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SMC Pentax-FA* 600mm F4 ED [IF] Review RSS Feed

SMC Pentax-FA* 600mm F4 ED [IF]

Sharpness 
 9.6
Aberrations 
 8.8
Bokeh 
 9.0
Autofocus 
 9.2
Handling 
 8.4
Value 
 9.4
Reviews Views Date of last review
12 63,678 Mon August 24, 2015
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Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
100% of reviewers $5,872.50 9.00
SMC Pentax-FA* 600mm F4 ED [IF]

SMC Pentax-FA* 600mm F4 ED [IF]
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SMC Pentax-FA* 600mm F4 ED [IF]
supersize
SMC Pentax-FA* 600mm F4 ED [IF]
supersize
SMC Pentax-FA* 600mm F4 ED [IF]
supersize

Description:
This is the fastest 600mm lens from Pentax. The lens comes with two rear filter holders, one which takes ordinary filters, and the other which has a permanently affixed circular polarizer and a wheel that allows to turn the filter when mounted.

SMC Pentax-FA* 600mm F4 ED[IF]
© 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
9 elements, 7 groups
Mount Variant
KAF
Check camera compatibility
Max. Aperture
F4
Min. Aperture
F32
Focusing
AF (screwdrive)
Quick-shift
No
Min. Focus
500 cm
Max. Magnification
0.13x
Filter Size
150 mm (Rear: 43 mm)
Internal Focus
Yes
Field of View (Diag. / Horiz.)

APS-C: 2.8 ° / 2.3 °
Full frame: 4.1 ° / 3.4 °
Hood
Built-in
Case
Dedicated trunk case
Lens Cap
Leather
Coating
SMC
Weather Sealing
No
Other Features
Drop-in Filter Holder,Focus Range Limiter,Push-pull AF/MF Focusing Ring,Tripod Mount
Diam x Length
176 x 457 mm (6.9 x 18 in.)
Weight
6830 g (241 oz.)
Production Years
1991 to 2004
Engraved Name
smc PENTAX-FA* 1:4 600mm --IF & ED--
Product Code
24870
Reviews
User reviews
Notes
Two ED elements.
Features:
Screwdrive AutofocusInternal FocusingBuilt-in HoodAperture RingAutomatic ApertureFull-Frame SupportDiscontinued
Sample Photos: View Sample Photos
Price History:



Add Review of SMC Pentax-FA* 600mm F4 ED [IF]
Author:
Sort Reviews by: Date | Author | Rating | Recommendation | Likes (Descending) Showing Reviews 1-12 of 12
Pentaxian

Registered: February, 2010
Location: Blunsdon,Wiltshire, UK
Posts: 1,063

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: August 24, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $5,170.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Very very sharp. Simply awesome
Cons: Very heavy
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-5/K-3ii   

I have wanted a FA*600mm f4 ED [IF] for quite a while now, but it had to be in mint condition.

Pentax-FA*600mm f4 ED [IF] by Gary Chalker, on Flickr
Pentax K-5/Pentax FA*600mm f4 ED [IF] by Gary Chalker, on Flickr

Now wearing a Lenscoat from http://www.lenscoat.com/
Pentax FA*600mm f4 ED[IF] by Gary Chalker, on Flickr


So far I can see that it's very sharp and very very heavy.

some of the other reviewers have commented on the filter holder at the back of the lens falling out, the holder on

my copy is very tight so not a problem.

To get the lens and camera to balance on my gimbal head I had to move the lens a fair way back in the clamp.

I have used a 170mm Arca Swiss plate and this seems to be the best option.

Oh did I mention that it's very very heavy:lol
I have now got used to the weight and find it managable to wander around with.
Redstart male by Gary Chalker, on Flickr

Stonechat female. by Gary Chalker, on Flickr

Lapwing by Gary Chalker, on Flickr

Stonechat juvenile by Gary Chalker, on Flickr

Kestrel juvenile by Gary Chalker, on Flickr


Nuthatch by Gary Chalker, on Flickr

Meadow Pipit by Gary Chalker, on Flickr

Swallow juvenile by Gary Chalker, on Flickr

crop of the picture above
Swallow juvenile by Gary Chalker, on Flickr

Grass Snake by Gary Chalker, on Flickr

Tree Sparrow by Gary Chalker, on Flickr

Corn Bunting by Gary Chalker, on Flickr
   
Senior Member

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

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: November 9, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $5,000.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: -Excelent image quality
Cons: -Lens hood design
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 7    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K3 and K5   

I can agree with all of the other post but overall this is a excellent lens. Very sharp on APC. Handling could be better especially getting the lens hood up. Again A picture is worth a thousand words so here is a few

I also started a full review here

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/10-pentax-slr-lens-discussion/278403-pent...s-reviews.html





Once I have tested it a bit more I will update this
   
Forum Member

Registered: March, 2011
Location: Ontario
Posts: 54
Lens Review Date: March 21, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $7,800.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharp, well made, tough
Cons: Heavy, hood could use improvemnt, filter drawer
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 9    Value: 9    New or Used: New    Camera Used: Many   

A little soft at F4, but great from F5.6 to F11.

Heavy, but once mounted handles real well.

Filter drawer was a pain, but that was an easy fix.

Noisy and fairly slow AF, but for what I use it for (nature) the speed is usually not a problem.

Bokeh is a subjective thing. I do not find that this lens suffers there. Just use it at F5.6-8 and it's fine.
   
Site Supporter

Registered: October, 2010
Location: Paris, TX
Posts: 12
Lens Review Date: October 3, 2010 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $5,200.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Decent min focus distance; ex. optics
Cons: that silly filter drawer that goes rolling down the hill

I have to rate this a 10. I used mine for several years and never had anything but praise for its images, even at f4 mine was considered sharp. Sure, it's bulky and heavy, but how does one get a 150mm front element to build a 600/4 without bulk and weight?.

If there was any down side it was not the lens fault - it was Pentax fault for never introducing an AF teleconverter. The Kenko AF 1.5x I had worked, but as a 4-element it was not great.

I used the original Wimberly head with an RRS clamp and extended length foot plate which allowed me to adjust the lens to its balance point when balance changed due to extended hood or extra weight at camera end.

Got a roll of gaffer tape to secure the filter. Changed the tape often to prevent gunk buildup.

As for field carry, I stuck the Wimberly to a heavy Bogen monopod, then attached the lens and I was all set down to 1/125. Other times I got an old large baby buggy at Goodwill, with spring suspension and large wheels, and happily carted my baby lens and monopod down the path to the pond.

Now, older and less capable of carrying so much weight, I've sadly sold my 600 and now prefer a 300/4 and 1.5x TC.
   
Veteran Member

Registered: October, 2007
Location: France
Posts: 804
Lens Review Date: March 6, 2010 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $5,000.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharpness, excellent contrast, color rendering, fast AF
Cons: No ring-HSM, weight, sweet spot at F8 only, Bokeh fringing
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 8    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 7    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K5iis   

I have bought this lens second hand on ebay one month ago. I'm still in the process of discovering its capabilities, and they are awesome. A solid tripod like Gitzo systematic and a wimberley head or somethin equivalent are still on the process. Currently I use it with a monopod or a beanbag. When you buy this lens, you have to take into account additional 1200 euros for tripod, head and bagpack. I have benchmark it on focus charts and static subject and also tried to use it in real conditions on small bird with K7 and K20D bodies and a monopod. Focus is fast and accurate on K7 and K20D, needs small adjustement. Note that the DOF is so narrow that we speak here of less than 1 cm focus accuracy required at 10 meters. Image quality is already good at f4, sharp from 5.6 onward, with very good contrast, superb at f8. At f5.6 sharpness is as good as with the DA*300 at f5.6 - at a double distance. Here you can say "why buy a f4 lens to stop it down at f8 ?" Because at small distances - here small is 10 meters which is something like a macro distance for this lens - you need depth of field and you have to stop down; here F4 is to achieve precise autofocus; f4 to f5.6 is usable for mid range distance where there is less need for DOF. As all film area design fast lenses, there is some longitudinal CA : on the focus charts the lines in front of the focus point have a slight purple halo, the lines below exhibit a green halo (like the DA*200 - which has the same optical design as the FA*200) - modern design tele lenses like DA*300 does not have this flaw. This disappear when stopped down to f8, but may have a negative aspect on the bokey wide open. There is very little or no trace of purple fringing like the DA*200 even wide open. To give a measure of sharpness, I have tried a test shot on my town church - 600 TO 700 m away. At f5.6 and full magnification on the K7 I can very clearly distinghish details that are less than 5 mm wide - to give an idea of the terrific resolution power of this lens. First shots on birds are brilliant, colors, feather structure appears very clearly... if you are able to keep the lens stable while shooting. Image stabilisation is efficient, and with a monopod I have 80 % of sharp shots at 1/125s. The lens is so heavy that I suspect that he is completely insensitive of K7 mirror induced vibrations. All in all an heavy investment - in all senses - but you have what you pay for. Highly recommanded
Edit : with the K5 makes really a killer combo; image quality is outstanding and the ability to use higher speed gives crisper images; best images are obtained with a rice bag to dampen the slights mouvements when pressing the shutter; AF speed is fast (but noisy) on the K5; for birds it is not an issue; AF works fine too with Sigma 1.4 AF converter
Edit : scores set a bit low on aberrations cause of Longitudinal CA that can affect the bokey too; handling ... the lens is really heavy; the Canon equivalent is now 3 kgs lighter
   
New Member

Registered: March, 2007
Location: Athens
Posts: 9
Lens Review Date: October 6, 2009 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $8,000.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharp, great colors, nice bokeh, 5m MFDistance
Cons: Poorly designed filter tray, fix hood needs to be fixed.

This lens was part of my wildest dreams when I was 30y old and had not the budjet to face it. I bought it 2 years ago (I am turning around the 50y corner in a week) and then it remained permanently fixed on my best camera (K10D, K20D and lastly K-7).

I am shooting mostly birds and other animals. Whenever possible, it rests on the window of my car, otherwise on a solid monopod.

Sharpness is good at F4, excellent at F5.6 and on. Bokeh is good enough for me. Build quality is great, the filter tray and the fixed hood could be better designed, tho. Min. focusing distance is the shortest of all 600mm lenses - at 5 meters you can make a full frame pic of a small passerine. Great feature indeed !

With k-7, AF is fast and very accurate - not so with the older bodies.

Portability greatly depends on my physical condition - first days are hard, but progressively I am holding the package with self-confidence.
I am in possession of a 1.4L TC, but I am not really convinced that it adds something to my reach, since I can crop the huge 14.5Mp file.

I own a Sigma 50-500F6.3, a Tamron AF 300F2.8, a Tamron 200-500F5.6 and the old 500F4.5. Needless to say that none of these lenses can afford any comparison with the FA600.

I am waiting a new long lens from Pentax - there are rumors of a DA400F4 - to offer better portability, but in the between, I enjoy every moment with my beloved FA600.

Highly recommended, if you do not need or do not care to walk around with a 9 kg bazooka on your right hand.
   
New Member

Registered: September, 2006
Location: Norway
Posts: 14
Lens Review Date: May 4, 2009 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $6,000.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Contrast
Cons: Big and heavy. Noisy compared with DA*300

This lens is a pain for you back until its placed on a steady tripod, and dont even think about handhelding this beast
On the tripod the lens i a litte bit soft wide open, but sharp from f 5.6. The AF speed is fast, but a bit noisy on the K20D.

The IQ with 1.4TC is acceptable when stopped down, but not so good with the Pentax 1.7AF adapter.

I use the lens with a Gitzo GT5530S tripod and a Wimberley Head W2 or Acra Swiss Z1, with good result.
   
Inactive Account

Registered: April, 2008
Location: Norway
Posts: 72
Lens Review Date: April 29, 2009 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $5,500.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Good contrast, precise AF
Cons: Flimsy filter drawer, heavy, AF noisy by today's standard

This elephant of a lens is the best option available from Pentax in the super-telephoto range. All 6.5 kg of it. Handheld work is not an option.

On my K10D the focus is a bit out, but with the K20D it's perfectly within adjustment range. Fine-tuning with the K20D is not a trivial task, however, because of the relatively low resolution power of this lens. You can see the difference between the maximum offsets in each direction, but finding the true optimum is not as easy. Anyway, the resolution power is greater than a 300mm shot cropped. :-)

The lock on the filter drawer unscrews itself sometimes, and pop goes the filter. I'm considering a hack as Pål Jensen describes in his review.

AF speed is pretty quick for a shaft-driven lens, but noisy. Wildlife will pause and think "That's not a Nikon". Sometimes this gives you some excellent poses. Other animals will refuse to have their pic taken and bugger off. -But what can one expect. Most of the animals today were busy climbing out of their nests or dens when Pentax put this lens out of production.

What this lens lacks in resolution it takes back in contrast. The images are tack sharp from f/5.6 to f/9, at least. I must confess I have never had the nerve to stop further down. I have always needed the shutter speed.

The bokeh of the FA*600/4 is somewhat mixed. Objects that are far out of focus have a butter-smooth bokeh (again, my expreience is only between f/4 and f/9). Details that are closer to the focal plane, however, tend to exhibit a brighter edge, often more contrasty than you'd expect. This part of the bokeh also sometimes takes on a cyan or magenta tinge.

Despite the occasional oddness of bokeh, I have not seen any serious chromatic aberrations in this lens. No oddly coloured edges in areas of high contrast.

In all, I like this lens a lot for what it is. Not a walkabout lens, but a trusted tool for those times when wildlife portraits can be anticipated; making the haul worthwhile.
   
Senior Member

Registered: March, 2009
Location: Lighthouse Point, Florida
Posts: 144
Lens Review Date: April 8, 2009 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $6,000.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Very sharp - excellant quality for price
Cons: Weight, cost, paint finish, no HSM - AF a tad slow.

I have had this lens for quite a while - from my film days - I am a late digital bloomer. It was fantastic as a film lens and more so as a digital lens due to the extended range it offers with the smaller film plane, the only issues I have now is that it is a bit too much lens for some of the shooting I do and its a bear to carry around. I shoot primarily bird photography with it in South Florida - once mounted it is light to handle on a good tri-pod - but you need a solid tripod. I have this set up on a Gitzo - I think model 4011 - and a Arca Swiss B-2G monoball which handles it admirably.

To lug it I prefer the back of my SUV, but I got a small cart, the trekker 600 AW bag, and some bungee cords. Otherwise its a effort to carry around.

If you can find one and your into nature photography this is a expensive but must have for the quality it offers. I have not had any problems with the filter drawer - you just have to be careful with it.

I have some simply astounding shots taken with this lens I should post so that you can see what I mean by quality. IF you see a guy running around with an oversize Pentax lens shooting birds in South Florida - its probably me - I have to date never seen anyone other than myself shooting with this lens.

   
Senior Member

Registered: May, 2008
Location: UK - Somerset
Posts: 174
Lens Review Date: December 2, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $5,500.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharp, easy to focus and great for wildlife
Cons: Somewhat heavy
New or Used: Used   

I have had this lens for nearly a year now and just need more time to get out and use it! An expensive buy maybe, but that aside, it is a great lens. Initial problems were finding a tripod, a head and a suitable bag to transport it in.
A Benbow tripod solved the stability/weight problem, topped with a Wimberley Mk2 head. As I am sure everyone is aware, the Wimberley is a great piece of kit in it's own right. Despite it's weight, the lens just floats when mounted on the Wimberley head. Rather than drag the metal case around to protect the lens, I invested in a Kinesis cordura nylon long lens case with belt and shoulder harness. The bag allows me to transport the lens with camera body attached (K10D) and not risk damage to the paint finish.
Both Wimberley and Kinesis were great by the way with regards to advice with requirements for this lens, even though neither company listed the lens in their brochures at the time. A plus was the purchase of the drop in polarising filter to further enhance the capabilities of this lens.
   
Pentaxian

Registered: December, 2007
Location: Norway
Posts: 3,346
Lens Review Date: March 20, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $5,000.00 | Rating: 7 

 
Pros: Nothing in particular :-)
Cons: Silver paint finish, quarellsome hood, filter tray, weight.
New or Used: New   

Slightly soft wide open. Sharp from F: 5.6. Scratch prone paint finish. Filter tray easily falls off; mine is permanently taped in place. Screw on built in hood is fiddly in use.
Mine has been twice for repair due to loose screws. The last time in Germany.


   
Site Supporter

Registered: February, 2008
Location: MT
Posts: 1,270
Lens Review Date: February 12, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $6,300.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Integral Hood, includes front filter, nice balance, Pentax pro color rendition
Cons: soft silver finish, filter drawer slips
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 9    Value: 10    New or Used: New    Camera Used: Lots: film and digi, full frame and APS-C   

This is the Pentax sports and wildlife lens! Softer at f.4, but much better by f.4.5 and quite sharp from f. 5.6 on. I typically shoot around f. 6.7 to get focus from tip of nose through the ears on critters or from beak through the head on birds. Like other FA* lenses, the colors produced through this lens are outstanding. Strong contrast stands out as well...not "washed out" like lesser telephoto lenses. Images are not just sharp but CRISP.

Editors like the results from this lens! I've sold many published photos in pubs like Field and Stream, Montana Outdoors, and state parks brochures etc. Birds in flight, birds at rest...big eagles down to little dippers. Big critters like deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, pronghorn, bears, caribou...this lens gets you saleable images the little 300-400mm lenses can't reach. Perfectly matched with the pro quality 1.4X-L teleconverter which though manual focus, is fairly mandatory as an accessory with this lens.

Rugged tripod collar is sturdy and well placed near the balance point of the lens making it easy to use on both gimbal and aspheric ball heads. This is important for those who follow/pace wildlife on foot with tripod and lens over the shoulder (no gimbal strong enough) or those using it in an automotive blind where there isn't window space to accomodate a gimbal head.

Like all 600mm artillery, this lens is very unforgiving of poor technique or light tripods--took me a year to learn how to use it to it's sharpest and best result. This is partly due to the high magnification amplifying mirror slap or shutter finger vibrations and partly due to the massive weight of this beast. At 16 pounds, this lens is for specialty tripod use only. Even Gitzo 300 series is too light. Do not even consider skimping on the tripod...

Unlike many other super tele's, the hood/shade is built into the lens and screws into place--whether retracted or fully extended. Though a bit wonky, this is much preferred to trying to attach a loose hood on a rocky hillside wearing gloves in freezing weather as you must with many competitor's mondo tele's (and as I have to do with my other FA* lens shades).

Filter drawer detent is too easily "slipped" opening the drawer. Earlier F* version had this problem as well.

Lens has been the favorite part of my "stable" of long lenses. Have also owned: F*600/4; FA*250-600/5.6; A*300/2.8; SMC 500/4.5; M*400/4 (for 67); M*300/4 (for 67); plus several 300/4 or 300/4.5 lenses. So I'm kind of a long lens nerd. This FA*600/4 is the ultimate and I've been shooting it for more than 20 years!

The lovely silver finish is a bit soft and scratches pretty easily, but to me it is still cosmetically more attractive than the other brands of 600mm. So I never covered it with a Lens Coat...

In the lens photo, you'll notice a very rare Pentax Circular Polarizing Drop-In Filter with external wheel for rotating the polarizer. This item fits the FA*300/2.8, FA*600/4 and FA*250/600/5.6. The polarizing effect greatly enhances these lens' ability to render landscape extractions.
Add Review of SMC Pentax-FA* 600mm F4 ED [IF]



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