Pentax 67 100mm Macro Lens: Review
This close-up of some of the brilliantly-colored pahoehoe lava that can be found in Hawaii shows off the fine performance of the 100 mm ƒ/4 macro lens. Contrast and color saturation are excellent, and the details are sharp (within the limits of the very shallow depth of field) from corner to corner in this near-life-size photograph.
The Pentax 67 system is almost four decades old and has been my camera of choice since its introduction. Many of the 67 lens designs are also that old. Then, they were state-of-the-art; today, not so much.
The 135mm ƒ/4 macro lens focused down to 1/3X magnification with no extension tubes while providing images of good quality at normal distances. But, it's a bit low in contrast, lacking the snap typical of other Pentax 67 lenses, and 1/3X is hardly close focusing by today's standards.
Enter the next generation: the 100mm ƒ/4 macro lens. It focuses to better than 1/2X with no extension tubes and greater than life-size with a front-of-the-lens converter. The compact lens hood screws into the front element of the lens or converter, and the lens cap snaps on the front of the hood, so the whole assembly makes a nice package when not in use.
The old (left) and new (right) Pentax 67 macro lenses. The old 135 mm ƒ/4 macro is at full extension. The new 100 mm ƒ/4 macro at full extension with life-size converter and screw-in lens hood.
The front converter means I don't need to dismount the lens to get greater than 1/2X magnification. The converter goes on and off much faster than extension tubes, takes only one hand, and I'm less likely to disturb my macro set-up. Of course, I can still add an extension tube or tubes to get more than 2X magnification.
The 100mm macro lens is a fine performer at all distances. That its close-up performance is beyond reproach will not surprise anyone, but it's a really great lens all the way out to infinity.
I was sufficiently impressed with this lens that I tested it against the normal 105mm ƒ/2.4 lens, a much-lauded optic that is one of the very best in the Pentax 67 line. The 100mm macro matched or bettered the 105mm! It was at least as sharp, if not a touch sharper, and it produced negatives with better contrast. So long as I won't be needing apertures greater than ƒ/4, I could leave the 105mm lens at home and use the 100mm macro as my standard lens.
Focusing the 100mm macro requires an extraordinarily fine touch, though. The focusing ring on the 135mm macro lens has 60% more travel for the same depth of focus tolerance, and the 105mm standard lens is over three times as forgiving.
But, it's such a superior lens that I'm saving my pennies to replace my older macro lens. For quality like this I'll learn to live with super-fussy focusing.
Posted by: CTEIN