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09-27-2012, 06:25 PM   #1
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Is the DA 16-50 Worth It?

Looking for a zoom from the wide to short tele range with superb optics for my K5. I live in S. Alaska and got into Pentax for the WR, so a lens with that is definitely preferred. I shoot a lot of landscapes and hope to sell work I'm looking for a nice long term investment. The most obvious choice is the DA 16-50, though I have briefly tried the Sigma 17-50 and was very impressed. (I used to have a non stabilized version of the Tamron 17-50 for a Canon and didn't really like it...very noisy, slow focus, but maybe that's changed.)

I started collecting some primes, but I've discovered that Alaska just isn't too suitable for having to switch out lenses (Wind, rain, snow, dust, etc.) so I'm going the high quality zoom route instead.

So my the DA 16-50 worth the extra cash? It's the priciest, and I prefer the Sigma sample images I've seen. Plus, the Pentax seems to have some optical issues and the SDM stories scare me. Is there any way to tell if a lens was made in 2012 or not? I hear the issue has likely been fixed for the 2012 copies. The only thing it seems like it has going for it over the competition is the WR, which is a big selling point to me.

Thanks for any advice and sorry if the horse has already been beaten to death.

09-27-2012, 06:34 PM   #2
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I will just weigh in from my perspective. I have owned this lens for nearly four years. It has performed well. Weaknesses are focus (not bad, just not the speediest), flare (once again, not bad, just nowhere near prime level), and concern of SDM failure (mine failed after five months and has done fine ever since).

The strengths that I see are weather sealing, colors, sharpness and the extra mm over the other lenses. As a landscape lens, I truly believe this is an excellent lens. If you prefer the Sigma, that's fine and you won't go wrong, but the 16-50 lives on my camera probably more than any other lens and after four years, I am very satisfied.

09-27-2012, 07:43 PM   #3
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I've had one for three years, no problems (with light usage) BUT, it is very soft wide open at 16mm. It is heavy and awkward to use in crowds. I use it if there is a chance of rain (worked great in Iceland) otherwise I tend to use primes- 15, 28, 50, and 100. I use the 28 to make panoramics. With the exception of the 15LTD they are older Pentax lenses, M's and A's. My deciding factor is weight.
09-27-2012, 07:53 PM   #4
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Yeah, this has been kind of beaten to death, but your concerns are quite valid.

I've been thinking of buying this lens for over a year now and had the same concerns. I did try the Sigma 17-50 3.5 HSM, and ended up sending it back for serious back focus issues. From what I gathered this happens at times with some Sigma lenses, but when I buy a new lens for that kind of money, I expect it to perform perfectly.

I ended up taking a bigger chance, and bought a used one here on the Marketplace. This was really a leap of faith on my part, but if the SDM does go bad, if I add the $250 repair fee to my cost of the lens, I will still be a little less than what it would cost new. And I am not talking about the listed prices on the web since you can get a better deal on this lens right now if you call B&H.

I read another thread asking the same question about the build date - nobody seems to know a good answer to this except for looking at the serial number of the lens you are purchasing and compare it to the numbers in the lens database against the date purchased.

I love this lens so far - no regrets at all. If I were to purchase a new one however, I would buy an extended warranty for piece of mind with the SDM. Adorama sells the Mack warranty for a reasonable price - $35-$40 for a 7 year warranty is well worth it in my opinion. I don't know if Adorama will discount the lens over the phone like B&H, but it doesn't hurt to call and try.

I'm sure you done your research on the IQ and viewed the many images here on the forum taken with this lens. From what you describe, it sounds like it would be a perfect fit for you.

Oh, and Rondec, your image example is just stunning!

09-27-2012, 08:05 PM   #5
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The 'lens roadmap' shows a new DA* wide/normal zoom in the distant future of 2013 or later. So if you're the patient type, then it might be worth the wait to you??? Of course, no idea whether it's F2.8 or F4.0
09-27-2012, 09:19 PM   #6
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Yes. Yes. and Yes.
09-28-2012, 12:48 AM   #7
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Well, it's certainly not as good as primes, so don't expect to get optimum image quality at 20mm at f/3.2 or 3.5, for example. But it's still very good for a zoom.

I will say this: Because the image quality isn't as obviously outstanding as its stablemate (the DA*50-135), I put of buying this lens for a long time. After I did I hardly bought any more lenses. It has just good enough image quality that you won't feel like you need to get any other lenses within its focal-length range. You can add some primes if you want to (which I already had done) but it won't really matter if, for example, you have a 15mm and a 35mm but nothing in-between, because you're still covered. I didn't feel the Sigma or Tamron would cover me, but this one did. But if you like the Sigma photos, maybe you should get it. I can often pick out the Sigma photos in a group, and ultimately I don't like them as much (but in isolation they still look fine and few people would ever think about it). I think it's some combination of the colors and the contrast, but in any case, I recognize "that look."

So my answer is, yes, you should get it. If you find the image quality is too good for you, you can sell it!

You've probably already seen how many nice landscape photos people take with it:

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09-28-2012, 01:29 AM   #8
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I would say it depends on what your priorities are. The Tamron 17-50 is quite well-loved, and a fraction of the price. But not sealed. Since I had no WR lenses I went for the Pentax, but that was a different time in the Pentax pricing world and no one would fault you for carrying around some other method of weather resistence in order to save a $1000.

09-28-2012, 02:18 AM   #9
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If you need WR, shoot f/5.6 - f/8 (or even smaller) aperture for landscapes then I think 18-135 is cheaper and isn't really worse in the 18-50mm range. You lose 2mm on the wide end, but the 16-50 has lot of distortion at 16-17mm. The 16-50 (at least my copy and the ones I had in my hand) isn't really a sharpness champion in f/2.8 - f/4 range (my DA 17-70 was sharper wide open at f/4 than the DA* stopped down to f/4), especially in the corners below ~25mm - Sigma and Tamron 17-50 is much better in this (again, my personal experience).

If you can live without WR and/or want good sharpness at f/2.8 - f/4 then imho the Sigma or Tamron is better and cheaper. I surely wouldn't buy 16-50 again (too bad I can't sell it to anyone in our small local market without losing a lot of money).
09-28-2012, 03:48 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by simico Quote
If you need WR, shoot f/5.6 - f/8 (or even smaller) aperture for landscapes then I think 18-135 is cheaper and isn't really worse in the 18-50mm range. You lose 2mm on the wide end, but the 16-50 has lot of distortion at 16-17mm.
The barrel distortion at 16mm typically doesn't matter for landscape shots, unless you have manmade structures like buildings, fences or bridges near the edges.

If you need WR and f/2.8, the DA16-50 is the only game in town. For landscape (typically shot stopped well down), I'd also consider the regular DA18-55WR. It's perfectly fine for landscapes from f/8, IMHO.

09-28-2012, 04:18 AM   #11
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Mine performs very well and is as sharp in the center at 5.6 as any of my primes. I've had no SDM issues (knock on wood). It is heavy and big, so for travel or a casual walkabout I'm more likely to carry my F 28mm or my DA 40mm. Given your situation I think the 16-50 is the best choice. The Sigma is a very good lens but not weather sealed.

09-28-2012, 06:12 AM   #12
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I’ve had the Pentax DA* 16~50/2.8 for three years now. SDM (sudden death motor) is probably the major concern with this lens. I am one of the lucky ones who have had no SDM issues and the most recent releases of the lens seem to have addressed the issue. As others have noted the lens is soft at 2.8 and not as sharp as a prime but what zoom lens is? Zooms lenses are all about compromises after all. That softness can also be a boon if you want to use the lens for portrait work. I was aware distortion would be significant at 16mm before I bought the lenses but I was still surprised at the level of distortion. This is not a big deal for landscapes but indoors is another question. The walls bow dramatically at 16mm. This sucker is also quite heavy and can put some strain on your neck after a full day in the field. These issues aside the colours are great and things sharpen up nicely by f5.6. The build quality is top notch, pretty fast at 2.8 and the lens is weather sealed. I have very little else in my bag which covered these focal lengths and by and large I’m well pleased with my copy of this admittedly pricey lens.

Tom G

Last edited by 8540tomg; 09-28-2012 at 06:12 AM. Reason: typo
09-28-2012, 06:52 AM   #13
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I would say that yes it is. I bought a "previously owned" lens from the market place here and have had no problems with it. Unlike many here I REALLY like this lens. For me it's main drawbacks are somewhat slow auto focus, slightly soft at 2.8 and big and heavy. However, it is better than my Tamron 17-50 at 2.8 and my style of shooting usually doesn't require fast focusing. One of my pleasant surprises with this lens is it's excellent close focusing ability. It is really quite good and the resolution is good enough to be able to get almost true macro like photos. Everyone complains about the edge distortion at the wide end but I haven't found it to be too bad, certainly on par with the 18-55. But let me place my money where my mouth is. I used this lens in the "Single in August" challenge, and here are the results of a month's worth of shooting with this lens.
judge for yourself

NaCl(to summarize, I like this lens)H2O

Last edited by NaClH2O; 09-28-2012 at 06:57 AM.
09-28-2012, 07:19 AM   #14
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I think the DA* zoom is special when you need the WR. I love how the water beads up and runs off the lens in the rain. I think the optics are good. I've made some good pictures with it. It does seem to be fairly flare prone when compared to my other Pentax lenses. However, I think it was worth it for me. However, what it really comes down to is the WR. If that is your primary reason to chose a lens, you don't have a lot of choice.
09-28-2012, 07:27 AM   #15
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I like it too. Sadly, the SDM died last Sunday. When it is repaired it will once again become my workhorse for outdoor music festivals.

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