The Pentax 15mm Limited is the reason I bought into the Pentax system. The news surrounding its introduction was my first exposure to the DA Limiteds and I was immediately smitten. The Sony / Minolta gear I was using at the time was fantastic optically, but build quality in the affordable lenses was lacking. At the same time, I was getting into film photography using manual focus lenses forged from a single piece of granite. Why couldn’t I have that kind of build quality and “feel” in a modern lens? Turns out I could.
Pentax truly read my mind when they designed the 15mm. All of the DA Limiteds have a 49mm filter diameter, which places a size constraint on the lens designer. How to keep a 15mm lens this small? Smallish maximum aperture of f/4, screw-drive autofocus and image stabilization in the body of the camera instead of the lens. Those are all acceptable tradeoffs to anyone who’s had the pleasure of using the 15mm. The screw-on lens cap is cool, but you’d have to be crazy not to replace it with a $5 pinch style cap. The lens hood is built-in and collapsible and made of metal and so much fun to fiddle with. Image quality-wise, Pentax seemingly prioritized rendering quality above edge-to-edge sharpness. While nowhere near as soft as the Pentax 50-200, it pays to be careful about what you place at the edges of your frame when shooting at f/4. A bit of corner softness can be seen in this photo, but it’s usually nothing to worry about. Depends on the subject.
How silly of me, I’ve gone this long writing about the Pentax 15mm Limited without mentioning how good it is at shooting into the sun. Example, from Farmington, NM:
And another example from Cannon Beach, OR:
This is the first lens I’d show someone who thinks sharpness or bokeh are the only lens qualities worth paying attention to. All of the Limiteds are accused of having pixie dust in them, but I think the 15mm is the best example of a lens with a “prettiness” to the way it renders that is hard to describe quantitatively.
The DA 15mm Limited is Pentax at their best. It’s not perfect, but that only makes it more appealing.