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Pentax SMC DA 10-17mm f3.5-4.5 ED[IF] Fisheye lens – Hands on Review.

 

Over the years I have realized that I only need to carry the minimum equipment for long photography trips. When I first started this photosafari.com.my I used to carry almost the whole dry box, however, over time I did an audit on the camera bag and lots of stuff which I do not need for the trip were thrown out. This helped to save my sore back.

 

I have been evaluating this fisheye lens for sometime. My thanks to DSC World who has kindly let me use this lens on loan. I have taken this lens to the Old Silk Road, Kashmir, Ha Giang in Vietnam and a few other places.

 

Talking about the lens

Pentax is well known for its quirky naming convention. The only naming convention that was stable was for the lenses.

  • DA – lens made and optimized for APS sensor
  • FA – full frame lens for the film era.
  • SDM – Supersonic Drive Motor
  • ED – Extra low Dispersion lens element to reduce chroma
  • IF – Internal Focusing.
  • SMC – lens coating

These are some of the common ones.

 

Lens Specification

  • Lens mount – Pentax KAF Mount
  • Lens construction – 10 elements in 8 groups
  • Angle of view – 1800 to 1000  
  • Diaphragm control – fully automatic
  • No of Aperture blades – 6
  • Minimum aperture – f22-32
  • Minimum focusing distance – 0.14m (5”)
  • Filter size – cannot attach filter
  • Dimensions – (diameter x length) 68mm x 71.5mm
  • Weight – 320g
  • Price – around MYR1,900

 

On the field

Pentax has been making very solid lenses. This lens was no exception. It was constructed from a combination of metal and plastic parts with minimal tolerance that felt solid in the hands. It has a short metal lens hood that protects the protruding front lens element. Filters cannot be attached to this lens.

 

A newly developed SP (Super Protective) coating made of a special fluoride compound has been applied to the front element making it easier to clean and more resistant against water and fingerprints.

The lens has no internal AF motor and relies on a slotted drive screw operated by the camera. As a result AF operation will generate a moderate degree of noise. The AF speed is extremely fast and accurate on the K5. Thanks to a “Quick-Shift Focus System” manual focusing is instantly possible once the AF has achieved focus.

 

Overall it is a smallish lens and is a perfect travelling companion.

Why I love this lens?

Owning and using a lens is not so much about MTF charts and rave reviews. I find a lens should have a close relationship with the visual perception of the photographer. I have owned many lenses before that had great reviews and excellent MTF chart capability but somehow it did not do well partnering with my vision. This partnership is very personal and it is hard to explain. You know that the lens is a great partner if you use it more than 50% of the time.

 

Over the years with so much time on the road shooting on photosafari trips, my photography styles have evolved. I just realized that sub consciously I have moved closer and closer to my subjects.  I am trying to include as many elements as possible in a picture. Some were complimentary elements while some were contrasting elements like satires and juxtapositions.

 

There was a point in time when I found that my much-used 17-70mm f4 lens was just not wide enough.

 

This lens is somewhat different from the other fisheye lens in the market. It has the properties of a fisheye at 10mm while retaining the ultra wide-angle rectilinear perspective at 17mm. It is like a two lens in one combo.

 

What do I use this lens for?

I used this lens as a street lens for street photography. Most photographers would not even consider this. That is because they have not found an ideal fisheye lens for this purpose.

 

I love the slight barrel distortions of the fisheye and the incredible depth of field properties. At the long end, the distortions are minimal. It adds creativity in the composition.

 

Maxby’s verdict

I have grown to accustomed to this lens. I enjoyed its capabilities as an extension of my eyes. Now I have added it to my well-audited travelling bag.  My journey to far of land is now in the hands of two camera bodies with a 17-70 f4 and a 10-17 f3.5-4.5 fisheye permanently attached. The Metz 20 C-2 travel flash for fill-in and creative flash is also part of my arsenal.

Shameless Plug

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For more enquiries about our teaching and photosafari travel programs, drop us an email to : maxbee@gmail.com

 

Kashgar Ancient City, Xinjiang.

 

Sa Phin Market, Ha Giang, Vietnam

 

 

Jujubes farm, Xinjiang.

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