Pentax DA 40mm f/2.8 Ultra Compact Limited (“Pancake”) Lens – Review

I broke down and ordered myself a Pentax DA 40mm f/2.8 Ultra Compact Limited (“Pancake”) Lens last week used from Amazon for $300.  This is one of the tiniest DSLR lens I’ve ever seen and it will come in very handy for candid portraits and street shots where you want to look less “professional photographer-ish” conspicuous, and your camera to be small, light-weight, and easy to use with one hand.  I wish it was a little wider angle (than 40mm on APS-C).  This just means having to step back a little bit for group portraits, but enables unsuspecting street subjects to be captured quickly from a less conspicuous distance!  Pentax offers a similar 21mm, but it’s not affordable (to me at over $500 used). I intend for it to mostly replace my 18-55mm kit zoom for the few “smiling faces at the party” group photos I take.  I hope to take more now though, along with more street shooting.  (More reviews)

I took it out with me Sunday to do some more street in Downtown Fort Worth and we also ended up in the old unused T & P. train station!  A really nice security guard met us in the parking lot and took us inside, unlocked the doors for us, and showed us around!  After the long walk to get inside, I ended up regretting not bringing a wide-angle lens in with me from the car, so I had to shoot the beautiful ceilings and huge open rooms with my 40mm, but still managed to get some decent shots!  So far, I’m very impressed with the images it produces.  Even severely cropped images and fully blown up ones look almost flawless and definitely much better than my kit lenses! (Click on any of the images (gallery) to the right to view full-sized!):

My only wish is that (maybe) this lens was a little wider (for APS-C), like maybe 30mm, then it would be perfect.  I kind of like the tiny “dough-nut” / “wheel-cover” lens hood and the little screw-on cap.  The hood provides good protection and you can leave the cap off when carrying the camera around (just keep it in your pocket).  The only slightly weird thing about it is that the word “Pentax” is lettered in white on the INSIDE of the cap, not the outside?!  This is definitely becoming my walk-around “fun lens”!  I just absolutely love how it makes my camera so compact and light.  If you prefer, you can easily use a traditional 49mm plastic snap-on lens hood instead.  I do not have any 49mm filters, but was easily able to hold a larger polarizer or my yellow filter over the front while shooting (since the camera’s so small and light), so no real need to buy more filters.

I’ve been told that the lens is wide enough to use with my full-frame (Pentax) ME-Super film camera, but I have not shot any film with it yet to confirm.  I can use my ol’ “shim trick” to open it up (since there’s no aperture ring) if I ever do!

Pros:  Superb image quality you’d expect in a (pro. grade) “limited” Pentax lens.  Solid all metal and glass build, including the hood and cap. Fastest focusing Pentax screw-drive lens I own.  Very compact and lightweight (especially being metal).  Tops the scale on the “cool” factor in both looks, carrying and ease of use!  You can carry a second lens with you without your bag and stick this one in your pocket while switching to the other one, so it’s like having two lenses while feeling like you’re only carrying one!

Cons:  40mm.  This is actually a pro for street work, only a slight con for full-body group portraits (unless you can step back a few feet) and hey, I knew that going in and am still very happy to have it as is!  Wish it would go another stop open, say to f2, but the image quality is excellent wide open at 2.8 whereas many lenses that go below that have to be stopped down to be as good.  With Pentax high-noise reduction and in-camera image stabilization, f2.8 will serve me fine for everything but the most extreme conditions.

Other:  Price – I paid $300 for it used.  It’s just as good as new.  Being all metal and glass, this thing should last a lifetime (unless dropped on concrete, in water or thrown against a wall, or in the case of this small thing, lost)!  Overall, well worth the money to me.  A couple of my Canikon photographer friends were ribbing me about paying an arm and a leg for it and how that Canon is introducing (compare) a (plastic) 40mm pancake for only $200 (someday soon).  I just pointed out that it “only cost me an arm since it’s used, but w/this baby, shooting with one arm is easy-peasy!”.  Up through now, AFAIK, only Pentax offers pro-grade compact “pancake” primes like this!

Verdict:  Every Pentaxian should own one of these!  If you can only afford a single “pancake” / prime lens, get this one!  I looked at the 21mm, but it was way more and wouldn’t do street as well.

Mayor Bloomberg calls obese people “beasts”.
by Peter Bella, Wasington Times Communities, June 2, 2012.

Green Police: Miami Beach To Make Recycling Compulsory.
by Paul Joseph Watson, Infowars.com, June 7, 2012.

9-Year-Old To Westboro Baptist Protesters: ‘God Hates No One’!

me:This brave kid’s just full of awesomeness!  Read this story while listening to this very appropriate song video:  Sign Sign, Everywhere a Sign“, by Five Man Electric Band-NOW:

Spotted owl could be game-changer in Tombstone water war.
by Ann O’Neill, CNN, June 9, 2012.

EPA power grab to regulate ditches, gullies on private property.
by: Audrey Hudson, Human Events, June 11, 2012.
me:Government just keeps on getting bigger so I’m just going to keep on warning you about it!

China could impound European planes in carbon row.
by Alison Leung, Reuters, June 12, 2012.
me:Way to go China!  No wonder your economy is rocking while the rest of us are in the tank!


Ceiling art, old T & P Train Station, Ft. Worth (1/10″,f9,i640,+0.7ev)
 

Very cropped street shot, downtown Ft. Worth, Texas (1/320″,f8,iso250)
 

Close-up engraved door-handles, T & P Station (1/20″,f9,iso640,+0.7ev)
 

Indoor, low-light (Flying Saucer Pub, Ft. Worth) (1/100″,f2.8,iso800)
 

Florescent lighting, T & P Station concourse (1/10″,f9,iso800)
 

Street portrait, downtown Ft. Worth, Texas (1/80″,f8,iso250)
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4 Comments

  1. Posted September 14, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Follow-up: I’ve had this lens for over 3 months now and I just keep loving it more and more. It LIVES on my camera pretty much all the time now. Most of the few shots I take without it are with my 90mm Tamron macro when I need a really close-up macro shot or a real telephoto shot. Between these two pass nearly 95% of my photos these days. I rarely use my two kit lenses anymore. The kit zooms are very good lenses, but the image quality just doesn’t compare for the challenging captures I often like to do!

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2 Trackbacks

  1. […] I have no regrets purchasing this lens, especially at the $399 fire-sale price I paid for it new and, though it probably won’t live on my camera, it will likely join the other one in my pocket on most, if not all shoots going forward! When I want a really tack-sharp image, especially in less than generous light, and can step back a bit, this lens will definitely be on my camera in situations where I would’ve used my 40 and cropped in the past.  The extra half-stop (f2.4 vs the 40′s f2.8) is a plus as well, often providing a better tight DOF alternative to my 50mm f1.4 due to it’s much-superior image quality, with a slightly further reach too.  It nicely fills the gap between my 40mm and my other long prime, a 90mm macro (which usually remains in my bag in the car due to it’s size).  You can also view my Pentax DA 40mm Review. […]

  2. […] limited I’ve purchased to add to my “Three Amigos” set (21mm, 40mm, and 70mm compact limited primes).  The other three have been simply amazing for my […]

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