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08-26-2016, 10:12 PM - 8 Likes   #1
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Full Review: HD Pentax D-FA* 70-200mm f2.8 DC AW

Introduction & Overview:

After much deliberation, I have decided that it is time to provide my full thoughts and experiences on this excellent lens. The lens is easy to sum up, with very clear compromises between quality, cost and portability. As with all system lenses, it is obvious that if you are after the best quality lenses, with high speed, excellent optical quality and flawless mechanics, one must also increase both the weight and price of the lens. And in this regard, Pentax/Ricoh has clearly found a near perfect range of compromises that works perfectly; in my opinion of course. The leans is near perfect, and if you are looking for a near no compromise 'f2.8' telezoom, this is pretty much as good as it gets in the Pentax world.

Fit & Finish:

The first point of contact anyone will have with a lens is with its physical characteristics. And in this regard, the D-FA* 70-200mm f2.8 lens has only one flaw. From the aluminium construction of the lens to the feel of the zoom and focus rings, the lens exudes quality, and leaves no weak points in the contruction. Of particular note is the well designed tripod collar, which rotates with a perfect combination of smoothness and firmness, and has soft stops at every 90 degree interval. Another thing that is great is the metal filter threads, which makes the screwing in filters much easier, with a smaller chance of accidentally binding the threads. The one issue with the mechanics of the lens in undoubtedly the tripod foot. Whilst of an incredibly high quality, with no flex when mounted on the lens, when rotated 90 degrees to the right, it does interfere with the grip of both the K3 and K1 cameras. Thankfully this is a little niggle and not of particular significance, it would have been great if the foot was placed slightly further from the lens mount.

Optical Quality:

This one is an easy one to sum up. The lens is simply superb. Sharp from edge to edge from 70-200mm wide open, the only thing you need to be concerned abut with this lens is if the DOF is suitable for the photo. Like all lenses, it does sharpen up as the aperture is stopped down, but the increases are small enough not to be concerned about. When it comes to secondary optical like vignetting, chromatic and lateral aberrations and flare resistance, the D-FA* lens has few peers in the Pentax lens lineup. This lens excels with shooting into the sun, and all aberrations are incredibly well controlled, and if what little aberrations are of concern to you, they are easily dealt with by either stopping down slightly or utilizing small amounts of post processing.

One aspect of the optics that I haven't talked about is that of the OOF rendering. Pentax fast telezooms have long had an excellent reputation for they're bokeh and OOF rendering. The previous FF 2.8 telezoom, the SMC Pentax FA* 80-200mm f2.8 has a reputation for having the best OOF rendering of any telezoom from and marque, and having the luxury of owning both lenses, I can confirm that this lens continues the tradition. Whatever Pentax has done when designing this lens, but they have managed to tick each and every box, and have ensured that this lens is at the very least on even footing when compared to its competitors, namely the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 USM IS L ii and the Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f2.8 VRii.

AF Performance:

This is one aspect of the lens that is much harder to judge. For my uses, the AF speed and accuracy is more than good enough for my uses. That said, as the AF systems of Pentax cameras aren't a complex as those from Canon and Nikon, it makes it much harder to characterize it against its peers. in absolute terms, the 'DC' motor seems to be slower than the 'AF-S' motor of the Nikon and the 'USM' motor of the Canon, though not significantly so. It is however incredibly accurate and predictable, and I find that for wedding and event photography, the lens should provide more than enough speed for the vast majority of users.

Shooting Experience:

The most important aspect of a lens, in my opinion, is that it needs to get out of the way and allow you to shoot in the way you like. And in this regard, the lens succeeds. You will not need to fight this lens to get the results that you desire, just set the combination of aperture and shutterspeed, focus the lens and shoot. The only thing that one has to be mindful of before purchasing this lens is the weight. At nearly 2kg when fully deployed, the lens is not going to be hand held able for everyone. I personally find it easy to hand hold all day, but I'm 20, and I'm sure as time goes on, it will eventually become harder and harder hold steady for extended periods of time. The lens how ever works very well on either a tripod or monopod, so if those options match your shooting style and you aren't willing to hand hold the lens, it is an option well worth considering.

Conclusion:

Overall, I find the HD Pentax D-FA* 70-200mm f2.8 DC AW lens to be an incredibly good good start to what I hope to be an excellent D-FA* lens lineup. Hopefully within the next few years, the lineup will be as expansive as that of the DA* lens lineup, and the quality will be high across the board. Finally, anyone with an APS-C body such as the K-3 will love this lens, but it really does shine best on the K-1, in fact, it begs to be utilized as a FF lens, and is excellent in that regard. This lens is excellent, and will serve its users wonderfully for many years to come.

PS, sorry for the attachments being at the bottom of the thread, I still haven't figured out how to post inline photos,

Attached Images
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PENTAX K-1  Photo 
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08-26-2016, 11:43 PM   #2
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I agree with you on all points, except for the issue of the rotating tripod foot. The foot doesn't actually interfere with the camera grip, though it does make for a tight squeeze on your fingers if you are holding the grip. However, I can think of no feasible reason why you would ever want to rotate your lens that way! When I rotate the lens for portrait mode, the grip is always at the top, well away from the foot.

Or are you talking about an add-on grip?

Last edited by Paul the Sunman; 08-26-2016 at 11:50 PM.
08-27-2016, 12:19 AM   #3
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Yep. It's a beaut.
08-27-2016, 12:28 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Joshua A Quote
Introduction & Overview:
Good review, accompanied by very good photos!

QuoteOriginally posted by Joshua A Quote
Fit & Finish:

The first point of contact anyone will have with a lens is with its physical characteristics. And in this regard, the D-FA* 70-200mm f2.8 lens has only one flaw. From the aluminium construction of the lens to the feel of the zoom and focus rings, the lens exudes quality, and leaves no weak points in the contruction. Of particular note is the well designed tripod collar, which rotates with a perfect combination of smoothness and firmness, and has soft stops at every 90 degree interval. Another thing that is great is the metal filter threads, which makes the screwing in filters much easier, with a smaller chance of accidentally binding the threads. The one issue with the mechanics of the lens in undoubtedly the tripod foot. Whilst of an incredibly high quality, with no flex when mounted on the lens, when rotated 90 degrees to the right, it does interfere with the grip of both the K3 and K1 cameras. Thankfully this is a little niggle and not of particular significance, it would have been great if the foot was placed slightly further from the lens mount.
I was a bit puzzled by that. I think what you are saying is that when hand-holding the lens, with the tripod foot still fitted on the lens and at that position, there isn't much room for fingers between the camera's grip and the tripod foot. I just checked and you are right! (I always remove the tripod foot when hand-holding the lens).

QuoteOriginally posted by Joshua A Quote
AF Performance:

This is one aspect of the lens that is much harder to judge. For my uses, the AF speed and accuracy is more than good enough for my uses. That said, as the AF systems of Pentax cameras aren't a complex as those from Canon and Nikon, it makes it much harder to characterize it against its peers. in absolute terms, the 'DC' motor seems to be slower than the 'AF-S' motor of the Nikon and the 'USM' motor of the Canon, though not significantly so. It is however incredibly accurate and predictable, and I find that for wedding and event photography, the lens should provide more than enough speed for the vast majority of users.
I use this lens (on the K-1) successfully for motorsports.

08-27-2016, 02:22 AM   #5
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I mostly shoot with tripod foot off. I have it in my bag in case I want to use the lens on a tripod (I usually don't), but I find it annoying otherwise.
08-27-2016, 02:42 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
I mostly shoot with tripod foot off. I have it in my bag in case I want to use the lens on a tripod (I usually don't), but I find it annoying otherwise.
Actually, I find it quite convenient for hand-holding.
08-27-2016, 03:39 AM   #7
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Regarding the tripod foot ... I use a Manfrotto quick release plate (https://www.manfrotto.co.uk/accessory-quick-release-plate-200pl) on my camera bodies and the DA*300, which works very well. I have the plates attached to each body and long lenses, so I can swap them about quickly. Is it possible to use this style of plate to attach to the 70-200 ?
08-27-2016, 03:44 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
Regarding the tripod foot ... I use a Manfrotto quick release plate (https://www.manfrotto.co.uk/accessory-quick-release-plate-200pl) on my camera bodies and the DA*300, which works very well. I have the plates attached to each body and long lenses, so I can swap them about quickly. Is it possible to use this style of plate to attach to the 70-200 ?
Yes, there is a choice of two connection points.

08-27-2016, 04:09 AM   #9
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I agree. I love the mechanical finishing and optical quality of the DFA70-200. For me , it is the best lens of all the DFA.
08-27-2016, 12:50 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Paul the Sunman Quote
Yes, there is a choice of two connection points.
Thanks Paul
08-27-2016, 08:16 PM   #11
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Nice review. You should post this in the lens review section too, so people will see it a month or more from now.
08-27-2016, 10:12 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Joshua A Quote
Shooting Experience:

The most important aspect of a lens, in my opinion, is that it needs to get out of the way and allow you to shoot in the way you like. And in this regard, the lens succeeds. You will not need to fight this lens to get the results that you desire, just set the combination of aperture and shutterspeed, focus the lens and shoot. The only thing that one has to be mindful of before purchasing this lens is the weight. At nearly 2kg when fully deployed, the lens is not going to be hand held able for everyone. I personally find it easy to hand hold all day, but I'm 20, and I'm sure as time goes on, it will eventually become harder and harder hold steady for extended periods of time. The lens how ever works very well on either a tripod or monopod, so if those options match your shooting style and you aren't willing to hand hold the lens, it is an option well worth considering.
I've already commented, but here is something else I think is worth mentioning.

This lens has two features that make it easier to use hand-held; (I'm 69!):

1. The zoom ring is the furthest from the camera, so that the left hand can easily support the lens and zoom during an action burst. (Is this a relatively recent feature of Pentax zoom lenses? I think I first noticed it with the DA 16-85mm; some older lenses such as the DA* 60-250mm have the zoom ring closer to the camera).

2. This lens has internal zooming. Its balance remains the same when zooming, which I find helpful compared with the D FA 150-450mm.
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