Pentax Lens Codes Guide

Pentax has used a bunch of codes in naming their camera lenses over the years. So what do they all mean? Here’s a guide.

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Text & Photos By David Coleman
Topics: Pentax

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Like other lens manufacturers, Pentax (or rather, Ricoh, who now owns the brand) uses codes in the names of their lenses to identify key features and technologies of the lens.

Once you know how to read them, they can be very useful as a shorthand way to quickly categorize a particular lens. But the codes can also be confusing, and every lens manufacturer makes up its own codes.

So here’s a breakdown of the codes Pentax uses in naming their lenses. I’ve grouped them by the type of information they convey.

Pentax Lens Codes for Mount Types

Codes in this category help identify which lenses are compatible with which types of cameras.

  • K-mount – Pentax’s standard lens mount for their DSLR cameras, first introduced in 1975. The K-mount is compatible with a wide variety of Pentax lenses, both modern and older.
  • Q-mount – The lens mount designed for Pentax’s Q-series mirrorless cameras, which use a smaller sensor format.
  • M42 – The older screw-mount lenses, also known as Pentax screw-mount or Universal screw-mount. These lenses can be used on modern K-mount cameras with an adapter.

Pentax Lens Codes for Lens Categories

  • SMC / HD – Super Multi-Coated or High Definition, a designation for Pentax’s lens coating technology used to reduce lens flare, ghosting, and improve color accuracy and contrast. HD is the newer version of the coating.
  • DA – Lenses designed specifically for APS-C sensor cameras, similar to Nikon’s DX and Canon’s EF-S lenses. DA lenses are not recommended for full-frame cameras as they produce a smaller image circle.
  • D FA – Full-frame lenses designed for both film and digital cameras, similar to Nikon’s FX and Canon’s EF lenses. D FA lenses are compatible with both full-frame and crop sensor cameras.
  • FA – Full-frame autofocus lenses designed for film cameras but also compatible with digital cameras.
  • F – Full-frame autofocus lenses, the first generation of autofocus lenses for Pentax cameras.
  • A – Full-frame manual focus lenses with automatic aperture control.
  • M – Full-frame manual focus lenses with manual aperture control, a compact design, and no electrical contacts.

Pentax Lens Codes for Autofocus Motors & Optical Technologies

Some lenses feature notable technology that the designers (and marketers) consider worth highlighting in the name of the lens and may well influence a buyer’s decision (and the price). An important example is newer lenses that feature lens optical stabilization.

  • SDM – Supersonic Direct-drive Motor, Pentax’s high-performance autofocus motor technology that provides fast, accurate, and quiet autofocus.
  • DC – Direct Current, an autofocus motor technology used in some Pentax lenses.
  • PLM – Pulse Motor, an autofocus motor technology designed for smoother and quieter operation, suitable for both still photography and video recording.
  • WR – Weather Resistant, a designation for Pentax lenses with weather sealing to protect against dust, moisture, and light rain.
  • AW – All Weather, a designation for Pentax lenses with even more robust weather sealing and durability compared to WR lenses.
  • ED – Extra-low Dispersion glass, a type of optical glass used in Pentax lenses to reduce chromatic aberrations and improve overall image quality.
  • AL – Aspherical Lens element, used in Pentax lenses to reduce distortion and other optical aberrations.
  • RE – Retractable, a compact lens design that retracts when not in use to save space.
  • IF – Internal Focusing, a lens design that allows the lens to focus without changing its physical length or rotating its front element.
  • Limited – A series of Pentax lenses known for their compact design, metal construction, and excellent image quality.


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Text & Photos by David Coleman

I'm a professional photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. I've been shooting for 30+ years, and my my photos and time-lapse videos have appeared in a bunch of different publications from major newspapers to magazines and books, billboards, TV shows, professional sports stadiums, museums, and even massive architectural scrims covering world-famous buildings while they're being renovated. You can see some of my travel photography here and here.

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