[Test – En] Pentax HD DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited

The Pentax DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited HD lens was tested with a Pentax K-3 II - French version

 

The Pentax DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited lens is not a new one: it was launched on the market on August 28, 2013. It is a HD (High Definition) version of its predecessor of the same name (but without the ‘HD’ designation). The features are identical. Externally, the main difference is the presence on the barrel of a green border on the old one, and red on the new one.

L'actuel HD DA 35mm f/2.8 macro limited
The current HD DA 35mm f/2.8 macro Limited (silver version)
L'ancien DA 35mm f/2.8 macro limited
The former DA 35mm f/2.8 macro Limited

It is available in two versions, a black one and a silver one.

Black version / Silver version
Black version / Silver version

 

A first « contact » was made with this lens in a comparative study in March 2016.

You can go to conclusion directly.

Introducing the HD DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited

The Pentax DA 35/2.5 macro Ltd belongs, as its name indicates, to the Limited series which is characterized by a very high level of manufacturing and some particular improvements: imitation leather case, covering front cap, not clipped, but, for the blow, easy to lose!

It is mainly intended for « macro » use, but can also, of course, be used for street or landscape photography. Note that, as with any macro lens, the travel of the focusing ring is quite long, resulting in a relatively slow autofocus.This is not a problem for landscapes – which by definition don’t move – but it can be more of a handicap in street photography. Working with manual focus and using the hyperfocal lens can help overcome this disadvantage.

General information

Typically, the maximum aperture of macro lenses is f/2.8. The DA 35 is no exception to this « rule ». Experience has shown that when you consider the minimum focusing distances at the 1:1 magnification ratio, this is not a handicap. A refinement that has since been widely used by Pentax is the « quick shift » feature that allows you to manually adjust the focus made in AF. In macrophotography, this is very useful, especially when you shoot small insects that move a little (Eh ! we’re not talking about flying butterflies !).

The lens is light: 214g, which is not so much considering that it has an integrated lens hood. It is not protected against bad weather. This means that it does not have an AW (« All Weather ») finish. Only the front lens is protected by an « SP » (« Super Protect ») finish.

With deployed lens hood
With deployed lens hood

 

The usable filters are 49mm in diameter and can be screwed on. They are therefore small and easily available. However, if the lens hood is extended, the use of filters will become almost impossible.

The lens comes with a small soft leatherette case.

With deployed lens hood at minimum focusing distance
With deployed lens hood at minimum focusing distance

 

Getting Started

This lens is easy to handle: it is small and light. The focusing ring is wide, looking like 2 fluted « crowns ». Its rotation is smooth and precise, favoured by a rather long stroke.

Of course, like most modern lenses, the DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited has no diaphragm ring: the aperture is set from the camera. Therefore, it is not possible to use manual extension rings. However, Pentax does not manufacture any longer extension rings with the necessary electrical contacts to transmit the aperture values. And on the adaptable market, even of Far Eastern origin, they are extremely rare in K-mount. Of course, this is a marginal use, but otherwise we will have to resort to other solutions.

There does not exist any button to switch between AF and manual focus: the switch is made with the small lever on the body. In use, this is not a penalty.

 

Handling and ergonomics: 7

Main technical data of the  HD DA 35mm

Main technical data (click to view)
PENTAXPENTAX HD DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro LimitedMonture Pentax KAF
(Pentax KAF Mount)
Focale
(focal length)
35 mm
Equivalent 35mm sur un APS-C
(35mm equivalent on an APS-C)
52,5 mm
Angle de vue
(field angle)
44°
Ouverture maximale
(Maximum aperture)
f/2.8
Ouverture minimale
(Minimum aperture)
f/22
Diaphragme
(Diaphragm)
9 lamelles (circulaire de f2.8 à f5.6)
(9 blades - Rounded from f/2.8 to f/5.6)
Lentilles - Groupes

(Lens - Groups)
9 lentilles - 8 groupes

9 lenses - 8 groups
Traitement des lentilles
(Lens coating)
HD / SP
Distance minimale de mise au point

(Minimum focusing distance)
0,139 m
Grossissement

(Magnification ratio)
1x (rapport 1:1)

(1x (ratio 1:1))
Stabilisation Optique



(Optical Stabilization)
Non
(stabilisation mécanique sur le boitier)


(No
(sensor stabilization on the camera))
QuickShiftOui (Yes)
Moteur

(Focusing engine)
Sans (screw Drive)

(None (screw drive))
Autres
(Other)
Diamètre filtre

(Filter diameter)
49 mm
Tropicalisé


(Weather protection)
non


(No)
Poids

(weight)
214 gr
Dimensions

(dimensions)
D63mm x L46,5mm

Diameter 63mm x Length 46,5mm
Accessoires




(accessories)
Bouchons avant et arrière, étui spécifique (Limited oblige !)
Le bouchon avant est à emboîtement.


(Front and rear caps - special case(imitation leather))
Compatible FF


(FF compatible)
Non - Conçu pour les boîtiers APS-C


(No - APS-C only)
Optical formula

The optical formula scheme of the HD DA 35mm f/2.8 macro Limited is as follows :

Formule optique de HD DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro
Formule optique de HD DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro

 

No information seems to be available, either from the manufacturer or elsewhere, concerning the glasses used for the lenses. It is only just known that the old coating has been replaced by an HD (High Definition) coating which improves colour rendering and contrast.

The lens diaphragm has 9 blades. They are rounded from f/2.8 to f/5.6. Thus, the circular aperture favors the melted and harmonious bokehs.

Others

This lens has no motor: the screw-drive type focusing is therefore operated by the camera. It is neither very fast nor very quiet. And it doesn’t help a lot to take pictures of fearful insects. Moreover, as you get closer to the minimum focusing distance (13.9cm) to reach the 1:1 magnification ratio, the lens lengthens noticeably.

As on all « Limited » lenses, the bayonet of this HD DA 35mm is metallic. This is a guarantee of quality.The owners of this lens can feel reassured, but, to our knowledge, the polycarbonate bayonets of some DA lenses (35mm f/2.4, 50mm f/1.8) have never caused any problem.

The materials used for the manufacturing are similar to those of the other lenses of the « Limited » series: metallic alloy covered with a black or silver paint depending on the version. All the serigraphic informations appear clearly and their resistance to wear must be emphasised. The finish is of a very high standard. The assembly is flawless, with remarkable precision.

 

Manufacturing & Finishing : 7

Technical specifications : 9

Main optical data

PENtaxKlub does not have a laboratory. Our tests are not measured by tools. We wish to bring a user and essentially photographic point of view. Our comments and technical note are therefore the result of a visual analysis.

Please note that for any lens, even the best one, it is always possible to obtain visual imperfections (especially with ACs), whatever the focal length and/or aperture.

Test images

All photos used for the tests were taken in RAW (DNG) and, unless explicitly mentioned, have not been developed or retouched.

AperturesWhole photo100% detail
f/2.8
f/4
at f/5.6
at f/8
f/11
f/16
at f/22

As a general observation, we can see, classically, a clear overall decrease in sharpness from f/16 onwards, probably due to a diffraction effect.

Chromatic Aberrations and flare

Chromatic aberrations (CAs) appear as a violet, sometimes green fringe, unpleasant to the eye.
Any lens is likely to produce flare. Especially if you do everything you can to have it, such as facing the sun, which sends its rays obliquely onto the lens. This is why we prefer to judge a lens in common and not exceptional image situations.

In such a situation, the DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited is not better than many others: you can easily get CAs (purple in our case) at full aperture. They can be seen above in the 100% extract at f/2.8. However they fade and disappear by closing the diaphragm one or two stops. That being said, when they are present, their correction is easy in post-treatment.

As for flare, the test shooting conditions did not allow for the production of flare. This is to be welcomed, as correction is much more difficult and sometimes downright impossible: it will therefore have to be accommodated or avoided as soon as the shot is taken. That’s what we’ve done, even if it’s completely unintentional!

Vignetting

Using the lens in macrophotography, it is almost impossible to obtain vignetting in a 1:1 ratio. This is different from conventional shooting. As can be seen in the distortion images above, vignetting is apparent at all angles at the widest aperture (f2.8). However, it can be corrected very easily with common post-processing software. It disappears by closing even one aperture.

Distortions

Quite frankly, it’s almost impossible to the naked eye to detect any distortion, whether it’s barrel or pincushion distortion. Probably you would have to use laboratory machines to make sure there was no distortion at all. In normal shooting conditions, and especially in macro photography, it is easy to see that there is none !

f/2.8f/4
f/5.6f/8

 

Image homogeneity and Sharpness

This is a discriminating factor for measuring the quality of a lens: one always looks for perfect sharpness both in the centre of the image and at the edges.

To do this, the tester took three pictures of the same subject, keeping the same focus: the first with the subject in the center, the second by moving it (by framing, of course) to the right of the image, and the third by moving it to the left.

Initial image
Initial image

 

Please, note that, at full aperture, pictures with an off-center subject are very rarely as sharp as those with a centered subject. And that’s what happens with the DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited open at f/2.8.

So, a second set of three images was taken at f/5.6, the aperture commonly used in « real life », using the same principles.

Place of the subject :Detail at f/2.8Detail at f/5.6
 on the left side
center of the photo
on the right side

Now, you can see that the image with the subject on the right side is very close to the image with the centered subject. On the contrary, the image with the subject on the left side appears much less sharp, though the focus has not changed. To be convinced of this, just look at a 100% extract of the initial image, including the text under the city logo. This lens (but perhaps is it due to this single copy?) therefore has a little weakness on the left side.

It’s a Macro lens, so sharpness reaches of very high level… at least as long as the operator doesn’t shake! Because it’s well known that the slightest micro shake at the 1:1 magnification ratio results in blurred movement.

Bokeh

As with a portrait lens, the bokeh of a dedicated macro lens must absolutely prove to be melted, « creamy » as the specialists say. But it is also very dependent on several factors: aperture (less sensitive in macro than in conventional photography), focusing distance and, above all, distance of the subject from the background: the larger it is, the more the bokeh will be melted. In the case of the DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited, the bokeh should have been measured at the minimum focusing distance, i.e. at the 1:1 ratio.This is an impossible task: at 13.9cm from the subject (and this distance must be appreciated in relation to the sensor plane) everything that is not the subject is blurred, or even non-existent in the picture since the subject is supposed to occupy the entire sensitive surface.

So we made 2 series of shots, with a regular subject, but which is not usually photographed in macro. The first shot is taken at about 80cm (2.6 feet), the second at about 30cm (12 inches). The images were taken at full apertures, from f/2.8 to f/8. Beyond f/8, it is of little interest for such a subject.

AperturesSubject at 80cm (2.6 feet)Subject at 30cm (12 inches)
f/2.8
at f/4
f/5.6
at f/8

Up to f/4, the bokeh is pleasantly melted, thanks to the 9 blades of the diaphragm (rounded from f/2.8 to f/5.6). Beyond that, it is less interesting, at least in the circumstances of the shot: the background appears clearly, although located at about 4m behind (13 feet).

 

Image quality (homogeneity, sharpness and distortion) : 26
Optical quality (CAs, flare, vignetting) : 30
With a Full Frame camera

Used on a FF camera (K-1 Mk II), in FF mode of course, the DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited produces significant vignetting at all apertures. This lens is therefore not recommended for use with a full-frame sensor camera, except to use only the central part of the image. This is sometimes possible when using a macro lens.

Photo prise à f/2.8 sur boîtier K-1 mk II
At f/2.8 on FF camera (K-1 mk II)
At f/11 on FF camera (K-1 mk II)
At f/11 on FF camera (K-1 mk II)

Price and Competition

In France, the catalogue price of the DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited is 649€. You can sometimes find it cheaper at « discounters ».

Let’s face it, if the major manufacturers have a 35mm macro in their catalogue (Canon even has a hybrid version opening at f/1.8), there is NO competitor in Pentax mount, even independent manufacturers whose older ones don’t make K-mount lenses anymore. And in the new ones (Irix, Laowa,…) no 35mm macro lens.

In this situation, we can therefore understand the rate charged by Ricoh. However, it is a rate that we consider high for the following reasons :

  • If you only need the macro function, Pentax offers a cheaper 50mm macro DFA and a similarly priced 100mm macro DFA with a 1:1 magnification ratio.
  • If you need the angle of view of a 35mm, there are 2 models at Pentax (an HD FA opening at f/2, a DA opening at f/2.4, for, respectively (almost) half and a third of the price of the DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited. Not counting all the zooms including the 35mm focal length.

In the end, it is perhaps the combination of these two uses for a single lens that could justify the selling price.

 

Conclusion

If it weren’t for the homogeneity and vignetting and CAs at full aperture, this lens would almost be a « full cardboard ». It’s not perfect, of course, but apart from its high line construction, sharpness is tha main quality you’d expect from a macro lens. Moreover, in this use, the bokeh can be excellent if you take care to keep the background away. What more could you ask for if not a slightly lower price?

PROsCONs
  • Image quality
  • Weight and dimensions
  • Bokeh
  • No distortion
  • Price
  • Homogeneity can be improved
  • CAs and vignetting at fullaperture

Note

Handling7Again perfect handling and ergonomics
Manufacturing & Finishing7Due to « Limited series », construction and finish are irreproachable
Technical specifications9The only missing features are tropicalization and a silent motorization
Image quality (homogeneity, sharpness and distortion)26Homogeneity is not perfect, especially on the left side. But sharpness is impressive and the lens shows no distortion
Optical quality (CAs, flare, vignetting) 30Some CAs and vignetting at f/2.8. But no flare was found
Overall score79/100

 

Gallery

The photos in the gallery may have been developed.

thistle feather at f/2.8
thistle feather at f/2.8
Une rose
Rose
Rosehip fruit
Rosehip fruit
Other rosehip fruit
Other rosehip fruit
Digitalis
Digitalis
Poppies
Poppies
Grasshopper
Grasshopper
the "military" discipline of the geese
the « military » discipline of the geese

 

Photo credits: © Micaz – The pictures are the property of the author (unless specified) – Click to enlarge