Pentax and the “No lenses!” myth

Among subpar AF.C and a not very well developed flash system, one of the most common complaints that is frequently levelled against the Pentax system is a lack of lenses. “It does not matter that Pentax is pushing out excellent DSLRs that are frequently reviewed to be amongst the best out there”, critics argue, “if users are unable to get hold of certain lenses to mount on these bodies.” While Nikon and Canon users certainly have a larger choice, and certain lens types are simply not available for Pentax – for example tilt-shift, anything wider than f/1.4, leaf-shutter, fast telephoto primes over 300 mm etc. – the gaps surely are not as large as many claim. More importantly, many of the lenses not available are niche products for speciality use that are only needed by a small fraction of photographers.

Actually taking a look at what is available one quickly realises that there are hundreds of full frame ready lenses out there that can be mounted on the K-1. Pentax introduced its current mount in 1975 and unlike certain other manufacturers (*cough* Canon *cough*) has not changed it since. As a result all lenses from the analogue era K, M, A, F and FA lines can be used on any current Pentax DSLR, and there are many great bargains to be had. I personally use an SMC-A 50 f/1.7 on my K3 and it performs marvellously.

But not everyone wants to focus manually or use stop-down metering. So here is a list of current, reasonably modern lenses for the K-1. All of them feature autofocus, are still in production or sold new and cover the full frame image circle.

Pentax

Zooms

HD D FA 15-30 f/2.8 WR
HD D FA 24-70 f/2.8 WR
HD D FA 28-105 f/3.5-5.6 WR
HD D FA* 70-200 F/2.8 AW
HD D FA 150-450 f/4.5-5.6 WR

Primes

FA 31 f/1.8 Ltd.
FA 43 f/1.8 Ltd.
FA 77 f/1.8 Ltd.

FA 35 f/2
FA 50 f/1.4

DA 35 f/2.4
DA 40 f/2.8 Ltd./XS (*)
DA 50 f/1.8
DA* 55 f/1.4
HD DA 70 f/2.4 Ltd. (*)

DA* 200 f/2.8
DA* 300 f/4
DA 560 f/5.6

D FA 50 f/2.8 Macro
D FA 100 f/2.8 WR Macro

Sigma

Zooms

Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 IF EX DG HSM
Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM
Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG Macro
Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 APO DG Macro

Primes

Sigma 15mm F2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fisheye
Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM (Art)
Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM
Sigma 300mm F2.8 APO EX DG
Sigma 500mm F4.5 EX DG APO

Tamron

Zooms

Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 AF XR Di LD Macro SP
Tamron 28-300mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di AF
Tamron 70-200mm F2.8 Di LD Macro
Tamron 70-300mm F4-5.6 AF Di LD Macro

Primes

Tamron SP AF 90mm F2.8 Di Macro

That is 20 genuine Pentax lenses (5 zooms and 15 primes) and 14 third party offerings (8 zooms, 6 primes) for a total of 34 lenses. But why stop here? Samyang is producing some excellent, affordable and widely popular manual focus lenses, the following are available in K-mount.

Samyang

Primes

Samyang 14mm F2.8 ED AS IF UMC (visible vignetting)
Samyang 24mm F1.4 ED AS
Samyang 24mm F3.5 ED AS UMC Tilt/Shift
Samyang 35mm F1.4 AS UMC
Samyang 50mm F1.4 AS IF UMC
Samyang 85mm F1.4 Aspherical IF
Samyang 100mm F2.8 Macro
Samyang 135mm F2.0 ED UMC

So now we arrive at a tally of 42, not including lenses by Laowa, simply because their products seem to be not very common and I have no idea about their performance. Obviously Pentax is also going to throw out more lenses in the future, and the following are on the latest roadmap:

Pentax roadmap (“2017 or later”)

“Fish-Eye Zoom Lens”
“Large Aperture Ultra Wide-Angle Single Focus Lens”
“Wide-Angle Single Focus Lens”
“Large Aperture Standard Single Focus Lens”
“Large Aperture Medium Telephoto Single Focus Lens”

What these will be exactly is anybody’s guess. ‘Single focus’ probably denotes a prime lens and on Pentax roadmaps ‘large aperture’ has in the past meant ‘f/2.8’, but that applied to zooms and I cannot see Pentax throwing out only prime lenses that slow. Something we can look forward to sooner than that is the 15 f/2.4 by Irix which will become available this summer.

So to recapitulate, Pentax has everything from 15 to 450 mm covered with high quality  zooms, and there is a ton of primes from 14 to 560 mm, including macros, not less than four 35 and one 31 mm lenses and another four 50 mm ones. And if you are willing to manually focus, there is an entire world of lenses available used. There are certainly reasons not buy a Pentax DSLR, such as the need for an advanced autofocus system for fast-paced action, sophisticated flash work or already being heavily invested in another system. But a lack of lenses is not one of them.

The cover image is by Joost Dikker Hupkes and used under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s