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SMC Pentax-A* 400mm F2.8 ED [IF] Review RSS Feed

SMC Pentax-A* 400mm F2.8 ED [IF]

Sharpness 
 10.0
Aberrations 
 10.0
Bokeh 
 10.0
Handling 
 8.0
Value 
 9.5
Reviews Views Date of last review
4 44,350 Fri October 21, 2011
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Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
100% of reviewers $3,200.00 10.00
SMC Pentax-A* 400mm F2.8 ED [IF]

SMC Pentax-A* 400mm F2.8 ED [IF]
supersize
SMC Pentax-A* 400mm F2.8 ED [IF]
supersize

Description:
This immense lens is two stops faster than its standard A version, but it is also 5 times heavier, weighing in at 6 kg.



SMC Pentax-A* 400mm F2.8 ED[IF]
Image Format
Full-frame / 35mm film
Lens Mount
Pentax K
Aperture Ring
Yes (A setting)
Diaphragm
Automatic, 8 blades
Optics
8 elements, 8 groups
Mount Variant
KA
Max. Aperture
F2.8
Min. Aperture
F32
Focusing
Manual
Min. Focus
450 cm
Max. Magnification
0.13x
Filter Size
145 mm (Rear: 49 mm)
Internal Focus
Yes
Field of View (Diag. / Horiz.)

APS-C: 4.1 ° / 3.4 °
Full frame: 6.2 ° / 5.2 °
Hood
Built-in, slide out
Case
Dedicated trunk case
Lens Cap
Coating
SMC
Weather Sealing
No
Other Features
Drop-in Filter Holder,Tripod Mount
Diam x Length
165 x 325 mm
Weight
6000 g
Production Years
1986 to 2004
Engraved Name
smc PENTAX-A* 1:2.8 400mm ED[IF]
Product Code
24590
Notes
Two ED elements.
Features:
Manual FocusInternal FocusingBuilt-in HoodAperture RingAutomatic ApertureFull-Frame SupportDiscontinued
Price History:



Add Review of SMC Pentax-A* 400mm F2.8 ED [IF]
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Loyal Site Supporter

Registered: August, 2007
Location: Apiary, Oregon
Posts: 1,176

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: October 21, 2011 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $2,800.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Optical quality beyond expecations
Cons: weight
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 7    Value: 10   

I believe one can truely describe this lens as a rare monster. I acquired mine from KEH as a bargain buy. Nothing wrong with it but the paint showed a lot of use. If you ever have the opportunity to use one, you will be honored. The first thing you will notice is the extraordinary weight (around 13 lbs.) Though well balanced, it is just plain heavy.

This lens is out weighed in all of pentax history only by some even longer glass.
The Pentax 600 f/4, the Pentax 1200 f/8, and the Pentax 2000 reflex all weigh more but not by a lot. For filters you can use a 145mm front screwin filter, or a small dropin filter in the back.

The optical quality is dazzling by any standard, though accurate focusing is difficult at least without an aftermarket focusing screen designed for manual focus if you are using a digital body.

Use of a tripod or other support (like a concrete wall and a bean bag) is obligatory. Careful selection of a tripod is also needed. Most of the less expensive ones
are neither suitable nor rated for the weight of this lens. The heaviest and most expensive choice in your favorite manufacturers lineup should be about right. If you see the model in a Television studio holding up a camera for the 6 O'clock news, it's about right.

The lens looks and works like its baby brother the A* 300 f/2.8 except that it weighs twice as much (6kg as compared to 3kg) and takes a 145mm front screw in filter which is not routinely stocked by Walmart.

This lens remained in production (by speical order only) until 2004 when pentax dropped
allof their exotic lenses from its line up. It was never upgraded to a F* or FA* version (unlike the 300 f/2.8 and the 600 f/4) leading me to suspect that it is/was less popular than those focal lengths and is probably not a model that you will see in production again.

In a lot of ways, a lens like this really cries out for the use of a converter, but the true usefulness of a converter diminishes with every generation of digital camera, as the converter merely optically crops the image before it gets to the sensor, and if the sensor is good enough, a behind the sensor, digital crop in Photoshop will produce the same results.

In the film days you could take a lens like this, and add a couple of different converters
to your bag of tricks, and have a "poor man's zoom" Maybe better than a zoom because it was faster, but you could get a choice of effective focal lengths, but with the new reality that result in the digital crop providing results comparable to the optical crop (diminishing the value of a converter), the idea of buying a 400 f/2.8 and a 1.4X converter for use as a 'more flexible' alternative to a 600 f/4 is simply not true.

On the otherhand if if a 600 f/5.6 is the best you can get your hands on, this lens plus
a converter remains a very viable option. It has more depth of field than the 600, and a converter doesn't change this. The relatively slow speed of the 600 F/5.6 makes it very unfriendly to the Adapter 1.7x and marginal to any converter if the lighting is difficult so no one is going to pry this lens out of my hands even though I own an A*600 f/5.6.

If fast and long are what you are looking for----and you can find one of these rare birds you have arrived. It compares favorably to anything that Pentax has ever produced except for the FA*600 f/4. which is nearly impossible to find and likely far less affordable if you can find one.



this photo taken 1/100 sec at f4 and modestly cropped.
   
Loyal Site Supporter

Registered: March, 2009
Location: Virginia Beach
Posts: 2,950

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: October 24, 2010 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $3,400.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Fast enough to work great with TCs, high IQ, quality build
Cons: ITS HEAVY, too difficult to use a CPL
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 9    Value: 9   

No doubt the most solidly built lens I have ever touched. Has the feel of a high-end scientific instrument. Manual focusing is enjoyable, especially with a split-prism focus screen. The position of the mount lets the lens balance very well once a camera is attached, with or without grip and a flash. I have never had to process shots for CA even though I shoot white egrets almost daily. On dreary days I can still shoot at reasonably high shutter speeds due to the f2.8 aperture. Shots at 2.8 lack the tack sharpness of f4 and above though but its still very usable. I can add the Pentax 1.7x AF TC and get great sharpness and good shutter speeds with the 680mm/f4.5 combination, usually stopped down 1 full stop. I rarely miss AF but there are times when very close moving targets beg for AF with less than an inch DOF to work with. All in all, its a great lens to have inside pointed out a sliding glass door overlooking a wildlife habitat or feeders. The addition of TCs give 400, 560, 680AF and 800mm focal lengths although the 2xL does cut into the IQ where as the 1.4xL and 1.7x AF its usually not noticable. Stacking the 1.4xL and 1.7x AF cut the IQ to about that of an inexpensive 300mm zoom. But if you need 952mm/f6.8 it gets you there.

Drawbacks? Since the required rear filter is screwed into a drop-in holder, CPL is very difficult to use. Plan on just leaving a quality, clear filter in there (some kind of filter is required for the optics to focus properly). Lastly, go to the gym and beef up before trying to carry this 13lb lens plus 10lbs of tripod and gimbal. Although Canon has just released a 400/2.8L AF lens that is 3.8kg instead of the Pentax 400 at 6kg, if it means creaky plastic instead of smooth turning metal rings I will just keep working out. I will say that once you get it on site you will be nothing but happy its there.

I rate it a 10 even though AF, less weight and a usable filter system would only improve it. I did not discount those items since it was designed to be MF there is not a shortcoming and given the choice of ONLY AF or ONLY MF its a no-brainer with this lens to go MF. The weight is due to the build quality and huge lenses. The filter system is too minor to discount a point, even though I love CPLs! For those that followed the sale of this puppy, yes, I actually paid $3,900 total but that included both 1.4xL and 2xL rear converters I am calling $500 worth.

Recent shot with A*400 + 1.4xL (Sunrise with the Eagles)

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4110/5013934954_162359f716_b.jpg
   
Site Supporter

Registered: July, 2008
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Posts: 10,521

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: February 16, 2010 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $3,400.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Amazing IQ! Fast & Long. Performance with Pentax TC's
Cons: Big, Heavy & Expensive

I second everything Tom said above. The IQ is superb (and I'm talking about the complete package--resolution, clarity, color, contrast & bokeh.)

I've only had mine for about three months now and I'm starting to get the hang of it. It matches up virtually seamlessly with the Pentax FA 1.7x AF and 2X-L TC's. What surprised me this weekend was that it's giving me shots with that "Pentax pop" that I associate with the FA Limiteds.

So it's big, heavy and expensive--$500 400mm f/2.8 pancake lenses are hard to find.
   
Forum Member

Registered: September, 2008
Location: NW Louisiana
Posts: 67

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: January 25, 2009 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Great image quality. It's a vacuum cleaner for light!
Cons: HEAVY. Manual focus

Stunning lens. As with any 400mm f/2.8, it's huge. Think "salad plate" for the size of the front element. It's 13 pounds. It's worth it -- if you need it. Works great with the matched multipliers from Pentax.

Very few of them around.

I once used this one to shoot a two-page, full-color spread in a national magazine which was a setup shot done at about 25 feet. It was a closeup for a product story, but this lens worked perfectly for that.

I'm selling my 400 f/2.8 because I am getting out of Pentax for another system. Hate to lose this lens. It's astounding.
Add Review of SMC Pentax-A* 400mm F2.8 ED [IF]



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