Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8 Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the new Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8 prime lens on the Pentax K-5 Digital SLR.

04/10/2012 - 19:35

Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8

This standard 50mm lens sports a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture, ideal for blurring backgrounds, or for shooting in low light conditions. However, unlike many 'nifty-fifty' lenses, this optic carries a rather high £250 price tag. Is it worth the extra over equivalents from other manufacturers? We'll take a closer look to ascertain if it is.

Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8 Handling and Features

PenPentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8 with Pentax K-5
The weight and dimensions of this lens are fairly typical for a lens of this specification. It weighs only 122g and protrudes 38.5mm from the lens mount. It makes a good lightweight companion for the Pentax K-5 body used for testing. Very high quality plastics have been used for the lens barrel, and the lens mount is plastic, which may put a few people off, especially if they change lenses very often.

Focusing is performed within the lens barrel with the entire group of elements moving back and forth inside. This design means that the lens does not extend during focusing and that the filter thread does not rotate, making it perfect for use with polarising and graduated filters. The 52mm is very common, so it shouldn't be too difficult to pick up accessories to fit. The manual focusing ring rotates during auto-focus, and isn't very well recessed, so care needs to be taken in use to ensure it doesn't catch your fingers. Manual focusing action is smooth, and well damped.

No distance scale is provided, or hyper-focal scale, which is a shame. The Pentax 'Quick Shift' focusing system has been implemented on this lens, which means manual adjustments can be applied once the lens has focused automatically.

Although focusing is screw-driven, it locks onto subjects very quickly. The older screw-driven system does generate more noise than newer silent focusing lenses do though. Despite the noise, focusing is swift and accurate, which makes the bright f/1.8 aperture very useable.

The minimum focus distance of 45cm is fairly typical for this kind of lens. A maximum magnification of 0.15x is possible, which may not be best suited for frame filling close ups images of small subjects.

Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8

Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8 Performance


At maximum aperture, sharpness in the centre of the frame is already very good, with clarity towards the edges of the frame reaching good levels. Stopping down improves sharpness across the frame with peak performance being realised at f/5.6, where sharpness in the centre is outstanding, and excellent clarity is attained towards the edges of the frame.

MTF at 50mm
MTF at 50mm

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Pentax K-5 using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are incredibly well controlled, barely registering in Imatest until the lens is stopped down beyond f/8. This very low level of fringing should pose no issues, even in large prints, or harsh crops from the edges of the frame.

CA at 50mm
CA at 50mm

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Pentax K-5 using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is also well controlled for a lens with a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture. At f/1.8 the corners are only 1.15 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination is realised with the lens stopped down to f/4 or beyond.

Only a very slight amount of barrel distortion is present in images taken with this lens. Imatest detected 0.505% barrel distortion, which will be very hard to spot, unless straight lines very near the edges of the frame run absolutely parallel with the frame border. The distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, so if you require absolutely straight lines, this low level of distortion should be relatively easy to correct.

During testing, this lens proved itself quite resistant to flare and contrast levels remain good, even when shooting into the light.

Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8 Sample Photos

Sharpness and contrast are excellent  | 1/800 sec | f/6.3 | 50.0 mm | ISO 100<br /><a target="_blank" href="https://www.magezinepublishing.com/equipment/images/equipment/SMC-DA-50mm-f18-4147/highres/Pentax50mm32012_1346422418.jpg">High-Res</a>

Sharpness and contrast are excellent | 1/800 sec | f/6.3 | 50.0 mm | ISO 100
High-Res

Blurred backgrounds are rendered very smoothly | 1/125 sec | f/2.8 | 50.0 mm | ISO 100<br /><a target="_blank" href="https://www.magezinepublishing.com/equipment/images/equipment/SMC-DA-50mm-f18-4147/highres/Pentax50mm31997_1346422376.jpg">High-Res</a>

Blurred backgrounds are rendered very smoothly | 1/125 sec | f/2.8 | 50.0 mm | ISO 100
High-Res

Distortion is very well controlled | 1/200 sec | f/6.3 | 50.0 mm | ISO 100<br /><a target="_blank" href="https://www.magezinepublishing.com/equipment/images/equipment/SMC-DA-50mm-f18-4147/highres/Pentax50mm32000_1346422398.jpg">High-Res</a>

Distortion is very well controlled | 1/200 sec | f/6.3 | 50.0 mm | ISO 100
High-Res

Focusing is fast, although maybe not accurate enough to be effective for use at wide apertures | 1/100 sec | f/6.3 | 50.0 mm | ISO 250<br /><a target="_blank" href="https://www.magezinepublishing.com/equipment/images/equipment/SMC-DA-50mm-f18-4147/highres/Pentax50mm32013_1346422460.jpg">High-Res</a>

Focusing is fast, although maybe not accurate enough to be effective for use at wide apertures | 1/100 sec | f/6.3 | 50.0 mm | ISO 250
High-Res

1/100 sec | f/4.5 | 50.0 mm | ISO 250<br /><a target="_blank" href="https://www.magezinepublishing.com/equipment/images/equipment/SMC-DA-50mm-f18-4147/highres/Pentax50mm31999_1346422388.jpg">High-Res</a>

1/100 sec | f/4.5 | 50.0 mm | ISO 250
High-Res

1/100 sec | f/3.2 | 50.0 mm | ISO 640<br /><a target="_blank" href="https://www.magezinepublishing.com/equipment/images/equipment/SMC-DA-50mm-f18-4147/highres/Pentax50mm32004_1346422410.jpg">High-Res</a>

1/100 sec | f/3.2 | 50.0 mm | ISO 640
High-Res

1/500 sec | f/6.3 | 50.0 mm | ISO 100<br /><a target="_blank" href="https://www.magezinepublishing.com/equipment/images/equipment/SMC-DA-50mm-f18-4147/highres/Pentax50mm32014_1346422476.jpg">High-Res</a>

1/500 sec | f/6.3 | 50.0 mm | ISO 100
High-Res

1/400 sec | f/6.3 | 50.0 mm | ISO 100<br /><a target="_blank" href="https://www.magezinepublishing.com/equipment/images/equipment/SMC-DA-50mm-f18-4147/highres/Pentax50mm32016_1346422488.jpg">High-Res</a>

1/400 sec | f/6.3 | 50.0 mm | ISO 100
High-Res


Value For Money

With a price tag of around £250, the performance of the optics are certainly worth paying a little extra for, although some aspects of the lens' design bring how good value this lens is into question. For example the plastic lens mount is a feature normally seen on much cheaper lenses.

Pentax also produce a 50mm f/1.4 lens, which sports a faster maximum aperture, but costs £330 as a result. Those looking for a lens around this focal length, who have money to spare, may also consider the Pentax 43mm f/1.9 Limited lens, which costs around £780.

Sigma also produce a 50mm f/1.4 which is available with a Pentax K mount fitting for around £380.

Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8 Verdict

The optical performance of this lens is excellent, which makes it well worth the £250 asking price, even if this does seem a little steep for a 50mm f/1.8 lens with a plastic lens mount.

Overall this lens delivers sharp results at every aperture, and is reasonably well built. However, a metal lens mount would normally be expected for a lens of this type at this price point and would allay any fears about the build of the lens.
 
  The optical performance of this new lens is excellent, and well worth the money.

Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8 Pros

Excellent sharpness from maximum aperture
Good build for the lens barrel
Fast focusing
Virtually no CA or distortion

Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8 Cons

A bit on the pricey side for a 50mm f/1.8
Plastic lens mount.

FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8 Specifications

ManufacturerPentax
General
Lens Mounts
  • Pentax K SMC-DA
Lens
Focal Length 50mm
Angle of View 47
Max Aperture f/1.8
Min Aperture f/22
Filter Size 52mm
Stabilised No
35mm equivalent 76.5mm
Internal focusing No Data
Maximum magnification No Data
Focusing
Min Focus 45cm
Construction
Blades 7
Elements 6
Groups 5
Box Contents
Box Contents No Data
Dimensions
Weight 122g
Height 63mm


Related Photos

ronniemac

Link Posted 05/02/2014 - 21:21
Informative review, and here's the good news: as of Jan 2014 the lens is generally priced at 120 , and if on special offer as low as 99 (new). I understand why Pentax usually price high to begin with then reduce later, but if just once they introduced a lens at the price they later sell for, it would hit the headlines in a big way - thinking about the plastic 85mm f2 for say 170 (if only!). Big news and big sales would make for big profit and happy punters. And introducing us to affordable primes will entice more to the Limited lenses in the fullness of time. Back on topic, really enjoy this lens, it's fantastic and highly recommended at current prices.

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mike389

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mike389

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