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02-06-2017, 03:28 PM   #1
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Pentax D FA* 70-200mm first impressions

So after dealing with ongoing AF performance and reliability issues with my Pentax DA* 60-250mm lens, I've acquired a D FA* 70-200mm lens—and it's a real beauty! Here are my first impressions:
  • This thing is heavy! It weighs upwards of four pounds with the tripod collar and hood attached, making it a good deal harder to carry than my DA* 60-250mm lens. This weight makes it hard to hand-hold steadily; several of my initial shots showed slight camera shake. I'd strongly recommend a good tripod or monopod to support it if you're using it for more than a few minutes at a time.
  • The lens is also very large. It barely fits in my camera bag (a Think Tank Photo Urban Disguise 60 v2.0) when mounted to my K-3 II. Considering the combined weight of the lens and body, be sure you have an appropriately-sized camera bag to carry it. You might want to get a camera backpack if you go out with the D FA* 70-200mm often.
  • Construction is metal throughout, unlike previous DA* lenses which were mostly plastic (albeit high-quality fiber-reinforced plastic) with some metal components. I'm pretty confident this lens will take a beating and still give me great results.
  • Optical performance is absolutely fantastic. Wide open, it's sharp overall across the frame, with a faint hint of softness in the APS-C corners depending on focal length. It's at its best at around f/4.0-5.6, where it's pretty much pixel-sharp corner to corner. There is a bit of spherochromatism at 70mm (out-of-focus areas exhibit slight purple/green fringing), but it's only visible under rather extreme conditions.
  • Autofocus, while not best in class, is pretty fast. With focus limiter disabled, end-to-end autofocus movement takes 0.55s. For the close 1.2-4m range, it is 0.24s, while the 4m-∞ range takes 0.32s to traverse. (AF times determined through analysis of audio recordings.) All focus limiter ranges are electronically controlled. It feels very quick and responsive in most lighting conditions, far more so than my 60-250. The AF motor is audible in a quiet environment but is as good as silent in most real-world shooting scenarios. Pentax's use of a brushless DC motor for autofocus avoids most of the problems associated with SDM; while this is not as good as a ring-type ultrasonic motor, it's good enough for the vast majority of uses.
  • A small amount of AF fine adjustment was needed for optimal sharpness. A setting of +2 seems to give the best results on my camera-lens combination.
  • The focus ring is geared (the distance scale rotates slower than the focus ring) and has a travel of about 175°. The zoom ring rotates 90°. There is a small amount of play in the focus ring, which admittedly is not a serious issue; no play is detectable in the zoom ring.
  • The new tripod collar design works really well and feels really secure. It's a significant improvement over the one used on the likes of the DA* 60-250mm and DA* 300mm, and is considerably easier to attach securely than the old design.
So what do you think?

Draco

---------- Post added 02-06-17 at 05:39 PM ----------

Further testing shows that this lens is almost completely parfocal. This is really, really impressive for a zoom lens that's not designated for video use. Focus breathing, while detectable at 200mm if you're racking from one end of the focus range to the other, is also quite well controlled. Ricoh really outdid themselves.


Last edited by bwDraco; 02-08-2017 at 04:51 PM.
02-06-2017, 03:40 PM   #2
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I find it spends a lot of time attached to the K-1 - the negatives (size, weight, price) are all dwarfed by the big positives that they help to deliver - namely robustness and superb IQ

You gave it a good thorough going over, btw - it will be helpful for people making their minds up as to whether to take the plunge
02-06-2017, 03:44 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by bwDraco Quote
So what do you think?
Same as you. I use the DFA70-200 on K1, delivers stunning images and color rendering is very loyal , prime like clarity. Sharpness: not even need to close 1/3rd of stop, use wide open all day long.
I also have the 150-450, in comparison the DFA70-200 isn't so heavy :-) Mount the DFA70200 on a small monopod can shoot all day long effortless. Really a high quality lens, optically + build quality.
02-06-2017, 04:21 PM   #4
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I really don't find the 70-200 that heavy, if I have the K-1's battery grip attached. Then I've worked with it for hours at a time, handheld. Funnily enough, I couldn't manage much longer than 10 minutes without the grip.

02-06-2017, 07:24 PM   #5
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So, If you already had a DA* 50-135 and the D FA 150-450 and were shooting APS-C, would you swap it out for the 50-135, add it to the collection, or wait until you had a full frame camera in hand?
02-06-2017, 07:35 PM   #6
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I just can't get past the price on this lens. Considering there is no image stabilization this should be less expensive. For comparison the new Tamron 70-200 2.8 with VC is $1299 for Canon/Nikon mount only

http://www.adorama.com/alc/first-look-tamron-upgrades-its-ultrawide-and-tele...ses?

I love my K-1 but honestly having buyers remorse when it comes to Pentax lens offerings and lack of support by 3rd parties.
02-06-2017, 07:46 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by svassh Quote
I just can't get past the price on this lens.
A fairer comparison would be with the current Nikon and Canon 70-200 2.8's. Adorama prices the current Nikon 70-200 2.8 for USD $2,796.95, for example, vs the Pentax for USD $1,796.95 ...
02-06-2017, 07:54 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by rawr Quote
A fairer comparison would be with the current Nikon and Canon 70-200 2.8's. Adorama prices the current Nikon 70-200 2.8 for USD $2,796.95, for example, vs the Pentax for USD $1,796.95 ...
I partially agree with you there. But again those lenses have image stabilization, VERY fast focus and are critically acclaimed. I just don't get the sense the Pentax is in the same class rather more in the class of the 3rd party lens offerings from Sigma and Tamron as far as IQ and focus speed.

In full disclosure I was previously an owner of the Canon 70-200 2.8 II with a Canon 1DX so maybe my expectations are not fair.

02-06-2017, 08:02 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by svassh Quote
I partially agree with you there. But again those lenses have image stabilization, VERY fast focus and are critically acclaimed. I just don't get the sense the Pentax is in the same class rather more in the class of the 3rd party lens offerings from Sigma and Tamron as far as IQ and focus speed.

In full disclosure I was previously an owner of the Canon 70-200 2.8 II with a Canon 1DX so maybe my expectations are not fair.
Optically, I think the Pentax is as good as Nikon and Canon offerings, better than Sigma and Tamron 70-200 lenses. Not quite as fast as the canon and Nikon lenses with regard to auto focus speed. But in the end it is probably the best Pentax lens I've used and fast enough to focus that I don't need better.
02-06-2017, 08:30 PM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by svassh Quote
I partially agree with you there. But again those lenses have image stabilization, VERY fast focus and are critically acclaimed. I just don't get the sense the Pentax is in the same class rather more in the class of the 3rd party lens offerings from Sigma and Tamron as far as IQ and focus speed.

In full disclosure I was previously an owner of the Canon 70-200 2.8 II with a Canon 1DX so maybe my expectations are not fair.
I'm not sure whether it's as fast as your Canon lens, but I'm pretty sure the IQ is up to par with the Canon. How many stops of image stabilisation do you need? I've shot down to 1/25 @ 200mm, but could probably go slower with some effort.
02-06-2017, 09:35 PM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by lithedreamer Quote
I'm not sure whether it's as fast as your Canon lens, but I'm pretty sure the IQ is up to par with the Canon. How many stops of image stabilisation do you need? I've shot down to 1/25 @ 200mm, but could probably go slower with some effort.
Actually the lack of IS is not my point. I feel the Pentax is priced as though it includes the IS which I get from the body. Plenty of professional reviews that call the Canon sharp across the frame at 2.8 haven't seen any Pentax reviews making that claim unless stopped down to 4 or 5.6. The center I'll give you but that's what I would expect from any 3rd party 70-200 lens > $1k.

Not trying to belittle the Pentax lens at all, I'm glad those that have it seem to be happy with it. Just saying the cost gives me pause and I'm not someone you would ever call cheap if you knew me. I'll probably cave and buy it eventually but at a better price point I would already own it. Maybe I'm just bitter I don't have more choices

Last edited by svassh; 02-06-2017 at 09:41 PM.
02-06-2017, 09:48 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by svassh Quote
I just don't get the sense the Pentax is in the same class rather more in the class of the 3rd party lens offerings from Sigma and Tamron
We need some optical bench tests by LensRental or someone of this lens to confirm, but in general, as a FA* class lens, I suspect it will be the optical equal of it's Nikon or Canon peers. That was kind of the goal of the Pentax designers.
02-06-2017, 10:17 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by clickclick Quote
So, If you already had a DA* 50-135 and the D FA 150-450 and were shooting APS-C, would you swap it out for the 50-135, add it to the collection, or wait until you had a full frame camera in hand?
The DFA70-200 is definitely paired well with full frame. IMO, save the money and buy it together with FF.

---------- Post added 07-02-17 at 06:20 ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by svassh Quote
Considering there is no image stabilization this should be less expensive.
Image stab. cost a few $ only. The cost of image stab is peanuts compared to cost of the amount of glass used in this kind of lens.
02-06-2017, 10:20 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by svassh Quote
haven't seen any Pentax reviews making that claim unless stopped down to 4 or 5.6(
Not sure where your coming from.... I've seen reviews and graphs indicating that it is sharp across the frame wide open.... anyway, for those of us that just have the occasional use for a 70-200/2.8 it is expensive.... however that's the direction it's going..... I make do with a Sigma...

this took 5 seconds on google.... https://www.ephotozine.com/article/pentax-hd-pentax-d-fa--70-200mm-f-2-8-ed-dc-aw-review-29351. quote from them " a very fine lens with good “character” and bokeh and a high level of sharpness that applies very evenly across the frame"
02-06-2017, 10:24 PM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by svassh Quote
Plenty of professional reviews that call the Canon sharp across the frame at 2.8 haven't seen any Pentax reviews making that claim unless stopped down to 4 or 5.6.
I do have the DFA70-200, and I can tell you that this is not true at all. My DFA70-200 is tack sharp wide open, I don't see sharpness improved stopping down... I did a test to see if I could shoot wide open, I did not see a difference, so I shoot wide open all the time, without any holding back. I had other versions of 70-200, definitely not as sharp as my DFA70-200.

---------- Post added 07-02-17 at 06:26 ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by svassh Quote
In full disclosure I was previously an owner of the Canon 70-200 2.8 II with a Canon 1DX so maybe my expectations are not fair.
Did you make a mistake going Pentax? What happened to you?
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