HD Pentax-D FA* 85mm F1.4 ED SDM AW
Construction and Handling
The HD PENTAX D FA* 85mm F1.4 is a prime of huge size. While it is shorter than the DA* 200mm and 300mm, it is wider and heavier than either. In other words, it is a massive lens.
This section will give you a complete tour of the lens, from every angle. You will also see the lens alongside other comparable lenses and mounted on various camera bodies.
The front of the lens is dominated by the enormous glass element.
The front element is covered by the Super Protect (SP) coating, which allows easier cleaning and helps to repel dirt and oil. This is no mere gimmick; the SP coating really is an improvement over regular coatings and practically guarantees the removal of any lingering dirt or dust.
The front element is also slightly concave, something of a rarity since the vast majority of lenses are designed with convex front elements. Using a concave surface is a design choice, and does not directly relate to a better or worse design.
The lens has a large 82mm filter thread. Filters will be very expensive.
The lens cap is the standard Pentax plastic pinch design.
The body of the lens is made entirely of metal, except for the rubberized focus ring. The finish is of very high quality, matching that of other STAR lenses. The texture matches that of modern Pentax camera bodies. Even apart from the size and weight, it is obvious that this is a professional tool. While a Limited lens feels refined and elegant, this lens looks utilitarian and purposeful.
The body is shaped irregularly, flaring out towards the front. Starting from the tapered bottom of the lens, near the mount, and going up, we first encounter the classic Pentax green ring. Right above is the lens focal length and aperture, using minimalist markings as has been the case for several years now.
Higher up is the focus distance window, with markings in meters and feet. The text gives good contrast and is easy to read. While in general Pentax lenses show a smooth body finish next to that window, in the case of the 85mm the body is ribbed around the whole shaft, a texture reminiscent of Limited lenses.
To the right of the distance window, the Pentax name is printed. To the left is the AF/MF switch, with the golden DFA label further below.
Above the focus distance window, the body widens significantly. The next section is the large focus ring. Textured like all modern Pentax, it offers a good grip and is easy to find thanks to its size.
The top section of the focus ring bears the gold ring indicating a STAR lens, along with the full lens name, serial number and specs.
The back of the lens shows the CE identification.
The lens does not extend when focusing.
We do not generally comment on the various glass elements inside the lens. In this case, however, there are enough interesting elements to warrant mentioning.
As per Pentax, the lens incorporates 3 high grade Super Extra-Low Dispersion elements, with the intent to minimize axial chromatic aberration. This number is high even for a STAR lens.
The 85mm also includes an aspherical element, something less rare. This element helps control spherical and chromatic aberrations.
The most interesting takeaway is how these elements work together. One of the targets when designing the 85mm was to control the previously mentioned aberrations, but also remove distortion especially at medium to long distances (within the usual range for portraits).
With the KAF4 mount, the aperture is open when the lens is unmounted. As such, it is not possible to see the 9 rounded aperture blades.
The lens mount is metal. Anything else (namely, plastic) would be surprising at this price point. The lens is protected against water ingress.
The lens uses a gigantic lens hood, which makes the lens assembly truly enormous.
It is more or less a cylinder, instead of the common petal shape.
It features the removable window found on most Pentax hoods, allowing the use of polarizers. The front of the hood is covered with rubber, and the interior has a soft texture which will minimize reflections.
Compared to Other Lenses
Here is the D FA* 85mm next to the FA 77mm Limited, an obvious comparison, as well as the common D FA 28-105mm. The huge size of the D FA* 85mm is immediately obvious, in particular when compared with the FA 77mm Limited.
Mounted on Camera
Below are images of the 85mm mounted on a Pentax K-3 (APS-C) and a Pentax K-1 (full frame). The lens balances nicely on the K-1, especially with a tripod plate underneath. It is comparatively larger on the K-3 but still handles well.
The HD Pentax-D FA* 85mm F1.4 belongs with the select group of the most premium lenses on the K-mount lineup. Big, heavy, imposing, it is a lens with no compromises. Note that this is not unique to the Pentax lens; 85mm F1.4 products from many other manufacturers are in the same ballpark. For instance, the Sigma ART 85mm F1.4 is almost exactly the same size. The Sony FE 85mm F1.4 GM is close. Still, this new Pentax lens is a clear departure from the compact and light Limited designs.
Apart from the size and weight, it is hard to find anything to criticize about the D FA* 85mm. Build quality is phenomenal, on par with the D FA* 50mm F1.4 and other STAR lenses.