SMC Pentax-FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited Lens Review
John Riley reviews the SMC Pentax-FA 77mm f/1.8 limited lens.
This is the third of the Pentax Limited hand assembled lenses that are designed for film. Pentax have always offered some odd focal lengths and this 77mm equates to a 35mm-equivalent of 115.5mm when used on an APS-C format DSLR. This is very close to the 120mm portrait lenses that Pentax offered, so on digital the length has some potential. Being designed for film, and not a telecentric design, it will be interesting to see how this lens performs in the digital age and whether or not it lives up to its formidable reputation.
The 77mm is a hand assembled lens, made to the highest standards as is evident from its aluminium construction and the fine, precise quality of the engravings. The distance scale is viewed through a cut out as per the older M series lenses. A depth of field scale is provided and this also includes an infra-red focusing mark.
There is a built in lens hood, a very welcome feature. The lens cap is of a finely machined and finished aluminium that matches the lens construction. It fits securely on the lens, assisted by the green plush velvet lining.
There is an aperture ring, and this should be set to “A” for the purposes of retaining full functionality on the DSLR range.
The lens comprises 7 elements in 6 groups, suggesting a high degree of corrections for a lens of this type. Despite the metal construction, this compact 77mm weighs in at just 270g. The 9 bladed diaphragm makes an almost perfectly circular aperture which bodes well for the overall image quality that we might expect.
The lens is compact and fits firmly and smoothly onto the camera body. The quality of construction is evident from the start and engenders confidence. The pull out lens hood is smooth in operation and has no tendency to move out of true, unlike some cheaper lenses.
The manual focusing is also smooth, albeit with a very different feel to the traditional silky smoothness of older conventional lenses. The technology has clearly changed, but is still totally satisfactory.
Focusing on the K-5 is fast and positive and no adjustment to the point of focus is needed on this sample at least. If required, lens AF can be fine tuned in the K-5 and some other recent Pentax DSLRs. Up to 20 lenses can be fine tuned and retained in the camera's memory.
77mm is a good focal length for a short telephoto and is suitable for selective landscapes, architecture, some close sports, portraits in particular and even wildlife to a limited extent. For many, portraiture will be an obvious choice and an area of particular interest. The lens already has a formidable reputation on film for this application, so we shall see if this holds up on a DSLR.
Flare is virtually non-existent and distortion almost eliminated as well. Around 0.03% pincushion distortion is irrelevant photographically and an outstanding performance.
In more pictorial terms, this is indeed an outstanding lens that gives superb detail, contrast and lovely skin textures. There is wonderful bokeh, aided by the almost circular aperture, and the 77mm holds up on digital just as well as film. Its fine reputation is entirely justified and intact.
Given the high construction standards, superb image quality and the compact construction this lens is a great prospect for portraiture and general travel. Its cost is higher than the average plastic bodied lens, but in terms of what it delivers I feel the price is a justifiable one. A Leica lens of the same quality would cost a good deal more, which is perhaps the way to look at it. There is everything to like about the Pentax 77mm Limited and the only thing to ask is how it can be afforded. This is one of the best Pentax lenses I have used.
|A superb lens whose high price is entirely justified.|
SMC Pentax-FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited Lens: Pros
High quality construction
Superb optical performance
Useful focal length
SMC Pentax-FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited Lens: Cons
May not be affordable for everyone
|VALUE FOR MONEY|
|Angle of View||31.5 degrees|
|Construction||7 elements / 6 groups|
|Focusing Range||0.7m - infinity|
|Dimensions (Length x Diameter)||48 x 64mm|
|Kit Content||Front cap