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Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Review

John Riley reviews the Pentax HD D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW lens on the full-frame Pentax K-1.

| Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and Features

Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Review: HD PENTAX D FA 70 200mm F2

The introduction of the new Pentax K-1 full frame camera body means that the range of lenses available had a few gaps that needed filling. As a result, a number of new 35mm-format optics have arrived. One that was clamoured for for some time was the 70-200mm f/2.8, a very popular design in full frame terms. It has been reviewed on APS-C, but release was then delayed for some months. Now we look at it anew, using the Pentax K-1 full frame body. Has the performance of this Star designated lens changed? Is it still up to the mark on the larger format? Let's find out.

HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Handling and Features

Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Review: With Hood On K1 | 1 sec | f/16.0 | 31.0 mm | ISO 100

The Pentax-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW lens is one of the Star designated lenses in the range. These lenses are intended to represent the pinnacle of quality, so expectations will be high.

This lens is undoubtedly an impressive bit of kit, a hefty chunk of glass and metal with an impeccable quality of finish. The bayonet hood adds to that impression, a fairly long petal design that bayonets cleanly and easily into position. There is a removable section in the hood to enable polarising filters and the like to be rotated without removing it from the lens. This is a very simple and useful idea.

The very wide zooming ring is firmer in action that the other new lenses, but still smooth in operation.

Closer to the camera body is the manual focus ring, which is also wider than the other new lenses. The action is again firmer, but still very smooth. The Quick Shift clutch mechanism allows manual focus adjustments whilst using AF, and this time there are some alternative modes of operation provided. There is a three position switch. QFS/A allows manual tweaks after the AF has locked on. QFS/M allows manual adjustment even during the AF process. MF is the setting for manual focus.

The second lens switch is a focus range limiter, giving the choice of the full range, 1.2 – 4m or 4m to infinity. This can be useful where subject matter falls within a particular range, preventing the lens from trying to find focus over the whole available distance. The focus setting can be seen on the distance scale, behind a clear plastic window.

There is a substantial tripod handle that is removable if required. It also allows for rotation of the lens, so that when on a tripod the camera can be rotated for landscape or portrait format at will.

Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Review: Pentax K-1 With 70-200mm Lens

The lens has the latest HD (High Definition) multi-coating, plus an SP (Super-Protect) coating on the front element to repel water, grease and dirt. In addition, there is an Aero Bright Coating II layer, which is a form of nano crystal technology. The combination of this with the HD multi-coating promises unequalled resistance to flare.

The crisp and efficient DC motor drives the AF system and is quiet, fast and reliable.

The 70-200mm is designated as an AW (All Weather) lens, implying a superior form of weather resistance compared to the WR lenses. There are a total of 13 seals in the lens to achieve resistance to water, dust, splashes and mist.

Optical construction is 19 elements in 16 groups. There are 4 Super Low Dispersion glass elements, 2 ED (Extra Low Dispersion) elements and 2 Super ED glass elements. The latter Super ED elements have properties similar to fluorite and enhance the control of chromatic aberration. The diaphragm has nine rounded blades, which helps to improve bokeh, the smoothness of the out of focus areas. This is a constant aperture zoom, with a bright f/2.8 maximum aperture, so it is ideal for lower light levels and for calculating flash levels manually.

Closest focusing distance is a useful 1.2m (3.9 feet), a magnification of 0.13x. The filter thread takes 77mm filters. Finally, the lens weighs 1755g on its own, 1835g with hood and 2030g with hood and tripod handle.

70-200mm on 35mm-format equates to 107-307mm on APS-C, and this lens can, of course, be used on all the previous crop sensor Pentax DSLRs. For older cameras, the AF system needs a K10D (with firmware 1.3) or later, otherwise it will be manual focus only. This means that all Pentax bodies from the last few years will be fully compatible.

Although this is quite a heavy lens, it balances well on the K-1 body and presents no handling issues. Pentax lenses are generally very easy and hassle-free to use and this is no exception.

Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Review: HD PENTAX D FA 70 200mm F2

HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Performance

The overall pattern of performance mirrors very closely the pattern seen with the other three new full frame lenses, the 28-105mm, 24-70mm and 15-30mm. Very low central CA values, slightly higher at the edges but able to be corrected in-camera for JPEG capture or in software. The resolution figures are incredibly even across the frame, with some of the figures obtained being almost identical centre and edge. Flare is virtually absent.

Looking at the bokeh, the rounded diaphragm blades and the optical design combine to offer very relaxed and pleasant out of focus effects. In terms of the visual character of the lens, it is a very well refined and pleasing optic. This is something that is hard to measure or quantify, but we know it when we see it.



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. 

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. 

For this review, the lens was tested on a Pentax K-1 using Imatest

70mm gives us -2.23% barrel distortion, a reasonably well-controlled figure, but in any event, one that can be easily corrected if required. Sharpness is simply very good, centre and edge, bordering on excellent at f/4, and only drops away at the edges at f/22. Here it is still good.


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 minimise the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Pentax K-1 using Imatest.



Having tested this lens alongside the HD Pentax-D FA 24-70mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR lens we can also compare directly the two at 70mm. Apart from the 24-70mm being a lighter and more compact 70mm there is virtually no difference in performance between the two. The FA* lens is marginally ahead on bald figures, but visually there is no advantage one way or the other.

Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Review: Imatest Pentax K-1 70 200mm MTF@100mm Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Review: Imatest Pentax K-1 70 200mm CA@100mm
MTF @ 100mm CA @ 100mm


At 100mm we have a modest -0.463% barrel distortion. In terms of sharpness, results are excellent at the centre at f/2.8 to f/4, peaking at f/4, and very good all the way down to f/22. The edges start off fair at f/2.8 are very good from f/4 to f/11 and good at f/22. Again, performance is actually very even across the frame, especially from f/5.6 to f/16.

Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Review: Imatest Pentax K-1 70 200mm MTF@135mm Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Review: Imatest Pentax K-1 70 200mm CA@135mm
MTF @ 135mm CA @ 135mm


At 135mm we see +0.409% pincushion distortion, a very satisfactory figure. Sharpness at the centre is excellent from f/2.8 to f/5.6, peaking at f/4. From f/8 to f/22 performance remains very good. At the edges, we have very good sharpness from f/2.8 to f/16, and it remains good even at f/22.

Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Review: Imatest Pentax K-1 70 200mm MTF@200mm Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Review: Imatest Pentax K-1 70 200mm CA@200mm
MTF @ 200mm CA @ 200mm


200mm shows +1.19% pincushion distortion, still very satisfactory and correctable in software anyway. Sharpness is simply very good at every aperture, centre and edge. At the risk of repeating the words, the evenness of the performance is extraordinary and to be commended.


Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Other sample images

Value For Money

There are quite a few 70-200mm lenses on the market to compare costs with. The HD Pentax-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW lens is priced initially at £1849, although inevitably after a while prices tend to settle.

If we look at comparable models from other marques, then the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L ISII USM costs £1499. The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 AF-S Nikkor f/2.8 G ED VRII is priced at £1799. Sony offer the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G SSM II at £2199. Canon, Nikon and Sony users can buy the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 SP Di VC USD at £929 or the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM at £729.

Compared to the other marque lenses, the Pentax does seem to be in the right area, although for many of us £1849 is still a substantial outlay. However, the quality is there to justify it. For more options have a look at to Top 10 Best Pentax Lenses.


HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Verdict

Pentax have offered some excellent zoom lenses to accompany the introduction of the full frame K-1. The 70-200mm is up amongst the best, a very fine lens with good “character” and bokeh and a high level of sharpness that applies very evenly across the frame. This is ideal to take advantage of the full area of the 35mm-format K-1.

HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Pros

High and very even sharpness
Smooth bokeh
Fast silent AF
Weather resistance
Well controlled CA
Excellent flare resistance

HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Cons

Quite heavy


Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Review:

The Pentax 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is a high quality and versatile professional telephoto zoom lens ideal for use with the K-1.


Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Pentax KAF3
Focal Length70mm - 200mm
Angle of View8.1° - 23°
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size77mm
35mm equivalent107mm - 307mm
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus120cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsHood, Lens cap, Mount cap, Lens Case, Tripod Mount

View Full Product Details

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themak 9 1.1k Scotland
18 May 2016 10:09AM

Quote:Finally, the lens weighs 1040g on its own, 1835g with hood and 2030g with hood and tripod handle.

Something not right there.
18 May 2016 11:24AM
1755g on its own, thanks for pointing out typo.
18 May 2016 12:30PM
Some delicious OOF rendering on show here. Reading the charts, does the K-1 max out at about 3300 lh-pw?
And any chance you could add in charts with PixelShift enabled?
18 May 2016 4:52PM
The theoretical limit is higher than that, but the four lenses tested this week have similar characteristics and have gone for even performance across the frame, low CA and really nice bokeh.
joshwa Plus
12 927 1 United Kingdom
19 May 2016 8:15AM
Weight corrected thanks
Kako 16 177
21 May 2016 9:20PM
It is very sharp under close inspection...pixel peeping on the left eyeball of the model in the portrait shot
(as you look at the person) can see quite a clear image of the photographer reflected.
30 Aug 2016 9:51AM
I was interested to compare this with the earlier review of the lens before it was delayed - the optical characteristics are really quite different
3 Sep 2016 12:23PM
Yes - I am now confused by your two different lens test results.
3 Sep 2016 12:36PM
The whole lens/camera system is effectively being tested and Gary's review was one sample shot on an APS-C format K-3 whilst my review is a later production sample tested on the full frame K-1. There are bound to be differences, but the overall conclusion is still of a high grade lens.
3 Sep 2016 12:52PM
Thanks John - Sure, I think I am hesitant as Tony Northrup says it does not test to be as good as the Tamron verson: "some real deficiencies compared to the higher quality optics in Tamron". I have this lens in an order but may change it to the 24-70mm.

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