on 18 October 2012
Given the price, this lens really is great value for money. It has good corner to corner sharpness across the frame, even at lower apertures, and even wide open. Sharpness in the center is also good. As is customary for Pentax lenses, colour and contrast are also excellent. Bokeh, even of busy backgrounds, is perfectly acceptable, even wide open. I've not had the time to do a compare/contrast against other lenses, and besides which, I wouldn't be able to compare apples to apples anyway.
On the focusing side of things, with such a short throw, and light focusing mechanism, this lens focuses extremely fast on my K30, and doesn't seem to hunt much at all in low light. It also tracks fine as well. Quick-Shift focus is missing, which is a shame, but I don't think any manufacturer would offer this on this price class.
Build quality is also perfectly acceptable, and the plastic mount is not an issue to worry about in my usage scenarios (i.e. I tend to be careful with lenses, and not throw them on the floor - the only real scenario I can see where you'd have an issue - and that I'd expect with any lens!). The plastic construction also has advantages in that the lens is extremely light.
Length of the lens is approximately normal on the Pentax Crop Factor, and therefore has all the expected characteristics of a 50mm lens.
The only thing I would prefer is if it were half a stop faster, f2.0 or f1.8. But this isn't the end of the world with current ISO performance on a modern body.
on 11 March 2015
I bought this lens about a year ago for a Pentax K-r, now it's being used on the K3. Here are my impressions:
- Build -
The lens barrel and mount are exclusively made from plastic, but not the cheap kind. The lens still feels very solid, there is no gap tolerance, no wobble. Even though it's designated 'DA' instead of 'DA L', it lacks quick shift, a metal mount and a distance scale, which means it actually falls into the latter category. As a result the lens is very light and compact, it even fits in my jacket's pocket easily.
- Optical performance -
I don't have a lab at home to run dedicated optical tests, but subjectively the DA 35 f/2.4 renders very well. It's so sharp at f/2.4 that I usually use it wide open - I expect it to get sharper when stopped down, but I've not really paid attention to it, so I don't know how much it improves at f/5.6 or f/8. Contrast is very good and the lens is extremely flare resistance. I bought a dedicated hood for it (Pentax doesn't include one) and haven't noticed much of a difference. The bokeh is good, but nothing to rave about. Depending on the background it can be rather busy. I haven't noticed any prominent CA or distortion so far and there is hardly any vignetting, even wide open.
- Autofocus -
The AF is relatively fast and precise (when calibrated, see below). As with all Pentax screw driven lenses it has often been described by reviewers as very 'noisy', and it is indeed rather audible. If you work for the MI6, I recommend you get something else. In everyday shooting it's rarely irritating though. When I initially got the lens I was very satisfied with the sharpness. Now (about a year later) I recently performed a dedicated focus test with all my lenses and was very surprised to find that my copy exhibits a rather strong front focus. I ended up dialling in a +8 focus adjustment in camera and results improved noticeably. So what's the story here? The negative side is that I got a lens that doesn't focus accurately (though there is always a factory tolerance on both the camera's and lens' side which if you're lucky cancel each other out, and if you're unlucky add up). The positive side is that the DA 35 turns out to be even sharper than I thought initially.
- Conclusion -
Despite its all-plastic construction, the Pentax DA 35 f/2.4 feels solid and well made. Optically it renders well above its price class, sharpness and contrast are excellent. Even though Nikon's and Canon's similar offerings are faster (f/1.8), the Pentax is smaller and much lighter. As a first prime lens and for the current asking price it really is a no-brainer.
For the lack of a metal bayonet and mostly the noisy AF (most other manufacturers deliver fast and silent AF even in this price range) I'm subtracting one star for a total 4/5.
on 20 January 2015
I've had this plastic fantastic almost 2 years now, and it's been a little revelation. Here are some plus and minus points that I feel are worth noting.
- Well made. Even though it is an all plastic body and mount, it's very solid. In my experience, the plastic mount is no problem, just as it's never been a problem in my 18-55mm DAL. Obviously, you wouldn't want to drop it - but even if it was all metal, this wouldn't save the glass.
- It's a sharp lens, even if it doesn't have the highest resolution according to DxOMark (8 P-Mpix, depending on the body it's mounted on). The rendering is pleasant - not too clinical, although not with the character of old glass, since this is definitely a "modern" lens with better coatings etc.
- AF is fast, and quiet (for a screw driven lens, of course), and there's no hunting, even in low light.
- The lens handles flare like a champ, seems to be quite free of CA (my copy is, at least), even in difficult situations where most of my other lenses exhibit it to some degree. I do use a cheap rubber hood (to fit the 49mm filter diameter) to prevent stray light from hitting the front element at an angle - helping the lens to achieve optimal contrast.
- The ergonomics are very good, the lens feels just right on my K-r. Perhaps it might feel light on a K-7, K-5 or K-3, but I would guess it would be fine, since lightness is hardly likely to be a downside for a lens.
Since this is a fast lens, I'll talk about that in the next two points:
- Light gathering ability is good enough for night shooting hand-held, and I've had some joy doing night street photography. It's perfectly adequate for indoor shooting too, provided the lights aren't too low. I would guess that the T-stop is about as close to the F-stop as could be expected. As would be expected with any 35mm lens, a shutter speed of just 1/50s is fast enough to avoid shots being spoiled by camera shake. And, since all Pentax bodies have SR, you can get about 3 stops better performance than that - meaning reasonably sharp handheld shots at 1/8s or even 1/6s are quite easy to achieve with proper technique (for still subjects, of course).
- Bokeh is, for the most part, pretty pleasant. However, it's really not possible to be objective about the quality of bokeh, since it's very much a matter of personal taste! Obviously, there's a greater DoF than a 50mm f/1.8 would have, since the FOV is wider and the aperture less narrow. Also, it doesn't focus especially closely (min. focusing distance = 30cm or 1ft), so if your subject is close to a "busy" background, then the blurring of the background is likely to seem "busier" too. If you know what you're doing, then you can get quite lovely bokeh, so I'm including this as a positive. Besides, when you consider the price of a 35mm f/1.8 vs. this f/2.4, I think you can appreciate that you're getting good bang for the buck here!
- For manual focusing, the focus throw is just a bit too short, however, it is smooth at least. When you are working with apertures like f/4 and beyond, DoF isn't so fine and focus isn't so critical. At f/2.4, however, you need to be a little more patient.
- There is no aperture ring. This means that if you want to use extension tubes to shoot macro, you'll need ones that support automatic aperture (KA). If you reverse mount the lens, then you might use a toothpick to open the aperture a bit to approximately f/8, as per your best guess.
- The lens exhibits a fair amount of vignetting at f/2.4. It's mostly gone at f/3.5, and I can't see it anymore at f/4. It's also a little softer in the corners, but again, once you stop down a bit, that problem is gone.
- There is some
- While in my copy, I can honestly say that CA is NOT a problem, DxOMark state that it's 9nm, which is quite high (about 1.8px wide). I have never felt the need to correct for CA with this lens, and I don't have in-body CA correction turned on. I experience more CA with most of my other lenses. I may have an exceptional copy, or DxOMark may have been testing a defective copy with poor coatings - who knows?
In fairness, these negatives aren't much of a criticism, since this is an AF lens that you're not likely to want to manually focus with, and 35mm, whether using extension tubes or reversing the lens, isn't going to give the best macro results anyway. The vignetting can actually look quite arty, and is really nice in casual portraits (even if the 52mm equiv. focal length is at least 30mm too short for classic portraits), and is gone from f/4.
Perhaps the best application for this lens is street photography, where it really excels, although it's my no.1 walkaround lens. I use it for landscapes, details, casual portraits, street photography, interiors (where wide angle isn't essential) and non-macro flower shots (that's basically everything, isn't it?). I suppose the main downside is that it's just so useful, and I use it so much, that I have a tendency to just take it for granted ;)
For what it's worth, I've included some sample shots.
on 23 June 2014
To really enjoy this lens you need to accept what it is. The body and mount are plastic and it is very light. But the important bit, the glass, is fantastic, not just fantastic because it's a cheap lens to buy and your expectations are low, and maybe when you can afford it you can buy a better version, forget that. It is fantastic in its own right, my images are wonderful, the colour rendition is superb. Some say the Bokeh is fussy and overpowering, well it is what it is, I like it, those that don't would probably be buying a Limited lens anyway. I will never be without this lens, if I drop it or loose it I will buy another.
on 18 May 2013
As others have said, the optical quality is wonderful. The f/2.4 aperture is somewhat slow for a standard prime. But sharpness is very satisfying wide open and right across the frame, so there's no need to stop down (except for more depth of field of course). The background blur can be slightly nervous, probably due to the aspherical element, but mostly it's pleasant enough (and for serious bokeh I would use a longer lens anyway). Colour, depth and 'pop' are excellent, as with most Pentax glass. So why is it so cheap? Well, it makes do with a cheap (albeit reasonably robust) plastic casing and mount with basic screw-driven (but fast and accurate) autofocus. This does, however, make the lens very small and light. And because it is so cheap you can take it anywhere (to the beach for example) without worrying too much about having to 'baby' it. Overall a great general purpose walk about lens and, all things considered, a stunning bargain. For this reason I'm quite content with its plain Jane looks.