HD vs. SMC Pentax Limited Primes

What's New

The Pentax HD Limited primes differ from their SMC Limited predecessors in exactly six ways.  We describe each difference below.

Coating Type

The new HD Limited primes are treated with Pentax's HD coating rather than the Super Multi Coating (SMC).

The HD coating promises to do a better job of suppressing flare and ghosting while increasing overall contrast in images.  The photo below shows the difference in reflectance and light transmission of uncoated glass, SMC-coated glass, and HD-coated glass.  The jump from no coatings to SMC needs no explanation. But if you look closely at the pair of coated lenses, you will notice that the PENTAX logo on the far right (seen through the HD-coated lens) does not have a yellow color cast, so the white and red colors are more true-to-life.

Pentax HD Coating DemoNo Coating (left) vs SMC (center) vs HD (right) - Click to Enlarge

What effect does the new coating have in practice when deployed on a camera lens?  Read on to find out.

Aperture Blades

All five HD Limiteds now have rounded aperture blades, which means that at wide aperture settings, their diaphragms will appear more circular.  The SMC Limiteds had straight aperture blades and polygonal diaphragms.  The number of aperture blades in each lens remains unchanged.

The photo below shots the difference in the aperture diaphragm when stopped down slightly on the HD and SMC 70mm lenses.  We did a bit of photoshopping to get a side-by-side comparison.  At narrower aperture settings, the HD lens's diaphragm will appear less circular.

 HD 70mm vs SMC 70mm Limited Aperture Diaphragms, Stopped Down Slightly - Click to Enlarge

This change means that the bokeh from the HD Limiteds will different from that of the SMC Limiteds.  Again, read on to find out what the difference is in practice.

Super Protect Coating

The front element of the HD Limited 40mm has been treated with Pentax's Super Protect coating, which was not found on the SMC Pentax-DA 40mm F2.8.  All other SMC Limiteds had Super Protect coating, and the HD versions retain this coating.

The Super Protect coating repels water and dust, protects the underlying lens coating, and makes the front element easier to clean.  It also helps prevent superficial scratches.

Barrel Design

SMC Limited (left) vs HD Limited (right)
SMC Limited (Left) vs HD Limited (Right) 40mm F2.8

The HD Limiteds have gotten a facelifted barrel design which entails four costmetic changes.  Let's use the SMC and HD 40mm as an example:

  1. The old green ring has become red, a trademark feature of all Pentax lenses with HD coating.
  2. The machined "Pentax 40" badge has been replaced by white engraved Zeiss-style "2.8/40" lettering.
  3. The font colors on the distance scale have been changed.  Metric labels are now white and standard labels are now a lighter shade of blue.
  4. On the front of the lens, the white SMC prefix has been replaced by a red HD prefix.

The HD Limiteds are also available in a silver finish which differs from the limited-production silver SMC Limiteds in the following ways, again using the 40mm as an example:

  1. The old silver ring has become red.
  2. The machined "Pentax 40" badge has been replaced by black engraved Zeiss-style "2.8/40" lettering.
  3. On the front of the lens, the white SMC prefix has been replaced by a red HD prefix.

While the whole "HD" name might be a bit cheesy, it's certainly good marketing on Pentax's part, and the company is going out of its way to differentiate HD lenses from the rest of the crowd.


Each HD Limited lens is $50 to $100 more expensive (when comparing MSRP prices) than the corresponding SMC lens in the United States.  In other countries, the price difference may be greater.

Box Design

Ricoh Imaging is making it clear that Pentax is a brand rather than a company.  The HD Limited boxes have received a new design that includes a photo of each lens as well as a prominent Ricoh logo.  More information about the box design can be found on the following page.

facebook.com/PentaxForums PentaxForums @PentaxForums News | Reviews | Forum

Support Pentax Forums Donate to Pentax Forums Support Pentax Forums