A highly-anticipated lens, the Pentax-DA 18-135mm has started hitting the shelves following its September 2010 announcement by Pentax at Photokina. Although the first shipment of this lens quickly sold out at major retailers, it should now be available for $459 from both Adorama and B&H photo. This lens can be seen as an "upgraded" kit lens, as it offers added reach, silent DC focusing, and better image quality than the standard 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 WR. If you're a serious amateur or simply looking for a flexible walkaround zoom, read on!
This lens sets many firsts for Pentax. Most importantly, this is the first lens from Pentax offering weather sealing alongside a flexible zoom range from ultra-wide-angle to telephoto. Previously, the lenses that most closely resembled it were the 17-70mm F4 and the 18-250mm F3.5-6.3, both of which have different uses and aren't weather-sealed.
Secondly, this lens pioneers Pentax's new "DC" autofocus motor, which might well become the new standard in Pentax autofocus. It is much faster and slightly quieter than the motors used in earlier "SDM" lenses, such as the DA* 50-135mm F2.8. Contrary to Pentax tradition, the zoom ring is in front of the focusing ring on this new lens, and there is no distance scale present. However, getting used to the new layout is a small price to pay for the the stellar autofocusing speed of this lens. In typical shooting conditions, we have measured that this lens only takes between 1/3 and 1/2 of a second to lock focus. When used with the new Pentax K-5, you get the best of both worlds: accurate AF combined with fast and quiet AF!
Finally, it is a new addition to the Pentax "kit" lens lineup, and it will be shipping in a bundle with the K-30.
Review originally published on August 26th, 2011