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Monday, 19 November 2012


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What a quandry.

I have a succession of Pentax's dSLR cameras: the venerable *istD, K10D, K-7. Some now on "permanent loan" to good friends and family (seems like a better option than the relatively token amount received from selling them). Maybe I'm just lucky, but I quite like a focal length close to the sensor diagonal. Meaning the 31/1.8 Ltd and the 35/2.8 Ltd Macro both get a lot of use, on these well-sorted, delightfully "good enough" photographic devices.

Earlier this year I took something of a leap into the unknown, purchasing one of the two weather sealed medium format bodies, and a sensor diagonal focal length lens. It too, is a pleasure to use. BUT. (There's often a but.) It doesn't have Pentax's wonderful (almost completely) sorted ergonomics. What a nuisance. I've suggested some firmware changes, so here's hoping.

What about the Sigma 24/1.8 or 28/1.8?

I bought a K7 about three years ago after reading in various places (including here) how wonderful the DA35/2.8 Ltd lens is. Three months ago I upgraded to a K5, and I'm still using the DA35 lens exclusively. I figured I'd have a whole bag of those beautiful Pentax primes by now, but this camera/lens combo has me totally smitten, and I feel no need to alter it. I guess I'm in love...

For those curious about the 35/2.8 Macro, I can say that its twin, the Tokina 35/2.8 macro (available in other mounts), is every bit as spectacularly good. Quite affordable too.

Ah, yes the K-5. You know the problem when you don't do anything brilliantly, there's just nothing to really, absolutely, crazily, fall in love with. I think that's my problem with the K-5. It's utterly competent but on the weekend when I handled a 5DMkIII and a D800, you just realise there could always be more.

Adding to this, I think it's just the full frame lenses I miss. When I use a 50 equivalent, I think what I really want is a 50/1,4 equivalent, and a 35/2 on a reduced sensor just isn't the same.


p.s. All the same, after using a 5D+50, I thought what I really needed is a 50mm daily shooter ... hence I've now got a Pentax Q! And funnily enough, once I have it in my hands, I love it!

I agree with Mike that the lack of a quality 24mm prime lens is the most obvious gap in Pentax's optical lineup, one not really filled by the 21mm Limited.

However, Tamron's 17-50mm constant f/2.8 zoom (get the non-VC version!)has excellent lens corner to corner sharpness on the K-5 that seems equal to my 35mm f/2.8 DA Limited Macro. The Tamron is bigger and heavier, but not unduly so. It's also pretty reasonably priced in the $400-$500 range.

Mike, I suppose this has been mentioned elsewhere, but what sort of 24mm are you wishing Pentax would make, exactly? The 24mm/2 in new clothes, a DA Limited or DA* f/1.8 ...?

You are really missing out. The Zeiss 25mm f2.8 T* Distagon's are still available new if you look around. Absolutely wonderful with the K-5 and now my K-5 IIs.

That said, I am sure 'Goldilocks' needs AF. ;-)

Happy Shooting!

[Actually, I never thought of that. But I do kind of need AF, not because I like it, but because I don't focus manually as well as I used to, at least not on the new, small, bright screens. —MJ]

Nikon has a serviceable 35mm f2 for $350 or so.

I have one. Not cutting edge, but not bad.

Mike Johnston said: "keep in mind that the K-5 II and the Nikon D7000have maybe 90% of the sensor-y goodness of the D600 and D800"

The (end of life) Nikon D5100 also shares the same 16Mpx sensory goodness as the D7000/K5 with a less manual UI for less money.

Is there a 28mm/50mm eq bias today amongst the camera/lens makers in Asia for APS-C and smaller sensor cameras?

Is it marketing? You have a chance of selling both a 28mm and a 50mm lens to your users but you are less likely to sell two lenses if you have a 35mm in the mix (back to the "Goldilocks" idea).

The 35mm eq was common in the past on Japanese cameras (and 40mm in the "olden days" of the 50s and 60s) but now it seems to be 50mm or 28mm if you are lucky.

Yeah, I know I just bought a 28mm for the D800, but please don't throw that back at me. It's most likely temporary, until one of two things happens: either Nikon fills out its new FX prime line with a 35mm ƒ/1.8G for FX, or I suck it up and get over the deep-seated psychological barrier I have against spending $1,619 for a lens

I'm shocked to be the first to say this, but the new Sigma 35mm f / 1.4 is targeted specifically at you (in the plural sense: that is, people who want a great 35mm without paying more than $1,000). The list price is $899.

They haven't hit the street yet, as far as I know, but that may be the obvious solution for your price / quality dilemma.

Is there some reason you don't like the 35mm f/2 Nikkor? I don't have one, but that's probably what I'd buy if I wanted an FX 35. Never thought that extra stop was worth the premium.

I just read Thom Hogan's review of the NEX-7, and found it funny to see your review of the K5 come out so similarly - great camera, many will love it, but without the lens for YOU, it can't be the camera for you.

Wait, two (dare I say handsome?) bearded guys, passionate about photography, have a history in the magazine industry, and we've never seen you two on the same site. Are you two the same person?!

" Is there a 28mm/50mm eq bias today amongst the camera/lens makers in Asia[?]"

Yes. It's long been known, even before the days of APS-C. 645 format and the 28mm focal length were two things that have traditionally been much more popular in Japan than here and in Europe. Also, the Japanese were very fond of "crop to panoramic" feature many 35mm cameras had for a while, but that turned out to be more or less a fad.

One "regional preference" that has market significance right now is that a large share of the medium-format digital cameras (Leica S2, Pentax 645D) are being sold in China. To the extent (according to what I've heard) that without China, those cameras would go away.


"what sort of 24mm are you wishing Pentax would make, exactly?"

When Carl and I reviewed the 35mm DA Macro for Phono.net, we both agreed that the ideal would be a lens of 24 to 26mm, ƒ/2, and the same size and weight and optical quality of the 35mm DA Macro. As I said elsewhere, though, don't hold your breath. The DA Macro was designed in collaboration with Tokina (and apparently it was a genuine collaboration, not a mere relabeling of one company's product by another) and yet hasn't sold particularly well for either company, despite widely varying price points. Pentax now has its own much cheaper 35mm to serve as a basic budget normal for APS-C digitals, which no doubt steals even residual sales from the DA Macro.

Pity that a lens that beautiful didn't get more traction in the world. It's a real sleeper.


I won't buy a camera system that doesn't have a good 35mm prime lens.

28mm, 38mm, or 40mm just isn't good enough... and zooms are horrible.

If I had to choose a camera based on the pictures made with them and published on your site, it would be be hands down the K5. What a beautiful photograph! As for the one just above on your D800 post, well, I'll keep that comment for myself. I wouldn't want to be rude.

An then if the K5 "has maybe 90% of the sensor-y goodness of the D600 and D800, in a more sensible package" but is NOT 90% of the cost, it's a no-brainer (for me).

A sorry K-5 fan

Great, right after I sell the DA35mm F2.8 Macro Limited to a friend I am reminded of its many virtues. I haven't cashed the check yet...I guess I could ask for it back, but I've already purchased the FA31mm F1.8...

I'd consider your K-5, Mike, but I'm currently smitten with the aforementioned FA31mm mated to the K-01 and shooting in square 1:1 format. I'm loving it, and believe that I'm entering a new, post-viewfinder, square age. Good luck with your Nikon, I'll be waiting for someone to make a mirrorless square format camera with ergonomics to match....

The irony for me is that Pentax is the only manufacturer currently making a fast, high-grade AF lens in my ideal focal length, 43mm (in both silver and black, to boot). But no digital FF body to mount it on.

There is the Pentax-FA 28/2.8, but even that is a little long at 42mm equivalent. The Pentax-FA* 24/2 is just so huge. Of course both are only available used.

"As for the one just above on your D800 post, well, I'll keep that comment for myself."

C'mon, Andrew, that's a test shot. Stepped out the back door, fired away.

I can take bad pictures with the K-5 too, you know. [g]


For whatever reason, Pentax historically does not support the 35mm (and equivalent) angle of view well at all.

Very historically, Pentax offered excellent 35mm f2 and 35mm f3.5 lenses in its 1971-1975 SMC Takumar and the 1975-77 SMC Pentax K ranges. (Judging by the slightly different cross-sections, the K 35 f2 was a re-formulation of the Takumar lens.) In 1977, Asahi reformulated the 35mm f2 again, introducing the M 35mm f2, whose compact dimensions were more in keeping with the reduced-size MX and ME cameras, and replaced the K 3.5 lens with the M 2.8 version. In 1980, the company showed, and reputedly built a small run of, a K 35mm 1.4 lens.

After so many changes to the 35mm focal length Pentax seems to have tired of it. Perhaps it was championed by a particular executive or designer and he retired!

You need a reason to get into a niche system. Other than astro (plus GPS), I would not consider Pentax 35mm. Sorry.

Is this a Pentax problem though? I have friends who bemoan the lack of quality prime lenses for their APS-c DSLRs (Nikon Canon etc etc) in this range (35mm-ish). They don't want giant expensive fast stuff - just somethig iike a 35mm f2 equivalent. It's the main reason I've always been happy with FF digital as soon as I could afford it (Canon 5D) - the availability and characteristics of the lens selection.

The K-5 and its successors offer the perfect combination of size, ergonomics and sensor for my money. And the two series of Limited lenses really separate Pentax from the rest of the field. I find it interesting that contributors to TOP are going in different directions--bigger towards full frame and smaller towards micro 4/3. The K-5 sits comfortably in between and can produce IQ that is not far below FF. Don't believe me? Well just consider what you can capture with 14 stops of DR at ISO 80. I have no doubt that the D800 is the current king of the hill, but the thought of lugging it and proportionately sized lenses around my neck all day is a definite turnoff. I will let others have the king, while I play with a prince.

I have been using the Pentax DA21mm limited ("pancake") lens just about exclusively (and daily) since Spring 2007 (first with the K10d, then K20d, and now the K5. That is more than 47,000 frames--and I only make one exposure of each subject, then move on, as a rule).
I had one problem and the local repairman diagnosed and repaired two loose screws inside the lens. Back to fine.

Each of my Pentax models has been a splendid improvement on the previous model. I do look at the specs of new cameras and scan the reviews, but have never found any real reason to change from my Pentax.

My loyalty is not to any brand, but to what works for me--and the Pentax continues to do just that.

Daily blog: http://ora2.blogspot.com

Using both rangefinder and a Pentax DSLR, I approached the DA21mm lens as a rangefinder version of the 35mm lens, but made for a DSLR.
This means following: DA21 mm is 31.5mm in 135 format, which is just a tad wider than 'traditional' 35mm frame. As such It allows:
- to see a scene slightly wider than a 35mm frame,
- allows for easier framing (which is always more difficult on a DSLRs because we see only what a lens sees),
- it can capture the scene in 31.5 mm,
- which then allows for cropping a little if necessary, for a perfect 35mm fit.

To me, DA21 is *the perfect* lens to experience rangefinder-like photography with a 35mm lens, but on a modern DSLR.

mike i hear you on the 35ltd being just that little bit bit to long and while i have the 31 (which luckily is my natural FOV) for some reason i have an aversion to actually using it out in the elements (the darn thing costs too much) so i'm stuffed both ways, still i'm looking forward to putting them through their paces on a k5-2s

Re. "either Nikon fills out its new FX prime line with a 35mm ƒ/1.8G for FX, or I suck it up and get over the deep-seated psychological barrier I have against spending $1,619 for a lens" - might you consider waiting for the Sigma 35mm f1.4 to become available? If the performance of their 50 is a good indicator, it could be a far better value lens than the Nikkor, and early (casual) reviews seem very positive.

Pentax does have a FF FA35 F2 that is rare to find even in the 2nd hand market.

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