I recently created my holiday wishlist that mentioned two Pentax bodies that are favorites of mine. Specifically, the K-3 (and II) and K-1 (and II). I really like these cameras and believe they offer phenomenal bang for your buck, but the bodies are only a part of the equation. I have owned many and still own mirrorless bodies. Great cameras, but affordable, high-quality glass is not abundant usually. With Pentax that is not the case. While 3rd party glass is not as abundant for Pentax, as with the two big Pentax lenses have been around since the stone age and all work on just about all Pentax cameras film or digital. I could devote an entire post to legacy K and M42 manual focus lenses, but I will focus on AF lenses here. Some newer. Some Pentax. Some 3rd party. Some current. Some out of production. All can be had for a reasonable price fairly easily through local camera shops and common online camera retailers. Lets go.
Nifty 50 for less than $150: Pentax SMC F 50mm f/1.7
- Small and light.
- Quick to focus.
- Acceptably sharp wide open. Very sharp closed down.
- Colors and Bokeh so lovely you will apologize to the lens for pixel peeping.
- Full frame
- Not a lens to impress aesthetically. It's there to get the job done.
- My copy is rough around the edges and makes a bit of noise.
- No longer in production, so used purchase only.
My first go around with Pentax I “upgraded” from this lens to a Sigma DG EX 50mm f/1.4. The Sigma was very nice, but I cannot say it produced images that were any better and did not find that extra brightness made a noticeable difference in low light or subject isolation day to day. Plus, the SMC was smaller lighter and focused more accurately in my experience. For my second go around with Pentax I reached for this lens again .
High-end Macro for not high-end money: Pentax 100mm f/2.8 WR Macro
- Quite the looker and built like a tank.
- Stellar image quality. My first runner-up for Pixie dust lens.
- Sharp everywhere like all good macros are.
- Compact given the spec.
- Water-resistant to go along with the water-resistant Pentax bodies. I have used this in the rain without a concern and no ill effects.
- Very flexible. Great for macro shots, all-weather walkabout, and portraits.
- Full frame.
- Swift to focus when near its intended focus distance.
- Reasonably priced. You can find them used for around $250 in great condition. New they run just over $500 or so.
- No focus limiter, so it can take a while between normal and macro focus distances on its own.
Love this lens. One of the first lenses to pick up when you buy a Pentax camera.
Tamron part 1: Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 SP Aspherical LD IF Macro XR DI
- While not available new, they can be purchased for around $250 or so used.
- Not a true macro, but gets closer than I expected.
- Great image quality and colors at any focal length.
- A solid performer.
- Build quality could be better.
A great lens.
Tamron part 2: Tamron 70-200mm F/2.8 DI LD IF SP
- No longer produced, but can be found for around $400 or so used.
- Everything I said about the 28-75mm above in 70-200mm strength.
- AF/MF clutch on lens still requires using on body AF/MF switch.
A great lens.
Nice little oddity: Pentax 40mm F/2.8 SMC DA Limited
- The most pancake of pancake lenses I have ever seen with an aperture ring.
- This lens is spec’d for APS-C, but works just fine with full frame.
- Great image quality.
- There is a new, improved red ring version, but I have been using the original green ring version and see no reason to upgrade.
- Around $200 used.
- Not one I can think of!
Stays on a camera nearly at all times.
Bonus round: Pentax 77mm F/1.8 SMC FA Limited
Note: This lens deviates from the other value-centric lenses on this list in price. I do consider it a good deal in a way.
- Amazing build quality and aesthetics. There are lenses that cost far more that are built no better.
- This is my favorite Pixie dust lens ever. It just makes everything look wonderful. Sharpness, colors, bokeh, and contrast are all there. Check out the album below.
- Cannot bring myself to give this lens a demerit of any kind.
If you would like to treat yourself with a special lens I can think of nothing better than this one.
This was a very specific list for one lens mount, but if you are looking for a good deal on a stills system and do not have a money tree in your backyard I recommend giving it a look.