A shock comes in actually seeing the Pentax HD Limited lenses: when they arrived (all five primes, the 20-40mm zoom coming in December), the shipping box seemed too small to hold five lenses.
I extracted each lens from its small box. Each lens fits snugly inside its leather-like pouch, and even the drawstring cord was wrapped snugly around the pouch and secured, as if care had been taken to package it just-so (it must be the case, since all five arrived this way). Nor are these sloppy one-size-fits-all pouches; they are just right for each lens.
Picking up three of the largest, I found I could easily 'palm' three of them in their pouches. All five lenses easily fit into my two cupped hands. I could put all five into my jeans pockets! (and yes, I actually tried that, it is not hyperbole!). These lenses are compact. The pictures do not do them justice in this sense. Compared to the Fuji X system or even Olympus Micro Four Thirds, these Pentax HD Limited lenses are a revelation in design philosophy. And the build quality of the Fujifilm and Olympus lenses is second-rate by comparison.
Build quality of the Pentax* HD Limited lenses is impressive—high-grade aluminum. You cannot buy anything close in compactness and build quality from Nikon or Canon or even Fujifilm or Sony (perhaps the Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM qualifies on size, but the Nikon 50/1.8G certainly feels like cheap junk by comparison). Of course these lenses are small for two reasons: they “cover” the APS-C sensor size (not full frame), and they have modest aperture speeds. The build quality makes the Fuji X or Sony NEX lenses look like consumer-grade schlock by comparison. And yet the prices are little different.
None of this happens by accident: it’s clear that the engineering staff over at Pentax, having delivered the synergistic camera-of-the-year Ricoh GR has also been consistent in its vision for the design of the HD Limited lens line. The closest thing I can think of here is the Leica M design approach. And I sure would like to see Zeiss adopt this type of design concept for Nikon/Canon DSLRs with a series of ~f/2.8 near-perfect-wide-open lenses. I deem that unlikely, as the video market demands faster glass.
The fly in the ointment? The Pentax HD Limited lenses go onto a DSLR (e.g., the Pentax K3) and surely they deserve a mirrorless camera body since they offer a compactness that is perfect for mirrorless. Pentax (now Ricoh Imaging) ought to consider a mirrorless camera body with EVF that takes the HD Limited lenses. Because the K3 is a very sturdy camera but relatively heavy and bulky, almost odd in the context of the diminutive HD Limited lenses.
Optical quality? That remains to be evaluated on the K3.
* Pentax is now Ricoh Imaging as of August 2013.
These lenses are not the molded plastic yuck foisted on us today ty almost all vendors. Rather, they are high-grade machined aluminum. First class.
And the 20-40mm zoom, due out in December 2013: