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The Best Pentax SLR Lenses for 2021



The Road Less Traveled

It’s true that most photographers looking to buy an SLR go with a Canon or a Nikon camera. But, despite their market share, the big two aren’t the only game in town. The Pentax brand has been around for a long time, and if you learned photography in the 70s or 80s, you probably picked up the classic manual focus K1000 SLR at some point in time.

In the digital world Pentax SLRs set themselves apart from the competition by concentrating on build quality rather than bells and whistles. Even the budget-friendly K-70 has a glass pentaprism viewfinder and extensive weather sealing—features that are only available in bodies priced over $1,000 if you are shopping for a Canon or Nikon SLR. But the company is a little behind the times in some other areas, including autofocus and video capture.

But if you’re more interested in pure photography and not enticed by bells and whistles, a Pentax SLR might make a lot sense. Add in the fact that the company is strong in terms of backward compatibility (those manual focus lenses from the 70s work on modern digital bodies just fine) and builds shake reduction into the body so that every lens is stabilized, and you have an appealing platform.

Most Pentax SLRs use the APS-C sensor size, the same as you’ll find in entry-level models from Nikon and Canon. There is one full-frame model available, the 36MP K-1 Mark II. You can use APS-C lenses with it—we’ve tested some and found that a few cover the whole sensor and are decent performers—but for best results look for lenses marked as FA or D FA if you shoot with the K-1.

Pentax doesn’t have the sheer number of lenses available as you’ll get with one of the more popular systems, but the selection is still pretty extensive, and includes an excellent series of compact prime lenses. It’s missing some of the more esoteric options, like tilt-shift lenses, autofocusing f/1.2 primes, and really long telephoto glass. Third-party lenses fill some of those gaps, although lens makers like Sigma and Tamron no longer make lenses for Pentax, so you’ll have to search for pre-owned options.

If you’re in the market for a new SLR body you can peruse the Best SLRs we’ve tested. And all of the cameras and lenses we’ve reviewed can be found in our Digital Cameras Product Guide.

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