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09-15-2013, 08:00 PM   #1
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18-135 vs 1 or 2 decent primes?

I'm willing to spend ~$300-400 on some photo equipment and have had a question in the back of my mind for quite some time.

Here's my current equipment layout:

DA15/4. I use this thing extensively with landscapes and creative shots. Love it but sometimes it's a little too wide for what I'm aiming for. Cropping sort of works but I'd rather have another focal length to play with.
DA18-55. The first version of the kit lens. Sees extremely rare use nowadays. When I did use it, I normally used it at the ends of the focal range (18 and 55) and around 24/28mm. I just don't use it because of the lower resolution and bland colors it produces.
F50/1.7. Also use this extensively when doing people shots and some landscapes. A little to narrow at times. Always find myself wishing I had something good in between the 15 and 50.
DA55-300. Hasn't seen much use lately but I very much love this lens when I do use it. Colors and rendering are just incredible, sharpness is very good and the bokeh is to die for in some situations. I need to take it on a trip soon.
K20D and K-01. The K-01 has been seeing 100% use since I bought it. I miss the viewfinder and everything but the sensor is just so much better in terms of noise and dynamic range.

I don't shoot in low-light situations (night time, indoor, concerts) very often but wide aperture would be nice.

So my question is (if you haven't guessed from the title) what should I do to replace my kit lens and fill the void between the 15 and 50mm? The 18-135 is in consideration because it seems pretty good overall, has WR, and it's convenient with the range. However it doesn't seem to deal with flare very well -- but I think I will be using the 15mm in shots where there will be extensive lighting toward the lens. In other situations it seems pretty good. I have looked at the 16-45, 17-70, and sigma's 17-50, but I figure if I am getting a zoom lens then I may as well get something with WR to pair with my K20D. The 16-50 is out of the question due to its price.

On the other hand, I could go for a set of primes. For this money, I'm not looking at the Limited series. I'd love a 31 or 40mm Ltd but they are simply out of my price range for now. I've been looking at some F/FA series 28's and 35's and they seem pretty good. For the price range I have I think I could get two decent primes (with AF) -- or at least one with AF and one manual, which I wouldn't mind using with my K-01's focus peaking.

Third option -- just thought of it... I could replace my kit lens with the new 18-55, which is weather sealed and seems to be pretty decent? Is the 18-135 that much better? This option would save me money down the road and possibly allow the purchase of an FA31 or DA* 16-50 (only if pentax update it... )

Thoughts? I'd love to hear some comparisons of the 18-135 and some primes.

09-15-2013, 08:42 PM   #2
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I've had the 18-135 now for a couple of months. I'm finding that I use it a lot for landscape and walking. Mainly because of the zoom range. I find that it handles flare reasonably well. A hell of alot better than my Sigma 10-20. Probably not as good as your da15 though. Here is a recent example. I may have shopped out a small flare or two in this. But nothing too bad.

I have also used it for taking photos of rock climbing because I really don't want to be changing lenses up a cliff. So once again this is the flexible zoom range coming into play.

Full Zoom:

At 24mm:

The main downside I've found so far though is that I find myself doing a fair bit of sharpening in PP.

I haven't had any use for the WR features of it so far despite using it out in the bush a lot. But it is comforting to know it is there.

So in summary I would say that IMO its wide zoom range is its best feature. If you want a bigger step up in IQ in the range you're talking about and don't mind swapping lenses I'd probably get a prime.

Hope this helps.

edit: I forgot to mention the AF. Like the others below me have mentioned this is also a big plus. Love how quick and quiet it is.

Last edited by camerons; 09-15-2013 at 09:28 PM.
09-15-2013, 08:58 PM   #3
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As I noted on my blog, I was enjoying the 18-135 on a fine hike, but often found myself shooting near 40mm. When I swapped to my DA40 for a while I could really see the difference, and soon after the hike the 18-135 was cashed in for an 18-55WR for weather resistance and the 70 Limited. I've now gone with 16-45 and the 50-200WR for max versatility and compact kit.

In my use of the 18-135 I found it unique for range WR and silent focus. Compared the the 18-55s I have owned, the 18-135 began to disappoint me above 90mm so it was too big an investment for little gain, as my 18-55s have been good at 55mm. Others have had superb experience with the 18-135 at all focal lengths, so variation by lens is wide; I hated being on the wrong end of the curve, and I tried twice.
09-15-2013, 09:10 PM   #4
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Like jimr, I had the 18-135 for a couple months, and like jimr, I could NOT get this thing to work for me, especially for the price. I'm not saying that you couldn't get it to work. I just couldn't make friends with it. Of course, it had stiff competition, the DA 40mm Ltd., which I bought at the same time, and used for 97% of the time. I will say this: If you're looking to replace a "kit" lens, then the 18-135 nearly replaces the DA-L and DA 18-55 and 50/55-200. I say nearly only in reference to the focal length. In terms of IQ compared to the DA/L kit lens, the 18-135 was a bit better. In terms of focus/autofocus, though, the 18-135 blows the kit lenses out of the water. The 18-135 focuses much faster, much quieter, and much more accurately without hunting when compared to kit lenses.

So what would I do if I was you? Ironically, I sold my 18-135; I used half to buy a Rokinon 85 f1.4, which I like but will be parting with (if you're interested), and I used a bit to buy the DA-L 18-50 and DA-L 50-200 kit lenses. Frankly, for me, the picture quality of those two are only slightly less than the pic quality of the 18-135. For me, it's about value: The 18-135 is a good lens, but it is not worth the $400 price tag for me. Since you have the 15, the F50, I would prolly get the DA 70mm Ltd, which is what I'm saving for.

09-15-2013, 09:31 PM   #5
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I find I'm using my DA18-135 a lot and it's excellent in the range you are looking to fill 20-50 (I think it's very good up to 70 and "acceptable" beyond that). If you will mainly be taking photos outdoors then I'd say buy the 18-135.
09-15-2013, 09:45 PM   #6
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Prime Time?

Hello NitroDC,
I'll add my suggestion, but first a couple of caveats: First, I've never owned or used the 18-135mm and second, I'm a prime shooter. Yes, I own zooms, several in fact. In certain situations, the quick-focal length-change versatility can't be beat. But, 80-90% of my very best shots were taken with primes.
So, how about the 'Plastic Fantastic' 35mm f/2.4AL and a manual focus 24mm or 28mm? Depending upon whether the 24/28 was an 'M', 'A' series or possibly an F or FA, you could be around $400 total. The Sigma 'Super-Wide' 24mm f/2.8 is available in 'A' Pentax mount for around $200 used, and one of my absolute favorite primes, the Miranda 24mm f/2.8 PK (also 'A' enabled) is slightly less $$ but harder to find. Both are manual focus, auto (or manual) aperture.
Those two primes would fit nicely between your 15mm and 50mm, giving you faster max apertures, better I.Q. and sharpness, both are small and light.
Just another option, good luck!
09-15-2013, 10:45 PM   #7
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Another vote for the "Plastic Fantastic" 35mm F2.4.
It's a great lens which produce some fine crisp photos with good bokeh
I think it will love your K-01.

09-16-2013, 12:14 AM   #8
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I would suggest you buy a used 18-135, good deals on this site. Try it out for a while.

If you like it a lot you can either keep it, or sell it and buy a new one with warranty.
If you hate it you can sell it without losing much on the trial.

Problem with questions like these is you will get biased opinions and you won't really know your own feelings until you get your hands on it. You will always be left wondering.

One nice thing about organizing Pentax meetups is we get to try each others lenses out and are able to form an opinion from hands on experience.
Bad thing is, oh the LBA

09-16-2013, 01:19 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by NitroDC Quote
The 18-135 is in consideration because it seems pretty good overall, has WR, and it's convenient with the range. However it doesn't seem to deal with flare very well -- .......................

On the other hand, I could go for a set of primes. ...........
I'd love to hear some comparisons of the 18-135 and some primes.
You cannot really - at least as I see things - compare zooms and primes from IQ alone. They are supplementary to each other. And one's arsenal of lenses should reflect one's needs and intended uses.

For me, it is a trivial fact that good primes have better IQ than most good zooms, but also that I may have to pixel-peep or crop very tight to really tell the difference - and further, the versatility of a good zoom may in many situations more than compensate for the need to constantly change primes (and I cannot carry all of my primes in all situations!).

And the flares?

Not much flare here, is there (click on images to see larger versions)?

DA 18-135mm @ 18mm

A bit flare/purple fringing here - but no worse than many a good prime would show in the same situation:

DA 18-135mm @ 36mm

I was waiting at the train station and just had a few minutes to capture these images (plus four more). Without my DA 18-135mm I would probably only have got one.....

Last edited by Stone G.; 09-16-2013 at 01:26 AM. Reason: Error in Figure caption
09-16-2013, 02:19 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by NitroDC Quote
The first version of the kit lens. Sees extremely rare use nowadays. When I did use it, I normally used it at the ends of the focal range (18 and 55) and around 24/28mm. I just don't use it because of the lower resolution and bland colors it produces.
While few people are inclined to be talked out of making a big purchase when they really want something new and different, I would point out that the Mark 2 version of the 18-55mm kit lens (which is the same optical formula as the 18-55mm WR kit lens) is far superior to the original. I won't say the corner sharpness at max aperture is anything to rave about, but stopped down the lens is actually quite nice. Plus, these guys are plentiful at KEH for good prices. Heck, you could probably request one here on the forum. Just my 2.

I own the DA 35mm 2.4 - it's quite good, plus there have been sales lately.

I've also owned the Sigma 24mm 2.8 mini wide for a short time. People seem to love it, although I was not blown away by it. My copy didn't have any of the magic dust in it that others got. Just regular dust!
09-16-2013, 03:00 AM   #11
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I have the 18-135 and a few primes. For me the 18-135 is simply a practical solution, relatively light, WR and a good zoom range. I really like to have the lens handy for snapshots and walks in the rain, but I use my primes far more often!

If I had to choose I would give away my zooms and keep the primes. But the reason I prefer primes is not IQ. I simply enjoy working with them much more than with a zoom. I'm not a professional, so the pictures don't have to come out perfect and I can afford to loose a shot. I just want to have fun with my hobby, so I choose the equipment I feel comfortable with.

So that's another question you could ask yourself, do you enjoy using your primes or do you often wish you had the comfort of a zoom? For me this is more important than IQ, at least when talking of the 18-135. (I recently got my hands on two Revuenon M42 push/pull zooms, luckily time marched on...)
09-16-2013, 04:22 AM   #12
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Maybe you can find a 16-45mm f4? Or a DA 35mm f2.4. You don't need the whole zoom range, and Pentax has some great primes.
09-16-2013, 05:13 AM   #13

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QuoteOriginally posted by NitroDC Quote
I'd love a 31 or 40mm Ltd but they are simply out of my price range for now.
What about the DA 40 XS?
09-16-2013, 05:48 AM   #14
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MY images currently in this years shooting..

DA 18-135- 1800 images
Sigma 70 macro - 1800 images
Tamron 17-50 - 1400 images
DA* 60-250 - 1000 images
A-400 - 800 images
DA 35 2.4 - 600 images
FA 501.7 - 600 images
21 Ltd. 300 images

These are images we kept, so I have no idea how many we actually took with each lens. At least for me, getting the 18-135 first would be a no brainer (and was)...I could probably survive with the 18-135, 60-250 -A 400 and 70 macro, it is nice to have others, but unlike others, I don't think it's essential. There are situations where we want the ƒ1.7 or ƒ2.4, but not a lot. At least not for the shooting we do.

It took us a long time to warm up to the wife never did, she got the Tamron 17-50 2.8 as a fast lens and a Sigma 18-250 as her walk around zoom. But now it's on my camera all the time.

Her kit would be Tamron 17-50, Sigma 18-250, Tamron 90 with the Tamron 90 being by far her favourite lens, almost 4000 keepers.

Last edited by normhead; 09-16-2013 at 06:08 AM.
09-16-2013, 07:09 AM   #15
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I do like the 18-135 as a walkaround lens I don't have to worry about. I think it's built well enough and has proven useful enough when there's a chance of rain. It's good up close, and OK zoomed out to 135 - but it's a zoom so you'll have to figure out where its sweet spots are, I think they're around 35 and 100. My only modern prime lineup are a Sigma 28mm f1.8 macro and a FA 100mm macro. If we're walking along the river during migration season I'll take the 55-300.

It's not a prime, though. A decent solution is the 18-55WR for inclement weather and a nice prime or two for dedicated shooting.

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