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06-28-2008, 04:03 PM   #1
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Original DA 18-55 and DA 18-55mm II compared

My un-scientific quick comparison between the original DA 18-55mm and the new DA18-55mm II.

The lenses are identical in size and body. Externally, there are only 3 small things that distinguishes the 2 lenses, the chromed lens name on the barrel, a red II on the front of the lens and lastly Assembled in Vietnam is silk-screened above the serial number. The new lens has a much better center pinch clip-on lens cap that makes it easy to cap the lens with the hood in place. The lenses operate and feel the same when focusing and zooming.

Internally Pentax made changes to the version II, it now has 11 elements in 8 groups instead of the original 12 elements in 9 groups. Measured on a digital scale the original version weighs in at 242g and the newer lens is lighter at 237g.



06-28-2008, 04:05 PM   #2
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Comparison at 18mm & 55mm

Here's a quick optical comparison. All the shots were shot at ISO 100 in Manual mode on the K20D. Aperture and shutter speed kept to the same setting. Image was resized to 600 x 399. No sharpening or levels adjustment.

Version I at 18mm (1/250 sec at f/8)


Version II at 18mm (1/250 sec at f/8)


Version I at 55mm (1/250 sec at f/8)


Version II at 55mm (1/250 sec at f/8)
06-28-2008, 04:07 PM   #3
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At 100%

Rough comparison of 100% crops at 18mm setting. The Version II appears to show detail a little better and better contrast.

Version I (center)


Version I (right edge)


Version II (center)


Version II (right edge)


I've shot at the 35mm and 55mm settings and the results are pretty much the same.

Last edited by creampuff; 06-28-2008 at 04:17 PM.
06-28-2008, 04:15 PM   #4
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Rough personal inference

From the rough comparisons, the version II is definitely a little sharper than the original version I.
Pentax tweaked this lens and got it to perform better.

The most interesting thing about the lenses was the fact that despite the camera exposure being the same on the K20D (and referenced to a hand held meter), version I tended to produce images that were a little underexposed. This was also evident when other auto exposure modes were used.

When the version II was used on the K20D, exposures were consistent and worked the same on all the auto exposure modes.

The newer lens shows better contrast and without PP gives "snappier" images. Both lenses still showed some barrel distortion at the wide end but nothing to worry about. The good thing is the version II appears to vignette less compared to the version I at 18mm.

I would say that version II is definitely the better of the two lenses but it still remains a starter lens. Certainly a good lens to keep as a cheap wide angle for those on a budget.

The original DA 18-55mm is an excellent lens for IR photography due to the absence of hot-spotting. Will need to test if the new version is similar in performance. Tested the DA 18-55mm II for IR photography and it passes with flying colours (i.e. no center hotspots).

One side note is that the K20D sensor's amazing resolution shows up the shortcomings of so-so and average lenses pretty quickly. I know of a few Pentax shooters who intend to upgrade their consumer grade lenses (zooms in particular) for this reason. This is telling for lenses that don't do well in edge performance. Put cheap glass on this camera and you're not doing justice to the sensor's ability to pick up fine detail, imo.


Last edited by creampuff; 03-26-2009 at 01:16 AM. Reason: update
06-28-2008, 04:38 PM   #5
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Version II definitely looks better, and I believe I saw it on Amazon.com for $99. I may just have to pick one up. But I am also debating the Tamron 17-50 F 2.8. which is over 4 times the cost, hmmmm....
06-28-2008, 04:42 PM   #6
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Hi, creampuff!

First of all thank you for the test it generally confirms the quality update of the kit lens. I wonder if inclusion of a better lens (Pentax, Sigma or Tamron zoom) could be useful for a thorough comparison. Of course (except for Sigma) 18 mm is not the wide end but nevertheless it could be useful to see what improvements a pricier lens can bring.

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06-28-2008, 05:14 PM   #7
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Nice comparison. One thing definitely noticeable is how much brighter the Version II is although to keep things fair, as the light/shadows did change slightly, would have been nice to switch lenses after each shot. That aside there is less glass in the new one thus supporting your results of a brighter image. I'm a little surprised the metering system doesn't compensate for this better on the original version. That's biggest shortcoming I find with my 18-55, I either have to adjust the images later or adjust the exposure value 0.5-1.0 stops higher - supposedly a Pentax trait that I wish they would correct.
06-28-2008, 05:20 PM   #8
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While it might be good to do a group test of lenses with about the same focal range from other third party lenses makers, I think it may come up with some diverging results.

Firstly, let's not forget the DA 18-55mm remains a kit or starter lens. It is mass produced in large numbers because everyone who starts out with a DSLR needs an objective in front.

It is a cheap lens and I'm happy to say the Pentax kit lens is much better made compared to similar offering kit lenses from Canon and Nikon. Whether it is a hit or shit really depends on your perspective as a photographer. Some don't see the need to upgrade to a wider range of focal lengths (aka superzoom), or don't see the need for faster max aperture or for that matter won't want to buy anything beyond what the kit lens offers.

Secondly, to compare it with the likes of the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 or the Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 is like comparing apples vs oranges. For one thing, they are both constant large aperture zooms. Heck for the money you'd be paying, I would expect performance to be qualitatively better. Lenses also differ in color rendition and vary in distortion, so the variables add up.

Frankly the promise of better performance is true but only a point. If you're paying up to 4X the price, is the resolution gonna increase incrementally over the kit lens? Probably not.

The Tamron, Sigma and Pentax's own DA*16-50 f/2.8 will shine at low available light but to me that's the only telling advantage. If one were to use all the lenses in bright outdoor conditions, things will get much closer.

06-28-2008, 05:31 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by F-Stop Quote
Nice comparison. One thing definitely noticeable is how much brighter the Version II is although to keep things fair, as the light/shadows did change slightly, would have been nice to switch lenses after each shot. That aside there is less glass in the new one thus supporting your results of a brighter image. I'm a little surprised the metering system doesn't compensate for this better on the original version. That's biggest shortcoming I find with my 18-55, I either have to adjust the images later or adjust the exposure value 0.5-1.0 stops higher - supposedly a Pentax trait that I wish they would correct.
f-stop, the camera's meter reading was checked against a Minolta Autometer V. The exposures were in taken in manual. The light intensity (EV) did not change during the time it took to change lenses, even though the shadows moved a little.

I'm not in a position to say if the brighter image with version II is entirely due to the reduction of the number of elements in the design. The lens designers merely combined the 2 rear elements into a single one.
Underexposure might be lens and/or camera body related (metering).
06-28-2008, 05:34 PM   #10
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The chronic vignetting problem definitely looks improved. I imagine sharpness is probably more influenced by sample variation, as my kit lens is much better than one of my friends back home although they're both the same (Mark I).
06-28-2008, 05:42 PM   #11
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Interesting comparison, the 18-55 II is certainly a nice kit lens. It's one thing to hear how this version is better than that version, but to actually see them compared is different "2 pictures say more than a thousand words." I guess
06-28-2008, 06:45 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by jslifoaw Quote
The chronic vignetting problem definitely looks improved.
From what I can tell that appears to be hit and miss.
My series 1 kit lens has very little if any noticeable vignetting, as long as I don't mount a 52mm filter on it.
So I use a 52 - 58mm filter adapter ring, and it appears to have eliminated the problem.
06-28-2008, 10:30 PM   #13
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Creampuff, thank you for making and posting this comparison! I agree with others that the improvement in exposure is the first thing that caught my eyes, with the other improvements you noted being much more subtle.

Besides the change in optical formula, it seems possible that the exposure improvement might also/alternatively result from a tweak in the in-lens chip which communicates with the camera. Anybody know whether Pentax has said anything about such a tweak to the Mark II?
06-29-2008, 08:15 AM   #14
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good work creampuff
funny i lurk in the "other" forum a lot in different categories and everybody seems to think their kit lens is better than the rest :P
too bad there's still a bit of the vignetting problem, otherwise this would be a great budget wide lens
06-29-2008, 05:40 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by k100d Quote
good work creampuff
funny i lurk in the "other" forum a lot in different categories and everybody seems to think their kit lens is better than the rest :P
too bad there's still a bit of the vignetting problem, otherwise this would be a great budget wide lens
Ah, that's because a lot of people don't even care to make any objective comparison and to say that an item they bought and spent their hard earned money on is crappy is something hard to swallow.

Why I'd say the current kit lenses from Canon and Nikon aren't as good as our current Pentax kit lens is in 2 areas: build quality and optics.

I know a person who owns a small camera repair shop and he showed me a couple of disassembled kit lenses (he has LOTS). Canon and Nikon doesn't even bother to use a metal lens mount but use polycarbonate plastic instead (some of the so-so cheap FA zooms shared this trait). I saw so many kit lenses with sheared off or broken lens mounts. Now ask yourself how much would it cost to put a metal lens mount at production level? A couple of cents at most. It just shows the extent of cost cutting involved.

Secondly, taken apart, many of the kit lens elements are not glass but plastic, yes plastic! The feather light weight of the lenses is a telltale indication of extensive use of plastic rather than metal. These lenses are just not worth to be repaired and just get chucked away when anything goes wrong.

Bottomline is these lenses weren't made to last but enough for a new camera user to get by until they plonk down money for lenses with better optical performance than what the kit lenses can offer. That's more money for the manufacturer.
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