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Pentax K-01 Lens Guide

Choose the lenses that fit the K-01 best! · Posted on 02-07-2012 in Photographic Articles

Have you decided to get a Pentax K-01?  If so, then we hope that through this guide, you will be able to pick out a selection of lenses that will not only allow you to get the most out of your camera, but also make it stylish and compact!

Normally, when a new user buys a Pentax DSLR, he or she is at first confused by the Pentax lens lineup.  Current Pentax K-mount lenses fall into many different sub-categories: some are weather-sealed, some support full-frame cameras, some are designated as "Limited", some have plastic mounts, and some have SDM autofocus, yet only a few are "normal" in the sense that they're part of a run-of-the mill consumer lineup.  On top of that, there are gaps left and right, so not only are the sub-series incomplete, but so is the entire lineup as a whole (but as the goal of this post is neither to provide an overview nor to provide a criticism of current Pentax lenses, we'll let the interested reader do his or her research in the lens database).

Now that the K-01 is entering the market, however, everything is different.  It seems that for the K-01, the natural companion is the Pentax Limited lens.  And that means that in addition to the ultra-compact 40mm kit lens that is bundled with the K-01, there are at least 5 other lenses that go along perfectly with the K-01.  In the remainder of this article, we will share with you what be believe will be the ultimate Pentax K-01 kit.

Before we begin, we'd like to touch on what exactly Pentax Limited lenses are.  Normally "Limited" suggests that something is produced in small quantities.  That's not the case with Pentax Limited lenses however (although limited versions of the Limiteds have been produced in the past, featuring different colors).  A Pentax limited lens is simply a lens featuring a high-quality metal finish with a focus placed on image quality and compactness rather than fast aperture.  You won't see any F1.4 limited lens, but they still take fantastic pictures, and most are small enough to fit in your pocket!

It should also be noted that all Pentax and third-party K-mount lenses are compatible with the Pentax K-01.  For a full listing of these lenses, visit our lens databases. Now, without further ado, we will go ahead and list our proposed K-01 kit (click on any lens to read its reviews):

DA 15mm Limited

For the second-widest prime in the entire Pentax lens lineup, the DA 15mm F4 limited sure is quite small!  It also takes very sharp photos with minimal distortion and lets you experiment with perspective and color to the limit!  The DA 15mm is perhaps the most popular Limited lens on our forum, and its lens club thread on our forum has over 3,000 replies.

DA 21mm Limited

At just 140 grams, the 21mm F3.2 limited is your everyday compact wide-angle solution.  It'll keep your K-01 nice and light and easy to carry around, yet you'll still be able to capture those landscape shots with no trouble at all!

FA 31mm Limited

The FA 31mm F1.8 limited is our personal favorite of the bunch.  You need to own this lens in order to experience the unique "3d" effect it introduces into your photographs!  Combine that with a fast F1.8 aperture and excellent color reproduction and you have an ideal multi-purpose lens!

DA 40mm XS

The DA 40mm F2.8 XS (XS probably stands for eXtra Slim) is a new lens which was launched alongside the K-01.  While it's priced at $249 on its own, if you buy it together with the K-01, you'll only end up paying a generous $149 for it.  Pentax claims that this is the thinnest interchangeable lens in the world, with a depth of only 9.2mm (less than a centimeter, abou 1/3rd of an inch).  They accomplished this by taking the optics of the DA 40mm limited and reducing the image circle to APS-C only (the DA 40mm supports full-frame as it is in turn based on an old M-series lens).  In any case, this lens is the ideal companion for the K-01, as it makes an otherwise-large camera suddenly have the perfect size!  Because of its trusted optical formula, we have no doubts that this lens will be just as sharp as the DA Limited version.

FA 77mm Limited

If you enjoy portrait photography or are in need of the sharp short telephoto, then the FA 77 limited F1.8 is for you!  This lens is among the sharpest in the entire Pentax lineup and like the 15mm, has a tremendous following on our forum.  On top of that, it's quite compact, too, and like all Limiteds, it has a fine metal finish.

DA 100mm Macro WR

You're probably asking yourself why a non-Limited lens is listed on this page.  The reason is simple: we believe that Pentax gave it the wrong name. It features the same metal finish as other DA Limited lenses, and is the smallest Pentax 100mm macro lens to date (although it does get quite big when extended to maximum magnification).  At 340 grams, this lens will still keep your K-01 relatively light while making it even easier to hold due to its length.  While this is an amazingly-sharp macro lens delivering 1:1 magnification, it also doubles as an excellent telephoto, meaning we've now covered all the bases, from ultra-wide through telephoto! See also our in-depth review of the 100mm macro.


At this point you probably also want to ask us where all the zoom lenses went.  Well, if you think about it, the K-01 is a camera designed to deliver very high image quality above all else.  Why then would you want to make compromises by mounting a zoom lens?  In all seriousness, though, zoom lenses do come in handy quite often, and they have their place. That's why we can recommend the Pentax 18-135mm as an all-in-one solution: you can't go wrong with its flexible zoom range and lightning-fast second generation autofocus motor. You might also consider a shorter zoom, such as the Tamron 17-50mm F2.8, as an alternative to the Pentax kit lens.

The K-01 isn't an SLR, however, and it doesn't have a viewfinder.  This means that it won't be as easy to hold steadily with heavy or long lenses, and many current Pentax zooms are one or both of these. So, unless you always carry around a tripod, your goal should be to try to keep things small and light.  And, since small and light doesn't mean bad in Pentax land (thanks to Limited lenses!), why would you opt for anything else?

If you are new to Pentax and have just purchased a K-01, then we would like to recommend that you try being unique and start off with a few prime (non-zoom) lenses rather than opting for all zooms.  More often than not, you'll end up getting better photos with primes, because they make you think about the composition rather than shoot everything that pops into sight and can be framed by zooming. All 6 lenses on this page will probably require a budget of around $3000, and since that's a lot of money, why not go with just your two favorites?

If you're planning on buying any of these lenses today, our friends at B&H have prepared a special K-01 lens page for you to visit!  You may also be interested in seeing what the K-01 looks like with some of these lenses mounted on it.

We hope you enjoyed the read, and welcome your comments below!  We know that there are alternatives to the lenses we listed above, but we feel that the lineup we've picked out will allow for the greatest number of applications.  For example, one could opt for the DA 70mm over the FA 77mm, but we've found the FA lens to do a better job at portraits and it is also about one stop faster.  We hope you get a chance to use some of these lenses in the near future!

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Greyser [Delete] Dec 4th, 2012 1:22AM

What about DA 35/2.8 Macro Ltd? It is very fine and useful lens.

lowlight [Delete] Mar 9th, 2012 6:17AM

Steve T, thanks for your very comprehensive explanation, much appreciated. So, assuming I have got this right, the 18-135mm is roughly equivament in 35mm terms to a 28-200mm, which makes it a very useful walkaround lens. Looking forward to seeing some more video.

Steve T. [Delete] Feb 27th, 2012 4:24PM

Yeesh- less than half, actually. I got hung up on the ratio, not the actual area. Math never was my strong suit.

Adam [Delete] Feb 27th, 2012 1:32PM

It's closer to half the area actually. I agree- don't worry about crop factor or anything like that as it just makes your head hurt more.

Steve T. [Delete] Feb 27th, 2012 1:10PM

lowlight- The APS-C sensor format is 2/3rd the area (roughly 16mm x 24mm) of a "full frame" 35mm (24mm x 36mm) camera sensor, and has the same sensor height to width ratio of 2:3. This means to equate for the "crop factor" of the K-01 (and every Pentax DLSR and similar from other makers, same sensor is in the K-5), multiply that 18-135mm lens by 1.5x. On the K-01, the 18-135mm lens will give the equivalent focal length of 27-202.5mm on a full frame sensor camera (or on a 35mm film camera). The 4/3 cameras have a 2x crop factor, so if you could mount this lens to a 4/3 camera the equiv. focal range would be 36-270mm. One last way of thinking about it, the Pentax K-01 and DSLR's provide 2/3 the viewing area looking through the same lens that could mount on a 35mm/full frame sensor camera. The 4/3 cameras will show 1/2 of the viewing area looking through the same lens on a 35mm camera. This is good news in that you get extra tele reach without having to buy expensive tele lenses (300mm crop = 450mm full frame). And we've got plenty of wide angle lens options (Pentax 10-17mm fish eye, 12-24mm, 14mm prime, 15mm prime, 21mm prime, the various 18-xx zooms, 16-45mm, 17-70mm, and 3rd party options) so we aren't losing any of the full frame wide angle advantage.

I'd suggest not getting caught up in the crop factor thought process, just adds unnecessary confusion. The manufacturers have taken care of that for us, for the most part, with lenses marketed for use with digital cameras. The 18-135mm lens for the crop factor cameras, for example, equates to the 28-200mm zooms that are available for film or full frame DSLR cameras. The 18-50mm DSLR kit zooms replace the 28-80mm kit lens. And so on. And yes, all the lenses shown above are autofocusing lenses, including the new DA 40mm XS.

lowlight [Delete] Feb 27th, 2012 3:27AM

Thanks Finntax, that clears it up.

Finntax [Delete] Feb 23rd, 2012 12:09PM

lowlight: This is not a 4/3 camera, it's a "normal" APS-C without a mirror and VF (basically the whole point of this camera). So 18-135mm will be 18-135mm also with this camera. Those lenses above have all AF.

lowlight [Delete] Feb 17th, 2012 4:14AM

I'm new to Pentax and very interested in the K-01. However, I'm unsure about the crop factor matter where lenses such as those above may have a narrower field of view than designated when fitted to the camera. For example, would the 18-135mm zoom lens still be a 18-135mm when fitted to the K-01 (ie 35mm equivalent)? Or is to more like a 28-200mm? Maybe I'm getting confused with other manufacturer's 4/3 cameras such as Panasonic. Also, do all the lenses suggested above have AF? The new slim 40mm is tiny but I assume they must have fitted a motor in there somewhere! Thanks for any assistance.

Adam [Delete] Feb 10th, 2012 1:33AM

The DA 35mm macro is an excellent lens for the K-01 - it's listed on our "extended list" which can be accessed using the bold link above.

doingthebobs [Delete] Feb 8th, 2012 4:48PM

I think the DA70 would fit in this list, rather than the FA77. Smaller, lighter, fits between the 40-100 and a little more affordable.

isaacc7 [Delete] Feb 8th, 2012 1:01PM

Curious as to why the 35mm macro didn't make the list?

djc737 [Delete] Feb 8th, 2012 12:20PM

Like your list. Mine would be the DA 21 plus DFA 50 and 100 for field trips. Cheers, Dave

Slice [Delete] Feb 7th, 2012 6:00PM

Haha, I'm a Pentaxian for 4 years now, and still haven't got to the Limited, 31 and 77 are my bet, but there is so much manual focus fun for a few bucks. If the camera 5x zoom for focus assist there is a whole line of lenses anyone can afford!
But I have to admit, I still dream of owning a silver 31....

DSims [Delete] Feb 7th, 2012 4:40PM

I chose the FA20 over the DA21. The DA21 is intriguing, but it seems just a little odd (in its rendering of images).

I tried one in the store and was tempted, but decided against it. I certainly wouldn't recommend buying a DA21 unless you have the option to return it. You may love it, but you might not.

rjcassara [Delete] Feb 7th, 2012 3:33PM

FA43 isn't there because of the 40 pancake. The list is trying to cover most of your focal lengths.

That said, if you buy a K-01 body only without the 40mmXS, put the FA43 on this list. It's fantastic.

Heie [Delete] Feb 7th, 2012 2:20PM

And this is why I get angry when people complain about Pentax having one of the poorest lens selections. And then tack on 3rd party available lenses? Really gets me angry...

Soap [Delete] Feb 7th, 2012 2:20PM

DA70? FA43? Que?

Adam [Delete] Feb 7th, 2012 2:16PM

I wouldn't personally swap the FA 20 for the DA 21, though I am willing to bet the DA will be just a bit sharper!

KFrog [Delete] Feb 7th, 2012 12:13PM

Now for those who are not blessed with an all Pentax Limited budget there is also the DA35mm f/2.4 prime lens. It's small, light and inexpensive. Same with the FA50mm f/1.4. For small light weight zooms there is DA18-55mm WR and DA50-200mm WR. Maybe not top notch image quality, but I have seen some excellent photos take with them.

redpigeons [Delete] Feb 7th, 2012 9:33AM

question to you guys? my favorite lens is my FA 20 2.8 , but I playing with the idea of getting the DA 21 finally .
any one know the two lenses is the 21 has quiter focus? which is sharper ? does it worth keeping both ? trade ? or basically any tip you can give me . I LOVE my FA 20 love love love it , but the 21mm looks so sexy

shizmo [Delete] Feb 7th, 2012 6:59AM

Nice little article to introduce some good K01 lens combinations :)

I think ill stick to my 31mm or 35mm not sure yet.

ogl [Delete] Feb 7th, 2012 6:56AM

Where is FA43????

ionutmar [Delete] Feb 7th, 2012 6:33AM

My current buying list for may K5. I think i'll start with 100m. But 4200E in Europe.

Adam [Delete] Feb 7th, 2012 5:57AM

I would appreciate it if you could keep the typo comments to a minimum- this is the result of an all-nighter!