SMC Pentax DA 35mm f/2.4 AL

SMC Pentax DA 35mm f/2.4 AL

The new SMCP DA 35mm f/2.4 AL is Pentax’s foray into the inexpensive standard primes; a large aperture lens with all plastic construction. The questions to ask are: how does a $220 lens stand up against lenses that are either twice its price, does all plastic construction mean the lens has a cheap feel, and how does the f/2.4 aperture stand against competitor’s f/1.8 models?

Build and Handling

The DA 35mm f/2.4 actually feels reasonably well built. It has a plastic barrel that closely resembles the metal barrels of the limited series lenses, with a knurled plastic focus ring at the front. The only thing missing is the focus distance scale. The mount is also made of plastic. The lens is nearly the same size as the SMCP FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited, but the DA 35mm f/2.4 lacks the bulk of the Limited lens.

The quality of the lens actually feels good next to some similar inexpensive plastic lenses. The focus ring is smooth and there isn’t a lot of play in the lens barrel. The main reason it feels cheaper is the lack of weight. The actual build quality is fine given that it is all plastic. Sadly, there is no quick shift focus and the focus ring turns while focusing (same as FA limited lenses).

The lens is a 6 element, 5 group design, with a minimum focus distance of 0.3m (1 ft) and a magnification of about 0.17x. The filter threads are the standard 49mm that Pentax has used for ages, and the lens weighs only 124g (4.4 oz). Being an inexpensive lens it includes neither a hood nor a soft case. It is the lens, press on rear cap, and snap on front cap only.

So how does this lens perform? I have the K-5 and K-7 results following (note, don’t compare sharpness between these 2 cameras as it is hard to say how much the RAW data has been sharpened, I would need to use the standard sharpening method in my software and I am not.)

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28 Comments

  1. Miserere says:

    The Pentax 35mm is a great lens that compliments any standard zoom.

    I think you meant to say complements.

    Thanks for the review!

  2. admin says:

    Hehe, thanks! I can proofread these things 10 times and still miss something 🙂

  3. Corros says:

    Great review, I’m starting to save some money for this lens.

    The difference between f/1.8 for Canikon and F/2.4 for Pentax is maybe not that big because of: http://vimeo.com/14951435

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  5. Tom says:

    You are saying the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 is effectively a 30mm f/2.8. That’s a ridiculous claim! Any proof handy?

    Also, if the only claim to fame of the DA-L 35mm (no one knows why Pentax didn’t not officially include the “L”) is being “1/2 stop faster than a f/2.8 zoom” than it won’t do well, will it?

    Sorry but this review would have been better with just the sample images and no text.

  6. admin says:

    I never said the Sigma was f/2.8, I said that due to sensor vignetting the Sigma is maybe effectively f/1.8 or so.

    Secondly, this lens is much sharper in the corners than any f/2.8 zoom, and is still 1/2 a stop larger aperture, and costs about 1/3rd as much as an f/2.8 zoom over that range.

    I am not saying the Sigma doesn’t have its advantages, it is effectively significantly larger f/stop and is great for low light and ultra sharp centers.

    I removed the part in question from the review until I have more empirical data, and it doesn’t really belong in this review, it should be its own topic.

    Eric

  7. Han Haitjema says:

    Small linguistic thing “The only thing missing is the lack of a focus distance scale.”. I suppose you miss the scale, not the lack of it.

  8. admin says:

    Thanks! Fixed.

  9. aviavi says:

    That tree shot is suitable for a Prince Album Cover: all purple. That seems like an inordinate amount of PF, no?

  10. admin says:

    It has a fair amount, but the shot is designed to show it at its worst (several f/stops over-exposed). It isn’t really noticeable in most shots. The K-5 sensor also shows much more purple fringing than the K-7, so I think it might be in part that sensor. I will try a similar shot with my K-7.

  11. Stan says:

    Thanks for the review. I’ve been looking for some feedback on this budget friendly lens (for those of us who haven’t received HQ’s blessing to stock up on Limited lenses yet.)

    It’s got to be a step-up from trying to manually focus my old k-mount primes at the family get-together.

  12. Tom says:

    It is a “Pentax DA L 35mm f/2.4″. Nobody knows why Pentax got the name wrong.

    Every fast lens will face sensor vignetting. That”s no reason to avoid them or favour slow primes like an f/2.4.

    I wouldn’t speculate about the K-5’s sensor producing PF. It probably just shows it better than inferior sensors.

  13. admin says:

    What makes the DA 35mm f/2.4 a slow prime when an f/2.8 zoom is considered “fast”? There is still an advantage to using fast primes, as they still do let in more light. I didn’t mean to imply there wasn’t. However, you are looking at maybe 2/3rds of a stop or so between a Nikon 35mm f/1.8 and a Pentax 35mm f/2.4, and there should be about 3/4 difference. If a person needs the extra light they would buy the Pentax 31mm f/1.8 or a Sigma 30mm f/1.4.

    The K-7 sensor is inferior in ways, but not in all. It is definitely better with purple fringing. Would I take the K-5 sensor over it for most applications? Yes.

    Eric

  14. admin says:

    Okay, I added a couple images with the K-5 and K-7 to the gallery showing the differences in purple fringing. I did the best to equalize the colors, which actually improved the K-5 a lot as the difference was even more dramatic before doing so.

  15. Tom says:

    I have this lens and I am very happy with it. It’s fast, this was taken hand held at dawn: http://www.pentaxphotogallery.com/artist/galleryimages/gallery_image_11686220.jpg

  16. Algi says:

    Some really interesting reviews. Nice to see a mix of old and new. I would like to see the A 50mm f/1.7 included?

    This lens is fine at f/2.4….. Digital screens can’t see anything wider anyway, unless you get a special screen which probably isn’t available for pentax. Try your DOF preview on a 1.4 to check. Also See:
    http://www.kenrockwell.com/canon/slrs/5d/focus-screens.htm

  17. Lyubomir says:

    About the mystery “that the corners are not as sharp on the K-7 as they are on the K-5”, – there’s no logic – I think that you have a little front or back focusing problem with your K7 and DA35mm 1:2.4;(the same is valid for F 50mm 1:1.7 – it is sharper than FA 50 1.4).
    P.S You could make some additional manual focus shots with K7 and DA 35mm!

  18. admin says:

    No, all shots are manually focused, and I bracket focus many shots for each aperture setting. My experience with the 50mm f/1.7 and 1.4 does not match what you say. I have tested 2 copies of the A 50mm f/1.4 and they both tested similarly. I have tested one 50mm f/1.7 lens, but I don’t have reason to think it performs any different from others, but next time I have one I will test it.

    As for differences in corner sharpness between the K-5 and K-7 it is probably slight measurement differences between two tests (The DA is very sensitive to manual focus adjustments making it slightly difficult) or it could possibly be differences in microlenses on the sensor and how slightly off angle light from the rear of the lens hit those lenses, but I have no interest in investigating it further as I don’t see any reason to compare the differences between the two cameras.

  19. standors says:

    Pentax 35/f2.4 is NOT FAST PRIME. Fast prime is f1.4-f2.0. I understand it could be an quasi “fast” prime for slow (f3.5-5.6) zoom owners, for them such lens makes an reason to buy. BUT for such owners I would surely recommend to buy 17-50/2.8 Tamron for cca 300Eur, in contrast to 35/f2.4 for 190Eur. I think fast zoom like 17-50/2.8 is very popular and already wider used. For FAST ZOOM f2.8 owner I can’t find a reason to buy 35/f2.4 PRIME. The prices of Pentax fast primes are really high ( beside FA 50/1.4 ). All canon, nikon, sony,… owner have inexpensive 50, 35, 85 mm f1.8-f2.0 primes !!!! Pentax owners have NONE. It’s really a shame for Pentax and bad luck for Pentax body owners. Its also a pity that probably also Sigma , Tamron will not produce such inexpensive fast primes, because canon, nikon, sony have them and it would be very difficult to sell similar 3rd party lens if good & cheap 1rd party lens is available. Pentax FA 35/f2 is cca 660Eur, I would recommend to buy Sigma 30/f1.4 ,cca 440Eur, for Pentax body. 30mm is usually more useful than 35mm and f1.4 vs. f2.4 is really big difference. Sigma has very sharp center, very nice BOKEH, softer corners are for f1.4 lens not big concern, because in real life shots corners would be out of focus anyway, with any lens. Pentax primes have an advantage they are small and light. BUT for such reason mirrorless cameras/lenses are already here (and will come much more ). Why to buy Pentax primes? If size & weight is a big concern, better go mirrorless, you get it smaller , lighter & much cheaper !!!! E.g Samsung NX 35/f2.0 pancake lens is very small/light, super optic and costs cca 190Eur.

  20. admin says:

    It is what it is. People generally don’t complain about the DA limited primes which are generally between f/2.4 and f/3.2 for aperture, and f/2.4 is significantly (half a stop) faster than an f/2.8 zoom. It is a good buy and that is the bottom line.

    The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 is a good buy for Pentax, but so is the DA 35mm f/2.4 AL. The question is do you want the extra f/stop+ of the Sigma? It costs twice as much, but is worth it if you want the f/stop.

    I agree, the Samsung NX 30mm f/2 is a great buy, but remember it is much cheaper to make a 30mm lens large aperture on a mirrorless camera with a shorter registration distance. In the US it does cost about $100 more than the DA 35mm f/2.4, but it is only half an f/stop faster, so you pay more to get more.

    I still strongly recommend the DA 35mm f/2.4, and it is a still a good buy.

  21. Jan says:

    Thank you so much I really enjoyed reading your reveiw on this prime lens. I am on a pretty tight budget and I was going to buy the DA 16-45mm f/4 but after reading this I will save the extra and get the DA 35mm f/2.4

  22. ytterbium says:

    “People generally don’t complain about the DA limited primes which are generally between f/2.4 and f/3.2 for aperture”

    Actually they do. Whenever new DA LTD was announced, majority of people in the forums were like “no it cant be” “what, why” “must get FA’s before they’re gone”.

    And i dont think its as much about speed. Its more important to the DOF. With sigmas 1.4 and the wide view it is possible to get very strong sense of presence and 3d effect.

  23. Simon T says:

    This lens is too slow I suggest not bothering it’s also cheaply made (ok it’s cheap enough) has no hood and feels fragile. You don’t even get a proper front/rear lens cap either.
    f2.4 is 3/4 of a stop slower than a 35mm f1.8 that is significant and the reason why most this is a let down

  24. wed says:

    I may be late in adding comment here but I just want to ask whether this DA L is better than the DA 35 f2.8 Macro in terms of optical quality.

    Thank you

  25. admin says:

    They are both good. The DA-L 35mm is a better value maybe, but also cheap feeling. I would go with the cheaper DA-L if I were on a budget or more concerned with landscape/infinity focus.

  26. Slowroller says:

    I just received delivery of this lens. Its billed as manual or auto focus but on my K7 I have no clue how to manual focus. I have tried using the lens mount button to disengage the camera motor as well as just slowly forcing through the motor resistance. However once focused, when I go to fire the shutter the auto focus quickly refocuses to its preference and negates my manual focus.

    I don’t find anything on the camera or in the menus to disengage the focus motor. What am I missing here?

  27. admin says:

    You have to set the camera to manual focus, the switch is on the left hand side of the mount (if looking through viewfinder from rear of camera). The switch is labeled, AF MF, switch it to MF and it should work.

    Hope that helps!

    Eric