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SMC Pentax-A 35-105mm F3.5 Review RSS Feed

SMC Pentax-A 35-105mm F3.5

Sharpness 
 9.0
Aberrations 
 8.5
Bokeh 
 8.6
Handling 
 8.3
Value 
 9.6
Reviews Views Date of last review
73 271,029 Mon December 30, 2019
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Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
97% of reviewers $108.10 8.92
SMC Pentax-A 35-105mm F3.5
supersize


Description:
This lens has faster aperture than that of its autofocus F version. It also delivers a macro mode accessible at all focal lengths.



SMC Pentax-A 35-105mm F3.5
© www.pentaxforums.com, sharable with attribution
Image Format
Full-frame / 35mm film
Lens Mount
Pentax K
Aperture Ring
Yes (A setting)
Diaphragm
Automatic, 6 blades
Optics
15 elements, 13 groups
Mount Variant
KA
Check camera compatibility
Max. Aperture
F3.5
Min. Aperture
F22
Focusing
Manual
Min. Focus
150 cm
Max. Magnification
0.25x
Filter Size
67 mm
Internal Focus
No
Field of View (Diag. / Horiz.)

APS-C: 45-16 ° / 38-13 °
Full frame: 63-23 ° / 54-19 °
Hood
RH-B 70mm
Case
Hard case HD-143
Lens Cap
Plastic clip-on
Coating
SMC
Weather Sealing
No
Other Features
Diam x Length
70 x 98 mm
Weight
615 g
Production Years
1984 to 1989
Engraved Name
smc PENTAX-A ZOOM 1:3.5 35~105mm
Product Code
27097
Reviews
User reviews
Features:
Manual FocusAperture RingAutomatic ApertureFull-Frame SupportDiscontinued
In-depth Review: Read our SMC Pentax-A 35-105mm F3.5 in-depth review!
Price History:



Add Review of SMC Pentax-A 35-105mm F3.5
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Site Supporter

Registered: July, 2019
Location: Kamloops B.C
Posts: 70

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: December 30, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $125.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Image quality, build
Cons: Heavy
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: MX, Super Program,K-7, K-5, KP   

Instead of repeating what has been said already about this lens in regards to technical details, I will instead share some thoughts I have about this lens as I have owned and used it now for nearly 20 years.


First off, this is an excellent lens,one of my favorites. I used this lens extensively from around 2000-2009 on film bodies. However, when I made the switch to digital it spent a few years shelved because of the awkward focal length on APS-C ... It just didn't seem to pair up well with the offered focal lengths, plus I was enjoying AF.


Then a few years back I started doing my own, completely unscientific but very informative lens tests of all my lenses. It was a pretty big project for I have acquired many lenses over the years but I figured it would be worth it as a way to really get to know my lenses. I had a good idea going in which were the best and worst lenses that I owned, but the 35-105 was the big surprise of the bunch. What a sleeper! I was shocked with how well it stood up to (and sometimes surpassed) my most modern lenses when compared at the same aperture and focal length ... some 7x more expensive and highly regarded.


For an event like a wedding or sports I'll always reach for my trio of large aperture zooms with silent and quick auto-focus (Sigma EX 10-20, Pentax DA* 16-50 or Sigma 17-50, and Sigma EX 70-200 f2.8). I like to sometimes shoot rodeos and Native Pow-wows and there really is no substitute for big fast zooms, but for everything else its the 20-40mm Limited with the A 35-105.


With the introduction of the 20-40mm Limited zoom in 2013 the 35-105 has come off the shelf and once again put back into regular rotation. What a great combo. The focal lengths perfectly compliment each other. Even though both of these lenses are nearly 30 years apart they go together like peaches and cream. Like two long lost brothers finally reunited ... ok, you get the idea. They both share a similar high quality tactile feel, smooth zoom and focus, and most importantly the images are rendered in a similar way. Although the metal build and constant f3.5 aperture means it's heavy, its actually quite compact, much smaller dimensions then other lenses of this ilk. Its actually pretty amazing that I can shoot this lens from 1984 right next to my Limited zoom and I don't feel that I'm giving anything up outside of AF and weather sealing.


The weaknesses of this lens are solely due to it being a product of its own time: No auto-focus, no weather sealing, flares easier than the new HD coatings, front element turns when focused, minor aberrations, funky switch to macro. ... hardly anything to balk about. In fact, this was quite the piece of equipment in its day.


So is it as good as a prime? well, no. You're not going crush backgrounds into a blurred mass like a fast prime, and the macro mode will never keep up with the sharpness of a dedicated macro lens, but what it does, it does really well.


I think it is fair to say that this is one of Pentax's very best manual focus zooms and I'm sure the argument could be made that is best. For its ability to share company with modern zoom lenses while most other zoom lenses from 80's are collecting dust in the bargain bin is a good reason to rate this lens highly - the fact that it does this for about $120ish bucks is reason to give it 10/10.


...did I mention that it's handsome too?




*I have not used this lens on a full frame digital camera.
   
New Member

Registered: June, 2017
Posts: 5

5 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: February 18, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $125.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Great colors, sharp in all corners
Cons: Quite heavy, also in zooming
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 9    Value: 10    Camera Used: Pentax K-1   

This is my first review. I've been following the reviews here for more than a few times a week over the past two years while working on my steadily growing collection of (mainly) Pentax lenses. The information has proved to be very important deciding whether to buy another (old) lens or not.

For the first time I have experience with a lens that has been seriously way better than I ever expected, while the reviews here are less enthusiastic. Not saying they should be - to each his own - but I'd like to add my own experience to this valuable database.

Indeed, it's called the "stack of primes" so it's supposed to be perfect at about all ranges. Did I check them all? Well, a lot anyway. Most important is I worked with it on the Pentax K-1 and I believe that working with this lens on the fullframe body might just be what reveals its quality. Just to test the hell out of it I took it to Amsterdam on a sunny afternoon and the results were simply way better than I ever hoped for.

Colors are beautiful, sharpness is great corner to corner. Of course you have to "nail focus" yourself with a manual lens, but when you do the result is fantastic in my opinion.
It's not hard to focus, but it can be a bit hard to zoom in or out - it's not really as smooth as other zoom lenses I know. And it's somewhat heavy, but not uncomfortable.

So now, let me share a large selection of the shots I captured with my Pentax K-1 and 35-105mm "stack of primes" on that sunny saturday afternoon and let the results speak for themselves from here.

   
Junior Member

Registered: June, 2014
Posts: 45

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: August 11, 2018 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $99.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Best for flowers! Excellent colour reproduction and clarity, great build quality
Cons: Heavy! Awkwardly positioned zoom ring and macro switch
Sharpness: 7    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 5    Value: 10    Camera Used: K-S1   

Some people call it the Stack of Primes. I think it's a bit exaggerated. I call it my Botanical Lens. It produces amazing flower photos – colourful, sharp, 3-dimensional and very life-like! This lens has excellent colours and clarity, on par with Limited lenses.

Sharpness is great in the centre stopped down, not so much on the edges. On my copy, the left 20-25% of the frame is unsharp. It is the worst at 35mm and gradually improves to 105mm. For a botanical lens it's not a problem.

Bokeh can be busy wide open and improves stopped down to F4.5 and higher. Portraits turn out good as well with nice smooth bokeh and good balance of sharpness and softness. Chromatic aberrations can be easily corrected.

The build quality is excellent, it is a beautifully made lens, though very heavy. Handling on a small camera like the K-S1 isn't very good – it feels unbalanced and front heavy. The focusing ring is smooth and easy to work with, the zoom ring is much smaller and tighter. I quickly got used to the macro switch, however it can be annoying when focused on something at 1.5 m (5ft), the edge between normal and macro focusing distances. You may have to move back or forth slightly.

Overall it is a nice lens, well worth the price if you like to photograph flowers and don't mind manual focus. You can see some of my photos taken with this lens here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alex_virt/albums/72157699614530184
   
Senior Member

Registered: May, 2011
Location: Malmö, Sweden
Posts: 126
Lens Review Date: July 29, 2018 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $120.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Versatile, fun, (often) sharp, colours
Cons: Hard to master
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 8    Value: 8    Camera Used: K-5   

A curates egg this one. Can be really sharp, though less so at the long end I think. Anyhow it's a bit tricky to master, you need to spend much time learning it. But results can be great! The focus ring is a bit rattly, I think because it works as a switch for macro position.
   
Site Supporter

Registered: July, 2017
Location: Cinco de Mayo
Posts: 236
Lens Review Date: January 26, 2018 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: sharp
Cons: heavy and focus very "sensitive"
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: Kx   

As an amateur, I find this lens very versatile. Although for street photography, you can not go unnoticed by its size.

At first I found it hard to get used to focusing, a little weird. Surely because the focus ring is already slightly loose.




   
Site Supporter

Registered: May, 2013
Posts: 60

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: October 16, 2017 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: sharpness, colors, macro function
Cons: focus ring takes getting used to
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 7    Value: 10    Camera Used: K-3   

I haven't used this lens too much but have now used it enough to want to add a review. Mostly I'd just second the other reviews. As one said, when you get it right with this lens, it's something special. The focus ring does take some getting used to, but otherwise I have nothing negative to say. The colors are gorgeous, it's razor sharp even at the corners - this photo of holly berries is uncropped, I think around f/8.


I find the focal length range and the macro function very useful, making this a wonderful (if somewhat heavy) all-purpose walk around lens. And for an old lens, there's no purple fringing when shooting into light -- I was curious how the photos of the magnolia bud would turn out, but the lens handled it beautifully. A true gem.


And the macro function worked great for tiny flowers and a spider.



   
New Member

Registered: January, 2017
Posts: 2
Lens Review Date: January 22, 2017 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $150.00 | Rating: N/A 

 
Pros: Sharpness
Cons: None
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: Ks02   

I collect all the pentax manual zooms, (M and A series and a few spotmatic lenses as well)..... and it it is true what they say, For some reason, when you get the focus right, it is simply head and shoulders above anything else. A freak.
   
New Member

Registered: February, 2016
Location: lake constance
Posts: 1

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: October 14, 2016 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $120.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: extremely sharp lens, very good use in full format
Cons: a little bit heavy, bad klick-mechanism into macro
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 4    Value: 10   

Optics:

This is a great lens!
I didn`t see often this optical quality of a zoom like this. One stop down, you can enjoy the same quality like from a prime lens. And this over the whole zoom area.
I recommend this lens on Sony A7, because you can keep your equipment small on a trip.
Not as good as the optics is the mechanic quality. I am a M-series fan and this is an A-series.
A-series lenses are not as light as the former lenses and they are poorer in focusing.
I used this lens on short trips and I can recommend this lens! Optics is even better, sharper than from my Nikkor 35-105mm 3,5-4,5, and this is really good. Macro optics quality is best for a zoom lens.
My tip for city trips.
   
New Member

Registered: September, 2016
Posts: 3

5 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: September 19, 2016 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $80.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Build quality, image quality
Cons: Clumsy macro clutch mechanism
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 9    Value: 10    Camera Used: K-30   

I'll refrain from grading the lens yet since I've only had it for a couple of days, these are first impressions. Amazing build quality, never seen anything like it in a zoom (though I have to admit I've never handled a star lens for comparison). It's heavy but I like the feeling on camera. At f3.5-f4 there is some glow/fuzziness around edges at brightly lit objects (see pic 1 and 2). This glow might actually enhance the appearance of ie flowers but looks out of place on inorganic subjects like buildings or cars. At f4.5 the effect is gone. Bokeh is nice. It handles difficult light situations with large dynamic range with flying colors and metering on my K-30 is spot on (see for example boy at door pic, that's out of camera without adjustments). Glass is great, it behaves like modern glass with good contrast without washout and it's flare resistant: It rendered the backlit flowers in pic 5 better than my Pentax 55-300mm HD. No hood on! From f4.5 and up it's as sharp as you'll ever need, see 100% crop in pic 6. Semi macro mode gives a 1:3 magnification ratio. Think I'll use this mostly as a very versatile portrait lens, with the zoom range of 52.5-157.5 FF equivalent. Focus throw is long and with some resistance, you won't be catching fast moving objects with this one. Beautiful lens.



Update: grading lens now, first impressions pretty much hold up. Bokeh at the tele end at f3.5 is wonderful, se first two examples below. Any smaller f-stops and you get hexagons (which may be to your liking). I'll iterate that this lens is a champion in harsh lighting. Last pic below, straight backlighting, no hood, sun just above top of frame: no veiling, no flares - astounding. Great lens for outdoor use. Balances very well on modern dslr's with their more substantial grips.

   
Veteran Member

Registered: July, 2014
Location: Nagoya
Posts: 577

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: August 9, 2016 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $130.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Image quality, handling, mechanical quality
Cons: Heavy

There's not much more to be said about this lens, so I'll just concur that it's brilliant. It's heavy but that's the price you pay for constant aperture, good zoom range and tasty metal construction - it handles much better on beefier cameras that balance it out nicely. I find the handling of the lens itself to be uniformly good and I actually like the slide up into macro/close focus feature - it's much nicer than having to shove through a bump stop at the end of the zoom range on many other Pentax zooms. It's also available at all focal lengths.

The image quality that this lens puts out is simply stunning, particularly the 3D 'pop' of the photos. Contrast and sharpness is uniform and good wide open, bitingly crisp from f5.6 onwards on both digital and film.. No particularly unpleasant fringing or distortion.

Although it's relatively expensive for an old zoom lens, what this lens gives you makes it the bargain of the A series range. I can't think of anything that would make me advise against buying it. I wavered for ages, but as soon as I took the first few shots with it I knew I had something special in my hands.
   
New Member

Registered: November, 2014
Posts: 3

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: July 12, 2016 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $90.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: really good at what it is - an SMC-A 35-105 zoom.
Cons: none really, unless you compare it to different lenses
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 9    Value: 9    Camera Used: K-30   

Just acquired this lens, and it does not disappoint.

This shot was taken in pseudo macro mode, hand-held at 125th f/5.6 ISO 100.



This one is my standard quick-and-dirty lens test.
Can I resolve the wing-nut under the neighbor's antenna? Zoom in to find out if this lens makes the grade! The Magpie is a bonus.
Hand-held at 1000th, f/10, ISO 200. Focal length 105mm.



This view is about 80mm focal length, 640th, f/5, ISO 160.

   
Loyal Site Supporter

Registered: May, 2015
Location: Hampshire
Posts: 874

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: May 28, 2016 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $30.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharp, constant F3.5, cheap? with a "macro?" close focus ability
Cons: Not a lot.
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 9    Value: 10    Camera Used: K-5   

There is a lot to like about this lens, it is not as heavy as my (Tokina made?) Vivitar 35-105mm F3.5 ( by about 200 grams) and has a 5mm smaller filter size (67mm vs 72mm) and is sharper.
I rather liked the Viv, it may have been a direct competitor to this Pentax in the day but it is not quite as sharp to my mind.

Is it as good as carrying around a selection of primes?

Well if you are out and about it would save opening up the camera if one needed to change the lens for another focal length.
If the subject was up a tree and skittish, one might get an image with this before the subject disappeared or one climbed up a bit to get closer rather than change the lens.
Though it is always possible that the right FL lens is already on the camera and the wider aperture is needed.

Not wishing to prolong any debate but in the following circumstance, I took an image, F5.6, AWB, centre weighted, ISO 400 from approximately the same distance away.
The exposures we re both at 1/200th but as you will see, the exposures of the image are not identical when viewing.

Is one sharper or better than the oth er? Well I actually prefer the zoom image this time, I rate it just as sharp.

The brighter image and crop are from the zoom.




I have tried editing the text but it comes back all over the place again!
   
amateur dirt farmer

Registered: December, 2014
Location: probably out in a field somewhere...
Posts: 17,714

3 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: April 1, 2016 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $33.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: color rendition, handling, sharpness, general feel of quality
Cons: weight, odd macro/shift function
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 8    Value: 9    Camera Used: K-3, K-50   

I'll state the obvious up front: I love this lens...

I ignore the clunky focus-shift into and out of 'macro'...

I ignore the weight and length of a zoom that only goes to 105mm....

all of this for several reasons - it's well-built and all that weight gives it a seriousness to it's handling... and it looks good on your camera...

oh - and don't forget the pictures:

Stormy Grace by Pepperberry Farm, on Flickr bridal wreath spirea by Pepperberry Farm, on Flickr Spud & Chloe colors... by Pepperberry Farm, on Flickr

sunset tonight... by Pepperberry Farm, on Flickr

they call this lens the Stack of Primes for its abilities and I know that has been debated in the forums time and time again, but I tend to agree that when you nail a shot with TSOP, there's not going to be much difference between that shot and a prime at the same FL...

if you find one of these lenses that is in decent shape for a decent price - add it to your kit, just do it...
   
New Member

Registered: March, 2016
Posts: 1

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: March 22, 2016 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $60.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: smooth zoom and focus, image quality, cheap for it´s performance
Cons: lens cap doesn´t hold very good
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: K5   

I own a few manual lenses, cause I do not need autofocus for my photos - and I love the feeling and control of manual focussing.

my lenses are:
SMC Pentax A 50 mm 1.7
SMC Pentax M 35-70 2.8-3.5
SMC Pentax A 35-105 3.5
Vivitar Series 1 70-210 3.5
Pentax DA 16-45 4.0
SMC Pentax DA 18-135 3.5-5.6

Most of these lenses have some macro abilities, but I like the 35-105 the most. Why? It gives a well balanced combination with my K5 plus battery grip. The smooth zoom ring feels very good. You can go very fast from normal zoom in macro mode per pulling the ring away from you. The extension of the tube from 35 to 105 is very short and the rather heavy handed zoom prevents of zoom creep.
Now a few words to the image performance: f3.5 is rather fast compared to other cheap zooms available now. The sharpness is very good. I think in most situations you do not need excellent sharpness until corners, so you can use it also full open. Bokeh is very pleasant for me. Here´s an example of a macro shot. It´s besides the A50 my favourite lens I use.

   
Junior Member

Registered: March, 2016
Posts: 41
Lens Review Date: March 19, 2016 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $60.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Form & function
Cons:
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 10    Value: 10   

I love this lens for it's positive handling and images, great value.
Very useful with fill flash around the city.
I put a 67mm metal hood on mine.
Add Review of SMC Pentax-A 35-105mm F3.5



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