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HD PENTAX-DA 15mm f/4 ED AL Limited Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the new Pentax HD PENTAX-DA 15mm f/4 ED AL Limited Lens.

|  Pentax HD PENTAX-DA 15mm f/4 ED AL Limited in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and Features

HD Pentax DA 15mm Limited (4)

This compact wide angle lens provides an angle of view equivalent to a 22.5mm lens on a 35mm format when mounted on a Pentax Digital SLR. It costs around £550 and and is part of the Pentax Limited range, which means it's one of their premium lenses.

Pentax HD PENTAX-DA 15mm f/4 ED AL Limited Handling and Features

HD Pentax DA 15mm Limited (5)

As is the case with other lenses in the Pentax Limited range, build quality is excellent, although this isn't a heavy lens, weighing only 212g. It's compact too, only protruding by four centimeters from the lens mount. The lens makes an ideal travel companion with the Pentax K-5 IIs body used for testing, and it will feel right at home on more compact Pentax camera bodies also.

Focusing isn't performed internally, with the lens barrel extending by around four millimeters at the closest marked focusing distance. Even so, the filter ring does not rotate, which makes it perfect for use with polarising and graduated filters. A slide out petal shaped hood is built into the lens, which does a decent job of shielding the lens from extraneous light that may cause issues with flare. The 49mm filter thread size is standard for Pentax.

HD Pentax DA 15mm Limited (1)

The manual focusing ring rotates during auto-focus, so some care may need to be taken to avoid accidentally catching your fingers during operation. Manual focusing action is smooth and well damped, which makes applying manual adjustments a pleasure. A useful hyperfocal scale is marked on the lens barrel, which is handy. The Pentax 'Quick Shift' focusing system has been implemented on this lens, which means manual adjustments can be applied once the lens has focused automatically.

Auto focus is screw-driven, even so it locks onto subjects very quickly. The older screw-driven system does generate more noise than newer silent focusing lenses do.

The minimum focus distance of 18cm is great for shooting in claustrophobic situations or for exploiting distortion of perspective as you get close in with a wide angle lens. A maximum magnification of 0.15x is possible, which may not be best suited for frame filling close ups images of small subjects.

HD Pentax DA 15mm Limited (6)

Pentax HD PENTAX-DA 15mm f/4 ED AL Limited Performance

At maximum aperture, sharpness in the centre of the frame is already excellent, although clarity towards the edges of the frame falls behind somewhat. Stopping down the aperture improves sharpness across the frame, with sharpness in the centre reaching outstanding levels between f/5.6 and f/8. Performance towards the edges of the frame never quite catches up to that of the centre, and is fairly good between f/5.6 and f/16.

MTF @ 15mm
MTF @ 15mm

How to read our charts

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-5 IIs using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are very well controlled for an ultra wide angle lens, with fringing remaining around half a pixel width at all apertures.

CA @ 15mm
CA @ 15mm

How to read our 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-5 IIs using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination is reasonably controlled for a wide angle lens. At f/4 the corners of the frame are 1.43 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination is achieved with the lens stopped down to f/8 or beyond.

Distortion is also well controlled for a lens of this type. Imatest detected 1.23% barrel distortion, which isn't much at all. Unfortunately the distortion pattern isn't uniform across the frame, having a very slight wave to it. This may be an issue if you require absolutely straight lines, as it will make applying corrections in image editing software afterwards more difficult.

During testing, this lens proved itself resistant to flare and contrast levels remain good, even when shooting into the light. The pop out hood built into the lens is petal shaped and does a great job of shielding the lens from extraneous light.

Pentax HD PENTAX-DA 15mm f/4 ED AL Limited Sample Photos

Value For Money

With this lens being one of the 'Limited' line from Pentax, it is priced slightly higher than their standard line of lenses at around £550. However, the older, non-HD version is still available from some retailers at around £520, which isn't actually that much of a saving.

Pentax HD PENTAX-DA 15mm f/4 ED AL Limited Verdict

As is the case with most Pentax Limited lenses, the build quality and features are worthy of the slight premium price they hold. In the case of this lens, the sharpness towards the edges of the frame isn't up to the standard you might expect from a lens of this calibre, which is a shame. Even so, the compact dimensions make this an ideal choice for street photography or for travelling light.

  The HD Pentax-DA 15mm would be an ideal choice for street photography or travelling light.

HD PENTAX-DA 15mm f/4 ED AL Limited Pros

Excellent sharpness in the centre of the frame
Compact and lightweight
Very good build
Fast focusing
Useful built in petal shaped hood

HD PENTAX-DA 15mm f/4 ED AL Limited Cons

Sharpness towards the edges of the frame could be better


Pentax HD PENTAX-DA 15mm f/4 ED AL Limited Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Pentax K SMC-A
Focal Length15mm
Angle of View86
Max Aperturef/4
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size49mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus18cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

View Full Product Details


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