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12-04-2013, 02:16 AM   #1
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HD vs SMC Limiteds: Comparative Review Posted

On paper, the difference between the SMC and HD 15mm, 21mm, 35mm, 40mm, and 70mm Limited primes from Pentax is small. But how does the new HD coating and rounded aperture design fare in real life? To find out, we've compared all 5 SMC Limiteds to their HD counterparts side-by-side:

HD Pentax Limited Primes - Introduction - PentaxForums.com



As I wrote part of this review, I can offer you my personal thoughts as well. The new HD coating certainly works as advertised to reduce reflectance. This means that you'll see much less ghosting in "HD" photos. The rounded aperture design takes away from the starburst effect that the SMC 15mm had, but as it smoothens strong light sources, it will probably work to your advantage with the other 4 HD lenses. As for the bokeh itself, the difference between the SMC and HD lenses is negligible. The last difference between the two lens types is cosmetic: the red stripe and the lettering, which is more of less a subjective matter. I like both designs off the limited primes, though I think the "2.8-4 / 20-40" lettering on the upcoming 20-40mm zoom is a bit cheesy.

I might upgrade my 40mm to the HD version and I'm tempted to pick up a 35mm macro again after seeing what it can do on the K-3 and how little ghosting the HD version has. But the 15mm is staying SMC



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12-04-2013, 02:57 AM   #2
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Thanks for this comparison, I'm sure that many will find it very interesting.

It's nice to know there's no compelling reason to change from the SMC to the HD versions. I'd expected a bigger difference in bokeh, but there's really nothing in it. So much for the new rounded blades, they just seem to reduce starbursts.

In the "Flare and aberrations" section, the SMC shots seem to be considerably brighter than the HD ones. This suggests to me that SMC transmits more light than HD, asssuming all the exposure settings were the same.
12-04-2013, 03:00 AM   #3
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As for me - SMC DA40's bokeh is more "distinct", less smooth and I like old DA more....


Dear Adam, thanks a lot.

When will we see DA20-40's review?
12-04-2013, 03:45 AM   #4
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Thanks a lot! Nice to finally see what difference the coating and rounded blades make in real world images.

Good to see that my old SMC 15 is still the best And I won't lose any sleep over keeping the 21 and 70 either.

12-04-2013, 04:11 AM   #5
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Hah, now I feel even better about buying the DA version of the 15mm a few months ago. Although the starbursts border on kitsch every now and then :-)

btw. thank you for the review!
12-04-2013, 04:28 AM   #6
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Adam, pls, could you tell us your personal opinion concerning the sharpness? Are SMC and HD limiteds equally sharp?
12-04-2013, 05:12 AM   #7
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If HD version has higher contract it means HD lenses could have a bit higher resolution. But I'm doubt that the difference is high.

Last edited by ogl; 12-04-2013 at 08:12 PM.
12-04-2013, 05:13 AM   #8
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Thanks for the extensive comparison - exactly what I was waiting for. I only considered the 21 anyway and as this one does not seem to be significantly different I will keep my eyes open for a good deal on the smc. If I find none, I will probably get the HD sometime later next year.

If I did not already have a smc 15, I probably would be looking for one now - I really like the starbursts!

12-04-2013, 05:39 AM   #9
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Hi Adam, thanks for the review!

Any chance of a comparison of the highlights of point sources in out of focus areas? This is where I'd expect the rounded blades to make the most noticeable difference as the shape of the aperture is visible, but I've never tracked down a side-by-side comparison of the WR vs non-WR 100mm macro that showcased this.
12-04-2013, 06:28 AM   #10
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Adam, Good review. I already had the HD 15 f/4 in my kit and am obsessed with it. Your review helped an orphan 35 mm smc find a new home in my bag. And I am pleased to announce the imminent arrival of an HD 70 mm from B&H to complete my little family.
12-04-2013, 11:44 AM   #11
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Meh.

Not to sound too negative... But the new HD coating seems a bit "meh" to me. Poking back and forth between the test images, I really couldn't tell the difference, especially when I wasn't paying attention to the SMC and HD columns (blind). Where there is a difference in contrast (like the 35mm), it would be hard to tell if its just a metering, lighting, or processing difference. The only improvement I noticed was with the 40mm, and even that seems situational and marginal.

Perhaps I'm being harsh, but I can't see spending an extra $100 for the HD coating, and I am kind of sad that the SMC ones are going away, especially since I've been saving for the 70mm (completing my planned Limited triad of 15mm, 40mm, and 70mm).

Also, I'm not sure why they would stick the rounded blades on the 15mm. Bokeh isn't really important that short, and the "starburst" is pretty much the defining characteristic of that lens (and the fact that it won't flare no matter what you do to it, and it can be scary sharp, of course).

I am also sad that they are de-emphasizing the Pentax branding. I like the look of the banding on old lenses better, they weren't as polished, they looked odd and a bit wonkey... But Pentaxians are odd and a bit wonkey, so it fit.

I don't want to sound completely negative, so... It is nice that Ricoh is actually doing something with the brand, it gives me hope that there is something big lurking in the background. And, also, very helpful review, well done.
12-04-2013, 12:13 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by ogl Quote
When will we see DA20-40's review?
B&H got their shipment today, so our review copy is on its way. This means that we'll probably have a review for you before the end of the year!

QuoteOriginally posted by BrianR Quote
Any chance of a comparison of the highlights of point sources in out of focus areas? This is where I'd expect the rounded blades to make the most noticeable difference as the shape of the aperture is visible, but I've never tracked down a side-by-side comparison of the WR vs non-WR 100mm macro that showcased this.
The lenses have all been returned, unfortunately. But at a distance I doubt the difference would be apparent, just like the shape of the flare in the 15mm test photo isn't.

QuoteOriginally posted by cport Quote
Adam, pls, could you tell us your personal opinion concerning the sharpness? Are SMC and HD limiteds equally sharp?
Yup, I couldn't see a difference. Same glass, after all.

QuoteOriginally posted by Jonathan Mac Quote
In the "Flare and aberrations" section, the SMC shots seem to be considerably brighter than the HD ones. This suggests to me that SMC transmits more light than HD, asssuming all the exposure settings were the same.
The exposure was the same, so there are 2 possible culprits: the jpeg engine or the position of the sun 30 seconds later. I will have to check the DNG's. It could also be the light transmission, but let's leave that to dxo to test

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12-04-2013, 12:45 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Omestes Quote
Not to sound too negative... But the new HD coating seems a bit "meh" to me. Poking back and forth between the test images, I really couldn't tell the difference, especially when I wasn't paying attention to the SMC and HD columns (blind). Where there is a difference in contrast (like the 35mm), it would be hard to tell if its just a metering, lighting, or processing difference. The only improvement I noticed was with the 40mm, and even that seems situational and marginal.

Perhaps I'm being harsh, but I can't see spending an extra $100 for the HD coating, and I am kind of sad that the SMC ones are going away, especially since I've been saving for the 70mm (completing my planned Limited triad of 15mm, 40mm, and 70mm).

Also, I'm not sure why they would stick the rounded blades on the 15mm. Bokeh isn't really important that short, and the "starburst" is pretty much the defining characteristic of that lens (and the fact that it won't flare no matter what you do to it, and it can be scary sharp, of course).

I am also sad that they are de-emphasizing the Pentax branding. I like the look of the banding on old lenses better, they weren't as polished, they looked odd and a bit wonkey... But Pentaxians are odd and a bit wonkey, so it fit.

I don't want to sound completely negative, so... It is nice that Ricoh is actually doing something with the brand, it gives me hope that there is something big lurking in the background. And, also, very helpful review, well done.
I agree the HD differences are too subtle to blind select. The image attached below (IMGP0021.jpeg) was shot with the HD 15mm limited at 1/125 and f6.3, ISO 100 (not sure if EXIF data transfers on compressed photo images). Camera is K-30.

Last edited by waterfall; 01-04-2016 at 06:43 AM.
12-04-2013, 12:48 PM   #14
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Would have been interesting seeing what HD's rounded blades would have done with Christmas style point light bokeh shots.

Good review, wish I had funds now to get the SMC 15mm before it goes out of production.
12-04-2013, 01:23 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by wowtip Quote
Good review, wish I had funds now to get the SMC 15mm before it goes out of production.
The old ones will be around for many years to come - on the second-hand market.

You won't get mine, though
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