I’ve tried many medium format cameras until I finally decided to settle on Pentax 67. Even before coming to this decision and buying this camera with the 90mm f/2.8 standard lens, I was certain that I’d have this lens in my system and that it was just a matter of time.

This lens is a great addition to the standard 90mm f/2.8 or 105mm f/2.4 lenses, because it complements them really well. It is a fast aperture lens which is very uncommon for such a lens type in the entire medium format.

Well, choosing one or another camera, and the more so the entire system, you choose lineup of lenses in the first place. Any camera body pursues mostly practical purposes – to handle exposures correctly and move a film to the next frame, be handy and reliable. Thus, by choosing a certain system you choose the entire range of its lenses. As for me, the 165mm f/2.8 lens is a touchstone for medium format lenses.

Size and weight

Pentax 67 165mm f/2.8 compared with 90mm, 105mm and 135mm Macro

Pentax 67 165mm f/2.8 compared with other lenses

Although the size of this lens resembles that of 135mm f/4 Macro, being just 4mm longer, it is also 200g heavier, with the total weight of 840g, which is not surprising, taking into account its focal length and lens speed. In practice, it is quite a lot, making this lens not the best option for handheld shots, especially when it comes to vertical framing. Therefore, you are unlikely to carry it in a backpack as an additional interchangeable lens “just in case”.

It is also important to remember that a more long-focus and heavy lens requires faster shutter speeds. The minimum shutter speed at which you can do handheld shots is 1/250, ideally combining it with mirror lockup. Or try to shoot at 1/500, which is often quite possible at the f/2.8.

Image quality

It was created primarily as a portrait lens, so one should not place any special demands on it in terms of sharpness. But it is, above all, a modern lens, that is its sharpness is similar to that you’d expect from any modern lens and is comparable to the 90mm f/2.8.

Close focusing

Pentax 67 165mm f/2.8 - Helicoid extension  at infinity and closest distances

Pentax 67 165mm f/2.8 – Helicoid extension

At a minimum focusing distance of 1.6m, it ensures the same magnification ratio as the 105mm f/2.4 at 1.0m distance. They are somewhat similar in this regard. In such case the lens speed fall-off is about 0.36EV. For a close-up portrait the extension tube #1 is required, which together with the focusing at a minimum distance results in exposure factor ×1.5. So it is desirable to adjust the exposure by 0.5EV. I always do this while shooting at a minimum distance, even when I do not use any extension tubes.

Field of view

The 165mm focal length of the lens matches that of the classic portrait 85mm lens for 35mm cameras with the field of view 33°. For my photography style this lens happened to be overly long focus, as I prefer to keep closer distance to the model. So, it requires the use of more short-focus lenses.

I find 120-140mm more convenient in such cases. In practice, I’d rather use 135mm f/4 Macro. For soft portraits I prefer old Petzval 120mm f/2.8, which I myself adapted for Pentax 67 body.

Aperture

Pentax 67 165mm f/2.8 - aperture opening

Pentax 67 165mm f/2.8 – aperture opening

The aperture is one of the distinguishing features of this lens, as nothing similar to this can be found in any other medium format lenses. In fact, lenses with automatic aperture rarely have more than 8 blades due to the mechanical complexity of its design.

But the primary purpose of this lens is to shoot portraits, which often requires a softer blurring of the background. So, Asahi equipped the lens with 10 blade aperture! It gives a well-curved aperture opening and a beautiful blurring of “dot lights” in the background when the aperture is stopped down.

Filters

It has a 67mm filter thread which works fine with both screw-in and special bayonet mount filters.

Hood

The lens has a built-in sliding hood. But in certain situations an extra hood may still be required. I occasionally use Mamiya G2 bellows hood.

Bokeh effect

This lens has been specially designed to create a beautiful bokeh effect with help its fast lens speed f/2.8 and a 10-blade aperture.

Pentax 67 165mm f/2.8 - Example #1 © Sasha Krasnov, 2013
Pentax 67 165mm f/2.8 - Example #2 © Sasha Krasnov, 2012
Pentax 67 165mm f/2.8 - Example #3 © Sasha Krasnov, 2012
© Sasha Krasnov, 2016
Pentax 67 165mm f/2.8 - Example #4 © Sasha Krasnov, 2016
Pentax 67 165mm f/2.8 - Example #5 © Sasha Krasnov, 2012

Summary

Unfortunately, this lens with all its unique properties have not become my main tool or primary choice for shooting portraits. Perhaps, one of the main reasons for that was its size and weight, which discouraged me from changing lenses for no serious reason. For a close-up it requires the extension tube #1, so I preferred to use the 135mm f/4 Macro instead.

My portrait shooting is usually carried out at short distances, as I am keen to be in direct contact with the person I’m shooting. So, in practice, I often used my favorite 90mm f/2.8 lens, and later when I suddenly got hold of the 105mm f/2.4 lens, I almost completely switched to it. I came to realize that I favour its bokeh effect more.

The 165mm f/2.8 lens happened to be too heavy for trips, as it weighs about 1kg. I always brought it with me in the hope of using it, but, in practice, I tended to shoot with another lens, just occasionally installing the 165mm, simply out of the desire to justify its presence in the backpack.

Just recently, 10 years after its purchase, I sold it, though not without regret. Maybe, I’ll buy myself old Takumar/6X7 150mm f/2.8 as a replacement, but I am not sure if I need it at all, because now I have an old brass Petzval 120mm f/2.8 from from the unknown old 6.5x9cm plate camera, with which I experiment a lot.

Lens data

Pentax 67 165mm f/2.8 - optical formula

Pentax 67 165mm f/2.8 – optical formula

  • Focal length: 165mm
  • 35mm equivalent: 85mm
  • Optical formula: 6 elements, 5 groups
  • Field of view: 30°/24° (Diagonal/Horizontal)
  • Aperture: 2.8 ~ 22 (10 blades)
  • Close distance: 1.6m
    • Magnification: 0.13×
    • Picture area: 53×41cm
    • Exposure factor: ×1.28 (+0.36EV)
    • Effective lens speed: 3.2 ~ 24.9
  • Filter: 67mm, screw-in and bayonet
  • Hood: Built-in
  • Case: S120-150
  • Dimensions: 92×99mm
  • Weight: 0.84kg

P.S.

In fact, this lens has been and still remains a touchstone for me, as I’ve said in the beginning of this post. It is an excellent (and may be unique) fast speed lens that does not have and will probably never have equivalents in other medium format systems. Perhaps I still get back to it one day. And this very opportunity is very important for me.

Sasha Krasnov