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11-19-2012, 12:19 PM   #1
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Is the DA* 16-50 really as bad as everyone says?

So I'm a prime shooter typically, but i do on occasion find myself wishing i had access to a little bit more focal length or for things to be a little wider. So i decided that i might have to give in and pick up a zoom lens. However as i was browsing the lens selection available i was reminded again why the first time i invested in a decent lens, i went with Sigma. Pentax has such an awkward prime line up, its like the engineers decided to take every focal length that people typically like and make lenses that are almost those, but not quite . . and then they made them all really slow.

But that aside lets look at the DA* line up. There's a bunch of super zooms for people that absolutely need the highest quality when taking pictures of boring ass birds a decent portrait lens and then the only contender of the group that competes with any other camera brand the 16-50. The work horse focal lengths sporting some high end glass and a special focusing system AND its water proof. SOLD! but wait . . . theres more. Every review of the lens (that isn't a boring pointless discussion about test charts) is a huge 50/50 split. One party claims that every picture you take with it will rival the entire life work of Bresson. the other half of the discussion claims that the lens is really a cup lens from ebay with a russet potato inside.

So lets hear the truth, If I'm going to drop the cash on something like this i need to know the truth. I'm no IQ obsessed pixel peeper but i do like sharpness and speed in my glass. I am also the kind of person that is a little rough on my gear and i would love to give zero f*cks when shooting out in the rain or when I'm shooting waist deep in a lake (This does happen).

So the question is! Is the 16-50 the turd or the gem that everyone seems to be split about.

p,s. if you're going to show me test pictures make sure they're not of your kids or flowers in your backyard. Please . . .

11-19-2012, 12:33 PM   #2
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There are lots of test photos in the IQ section of this review:
DA* 16-50mm vs. Sigma and Tamron 17-50mm F2.8 Comparison - Introduction - PentaxForums.com

While the DA* 16-50mm is a solid performer, I wouldn't say that it rivals primes by any stretch of my imagination. And there are other zooms out there sharper than it (see above).

I have a slight personal bias against the DA* lineup, because Pentax is pricing the lenses as if they were pro glass, and while the lenses are great and all, what will happen once Pentax starts offering a full-frame body aimed more at professionals than enthusiasts?

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11-19-2012, 12:34 PM   #3
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The 16-50 got a bad rep from the early SDM failures (mine included). The one I have now has been going strong for 3 1/2 years now and I use it a lot. It does have some barrel distortion at the 16mm end but I have no trouble removing it in LR. As intended it is very sharp and the f/2.8 aperture makes it easy to use indoors. It's also sharp at f/11 or f/16 in spite of any diffraction there might be. I took this image in Yellowstone in late September. K20D, 1/10 @ f/13, ISO 100.

11-19-2012, 12:43 PM   #4
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Who's everyone? A lot of 16-50 users are happy with it. And for the only WR zoom in its focal range, it has great IQ and does the job. Only the SDM is unlikely to last through the years, let alone a lifetime as lenses should be. Pentax have a ways to go to improving the reputation of their DA* lineup in this regard.

11-19-2012, 12:44 PM   #5
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For my purposes, I don't have need for WR or SDM, so the Tamron 17-50/2.8 offers similar (maybe even better?) optical performance for less money.

If you want WR, then the DA* 16-50 is your best choice.
11-19-2012, 12:47 PM   #6
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Having owned a 16-50 and now wanting one again, here are my thoughts on it:
If you pixel peep or work in a field where the absolute highest level of technical perfection is needed, this is not the lens for you.
If you don't care for the absolute performance of a lens, you'll fall in love with this one. It has this "look" that makes it amazing despite its shortfalls. That and it handles like a dream.
11-19-2012, 12:47 PM   #7
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The 16-50 is a really good lens. It is excellent for landscape and as a walk-around lens. Its main issues are -- flare and auto focus. It is a little weak at f2.8 and both ends as well, particularly at 16mm. At f4, corners are just a whole lot better.

Honestly, this is the lens that I shoot with the most when I am out and about. Having weather sealing is nice, the colors are great, and I end up shooting stopped down a good portion of the time as well, particularly when I am shooting landscape, so not a problem. Size is on the big size, compared to primes, although not compared to other 17-50 f2.8 options.





11-19-2012, 12:48 PM   #8
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I'm happy with mine. I've had it about 6 months. It's a little flare prone, which is odd for a Pentax lens, but other than that I've had no problems. It's even let me get some shots I wouldn't have gotten otherwise because of its weather resistance.

11-19-2012, 12:57 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by wtlwdwgn Quote
The 16-50 got a bad rep from the early SDM failures (mine included). The one I have now has been going strong for 3 1/2 years now and I use it a lot. It does have some barrel distortion at the 16mm end but I have no trouble removing it in LR. As intended it is very sharp and the f/2.8 aperture makes it easy to use indoors. It's also sharp at f/11 or f/16 in spite of any diffraction there might be. I took this image in Yellowstone in late September. K20D, 1/10 @ f/13, ISO 100.
So this was an addressed issue? I also read quite a bit about people whos zoom locked up at random.
11-19-2012, 12:59 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ash Quote
Who's everyone?
Every single review source on the internet has this near 50/50 split. Including this pentax site.
11-19-2012, 01:20 PM   #11
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Runslikeapenguin,

Not sure if you are aware of my photojournalism work, however I have come to 100% depend on the 16-50. It is, without any question whatsoever, my workhorse lens. I am deployed to Afghanistan as a combat engineer officer, and currently am employed behind a desk managing Afghan trainers across Eastern Afghanistan. For the first 8 months, prior to being reassigned, however, I was the team chief (aka OIC - Officer in Charge) of an Embedded Training Team (4 personnel including myself) that instructed, mentored, and advised an Afghan company (about 80 personnel) on how to do route clearance operations - basically how to comb the road for hidden bombs, more commonly known as IED's - Improvised Explosive Devices. During the transition between that position and my current one, I spent about two weeks operating in a "combat camera" role. My company conducts route clearance as well, and I had been approved by my commander to tag along on missions and take pictures while soldiers did their thing.

Why that is important for you to know (I think), is that it gives context into the demanding environment and situations that I photographed and that my gear was subjected to. My 16-50 has held up perfectly, and can honestly say that I'd guess it is responsible for at least 80% of my photographs since arriving in theater.

Regarding specifics as to how I've used my camera gear and the treatment they've withstood (which I am confident will most likely surpass what you plan to do), I invite you to read this: Weather Sealing Testimonial.

I need to update that post as there are some more recent additions of usage, but you get the point lol. If the images do not show up in the above link, then try another internet browser. IE usually works if you hit DISPLAY UNSECURED CONTENT or something along those lines.

Also, for actual photographs of my work, please take a look at this: Deployment Update Fourteen. That is the most recent publication of my military photojournalism here in Afghanistan - all 13 that precede it can be accessed from there. There's over 250 images uploaded so far, and I tell which camera/lens combo is used for every picture.

Regarding the 16-50's IQ, I do not feel very comfortable using it wide open because I find it soft, which seems to be the general consensus, hence why I have the Sigma 30 f/1.4 and the Pentax DA* 55 f/1.4 should I need low light in that range. 16-20mm I can handhold comfortably with Pentax SR on down to 1/6s easily enough, so stopping down isn't an issue at the wider end. I use my 16-50 between f/5.6-f/8 and have had no issues with IQ at those apertures when it comes to sharpness - again take a look at the images in my links, there's hundred of them with the 16-50 that should satisfy your request. When I return from Afghanistan next spring, I plan to pick up the 18-135 as a better hiking/mountaineering lens, and I will do a comparison between the two then.

Finally, there will inevitably be concerns of SDM failure. In case you weren't aware, the SDM is the in-lens AF motor that DA*'s are equipped with. Not very fast when compared to the Canikon and Sigma silent motors, but completely silent. The 16-50 is considered the least reliable when it comes to the SDM not failing (affectionately referred to as the "Sudden Death Motor"). Which this is a reality, my personal experience is that after over a year of extremely abusive use, it still continues like a champ, and I am the third owner of my copy, purchased here on the forum for a great price. I know there are many others who will say they have had their copies since one of the first batches and no issues, so it really is a gamble, as shitty as that is to say. My personal assessment is that the probably that you will never incur SDM failure far outweighs the risk of it failing, and should my lens fail on me, I would replace it with another 16-50 without hesitation.

Also, should you decide to purchase the lens, please take note of this in case you were not aware: Pentax Lens Pricing

Please let me know if this has not been helpful to you.

-Heie


O/T, but beautiful images Rondec, specifically the second one.

Last edited by Heie; 11-19-2012 at 01:30 PM.
11-19-2012, 01:26 PM   #12
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Here are a few review quotes from the far negative side.

" I can't think of any reason to recommend this lens - it's big and heavy, has mediocre to poor image quality, a bad reputation for reliability (the SDM focusing system), and costs a small fortune. The weather-sealed kit lens (18-55mm) which came with my K7 is as about as good (or as poor, as the case may be) of a lens, without the problems and the high price."

"my new 16-50mm DA* started to fail on autofocus within 20 shots. The only smart move I made was to buy B&H's extended warranty.
The first copy failed at 90 days and Pentax replaced it with an older (lower SN) copy. It failed 60 days later. That lens was repaired and worked for 22 months (maybe 2000 shots)."

"The zoom locked a few months after purchase so I sent it in for repair. The auto focus was always slow and now does not work. I now have a manual focus lens."

"I bought this lens for my friend's wedding in Honolulu. I bought it new from BH. The first issue: it stuck at 16-20mm, can't zoom in after one month I bought it. I fix it by hitting it; Second: Purple Fringing is horrible from F2.8-5.6. especially shotting at night. I will attach a sample picture of it. I think pentax should redesign this lens, what is the point to have the F2.8 but useless?"

"I photograph events so the 16 to 50MM is a great range for getting the shot without moving. I sent the lens in for repair during the first year due to the zoom locking. The auto focus was average at best and now hardly works. I will send it in for another repair. If the repair cost is high, I will probably junk it and go with Sigma."

This one is my favorite.
"My experiences with this lens have been negatively traumatic"
11-19-2012, 01:32 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by runslikeapenguin Quote
Every single review source on the internet has this near 50/50 split. Including this pentax site.
That's not everyone saying this lens is bad, just consider the caveats above...
11-19-2012, 01:43 PM   #14
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"Everyone" doesn't say the DA*16-50/2.8 is bad. Many people who own (or have owned) one have a story about it. I've repeated mine several times here, so I won't go on about it again. I didn't buy mine new, and for the new price, I don't think it represents very good value for money, but then its stablemate, the DA*50-135, is almost universally acclaimed, and it's expensive to buy new, too, but I doubt I'd pay the money for a new one, either.

If you want a zoom lens that's sharp across the field and throughout its focal range, then you possibly won't want this lens. However, in my experience, the 16-50's purple fringing and distortion, while not particularly intrusive, are easily fixed with decent PP software (I use CS5) and the contrast and colour this lens produces are extremely pleasing for my purposes. It's a good night performer, thanks to its control of flare, and the 9 aperture blades produce pleasing OOF highlights, to me.

It's still occasionally cranky at startup (I've had to free the AF drive motor twice, but in the past) but responds better with age, in that regard. I like mine. I don't think I'd be selling it, at least not until Pentax comes up with a better WR replacement.
11-19-2012, 01:45 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Heie Quote
Runslikeapenguin,

Not sure if you are aware of my photojournalism work, however I have come to 100% depend on the 16-50. It is, without any question whatsoever, my workhorse lens. I am deployed to Afghanistan as a combat engineer officer, and currently am employed behind a desk managing Afghan trainers across Eastern Afghanistan. For the first 8 months, prior to being reassigned, however, I was the team chief (aka OIC - Officer in Charge) of an Embedded Training Team (4 personnel including myself) that instructed, mentored, and advised an Afghan company (about 80 personnel) on how to do route clearance operations - basically how to comb the road for hidden bombs, more commonly known as IED's - Improvised Explosive Devices. During the transition between that position and my current one, I spent about two weeks operating in a "combat camera" role. My company conducts route clearance as well, and I had been approved by my commander to tag along on missions and take pictures while soldiers did their thing.

Why that is important for you to know (I think), is that it gives context into the demanding environment and situations that I photographed and that my gear was subjected to. My 16-50 has held up perfectly, and can honestly say that I'd guess it is responsible for at least 80% of my photographs since arriving in theater.

Regarding specifics as to how I've used my camera gear and the treatment they've withstood (which I am confident will most likely surpass what you plan to do), I invite you to read this: Weather Sealing Testimonial.

I need to update that post as there are some more recent additions of usage, but you get the point lol. If the images do not show up in the above link, then try another internet browser. IE usually works if you hit DISPLAY UNSECURED CONTENT or something along those lines.

Also, for actual photographs of my work, please take a look at this: Deployment Update Fourteen. That is the most recent publication of my military photojournalism here in Afghanistan - all 13 that precede it can be accessed from there. There's over 250 images uploaded so far, and I tell which camera/lens combo is used for every picture.

Regarding the 16-50's IQ, I do not feel very comfortable using it wide open because I find it soft, which seems to be the general consensus, hence why I have the Sigma 30 f/1.4 and the Pentax DA* 55 f/1.4 should I need low light in that range. 16-20mm I can handhold comfortably with Pentax SR on down to 1/6s easily enough, so stopping down isn't an issue at the wider end. I use my 16-50 between f/5.6-f/8 and have had no issues with IQ at those apertures when it comes to sharpness - again take a look at the images in my links, there's hundred of them with the 16-50 that should satisfy your request. When I return from Afghanistan next spring, I plan to pick up the 18-135 as a better hiking/mountaineering lens, and I will do a comparison between the two then.

Finally, there will inevitably be concerns of SDM failure. In case you weren't aware, the SDM is the in-lens AF motor that DA*'s are equipped with. Not very fast when compared to the Canikon and Sigma silent motors, but completely silent. The 16-50 is considered the least reliable when it comes to the SDM not failing (affectionately referred to as the "Sudden Death Motor"). Which this is a reality, my personal experience is that after over a year of extremely abusive use, it still continues like a champ, and I am the third owner of my copy, purchased here on the forum for a great price. I know there are many others who will say they have had their copies since one of the first batches and no issues, so it really is a gamble, as shitty as that is to say. My personal assessment is that the probably that you will never incur SDM failure far outweighs the risk of it failing, and should my lens fail on me, I would replace it with another 16-50 without hesitation.

Also, should you decide to purchase the lens, please take note of this in case you were not aware: Pentax Lens Pricing

Please let me know if this has not been helpful to you.

-Heie


O/T, but beautiful images Rondec, specifically the second one.

thanks for the sound off, your opinion certainly carries more weight than most would. I treat my camera in a similar fashion when i go out hiking or trespassing in abandoned buildings or factories. I've already managed to some how rip off my diopter adjuster and eye piece and smash the buttons on my battery grip while trying to dyno jump from a ladder to a drain pipe assassins creed style. They popped back out after some persuasion and work fine. I'm just worried it wont hold up. However that seems to not be a huge issue.
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