HD Pentax-D FA 24–70mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR: Quintessential Workhorse

 

K Madhavan Pillai tests the full-frame HD Pentax-D FA 24–70mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR, and find out if it is indeed the workhorse that Pentaxians need.

HD Pentax-D FA 24-70mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR

HD Pentax-D FA 24–70mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR

Over the past couple of years, manufacturers have clearly put their best foot forward, releasing excellent lenses in this focal range. The Pentax K-1, that I tested in the November 2016 issue, quite exceeded my expectations as Pentax’s very first full-frame DSLR. The new HD Pentax-D FA 24–70mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR is intended to match up to it. In this regard, like the K-1, it is an important release that will go on to shape consumer expectations from Pentax.

Features

The optical assembly of the lens is rather complex (as is wont to be in lenses in this category), with 17 elements in 12 groups. There are three aspherical, three extra low dispersion and one ‘Anomalous Dispersion’ glass element. The lens also features a High Definition (HD) multi-coating, and a Super-Protect (SP) coating on the front element to repel water, grease and dirt. The diaphragm has nine blades to improve bokeh.

 The versatility of a good 24-70mm is rather enjoyable. It was raining and the lens was fully drenched when I got this photograph. Exposure: 1/80sec at f/11 (ISO 4000) , Photograph/K Madhavan Pillai

The versatility of a good 24–70mm is rather enjoyable. It was raining and the lens was fully drenched when I got this photograph. Exposure: 1/80sec at f/11 (ISO 4000) , Photograph/K Madhavan Pillai

AF is achieved with a Supersonic Direct Motor (SDM), for fast, silent focus. The closest focusing distance is a useful 0.38m (a magnification of 0.20x). The lens is equipped with a useful full-time MF override function called ‘Quick Shift’. The WR notation indicates that the 24–70mm is heavily sealed against dust and moisture, and can withstand splashes or light rain… again an exceptionally useful feature, considering that the K1 is similarly weatherproofed as well.

The 24–70mm does not come with image stabilisation, unlike lenses from other manufacturers, and it does not need it. Pentax DSLRs, including the K-1, have very effectively stabilised sensors, making absolutely any lens mounted on it a stabilised lens. The filter thread of the 24-70mm is a rather large 82mm. A petal shaped hood comes with the lens. The 24–70mm equates to 37-107mm on APS-C sensor cameras, and the lens compatible with previous APS-C sensor Pentax DSLRs released across the last few years.

Handling

The lens is substantially built, and agreeably weighty. It balances well on the K-1 and feels quite comfortable in the hand, with the fingers easily adjusting to the positions of the textured zoom and focus rings. Operationally, this is a rather straightforward lens. The wide zoom ring is smooth and rotates with a slight heft. The focus ring can be adjusted with a finger and works quite well to override AF for minute adjustments, especially useful at closer focus distances. The distance scale is under a clear plastic window, gives distances in both feet and meters, but does not have any DOF scale.

Performance

Having experienced previous Pentax lenses, the absolutely silent focusing came as a pleasant surprise. A large part of the AF performance depends on the camera. With the K-1, AF is sufficiently quick and does not hunt about. Though not the fastest in its class, you won’t miss your shot.

Optically, the lens does extremely well too, even in comparison to other marquee lenses. While it still does not compare to the many primes I’ve tested, it produce an excellent level of consistent sharpness for a lens in its category, center to edge, right from f/2.8 onwards and all the way to f/11. This is its strongest quality and one that Pentax users will find appealing.

I noticed slight fringing at the edges across focal lengths and apertures, but nothing that can’t be corrected in post, or in-camera with JPEGs. As with other similar lenses, flare and distortion were well controlled across the range.

Conclusion
Other things being equal with lenses of other manufacturers, there are still four compelling reasons for a Pentax user to buy this lens. Firstly, it is home-grown Pentax glass, and perfectly suited to the K-1’s high resolution sensor. Secondly, it is consistently and usefully sharp and very competitively so. Thirdly, the lens comes with a level of weathersealing that other manufacturers do not offer, including its ability to withstand rain. And finally, at Rs. 93,000, it is the lowest priced among other proprietary lenses in its class. If you own the K-1, or any APS-C DSLR from Pentax and are considering an upgrade, you simply can’t go wrong with the Pentax 24-70mm f/2.8.

FINAL RATINGS
Features
Weather resistance, silent motor, f/2.8
17/20
Performance
Consistent shaprness, fast and quiet AF, good control over flare and distortion
32/35
Build Quality
Metal / polycarponate build, sturdy
21/25
Ergonomics
Excellent overall handling
14/15
Warranty & Support
Three years warranty, wide service network
4/5
MRP Rs. 93,000
OVERALL 88%
VALUE FOR MONEY 4/5
Who should buy it? Any Pentaxian on an upgrade path, looking for a go-to lens, especially with the K-1.
Why? Optically, the lens holds its own. The build and handling are excellent. It comes with a three year warranty.
Tags: better photography, HD PENTAX-D FA 24-70mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR, January 2017, K Madhavan Pillai, Lens, Pentax