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Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM Lens Review

A compact super-telephoto lens with a silent focusing motor, full time manual focus override, weather sealing and a bright f/2.8 maximum aperture.

Posted: 28/10/2010 - 14:20

Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM

This weather sealed professional quality super telephoto lens from Pentax costs around £720 and sports a silent focusing motor with full time manual override. Being one of Pentax's DA* lenses it sits at the top of their range, providing an equivalent field of view of a 300mm lens on a 35mm camera.

Those looking for alternatives from third party manufacturers will probably look towards the 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses offered by Sigma and Tamron. Sigma's 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG Macro MkII costs around £650 and offers the flexibility of a zoom at the expense of extra size and weight. Tamron's SP AF 70-200mm f/2.8 lacks the silent focusing motor of the Pentax and Sigma lenses, but only costs around £610.

Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM Handling and features

Being one of Pentax's top of the range starred lenses, the build quality is superb. The lens barrel is made of metal and feels like it will easily take the daily rigours of professional life in its stride. The lens is sealed against weather and dust too, so it should be able to take whatever the British (or otherwise wet weather wherever you are) throws at it. Unfortunately the lens' surfaces don't have the water repellent coating found on some of Pentax's most recent optics.

Focus is performed internally and is very quick in good lighting conditions. In lower lighting conditions I found the lens would hunt a little on the K-7 body used for testing, but the hunting ceases very quickly as the lens finds its target. As the lens has an SDM silent focusing motor manual adjustments can be made to the focus at any time.

For a lens designed to give a field of view equivalent to a 300mm f/2.8 lens on a 35mm camera, it is very lightweight and compact. Weighing only 825g and being only 134mm long, you'd be forgiven for thinking the lens doesn't have a bright f/2.8 aperture. As a result I found the lens very easy to handhold in low lighting conditions. When the lens is coupled with the in-body stabilisation on the K-7 body used for testing, it is a formidable combination for low light shooting.

I really enjoyed using the lens during testing. The light weight, excellent build quality and fast focusing make this a very decent lens to use.

Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM Performance

If only all lenses performed like this! From maximum aperture the resolution in the centre is already approaching excellent levels and stopping down only improves matters. Peak quality is achieved at f/8, where the sharpness across the frame is as close to perfect as I have seen.

Chromatic aberrations are kept below acceptable levels. At f/2.8 they reach 0.67 pixel widths towards the edge of the frame, which may show in very large prints with high contrast areas near the corners.

Control of falloff of illumination towards the corners is also excellent. At f/2.8 the corners are only half a stop darker than the image centre and stopping down to f/4 results in visually uniform illumination.

Distortion is as close to negligible as it could be. Imatest only recorded 0.0262% barrel distortion, which shouldn’t pose any problems, even in the most critical of applications.

When shooting into the light, this lens is reasonably resistant to flare and only a slight loss of contrast is noticeable in extreme circumstances. A deep lens hood is provided which does an excellent job of keeping extraneous light off the front element, eliminating flare and ghosting from light sources outside of the frame.

Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM Verdict

Pentax have created a near-perfect super telephoto optic in the 200mm f/2.8. It is capable of producing images with outstanding sharpness, low levels of chromatic aberrations, and negligible distortion. All this from a compact, lightweight package that focuses quickly, has sealing against dust and moisture and only costs £720. In my mind this lens is a bargain.

>Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM Pros

  • Outstanding resolution
  • Almost zero distortion
  • Low CA
  • Fast focusing
  • Weather sealing
  • Build quality
  • Light weight

>Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM Cons

  • It doesn't fit other makes of camera to allow everyone to enjoy this lens

Features: 4.5/5
Handling: 5/5
Performance: 5/5
Value: 5/5
Overall Verdict: 5/5


Pentax DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED (IF) SDM Specifications

Manufacturer Pentax
General
Lens Mounts Pentax K SMC-DA
Lens
Focal Length 200mm
Angle of View 0 - 9
Max Aperture f/2.8
Min Aperture f/22
Filter Size 77mm
Stabilised No
35mm equivalent No Data
Internal focusing No Data
Maximum magnification No Data
Focusing
Min Focus 120cm
Construction
Blades 9
Elements 9
Groups 8
Box Contents
Box Contents No Data
Dimensions
Weight 825g
Height 134mm

Members gallery photos using: smc PENTAX-FA* 80-200mm F2.8 ED[IF]

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