review and the chance to comment!

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