Monday, May 19, 2008

Digital-only Lenses Part IV: Pentax DA (K-Mount)

We continue our digital-only lens round-up with the Pentax DA lenses. If this is your first visit to this multi-part series, be sure to check the introduction, which also includes a table of contents.

The SDM Star Fan Club
No more having to deal with the USMs and AF-S and SSM and SWDs! Pentax has a TLA of its own! Meet the new SDM lenses! Please note that all prices here are before any rebates and are based on B&H Photo as of the time of writing of this post.

The top priced lenses telephoto primes, the SMCP-DA* 300mm f4 ED IF SDM going for around $1300, and the SMCP-DA* 200mm f2.8 ED IF SDM going for $1000, both weather and dust resistant and an ideal match for the K20D/K10D bodies, or other future tough-cookie DSLRs from Hoya-Pentax-Samsung-Schneider-Xenon.

On the zoom front, Pentax covers 16-135 with two f2.8 constant aperture DA SDM lenses, the SMCP-DA* 16-50mm f2.8 ED AL IF SDM for $700, and the SMCP-DA* 50-135mm f2.8 ED IF SDM for $750. So it's a power duo that will set you back just under $1500. Not exactly the Pentax bargain prices off eBay!

Gimmie Pancakes, hold the syrup!
Pentax generated some buzz among photography enthusiasts with a trio of DA pancakes. They offer the photography some versatility, with "Blueberry", the SMCP-DA 21mm f3.2 AL Limited for $440, "Whole wheat", the SMCP-DA 70mm f2.4 for $480, and "Butter", the SMCP-DA 40mm f2.8 Limited for around $280.

Please note that "Blueberry", "Whole Wheat" and "Butter" are not official lens names. I gave them those to match the "pancake" name. Please feel free to laugh at or with me on this one :)

The Mere Mortals
No fish were hurt (at least that's what Pentax claims) in the making of the SMCP-DA 10-17mm f3.5-4.5 ED IF fisheye zoom, which goes for $430. Sounds like a fun "digital" fisheye lens to play with? We blog, you decide!

And how about a wide prime? Interesting? Well they do have the SMCP-DA 14mm f2.8 ED IF, which can distort your budget by about $620, and sadly Photoshop can't fix that in post-processing :)

As with all APS-C mounts, there is a mordant need for a wide angle zoom (or so it seems). Pentax fills this gap with the SMCP-DA 12-24mm f4 ED AL IF and they fill their pockets with $720 for each one sold. But for fans of wide angle photography, it is money well spent.

An affordable mid-range zoom is the DA 16-45mm f4.0 ED AL, going for around $400, and offering the versatility of roughly 24mm-80mm in terms of 35mm equivalent.

A new option in this focal range is the DA 17-70mm f4 SDM lens, pre-announced at PMA 2008, and officially announced in June 2008. This has the 35mm equivalency of roughly 26-105mm.

Companies seem to be contractually obligated to bring out superzooms these days, partially thanks to the popularity of the compact superzoms with insane zoom ranges (up to 20X as of the time of writing). So here have the SMCP-DA 18-250mm f3.5-6.3 ED AL IF, going for $470 or so.

We haven't mentioned the M-word yet, but here we go now, the SMCP-DA 35mm f2.8 Macro Limited, going for about $600. Also, "L", not Canon L-series "L", but Pentax Limited "L".

If you are looking for a zoom lens a step up above the 55-200, they do have the new SMCP-DA 55-300mm f4.0-5.8 ED. going for about $350 give or take.

The Kit Lenses
The first DA kit lens was the SMCP-DA 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 AL, currently going for around $100, which was followed up by the ...follow-up, the SMCP-DA 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 AL II, which goes for around $200 on its own, and a lot less when bundled with one of the newer DSLRs.

And every kit lens has a trusty telephoto sidekick, in this case the SMCP-DA 50-200mm f4-5.6 ED (no V jokes please), which goes for around $220 on its own.

Pentax Digital Lenses under development
There are two more SDM lenses in the Pentax pipeline, announced with a development notice at PMA 2008. The two lenses are going to be the smc DA* 55mm f1.4 SDM for prime lovers and the smc DA* 60-250mm f4 ED IF SDM.

The Samsung Schneider D-Xenon Lenses
Because of the cloning process, we feel it would be unnecessarily duplicate to include the very similar Samsung Schneider D-Xenon lenses. Be sure to check Source #3 and #4 for more details on those lenses.

Pentax DA lens reviews
Super-review site has reviewed 9 of the 17 lenses mentioned above, including the 18-200, 50-135 DA* SDM, the three pancakes, the fisheye zoom, the 200mm f2.8 DA* SDM, and a few more.

SLR Gear has reviewed six of the above lenses, including the two telephoto SDM DA* 200mm, two of the pancakes, the fisheye zoom, and a few more. To find them, search for "Pentax tested" in their Search Box and then search using your browser (Control-F) for DA to find the DA lens reviews.

dpreview's recently launched lens review branch has reviewed the 16-45 DA and 18-55 kit lens. These two will go down in history as the first two lenses reviewed by Dpreview Lens Reviews.

Pentaxians are reviewing the lenses at the Pentax forums. This is the directory with all the DA lenses, and they have reviews for the three pancakes, the 14mm prime, and the 35mm limited macro.

Pentax user Rice High has posted his subjective ratings. Look for the word "DA" to find the digital-only lenses.

You will find four Pentax DA lens reviews at, a site specializing in lenses. If you are a lens fan-addict, be sure to bookmark this reference page.

We are not sure if has any Pentax DA lens reviews. We had a hard time finding an index of all reviews and given the length of this series, we can't spend too much time chasing reviews :)

Samsung/Schneider digital-only lens reviews
Don't push it :)

1. Pentax Lenses (Flash-based site)
2. B&H Photo
3. Schneider Samsung K-Mount Lenses
4. Samsung Lenses
5. B Dimitrov's K Mount page
6. We wrote this post using this pen

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