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04-11-2018, 10:05 AM   #1
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Curious about Pentax lens lineup.

I’m new to the Pentax system and curious about the philosophy of the DA limited line.

I’ve noticed that the line is made up of small, light, well built but “slowish” lenses (from an aperture perspective). I was wondering if this comes from a long term Pentax design philosophy? Is it to set the brand apart from the fray? I have shot with Canon and Sony, so this is very unique to me.

04-11-2018, 10:21 AM   #2
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I don't know what others will say but my perspective is that Pentax makes camera gear meant for portability and outdoors use.

The camera bodies for the crop sensors are smaller and lighter. They are also light years ahead of the competition in terms of beefy weather resistant features.

If you want to stay with the crop lineup you could take the entire lineup on a 20 mile hike or carry it on a plane no problem.

Throw in a WR zoom and you are set up.

Keep in mind that these lenses and cameras are predominantly for daylight use. In extreme low light conditions they will struggle some but not too awful or anything.

You put together any kit you want...from any manufacturer and get 5 primes of your choice and one zoom and then compare. The size and weight considerations are huge.

As long as you feed your camera (any camera)good light and you will do ok.
04-11-2018, 10:24 AM   #3
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Prime lenses used to be optimized by all manufacturers to be lighter and smaller. The trend has been towards very large heavily (over?) optimized and fast lenses at the same time as Digital technology has lowered the need for very fast lenses to the more extreme edge cases. Yes faster lenses give a narrower depth of field but this starts to approach razor thin at some point. The pentax design philosophy is towards a more traditional lighter and smaller prime for a couple of reasons - not the least of which is that Pentax never abandoned the lens mount during their move to digital. Canon as a counter example had to build all new lenses for the EF mount. Sony E mount is similarly new as is Fuji. Nikon is a bit different - they have had multiple mount changes but all were optically compatible - some were less functional due to changes in features but generally they have kept the top line bodies backward compatible. Nikon however has always been a solid competitor to Canon and has elected to compete on the same types of designs - namely highly corrected large fast primes.

That's just my take on it.

Additionally for a very long time Pentax was in Digital but not Full Frame 35mm - so they developed a lens lineup (DA series) that matched their smaller APSC bodies and gave them the size benefits and weight benefits that differentiated this from others who only made their higher quality lenses in the Full Frame size/format. Some of these DA lenses are in fact full frame designs (DA 40, DA* 200) but they are still smaller than most competing designs available since size of the lens and real world quality of the picture rather than test performance was the primary goal.
04-11-2018, 10:32 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by str8talk83 Quote
I’m new to the Pentax system and curious about the philosophy of the DA limited line.

I’ve noticed that the line is made up of small, light, well built but “slowish” lenses (from an aperture perspective). I was wondering if this comes from a long term Pentax design philosophy? Is it to set the brand apart from the fray? I have shot with Canon and Sony, so this is very unique to me.
This page includes what the designer of two of the FA Limited lenses had to say in 2000 about the design philosophy of those lenses. It looks like the DA Limiteds were released a few years after the publication of that paper (2004 to 2009), so I don't know if they were designed using the same philosophy as were the FA Limiteds.

Lessons from a Legendary Lens Designer | Photographic Ideals, Basic Principles | The Northcoast Photographer

04-11-2018, 10:38 AM - 2 Likes   #5
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This is just an off the cuff opinion based on observation, but I think part of the philosophy was that it's better to have a slower lens that's usable (actually pretty nice) sharp from wide open, instead of giving you something that really needed to be stopped down but sounded good on paper. I think it was the desire for the lenses to perform well at any aperture.
04-11-2018, 10:41 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by clickclick Quote
This is just an off the cuff opinion based on observation, but I think part of the philosophy was that it's better to have a slower lens that's usable (actually pretty nice) sharp from wide open, instead of giving you something that really needed to be stopped down but sounded good on paper. I think it was the desire for the lenses to perform well at any aperture.
And all of those lenses do just that.

No wasted space, no wasted size. All excellent lenses.
04-11-2018, 10:45 AM   #7
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Thanks everyone for sharing. The K3II is definitely small by DSLR standards considering its features and I can see how the camera paired with a couple DA limiteds would be great for field use due to the small size.

It seems like the K1 has strayed from this philosophy since it is comparable in size to the competition as are the new DFA lenses.
04-11-2018, 10:54 AM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by str8talk83 Quote
I’m new to the Pentax system and curious about the philosophy of the DA limited line.

I’ve noticed that the line is made up of small, light, well built but “slowish” lenses (from an aperture perspective). I was wondering if this comes from a long term Pentax design philosophy? Is it to set the brand apart from the fray? I have shot with Canon and Sony, so this is very unique to me.
Yes, compactness has always been a driving philosophy for Pentax lenses (and also cameras).

There are plenty of fast options out there, though. You can explore the lineup with our lens finder tool, or view everything at once in the lens db:

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04-11-2018, 11:05 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by str8talk83 Quote
Thanks everyone for sharing. The K3II is definitely small by DSLR standards considering its features and I can see how the camera paired with a couple DA limiteds would be great for field use due to the small size.

It seems like the K1 has strayed from this philosophy since it is comparable in size to the competition as are the new DFA lenses.
The K-1 size is somewhat dictated by the format as are the lenses. The zooms are hypercorrected and f/2.8 and should be big. The new DFA 50 1.4 will likely be large but the FA Limiteds 77, 43, 31 aren't huge and we may see more in those lines in th future - time will tell. The good news is that all the legacy FA F A M and K lenses out there still work and even M42 lenses work so you have smaller primes to choose should you wish to.
04-11-2018, 11:06 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by str8talk83 Quote
It seems like the K1 has strayed from this philosophy since it is comparable in size to the competition as are the new DFA lenses.
Not really. The DFA lenses (at least the F/2.8 ones) are more comparable to the FA* line which is quite different than the Limited line. They were fast, large and attempted to be the best optics of the time. Look at the FA*28-70 f/2.8 or the FA*80-200 f/2.8, those are the predecessors of the current DFA f/2.8 lenses not the Limited line.

The DA Limited series design philosophy is metal build, excellent optics and craftsmanship often at the expense of speed. They are tiny but not always super fast. However the FA Limited series (FA 31, 43 and 77) were somewhat larger, and faster but with the same superb craftsmanship.

If there is ever a DFA Limted series it is uncertain what they might look like. Whether Pentax will lean toward the DA Limited or FA Limited designs is unknown.

It appears that having finished the trio of f/2.8 zooms they are now working on replacements for the old FA* primes. The new 50mm will be out this summer and the 85mm next year. Both are going to be huge, fast and expensive. But NOT part of the Limited line.
04-11-2018, 11:06 AM - 2 Likes   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by str8talk83 Quote
I’m new to the Pentax system and curious about the philosophy of the DA limited line.

I’ve noticed that the line is made up of small, light, well built but “slowish” lenses (from an aperture perspective). I was wondering if this comes from a long term Pentax design philosophy? Is it to set the brand apart from the fray?[
The DA 70/2.4 is not that slow for a compact telephoto lens.

But the way the apertures get smaller as the focal lengths get shorter
(70/2.4, 40/2.8, 21/3.2, 15/4)
almost exactly tracks with the philosophy of a hand-held shooting speed in seconds
equal to one over the focal length in millimeters
(1/70 sec for the tele, 1/15 sec for the superwide),
all based on a constant EV.

Very logical and well though out.
04-11-2018, 11:16 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by jatrax Quote
Not really. The DFA lenses (at least the F/2.8 ones) are more comparable to the FA* line which is quite different than the Limited line. They were fast, large and attempted to be the best optics of the time. Look at the FA*28-70 f/2.8 or the FA*80-200 f/2.8, those are the predecessors of the current DFA f/2.8 lenses not the Limited line.

The DA Limited series design philosophy is metal build, excellent optics and craftsmanship often at the expense of speed. They are tiny but not always super fast. However the FA Limited series (FA 31, 43 and 77) were somewhat larger, and faster but with the same superb craftsmanship.

If there is ever a DFA Limted series it is uncertain what they might look like. Whether Pentax will lean toward the DA Limited or FA Limited designs is unknown.

It appears that having finished the trio of f/2.8 zooms they are now working on replacements for the old FA* primes. The new 50mm will be out this summer and the 85mm next year. Both are going to be huge, fast and expensive. But NOT part of the Limited line.
This makes sense. It will be interesting to see what direction PENTAX takes going forward. I think it would be ideal to have both fast and slow lenses, but it takes time to build up such a lens line.
04-11-2018, 11:24 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by str8talk83 Quote
I think it would be ideal to have both fast and slow lenses, but it takes time to build up such a lens line.
Exactly. And the FA Limiteds are still in production, or at least they ran a batch not that long ago. So they will fill out the DFA* primes first. Then hopefully we will see a new Limited line. But that might be 2024 or so.

Pentax will (IMHO) have three lines:
DFA* - fast, big, expensive
DFA - excellent lens but variable aperture and somewhat slower like the DFA 28-105
DFA Limited - ???? metal build and high quality craftsmanship but whether they are slow or fast is anyone's guess.
04-11-2018, 12:30 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
Yes, compactness has always been a driving philosophy for Pentax lenses (and also cameras).
...at least from the M series onward.
04-12-2018, 03:01 AM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by str8talk83 Quote
I’ve noticed that the line is made up of small, light, well built but “slowish” lenses (from an aperture perspective).
Just to add another aspect of the design thinking for the limited series: Because of IBIS (in body image stabilization) or SR (shake reduction) feature on the Pentax DSLRs, the lenses do not need the extra size for VR or IS and with the ability to shoot handheld at slower shutter speeds, fast glass is less a priority. And....I see low light results daily from Canon, Nikon, and Pentax users and Pentax really gets exceptional high ISO results relative to the others at the same ISO.

As far as the size or weight of the K-1 relative to Canon or Nikon full frame models:

Yes, itʻs heavy at 924g if you compare it to other entry level models: Nikon D610 758g, Canon 6D 770g.
Yes, when compared to other DSLRs in its price range: Nikon D750 750g, Canon 6D II 685g.

But quality-wise, the K-1 is a flagship (without an entry and midlevel siblings), and itʻs an average weight: Nikon D850 915g, Canon 5D IV 800g, Nikon D5 1415g, Canon 1DX-II 1530g.

And even then, on average Iʻd say the non-limited Pentax lenses are generally the same or lighter:
Pentax HD DFA 24-70mm f/2.8ED SDM 787g ($1100)
Canon EF-L 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM 805g ($1700)
Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR 1070g ($2400)
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