Having copped an over-performing, bargain plastic fantastic and completed the business of assembling my frugal lens trinity it was now time to play. And for me that means a macro lens. Macro lenses are great because no matter the weather, the temperature, or any other extraneous conditional variables it is easy to amuse ones self. The most mundane things take on an other worldly air about them when viewed 1:1. One negative is that a macro lens will show you just how negligent you have been in air canning your keyboard or dusting/cleaning anything in general reaping a few throwaway pics due to the yechh factor. Another perk is that due to the nature of macro lenses they are typically tack sharp in other applications. Back in the Oly days I had a 60mm f/2.8 Olympus lens that I loved. I was not in Nikon town long enough to get around to acquiring a macro lens. When I went all lensapalooza with Samsung I did rather like their 60mm macro offering especially on a trip to Duke Gardens. Then there was the beyond frugal frankenmacro which put in a good effort during the Sony A7‘s run. Pentax has quite a few macro lenses to choose from, but I was immediately drawn to the Pentax 100mm f/2.8 WR. Why? Glad you asked:
- WR or water resistant. I did not have a water/dust sealed lens yet to go with my gasket crazy K-3ii and a macro lens makes perfect sense. I plan on getting up close and personal with less than dry and contaminant free environs so this takes away some of my squeamishness.
- Metal construction with engraved text. My prior lenses were well built, but none went so far as to have an all metal build.
- Size. Looking at the specs this full frame compatible lens was physically smaller than the M43 Olympus and considerably more compact than the fellow APS Samsung. Pretty impressive packaging.
- Now that I mention it, full frame compatible. With a pending full frame Pentax body release on the horizon (K-1 since released and purchased) it is nice to know this lens will work with it.
- Price. Right in line with non-water resistant, non-metal, non-full frame offerings from other manufacturers. Further I bought mine used from Amazon (for $100-$200 less than list depending on where you look) which came in like new condition as stated with nary a mark or scratch and all paraphernalia (hood, caps, bag) in box.
- Sample images impressed.
- Lastly I was intrigued by the focal length which was the longest macro Pentax offered (the others being 35mm and 50mm). The Olympus 60mm crop worked out to roughly 120mm, the Samsung 60mm crop roughly 90mm, (Lord knows with frankenmacro) so I figured that the little extra reach the 135mm Pentax 90mm crop offered might be of benefit for macro and portrait photos. For macros it would give me space and for portraits it should help with compression and blur… or at least I hoped it would.
Some on line and customer reviews griped about not having a focus limit switch, which is understandable, but with both AF macros I had previously I tended to switch to MF whenever I wanted to take a macro shot and here that is as simple as flicking the little lever on the from of the K-3ii. Plus I rather like the all of a piece retro-ish metal construction with no switches aesthetic (I know, nothing to do with creating images but it is a factor for me nonetheless.) so it is a trade off I accept easily.
Samsung had IS in the lens, but like the Olympus this lens relies on the camera’s in body IS. In my experience this is the easiest lens to use for macro I have owned yet. Not that the others were bad, mind you, it is that this is the only one so far that did not leave me wishing for more light with macros. Many of the shots with the Olympus and the Samsung made use of a flash or even a flashlight, but I do not have a Pentax flash to my name and the macro shots below were taken with regular room light hand held. I am not sure whether this is owed to the in body IS, the optics, dark magic or some combination of the above, but the results are impressive.
- Note as of the writing of this post: This lens is no longer listed on the Pentax website as far as I can tell, Amazon (best price by $100 presently) has this lens listed as discontinued (but in stock) and it is on back order on B&H, but Adorama seems to have plenty (although with Adorama I did have an instance where I was not told that an item was back ordered until after I made the purchase and I requested a return). So if you want one you may need to act fast.
Just received it, but I must say it ticks off all of my expectation boxes above and then some. One surprise is that it performs quite well at night. Plus I did not get a chance to snap a lot of shots, but the keeper rate was very high. Enough rambling here is a sample gallery (All shots hand held with no flash.):