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12-06-2012, 06:44 PM   #1
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16-45 or 18-55+21mm or 18-135

Okay, here is one of those annoying questions where the person asking the question is, clearly, the only person who can answer it.

But I am going to ask it anyway, because isn't that the point of these forums, and perhaps someone will say something that clicks with me, and helps me make up my mind.

Okay, so I have a number of lenses, and I don't really want to spend much/any money, so any new purchases will have to be funded (largely) by selling an existing lens.

I have a Pentax 16-45, a Pentax FA 35-70, a Pentax 50-200, a Pentax-M 135mm, the 35mm 2.4 and the 70mm 2.4.

Also, I like to carry a small bag. (Recently, I have the sort of camera bag that is designed just to carry a camera (i.e. no dividers with room for spare lenses etc.) However, with the smaller lenses (the 35-70 or the primes) I can stick a lens in a small lens case, stick that in the bottom, and there is still room for the camera to sit on top of that - as long as it is with a small lens, like the primes.

So I do like the small lenses. And I really like 70mm in particular.

I've also just bought a k30 (before I had the k-r) so now a WR lens is appealing.

But with my liking of the small lenses, the 21mm is also appealing. (The 15mm is probably even more appealing, but that is probably more than I can afford.)

Apart from being a bit bigger than I'd like (and not being WR), I do really like the 16-45. And I like the 35-70, but do want a wider option - such as the 21mm.

So, basically, the question is, of the following options what would you go for:

1) Just get the 18-55WR, solely for times when conditions warrant it. Otherwise, my main combination would be the 16-45, with the 70mm in my pocket.

2) Sell the 16-45, and buy a 21mm, and also an 18-55WR. Depending on what I plan to do, I would carry the 35-70 and the 21mm, or the 18-55 and the 70mm (or any 2 of the primes).

3) Sell all of my lenses, apart from the 35mm and the 70mm, and buy the 18-135 lens.

There is something very appealing about 3), just in terms of getting rid of a lot of lenses that only get used occasionally and so on, and just having one zoom and the two primes to cover everything. But I am largely put off by some reviews. Not just the photozone one, but also this one: Pentax Lens: Zooms - Pentax 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 ED AL [IF] DC SMC DA WR (Tested) - SLRgear.com!

12-06-2012, 07:12 PM   #2
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Teaming up the 16-45 and DA70 would be nice, and a used 18-55wr can be found here for around $100 occasionally. I went that way, with compact WR when I need it, primes when I don't. The 18-135 is quite nice but the 18-55 and primes make a smaller bundle around your neck. Your neck muscles might win over lens changes though, only you can make the call there - as you pointed out.

So while I would hate letting the 16-45 go - and I've done it before! - I guess I would find option (2) best. Yet option (1) is closer to what I carry, with the 18-55 as mostly a foul-weather friend. Go figure

Last edited by jimr-pdx; 12-06-2012 at 07:20 PM.
12-06-2012, 08:32 PM   #3
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The 18-135 really isn't that big. With that and the 50-200 (if WR) you have a good range of WR lenses, other than that I would go option 3.
12-06-2012, 09:05 PM   #4
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I vote for option 1, the zoom + prime and having the ability to swap the zoom for weather.

I've been tempted by all-in-one zooms before and, while I have no firsthand experience with 18-135, I suspect your eyes are too used to the quality offered by the primes you already have at longer end.

12-06-2012, 09:24 PM   #5
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Personally I'd go with #1 or #2. From what I've seen of the 18-135 I'm not particularly impressed, but there are a lot of fans of it here.

As for choosing between #1 or #2 I'd say that comes down to how much you use the wide end of the 16-45 right now. If you do use it a lot, then #2 and going to the 18-55 as your primary wide option would be a step down. But if you don't shoot too many wide shots then #2 can help lighten your kit.
12-06-2012, 09:54 PM   #6
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I have a couple of 18-55's, a 16-45, 18-135, 18-250, 10-17 fisheye and a bunch of primes. I don't like the DA 18-55 or 18-250. The 16-45 is a great zoom, I doubt I'll ever sell it.

As much as I like the 16-45, it's not seeing much use. I virtually always have the 18-135 in my bag, with one of more primes. Maybe I'm one of the lucky ones, my 18-135 is better than the bad reviews and matches the In-Depth review on this site and ephotozine. Or maybe what PZ and SLRGear measure is not what I care about. This quote from ephotozine expresses my opinion of the 18-135 well:

"In terms of photography in the field and in the studio, the lens performs very well. There's no doubt that images have superb colour, good sharpness and very pleasing bokeh. Aesthetically this scores very highly, producing very pleasant images."
SMC Pentax-DA 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 ED AL [IF] DC WR Lens Review.

Here are some full resolution test shots, comparing the 18-135, 16-45 and 15mm. There's no doubt they both beat the 18-135, but it has its own merits that they can't match, i.e. WR, silent focus, extended range. That's why this lens is the first one to go into the bag.
https://picasaweb.google.com/bonhommed/Comparo?authkey=Gv1sRgCLOD9LjmoOKTlAE#
12-06-2012, 10:09 PM   #7
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What do you usually photograph? The answer to your question about lens combos might differ for street, architecture, portrait, landscape, etc.

For example, I would sell the 70; not because it's a bad lens but because I rarely shoot between 50 and 135.

Regarding the choice of 18-55 or 18-135 for WR, I faced the same choice. The 18-55 is smaller, lighter, much cheaper. The 18-135 gives slightly better IQ and quieter AF and obviously more reach, but you pay more and it's a slightly larger lens.
12-07-2012, 01:22 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by msatlas Quote
Personally I'd go with #1 or #2. From what I've seen of the 18-135 I'm not particularly impressed, but there are a lot of fans of it here.

As for choosing between #1 or #2 I'd say that comes down to how much you use the wide end of the 16-45 right now. If you do use it a lot, then #2 and going to the 18-55 as your primary wide option would be a step down. But if you don't shoot too many wide shots then #2 can help lighten your kit.
I have to admit, I haven't used the 16-45 for a while now. Largely because I enjoyed using my 35-70 and my primes, and having the smaller kit.But I have been missing the option of the wide. But that's because 35 has typically been the widest.

However, I think I have been neglecting the 16-45.

Regarding that lens, when I do have it, I definitely use the 16. In fact, I seem to really use it like 2 primes, but without having to switch lens. That is, I am either at 16, or at 45, rarely in between. And I use the 35-70 in much the same way.

12-07-2012, 01:27 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by pentaxki Quote
I vote for option 1, the zoom + prime and having the ability to swap the zoom for weather.

I've been tempted by all-in-one zooms before and, while I have no firsthand experience with 18-135, I suspect your eyes are too used to the quality offered by the primes you already have at longer end.
I suspect you might be giving me more credit than I deserve!

I did have the Sigma 18-125, and liked it, but it suffered too much from flare.
12-07-2012, 01:34 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
I have a couple of 18-55's, a 16-45, 18-135, 18-250, 10-17 fisheye and a bunch of primes. I don't like the DA 18-55 or 18-250. The 16-45 is a great zoom, I doubt I'll ever sell it.

As much as I like the 16-45, it's not seeing much use. I virtually always have the 18-135 in my bag, with one of more primes. Maybe I'm one of the lucky ones, my 18-135 is better than the bad reviews and matches the In-Depth review on this site and ephotozine. Or maybe what PZ and SLRGear measure is not what I care about. This quote from ephotozine expresses my opinion of the 18-135 well:

"In terms of photography in the field and in the studio, the lens performs very well. There's no doubt that images have superb colour, good sharpness and very pleasing bokeh. Aesthetically this scores very highly, producing very pleasant images."
SMC Pentax-DA 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 ED AL [IF] DC WR Lens Review.

Here are some full resolution test shots, comparing the 18-135, 16-45 and 15mm. There's no doubt they both beat the 18-135, but it has its own merits that they can't match, i.e. WR, silent focus, extended range. That's why this lens is the first one to go into the bag.
https://picasaweb.google.com/bonhommed/Comparo?authkey=Gv1sRgCLOD9LjmoOKTlAE#
I suspect that my view would be similar to yours. I have got rid of lenses before because I haven't liked them - so I am not totally undiscriminating - but it hasn't been down to issues of sharpness etc. It has either been because it was just washed out. The colours just didn't look right. Or - frequently - problems with flare. And occasionally distortion.

The 16-45 seems to handle flare particularly well. (And I believe that primes like the 21mm are also particularly good in that respect.)

You say you have owned the 18-55, the 16-45 and the 18-135. Any thoughts on how they compare, regarding flare in particular?
12-07-2012, 01:52 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by DeadJohn Quote
What do you usually photograph? The answer to your question about lens combos might differ for street, architecture, portrait, landscape, etc.

For example, I would sell the 70; not because it's a bad lens but because I rarely shoot between 50 and 135.

Regarding the choice of 18-55 or 18-135 for WR, I faced the same choice. The 18-55 is smaller, lighter, much cheaper. The 18-135 gives slightly better IQ and quieter AF and obviously more reach, but you pay more and it's a slightly larger lens.
To be honest, I am rarely doing serious photography. It is mostly just getting pictures when out on trips, out for a walk, with friends etc (though I probably would like that to change and to actually go out specifically to take photos more often than I do).

So I am often taking landscape photos, but then taking people shots of the people I am with.

In that sense, the 18-135 makes a lot of sense. And, in some ways, is the obvious choice.

On the other hand, a lot of my best photos were probably with the 16-45, and although going longer would be nice, just switching between 16 (for landscape) and 45 (for people) has been fine too. Or more recently, switching between 35 and 70 - using the 35-70 zoom. (But having the option of the 21mm would be useful there.)

The 35 and 70mm are definite keepers (unless it is to change the 35mm to the even smaller 40mm). They are probably my most used lenses (recently at least). And they are my indoor lenses, and my gig lenses.

And even outdoors etc. I really like the 70mm focal length (on a crop camera).

At this point, a sensible person would reach the obvious conclusion: I need the Pentax 17-70.

But I didn't like it. Not sure I can properly say why. Certainly wasn't to do with the image quality. I bought a 16-45 and a 17-70 at the same time - fully intending to only keep one. I didn't think the weight difference would be significant. But in use, it did feel significant to me. And also there was something about the 17-70 I just wasn't so keen on - just the feel of it. I just prefered the 16-45.

I like the idea of option 1. Having the best landscape lens (in my budget) and the best portrait lens.

But I am conscious I haven't used the 16-45 for about a year. But maybe that just means I should get it out and start using it!
12-07-2012, 01:57 AM   #12
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Oh, one other question.

I did have the 18-55 DA L. I thought it was reasonably resistant to flare, but I don't think it was as good as the 16-45 (or 35-70) in that respect.

Does anyone know how the 18-55WR compares to the DA L version - particularly in relation to flare.
12-07-2012, 05:47 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by rob_k20d Quote
1) Just get the 18-55WR, solely for times when conditions warrant it. Otherwise, my main combination would be the 16-45, with the 70mm in my pocket.
My kit is different from yours, but I got the 18-55 WR just for that : to be able to use it when conditions warrant it.

QuoteOriginally posted by rob_k20d Quote
Sell the 16-45, and buy a 21mm, and also an 18-55WR. Depending on what I plan to do, I would carry the 35-70 and the 21mm, or the 18-55 and the 70mm (or any 2 of the primes).
That would make a lot of sense if you actually feel ok with it. By all accounts the 16-45 is a great lens, but so is the 35-70 in its way, and the 21 is fantastic. I think it would be a good option but you'ree the judge about whether you can live without the 16-45.

QuoteOriginally posted by rob_k20d Quote
3) Sell all of my lenses, apart from the 35mm and the 70mm, and buy the 18-135 lens.
You would gain a lot of convenience, but not much quality. Thw 18-135 is perfectly fine but not stellar. That's anotherr way to go entirely, it,s up to you as long as you understand what you cgain and what you loose.
12-07-2012, 06:37 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by rob_k20d Quote
You say you have owned the 18-55, the 16-45 and the 18-135. Any thoughts on how they compare, regarding flare in particular?
My opinion on how they compare, ranked from best to worst:
  • Sharpness: 16-45, 18-135, 18-55
  • Colour & contrast: 16-45, 18-135, 18-55
  • Vignetting: 16-45, 18-55, 18-135 (The 18-135 performs poorly here)
  • Distortion: 16-45, 18-55, 18-135
  • Bokeh: 18-135 by a mile, 16-45, 18-55
  • CA: 18-135, 18-55, 16-45
  • Flare: 16-45, 18-135, 18-55.This was the closest category to call.
  • Build quality of the 18-135 leaves the others for dead. Mechanically it feels and performs like a pro lens.
  • Note that CA and distortion are correctable in all Pentax cameras since the K-x.

Aperture speed is also signficant. The 16-45 is one stop faster than the 18-55mm at the long end. The long end of the 18-55 is longer, but that's not a factor because the 16-45 is still sharper when cropped to 55mm. The 18-135 is in between the two, half a stop faster than the 18-55 at 55mm.

You asked about the different 18-55 versions. The original 18-55 is slightly weaker. The three latest versions are optically identical (II, WR, DA L), they differ only in mechanical features.

Last edited by audiobomber; 12-07-2012 at 10:35 AM.
12-07-2012, 12:59 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by rob_k20d Quote
I have to admit, I haven't used the 16-45 for a while now. Largely because I enjoyed using my 35-70 and my primes, and having the smaller kit.But I have been missing the option of the wide. But that's because 35 has typically been the widest.

However, I think I have been neglecting the 16-45.

Regarding that lens, when I do have it, I definitely use the 16. In fact, I seem to really use it like 2 primes, but without having to switch lens. That is, I am either at 16, or at 45, rarely in between. And I use the 35-70 in much the same way.
I propose option #4:

Save up some more cash, sell the 16-45, pick up an 18-55 WR used for cheap, buy the 15 Limited.

The 15's got low distortion and great flare resistance. It's more expensive than the 21 but gets you a nice wider option.

In the meantime it's not like your current setup's all that bad.
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