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SMC Pentax-M 75-150mm f/4 Zoom Vintage Lens Review

John Riley reviews the SMC Pentax-M 75-150mm f/4 Zoom vintage Pentax K mount lens, with the full-frame Pentax K-1.

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SMC Pentax-M 75-150mm f/4 Zoom

The zoom lens is now so ingrained in our photographic world that it can be hard to remember that this was not always so. However, by the mid 1970s computer lens design was already making possible some remarkable advances. It was Olympus who started the short telephoto zoom on its way, advertising their 75-150mm f/4 for the OM system as compact and every bit as good as the prime lenses it replaced. Pentax were hot on their heels and here we are looking at the SMC Pentax-M 75-150mm f/4 zoom lens, marketed in exactly the same way as being remarkably compact and on a par with the 85, 100, 120, 135 and 150mm lenses that it theoretically could replace. It will be interesting to see where this lies today, using the full frame 36MP Pentax K-1 DSLR, so let's hone our manual focusing skills and zoom in on one of the first of what was a new breed of telephoto zoom lenses.


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SMC Pentax-M 75-150mm f/4 Zoom Handling and Features

Smc Pentax M 75 150mm F4 At Full Zoom On K 1

There is a certain satisfaction in opening the box and finding a 40 year old lens in absolutely perfect condition, with that glint of newness about it. We are talking here about the first of the really good zoom lenses, where before this the prime lens was the absolute quality choice. We will see how close this gets to that quality as we proceed. In current terms, at 465g the lens is satisfyingly heavy, but quite compact, the weight coming from metal and glass. In terms of the 1970s it is more bulky than any of the primes it might replace, and Pentax had lenses of 85mm, 100mm, 120mm, 135mm and 150mm that were contemporary and much smaller. They were also generally faster, the 85mm being f/2 and the others f/2.8 or f/3.5. They also focused closer, but where the zoom scores is in concentrating all those focal lengths into one useful package.

Starting at the front of the lens, we have a built in sliding lens hood, which is very convenient, but not really long enough to be very significant. Within this is the 49mm filter thread, which shows how slim the barrels of these lenses are. For flare control we rely on the SMC (Super Multi Coated) coatings, Pentax being the first of the manufacturers to make a real push into this valuable new technology. To put this in perspective, at this stage many Olympus OM lenses were actually still coated conventionally.

The wide zoom/focus ring is a trombone action. It is pushed/pulled for zooming and rotated for focusing. This demands a high degree of precision in manufacture and this sample is as new, with a superb, super-silky action that is typical of Pentax M series lenses and a positive tactile pleasure in its own right. There will be zoom creep when the lens is carried, but zooming does not alter the length of the lens barrel, so it is not much of a problem. Focus is held well and it appears this is a parfocal zoom – that is, it holds its focus even after zooming. A slight disadvantage over prime lenses in the range is that the front element rotates, so using graduated and polarising will be more difficult. The distance scale is clearly marked in feet and metres. Focusing is down to 1.2m (4 feet), closer than the 1.6m (5.2 feet) of the similar Olympus OM lens. It compares very well with the minimum distance of the 120mm and longer lenses that it covers, as they focus down to 4 feet for the 120mm and 5 feet in the case of the 135mm and 150mm.

Smc Pentax M 75 150mm F4 Old Vs New

The aperture ring is firm and smooth and has full stop détentes between f/4 and f/5.6 and f/22 and f/32, the rest being in half stop steps. There is no “A” on the aperture ring, so the camera cannot control the aperture. The high quality stainless steel K mount is also devoid of any electronic contacts, so operation of the lens has to be manual. This entails setting the desired aperture on the lens, setting the camera mode to M and pressing the green button on the camera. This sets the shutter speed and hence the exposure. When the shutter release is pressed, the lens is stopped down to the taking aperture selected and the image captured. It works, it's simple and becomes fast enough with a little practice.

Optical construction is 12 elements in 9 groups, slightly simpler than the 15/11 of the Olympus 75-150mm f/4 lens. I mention the Olympus particularly as these lenses were both at the start of this new revolution and a comparison throws up interesting differences and similarities. It is also worth noting that Pentax opt to gives us an f/32 setting, whereas Olympus stop at f/22.

It has to be said that the quality of finish on the lens is really beautiful, as is the super-smooth handling. Focusing is extremely easy on the K-1, snapping in and out precisely either using the viewfinder or Live View. Ergonomically, it is pure silk, but of course, the essential question is how does it perform, so let's see how we did with the technical tests.

Smc Pentax M 75 150mm F4 Rear Oblique View

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GeorgeP 15 62 26 United States
26 Jun 2019 2:30PM
Great review. I need to look out for this lens. I have the M 135/f3.5 and it is one of my favorites. It is small, efficient and a joy to use. Given the price of these lenses today, they truly are overlooks gems.
ssf1957 3 1 United Kingdom
26 Jun 2019 10:21PM
I still have my 75-150mm ( originally paired with my Mx) - great lens, quality feel missing from a lot of modern optics
6 Jul 2019 4:54PM
I once had a copy of this lens, but along with others it was stolen. Just the time I had it I fund it produced really nice results on my K-1. IT has some fringing wide open, which was fairly easy to remove, but stopped down it went. But at all apertures it produced very pleasing colourful results.

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