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Pentax SMC P-D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the lightweight Pentax SMC Pentax-D FA 50mm Macro f/2.8 lens.

|  Pentax SMC P-D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and Features

Pentax 50mm Macro 2 8 (2)

This lightweight 50mm macro lens has a bright maximum aperture of f/2.8, costs around £320 and offers life-sized magnification at its closest focus distance. On a Pentax DSLR this lens provides an angle of view roughly equivalent to a 75mm lens used on a 35mm camera.

Pentax SMC P-D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro Handling and Features

Pentax 50mm Macro 2 8 (1)

The body of this 50mm macro lens is constructed from high quality plastics with a wide rubberised focusing ring and a metal lens mount. The lens only weighs 265g, even so the lens feels quite robust. This lens balances well with the Pentax K-5 IIs body used for testing, due to its light weight and reasonably compact dimensions.

Focusing isn't performed internally, which is normal for a 50mm macro optic, but the 49mm filter thread does not rotate, making it perfect for use with polarising and graduated filters. The wide rubberised manual focusing ring doesn't rotate during auto-focus and the lens is equipped with a 'Quick Shift' system that allows manual adjustments to be applied without having to switch to manual focus mode. Manual focusing action is smooth, but not particularly well damped. To stiffen up the manual focus ring, a switch on the side operates a clamp, which stiffens up the manual focus ring, making fine adjustments easier to apply. Unfortunately the manual focus action feels gritty with the clamp applied. A distance scale is provided, with a reference scale for the magnification achieved. A hyperfocal scale is also provided, but only f/16 and f/32 are marked. The scale is quite compact as well, which makes it of very limited use. 

Pentax 50mm Macro 2 8 (5)

Although focusing is screw-driven, it locks onto subjects fairly quickly for a macro lens. The older screw-driven system does generate more noise than newer silent focusing lenses do though. No focus limiter is provided to prevent the lens hunting as much if it is difficult to obtain focus.

The minimum focus distance of 19.5cm is typical for a macro lens of this focal length and there is still well over an inch of working distance available.

Pentax SMC P-D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro Rear

Pentax SMC P-D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro Performance

At maximum aperture, sharpness in the centre of the frame is already outstanding, and clarity towards the edges of the frame approaches excellent levels. Stopping down to f/8 results in outstanding sharpness across the frame.


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 well controlled, with fringing remaining just exceeding half a pixel width at maximum aperture, towards the edges of the frame. This low level of fringing should barely be visible, even in large prints, or harsh crops from the edges of the frame.


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 well controlled for a lens with an f/2.8 maximum aperture. At f/2.8 the corners of the frame are 0.984 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination is achieved with the lens stopped down to f/5.6 or beyond.

A virtually indistinguishable amount of barrel distortion is present in images taken with this lens. Imatest detected 0.097% barrel distortion, which will be very hard to spot, even if straight lines very near the edges of the frame run absolutely parallel with the frame border.

During testing, this lens proved itself very resistant to flare and contrast levels remain good, even when shooting into the light. A deep circular lens hood comes supplied as standard, but as this lens controls flare so well, you probably won't need one, which is just as well, as the hood may get in the way when shooting at close distances.

Pentax SMC P-D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro Sample Photos

Value For Money

Considering the performance delivered by this lens, it appears to be quite a bargain for the asking price of round £320.

Sigma also offers a 50mm Macro optic to fit Pentax SLRs, which is similarly specified and only costs around £250, which may be a good alternative for those on a tight budget.

Pentax SMC P-D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro Verdict

Optically, it is very difficult to fault this lens, as the performance it delivers is excellent in every respect. Unfortunately, the design of the lens, and the way it handles feels a little dated, especially when compared to the latest Macro optics offered by the likes of Canon and Nikon, which offer silent, internal focusing. Still, if you can live with the slightly antiquated design, you will be rewarded with outstanding sharpness, from a relatively lightweight lens that should be no trouble to pack in your kit bag ready for a time you fancy taking the occasional close up.

  The optical performance the Pentax 50mm f/2.8 Macro delivers is excellent in every respect.

Pentax SMC P-D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro Pros

Outstanding sharpness
Relatively lightweight
Decent build quality
Good value

Pentax SMC P-D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro Cons

No focus limiter
Manual focus ring is loose without clamp and feels gritty with it engaged
Hyperfocal scale is of limited use


Pentax SMC P-D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Pentax K SMC-DA
Focal Length50mm
Angle of View47
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/32
Filter Size49mm
35mm equivalent75mm
Internal focusingNo
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus4.7cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

View Full Product Details


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