Recommended Pentax Gear 2016
A selection cameras and lenses that stand out
By PF Staff in Gear Guides on Nov 14, 2016
The Pentax/Ricoh camera and lens lineups have evolved tremendously since last year's recommended gear guide, so the time has come for us to make new recommendations for our community.
Collectively, our writers and reviewers have handled every Pentax digital camera as well as every digital-era lens available for Pentax, and then some. Each piece of equipment found in this guide has been carefully selected as something that stands out through performance, value, or both. Whether you are looking to expand your Pentax kit or simply planning to get a new camera, we are confident that you will be very happy with our recommendations!
Of course, we can't recommend everything— if an item you've been eyeing isn't on our list, it could still very well be right for you. As always, you can get personalized gear advice on the forum.
Most notably, back in February, Pentax finally entered the full-frame DSLR market after making only APS-C bodies for well over a decade. The Pentax K-1, a 36-megapixel beast, has proved not only to be popular among existing Pentax owners, but it also attracted quite a big crowd of newcomers to the brand. The camera was accompanied by five high-quality zoom lenses (including the "trinity" of F2.8 zooms), with five more lenses slated to make a debut as early as 2017.
On the APS-C front, the new Pentax K-70 bridges affordability with premium image quality: it is the first sub-flagship DSLR to offer 14-bit RAW image capture, and it does this at a lower introductory price than last year's K-S2. The K-S2 has in turn dropped in price to become an excellent option for beginners. While crop format enthusiasts are still waiting for a "true" replacement for the high-end K-3 II (a minor update to the recently-discontinued K-3 from November, 2013), the former continues to deliver reliable performance and excellent durability.
Many of our readers might not be aware of a third big development for Ricoh Imaging: the Theta system, which reached Amazon's #1 best-seller rank earlier this year (among compact cameras). These innovative 360-degree cameras can capture your entire surroundings at the push of a button. They can be used standalone or controlled via a smartphone/tablet, and the photos can be viewed as traditional JPEGs or interactive spheres. The Theta's form factor and its social aspect is the key to its success. The latest models, the Theta S and SC, use two high-resolution sensors and bright lenses to deliver excellent detail and low noise. Learn more in our Theta S review.
Where to Shop
If you live in the US, shop with confidence at B&H Photo and Adorama: the two largest Pentax retailers that stock the entire Pentax lineup year-round. Amazon also carries the majority of Pentax products, though not all sellers are authorized. If you're in the UK, WEX Photographic carries the full Pentax lens line. If you live elsewhere in the EU, UK-based SRS Microsystems will ship straight to your door, or you can opt for one of dozens of local retailers. Users in Australia and New Zealand can order directly from the official Pentax distributor, CR Kennedy. Orders under $1000 (AUD) can also be imported to Australia from the aforementioned US retailers with no added GST. If you're in Canada, you can order most items from B&H and Adorama with little or no customs fees, or shop at local photo retailers such as Henry's.
Links to learn more or to order are included alongside each item in this guide. However over the "check current pricing" button to view current prices. Lastly, don't miss our in-depth reviews, which are linked in the listings below.
The prices quoted in this guide are US full retail prices as of November, 2016. Prices may vary in different markets and during sales. See our deal finder for a list of cameras and lenses currently on sale!
Glossary of Terms
- WR: Weather Resistant (weather sealed)
- AF: Autofocus
- SDM / DC / PLM: Silent autofocus (Pentax lenses)
- HSM: Silent autofocus (Sigma lenses)
- FA: Pentax film-era lenses
- DA: Pentax digital lenses for APS-C
- D FA: Pentax digital lenses for full frame
- DA★ and D FA★: Professional Pentax lenses
- Limited: Premium compact, all-metal lenses
- APS-C: 24x16mm digital sensor format
- Full Frame: 36x24mm digital sensor format
- FPS: Continuous bust framerate (frames per second)
To learn more about the different Pentax lens series, check out Pentax Lenses Explained or browse our lens finder or lens database.
The 2016-17 Pentax camera lineup consists of powerful yet unique offerings for any budget. Start with a camera that you can't go wrong with, and then pick your lenses and accessories to create the ultimate kit. Need more advice? Ask on the forum.
The long-awaited Pentax K-1 is the first full-frame camera from Pentax. Advanced features such as pixel shift super resolution, 5-axis 5-stop image stabilization, built-in GPS w/star tracking, and an omnidirectional tilting display have made this camera a huge hit among current Pentax users as well as photographers new to the system.
- High-Res Prints
The Pentax K-70 bridges the gap between entry-level affordability and advanced performance. This weather-sealed 24-megapixel camera features new noise-reduction technology, a friendly user interface, ergonomic controls, powerful low-light autofocus, and on-board Wi-Fi. Its sensitivity ranges all the way up to ISO 102,400.
- Experienced Users
The Pentax K-S2 was the first Pentax DSLR to feature built-in Wi-Fi and a fully articulating LCD screen. Launched a year before the K-70, it still includes most of the K-70's features while being available at a lower price. This is a powerful yet user-friendly camera allowing beginners to slowly transition from full automation to full manual control at their own pace.
- Everyday Photos
Ricoh Theta SC
The Theta has become Pentax/Ricoh's best-selling camera among consumers. Its unique form factor allows photographers to capture their entire surroundings conveniently and at the push of a single button. This new model boasts 14-megapixel resolution as well as live view over Wi-Fi (though a smartphone is not required for normal operation). 8 Gb of internal memory.
- Real Estate
The following six lenses are optimized for use with the Pentax K-1 full frame, but are of course also compatible with all Pentax APS-C DSLRs.
D FA 28-105mm F3.5-5.6
We consider the D FA 28-105mm to be a must-have for Pentax K-1 users in need of a compact everyday lens. Despite its variable aperture and low price, this zoom delivers the consistent level of image quality you would expect from a modern lens, and it's versatile thanks to its weather sealing and silent autofocus.
- Everyday Photos
- Lightweight Kit
D FA★ 70-200mm F2.8
One of the sharpest zooms ever made by Pentax, the professional-series D FA* 70-200mm features an all-new optical and mechanical design that incorporates the latest technologies from Pentax. Whatever you shoot, you can expect this lens to deliver superb corner-to-corner performance at all aperture and zoom settings.
FA 31mm F1.8 Limited
It's rare for an autofocus lens to feature an all-metal construction, but this along with a compact size is the trademark of Pentax's unique Limited lens series. The 31mm has unique 3D rendering which gives it an appealing character.
- Shallow DoF
Samyang 85mm F1.4
This manual focus, auto aperture portrait lens is an amazing value. With optics almost as good as those of competing premium lenses, you really can't go wrong with this one. This lens is also re-branded under the Rokinon, Falcon, Bower, Vivitar, and Pro Optic brands in different markets.
D FA 100mm F2.8 Macro
This compact lens lets you capture amazingly detailed macro photos with up to 1:1 (life-size) magnification. Suitable for full-frame and APS-C use, it also doubles as a short telephoto and gives the photographer extra flexbility thanks to its weather sealing.
DA★ 300mm F4
This telephoto prime lens delivers exceptional image quality without the added weight that a F2.8 lens would entail. The Pentax 300mm includes a rotating tripod collar for easy tripod shooting and is therefore perfect for a variety of applications such as sports and wildlife. Like other pro-grade DA* lenses, the 300mm features silent autofocus and dust/moisture sealing. Officially covers the full-frame image circle despite originally being marketed as a crop lens.
- Tripod Photography
The following lenses are designed for use on Pentax crop format bodies, and can be used on full-frame bodies in either the APS-C or 1:1 crop mode.
DA 12-24mm F4
The Pentax 12-24mm is a sharp ultra-wide zoom lens. It's an excellent choice if you'd like a wider field of view than what's offered by the kit lens, or if you don't want to carry around multiple primes.
This recently-launched zoom lens covers a suite of common focal lengths from ultra-wide to short telephoto. At the same time, it delivers silent autofocus as well as weather sealing. Although the lens has a variable F3.5-5.6 aperture, it is designed to deliver premium image quality.
- Everyday Photos
- High-Resolution Prints
DA 55-300mm F4.5-6.3 PLM
After many years, Pentax has finally launched an affordable telephoto zoom with silent autofocus. This lens also incorporates a compact collapsible barrel design. Due to a new KAF4 mount designation, it is only compatible with Pentax DSLRs launched in 2014 or later (including all cameras listed on this page).
DA★ 60-250mm F4
This premium telephoto zoom offers a constant F4 aperture throughout its entire zoom range. Coupled with excellent sharpness even from max aperture and a proven weather sealed built, this is one of the most popular Pentax lenses among advanced enthusiasts and professionals alike.
- Tripod Photography
DA 15mm F4 Limited
The DA 15mm is the widest prime lens in the DA Limited line of premium lenses and the second widest prime lens in the entire Pentax lineup. This is a superlative lens boasting excellent image quality. Featuring an all-metal body, it may fuel an obsession to not only take pictures with it, but of it as well. Available in silver and black.
- Ultra-Wide Angle Photos
DA 40mm F2.8 Limited
Looking for a compact yet exceptionally sharp lens? Look no further than the Pentax 40mm pancake! Just over a centimeter tall, this is one of the smallest DSLR lenses out there today from any brand. It's also one of the most popular and highest-rated Pentax lenses: its SMC predecessor has withstood the test of time with a score of 9.8 in our lens review section. Also available in both black or silver all-metal finishes.
- Street Photos
DA 50mm F1.8
Looking to take portraits with that 3D look and beautiful bokeh and don't want to spend more than around 100 bucks? This is the lens for you. Featuring a 50mm focal length, this lens is a short telephoto on Pentax crop DSLRs, perfect for portraits.
DA★ 55mm F1.4
This is Pentax's premium portrait objective, as well as its fastest aperture lens making shooting in extremely low light a breeze. One of the most popular and highly rated lenses of a the already premium-grade DA* line of lenses, it is extremely sharp and features Pentax's silent SDM autofocus in-lens motor. Also, because of the very fast aperture, and coupled with its proven environmental sealing, no matter the circumstances or weather, nothing will get in the way of your photos having that distinctive 3D pop!
Not everything in photography can be boiled down to just your camera and lens. Here are our recommendations for how to best accessorize your kit.
3-year Ext. Warranty (US Only)
US customers can extend the standard 1-year Pentax camera warranty by 2 years for a total of 3 years of coverage at a low price. This extended warranty also includes one complementary cleaning at the US Pentax repair center. The $30 warranty covers compact cameras, the $50 warranty covers K-mount DSLRs, and the $99 warranty covers K-mount DSLRs over $1000. Must be purchased within 60 days of the camera. Highly recommended!
- New DSLR purchases
SanDisk Extreme SD Cards
Just like film was needed to capture the image, memory cards are the venerable 'film' of the digital photography world. We recommend SanDisk Extreme and Extreme Pro cards and capacities of 32-64Gb for the Pentax K-S2 and K-70 and 64-128Gb for the Pentax K-1. These cards have proven to be reliable and perform at high speeds to ensure optimal burst shooting speed and file downloading. Most premium SanDisk cards have lifetime limited warranties.
- All Users!
Giotto's Rocket Blower
The 'Rocket Blower' accessory is used to remove dust from your sensor, mirror box, and lenses. If there's dust on your sensor that the automatic dust removal system just can't seem to shake, this handy little tool ought to do the trick. We recommend it for everyone, and suggest you take it with you on every outing! The large model is the most effective.
- Sensor Cleaning
- Lens Dusting
Remote Control F
This infrared remote control is useful from anything from group photos where the photographer wants to be in the shot, over mirror-up macro shooting to night photography in B exposure mode. In B exposure mode the camera can be set so that the first push of the remote's button opens the shutter and the second push closes the shutter. Works with every Pentax DSLR.
- Family Photos
DA 1.4x Teleconverter
The HD Pentax-DA 1.4x Rear Converter is the best teleconverter for Pentax that money can buy. It's ideal for squeezing out extra reach from telephoto lenses such as the DA* 60-250mm, DA* 300mm, and DA 55-300mm, among others. APS-C only, with some exceptions.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6
Adobe Lightroom is one of the leading photographic tools to enhance your photography by harnessing the RAW power of your camera. As as import, apply contrast, tone, exposure, saturation, and many other changes, and then simply export your photos in the manner you choose to maximize the potential for your image quality. We highly recommend Lightroom if you want to maximize the potential of your and your camera's image quality capabilities. Available boxed or via Adobe CC for a monthly fee (budled with Photoshop).
- Photo Organization
- Advanced Editing
It is of course impossible to anticipate every scenario and need when putting together a guide such as this one. Therefore, if you have questions about any of the items on this page, we suggest that you ask for further advice on the forum!
Additional Guides and Resources
More from the Pentax Forums Homepage
- Pentax DA* 16-50mm PLM Overview Video
- Announcing Our June, 2023 Photo Contest
- Ricoh Dethrones Canon as the Copier King
- April 2023 "Reflection" Photo Contest...
- Pentax Film Project: Lost Engineering Being Reborn
- Pentax Custom Image Guide: From Satobi to Harubeni
- New versions of the FA 50mm F1.4
- April "Reflection" Contest Finalists...