Pentax smc DA* 55mm 1:1.4 SDM review
The 55mm F1.4 is a member of Pentax's DA* family of lenses, and the construction and finish is extremely good. It's at least on a par with other lenses in this line, such as the DA* 16-50mm F2.8 and DA* 50-135mm F2.8, and arguably best in its class. The barrel is reassuringly weighty and rigid, and a rubber seal around the lens mount provides an external clue to the weather-sealed design. The front element is very deeply recessed in the barrel (at least at infinity focus), in effect providing a built-in hood for protection against flare.
Compared to Pentax smc FA 50mm F1.4
The smc DA* 55mm F1.4 SDM, despite being notionally an APS-C lens, is rather bigger and heavier than its predecessor, the full-frame smc FA 50mm F1.4. This is due to a combination of factors; the built-in autofocus motor demands a larger diameter barrel, and the optical unit is also slightly larger. The lens also uses a floating focus mechanism, with the rear element staying fixed as the main lens group moves forward on focusing closer; this results in a longer focus travel and therefore a longer barrel (in principle, it should also give superior results at close focus distances compared to the older lens).
Externally, the other clear differences are the loss of the aperture ring, and the much larger, easier to grasp manual focus ring. The narrower spacing of the marks on the depth of field scale reflect the fact that it is calibrated for the APS-C format, rather than 35mm (as you'd expect given the lens's DA* designation).
On the camera
The DA* 55mm F1.4 SDM may be large for its type of lens, but it's actually only a little bigger than the 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 kit zooms, if rather heavier. It balances well on all of Pentax's DSLRs from the large(ish) K20D to the diminutive K2000, and is a particularly good match for the K-7. The large focusing ring is especially easy to use, and the focus mode selection switch is well-placed for operation by the left thumb.
Lens body elements
Reported aperture vs focal length
This lens allows an aperture range from F1.4 to F22 to be selected.
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