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Pentax HD D FA 70-210mm f/4 ED SDM WR Review

John Riley reviews the new Pentax-D FA 70-210mm f/4 ED SDM WR lens for full-frame and APS-C Pentax DSLRs. Find out how this lens performs with the K-1 II.


|  Pentax HD -D FA 70-210mm f/4 ED SDM WR in Interchangeable Lenses
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Pentax 70 210mm F4 On K 1 II Front Oblique View

Pentax has always been known for producing compact, elegantly designed lenses and it is only with the advent of the K-1 series of full-frame DSLRs that the size of the lenses has started to become significant and somewhat out of step with that ethos. The current 70-200mm f/2.8 is a good example of this, so it is interesting that now we have a new, significantly smaller and lighter 70-210mm lens, in fact around half the weight. The loss is the maximum aperture, reduced from f/2.8 to f/4, and for many, this will be an equation that favours the travel photographer in particular. An attractive reduction in weight, an attractive reduction in price, so all that remains is to see if the performance is maintained and the lens delivers the goods. Armed with the Pentax K-1 II full-frame body, we set off on our journey of discovery.

HD Pentax-D FA 70-210mm f/4 ED SDM WR Handling and Features

Pentax 70 210mm F4 On K 1 II

First impressions see a very well made lens, with smooth controls and an excellent finish to the high-quality plastics used in the construction. There is a provided petal lens hood that bayonets securely into place. There is no retaining catch, but the hood stays put and shows no tendency to be prone to being dislodged. Within the bayonet is a standard 67mm filter thread.

The weight is a fairly modest 819g or 859g with the hood attached. This is, as mentioned above, less than half the weight of its f/2.8 big brother and the lens sits well and balances well on the K-1 or K-1 II full-frame DSLRs. If one of the APS-C format crop sensor DSLRs is used the “35mm-format equivalent” field of view becomes 107-322mm. The lens still balances well even on the smaller camera bodies.

The zoom ring is at the front of the lens and has no effect on the overall length of the lens. There are clear and accurate markings of 70mm, 100mm, 135mm and 210mm. Even in 2020, the marking of 135mm reveals a photographic heritage that harks back to the Leica rangefinder cameras, a seemingly illogical length that is the tipping point beyond which rangefinders were no longer accurate enough and the SLR was better for focusing accuracy. AF, of course, renders this somewhat academic, but the focal length still lingers on. The zoom action is smooth and positive.

Pentax 70 210mm F4 Vertical View Side

Behind the zoom ring, a small plastic window reveals the focus scale, clearly marked in both feet and metres. There is no provision for depth of field scales with this design of zoom. We then come to the manual focus ring, which is fully usable in both AF and MF settings via Pentax's QuickShift system. The grip we take on the lens needs to take account of the focusing being live during AF, otherwise with fingers on the zoom control we could catch the MF ring accidentally. This is a consequence of the wide MF ring being closer to the camera body, but with the right technique in holding then, this should not be a major problem. Focusing is down to 0.95m, or 3.1 feet, giving a maximum magnification of 0.32x. The close focusing is very useful and especially so at 210mm which gives huge potential for close shooting from a good working distance, so ideal perhaps for insects and small creatures.

There are two lens switches, the AF/MF one being self-explanatory and the limiter limiting the AF focusing range to 2m to infinity. AF is via an SDM motor, silent and fast in operation and a huge advance on the original SDM system. There is no hunting and the AF is not only crisp but also accurate.
Pentax 70 210mm F4 Front Element View
 

Optical construction is 20 elements in 14 groups. The diaphragm has 9 rounded blades, which offer a circular aperture from f/4 to f/9.5. Lens coatings are the new Pentax HD (High Definition) multi-coating, offering even better flare suppression than the previous SMC coatings. The front element has a Fluorine SP (Super Protect) coating to repel dust, moisture and grease. The lens is also weather-resistant, one of the most advantageous improvements to lenses in general in the past few years.

The well-made metal lens mount is designated KAF 4, indicating that there is an electromatic diaphragm. This means that some earlier Pentax bodies will not be able to stop down the lens, but all recent ones will be fine. The Ricoh website has a list of compatible bodies.

There are rarely any handling quirks with Pentax cameras and lenses, which are straightforward and slick in operation. The lens is a great example of a well designed and highly functional photographic tool.

Pentax 70 210mm F4 On K 1 II Rear Oblique View


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HD PENTAX-D FA 70-210mm F4ED SDM WR : Telephoto zoom lens for DSLR cameras, powerful with constant f/4 aperture, weather-resistant construction, min. Focusing distance of 0.95 metres, 21217
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Comments


Hi

Thank you for doing this very informative review. Can you tell us a little bit more on how this lens compare with the original Tamron one? I would like to purchase the Pentax but some (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bWSt5nV6-w) are saying it is not worth the money.

Many thanks
Michele

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3 Apr 2020 6:36PM
I'm not sure we can compare the two at all. The Tamron is for Nikon and Canon cameras and the Pentax is for Pentax ones. So it's academic really.

Is it worth the money? It weighs half the weight of the f/2.8 version, costs 500 less and is within a whisker of being just as good. It produces lovely images. It also is priced very favourably compared with what other systems would pay for their own marque lenses.

As always, each photographer will weigh up their own requirements. Hope that helps!
Thank you very much!
11 Apr 2020 2:19PM
I understand that this Pentax lens and the Tamron version were tested on two different cameras, but is there no significance to the fact that the Tamron version tested out at much higher LW/PH than this Pentax version? The Tamron achieves north of 3500 center resolution at 200 MM for two apertures, while the Pentax barely hits 3000. And while these are two different cameras, they are both the same resolution sensor (36MP).
This relative deficit in resolution seems to appear across other comparisons of resolution of Pentax re-brands of Tamrons versus the Tamron originals.
11 Apr 2020 3:22PM
What you say is certainly observable. The different lens/camera combinations seem to have been set with slightly different objectives. The Pentax resolution seems to be slightly lower but it's pretty even and has very smooth bokeh. It actually also has good contrast and as a consequence looks nice and sharp. Resolution and sharpness are really two different things, although on the web there seems to have been an increasing tendency to refer to "sharpness". The traditional example is the difference between post-WWII German lenses (high resolution, lower contrast) and the then newly discovered Nikon lenses (high contrast, lower resolution). Western photographers discovered this around the time of the Korean war and they loved those Nikon lenses. I do try and include some feel for a lens in the reviews and I suppose it's not a bad thing that they can still have some "character".

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