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SMC Pentax-A* 135mm F1.8 Review RSS Feed

SMC Pentax-A* 135mm F1.8

Reviews Views Date of last review
17 122,682 Sat June 6, 2020
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
88% of reviewers $1,379.44 9.50
SMC Pentax-A* 135mm F1.8

This extremely-fast telephoto lens is large and heavy. It weighs 865g and has a 77mm filter diameter.

SMC Pentax-A* 135mm F1.8
©, sharable with attribution
Image Format
Full-frame / 35mm film
Lens Mount
Pentax K
Aperture Ring
Yes (A setting)
Automatic, 9 blades
7 elements, 6 groups
Mount Variant
Check camera compatibility
Max. Aperture
Min. Aperture
Min. Focus
120 cm
Max. Magnification
Filter Size
77 mm
Internal Focus
Field of View (Diag. / Horiz.)

APS-C: 12 ° / 10 °
Full frame: 18 ° / 15 °
RH-A 77mm
Hard case HE-169B
Lens Cap
Plastic clip-on
Weather Sealing
Other Features
Diam x Length
80 x 98 mm
865 g
Production Years
1984 to 1989
Engraved Name
smc PENTAX-A* 1:1.8 135mm
Product Code
User reviews
Manual FocusAperture RingAutomatic ApertureFull-Frame SupportDiscontinued
Price History:

Add Review of SMC Pentax-A* 135mm F1.8
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New Member

Registered: September, 2019
Location: Perugia
Posts: 14

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: June 6, 2020 I can recommend this lens: No | Price: N/A | Rating: N/A 

Pros: Obbiettivo pesante e costoso , ingombrante.

Registered: November, 2012
Location: Ingelheim am Rhein, Germany
Posts: 4,102

4 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: September 3, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 10 

Pros: wide open performance, sharp
Cons: expensive
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 9    Camera Used: K-1 mII   

One of my newest lenses is this A*135f1.8 manual focus lens. I picked it up with a package of other lenses in a shipment from Japan, where I purchase all my used Pentax lenses nowadays. It's either my #1 or #2 most expensive lens, owing to its relative rarity and uniqueness. This is the fastest 135mm lens in the Pentax arsenal, and they've stopped making them in 1989.

The lens handles excellently, with a wide grippy focus ring and an aperture ring with the A setting (which I don't use). The lens has a 77mm filter ring and weighs 865g (1.9#).

This is a portrait lens, designed for razor sharp wide open performance with narrow depth of field. Manual focusing is pretty easy despite the narrow depth, which makes using the lens wide open a bit easier than the common fast fifties.

Here's an example of the narrow depth of field you can get with this shot, taken wide open. The lighting is a bit weird, with natural shaded light coming thru the window, and incandescent lighting from the rear.

Kawai takes this position when we come or go normally, but for full disclosure, I should reveal that this shot was staged. I asked him to look out the window, and he did just long enough for me to get a couple shots.

I intended to focus on the eye/muzzle, but missed focus just a little (focus point is in front of my target). An electronic viewfinder (EVF) is always much more useful than an optical viewfinder when trying to use lenses with wide apertures wide open. Stopping down two or three clicks, the eyes would have been in focus too.

All remaining photos were taken at f/2.8, which is one click down from wide open.

This shot and the next one were taken during one of our walkabouts to the City Market in Kansas City. This retired streetcar is now a frequent photo subject and a reminder of the olden days. I was standing across the street near the curb, to give you an idea of the field of view that 135mm can give you. Focus here is pretty accurate on the front of the car, which is good since it was all me... this (as are all my lenses) is a manual focus lens.

This shot is of the Kemper Memorial Fountain at 10th and Main in KC, taken on our way back to the pad. This time, I was catty-corner from the subject, and took some time to make sure my subjects (the fountain and the people in front of it) were in focus, and I think again I was fairly successful. Focusing with this lens is not too difficult for static subjects, but for objects in motion, that's another story.

Missed this one by "that much."

For fast action like this (long focal length, fairly close to the camera), you can either try to track the subject, which is damn near impossible if the subject is moving fast, or you can pre-focus on a point and try to catch the subject when it enters the plane that's in sharp focus. You can see the ground cover in front of Kawai is in good focus, so I needed to wait just a wee-bit longer. However, if I did wait, this shot would have looked a lot different and probably not as good.

It bears mentioning that I took a half-dozen photos and tossed five in order to get this one. Poor reaction time and/or uninteresting positioning of dog and ball were the reasons.

Last one, and I promise not to go overboard like this again, posting five frames instead of the agreed upon (with myself) three for each page, but I picked this one to show out of focus blur (in photo language known as "bokeh," pronounced "bow-kuh"). Some lenses are judged on how well the out of focus areas are rendered, which at first pass might not seem to make much sense. However, fast lenses are supposed to be used at fast apertures, therefore the bokeh is an important part of that lens's quality since some, or even most, of the shot will be out of focus. Think of portraits with a lot of background detail, or in sports where the goal is to isolate only one player and leave the rest in blur.

I selectively saturated the flowers here on Baltimore Ave since the city did so well maintaining this row of planters, and the idiots in my apartment building did a good job of keeping their dogs out of them... last year, they were filled with shit.

That's all I have (thankfully, I'm sure you're thinking) until next time. And again, "three frames" will hereafter be limited to three actual frames.

Thanks for looking!
Site Supporter

Registered: October, 2008
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Posts: 7,664

6 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: April 8, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $2,050.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, fast, handling & build. Bokeh & subject isolation.
Cons: Expensive because it’s collectible.
Camera Used: Pentax film bodies (K1000, KM, KX, K2, K2DMD, ME, ME-F, MX, LX, Super A/Program, P50, SF1n, Z-1p)   

The A*135/1.8 was released in 1984 and remained in production until 1989. The A*135/1.8 is a one-off historical lens that rivaled or exceeded any 135mm lens available at that time.

Superb optics, even wide open! The A*135/1.8 features a fixed rear element extension (FREE) focusing system, which corrects various types of aberrations at all shooting distances. The A*135/1.8 also produces a very nice bokeh.

Focal Length:
How times have changed! Back in the film days the 135mm focal length was one of the “big three” primes that everyone had in their kit. (28mm & 50/55mm were the others) Every lens manufacture had at least one 135mm lens in their lineup and many times had various slow and fast version of this prime. Pentax was no different and when the A*135/1.8 was released in 1984, you could also buy the K135/2.5, A135/2.8 and the M135/3.5. Things changed in the 1990’s when faster and better zooms were available and the 135mm focal length started to die off along with many others in the 85mm to 200mm range. The FA135/2.8 was the last 135mm prime that Pentax made and it went out of production in 2000. Whether Pentax ever makes a 135mm prime again is anyone’s guess. That’s a shame as it’s one of the most versatile of the short telephoto focal lengths. I’ve owned a 135mm prime since 1975 and use it for everything including close-up flower shots, portraits/statues, wildlife, building detail work & landscapes.

They don’t build them like they used to! The A*135/1.8 is built like a tank and on par with any older Takumar/K/M series lens I own. No plastic aperture ring assembly like the A50/1.7, no cheap silver finish like the FA* lenses, everything is top notch. The aperture and focusing rings are smooth as butter when you turn them. Absolutely superb build that no new lens can match.

The A*135/1.8 is a nicely sized “meaty” lens weighing 865 grams. It’s well balanced and beautiful lens to handle & focus. Though I found the A*135/1.8 balances better on my bigger film bodies in the “K” Series, than on the smaller bodies that I own in the “M” or “A” Series. The A*135/1.8 is also narrower near the bottom, so the aperture ring is easy to find when looking through the viewfinder. Overall a perfect handling well designed manual focus lens, which feels more like one of my 6x7 lens than a lot of my other 35mm format ones. Some may find the A*135/1.8 on the heavy side for a 135mm prime, but it’s way lighter than the Pentax fast zooms that cover the 135mm focal length. (DFA*70-210/2.8 & FA*80-200/2.8) It’s also lighter than the recent DFA* 50/1.4.

The A*135/1.8 has a minimum focusing distance of 1.2 meters, which was good at the time, but newer 135mm primes will focus even closer. One thing to note when focusing wide open, at or near 1.2 meters, is the DOF is very very narrow! You will need to use some type of focusing aid or tripod, otherwise you will miss the focus. It takes practice to master, but when you nail the focus the results can be amazing.

The A*135/1.8 has a 77mm filter ring and uses the rubber screw-in RH-A77 lens hood. This hood collapses, so it does not take up much room in your camera bag. The A*135/1.8 came with the HE-169B hard lens case and will also fit in the S90-120 soft case. Both lens cases are too small to fit the lens hood.

F/1.8 is the standard for elite fast 135mm primes and the A*135/1.8 is the fastest of any Pentax lens over 85mm. Pentax’s next fastest 135mm prime is the K135/2.5, which is one stop slower. Perfect for all lighting conditions and the subject isolation is stunning at or near wide open. Pentax was ahead of the game with the A*135/1.8, as Nikon or Canon never had a 135/1.8 prime.

The A*135/1.8 vs my other 135mm telephoto primes:
I also own the K135/2.5 and the Super Takumar & K135/3.5. All lenses are well built, handle well and have a nice bokeh. The A*135/1.8 has slightly better optics, but at middle apertures all of these lenses are very good and pretty close. It all comes down to the speed and that’s what makes the A*135/1.8 special and unique. I rated the Super Takumar & K135/3.5 an 8 and the K135/2.5 a 10. The A*135/1.8 is at an even higher “Pentax Hall of Fame” level 10.

I had been lusting after the A*135/1.8 for years and finally added it to my Pentax lens collection last year. It has everything I like in a lens; good optics, speed, build & handling. As well it’s a historical & highly collectible lens. For me the best feature of the A*135/1.8 is using it at f/1.8, you can get really creative with the bokeh/subject isolation. (Similar to using the K or A50/1.2 wide open). Needless to say I love this lens.

The A*135/1.8 is on the pricey side, as you are paying for it being rare/collectible. It’s going to cost between $1500-2500 depending on the condition, so the A*135/1.8 is not for everyone. There are numerous old and new 135mm primes that are excellent lenses, so I would suggest one of them if you aren’t into collecting vintage Pentax lenses. I bought my A*135/1.8 on eBay and it’s in excellent + condition. I paid $2050USD, I purchased the hood and case separately.

Sample shots taken with the A*135/1.8, showing the bokeh & subject isolation. Photos are medium resolution scans from original slides and negatives. All shots were taken in Vancouver, Canada.

Camera: K2DMD Film: CineStill Double-X ISO: 250

Camera: LX Film: Fuji Velvia 100 ISO: 100

Camera: Super A Film: Kodak Ektachrome 100 ISO: 100

Camera: LX Film: CineStill 50D ISO: 50

Camera: Z-1p Film: Rollei RPX 25 ISO: 25

Junior Member

Registered: January, 2018
Location: Tokyo
Posts: 26

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: November 21, 2018 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, solid, easy to focus.
Cons: None/weight
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: Pentax K1   

I had the chance to use this lens for a while for portrait. As any high-standard Pentax glass it is top-notch, despite the age. New nano-coatings and ultrasonic motors can perhaps give you new possibilities in other brands, yet nothing retain the value of this tool. Edward Prince review, above, is pure crap... dude must have had some drink too much and mounted a 35mm soviet chunk... since he is the only one on this globe thrash-talking of it in favor of a lens not only two stop darker, but which is even a zoom... basing his judgement on... film prints! Do some pixel-peeping properly - look for the comparison online - and you get it.
Anyway, awesome color/contrast, great sharpness and an amazing cream-bokeh. The price and the effort to get it, speaks for its value.
Site Supporter

Registered: April, 2011
Location: Velbert, a small town near Düsseldorf, Germany
Posts: 37

4 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: September 16, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,350.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp!! Butter Soft Bokeh and ultra-bright viewfinder image, Built to last!
Cons: a bit heavy - due to all the metal and the big glass
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 9    Value: 10    Camera Used: K3   

Last week a dream come true: the A* 135mm f1.8 came by mail.
A rather heavy lens, due to all the metal and the big glass. After a short check it was mounted at the K3. I never thought, that it could be so much fun to focus manually!
At the K3 it seems to me a balanced relationship between body and the lens - both weigh about the same. Then I was pleased by the bright viewfinder - at f1.8 not really surprising. The Exif's however show f1.7!
It takes some practice to operate this lens at maximum aperture, but when the subject is not too far away and having reasonably contrasts, that's not a big problem. For distant subjects it is -at least for me- difficult to find the exact focus point - then LiveView helps further - but then better use a tripod.
I think I will use it most times for flowers, food and portraits...Some examples are included below

As you can see - this color rendering is unique! After a few photos I really fell in love with this lens!

The Photos are taken without the use of a tripod...
Veteran Member

Registered: July, 2010
Location: singapore
Posts: 467

3 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: October 17, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 10 

Pros: sharp wide open, subject isolation, build
Cons: rare and expensive
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: sony A7   

DSC00658 by maverick_h, on Flickr

IMGP9960 by maverick_h, on Flickr

I am very lucky to have been able to purchase one several year ago. I think no other Pentax lens can achieve what this lens can achieve. Great Subject isolation, sharp wide open, easy to focus. The colour and bokeh. Excellent.

Once again, i just let the pictures speak for itself.
Inactive Account

Registered: March, 2014
Posts: 3
Lens Review Date: March 6, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,850.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness and bokeh, Optical and built quality, short size for this powerful item
Cons: rare and very expensive
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: Pentax K-01   

I have not used all Pentax lenses (yet), but I have seen nothing that contradicts this statement. It is certainly the best lens I own.

I also testet a few copies like Porst, Weltblick or Boreflex but this one is a monument of Pentax!

But attention - you go crazy to get one!
Site Supporter

Registered: July, 2008
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Posts: 11,587
Lens Review Date: May 5, 2011 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Gorgeous rendering, fast & sharp, auto aperture.
Cons: rare & expensive no AF

I've got a lot of nice glass but this is totally the top of the line. My copy is very sharp wide open and the rendering is magnificent. I'm quite fond of the FL and also have an FA 135mm f2.8 which is a very nice lens (and useful when AF is required) but this A* can take it to another level.
New Member

Registered: March, 2009
Location: perth.... western australia
Posts: 8

4 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: January 25, 2011 I can recommend this lens: No | Price: N/A | Rating: 3 

Pros: none
Cons: the corners, and edges dissapear at f1.8

Well i do not know just where these people got their 135 f1.8 lenses from. i got mine in 1989 bran new in Perth western australia....I then went on a trip to the USA in 1990, and left this heavy 135 f1.8 behind...When i eventually got to New York. I went to The Cambridge cameras on 7th avenue, and 13th street...i then bought the Angenieux 70-210 f3.5 zoom lens....This lens absolutely beat the pentax 135 lens hands down, infact the angenieux was even superior at f3.5, than the pentax was at f3.5....when i took my monochrome prints over to show the professionals at Perth pro on lord street and let them have a look...They all agreed with with me, from f1.8 to f4....the lens was useless,,,,then they looked at my prints taken with the 70-210 angenieux lens....The prints were superior......CHALK and CHEESE. even when i went down to my camera club....THE WANNEROO PHTOGRAPHIC SOCIETY. and let them look for themselves....could not believe their eyes. most members said to me....what happened....this print is pin sharp, beautiful contrast......then they would say......what happened to this print taken with the Pentax 135 f1.8 lens.......My answer it's a lousy lens......So i got rid of it.......Yes i still have my beautiful Angenieux lens.....Well still keep taking those photo's......and enjoy life Edward
Site Supporter

Registered: February, 2010
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Posts: 1,891

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: July 25, 2010 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,650.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Dreamy bokeh, powerful DoF control, tack sharp, wicked cool
Cons: Finding one is a challenge, no AF

There's just nothing else like this available for our Pentax cameras, and from what I've heard, nothing as fast or as sharp for other cameras.

Focusing this lens is a dream, and not a challenge on our modern bodies because of the sheer volume of light it's gathering.

The build quality feels more solid than any other A series lens I've held.

Your subject isolation abilities with this lens are fantastic, and the backgrounds blur to a painted dream.

Some have commented that this lens may be soft, but I would state that the in focus plane, which is razor thin, is tack sharp, and if stopped down, the pictures may actually cut your retinas.

In my opinion, this is the holy grail of Pentax lenses. It's rare and has unique properties you simply wont find anywhere else.
Senior Member

Registered: October, 2009
Location: ita/swiss
Posts: 267
Lens Review Date: March 21, 2010 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,690.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness and bokeh, Optical and built quality
Cons: heavy!!!!

Sharpness and bokeh, Optical and built quality


is a fascinating lens, only to see it
Challenge it, makes you happy, excited.
Resolvent has an excellent, even wide open, only negative, which at f / 1.8 is easy to have the friming.
I think the Pentax lens with greater clarity and resolution I have ever seen, fantastic in many ways.

A bit heavy.
Veteran Member

Registered: November, 2006
Location: Singapore
Posts: 3,202
Lens Review Date: September 24, 2009 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 10 

Pros: Great built quality, optical quality
Cons: A bit pricy now.

This is the best 135mm lens you'd ever find, well deserve a full 10 rating. I wish I could give it a 12 though.
PEG Moderator

Registered: August, 2008
Location: Highlands of Scotland... "Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand" - William Blake
Posts: 55,676
Lens Review Date: November 20, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $650.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: A joy to use
Cons: I can't fault it.
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10   

I'm lucky enough to own several of these rather special green star lenses, the main four I use are 85mm f1.4, this one 135mm f1.8, 200mm f2.8 and 300mm f4.

This one doesn't disappoint, it has the extra reach over the 85mm but feels and handles just like it, in fact all of these lenses have this exceptional feel about them. Its tough too, I use it every day without any dramas, as they say "it does what it says on the tin".

Once again razor sharp when stopped down a couple of stops from wide open, great in low light applications.

Edit June 18, 2011 For those interested in this lens, the Pentax lens hood (screw-on hood: RH-A77) really don't cut it.

I've just bought a Heliopan Long metal lens hood model 10270 (77mm straight sided, 47mm deep approx). Got it on-line from Teamwork Digital in London ( who were fast & efficient and not expensive.
Site Supporter

Registered: April, 2008
Location: Stockholm
Posts: 3,375

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: July 22, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $600.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: fast, sharp (even at 1.8), built to last, beautiful
Cons: heavy, extremely rare and expensive today

When you open up this lens and look through it, it appears to suck in light. It is built like a tank, and is probably quite good to use for self defense if that would ever be needed. Despite it's weight and extreme aperture, it gives a well balanced impression and fits well in my left hand. I wouldn't like to use it on the LX though without the grip-B, since it is heavier than the SLR-body. The focus ring is a pleasure to use, and I can easily focus this lens on the *istDS or K20D even with the standard focus screens.

Some people state that it is "a bit soft wide open", which is a statement I believe was made without much consideration, more or less automatically since this is what people usually say about most lenses. This lens is extremely sharp, even wide open. Of course, it is less sharp wide open than stopped down a little bit, but this is true for almost all lenses. Show me another 135mm that is this sharp at 1.8! Its wide open performance is actually one of the most fantastic properties of this lens. I have used it on silent mechanical (no winder) SLRs (LX or Super A) with modest 400 ISO film full open on 1/60th on a monopod from the back seat of badly lit churches to take those important pictures that had to be sharp enough for A4 enlargements at least, covering the ring-ceremony and the first kiss in weddings were the couple banned cameras from the ceremony but still wanted it documented discretely (friends asking me to cover their wedding, I'm not a professional wedding photographer). I've used it a lot on rock concerts and similar situations at difficult light conditions (and hence often at 1.8 to 2.8). Softness wide open is not a problem. On the contrary, rather than being "quite soft" full open, it is "quite sharp" full open (quoting Fred at Detailed comments on Pentax K-lenses). I cannot compare with the longer A* lenses, but it is sharper than the A*85/1.4 at large apertures.

A copy recently (July 2008) sold at e-bay in Germany for 2,040 Euros (about 3500 US$ for you Americans). Is it worth this much? Well, it is worth a lot, but this extreme price probably have to do that it is very rare (one of the least common A* lenses I suppose). In comparison, Dimitrov writes that the A*85/1.4 is available second hand several times a year, while the A*135/1.8 is only available once in several years. That probably makes for much of the factor 3-4 difference in price. I find it somewhat problematic that this lens that I got 2nd hand for 3-3500 Swedish crowns in 1993 at Sergel foto in Stockholm is now worth so much more. Though I love the lens, I can't help thinking what I could buy instead if I sold it.

Usually this lens is listed as "one of the best Pentax lenses ever made". I have not used all Pentax lenses (wondering if anyone have?), but I have seen nothing that contradicts this statement. It is certainly the best lens I own. If this is not rated 10, I don't know what would be required of a 10-points lens.

It is a really good lens for shooting people and it somehow make them look like they were sticking out from the back ground in a 3-D-ish way.

Although I find it a bit more difficult to use now as a 200mm equivalent on a DSLR, a bit too long. If I can find the time I hope to complement this review with some pictures scanned from film to show the lens in its proper context.

In the film days I never tried it for macro, but got a hint last year on the web that it was a good base for macro photo due to its relatively short close focus distance and its high speed. Here with an extension tube:

Here with a vivitar macro converter making it a 270mm/3.6 lens (1:2.7):

It's sharpness and speed also make it possible to get decent results with a 2x converter:

As I said, I hope to add some example scanned from film and some black and white photo.

Registered: September, 2006
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Posts: 4,336
Lens Review Date: May 18, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,375.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: surreal 3D effect, sharp stopped down
Cons: soft wide open

I agree with the former reviewers, this lens is soft wide open but excellent when stopped down. It has a beautiful bokeh which creates a surreal "3D" effect of a quality similar to the FA 31mm f/1.8 limited.

Add Review of SMC Pentax-A* 135mm F1.8

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