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SMC Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL Lens Review

SMC Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL Lens Review - The SMC Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL Lens is reviewed by John Riley.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Pentax DA 35mm f/2.4 AL
Price : £119
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification
Pentax 35mm f/2.4 AL Lens
Traditionally, the standard lens for 35mm film cameras was the 50mm. With the advent of the APS-C sensor, the same field of view is now obtained with a lens of 35mm or thereabouts, and here we have such a lens from Pentax. The ubiquitous standard zoom covers most requirements for the beginner photographer, but clearly Pentax feel that the time is right to offer a traditional standard lens option for the digital SLR range.

Is this the lens to lift our vision from the seductive trap of the zoom lens? Does it offer an improvement in terms of quality, or some other advantage with its simplistic approach? Let us now tread the path of discovery.

SMC Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL Features

Constructed of 6 elements in 5 groups, including an aspherical hybrid, with 6 aperture blades and a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 53.5mm, this is a modern version of a traditional standard lens. It is very well made using plastics that even extend to the mount. As this lens is very light, weighing just 124g, it is certain that the plastic mount is absolutely up to the job.

A maximum magnification of 0.17x and closest focus of 0.3m is closer than the 50mm lens of the days of film, but nowhere near a close focusing or macro lens. There is no aperture ring, which in one way is a pity as it is evident that this lens is actually a full frame design and could be used with Pentax film cameras. The f/2.4 maximum aperture is moderately fast and should enable low light shots to be taken, especially as the current Pentax DSLRs have such a good performance at higher ISO values.

There is no weather sealing and no Quick Shift manual focusing, but there is an extremely modest price tag. This may well tempt photographers who have never tried a fixed focal length lens to have a go with this one, possibly leading them onwards towards the very fine Limited lenses. This was always the logic, that a high quality standard lens would whet the appetite for more Pentax lenses.

SMC Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL Handling

Pentax have the handling properties of all their range very well sorted out. This lens is compact, bayonets firmly onto the camera body and behaves impeccably in every respect. In manual focus the action is just firm enough and there is little else to comment on with such a simple lens. It takes 49mm filters and the same lens hood as the 50mm lenses. It's unfortunate that a lens hood is not supplied and that the standard clip-on hood costs an eye-watering £59.95. A lens hood is always a good idea, so a second hand one on eBay or a less expensive alternative can easily be found. It's equally unfortunate that the best hood for the job is the original Pentax one, which clips quickly and firmly into place.

The other omission is the Quick Shift feature, so there is no manual tweaking of the focusing when in AF mode. This can perhaps be forgiven in exchange for a very attractive price.

SMC Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL Performance

In common with standard lenses in general, this 35mm optic shows modest barrel distortion, but nothing that will really show in most photography.

The MTF50 graph, showing the ability of the lens to record fine detail, gives a good account of the lens. The performance is creditably even across the frame and resolution is very good. MTF50 was tested using a Pentax K-5 Digital SLR and imatest.
   
The MTF20 graph shows the response of the lens to coarser detail and is excellent throughout, reaching a peak at about f8. MTF20 was tested using a Pentax K-5 Digital SLR and imatest.
   

There is little to criticise and this is certainly borne out in the real world pictures. These reveal a punchy, colourful lens that reproduces the scene with a quiet and polished confidence. This is true of both high and low contrast subjects, a distinction which is not often made in lens tests.

Chromatic aberrations are extremely well controlled in the centre, the degree of correction falling off towards smaller apertures and the corners of the field. CA was tested using a Pentax K-5 Digital SLR and imatest.

Although CA can be seen in severe situations, it is not generally a problem. Flare is also superbly under control and almost impossible to induce.

All in all, a high quality, classy lens indeed.

Adult Portrait CA
The 35mm is usable for portraits providing we don't get too close. CA is present but generally well controlled and unobtrusive.
Architecture Evening light
Good drawing and edge detail at f8 Good punchy results in a wide range of lighting conditions.
Flare Flowers
No sign of flare (CA?) in the bright windows. The 35mm is useful for groups of flowers and gives beautiful, accurate colours.
Interior Pool of light
The oldest and newest parts of Manchester Cathedral show that the lens is capable of recording a full range of detail and brightness levels. Not a trace of flare in this evening woodland shot.
Record
The standard lens is perfect for recording items of interest as we travel and explore.

 
Storn light
Gorgeous colour in this early evening shot.Tunnel
A fast lens is ideal for fast moving subjects.

SMC Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL Verdict

Low cost, high quality, and a very useful experience in simple, one lens photography. The standard lens is still a good place for photographers to start, before decisions are made as to whether wider or longer lenses are needed. There is a certain discipline in using a fixed focal length, plus of course a very high level of optical quality. Very Highly Recommended!
The Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL lens offers a very high level of optical quality for a very reasonable price.

SMC Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL Pros

Very high quality optics
Compact
Highly cost effective
Helps disciplined approach
Well made

SMC Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL Cons

No weather sealing
No Quick Shift
No lens hood provided

FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

SMC Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL Specification

Price £137.99
Contact www.pentax.co.uk
Filter size 49mm
Format APS-C
Mount KAF
Construction 6 elements in 5 groups
Angle-of-view 44° (with PENTAX D-SLR camera body)
Focal Length 35mm
35mm equivalent focal length (on APS-C body) 53.5mm
Internal focusing Yes
Image stabilisation No
Minimum focus 0,3 m
Magnification 0.17x
Maximum aperture f/2.4
Minimum aperture f/22
Number of Diaphragm Blades 6
Weight 124g
Size (lxw) 63.0mm x 45.0mm
Optional accessories Lens hoods: PH-SA49 or RH-RC49
Lens case: S70-70

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Comments


5 Jul 2011 1:58PM
Those are odd MTF graphs: more detail in the corners than the centre! I wonder what that says about the lens design.

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johnriley1uk e2
10 26 4 United Kingdom
5 Jul 2011 3:14PM
As we've been discussing at Pentax User, it's not unknown, maybe it's something to do with the AL component in the design. That certainly evens up edge performance and in this lens the edges are pretty good all the way through. All in all, an excellent result.
5 Jul 2011 5:34PM
Very good value for money, no doubt.
Good review John.
As Robin said, very good value for money.
I have had mine for 18 months, and I have to say, it is excellent.
The Bokeh is smooth wide open, and a useful F2.4 too. Sure it is not as fast as the rival brands, but in all honesty in the real world it is not a problem.
As you say, one downside is the lack of AF clutch. Occasionally it is a pain, but when coupled with the K-5, not a problem.
The CA, again as you say is very well controlled, even wide open.
Some might find the plastic bayonet a turn off, but in reality it is not a problem. Small light lens with no stress on the mount at all.
As for the hood, yes it is frustrating that it does not come with one, but buy a rubber screw hood, and it works, and also protects the lens if you drop it (As I have accidently on concrete - the hood allowed it to bounce and protect it - a major relief)

The name of this lens - Plastic Fantastic!

Well worth the money.

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