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SMC Pentax-FA 24-90mm f/3.5-4.5 AL [IF] Vintage Lens Review

John Riley reviews the SMC Pentax-FA 24-90mm f/3.5-4.5 AL [IF] vintage lens for full-frame SLR/DSLRs.

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Pentax Fa 24 90mm Front Oblique View

The SMC Pentax-FA 24-90mm f/3.5-4.5 AL [IF] lens is a superior kit lens from around 2001, a little before the arrival of the crop sensor Pentax DSLRs. Thus it is designed for film cameras and does not sit particularly well with the APS-C format, where it would be a “35mm equivalent” 36-135mm; perhaps not wide enough for a general-purpose lens. However, it does sit very well as a standard zoom for full-frame and could be an interesting option compared to the expensive, heavy and bulky HD Pentax 24-70mm f/2.8 from the current range. Is it up to the mark? Let's find out, using the 36MP Pentax K-1 body.


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SMC Pentax-FA 24-90mm f/3.5-4.5 AL [IF] Handling and Features

Pentax Fa 24 90mm On Pentax K1
The first impressions very clearly show us a compact, light lens, weighing in at a very modest 355g. There is a supplied and large bayonet fit lens hood that clips securely into place without the need for a locking catch. The hood has a small removable panel that enables the rotation of polarising filters with the hood in position, a nice touch that other marques have been slow to take up. The filter thread is a standard 67mm.

First up is a thin manual focusing ring and to use this the camera body will need to be switched to MF. There is no full-time manual focusing or QuickShift as Pentax describe it. The ring does rotate during AF operation, so the fingers should be kept away from it. Focusing is down to 0.5m, or 1.6 feet, for a maximum magnification of 0.18x. There is a clear distance scale, marked in feet and metres. There is no depth of field scale, but there are Infra-red correction marks for 24mm and 90mm.

The zoom ring is clearly marked at 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm and 90mm. The action of this ring is smooth but has little resistance, so when carried it is quite likely that the lens will extend if pointed downwards.

Finally, closest to the body is the nicely clicked aperture ring, with an “A” setting for when the camera is to control the aperture. This is the setting used for DSLRs to give full function.
Pentax Fa 24 90mm With Hood On Pentax K1

AF is by screw drive, so is hardly quiet, but it does move swiftly and accurately. The lens mount is Pentax's fine steel mount, this version complete with all mechanical and electronic connections.

Optical construction is 13 elements in 11 groups coated with the SMC (Super-Multi-Coated) multicoating of the era, which is very effective, holding up well when compared to current coating techniques. The diaphragm comprises 8 blades. As this is a film-era lens, it is likely that the exit light will not be telecentric, that is, parallel, which is what digital sensors prefer, so especially at wider angles and at the edges the lens is at an immediate disadvantage. Handling-wise, it's a gem, absolutely delightful in use, so it could be a winner if the optical performance is up to scratch.
Pentax Fa 24 90mm Rear Oblique View

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