Lens Spotlight: A*200 Macro - Jason Doss

Lens Spotlight

smc Pentax-A* 200mm f/2.8 ED Macro

The SMC Pentax-A* 200mm f/2.8 ED Macro (whew!) is without doubt the finest manual focus macro lens that Pentax ever made.  Longer telephoto macro lenses allow greater working distance while still offering the same or higher magnification than shorter lenses.  The STAR* designation indicates superior build and image quality and are the best lenses in their respective lines.

This macro lens is capable of full life size magnification and bears a number of top grade features including extra-low dispersion glass elements to reduce chromatic aberration, a smooth and precise manual focus helicoid, solid metal barrel construction, a built-in rubberized lens hood, a rotating and removable tripod foot, aperture ring with the A setting, and is a beautiful thing to behold

The only knock on this lens, unfortunately, is the tripod foot control knobs.  They are present at the 4- and 8-o'clock positions on the lens, approximately, and they are fairly large and metal.  They were just fine in the olden days of film, because 35mm SLRs didn't have the huge beefy rubberized grips that modern DSLRs now have, however the K-1 and most other SLRs do have these grips, and the metal knobs get in the way.  Further, the K-1 has a full-frame glass prism that extends over and forward to the lens mount just enough that rotating the tripod mount to the portrait position is not possible.  Thankfully, the tripod foot can be removed, and the knobs go with it, allowing for a smooth cylindrical lens barrel without knobby obstructions.

The lens is 895g (2.0#) and, focused at infinity, 145mm long (5.7 inches) but extends greatly as minimum focus distance is reached.  There are 8 aperture blades and 52mm filter threads. The lens bears the usual aperture ring and has a rubberized grip for easy manual focusing. Minimum focus distance is 55cm (22in) producing 1:1 reproduction ratio (1x, or life size).

Some new photos to show for this lens are, to no one's surprise, macros, although none are at maximum magnification.  One thing to note before we start is that macro photography often incorporates or even requires the use of flash.  This is because the greater the magnification, the thinner the depth of field at any aperture, so often macros are taken at f/11 or smaller.  At tiny apertures, ambient light metering will want super-long shutter speeds.  Flash is the only solution to this problem, but thankfully almost any flash will be good enough for macro shots due to proximity to the lens, so long as the coverage is wide enough.  I used the Godox TT600 manual flash for all three shots here.

Top left is a portrait of a walking stick, for which I'm grateful that our new neighborhood is populated with.  This one was about four inches long, but due to autumn's cooler temperatures was slowing down and allowed me to get in fairly close for a portrait.  I don't recall the aperture here, but you can see how thin the depth of field is here in this close-up shot.  Top right, a clump of mushrooms at a distance that barely counts as macro, however this distance would probably still be outside the focusing range of my other 200mm lenses.  Again, flash was used at full power for this shot.

Below, a very close-up shot of my wife's plant that blooms rarely.  I took multiple shots due to misfocusing because the light in the room was crap.  The black background here is another positive feature of using flash in macro shots, however this opinion is not shared by all.

That's all I have for now... See you next time.

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