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03-25-2016, 07:43 PM   #1
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Which to buy: 16-50mm f/2.8 smc DA* or 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 HD DA WR

Hi,
I have been shooting Pentax for about a year now with my K3 (great camera!). I primarily shoot nature, but this summer I plan to go to Spain for an immersion experience and I'd like a versatile, WR lens to carry around. Last summer, I rented the 16-85, and it yielded very pleasing landscape images. Going forward, however, I'd prefer a 2.8 fixed aperture. For those of you who have in some fashion experienced both: does the 16-50 have superior image quality? How fast/accurate is the autofocus on the 16-50 compared to the 16-85? (I'm aware of the SDM issues with the 16-50). Weight is not much of a concern, nor is the price of either. This being said, if the 16-50 doesn't noticeably outperform the 16-85, it would be nice to use the extra $200 on a Big Stopper ND. If anyone could help me out in my decision, I'd really appreciate it!

Thanks!

03-25-2016, 09:47 PM   #2
npc
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16-85 image quality is better for landscape (mostly better corners). Of course it is much slower than the 16-50 so If you want to have a 2.8 constant then go for the 16-50 (or better tamron 17-50 if you don't need WR)
I can't compare directly the AF performance since I got my 16-50 with dead SDM and I've only used it with the screw drive - on K5 IIs my feeling is that 16-50 screwdrive is faster than the 16-85. I've never had AF accuracy problems with 16-85 and very few misses with 16-50.
03-25-2016, 10:52 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by npc Quote
16-85 image quality is better for landscape (mostly better corners). Of course it is much slower than the 16-50 so If you want to have a 2.8 constant then go for the 16-50 (or better tamron 17-50 if you don't need WR)
I can't compare directly the AF performance since I got my 16-50 with dead SDM and I've only used it with the screw drive - on K5 IIs my feeling is that 16-50 screwdrive is faster than the 16-85. I've never had AF accuracy problems with 16-85 and very few misses with 16-50.
Thanks for the prompt reply. Wow...I would have expected the opposite, considering most people regard the 16-50 as the more "professional" of the two...I guess it's just because of the faster fixed aperture?
03-26-2016, 02:31 AM - 1 Like   #4
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The site review of the 16-85 said image quality was comparable to the 16-50. Small differences like the corners at 16mm might give the edge to the 16-85 for your use. The 16-50 is arguably the weakest of the DA* lenses.

EDIT: However the lens does have a good following and is well respected by many. I have not used it other than a few test shots as I have converted lenses for others. Nothing stands out as spectacular or terrible in those shots.


Last edited by UncleVanya; 03-29-2016 at 12:34 AM.
03-26-2016, 05:07 AM - 1 Like   #5
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I have used both, with the exception of the wider aperture they are similar in in image quality.

If you really need f/2.8 then the choice is obvious, otherwise the 16-85 has a lot of pluses.
I bought the 16-85 to use hiking instead of the 16-50 but liked it so much i sold the 16-50 and now use the 16-85 for everything.
03-26-2016, 05:49 AM   #6
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Many people think "too much" of quality. 99% of what make a picture is the subject, the light and the photographer. Not the gear. The 16-50 produce great picture as well as the 16-85. One is able to handle low light and bokeh much better (16-50) but offer as a consequence a more limited range. The thing is you'd not notice quality difference for both lens just looking at printed picture or full screen, but you would notice a real difference if you had to shoot low light or for low light due to one lens having f/2.8.

The best benefit of the 16-85 is being a single lens outdoor solution, nice range, nice quality, WR.

For the same price you could get a 17-50 f/2.8 from sigma or tamron + a DA55-300. Lack of WR is far less anoying than one might think and the 55-300 is WR. In term of possibilities, the 55-300 allow things the 16-85 could not provide and would be very nice entry level lens to cover sports, zoos, some wildlife and distant landscapes. In cities it is always interresting to try a different view, so why not going to the top of a building and try to find some interresting composition with a 55-300? In term of photographic possibilities you win on all accounts. Sure you get 2 zooms so that a bit more anoying to switch lenses at time and you miss WR on the 17-50 but when it is really wet you can buy a cover for $5 or just go with a plastic bag.

The 16-50 also bring f/2.8 like the 17-50 and for portraiture and low light/indoor it is really a big plus. But it depend how often you want that ? Some just get a 16-85 or 18-135, benefit at the begining of the zoom range f/3.5 is not that slow and take 1-2 lenses for low light/portraiture. For example DA35 f/2.4 + DA70. f/2.4 or a single DA50 f/1.8

Last edited by Nicolas06; 03-26-2016 at 06:37 AM.
03-26-2016, 05:57 AM - 1 Like   #7
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I cant comment on the 16-85 but the 16-50 (my copy anyway) is an excellent lens. Sharp in the center wide open edges get better when you stop down. Ive owned the kts lens, the sigma 17-70 2.8-4 the pentax 17-70 f4 and the 16-50 2.8. the da* is clearly the best of these. hands down.
03-26-2016, 09:21 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nicolas06 Quote
Many people think "too much" of quality. 99% of what make a picture is the subject, the light and the photographer. Not the gear. The 16-50 produce great picture as well as the 16-85. One is able to handle low light and bokeh much better (16-50) but offer as a consequence a more limited range. The thing is you'd not notice quality difference for both lens just looking at printed picture or full screen, but you would notice a real difference if you had to shoot low light or for low light due to one lens having f/2.8.

The best benefit of the 16-85 is being a single lens outdoor solution, nice range, nice quality, WR.

For the same price you could get a 17-50 f/2.8 from sigma or tamron + a DA55-300. Lack of WR is far less anoying than one might think and the 55-300 is WR. In term of possibilities, the 55-300 allow things the 16-85 could not provide and would be very nice entry level lens to cover sports, zoos, some wildlife and distant landscapes. In cities it is always interresting to try a different view, so why not going to the top of a building and try to find some interresting composition with a 55-300? In term of photographic possibilities you win on all accounts. Sure you get 2 zooms so that a bit more anoying to switch lenses at time and you miss WR on the 17-50 but when it is really wet you can buy a cover for $5 or just go with a plastic bag.

The 16-50 also bring f/2.8 like the 17-50 and for portraiture and low light/indoor it is really a big plus. But it depend how often you want that ? Some just get a 16-85 or 18-135, benefit at the begining of the zoom range f/3.5 is not that slow and take 1-2 lenses for low light/portraiture. For example DA35 f/2.4 + DA70. f/2.4 or a single DA50 f/1.8
Thanks - I will definitely look into the Sigma.

03-26-2016, 09:52 AM   #9
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A difficult question. It comes down to your personal preferences.
My 16-50 renders very nicely and i find it great for people photography. matter of fact the rendering is the only thing i really like about this lens next to its build quality. My copy is alright-ish when it comes to sharpness, but i surely have seen better. The 16-85 seems to offer outstanding sharpness for a zoom, but judging from the pictures ive seen of it, i dont really like its rendering, also the bokeh seems rather poor compared to the 16-50mm.
however the 16-50 seems to have a problem with quality control, reading on the forums ive heard of many people complaining about their lens, even exchanging for their 2nd or 3rd copy often didnt bring improvement. I would suggest to buy this lens used, so in case something is wrong you can sell it off quickly with little to no money loss.
Another factor to consider is weight. at ~600 grams the 16-50 is well over a kilo with the camera. From what i gather you are going to spain for traveling?
I would rather recommend something lighter or more compact, if you are planning on walking a lot.
2 years ago i went to italy for 3 weeks, only bringing the 21mm ltd and m50/1.7 and i was well covered.

Perhaps you should take a look at the 20-40 ltd (you can get it quite cheap, especially used. ive seen one pop up on ebay for about 380 eur) plus a 15mm/f4 ltd or 70mm ltd. Another possibility would be the tamron 17-50/2.8 plus either the 55-300 or DA*50-135. Or any combination of those.
Hope this helps
03-26-2016, 10:37 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by quh86 Quote
A difficult question. It comes down to your personal preferences.
My 16-50 renders very nicely and i find it great for people photography. matter of fact the rendering is the only thing i really like about this lens next to its build quality. My copy is alright-ish when it comes to sharpness, but i surely have seen better. The 16-85 seems to offer outstanding sharpness for a zoom, but judging from the pictures ive seen of it, i dont really like its rendering, also the bokeh seems rather poor compared to the 16-50mm.
however the 16-50 seems to have a problem with quality control, reading on the forums ive heard of many people complaining about their lens, even exchanging for their 2nd or 3rd copy often didnt bring improvement. I would suggest to buy this lens used, so in case something is wrong you can sell it off quickly with little to no money loss.
Another factor to consider is weight. at ~600 grams the 16-50 is well over a kilo with the camera. From what i gather you are going to spain for traveling?
I would rather recommend something lighter or more compact, if you are planning on walking a lot.
2 years ago i went to italy for 3 weeks, only bringing the 21mm ltd and m50/1.7 and i was well covered.

Perhaps you should take a look at the 20-40 ltd (you can get it quite cheap, especially used. ive seen one pop up on ebay for about 380 eur) plus a 15mm/f4 ltd or 70mm ltd. Another possibility would be the tamron 17-50/2.8 plus either the 55-300 or DA*50-135. Or any combination of those.
Hope this helps
Thanks. I have taken a look at the 20-40 ltd, and will consider that as well. I am going to Spain - Cadiz and Barcelona to be more specific. Could you explain what you mean by rendering?
03-26-2016, 11:02 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by boconobo Quote
Thanks. I have taken a look at the 20-40 ltd, and will consider that as well. I am going to Spain - Cadiz and Barcelona to be more specific. Could you explain what you mean by rendering?
yes, excuse me. Its a very subjective term to describe how pleasing one finds the pictures the lens produces. Many regard the 16-85 as the most perfect standard zoom in pentax land at the moment. But there is more to a picture than sharpness and flare resistance. To me everything else the 16-50mm does better, star bursts look way better, colors are more pleasing to my eye, bokeh is naturally better since its f2.8, and simply the way the picture 'feels'. In contrast Im finding the pictures of the 16-85 too clinical. You should perhaps check flickr for both lenses and decide which fits your needs and likes best
Though, I am considering to sell the 16-50, should it keep to disappoint me in the "sharpness department". So far im finding it not very sharp, considering it is supposed to be top of the line (I havent had it for that long now). Also you asked about the autofocus. I think SDM is slower than screw drive, but its nicely quiet. Though, i do believe you are better off with the newer DC motors the 16-85 or 20-40 offer.
However, i seem to have gotten an imperfect copy of the 16-50, so take my critique with a grain of salt.
03-26-2016, 11:05 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by quh86 Quote
yes, excuse me. Its a very subjective term to describe how pleasing one finds the pictures the lens produces. Many regard the 16-85 as the most perfect standard zoom in pentax land at the moment. But there is more to a picture than sharpness and flare resistance. To me everything else the 16-50mm does better, star bursts look way better, colors are more pleasing to my eye, bokeh is naturally better since its f2.8, and simply the way the picture 'feels'.
Though, I am considering to sell the lens should it keep to disappoint me in the "sharpness department". So far im finding it not very sharp, considering it is supposed to be top of the line (I havent had it for that long now). Also you asked about the autofocus. I think SDM is slower than screw drive, but its nicely quiet. Though, i do believe you are better off with the newer DC motors the 16-85 or 20-40 offer.
However, i seem to have gotten an imperfect copy of the 16-50, so take my critique with a grain of salt.
Thanks for the clarification.
03-26-2016, 12:37 PM   #13
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The DA*16-50/2.8 is a very solid lens. Mine is still focusing using SDM after nearly 9 years. The experience of using the DA* 16-50 and looking at its images is nothing short of spectacular. Taking a holistic view of the lens's imaging, it is a great lens. You might prefer another lens for its advantages, but for an image with pixie dust, I'm keeping mine even if the SDM dies. I won't bother with the screw drive modification. In that focal length range, I still use MF quite a bit. All the time would not be a big loss.
03-26-2016, 12:47 PM - 2 Likes   #14
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I was unlucky with the 16-85... the first one I received had a problem with movement of one of the lens elements within the mechanism, causing movement of the viewfinder or live view image when focusing back and forth. I returned that, only to find that the replacement was decentered, as well as having a much less but still noticeable problem with movement of the viewfinder image during focusing. The dealer confirmed that both the first and replacement units were defective, as my tests had shown. I did some research online and found that there were several other reports of the problems I experienced, so I decided to go with a different lens and ultimately bought the Sigma 17-50 f/2.8, which I'm very happy with. I'm sure if I'd kept going through copies of the 16-85, I'd have ended up with a good one, but my confidence in it was dented somewhat. There are plenty here on the forum who own it and love it, and they are in the majority. It is certainly capable of excellent IQ, and arguably more uniform sharpness across the frame at all focal lengths and most apertures than the DA16-50 - however, the latter is faster at all focal lengths, and that may be a consideration. Both are clearly great lenses, so long as you get a good one (but that applies to any lens )...
03-27-2016, 05:15 AM - 1 Like   #15
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The 16-50 is a good lens. Its main drawback (apart from SDM failure) is its poor flare performance. I plan to replace it with the 16-85 which is supposedly better in this department.
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