Pentax K-30 Lens Guide

Recommended lens selection for Pentax's new outdoor DSLR

By PF Staff in Gear Guides on Jul 31, 2012
Pentax K-30 Lens Guide

Now that our Pentax K-30 review has been posted, we'd like to take this opportunity to recommend a few lenses which we think suit this camera particularly well!

First, let's begin with the Pentax K-30 kit options.  While they do vary from country to country, chances are that one of more of these are offered in your area:

Recommended Kits

Pentax 18-135mm WR
Of these five kits, we recommend that you either get the 18-135mm WR bundle, or stick with just the body and then buy your lenses separately.  The 18-135mm is the only kit lens to offer weather sealing, and it's a great lens regardless, as it offers a very handy zoom range and fast, quiet DC autofocus while delivering better image quality than the 18-55mm kit lens (see our in-depth review of the 18-135mm for more).  Plus, the 18-135mm kit will save you a good chunk of money, as the MSRP of the lens is $529- $180 higher than its price in the bundle.  If you don't think that you'll be using this lens much as a walkaround, however, then we recommend that you pick up the K-30 body and buy the weather sealed version of the 18-55mm in order to be able to take advantage of the outdoor capabilities of the K-30 (note that in certain European countries, the 18-55mm WR is actually offered in K-30 a bundle).  Then, you'll be able to add other lenses individually as needed.

Pentax 18-55mm WR

Pentax Lens Series Overview

So why do we not favor the three other lens kits?  Well, in order to answer that question, we need to take a look at the difference between the Pentax DA and DA L lens series.  The DA lens series is Pentax's current digital lineup.  With two exceptions*, all current DA lenses feature a metal lens mount, come with lens hoods, and allow you to manually override the focus setting at any time (have "Quick Shift").  Some DA lenses have the "WR" designation, which means that they are weather sealed, or the "SDM" designation, which means they have silent autofocus. DA L lenses are optically identical to their DA-series counterparts, but they have plastic mounts, no Quick Shift, and don't come with lens hoods.  DA L lenses cannot be purchased separately from retailers as they are meant to be affordable kit lenses.  Two other lens series exist: D FA, and DA*.  The former includes current digital lenses which also cover the full-frame image circle, and the latter is Pentax's premium/professional lineup, in which all lenses feature top-of-the-line image quality, improved build quality, weather sealing, and silent focusing.  Read more about the different Pentax lens series here.

Pentax DA L 55-300mm

Going back to the DA L K-30 kits: we think that the only DA L lens worth getting is the 55-300mm, as it's simply a more affordable version of the regular DA 55-300mm.  The DA L 50-200mm isn't an exceptional lens, as it has less reach and slightly worse image quality compared to the 55-300mm. As far as the DA L 18-55mm goes, we would have liked to see it replaced by the weather-sealed version in the K-30 kits.  If you end up getting the K-30 body and would like to add the DA L 55-300mm to your lineup, second-hand copies are frequently available in the Pentax Marketplace.  While the dual-lens kits can be quite versatile overall, we feel that it wasn't right for Pentax to bundle so many non-weather-sealed lenses with the K-30.

Recommended Lenses

Now, let's take a look at other lenses that we recommend for the K-30.  For each lens category, we include both weather-sealed and non-weather-sealed lenses, so that you can come up with a kit that's tailored to fit your needs and your budget.  We're not going to mention the 18-135mm or 18-55mm WR lenses below, but you may assume that they fall under the walkaround category.

Ultra-Wide Angle

Zoom:
Pentax DA 12-24mm F4
Prime:
Pentax DA 15mm F4 Limited
Pentax_12-24_5.jpg Pentax_DA_15mm.jpg
This lens has withstood the test of time.  It delivers fantastic image quality and offers the convenience of a zoom for ultra-wide-angle photography.  See our comparative review! The Pentax 15mm F4 Limited is arguably one of Pentax's best prime lenses.  If you're a prime shooter, then we can recommend this lens for just about any Pentax camera, as it can be used for landscapes and close-ups alike!  Check out the in-depth review.

Wide-Angle / Walkaround

Weather-sealed Zoom:
Pentax DA* 16-50mm F2.8
Zoom:
Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 C
Prime:
Pentax DA 35mm F2.4
221200712913.jpg Sigma 17-70mm SMC_Pentax-DAL_35mm_F24_AL.jpg
If you need weather-sealing in a premium walkaround lens, then the DA* 16-50mm is for you. Read our comparative review; see also the Sigma 17-50mm F2.8. This is a very handy lens if you don't need weather sealing, as it offers a wider zoom range than the 18-55mm kit lens and better image quality than the 18-135mm. In-depth review Priced at under $200, the Pentax 35mm F2.4 is a very popular choice as an intro-level prime. See our comparative & in-depth reviews!

Normal / Short Tele

Weather-sealed zoom:
Pentax DA* 50-135mm F2.8
Weather-sealed Prime:
Pentax 55mm F1.4
Prime:
Pentax 50mm F1.8
221200712935.jpg SMC_Pentax-DA_star_55mm_F14_SDM.jpg smc_Pentax-DA_50_1_8_x600.jpg
The Pentax DA* 50-135mm lens corresponds roughly to a 70-200mm lens on film.  It goes along well together with the 16-50mm, and while it feels a little too short at times, it is a versatile lens. This lens can serve three purposes: portrait photography, outdoor photography, and low-light photography.  Thus it is very versatile overall, although the ultrasonic autofocus slow compared to the other Pentax 50mm lenses. Comparative review coming soon! The new Pentax DA 50mm F1.8 is an affordable alternative to the DA* 55mm and the old full-frame 50mm F1.4 lens.  Its launch MSRP was $249. Review coming soon!

Macro

Weather-sealed Prime:
Pentax D FA 100mm F2.8 WR Macro
Prime:
Tamron 90mm F2.8 Macro
smc_Pentax-D_FA_100_2_8_Macro_WRx800.jpg 1_Tamron_SP_Di_90mm_Macro.jpg
The Pentax D FA 100mm macro features a very compact weather-sealed design and delivers unmatched image quality using an optical formula that has stood the test of time.  See our in-depth review. This sharp lens is a more affordable alternative to the 100mm macro from Pentax.  See our comparative review.

Telephoto

Weather-sealed zoom:
Pentax DA* 60-250mm F4
Zoom:
Pentax 55-300mm F4-5.8
Zoom:
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 OS HSM
SMC_Pentax-DA_60-250mm.jpg SMC_Pentax-DA_55-300mm.jpg Sigma 70-200mm
The Pentax DA* 60-250mm delivers exceptional image quality and has the advantage of being weather-sealed.  It is one of the highest-rated lenses by our members. As we mentioned earlier, the Pentax DA 55-300mm lens delivers very good image quality in an affordable and versatile package.  A used DA L series copy can be had for under $250. See our in-depth review. If you need faster autofocus and a little more speed than the Pentax 60-250mm, and can live without weather sealing, then we can also highly recommend the Sigma 70-200mm F2.8.  See our comparative review and also the Tamron 70-200mm.

We believe that from among the lenses listed above, many excellent and versatile kits for your Pentax K-30 can be built!  We know that everyone has different needs, however, so we welcome you to make further recommendations based on your personal experience through comments.  We also invite you to browse all the available lenses for the K-30 in the following sections of our site:

*The budget DA 35mm F2.4 and DA 50mm F1.8 primes, which we believe should have been branded as "DA L" lenses, have plastic mounts, no Quick Shift, and don't come with lens hoods.

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