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SMC Pentax-DA* 50-135mm F2.8 ED [IF] SDM Review RSS Feed

SMC Pentax-DA* 50-135mm F2.8 ED [IF] SDM

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150 489,161 Mon January 4, 2021
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94% of reviewers $800.41 9.01
SMC Pentax-DA* 50-135mm F2.8 ED [IF] SDM

SMC Pentax-DA* 50-135mm F2.8 ED [IF] SDM
SMC Pentax-DA* 50-135mm F2.8 ED [IF] SDM

Like all current DA lenses, the SMC Pentax DA* 50-135mm is designed only for Pentax APS-C DSLR cameras. It was announced in late February, 2007. It auto-focuses with an SDM ultrasonic motor on the K10D (firmware 1.30) and newer cameras. On older cameras the lens will auto-focus with the 'screw drive' mechanism.

SMC Pentax-DA* 50-135mm F2.8 ED [IF]
©, sharable with attribution
Image Format
Lens Mount
Pentax K
Aperture Ring
Automatic, 9 blades
18 elements, 14 groups
Mount Variant
Check camera compatibility
Max. Aperture
Min. Aperture
AF (in-lens motor or screwdrive)
Min. Focus
100 cm
Max. Magnification
Filter Size
67 mm
Internal Focus
Field of View (Diag. / Horiz.)

APS-C: 31.5-11.9 ° / 27-10 °
PH-RBK 67 mm
Lens Cap
Weather Sealing
Yes (AW)
Other Features
AF/MF Switch,Internal Zoom
Diam x Length
77 x 136 mm (3 x 5.4 in.)
685 g (24.2 oz.)
w/ Hood: +80g
Production Years
2007 to present (in production)
$877 USD current price
Engraved Name
smc PENTAX-DA* 1:2.8 50-135mm ED [IF] SDM
Product Code
User reviews
In-depth review
Unofficial Full-Frame Compatibility Tests by Pentax Forums
★☆☆ Usable with reservations at select F-stop/focal length combinations
Show details
Internal zoom.
Three ED elements.

Screwdrive AutofocusSupersonic AutofocusQuick ShiftWeather SealedInternal FocusingInternal ZoomingAutomatic ApertureAPS-C Digital Only
Purchase: Buy the SMC Pentax-DA* 50-135mm F2.8 ED [IF] SDM
In-Depth Review: Read our SMC Pentax-DA* 50-135mm F2.8 ED [IF] SDM in-depth review!
Sample Photos: View Sample Photos

Add Review of SMC Pentax-DA* 50-135mm F2.8 ED [IF] SDM Buy the SMC Pentax-DA* 50-135mm F2.8 ED [IF] SDM
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Site Supporter

Registered: December, 2008
Location: NJ, USA
Posts: 402
Lens Review Date: December 29, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $725.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Great lens. Very fast. Excellent Build Quality
Cons: Flair into direct sun
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: New   

Great lens for portrait work indoor and out. Great Bokeh (on my other lenses I donít notice bokeh so I did not rate this charateristic). Fast. Well built and great weight. Easy to use and silent focusing. Only wish is a bit longer (like 150mm for shooting stage work). I did a comparison test (the old Newsprint test with K10D) against a 135A f2.8 (about 25 years old). The DA* sharpness was better at the center at all apertures above 2.8 and about qual at 2.8. However at the edge, the old 135A was better at 2.8 and 3.5. By f4 there was near parity at the edge. The DA* had better contrast and CA characteristics at all apertures. Note that the 135A f2.8 is not the best of the Pentax 135 primes so I was a bit surprised by this.

Build Quality: 10 - Try to buy a Nikon lens with this build quality and weather sealing at this price. (answer: You canít. )
Utility: 9.5 - Just wish it were a tad longer
Sharpness: 9.5 - For a Zoom excellent and should be a 10. See above as to why the 1/2 point was deducted.
Color/Contrast: 10 - Wow
CA 9.5 - I have not noticed CA but it has not been used in extreme situations where it can show. Published tests show some so it held me back from a 10.
Bokeh: 9

2013 Update....
I have had this lens now 5 years. I still feel the same way about this lens as I did when I wrote the original review... I would like to add the following.

I am a photographer for my Daughter's high school marching band. When I take pictures with this lens and the FA 77ltd, people notice and I get emails staying how stunning the photos are and how nicely the subjects are isolated. When people notice photography then you know something is unique as most people take pictures for granted.

What I have also found over the past few years using this lens is that it has a weakness. When I shoot towards the sun, it flairs pretty badly. Others have noticed this as well.

On the other had, I recently purchased a Tamron 70-200 f2.8, which is noted to be a sharp zoom (highly praised by all reviews)... The Pentax 50-135 is equally sharp, but the Pentax has better contrast and color. I have to add some contrast to the Tamron images but really don't need to do that with the Pentax.
Veteran Member

Registered: January, 2007
Location: Paris, France
Posts: 4,311
Lens Review Date: November 13, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 10 

Pros: Incredibly sharp and sweet bokeh
Cons: None

I am not a long shooter. However, I have used this lens for specific applications between 50-80mm. It is better than any of the "L" lenses I used when I was a Canon user. For those that cannot afford prime 50's, 80's or 135 lenses, this lens will easily stand on it's own merits. I have no problem using it wide open. This lens is definitely a Pentax "Brutally Sharp" Classic.
Site Supporter

Registered: October, 2008
Location: Wilmore, KY
Posts: 375
Lens Review Date: November 11, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $750.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Fast focus, sharp images, great color, handling
Cons: Big, heavy, HUGE hood

This is the perfect lens for events like outdoor birthday parties, garden parties, picnics, etc. It's also a killer portrait lens. I find the colors vivid, contrasty--they "pop" out at you. Images are sharp through the whole range of focal lengths and apertures (to my amateur eye). The lens handles like a dream. Focuses quickly and quietly.

My biggest complaint is that it is a very long lens. If you attach the hood, you have a very formidable looking "thing" hanging off the camera. If you are maneuvering around people at a party or picnic, it can be a bit awkward.

The lens is also very expensive--right up there with the 31mm and 77mm Ltd Primes. But the image quality is very close, and so maybe that's okay.
Veteran Member

Registered: July, 2007
Location: North West UK
Posts: 382
Lens Review Date: October 22, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $750.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, IQ, colour, silence, speed, etc etc
Cons: Absolutely nothing and I mean it.
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K-5 K-5IIs K-3 K20D K10D *istDS   

I will be brief here, you won't find a more perfect portrait lens anywhere.

Considering this is a zoom, you will find, that at any focal point, a perfect portrait lens. 50mm, 75mm, 100mm, 135mm, even primes will struggle to match the sheer quality of this lens.

When it was released, I thought, "what are Pentax doing bringing out such a short zoom?" How wrong I was.

I recently bought a K20D and the combo is nothing sort of sensational! I thought this lens with the K10D was a great combo, but with the K20D it is something else......

The sharp detail you get is fantastic!

Even none portraits it is still top dollar. And will cope with monsoons with ease.

I tried to be brief, but with this lens, I cannot help talking about it

Buy one! even if you don't buy another lens for the next year, you will be glad you did.

EDIT August 2015
My original copy of the lens was stolen in May2015 and I was not happy. Having said that there were a couple of minor issues that developed with the original copy.
The lens had to be coaxed into life occasionally, but as I knew that I just made sure that I did this before using this. The other issue, was that being SDM, the AF was not as fast as the screw mount.

Second copy? SDM seems snappier and the sharpness is a tad better, even if it is the same design and not a mk2.

Seems Pentax has ironed out the minor issues with the original, even though I never had an SDM failure with my first copy.

It is still in my opinion the finest zoom lens that Pentax has made, certainly for digital, and probably a must have for any Pentaxians bag.
Inactive Account

Registered: September, 2008
Location: Salford, Manchester UK
Posts: 7

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: September 20, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $900.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Stunning
Cons: none

This lens is just stunning, awesome and exceptional.

It is fast focus (sdm with a K10D),
the bokeh is primelike,
it is razor sharp wide open.

I take shots with it,
they look OK on the camera ...
...then I am just blown away by the results when I view the real thing on my computer screen.

Just get one.
New Member

Registered: August, 2008
Location: Aalgaard, Norway
Posts: 2

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: August 21, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,300.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Terriffic color reproduction, razorsharp from edge to edge at all focal lengths, nice weight
Cons: Range (perhaps)

I just recently received this lens after a rather unfortunate encounter with the DA* 16-50. Specifically, the DA* 16-50 was blurred on the right side (about 1/3 in from the middle) and I had to send it in for repairs (in Sweden). Additionally, the barrel was "sticky" at around 18mm (+/-), confirming other users' comments in this regard. AF seemed ok though. However, I desperately needed a quality lens for a trip to Valencia (shortly), so I gave the DA* 50-135 a try, although my expectations weren't high to be fully honest. Despite the many positive reviews, the DA* 16-50 experience lingered in my mind.


Subjective observations (with the K20D):
1) The lens is extremely bordersharp, even at 135mm. For example, in a shot on a cloudy but sunny day I could easily make out the details of powerlines in the distant horizon. These details were totally lost on my kit DA 18-55 AL II lens (at same focal lengths).

2) The colors hit like a bullet too, spot on. In fact some colors are so vibrant, using RAW settings (!), that increasing vibrancy or saturation through Photoshop gets a very low priority.

3) Weight with camera is great, only a hundred gram or so heavier than the DA* 16-50.

I have never used any L primes, and cannot do a direct comparison, but if I were to guess any of the focal lengths on this lens would compare very well. I think augustmoon's review above can fill in the blanks

I hearthly recommend anyone with even a slight interest in these focal lengths to buy this lense! It is dirt cheap compared to Nikkor 24-70 for example.
Inactive Account

Registered: March, 2008
Location: Toronto, San Diego, Seattle
Posts: 455
Lens Review Date: July 25, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $700.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Overall Image, Build Quality, Silent Focusing, Color, Contrast, Detail
Cons: None!

I gave this lens a 10, because this is the finest zoom I've ever owned. And that includes my "L" zooms when I was with Canon. (24-105-L and the 70-200 2.8L)

I had and sold the DA70, because at 70mm, and at 100% crops and printed out on inkjet, I could not tell any difference what so ever.

Perfect for portraits or headshots, It would stay on my camera all the time in the studio if only it went down to 40mm.

Out and about, it's impossible to beat this with any other zoom in Pentax mount. (at this time the DA*60-250 is yet unreleased, and so is the Tamron 70-200 2.8)

It performs very well, focuses nicely and quietly, focuses fast enough for a zoom of this range. Haven't noticed any purple fringing yet.

I believe it's as good optically and image quality as the Limiteds. My only complaint is that the companion DA*16-50 isn't anywhere near this good. (The primes in that range ARE noticeably better)
Inactive Account

Registered: September, 2006
Location: Spokane,WA
Posts: 25
Lens Review Date: June 21, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $680.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness,color,speed
Cons: none

This is an wonderful piece of engineering and design!
A pleasure to use and own.
Veteran Member

Registered: December, 2007
Posts: 8,240

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: May 12, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $800.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Everything, especially the sharpness and color
Cons: nothing

If I were forced to keep only one lens, it would be this one. The best zoom I've ever touched.
Veteran Member

Registered: September, 2006
Location: Charlotte, NC
Posts: 2,591
Lens Review Date: May 7, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $700.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: SDM, Weather Sealing, Color and IQ are great
Cons: None

This lens quickly shot its way up to the top of my list to be my favorite lens. I love every picture that comes out of it. The IQ is deathly accurate, the bokeh is just sweet, the colors and tones are superb. I love this lens more than any other.
Veteran Member

Registered: January, 2008
Location: Seattle, Washington, USA
Posts: 812
Lens Review Date: March 9, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $800.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Image Quality, SDM, build quality, handling
Cons: if only the top FL were a bit longer and the hood a little shorter!

I've shot this lens for a couple of months now, and it is on my K10D about 90% of the time. Its color, contrast, sharpness and bokeh rank with the best primes I've ever shot (a modest but pro-level assortment of Zeiss, Schneider, Pentax, Canon and Nikon glass). No CA problems noted thus far, but I try to avoid extreme contrast situations (not very hard to do, here in Seattle).

Its flexibility as a zoom far better suits my current shooting style and subject matter in landscape and urban scene work, mostly. I shot a portrait session with it a couple of weeks ago, mostly using 50-90mm focal lengths, and was delighted with its quick handling, rapid auto-focus abilities, and the lovely way it threw the backdrop out of focus. It rendered very good files, easily prepped and printed with minimal fuss in CS3.

For a composite-bodied zoom, the DA* 50-135 feels good, with nice action in the zoom and focus rings. I shot it in the snow in Eastern Washington at below-freezing temperatures with no problems on its very first outing. It didn't chill my fingers the way a metal-bodied zoom has in the past. The usual solid K-mount directness in attaching and removing the lens is another tactile plus. I wish the lens hood bayonet mounted as positively, and as quickly. It's got a plasticky feel, the one slightly cheesy aspect of the lens, and it really can make replacing the lens cap a chore when it's being actively used.

Pentax has built a first-rate zoom here. I just wish it had a bit more reach, occasionally.
Veteran Member

Registered: December, 2007
Location: Jacksonville, FL
Posts: 531

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: February 17, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $900.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, build quality, color.
Cons: None.

This lens is one of my favorites. The sharpness and color compare to some of the best prime lenses made for the Pentax camera. When I ordered this lens, I expected great results but I was pleasantly surprised after examining my first shots!

Other lenses have trouble comparing in IQ to this lens. I am sure that this lens will join in the list of legendary Pentax lenses. Definitely a keeper!
Veteran Member

Registered: November, 2006
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 593

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: January 13, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,000.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Image quality. Build quality.
Cons: none, really.
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 9    Value: 9   

A superb lens on all accounts. Handling is excellent as is build quality and the image quality. I cannot priase this lens highly enough and it is as good as the FA*80-200 f2.8 but a hell of alot lighter!
Veteran Member

Registered: November, 2006
Location: London, England
Posts: 1,187

3 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: December 27, 2007 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, colour, contrast, bokeh, weatherproof, silent
Cons: Size and weight

Overall: 10/10
A class act

Usefulness: 10
The APSC equivalent of the classic 70-200. Everyone should have one. great for candids, gigs, portraits....

Sharpness: 9
Wide open, it tails off in sharpness as you approach 135mm but overall its very sharp at F5.6 at all focal lengths. It really shines from 50 - 100mm. There are very few compromises here.

Colour/Contrast: 10
What really gets me about this lens every time is the quite exceptional colour and contrast. Stopped down a bit its hard to separate from a top ranking prime lens like the 77LTD, and even wide open its not too bad.

Bokeh: 9
The bokeh is exceptional for a zoom. Really nothing to choose between it and many primes in the same range.

Handling: 9
The focus ring is enormous - much larger than the zoom ring which is close to the body. Not really an issue but I sometimes grabbed the focus ring instead of the zoom when I first got it. However despite the size and weight it only needs 67mm filters and is well balanced with the C of G well towards the rear of the lens. A tripod collar is not really necessary.

Build Quality: 10
Excellent. Smooth and with very tight tolerances. Internal zoom.

CAs and Flare: 8.5
There is a bit of CA as reported but although its noticeable at the extreme focal lengths its not that bright and not an issue most of the time. Flare is minimal.

Distortion: 10
Not an issue at any focal length.

AF speed: 9
AF without USM is quite OK, but a little sluggish is low light. With USM it hunts less and is therefore faster although rotation speed is no different.
Veteran Member

Registered: September, 2006
Location: North Idaho
Posts: 665
Lens Review Date: October 29, 2007 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $850.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: SDM, fantastic construction quality, WX seals, SMC
Cons: none

Original review, October 2, 2007

Only purchased this lens last week and haven't had much chance to give it a workout yet. Will revise this review when I've had it out in the field a few times.

From a static test, what do I like and dislike about it?

The SDM is fantastic. Automatic focusing is very silent. You feel it more that hear it. Doesn't hunt much either (mid-day under the trees in the photo store parking lot). This is on a K10D body. Have not tired it on a K100D Super, so have no idea how the screw-drive focusing will perform with AA batteries.

The construction quality is among the best I've seen from Pentax. It doesn't match that of the FA limiteds, which are constructed from metal, but for a composite lens, it is the best I've seen.

Not really a negative, but I wish the lens had an aperture ring. But, it is a DA, so won't have one. I also wish it had a bit of a longer maximum focal length.

Under the category of neither being a positive nor a negative...I can not recommend using this lens with a teleconverter. In the parking lot of the camera store, tried it out with my Tamron 1.4x tc. The one that has the power-zoom contacts, which also function as the SDM contacts.

With the Tamron, the lens will focus using the SDM circuitry, but will not achieve focus lock very easily. It gets very close, very quickly, then will micro adjust for a few seconds until it achieves lock...if it ever does. Even then, it will still hunt if you move the camera slightly. The image quality, as shown in the viewfinder was also not as good as the lens by itself. Yes, this is not a "good test", but just looking through the viewfinder, I could tell that the quality was degraded.

Bottom line...if you need a longer reach...use a longer lens. Don't waste your time using a teleconverter with this lens. (However, sometime soon, I will try using my Pentax SMC Rear Converter-A 1.4x-S and the Rear Converter-A 2.0x-S with this lens. I'll lose autofocus capability, but just to see if the image quality is "okay", will give it a quick go.)

If this lens performs as well as I expect it to do, I'll get rid of all my older Pentax zooms and just keep this one (and the 16-50/2.8). Again, will edit this post when I've had a chance to give the lens a workout.

- - - - -

Review update, October 17, 2007

Well . . . I've took this lens on an outing last Friday (to Disneyland). Took this one, along with the DA*16-50/2.8 and FA50/1.4, (the 50 didn't get used and the short zoom only a couple of times).

This lens has lived up to my expectations. Look to see a variety of older lenses for sale soon. The bokeh is great. The color renderings are perfect. I couldn't ask any more from a lens.

One comment on the lack of a tripod mount . . . I don't miss it. The lens is small enough in physical size, balanced well enough in weight distribution, and light enough in weight that a tripod/monopod won't be needed for most applications.

If you can find one . . . purchase it! You won't regret having one.

Sample image:

- - - - -

Review update, February 2011

In to C.R.I.S. for SDM motor replacement and front barrel/filter ring unit (one hood flange broke off by a fingernail, if you can believe that). Currently awaiting parts. Still, have a high regard for this lens. Best zoom optics that I own.
Add Review of SMC Pentax-DA* 50-135mm F2.8 ED [IF] SDM Buy the SMC Pentax-DA* 50-135mm F2.8 ED [IF] SDM

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