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07-08-2011, 03:43 PM   #1
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Disappointed in the 18-135WR

I kayak a lot and keep my k-7 in a pelican case and have a pentax optio w60 that I keep handy for shots. Generally, I have either my 21 mm limited or my 35 mm macro on the k7, with a long zoom in the case in the off chance I want to try taking pics of birds.

I keep the k-7 in P mode when kayaking, because I usually don't have enough time to take my hands off my paddle to really fiddle with the camera when in conditions. I think I Have the auto ISO limited to going up to 400 ISO. I decided recently that I really should be using a WR lens while kayaking and that the 18-135 would be a good compromise where I could do wide angle shots that are normally my landscapes while on the water and get a reasonable zoom if I try to sneak up on a bird and I could crop to make it appear closer.

Generally, I can tell a huge difference in the quality of my pics when I look at the ones I took between the point & shoot w60 & what I take with the k-7... However, looking at the pics that I got between my w60 & the 18-135, I gotta say, the point & shoot did a far better job... The only time I was impressed with the 18-135 WR was when it was sunny & when I was zoomed all the way in - otherwise, I got a lot of noise, softness, the pics seemed flat, and just well... generally crappy. I know I can get good pics out of my other lenses (I've got the 16-45 zoom in addition to the primes) in similar conditions & camera settings and I know I've read favorable reviews on this lens. So did I get a crappy one, should I adjust something in my camera (I did play with the exposure comp some which wasn't an improvement), or is this about par for the lens? Right now, I'm pretty much going to return it.

So here's some examples: Optio w60:


18-135:


optio w60:


18-135:


optio w60:



18-135mm:


YOu can see more examples of both cameras, here:
https://picasaweb.google.com/ImmunoGirl/OptioW60Vs18135MmWRZoomOnK7#

I tried to just post ones that were mostly comparable shots between the 2 cameras. I maybe got a handful of shots that I would consider really good out of the 18-135mm, but that's not enough to make it worth while carrying the k7 or that lens while in a kayak...

Any suggestions? How about the 70-300 WR or the 50-200 WR? Am I likely to hate those, because I really hate the 18-135 at this point.

One of the really good ones out of the 18-135:


Trying to take pics of moving birds was disappointing, it did as well as my point & shoot:


Pics from the entire trip:
https://picasaweb.google.com/ImmunoGirl/AnacostiaRiver

07-08-2011, 03:48 PM   #2
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Well one thing you can check is that if the lens is focussing correct in studio-set. The pictures don't look very good to me.
07-08-2011, 04:17 PM   #3
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Just took the 18-135WR on vacation to Europe this past week or so. Shot 80GB of photos.
Great lens. Its certainly no DA*, but on the other hand regarding bulky-ness, its no DA*!! :-)

Compared to my wife's P&S (Lumix DZ7?) it has better color and sharpness overall. But that should be expected with a DSRL.

Of course, it was Europe, so 90% of the days were cloudy and rainy.
On Sunny days the P&S did much better, but you still see the relatively pixelated result of tiny sensors.
Have to say though... with Pentax being limited to 1/180s sync speed when using flash, the P&S did a lot better on most of the bright daylight shots where fill flash was required and it could do 1/400 or 1/500!!!
Bu that is not a lens issue, so sorry for drifting...


I'd have to say that I would have no worry taking the 18-135 on non-critical/non-paid shoots where the convenience of a single lens is paramount.

Its hard to tell sharpness from the small web size images, but the K7 shots look rather less colorful and contrasty than I would expect on a moderately sunny day.

Are you shooting JPEG or RAW?
Is your metering on Matrix or center-weighted??
I guess none of that should matter, as your photos are fine with other lenses, correct?
07-08-2011, 04:25 PM   #4
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from PhotoZone's test report:

- [T]he testing reality revealed a mediocre optical performance at best.

- [T]he borders/corners suffer from massive field curvature at the wide end and plain sofness at tele settings.

- [Y]ou don't really want use this lens for architecture or landscape photography here. This is also in so far surprising because the (cheaper) Pentax SMC-DA 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 (a Tamron design) was actually very usable here.

- The biggest problem of the lens is its pricing which is simply not in line with the optical performance. Better consider the Pentax DA-SMC 17-70mm f/4 SDM instead which is a far better lens.

07-08-2011, 04:35 PM   #5
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Well on the Dutch forum some-one has a real excellent copy off this lens, so they are not all bad. Going true lensallignment is a good first step.
07-08-2011, 05:11 PM   #6
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Catriona, could it be that your K-7 and your K-5 have different JPEG settings?

I don't see any lens problems in your 18-135 pics. In order to get the same "punch" as from the P&S from your K-5 you need to change the JPEG settings (increase contrast and saturation). Perhaps try one of the "bright" (or "vivid"?) modes in the JPEG settings.

If you shoot RAW, you need to change the "develop" settings (not in camera, but when converting to JPEG).

The 18-135 has some deficiencies (border performance) but none of these are the cause for your dissapointment with your images.
07-08-2011, 05:17 PM   #7
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The lens isn't got amazing IQ, but on a DSLR it's going to deliver better IQ than a P&S. Definitely check your settings!

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07-08-2011, 05:50 PM   #8
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I don,t see anything bad about those shts at the posted size - at least not the 18-135 shots. They look quite natural to me. On the other hand, the optio shots are way oversaturated, with artifically oushed contrast as well. That's pretty typical of P&S cameras. I'd say that's all you are seeing - the typcailly oversaturated, overly contrasty P&S image makes the more natural DSLR image look flat in comparison. More to the point would be a comparison agaimst your primes. While of course the 18-135 won't be as good, there should be no differene visible at web size.

As for noise, lenses don't cause noise - cameras do.

07-08-2011, 06:06 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
I don,t see anything bad about those shts at the posted size - at least not the 18-135 shots. They look quite natural to me. On the other hand, the optio shots are way oversaturated, with artifically oushed contrast as well. That's pretty typical of P&S cameras. I'd say that's all you are seeing - the typcailly oversaturated, overly contrasty P&S image makes the more natural DSLR image look flat in comparison. More to the point would be a comparison agaimst your primes. While of course the 18-135 won't be as good, there should be no differene visible at web size.

As for noise, lenses don't cause noise - cameras do.
+1 for all of this.

Complaints of photos looking dull and falt are common amongst folks moving from P&S to DSLR. Easy to add punch via the K-5's jpg settings or in PP. Or, you may come in time to prefer a more natural look, and be more selective about where & when to crank up the color and contrast.
07-08-2011, 06:40 PM   #10
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Would they have been better had the setting been on Auto? I know I know blasphemy.

Last edited by EyeSpy; 07-08-2011 at 06:41 PM. Reason: spelling
07-08-2011, 07:18 PM   #11
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I don't have a k-5. I've got a k-7, I've had a k20 & a k10d, I've been shooting with a dslr since 2007. It's not the case that I'm just not used to the saturation/contrast of a dslr vs. a point and shoot, I fully expect to have my dslr images blow my point & shoot away because they normally do. The point & shoot is there because it's waterproof and I can't always take out my dslr. I shoot raw and I don't do any photo processing beyond picasa (so really, not all that sophisticated)...

I normally shoot either with the limited 70mm, 21mm, and the 35 mm macro... I've been taking some incarnation of the pentax bodies mentioned above & either the limited lenses or the 16-45 out on the water with me for years. And normally I'm a lot happier with the results, it's sharper than this, and there's less noise... Yeah, noise should be in the camera not the lens, but if the settings the camera is shooting the lens with are off, then you're gonna get more noise.

I expected the 18-135mm to not be on the level of the limited primes, but more like the 16-45, an acceptable level of compromise. I could just return the lens and go back to what I was doing - I haven't killed a body out on the water yet, but there is always going to be a risk of doing so if I'm not using a WR lens.

The light was moderately overcast to sunny - it did a reasonably good job on sunny on 135 mms. In overcast light, it had a hard time, I'm guessing you guys can't see the noise on the web images I posted, I'll try uploading full sized images to see if the noise I'm talking about is more obvious - but I wouldn't print any of those at even 8x10 size and there's really not enough detail to actually fix any of it in photoshop, or picasa.

I didn't sit out on the water and change lenses on the camera for obvious reasons, but I'm pretty certain my primes or 16-45 would do a better job. On pics from the 4th of July, the 70 mm prime definitely took better baby pics than the WR. But the WR was did acceptably well on baby pics, it did a crappy job on farm landscapes though.

Last edited by Immunogirl; 07-08-2011 at 07:31 PM.
07-08-2011, 08:04 PM   #12
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Alright, this is what I usually see with water pics, the dslr pics being way better than the point & shoot pics.

Here's a pic with my optio w60 point & shoot:


Here's pics the same morning with my k-7 & my pentax fa 80-320 f4.5-5.6 zoom, which as far as I know is not a great lens or anything to write home about. The 18-135 is certainly a faster lens aperture wise, yet the 80-320 is doing a lot better with freezing movement zoomed all the way in. I'm not sure whether splashing water is faster than a egret or heron in flight, but I would expect that they're similar - the 18-135 couldn't get a good shot of a bird in flight, but my 80-320 can catch water droplets when someone flips a kayak over or takes a paddle stroke. I'm more than willing to accept compromise for a WR lens as compared to my primes, but I was thinking compromise more on the level of my 80-320 zoom, which I more often than not get a good pic with.








07-08-2011, 10:03 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Immunogirl Quote
I shoot raw and I don't do any photo processing beyond picasa (so really, not all that sophisticated)...
If that's the case, the images are supposed to look like that; lacking contrast, saturation, making a dull, lifeless impression.

That's just how RAW files look like without further processing. Standard JPEG settings include contrast and saturation boost.

If some of your RAW files look good with Picasa's default settings, that's fine but you shouldn't expect vivid images from that approach in general.

QuoteOriginally posted by Immunogirl Quote
I'm guessing you guys can't see the noise on the web images I posted, ...
Yes, we cannot see the noise. Depending on what you want to use the images for, the noise level may just be OK (... we cannot see it).

You are also correct regarding the camera being "forced" to produce the noise because of the lens (and shooting settings). But given that the 18-135 is apparantly faster than the 80-320 (I haven't checked) than additional noise must come from either
  1. less available light, or
  2. higher f-ratio settings.
At this point it doesn't look like your lens isn't performing. It rather seems that you need to check your aperture settings and perhaps use more sophisticated post processing (potentially including noise reduction).

N.B., the K-7 has a sensor that produces ~1 stop more noise than the competition produced when it was introduced. The K-5 would be a quantum leap regarding noise.
07-08-2011, 10:14 PM   #14
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I reuploaded full size images. If you go to this one:
https://picasaweb.google.com/ImmunoGirl/OptioW60Vs18135MmWRZoomOnK7#5627109146876534946

Click on the magnify glass and zoom in. It's horribly noisy. Now, you could say that I need more sophisticated noise reduction & post processing, but I know the camera does better than that with other lenses.

The 18-135 is f3.5-f5.6
07-08-2011, 10:28 PM   #15
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What's the exif data on the smokestack pic?
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