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04-23-2013, 08:27 AM   #1
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How does the Pentax-A 35-105mm hold up these days?

I've come across several references praising the Pentax-A 35-105mm "Stack of Primes" lens.

It sounds great, but I've also read a lot about how much better modern Primes are than in the old days, and Pentax-A is fairly old.

So is this a fluke lens that was just that much better than all the others, or was it only "great for its time"?

I've currently got a DA 18-135mm and DA 55-300mm, and I figure there wouldn't be much point in getting the Pentax-A 35-105 unless it's significantly better than those. Essentially, while I'd like to have the quality of a star zoom it's out of my budget but if this lens gets me a good step up in quality for cheap then I'm willing to look at it and I don't mind the manual focus.

04-23-2013, 08:46 AM   #2
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It is a heavy beast, but it is the lens I have the most fun with. I find the focal length range gives me the chance to shoot a wide range of objects at the same time (or kids running all over the place as it were). It will also do close focusing across the entire focal length range.

I can't comment on the image quality relative to a * lens, as I don't own any.
04-23-2013, 08:56 AM   #3
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To your question of how the A 35-105 holds up these days, the answer is quite well actually. I've owned this lens twice and been impressed twice with it. Just read the reviews of it on the forum. My main complaint/concern/issue with it is that at the wide end on an APS-C camera 35mm is just not wide enough for a walk around lens and at 105mm it's just not long enough either. Sharp? Oh, yes quite sharp and I do get why it's labeled a stack of primes. It has a close focus arrangement that's fun to use as well. I think the attraction to this lens is that for the price ($100-150) it's a high quality lens and could be used as a hammer to smash both the DA 18-135 and DA 55-300 lenses into parts and still be unaffected...

Looking at the PF data base ratings though while the A 35-105 rates a bit higher, it's really not that 'significantly' higher that I think you want. If I had the DA 18-135 and was not interested in film shooting, I'd pass the A 35-105 by.

Oh, full disclosure. I own a DA 55-300 and have used a DA 18-135 a bit.
04-23-2013, 09:07 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by MSL Quote
I can't comment on the image quality relative to a * lens, as I don't own any.
Same here. I love my 35-105 and think it gives a really great image, but I have no idea how it compares to a * zoom. I've always considered it more in the range of say, the 16-45. It's better than the entry-level zooms...not quite on a * level.

04-23-2013, 09:29 AM   #5
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For those of us who still shoot film, this is a great film lens (especially color) that performs very, very will on a Pentax DSLR. Strangely (some will think), I use it a lot on my K-01 (or should I say I use my K-01 with that lens, based on mass of each) - it is my only "A" lens so it meters better with that camera than any other MF lens I own..

Last edited by monochrome; 04-24-2013 at 11:52 AM.
04-23-2013, 09:35 AM   #6
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I have the DA*16-50 and DA*50-135. I don't know how to compare the A 35-105 with them really. These are greatly different lenses (and greatly different prices too). My general impression (which is very likely arguable) is that a * lens on balance is just going to be better. That said, I have a high regard for the A 35-105's image quality. So...hard to say really.
04-23-2013, 10:13 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by dboeren Quote
I've currently got a DA 18-135mm and DA 55-300mm, and I figure there wouldn't be much point in getting the Pentax-A 35-105 unless it's significantly better than those. Essentially, while I'd like to have the quality of a star zoom it's out of my budget but if this lens gets me a good step up in quality for cheap then I'm willing to look at it and I don't mind the manual focus.
Going back to your original post - the A35-105 doesn't cover enough of the DA55-300 range to worry about overlap there. In contrast to the 18-135, it will give you a bit more speed (I believe), but at the cost of a much narrower range. One thing it doesn't buy you though it with respect to in camera image stabilization. The DA lenses can communicate with the body so you will get proper stabilization across the zoom range. Not so with an A lens where you have to fix the focal length before you start shooting.
04-23-2013, 10:21 AM   #8
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Good point on the stabilization issue, hadn't thought of that. Since the consensus seems to be that it's not that much of a step up from the 18-135mm, it has a narrower range, and as MSL points out there are IS issues as well - it doesn't seem like this lens would be a good buy for me at this point. Better to save the cash towards a longer prime or eventually a star lens.

04-23-2013, 10:22 AM   #9
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"Stack of primes" might be a big of an exaggeration, as I never found that the A 35-105 could hold it's own against my prime lenses. The A 35-105 isn't as sharp or as contrasty as the best Pentax primes, old or new. Where it holds up better is against other standard full frame zooms. Most Pentax full frame standard zooms suffer from IQ variability across the focal range. They may be very good in the 50 to 70mm range, but they're not so good at the long end and they're worse at the wide end. The A 35-105 doesn't suffer from that problem. It loses just a bit of resolution at the long end, but other than that, it's as good at 35mm as it as 50mm as it is at 85mm. Stopped down at f8, it's sharp corner to corner at all focal lengths (at least on APS-C). When I decided to upgrade my A 35-105 with superior glass, I had a heck of a time finding a better all around lens that covered comparable focal lengths. Indeed, I'm inclined to suspect that the only Pentax FF standard zoom lenses that are clearly superior to the A 35-105 are the FA 24-90 and the FA* 28-70.
04-23-2013, 05:10 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by dboeren Quote
I've currently got a DA 18-135mm and DA 55-300mm, and I figure there wouldn't be much point in getting the Pentax-A 35-105 unless it's significantly better than those.
I have both of those too. I also have a A 35-105. I like my 35-105 a lot - it has better corners than the 18-135 and colours and contrast render more 'naturally'. It is also a lot of fun to use. However it is a heavy lens, and has slightly weird short-throw zoom and focus rings, including a macro mode position that sometimes gets in the way. As a manual focus lens it also can be harder to use than for example the 18-135 once the light gets poor. But in the right light I've found it produces very pleasing images.

Objectively the 18-135 probably makes it redundant in my collection, but for me it's certainly a keeper lens.
04-23-2013, 05:17 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by MSL Quote
The DA lenses can communicate with the body so you will get proper stabilization across the zoom range. Not so with an A lens where you have to fix the focal length before you start shooting.
MF lenses on a dSLR beg for a more contemplative shooting style - so I just change the FL in Menu when I need to.
04-23-2013, 07:16 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by monochrome Quote
MF lenses on a dSLR beg for a more contemplative shooting style - so I just change the FL in Menu when I need to.
I guess so, but 3/4 of my lenses are manual focus (only AF are 18-55WR, 50 and 35-70). Not crazy about the way the kit lens renders things, although it does have its uses and it is the widest lens I have. So most of the time I have a MF lens on the camera and sometimes it will be a zoom. If I suddenly need to "shoot the kids" I'm not going to worry about inputting FL every time I change it
04-23-2013, 07:39 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by MSL Quote
I guess so, but 3/4 of my lenses are manual focus (only AF are 18-55WR, 50 and 35-70). Not crazy about the way the kit lens renders things, although it does have its uses and it is the widest lens I have. So most of the time I have a MF lens on the camera and sometimes it will be a zoom. If I suddenly need to "shoot the kids" I'm not going to worry about inputting FL every time I change it
Yep - that's why we use a zoom, isn't it? I've always wondered how much 'error" is introduced when the FL doesn't match the SR setting.
04-23-2013, 09:20 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by monochrome Quote
I've always wondered how much 'error" is introduced when the FL doesn't match the SR setting.
That issue has been cropping up in the Q forum:

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-q/220897-q-learning-curve-3.html#post2351119
04-23-2013, 09:53 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by MSL Quote
The DA lenses can communicate with the body so you will get proper stabilization across the zoom range. Not so with an A lens where you have to fix the focal length before you start shooting.
Wait, am I missing something? I've never used an A zoom lens before. I thought the A-series lenses communicate with the camera; they have the metal contacts just like the F, FA and DA lenses.
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