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SMC Pentax-FA* 300mm F2.8 ED [IF] Review RSS Feed

SMC Pentax-FA* 300mm F2.8 ED [IF]

Reviews Views Date of last review
10 88,935 Sat August 23, 2014
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
100% of reviewers $2,831.63 9.90
SMC Pentax-FA* 300mm F2.8 ED [IF]

SMC Pentax-FA* 300mm F2.8 ED [IF]
SMC Pentax-FA* 300mm F2.8 ED [IF]
SMC Pentax-FA* 300mm F2.8 ED [IF]
SMC Pentax-FA* 300mm F2.8 ED [IF]
SMC Pentax-FA* 300mm F2.8 ED [IF]
SMC Pentax-FA* 300mm F2.8 ED [IF]

The SMC Pentax-FA* F2.8 is a premium wide-aperture super telephoto prime. It succeeded its manual-focus counterpart, the A* 300mm F2.8 and remains the only Pentax autofocus lens of its type.

This lens takes 43mm filters through a 'drop-in' filter holder near the lens mount. Pentax provided an optional circular polarizing filter in a special drop-in holder allowing for the filter to be turned with a dial on the outside, refer the second and third photos. Item number is Pentax 35184 - Circular Polarizing Filter FA*.

112 mm filters can be attached to the front.

You switch between autofocus and manual focus by pushing the focusing forwards (autofocus) or pulling it towards the camera (manual focus).

SMC Pentax-FA* 300mm F2.8 ED[IF]
©, sharable with attribution
Image Format
Full-frame / 35mm film
Lens Mount
Pentax K
Aperture Ring
Yes (A setting)
Automatic, 8 blades
10 elements, 7 groups
Mount Variant
Check camera compatibility
Max. Aperture
Min. Aperture
AF (screwdrive)
Min. Focus
200 cm
Max. Magnification
Filter Size
112 mm (Rear: 43 mm)
Internal Focus
Field of View (Diag. / Horiz.)

APS-C: 5.5 ° / 4.6 °
Full frame: 8.2 ° / 6.9 °
Lens Cap
Leather cap
Weather Sealing
Other Features
Drop-in Filter Holder,Focus Range Limiter,Tripod Mount,Metal Build
Diam x Length
123 x 247 mm (4.9 x 9.7 in.)
2765 g (97.5 oz.)
w/ Hood: +270g
Production Years
1994 to 2004
Engraved Name
smc PENTAX-FA* 1:2.8 300mm --IF & ED--
Product Code
User reviews
Two ED elements.
Screwdrive AutofocusInternal FocusingAperture RingAutomatic ApertureFull-Frame SupportDiscontinued
Sample Photos: View Sample Photos
Price History:

Add Review of SMC Pentax-FA* 300mm F2.8 ED [IF]
Sort Reviews by: Date | Author | Rating | Recommendation | Likes (Descending) Showing Reviews 1-10 of 10
Veteran Member

Registered: July, 2007
Location: Hong Kong
Posts: 431

8 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: October 21, 2010 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 10 

Pros: Excellent image quality, extremely well built, with focus limiter, AF/MF clutch and close focus..
Cons: Heavy in weight.

This is one of the best Pentax lens I have ever used. Highly recommened although it is expensive. Very sharp at wide open and colors great!
I have used the Sigma Apo 300mm f2.8 EX DG before. Ahthough the Sigma is also a very good lens, nevertheless when comparing to this FA*, this Pentax is really a winner, much more better in image quality and indeed is on top of the 328 class.
I cannot tell there is any negative aspects of this lens except the weight and size. Also, the silver paint is easy to scratch.
Just a pity that Pentax does not have any original AF teleconverter (The Pentax 1.7X AF Adapter should not be counted as a tele-converter as it is designed to provide AF functionality with manual focus lenses. Besides, the image quality of the 1.7x is much more inferior than the A2X-L).

My samples with this lens :

By adding a Kenko 1.5x AF tele-converter, the image is still very good.

Adding the Pentax original A2X-L tele-converter becomes a 600mm manual focus lens.

Very sharp even with Pentax original A2X-L tele-converter (Pic without cropping)

With cropping.

Veteran Member

Registered: March, 2011
Location: Arizona
Posts: 330

4 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: October 2, 2011 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $3,500.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, contrasty, superb construction
Cons: Lack of availibility
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used   

Absolutely amazing lens. Although, very difficult to find a copy. It is worth noting that I waited 6months for a used copy to appear. I paid more than I would have liked; but, decided to take the lens at the price. I have only seen 1 sell since I purchased my copy and it went for $3,500 (although it included the drop in polarizer).

Moderate sharpness at 2.8 which is amazing by 3.2. To get this sharpness fast shutter speeds or a large tripod are required.

Handling is as one would expect with this lens. I use a Gitzo series 3 and Kirk BH1 ball head with the lens. The combo could be improved by a Wimberly gimbal head. However, as I use this tripod combo for all my "close to the car" tripod work I have not opted for this. The Tripod collar is easy to use and adequately located for balance. The Really Right Stuff L97L lens plate is a good fit. The hood is of very high quality. It is a bit cumbersome to remove and reverse; however, I leave it in place all the time except for storage before transport. The A* 300 2.8 lens hood is superior.

AF is fast but seems to drain the battery on my K7 faster than expected. No more noisy than any other screw drive lens. I keep the lens in AF all the time and have applied electrical tape over all the joints to keep dust and water out. This also secures the filter drawer which can come loose at times.

I opted for the FA* 2.8 lens over the DA* 4.0 lens for the extra speed and ability to reach a 420mm 4.0 with the use of a teleconverter. I have found the Sigma 1.4x EX DG TC to be the best IQ for the lens. Superior to the Tamron. The Sigma 2x; although, not a DG version produced moderate results. If you must have 600mm then you must use a 2x and suffer IQ. I prefer framing wildlife into the landscape than to suffer IQ. I have not had the option to test the matched Pentax MF 2x converter.

Paint easily scratches; but, all that affects is looks. I don't care about maintaining collector look. I care about getting the shot. I would have preferred a hard aluminum case to the poly cloth lens case.

I give it a 10; although, I feel it is closer to 9.5. The availability is low which drives prices up. So value is not as good as similarly old pre IS Canon 300 2.8's.

Edit: I completely forgot to mention that the implementation of the focus limiter is great. It does not show a preset distance like others do. However, it is just a limit vs no limit switch. Yet there are three focus limit settings based on where the focus is when the switch is implemented. Initially I was concerned with this. This soon changed with use. Basically with the implementation you never have to take you eye off to look at it. You run the focus in no limit until you are close to focus lock then flip the switch to focus limit for tracking. If the subject moves closer or further you repeat. No taking your eye off to look at the switch like my past Canon!
Veteran Member

Registered: December, 2006
Location: NW Arkansas, USA
Posts: 4,702

4 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: January 13, 2007 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $2,889.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Stunning clarity; focus limiter; carry strap lugs; tripod collar; compact; did I mention stunning clarity?
Cons: front heavy (112mm front element+filter); need a strong ball head on the monopod

Currently this is one of the few FA* lenses still in production. Normally this lens (and the FA* 600/4) must be ordered; it is then subsequently manufactured in Japan and shipped to the retailer. Obtaining a used one is normally something only on an online auction site every 6-12 months. Prices are normally much higher than what I paid.

It's a typical FA* lens with full metal construction, including the metal screw-on lens hood. A nice feature of all the FA* series lenses is the AF/MF clutch focusing ring.

AF is very fast, and the focus limiters' range is set as follows:
2m-4m, 4m-15m, 15m to infinity.

Sharpness: 10 (even wide open)
Bokeh: 9
Colour rendition: 10
Handling: 8.5 (front heavy - min. of a monopod is recommended, or a sturdy support system on a tripod)

The lens comes with a carry case w/strap, lens hood, lens hood cover, 112mm PF front filter, a 43mm Normal drop in rear filter, and a set of six more drop in filters: 056, R60, UV, Y48, Cloudy and Skylight.

The lens comes with carry strap lugs. These are a must - the lens is too heavy to hang solely from the camera body. For that, I use the Lowepro Transporter strap, since it cannot flex, and has a rubberized shoulder pad to prevent slippage.

A nice touch by Pentax is the lens hood cover: it completely covers the lens hood (when mounted) or over half the lens/hood (when reversed). The cover is a bonus when carrying the camera/lens combination over your shoulder, and they hang out of the way at your side or the small of your back when using another camera. The lens hood stays protected from scuffs, etc. This also protects the PENTAX logo that is so prominent on that $279 hood... assuming you can buy one from Japan...

I first used this lens during a Civil War Reenactment during the first weekend of December, 2006. What impressed me the most was the reach it gives you - and the narrow viewing angle of 8.2 degrees allows for selective shots to be more easily obtained within a group of people. Being further away means the photographer's presence mimizes their influence/impact on the subjects.
If you are tall that means your FOV (field of view) through the viewfinder is above everyone else... no obstructions....

For the outdoors, coupled with the Pentax-F 1.7x AF adapter means a 510mm, F/4.76. Still fast, and minimal image degradation. Stacking is not recommended, although you can get two combined for 867mm, F/8.1!!

This lens is a keeper, no question.
Veteran Member

Registered: October, 2007
Location: France
Posts: 804

3 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: August 23, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $4,100.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: sharp, fast focus, perfectly compatible with Pentax TC
Cons: Silver finish scracth easily, some blue fringing as fast apertures

Autofocus is fast, much faster than the DA*300 - and there is a focus limiter that helps.
Stopped down, the images are simply gorgeous, sharp and colorful.
A bit too much bokeh finging, and this is amplified by the TC, unfortunately.
I have 2 copies of this lens, both need +8 adjustment with the K3
Handling is good even if the lens is heavy.
Simply too bad that this lens was discontinued instead of being improved with WR, better painting, ring silent AF...
Site Webmaster

Registered: September, 2006
Location: Arizona
Posts: 50,371

3 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: May 29, 2007 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 10 

Pros: Fast, Sharp, Very sturdy and well-built, Travel-friendly, Has a focus limiter and AF/MF clutch
Cons: Heavy, Expensive, Hard to Find, Requires a study tripod

In my opinion, the FA* 300mm F2.8 is the ultimate AF telephoto lens by Pentax, aside from the 600mm, of course.

It features an extremely sturdy and easy-to-hold all-metal barrel with a 112mm filter thread in the front. The lens comes with a dedicated 112mm PF filter from the factory to protect the front element, and a set of six 43mm filters, as described by Marc above, is also included. These filters can easily be slid into the back of the lens, even while in the field.

This 300mm boasts a focus limiter with 3 settings (useful for action photography) and a rotating tripod mount that allows you to turn the lens any way you want.

Optically, this lens is the best of the best. Even wide-open, it is tack-sharp and shows only the slightest hints of aberration. AF is lightning-fast even without the limiter.

The lens itself isn't that large, but its weight distrubition and the heavy front element make it hard to control when mounted on a tripod or monopod. It can be hand-held if you absolutely insist, but you'll always need to carry a tripod if you plan on using it in the field.

If you take off (or reverse-mount) the hood, its S135-340 soft case can even accomodate your camera!

Overall, this lens is a pure joy to use. It's build quality and optical excellence are unrivaled by any other AF 300mm out there! Unless you really need the tripod mount, the extra 1.5 stops, and the focus limiter, however, you might be be better off getting the lighter and more affordable FA* 300mm F4.5.

One more thing- this lens works wonders with any Pentax teleconverter. I've achieved stunning sharpness with both the F 1.7x converter and the A 2.0x-L converter. Although I haven't tried stacking teleconverters, I doubt that photos would ever turn out bad, unless you use one of those $5 Soligor ones...
Senior Member

Registered: February, 2009
Location: South AFrica
Posts: 298

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: February 27, 2009 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,400.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Tac sharp, Great color, Fast AF, F2.8!!
Cons: Weightand size, No pentax AF teleconverter.
New or Used: New   

Hello all

I picked this lens up second hand from a old Pentax shooter who wanted to get a canon 50D. It did have some cosmetic marks on the outside but optics is great!! I have even got great shots with my kenko 2* AF teleconverter and my old Sigma 1.4 AF converter also works in AF. Great for shooting wildlife here in SA and I have met quite a few jealous Pentax shooters here in SA. If you can find this lens at a good price buy it. It has the lowest in class minimum auto focus distance of 2m and I have even taken some nice butterfly shots with it. The only thing you have to get use to is the weight. Also on F2.8 you have a narrow dept of field so that also makes getting the right focus difficult. But overall a great lens!! :-)

cheers JK
Veteran Member

Registered: August, 2008
Location: California
Posts: 851

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: September 3, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $3,500.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: sharp, bright, very fast focus, well constructed
Cons: slight back-focus, difficult to hold

This lens has all the positive traits you could ever ask for. It is amazingly sharp beyond F3.5 and the focus is faster. I have cropped images to 100% and still achieved excellent results. I have used it for photos of surfing, mountain biking and wildlife with excellent results everywhere. The autofocus continues to work well in near-dark conditions at high ISO's.

Potential buyers should be aware of the challenges of shooting a 300mm lens at F2.8. Although the focus is very fast and accurate on this lens any target that is moving (even a slow target like a swimming duck) is a big challenge to keep in focus. I also notice a tendency for my lens to back-focus adding to the challenge.

The other thing I would warn of is carrying this thing. When mounted to a monopod it is easy to hold but to carry this lens otherwise is extremely annoying. I find myself holding it in my arms like a baby. It is too fat to reach my fingers around, too heavy to carry by the camera body and the foot is too small to get a good grip on. I don't blame Pentax for creating this problem. It is a problem common to all 300mm F2.8 lenses I imagine... but it is annoying.

On the positive side it fits in my lowepro backpack with the 50-135, 16-50 and an extra body.
New Member

Registered: June, 2012
Location: Xiamen
Posts: 22
Lens Review Date: June 14, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $3,515.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, Fruitful Color, Fast Focusing
Cons: Too Heavy, little bit off-focus
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 8    Value: 10    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K5 Limited Editon   

I was looking for this lens for quite a while, there was one posted in ebay for 3500USD and I missed it, feew days ago I check one post from this fourm, there is one cost 27000 in HongKong, I finally purcahsed this one. Thanks that my K5 and caliberate the focus, this one will need +8 adjustment.
I will out this Sat to test this lens.
New Member

Registered: August, 2010
Location: United States
Posts: 2
Lens Review Date: March 20, 2011 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,250.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: superb optics, relatively light

I recently acquired this lens, and am very impressed by the quality of construction and the ingenuity involved. Even the rotating/detachable tripod collar is superb!! I did not realize how unique the tripod collar is, and am fortunate that the lens and collar are virtually pristine.
Focusing both manual and autofocus are excellent!!
Image quality is very sharp - This is a wonderful lens.
Senior Member

Registered: February, 2007
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 184
Lens Review Date: April 27, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $2,499.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Excellent image quality and extremely well built
Cons: weight and size

Only recently picked up a second hand copy of one of these lenses and like the others cannot speak highly enough of image quality, design and build of this lens.

Having said that I'll be keeping my FA* 300mm f4.5 when wanting to pack a smaller more transportable kit.

Add Review of SMC Pentax-FA* 300mm F2.8 ED [IF]

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