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Monday, 18 August 2008


Hmm, and then don't forget the other limiteds (31,43,77). The 31 is not so small but still smaller than most zooms. The 43 isn't so small you cant find the focus ring. If you screw the hood onto the 70 its about the same size as the 77 before you pull out the built in hood.
I think the 55/1.4 is on the roadmap. 31 is 30. Where is that 25 or 28?

Mike, I was wondering, given your high praise for the Pentax FA lenses, do they hold their own against this one. Thanks, Charlie

Bizarre. The product category at Amazon for the lens is Home Improvement.

Re Carl's complaint about the 35 not being the right focal length for him -- I think Pentax, and any other DSLR company that wants to think of itself in the big leagues, will have to produce a FF camera, and fairly soon, I think, especially with the D700 and soon Canon's 5D replacement coming out. So he may get his wish. I had the K10d for a while, but it was one camera too many and I had to give it up -- but what an excellent camera it was, and what a great street shooter. I'm sure the K20D is even better, and a FF will be awesome, if they can keep it at the same size.


That 35 wouldn't cover full frame at infinity. It's APS-C only.

Mike J.


My Pentax FA 31 F1.8 Ltd is pretty freakin' sharp, too. It is, of course, huge compared to the smaller DA* lenses. Any opinion regarding its sharpness compared to the DA 35 Ltd?

John, what I actually hope for is that they skip 35mm altogether and make a relatively affordable (as in sub-$7000) digital medium format camera based on the 645 system instead. All the benefits of FF cameras and more (the size difference between FF and cropped 645 is quite a bit more than that between FF and APS-C), and the camera and other equipment still ends up fairly compact. The film 645 is no bigger and heavier than the FF Canons after all.

That would play to Pentax' strength, rather than trying to catch up in a smaller format.

Mark E.,
I'll let Carl answer that, as he owns them both.

Mike J.

"if you own a Pentax K10D or K20D and don't buy this lens sooner or later, you're depriving yourself."

Whew...good thing I have a K100D, my bank account is safe...for now.


My main system is a Minolta 7D. One year ago, the Pentax K100D super became so cheap that I bought one so I could use some of my old Pentax glass with it (50mm 1:1,4 KA - very nice). I threw in a 40mm DA pancake and went through pretty much the same admiration curve as you with the 35mm macro. By the way, compared to similar glass on other systems, the Pentax primes (especially the 40mm) are almost a steal. On Sony/KM, you'd have to "go Zeiss" if you wanted that class of image quality. I use my K100D as a compact camera - a crop from the 40mm will still yield higher image quality than zoom with a Canon G9 - and keep my fingers crossed that one day Pentax will make a DSLR similar in size to my old MX.

In response to Janne, a digital MF based on the Pentax 645N would be fantastic, instantly trump Canon & Nikon, and give Pentax the pro cred it needs to keep perfecting its APS-C line. It shouldn't matter, but the company's flagship camera seems to be a marketing advantage in selling the more modest cameras, even if the little cameras are what most people buy.

And the 645N had the best SLR viewfinder I've ever seen.

Great review – resulting in conclusions as expected: jealous. I use 4/3 for the various options to choose lenses from present to past, but this one lens does not fit, sad, just because of that lousy modern practice to leave the aperture-control to the camera body (and manual focus control as well).

What is to be learned from the reading of your critique: yours is a reference review for more than Pentax-users. It is not that difficult to praise a shining product. But how you define and elaborate on its virtues gives a reference for style and practical approach, esp. a reference by the points you stress and by the points you both do not even mention (but filling hundreds of end-/useless threads in the online-fora, about sensor size-pseudo-waging, 2,8 being too generally too slow too expensive etc. etc.) – plain great and do more of that, please.
Best regards

You did it again. Every few months, you make me regret that I sold off my Pentax collection of lenses and bodies 4-5 years ago.

I have a question to ask. How does it hold its ground against SMCP FA 35mm F/2 AL?
FA is cheaper, has F/2 and covers FF. It's not macro, but i am not sure how useful a 35mm macro is. One would have to come really close to the object to get 1:1, or am I mistaken?


Two questions:

Do not know much about Pentax DSLR's.
Is it compatable (auto-focus & full metering functions) on all Pentax DSLR bodies?

How is CA on it?


You guys do great work.

I felt as though I was part of a conversation, not peering into a sterile white room full of German guys in white lab coats. (No offense to the Germans in white coats)

Sounds like a winner on all fronts.

I scanned a few test sites and user reviews to see how the Pentax FA 31mm f/1.8 Limited compares to the 35mm f/3.5 Macro. All indications are that the 31mm f/1.8 is an equally awesome lens. One would hope so: The lowest legitimate price I could find for a new 31mm f/1.8 was $850.00. Compared to that, the 35mm f/3.5 Macro is an absolute bargain at approximately $540.00.

My Pentax FA 31 F1.8 Ltd is pretty freakin' sharp, too. It is, of course, huge compared to the smaller DA* lenses. Any opinion regarding its sharpness compared to the DA 35 Ltd?
Mark, the 31mm is a fine lens and is an excellent performer on the Pentax K10/20D, especially considering it was originally designed for film, not digital capture. Lens performance encompasses a lot more than just sharpness (as Mike and I go on at length about in the article). Overall performance of the 31 is excellent, while overall performance of the 35 on a K20D is literally in a league of its own.

I'd be interested in knowing how the 35 Limited performs in comparison to the Zeiss 35/2 ZK. The examples you show from the Limited have a similar quality to what I've seen from the 35 ZF. The 28 ZK/ZF is optimised for close distance work and centre sharpness and wouldn't be competitive with any top-end landscape lens, the 35 on the other hand is optimised for cross-frame sharpness at moderate to long distances and is simply superb.

Thanks for the link - I enjoyed reading the review, even as a non-Pentax user.

However, I never would have found it on photo.net. I check out their forums occasionally, but I don't see any obvious spot that lists all newest articles. Maybe I'm just missing something?

Thanks Mike and Carl. Reviews such as this and the Zeiss Ikon write-up are my favorite thing about this site.

What you discussed about the tonality and rendering of the 35 reminds me of Nikon's recent nano-coated lenses, like my 60 AFS micro. That lens indeed spoiled me to the point that I'm reluctant to buy any more lenses designed before digital.

About the focal length, when I started using FX digital I realized how much I'd been missing with 35mm-e. The 35/2 I had been using as a normal on DX has become a whole new lens, and much more fun than before. The Nikkor 12-24 at 24 on DX, while just as sharp, wasn't the same; it had an annoying stretchiness even at 24mm that made it a poor choice for people photos, and the 35/2 on FX doesn't have this problem.

The Tokina 35/2.8 macro is allegedly the same optical formula as the Pentax so C&N users may also be able to enjoy this lens (assuming the magic isn't in the coatings, which it may well be). Unfortunately I shoot 4/3 so I won't have any experience with any version of this lens - on the other hand, there are some pretty good Olympus and Leica options...

"The Tokina 35/2.8 macro is allegedly the same optical formula as the Pentax"

Who alleges that? With a completely different mount, a different spec'd angle of view, and different close-focusing distances, that sounds like internet hooey to me, although without evidence I won't rule it out. If you could demonstrate identical block diagrams (not similar, identical) and identical objective (outermost element) diameters, then I'd consider it more seriously. Maybe I'll ask Pentax.

'Twould be nice if it were true.

Mike J.

Dear Janne et.al.,

If Pentax shows a fully-functional pre-production (or at least beta-stage) digital 645 at Photokina next month, I'll believe this camera may still happen (I emphasize MAY).

If they don't, it's vaporware that I don't think will ever see the light of day.

It's been under development for, what, five years, now? In the world of digital electronics, that is far too long-- the technology changes too rapidly and the viable market target has morphed into something very different from when they started a project.

I'd love to be able to use my Pentax 67 lenses and was really looking forward to this camera, but if it ain't visible this year then I no longer believe this camera will ever be produced. It's a moribund psittacine, lovely plumage notwithstanding.

pax / Ctein

Mike, re the Tokina similarity. I suggest you have a look at the Pentax/Tokina 12-24, the Pentax/Tokina 16-50/2.8, the Pentax/Tokina 50-135/2.8 and the Pentax/Tokina 10-17 Fisheye. Notice something? Sure.
Then, compare the Pentax and Tokina 35 Macro
Same closest focus, same angle of view (Tokina uses 1.6 and Pentax uses 1.5something), same optical formula.
So, even with no block diagram to be found for the Tokina and the barrel indeed being very different... But this looks rather "suspicious", don't you think? The differing mount is no indication at all for the optical formula. Tokina has not made Pentax lenses in quite a while. Interesting "coincidence", BTW...
Of course neither Pentax not Tokina will admit that, but feel free to ask. The straightest answer that so far was received was that these lenses are optically co-developed with varying Pentax and Tokina parts and that the mechanics are done solely by the respective company that puts on the badge.

The specs do look pretty similar ( Pentax - http://www.pentaxslr.com/lenses/lens_35 , Tokina - http://www.thkphoto.com/products/tokina/atx-m35prodx-b.html ) with only slight differences. Both have 9 elements in 8 groups, 14cm close focusing distance, 1:1 magnification, and 9 aperture blades. There's only a 1° difference in viewing angle and that may be related to the different lens bodies.

The fact that the press release for the Tokina lens came out only 1 week after the press release for the Pentax lens also supports the theory. As with the Tokina 50-135mm, it wouldn't be the first time.

Here's the optical diagram of the Pentax lens via Bojidar Dimitrov - http://kmp.bdimitrov.de/lenses/primes/_optics/35f2.8-Macro.gif

Thank you. The block diagrams are very similar but not identical.

I'd be interested to know the nature of the cooperation between Hoya and Tokina. Hoya makes glass for Tokina and now also owns Pentax, so it could be that they're producing glass to the same specification for very similar lens designs. Whether the design tasks are also shared would be interesting to know.

In any event, the similarity should be very encouraging to Canon and Nikon users, who should move the Tokina Macro to somewhere very high on their "to be investigated" lists!

Mike J.

Is it the K20D's sensor, or the DA 35 Macro that is so impressive? Or the combo? Does the 35 come out as impressive on the K10D?
(BTW, thanks or the wonderfully written dialog/review, I look forward to everything new from you guys.)

Has anyone seen a comparison between the Pentax being discussed, and the Nikon 35mm f/2 D AF?

"In any event, the similarity should be very encouraging to Canon and Nikon users, who should move the Tokina Macro to somewhere very high on their "to be investigated" lists!"

I've been using the Tokina 35mm macro on a Canon 40D for a month or so. Haven't really made any formal tests as such, but my impression from results on the jobs where I've used it is that it's a really superb lens. Lovely tone, very sharp, minimal distortion and no obvious aberrations.

Pentax and Tokina reputedly were controlled by the same moneymen pre-Hoya. I read it on the Internet, so it must be true.......;-)

Carl, the head of Pentax R&D stated last winter that the previous digital 645 project was "frozen" - more or less canned - two years ago as it had been heading in the wrong direction (he made a comparison to when the 645N camera was developed; before it, they had an abortive attempt at a much higher end body). As he stated it, they've kept medium format on hold while spending most of their resources getting a full lineup of small-format bodies ready. In the same interview he said the core market for a Pentax medium format unit is the upscale photography enthusiast, so prices and features have to be in line with that, rather than the high-end professional market.

So no, I doubt they'll pull a rabbit out of a hat and present a medium-format body this year - and if they ever do, it's already clear it won't be the digital body they showed a few years ago.

Jay Moynihan,
Not really sure what you're after--there's no digital body those two lenses can be compared on. Otherwise, they're pretty different: the Nikkor is a 20-year-old (more or less--I forget exactly when it came out) film lens, the Pentax a brand-new digital lens; the Nikkor is a moderate wide angle for its format, the Pentax a normal for its; the Nikkor is moderately fast for its angle of view, the Pentax slow; the Nikkor will have a more pronounced "sweet spot" in the aperture range and the Pentax has relatively little performance variation throughout its aperture range; and the Nikkor is designed for highest performance in the center of the field and I can't detect any significant variance in performance against image height in the Pentax, having not run controlled tests.

Add to that, the Nikkor has had significant QC issues throughout its lifetime, chiefly with a period of a few years in which many samples had lubrication leakage issues on the aperture blades, especially during storage.

As for specific performance comparisons on similar DSLRs, I can't speak to that.

Mike J.

Is anyone else struck by the fact that this excitement is because one vender finally made a decent normal lens for an APS camera? Any 50mm 1.8 would be as good on FF, would cost almost nothing, and is faster. If you wanted macro in such a short lens, everyone makes a 50mm 2.8 macro. I had really hoped that APS would mean small, fast primes, but it is not playing out that way. Having just moved to FF, I am remembering how much fun it was in 35mm film cameras to be able see what you are doing and to be able to focus the lens by eye, rather than automation. (Not that the modern AF cameras focusing screens are as good as the old screens made for focusing.) I think that it will be usablity, rather than image quality that will push FF.

"Any 50mm 1.8 would be as good on FF"

I certainly don't agree with that statement.

Mike J.

Mike and Carl-

Thanks for the extensive review, I've been looking forward to this one and am close to pulling the trigger on one of these lenses. I've rented one before and enjoyed using it.

The one thing that gives me a little pause is the quality of the bokeh of more distant objects, particularly foliage, when shooting middle distance subjects (e.g. portraits). Quite a few of the photos I've seen with it are a bit busy/buzzy in the background. But I've also personally taken shots with it where the bokeh is good, so it seems like it can vary quite a bit depending on circumstance.

I was surprised you didn't comment on the quality of the bokeh in the review. Could you elucidate your thoughts on it, perhaps compared to the 31mm Limited?

'Not really sure what you're after--there's no digital body those two lenses can be compared on. ..." Mike J. (Re the Pentax & The Nikon 35mm f/2 D)

Was wondering about comparative IQ between them, if anyone has used both.

Can't cite a reference but a couple of major shows ago there was talk of Tokina either being bought by Hoya or contracting with Hoya making lenses for Pentax, the ones I remember is the 16-50, 10-17 fish and the 35 macro. I'm a medical photographer and have done copy work for artists so I perk my ears up when a new macro is introduced. The 35 macro is almost a direct replacement for a 50 macro on 35 the focal length I liked to use making slides for artists. It would be interesting to follow up on this.
Just bought an 11-16 f2.8 Tokina and it is one of the best WA lenses I have ever used.


Thanks guys for this great review that is stirring up interest all over the place. It even gets people saying things like "Is anyone else struck by the fact that this excitement is because one vender finally made a decent normal lens for an APS camera?" Imagine when these people discover that Pentax actually makes a habit of producing such lenses, and that the DA35 is not the first but just another in a continuing line?

For Jay:
Q: "Has anyone seen a comparison between the Pentax being discussed, and the Nikon 35mm f/2 D AF?"

Jay, I own the Nikkor 35/2D, and have shot it on both DX and FX bodies; it is probably my most used lens over the past year. Just looking at the samples from the Pentax 35 review, I can tell you the 35 is not at that level. That's not to say the Nikkor is a paperweight -- it's very good -- but it just isn't that stellar of a lens, and it can't quite do what the Pentax does, as far as I can see.

Photozone, one of the Web's most popular lens test sites, has just posted a review (http://www.photozone.de/pentax/393-pentax_35_28) of the Pentax 35mm f/2.8 Macro. Although they seem less ecstatic about it than Mike and Carl, there's litte to contradict Mike and Carl's impressions. As a matter of fact, I strongly suggest you avoid reading the resolution results with food or liquid in your mouth, otherwise you may unintentionally do a "spit take" all over your monitor. Don't say I didn't warn you.

What I want to figure out is whether there's any point in buying this if you own the DA40 f/2.8 Limited ("pancake") as I do.

I'm guessing I can't justify it...
I don't care about macro, and I find 40mm (60mm in 35 terms) to be a nice, flexible focal length for relaxed indoor portraits + an almost normal point-of-view; I don't often feel like reaching for a slightly shorter (50 in 35mm equiv.) length. Plus it's sharp wide-open, flare-resistant with the hood on, weighs nothing...

I'm glad this one's a hit - I'm just waiting for the small/wide: DA 15mm Limited.

Just a follow up on my question about the 31 Ltd vs the 35 Ltd. Klaus Schroiff's photozone.de tests show the 31 Ltd outperforming the 35 Ltd in MTF resolution at F2.8 (2244 vs 2029 center lw/ph) and F4 (2345 vs 2191 center lw/ph) with similar edge results. The 35 is a bit better at smaller apertures.

It would be interesting to do some "pixel peeping" with the two lenses side by side to see what the real-world difference is....

I've heard that the 35mm produces significantly better results on the K20D than on the K10D.

Has anyone done a test of this to see?

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