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01-14-2013, 11:34 PM   #1
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DA 15mm Limited or 16-45/17-70?

Hey all, my current kit consists of a K20D, 18-55mm kit lens (from a K100D Super, so it's old), 55-300mm f4-5.8, and a recently-acquired M 50mm f1.7.

I'm looking to upgrade the kit lens as it's sort of lacking compared to the rest of my equipment. So the three choices I've decided on are the DA 15mm f4 Limited, the 16-45mm f4, or the 17-70mm f4.
I did take a look at Tamron's 17-50mm f2.8, but the focusing issues seem too common and I don't want to deal with getting a bad lens.

I'm not entirely sure I'd be 100% comfortable with the prime, since that would leave me with a gap between 15 and 50mm. In usage of my kit lens, I do normally tend to go to the extremes (18mm or 55mm) of the zoom range, but occasionally I shoot around the 25-35mm mark. The quality of the 15mm is very tempting, but the range (and lower price) of the 16-45/17-70 offer more in terms of everyday usability.

I am a college student, so every penny counts, and the 15mm Ltd is quite a lot more expensive than the zooms -- $250 more than the 16-45.

Deciding between the 16-45 and 17-70 is near impossible. I've read so many topics/articles/etc that counter each other, it seems like there is no conclusion as to what lens performs better.
I don't really need the extra 25mm from the 17-70 (would rather have the extra 1mm from the 16-45) since I have my tele lens, but I have heard that the 16-45 is slightly sharper but has problems at the long ends of photos. I've also read reviews about the SDM in the 17-70 breaking, which also deters me from it.

So basically, the 15mm has amazing quality, but is it worth the $250 difference over the 16-45/17-70? And is the 17-70 better than the 16-45?

Last note: I am not going to be using these lenses as portrait or close up lenses -- I'd rather use my 50mm or the telephoto. I want a nice wide-angle lens for landscapes/long exposure shots/etc.

01-15-2013, 01:32 AM   #2
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I own both the 16-45 and the 15. Both are great lenses, with the 15 having the size and handling advantage, which may or may not be important to you. In wide-angle every mm counts, but probably the 1mm difference between them (or between the two zooms) is not a showstopper. 15 vs 17 is becoming more significant.

The 15mm has a great IQ (color, contrast, center sharpness) although the borders often look inferior to me (due to either softness or strong field curvature, which is pretty flat on the 16-45). Wide open IQ feels lower as well. I used the 16-45 extensively whereas the 15mm is a more recent aqcuisition. I didn't use it as extensively as the 16-45 so I'm still inconclusive about it.

I didn't do a direct comparison between the two lenses, but I can say that I really love the old 16-45 and it has loyally given me great results. The 16mm end is particularly good with my copy, and I haven't noticed border sharpness degradation as I sometimes do with the 15mm. The IQ gain upgrading from the old kit lens is very significant - not only in sharpness, but also the colors are totally different, much more saturated (think deep blue skies and nature greens). I love the zoom range, esp. going down to 16mm.

In short, I think the 16-45 is a (possibly underrated) gem that can yield superb results and is a very worthwhile and practical upgrade. Unless you plan to add more lenses to complement the 15mm (which seems out of budget ATM), I think that the 16-45 is the better choice for you.

I wouldn't touch the 17-70 with a stick solely due to the SDM notorious reputation.
01-15-2013, 01:57 AM   #3
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I don't own the zooms (I have a DA* 16-50/2.8) but I do have the DA 15mm Limited (and the 21 and 35 Limited's). All I can say is you are never going to regret owning Pentax limited prime lenses - they are little gems - handling, IQ, size, construction, sharpness - I am sure you have read the reviews and looked at the lens threads.

However, maybe given budget limitations you will be better with one of the zooms, and make Limited primes a longer term goal. Once you start shooting them you are bound to want more, and their price reflects their quality.

Don't be afraid to purchase them secondhand off the marketplace or other outlets. They are the type of lens that is generally treasured and well looked after. I brought all three of mine like this - as new condition at around half new price.

Cheers

Ross
01-15-2013, 10:35 AM   #4
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Thanks for the replies, I am considering getting the 16-45 and making the 15mm (and other primes) a goal for my future purchases. It seems like the best choice right now budget-wise.

01-15-2013, 12:01 PM   #5
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I have the 16-45mm and DA 15, and I agree with everything Noam said. The 16-45 is an underrated lens, a really solid performer. What you said about lack of performance at the long end is incorrect. My 16-45 @ 45mm f4 is sharper than either of my 18-55's @ 55mm f5.6, even after cropping to 55mm. I believe you will find the 16-45 IQ fits in between the 55-300 and 50 1.7.

Here are some test photos that may interest you. They show wide end IQ @ f8 and relative FOV:
https://picasaweb.google.com/bonhommed/Comparo?authkey=Gv1sRgCLOD9LjmoOKTlAE#

The 16-45mm is sharper across the frame, the 15 Ltd has better flare resistance, less CA, lower distortion. Colour & contrast on the prime is punchier, nice for landscape, but can be a disadvantage when shooting people. Adding a CPL to the zoom makes a nice difference. I didn't shoot the DA 15 with a CPL because my B&W 49mm Thin vignettes stongly with the 15mm.
01-15-2013, 12:03 PM   #6
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+1 for the 16-45mm. I replaced my kit lens with mine. It was a big improvement. It is really great for landscape shots.
01-15-2013, 01:01 PM   #7
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I went through the exact same progression. The 16-45 is a great, great lens, but like you, I found that all my shots were either at 16 or 45mm, with very little in between. I eventually sold the 16-45 and bought a DA15 since I already had a couple of old fast 50's.

If you don't mind manual focusing (which at such short focal lengths is no big deal), you could pick up an old M 20mm or Tamron 17mm for a couple hundred bucks.
01-15-2013, 01:29 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by NitroDC Quote
Thanks for the replies, I am considering getting the 16-45 and making the 15mm (and other primes) a goal for my future purchases. It seems like the best choice right now budget-wise.
I think what should tip the balance is that your current kit lens is the version 1, a bit behind on 14 Mp. The DA 16-45 should work well as a kit lens replacement, and is often less than $250 used. You can add a DA 35/2.4 and still spend less than the DA 15/4.

01-16-2013, 10:40 AM   #9
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I own the DA 15 but am shopping for wide zoom and the 16-45 is under serious consideration. There is value in having a quality walk around zoom. I didn't complain much about the 18-55 kit but after I bought a couple of Limiteds, I want something better although I'm more inclined towards a 17-70 simply because of the longer reach.
01-16-2013, 10:49 AM   #10
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I faced the same choice a couple of years ago. I got the DA 15 and do not regret it one bit. I almost immediately sold a DA 15 image that covered the price of the lens and since then many of my best shots have been done with it. I'd still kind of like a wide zoom (or a long fast one) but would consider the 15 to be my all-time favorite.
It's particularly good with skies.

01-17-2013, 05:43 PM   #11
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Okay, sorry to re-bump the thread, but I just discovered this deal: 15mm for $540. That's just $140 over the 16-45, and only $40 more over the best 'used' price I've found (on craigslist, but it's a 4 hour drive! Gas would probably cost $40-50 just for the trip there...). Really considering getting this now. Looking over the images from my kit lens, it's actually not a bad lens at all. I just haven't used it in a while.
01-17-2013, 06:27 PM   #12
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I've owned all the lenses mentioned here, from the 15, 16-45, *16-50, 17-70 and 18-55. I kept the 16-45. It's sharper than the 15, doesn't have SDM like the 17-70 (mine failed after three months) and *16-50. I liked the IQ from the 17-70 slightly more than the 16-45 though. The 15 was a little too wide for my shooting style. After trading my DA 15 for the FA* 24 here on the Forums I haven't missed the 15 at all.

This really sums it up well:
QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
The 16-45mm is sharper across the frame, the 15 Ltd has better flare resistance, less CA, lower distortion. Colour & contrast on the prime is punchier, nice for landscape, but can be a disadvantage when shooting people.
If I were to add anything to the comments here I'd want you to understand each lens is a very different tool, just as your 18-55 is very different from your 50/1.7. What I'm saying is get the lens you need to get the job done. The 15 is a great tool to capture incredible landscapes. It's flare resistance is incredible. I love the starbursts. The 16-45 is a very nice tool for a broad range of photographs. It's sharp and flexible across the range. I don't use mine for portraits very often, but it does a very nice job with subjects from interiors to landscapes. Each lens has its own characteristics and is very useful for photographing things they excel in.

Here's a picture from the 16-45 of my little girl at her Nutcracker dance recital during the recent holidays. The dance studio was dark inside and I had my K10D's ISO cranked to 500!

01-17-2013, 07:03 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by builttospill Quote
I've owned all the lenses mentioned here, from the 15, 16-45, *16-50, 17-70 and 18-55. I kept the 16-45. It's sharper than the 15, doesn't have SDM like the 17-70 (mine failed after three months) and *16-50. I liked the IQ from the 17-70 slightly more than the 16-45 though. The 15 was a little too wide for my shooting style. After trading my DA 15 for the FA* 24 here on the Forums I haven't missed the 15 at all.

This really sums it up well:


If I were to add anything to the comments here I'd want you to understand each lens is a very different tool, just as your 18-55 is very different from your 50/1.7. What I'm saying is get the lens you need to get the job done. The 15 is a great tool to capture incredible landscapes. It's flare resistance is incredible. I love the starbursts. The 16-45 is a very nice tool for a broad range of photographs. It's sharp and flexible across the range. I don't use mine for portraits very often, but it does a very nice job with subjects from interiors to landscapes. Each lens has its own characteristics and is very useful for photographing things they excel in.

Here's a picture from the 16-45 of my little girl at her Nutcracker dance recital during the recent holidays. The dance studio was dark inside and I had my K10D's ISO cranked to 500!

Thanks for that post. I am definitely looking to get something more for landscape, as I already like my 50mm and 55-300 for people/object photos. I go on hikes and trips relatively often (when it's not freezing out) and found that the 18-55 is good, but not great for landscape. I often wished I had a wider lens with more "character". The 18-55 is definitely a great walkaround lens as you can basically shoot anything and get decent results, but I think I'll go with the 15mm over the 16-45 and keep my 18-55. Maybe I'll upgrade to the 16-45 (or 16-50) later on when I have more money.
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