Well here’s a rarity. A full frame 35mm f/2 lens that doesn’t need an engine hoist to get it into your camera bag. In fact, the new Pentax HD Pentax-FA 35mm F2 is very compact for a wide aperture prime lens with this focal length. This is how big 35mm SLR lenses used to be before the digital imaging revolution, so how has Pentax done it?
Well, by resurrecting one of its old 35mm SLR lenses. We’re not quite sure how this is going to work out. After all, this lens (and others of its time) were formulated when the sharpest film we had was Velvia 50 or Kodak Technical Pan and neither of those, good as they were, quite managed the resolving power of the 36MP sensor in the Pentax K-1 and K-1 II.
But although the lens design may come from another era, Pentax has modernised it with the use of its latest multi-layer HD lens coatings to deliver high-contrast images free of flare and ghost images, and claimed edge-to-edge sharpness. A highly stain-repellent SP coating has also been applied to the front surface to make it more weather, smear and grime resistant.
Quite apart from the new coatings, the HD Pentax-FA 35mm F2 has two other things in its favour: size and cost. We’ve forgotten just how small 35mm prime lenses used to be, and this one is not much thicker than a pancake lens. You could squash it in a corner of your camera bag and hardly know it’s there.
It’s also cheap. These days, fast prime lenses for full frame DSLRs and mirrorless cameras can be massively expensive, but the £399.99 SRP of this Pentax lens is pocket-money by comparison. In fact, we had a little scout around, and there are no rival lenses with these specs, in this price bracket, even from the likes of Samyang.
We’ll reserve judgement on this lens’s optical performance until we get one in for review, but two things are for sure: there’s nothing else like it at this price, and any lens this small has a head start for all-round likeability, regardless of its performance (OK, up to a point).
Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much to reinvigorate the Pentax product line or its market position. Much as we love the Pentax brand (and it’s made some good cameras), it feels like a company that’s just trickling along without any particular direction.
Available: February 2019
More information: HD PENTAX-FA35mmF2 – K-Mount Lenses – RICOH IMAGING EUROPE S.A.S