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SMC Pentax-A 35-210mm F3.5-4.5 Review RSS Feed

SMC Pentax-A 35-210mm F3.5-4.5

Sharpness 
 8.7
Aberrations 
 8.0
Bokeh 
 8.3
Handling 
 6.3
Value 
 8.3
Reviews Views Date of last review
5 25,756 Tue July 20, 2021
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Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
80% of reviewers $185.00 7.60
SMC Pentax-A 35-210mm F3.5-4.5
supersize


Description:
This lens as a great aperture range for its focal length.



SMC Pentax-A 35-210mm F3.5-4.5
© www.pentaxforums.com, sharable with attribution
Image Format
Full-frame / 35mm film
Lens Mount
Pentax K
Aperture Ring
Yes (A setting)
Diaphragm
Automatic, 8 blades
Optics
17 elements, 14 groups
Mount Variant
KA
Check camera compatibility
Max. Aperture
F3.5-4.5
Min. Aperture
F22-32
Focusing
Manual
Min. Focus
110 cm
Max. Magnification
Filter Size
67 mm
Internal Focus
No
Field of View (Diag. / Horiz.)

APS-C: 45-7.9 ° / 38-6.5 °
Full frame: 63-12 ° / 54-10 °
Hood
RH-B 70mm
Case
Hard case HD-190C
Lens Cap
Plastic clip-on
Coating
SMC
Weather Sealing
No
Other Features
One-touch Zoom
Diam x Length
71 x 126 mm
Weight
775 g
Production Years
1986 to 1987
Engraved Name
smc PENTAX-A ZOOM 1:3.5~4.5 35~210mm
Product Code
27337
Reviews
User reviews
Features:
Manual FocusAperture RingAutomatic ApertureFull-Frame SupportDiscontinued
Price History:



Add Review of SMC Pentax-A 35-210mm F3.5-4.5
Author:
Sort Reviews by: Date | Author | Rating | Recommendation | Likes (Descending) Showing Reviews 1-5 of 5
Junior Member

Registered: June, 2014
Posts: 47
Lens Review Date: July 20, 2021 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $70.00 | Rating: 7 

 
Pros: zoom range, good image quality, solid build
Cons: push-pull design, zoom creep, heavy and difficult to use, soft at the long end, very long min. focus distance
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 5    Value: 10    Camera Used: KP   

After getting my second Vivitar 70-210mm, I decided not to buy heavy manual zooms anymore, but couldn't miss this rarity.

The lens is only slightly smaller and lighter than the Vivitar, and the build quality is excellent. However, I very much dislike the push-pull design. When the lens is pointed down, it inevitably creeps to 210mm. Handling on the Pentax KP isn't very good.

The optical quality is very good. Central sharpness is excellent throughout the zoom range. At apertures below F8, edge sharpness isn't great at 35mm but quickly improves by 50mm and stays good until 135mm. At the tele end, only the very centre of the frame is sharp. Stopping down to F10-11 greatly improves edge sharpness. With some extra sharpening and dehazing even 210mm becomes good.

The macro mode is usable, however it works only at the long end, and due to lack of contrast and clarity, results aren't very impressive. Flower photos turn out dull and flat and lack clarity and "3D pop" produced by my "botanical lenses", the Pentax-A 35-105/F3.5 and the Vivitar 70-210/F2.8-4. The viewfinder image is also flat and a bit dark. This lens is more difficult to focus than the two lenses mentioned above.

UPDATE. Today I received scans from the test film roll. Sharpness is great across the frame, but contrast and clarity are lacking. It didn't help that I shot low contrast Portra 400 on a hot and hazy day. See last photo. Looks like this lens requires more contrasty film like Ultramax.

Overall it's an interesting collector's piece and a decent walkaround lens, but don't expect anything outstanding. My rating is 7 due to poor handling. If this lens had a zoom ring, I would give it a solid 8.









Pentax KP



Pentax Z-1P, Kodak Portra 400
   
New Member

Registered: January, 2017
Posts: 2
Lens Review Date: January 22, 2017 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $250.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Rarity
Cons: Weight
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 8    Value: 8    Camera Used: Ks02   

Im lucky to own one. Regardless of the photographic quality, this is a collectors piece. Almost none on the market, and few were built. It is simply amazingly made. Beautiful to hold, and push pull from 35 to 210. It focuses quick, using the KSo2 focus indicator. IQ is high, Sharpness good. It is a real bit of kit.
   
Veteran Member

Registered: November, 2013
Posts: 1,740
Lens Review Date: June 25, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $100.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Image quality, building quality, high zoom ratio, relatively wide aperture
Cons: large, heavy, rare and therefore expensive
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 6    Value: 7    Camera Used: Pentax LX   

The A 35-210 is a rare beast, I was able to get one on ebay for a decent price (65) and despite of the lukewarm reviews I decided to try it. After the first test film here there are my first impression.

General:

The A 35-210 appears to be the tentative in the mid 80s from Pentax to create a "superzoom" with high ratio, high speed, high IQ probably for professional use. It remained in production for one year or two then it was discontinued, probably because its huge size didn't fit in the philosophy of the company in these days to make small and light gear. Smaller high quality zooms like the A 35-105 and the 70-210 seem to have been more popular at the day. I couldn't find the formula online, but the number of elements is important and probably it was one of the most complex zooms of its time. The one that I received in is good conditions, a little fungus on one of the lense, otherwise it looks almost new from the outside.

Optics/Bokeh

IQ is very high for a zoom lens, especially stepped down, wide open is slightly softer at the corner, but still acceptable, wide open it's better at 35 mm that at 210 mm but still usable, as a wide angle it works well with architecture, as tele I've taken few shots of wildlife, the lens is neutral colour wise, aberration are contained, sharpness over f5.6 is all over the picture. Flare is non existant but due to the large front element at 35 mm you can get some ghosts (see example) but it's pleasant.

Focal length:

Nothing to say here, almost a universal zoom, perfect travelling companion...or perhaps not (see below).

Build/Mechanics:

This is the best built zoom I've ever handled, typical high level "A" construction: metal, glass, rubber, very little plastic. The black matte finish is impeccable, writing, incisions are perfect, the A rubber grip very pleasant and unsual. No zoom creep, the handle is stable in both directions (zoom and focusing). SMC coating spotless, eight straight blades, pleasant aperture clips....the only complaints is that there is an half position between the stops f11, then just full values for f16 and 22.

Handling:

That's the worst point of the lens for me. It's huge, but you realise how much huge it is when you are handling it for the first time: the front element is as large as the one from a ultra wide lens (for instance a 20mm Flektogon) but unlike a wide angle it's also long, so you have a quite chubby barrell in your hand. PLUS when you close focus it extends, and of course from 35 mm to 210 it extends too, so if you are using the macro function (focusing at 1 meter, 210mm) the already long barrel become 1/3 even longer(and yes the front element rotates)! Also, the original hood from Pentax is hard to find and a normal 67mm would cause vignetting from 35 to 50 mm. The weight of 775 gr might not a problem per se, it's a standard value for Canon or Nikon but this zoom is likely to be used on a small camera like an LX or something even smaller, in this case I would recommend to use a motordrive to balance the lens.

Conclusions

When I bought it I was worried about the quality of this zoom, it appeared it was just a waste of money but I decided to bite the bullet and I don't regret it, I assume the problem is that some people has spent a lot of money for it and the expectations were high, IMO for a high ration zoom of the mid 80s it's brilliant,and I would recommend it if you can find at a good price. I added few samples I've taken with my LX, a skylight filter and Portra 160, the scans are not modified and that's what you could expect on film, if there is some softness it depends by the difficulty of keeping it stable when hand hold at slow speeds (1/125sec).

Bokeh test: 210 mm close focus at f4.5:





At 35 mm:



Gardenscape at 35 mm f8:



50 mm, f3.5:



Architecture (sort of), 35 mm f11:



Wildlife, 210mm f5.6:



Backlight, f22, 35mm (notice the ghost):



Portrait at 210mm f4.5:

   
Veteran Member

Registered: August, 2009
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Posts: 592

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: September 6, 2009 I can recommend this lens: No | Price: $320.00 | Rating: 5 

 
Pros: Build quality; wide zoom range; relatively 'fast'
Cons: Poor contrast and soft image quality; heavy and large

I owned an A35-210 for a short while just before switching to digital. I had big expectations of this lens while waiting for it to arrive after buying it off eBay. In the end it proved to be a bit of a disappointment however. While it was an interesting lens to handle and use, it didn't end up as a 'keeper' on the basis of the test shots I conducted with it (using a film Z1 that I owned at the time).

This is a bulky and heavy zoom that appears to be well-made but performs disappointingly. I compared this lens to a Pentax FA28-200 3.8-5.6 'superzoom' and there was no comparison in image quality sadly. The newer lens was much sharper and produced much brighter, much more contrasty images at all focal settings and all apertures - especially wide open.

Wide open it is soft at the edges and lacks contrast. It performs quite poorly between 35-50 and at 210. It's best at 85 but still not very sharp wide open.

Sure, the 35-210 sharpened up and improved when stopped down. Stopped down it was quite satisfactory all the way through the range - but that defeated the purpose of it being a (relatively) fast zoom.

Thus, as far as image quailty is concerned, the only good things about the 35-210 are the wide range, and that it has very well controlled distortion across the whole range. By comparison the FA28-200 f3.8-5.6 (which is in my opinion is actually a 28-190) has more distortion but is sharper and more contrasty.

Curiously the 35-210 always looked a lot darker through the viewfinder than its f3.5-4.5 maximum aperture would have suggested (darker than the 28-200 3.8-5.6 - which should have been slower in theory). This was confirmed by the shutter speed readouts when comparing the 2 lenses side by side in the same light.

The A35-210 seemed quite a bit longer at 210 compared to the FA28-200 at 200 but I suspect that this was because the 28-20 really was more a 28-190 whereas the 35-210 really did stretch out to 210.

I loved the build quality - it certainly felt like it was made of metal and glass rather than cheap plastic (like many modern lenses unfortunately).

Mechanically it felt superb and I really liked the push/pull one touch zoom/focus. However, I prefer lenses that don't extend and with the 35-210 it really was WAY too long at 210 - it felt like you were holding a bazooka!

All in all, an interesting lens and I enjoyed my short time with it. I even hooked up a 1.7AF adaptor to it and it focussed and worked well enough on my Z1. In the end though, I quickly sold it as I really had no practical purpose for it and it didn't match up the the specs on paper. Add to that the huge size (esp. at 210mm) and weight and it really didn't make sense to keep it. I can't imagine having gone out in public with it as it would have made me feel very self conscious and the images I would have obtained would not have made up for it.

Subsequently I bought and used M75-150 f4 and A70-210 f4 lenses and in contrast to the A35-210, these were completely usable and absolutely superb in every respect (even in the digital age).

In summary, an interesting lens for a collector but one to keep in a display cabinet rather than use on the camera.
   
Senior Member

Registered: October, 2008
Location: Missoula, MT.
Posts: 109
Lens Review Date: January 10, 2009 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Wide zoom range, Above average sharpness & image quality, Fast enough & light enough to be hand-held, Nice build & handling, Smooth, tight ing rings, & a useful macro setting. focus & zoom
Cons: A little faster aperture would have been nice.

A great handling lens that for it's day is a fairly fast, good image quality lens for a 6x zoom range & for it's reasonable price. A great lens for travel & all purpose photography, when one or two lenses was all you wanted to take. Had no problem using it hand-held with 200 speed film on my LX body. Images were slightly softer & not quite as contrasty as images from Pentax prime lenses but that is to be expected.

Cheers,

Jerry
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