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

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the new Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW lens for full-frame and APS-C cameras.

|  Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA* 70-200mm F2.8 ED DC AW in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and Features

HD PENTAX D FA 70 200mm F2

This 2.9x telephoto zoom lens covers the popular 70-200mm range on a 35mm camera and provides a focal length roughly equivalent to a 107-307mm range when used with Pentax APS-C DSLRs. It's interesting that Pentax/Ricoh have chosen to release this lens with full frame coverage, as currently, none of their DSLRs have a full frame sensor. This will add credence to recent announcements that a full frame DSLR will be available by the end of this year. It sports a relatively fast f/2.8 maximum aperture throughout the zoom range, silent focusing, weather sealing and two different types of exotic anti-reflective lens coating. These high level features result in a high end price, with this lens being priced at around £1850. In this review, we'll take a look at how this lens performs on an APS-C Pentax DSLR, and it will be interesting to see how the lens performs in the future on a full frame camera, when one is finally released.

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

HD PENTAX D FA 70 200mm F2

The metal build of this lens inspires confidence that it will be able to handle the rigours of daily professional use, as it is sealed against dust and moisture too, it should be able to cope in a wide range of conditions. It's certainly not a lightweight lens, tipping the scales at just under 1.8 kilogrammes, even so, it balances very well with the Pentax K-3 body used for testing.

Focusing and zoom are performed internally. As a result, the filter thread does not rotate, which makes it perfect for use with polarising and graduated filters. A deep petal-shaped hood is supplied with the lens that attaches to the front via a bayonet fitting and a removable tripod mount can also be clipped to a rotating section on the lens.

HD PENTAX D FA 70 200mm F2
The manual focusing ring doesn't rotate during auto-focus and manual adjustments can be applied at any time. Manual focusing action is very smooth and there is enough damping to make applying adjustments a pleasure. The silent focusing motor results in reasonably quick autofocus, although not as quick as can be found on some equivalent lenses from other camera manufacturers. Focus accuracy with phase detection could be a little hit and miss, so care may need to be taken, especially when shooting erratic, moving and difficult subjects. The minimum focus distance of 1.2metres is fairly typical for a lens of this type.

HD PENTAX D FA 70 200mm F2

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

At 70mm, sharpness levels are just a shade below excellent in the centre of the frame, with performance towards the edges reaching good levels. Stopping down to f/5.6 results in outstanding sharpness in the centre and excellent sharpness towards the edges of the frame at this focal length.

Zooming to 135mm, sharpness drops to very good levels in the centre of the frame, with performance towards the edges of the frame remaining good. Peak performance is achieved between f/5.6 and f/8 where sharpness is outstanding in the centre of the frame and excellent towards the edges.

Finally, at 200mm, the way this lens performs similarly to the way it does at 135mm, but at slightly reduced levels of sharpness overall. At maximum aperture sharpness is good in the centre, but only fairly good towards the edges of the frame. Sharpness is excellent in the centre between f/5.6 and f/8 and very good towards the edges of the frame between f/5.6 and f/11.

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-3 using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations may become visible under certain circumstances, with fringing exceeding 1.25 pixel widths at 200mm and f/2.8. Although this is a still a reasonably low level of fringing, it may become visible along high contrast regions of images on close inspection. Chromatic aberrations are well controlled throughout much of the rest of the zoom range.

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-3 using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is well controlled. At 70mm the corners are only half a stop darker than the centre of the frame and at 200mm the corners are only 0.9 stops darker. Visually uniform illumination is achieved with the aperture stopped down to f/5.6 or beyond throughout the zoom range.

Distortion is very well controlled at both ends of the zoom range. Imatest detected 0.9% barrel distortion at 70mm, which is replaced by 0.2% pincushion distortion at 200mm. The distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which should make it relatively easy to apply corrections in image editing software afterwards if absolutely straight lines are necessary.

During testing, this lens proved itself very resistant to flare and contrast levels are good, even when shooting into the light, thanks to the combination of Pentax HD and the new Aero Bright optical coatings, which give reflections on optical surfaces a red hue, similar to what you may have seen on binoculars of a certain vintage. The petal-shaped hood does a good job of shading the lens from extraneous light that may cause issues.

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

Value For Money

Being priced at around £1850, this lens does cost more than equivalent optics available for Canon and Nikon camera systems, by around £300.

There is very little competition from third party manufacturers left as Sigma have discontinued their current Pentax mount version of their 70-200mm f/2.8.

Tamron's 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD IF is currently pretty much the only equivalent lens available for Pentax at the moment. It may lack weather sealing, fancy optical coatings and even silent focusing, but it is substantially less expensive, being available for around £470.

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

As you might expect, this lens is a highly competent, highly specified lens, with all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a high end manufacturer's own lens.

Features like weather sealing, metal build, silent focusing and exotic optical coatings all add to the appeal of this optic and there is enough there to keep almost anyone happy. The performance of this lens is good, but maybe not good enough to support a £300 premium over similar lenses from other camera marques. Of course, the appeal of this optic will also largely depend on the appeal of the forthcoming Ricoh/Pentax full frame SLR, when that is finally available.

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

Very good sharpness in the centre at maximum aperture
Very good sharpness across the frame when stopped down
Weather and dust resistant construction
Excellent build quality
Silent focusing
Full time manual focus override
Constant f/2.8 aperture
Low falloff

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

Autofocus with phase detection was hit and miss with tested sample


The Pentax-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW delivers very good sharpness, and excellent build quality.


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

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dannyr 12 46 United Kingdom
20 Apr 2015 4:32PM
Ouch that price!

It's overpriced compared against lenses that are considered overpriced.

20 Apr 2015 5:02PM
Great lens. If it is Canon or Nikon branded. That is a normal price. But Pentax has no advantage in popularity. Their lens should priced less. Price should be on par with Tarmon or sigma. In order to attract more buyer to invest in their camera body and lens.
20 Apr 2015 10:00PM
Of the price. Remember this is the launch price. Both CaNikon versions (both mk2) were priced more when they first came out.
with that in mind, the DFA*70-200 will drop in price as the months go on, probably to a more reasonable 1500ish by the year is out.
21 Apr 2015 2:52PM
The squirrel picture was taken at a 230mm focal length, which is quite impressive for a 70-200mm lens Wink.

I presume it was taken with the other Pentax lens you reviewed simultaneously (HD Pentax-D FA 150-450 mm f/4,5-5,6 ED DC AW).
joshwa Plus
11 927 1 United Kingdom
21 Apr 2015 3:11PM
Hi Mistral75, this has been corrected, thanks
21 Apr 2015 6:10PM
K-3 firmware version 1.20 is just out and is said to improve (autofocus) performance with these new lenses (both the 70-200 and 150-450). So you might want to give it a try and edit this review to include your findings.
18 Mar 2016 6:39AM
Hey the US release price has updated- 1796.95!
Will you update the rating for Value for Money part?? haha

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