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HD Pentax-D FA* 85mm F/1.4 Lens Review

John Riley teams the Pentax K-1 DSLR with the HD Pentax-D FA* 85mm f/1.4 ED SDM AW lens for a day of photography to find out just how well it can perform.

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Pentax D Fa 85mm F1,4 Front Oblique View | 1/5 sec | f/16.0 | 88.0 mm | ISO 100

Matching its sibling, the HD Pentax-D FA* 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW, this new lens has the same finish, the same appearance and the same bulk. This is a departure in a sense for Pentax, who for decades have been well known for high-quality but also compact lenses. Now it seems there are two lines in the Pentax setup – the small primes and the relatively bulky full-frame zooms and primes for the K-1 and K-1 II full-frame bodies. However, the choice is there, and it seems Pentax are committed to continuing support for the DSLR cameras and completely bypassing the mirrorless revolution. New lenses continue to appear, so this is an ongoing policy in a world where Canon and Nikon are discontinuing DSLR lenses in droves. Whether or not this will pay dividends for Pentax remains to be seen, but the new optics are here and we now look at the HD Pentax-D FA* ED SDM AW using the 36MP K-1 body. Let's see if it lives up to its star range aspirations.


HD Pentax-D FA* 85mm F/1.4 Handling and Features


Pentax D Fa 85mm F1,4 On K1 Front Oblique View With Hood | 1/5 sec | f/16.0 | 48.0 mm | ISO 100

First impressions are of a very well-made, large and quite heavy lens, weighing in at 1255g without a hood and 1355g with. Measuring 123.5mm long and 95mm in diameter, although quite bulky the lens does balance well with the K-1 body. It is also compatible with Pentax APS-C bodies, where the “35mm format” field of view will be around 130mm.

A large round hood is provided which has rubber edges which are intended to reduce the possibility of scuff marks when the camera/lens is placed down on a surface. The hood also has the usual Pentax filter window, which when opened allows a PL or graduated filter to be rotated with the hood still in place. The hood bayonets cleanly and positively into place and shows no tendency to become loose in use. No locking catch is provided, nor is one needed. Within the bayonet fit for the hood is a standard 82mm filter thread.

There is a wide manual focus ring that is nicely damped so that it gives a good tactile feel to manual focusing. The ring is also active during AF operation, provided a half pressure is maintained on the shutter release. This Quick Shift mechanism allows tweaks to the AF position. AF has to drive quite a hefty rear group of elements, so uses a new ring-type ultrasonic motor that has 1.3x the torque of the one used in the 50mm f/1.4. The only control on the lens barrel is the AF/MF switch, which is self-explanatory. Focusing is down to 0.85m (2.8 feet) for a maximum magnification of 0.12x. This is about what might be expected from an 85mm lens and although it does provide quite a good close-up for portraits we could always wish for something that focused a bit closer.

Pentax D Fa 85mm F1,4 Rear Element View | 1/8 sec | f/16.0 | 68.0 mm | ISO 100

Optical construction is 12 elements in 10 groups, including 3 Super ED and 1 Aspherical. Considerable research went into reducing flare in particular and the concave front element, the 3 Super ED elements and the design of internal components to reduce reflections are all part of this. The lens does not use the Aero Bright II coating of the 50mm f/1.4 but uses enhanced HD coatings that reduce reflections to 50% of those when using conventional multi-coating techniques. The diaphragm comprises 9 blades that offer a completely rounded aperture from f/1.4 to f/2.8. There is also Super Protect coating on the front element to help repel dust, grease and moisture. The lens has an AW (All Weather) designation and is dustproof and water resistant.

Finally, the high-quality metal lens mount is type KAF4, meaning that it utilises an electromagnetic diaphragm. This is smooth, silent and offers accurate, repeatable apertures, so is ideal for both stills and video. Earlier Pentax DSLR bodies may not be compatible. Compatible bodies are the K-1, K-1 II, K-3, K-3 II, K-3 III, KP, K70, K-S1 and K-S2. Other models will only be able to use the lens at an open aperture.

It's a beast of a lens when coupled with the K-1, the overall weight being 2330g, but it still handles well, proving itself to be a very likeable bit of kit. Everything rests on its performance, so let's see how it fares.


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