Pentax SMC DA* 60-250 f4 ED (IF) SDM – User Review

 

 

Pentax SMC DA* 60-250 f4 ED (IF) SDM – User Review

 

I had the opportunity to try out the Pentax 60-250 f4 professional grade lens during the Pacu Jawi in Padang a few days ago. I have tried this lens last year but was not entirely satisfied with it. Some of the images were soft. This time round I took it as a challenge to find out what was wrong with this well regarded lens. Before I go into what I did with the lens, let me introduce to you the Pentax SMC DA* 60-250mm ED (IF) SDM lens.

About this lens

This lens is built for a cropped sensor. The equivalent field-of-view is 92-383mm on full format sensor. The constant aperture f4 allows comparatively fast shutter speeds whereas its effective depth-of-field capabilities resemble a f5.6 full format lens.

The built quality for this lens is typical of all professional grade lenses – it is nothing short of excellent. Both the focus and zoom rings operate smoothly. It showed no sign of zoom creep.

The Pentax lens is slightly smaller than its competitors of the same focal length. However, when the flower lens hood is mounted, it looked formidable.

Like most Pentax lenses it feature a front lens element that has a SP coating to repel, dust, water and grease. The built-in tripod mount is stable and easy to turn.

SDM in Pentax speak stands for “Supersonic Dynamic Motor” which uses ultrasonic waves to drive the AF operations. The focusing speed is as good as the 17-70mm F4 that I am presently using. Pentax offers a unique full time manual focusing called the “Quick Shift” and is available in one-shot AF mode. In other words the lens do not need to be disengage from it AF-S or AF-C mode before you can do manual focusing.

 

Lens Construction

Specifications
equiv. full-format focal-length 92-383mm
equiv. full format max. aperture (depth-of-field) f/5.6
Optical construction 15 elements in 13 groups inc. 2 ED elements
Number of aperture blades 9 (circular)
min. focus distance 1.1m (max. magnification ratio ~1:6.7)
Dimensions 168x82mm
Weight 1040g (lens only) – 1230g (lens, tripod mount + hood)
Filter size 67mm (non-rotating)
Hood supplied, petal-shaped
Other features SDM, Quick-Shift, weather sealing, tripod mount

 

Focusing looked soft. This image was taken before fine AF adjustment

 

 

Image Quality and Focusing Speed

This lens handles distortion, edge to edge sharpness and chromatic aberrations well. I find the bokeh (out of focus blur) reasonably good. I am no fan for bokeh but at times I use it to separate the subject from the background.

The focusing speed is on par with my other Pentax lenses which is very acceptable. I mounted the lens on a Pentax K5, this combination may have made the difference.

My Story with this lens

To continue with my previous story with this lens, I have used this lens on my last Pacu Jawi trip last year. I find some of those images were soft due to some problem with the focusing. This year, I had the time to test this lens for focusing problems. I realised that this lens was consistently “front focusing”. Today most modern day cameras have a built-in fine focus adjustment feature. Pentax was one of the first if not the first to incorporate the fine focus adjustment feature in the menu.

I used a roll of plastic drink bottles to adjust the focusing on the fly. I realised that I have to use -3 in the fine adjustment to resolve the “front focus” problem.

Maxby says

This is a very good lens for sports, portraits and nature photography or when a mid-range telephoto is required. It is light and versatile enough to carry around. The image quality is also on par with most professional lens of this calibre. However, one has to test this lens for “front or back focus” problems.

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A Jockey - this picture was taken after fine AF adjustment

 

The bokeh for this lens is good and creamy

 

Pacu Jawi or Bull Race in Padang, Indonesia

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