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Pentax AF 35-70 3.5-4.5 SMC, good buy?

Steve T. , Jul 29, 2009; 01:48 p.m.

I've got one of these set aside for me to test out later today at a local shop, listed in "E+" condition. $49.99.
"PENTAX AF 35-70 3.5-4.5 SMC"
For $50, I'm not expecting the world (and not breaking the bank, either), obviously, but how has this lens been in the past? Was it a worthy contender, or just another cheap lens? Has it provided good service and results? It would be used on my K20D. Thoughts and impressions, good and bad, are welcome and appreciated. I did search it out in the archives, but didn't find much of substance talked about. I saw plenty of negative messages about 28-80 lenses, although as filler in my line up the 80mm end would provide more utility, but 70mm should suffice. I'm trying to branch out a bit more than just the wide angle perspectives I typically capture.

My current lens line-up-
Pentax 10-17 fisheye
Sigma 10-20
Sigma 18-50 2.8
(insert the Pentax 35-70 here, if I buy it)
Pentax 50 1.4
Tamron 90 macro
Tamron 18-250

So other than my big zoom Tamron, this would be my moderate zoom tele lens (52-105 equiv.), probably gaining a bit of a stop in that range over the Tamron, too (I think). I'm finding it pretty rare that I grab for the big Tamron anymore. The Sigma 18-50 probably gets the lion's share of the time on my camera.


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David Scott , Jul 29, 2009; 02:04 p.m.

I have and like that lens, but it's not the most useful focal lengths on my K10D. I prefer this lens on my MZ-7 (film) camera, where it really is a moderate wide to moderate tele.
I find this lens to be quite sharp, with nice contrast and lovely colour. It has the optical look of a true Pentax SMC lens -- I have no complaints about it optically. It's probably the sharpest lens I own after my FA 50/1.4.
I also really like the macro ability of the lens - though it's not automatic, you need to manually rotate the zoom ring into the macro range.
Another advantage -- it's a 49mm filter ring, so I can use my nice selection of 49mm filters.
Biggest disadvantage is that it's a relatively slow (f/stop) lens. You will especially notice the difference from your Sigma 2.8. The Pentax 35-70 is definitely best suited to daylight exteriors.

David Scott , Jul 29, 2009; 02:05 p.m.

Also, that price seems quite good. The good optical reputation of this lens seems to keep the price higher, often double what you will pay.

Peter Zack , Jul 29, 2009; 02:42 p.m.

Good price for a good lens. Infact a much better than average lens. It's sharp, focuses well, has a usable close focus ability and is compact. It's only weakness is speed. But if you shoot outside most of the time, that won't matter. At this price, the only reason not to buy it would be if it's defective.

Andrew Gilchrist , Jul 29, 2009; 02:45 p.m.

Within its obvious capabilities (focal length and max aperture range), it's pretty good, and very compact--barely larger or heavier than your FA50/1.4. Actually not a bad partner for a kit lens which is a little slow & short for my tastes. Price is fine assuming it's in good condition, these usually go for a little more than that. I think it has more pincushion/barrel distortion than you'd necessarily expect on a modest-range 2x zoom but this is a bigger problem on full-frame film than crop-frame digital (which also has better facilities for correcting distortion). Pretty good close-focus at 70mm. I prefer it over the FA28-70/4.

I have a few pictures taken with this lens here . Here's one:

Cold, cloudy sunset
F35-70/3.5-4.5 @70mm f/8 + K20D

The 28-80's aren't all bad--the f/3.5-4.5 varieties are decent but they're considerably larger than this little 35-70. I have a few (silly) shots with F28-80/3.5-4.5 here . While I have some affinity for these F-zooms, you *might* want to also consider an FA28-105/3.2-4.5 (more samples, many goofy, here ).

John O'Keefe-Odom , Jul 29, 2009; 02:48 p.m.

". . . I saw plenty of negative messages about 28-80 lenses."
My guess is that so many people are familiar with using a "kit lens" focal length of wide to short tele' zoom, that they may have a tendency to skew the negative comments a bit. The servant has no respect for the master, because of familiarity. It's one of those things.

Imagine that there are a bunch of people who start out with that kind of lens, get the next lens a little later, and then see their photography improve. Then, maybe they start projecting some of their feelings about beginner's setbacks onto their first lens.

I think that sort of thing may be a contributing factor.

I agree with Peter Zack. It's probably a good lens.

Nick Siebers , Jul 29, 2009; 02:53 p.m.

I have one. I paid around that price, seems to be the going rate. It is great, I can't imagine why it is so much cheaper than other lenses in its optical class except that there may be a lot of them floating around. Very sharp, nice colors, decent bokeh, able to focus down to 1:4 magnification at 70mm, and small too - not much bigger than a 50mm prime. This is my "backyard lens", nice for chasing kids around and able to capture most of a scene of playing, then zooming in for a candid portrait. Indoors it usually needs a flash, but still gives great performance. For me its results are much better than those with the F 35-80 zoom (f/4-5.6) or the FA 28-80mm zoom (f/3.5-4.7), and a step up from the DA 18-55mm I got with my camera. If something happened to mine, I would buy another in a heartbeat.

With this lens

Nick Siebers , Jul 29, 2009; 02:56 p.m.

Here's another sample from the same day.

Fall portrait

Miserere Mei , Jul 29, 2009; 03:35 p.m.

I got this lens as collateral-baggage in an auction. It was nice enough, but I didn't find it sharp enough wide open. In any case, I needed to sell it off (together with a lot of other collateral-baggage) and I think it went for more than $50 (and mine had the edges of the rubber band peeling off).

Here's a picture I took with it in the (very useful 1:4) macro mode (see it a bit larger here ):

As for the rubber ring peeling off that I mentioned, see pics here and here. I believe this is a commong issue with the SMC-F lenses.

If I ever get a K-7, I will consider adding this lens to my aresenal if I find a sharp sample. It would make an interesting street lens for me.

Michael Kuhne , Jul 29, 2009; 07:07 p.m.

I also have this lens and I am in agreement with the other positive remarks. Not only a fine, sharp performer, but this is the smallest SLR zoom lens I have ever seen. I too especially like it on a compact film body. If in very good condition, that is a good price indeed.

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