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05-12-2017, 03:14 PM   #1
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Anyone replace a DA 17-70 with DA 16-85 or DA 18-135?

Hello All

I am asking anyone who replaced a DA 17-70 with either a 18-135 or 16-85 for their experiences. I am considering this move for three reasons: 1. Faster autofocus, 2. Weather resistance and 3. At least as sharp or sharper than the DA 17-70. My DA 17-70 is an older copy with the original SDM which still works as long as you use it at least once a week. Sharpness is in my opinion reasonably good, not equal to limited primes but more than good enough for close-ups and landscapes that do not need cropping.

Thanks, John

05-12-2017, 04:24 PM   #2
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I am a very happy owner of the 16-85. You have probably seen the positive reviews here -- the DC motor was a major selling point, and the rest is gravy. I'll offer a second, also positive, review from Germany:

Pentax HD DA 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR - Review / Test Report
05-12-2017, 06:21 PM - 1 Like   #3
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I briefly had the 17-70 but was never happy with the focus speed or the sharpness. Sold it and kept the DA 16-45. I recently sold the DA 16-45 and purchased the 16-85. Everything about this new lens is an improvement. Fast, quiet autofocus, extra reach, weather resistance and superb ergonomics. The manual focus is nearer to the body making focus adjust after autofocus very convenient. The zoom ring is large and easy to turn even with gloves. The 16-85 is also seriously sharp for a zoom lens with very high contrast. I think you would be pleased with it. It rarely leaves the K-3!
05-12-2017, 08:05 PM   #4
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Sold the 17 - 70 and bought the 18-135

I owned the 17-70 some time ago. The only thing I liked about it was the very handy range of 17 to 70mm. Beyond that my images were okay but never impressive. More importantly the SDM failed on me while it was still under warranty. They fixed it and I got another 9 or so months of use out of it and then it failed again. This time it was off warranty. I paid the cost of repair and packaged it and sold it with full disclosure to the buyer. I then bought the 18-135. The DC motor and the lens in general is indestructible. I use it when I'm going to the worst of places so it's been on a salty sandy beach, in the hot desert, in minus 30c weather, and just about everything in between. I've owned it for many years and the DC motor as never missed a beat. Very dependable. The images are fine and if you stop it down they are quite good and occasionally great. It's at it's best in the 20 to 80 range but it is nice to have the longer reach occasionally. There was no 16-85 when I bought it so that was not an option. However this is a less expensive lens with more reach so possibly the better value. If it were lost due to theft I don't know what I would replace it with. I would probably look seriously at the 16-85. Actually the dream lens would be the 20-40 but that is hard to justify. I think you would be happy with the 16-85 as I've heard many good comments about it. You should be happy with the 18-135 if you value the longer reach more than the wider lens. In any case I really wouldn't recommend the 17- 70 to anyone and I'm surprised that Pentax still sells them.

05-13-2017, 04:01 AM   #5
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I have been a long-time fan of the 17-70. I really came to appreciate this lens while traveling. For me it is the perfect do-it-all lens, in the sense that it doesn't have the compromises inherent to a longer zoom lens, has a constant aperture, and still a better range than "professional" glass. It sits smack down in the middle in that regard, which makes it incredibly versatile.

Having said that, I do wish build quality would be better, and my first sample in particular had unreliable AF. But the second one fixed that.

I wouldn't want to go with a longer lens if I wasn't convinced of the image quality of that lens at the long end, and that's what made me weary about the 18-135. Plus I wouldn't want to give up any wide-angle range. The 16-85 is probably much better, but you lose a stop at the long end. Again, not something I'd look forward too.

In your position I'd probably take a long and hard look at the Sigma 17-70/2.8-4. But then you're giving up weather resistance. Or the 16-85, but then you're giving up a stop at the long end.

Last edited by starbase218; 05-13-2017 at 04:37 AM.
05-13-2017, 11:17 AM   #6
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I would give the 16-85 a try. I love my DA 17-70 and I'll never sell it but sometimes I miss that 70-85 more reach and complete WR (speaking of an all-purpose single lens). Just my opinion.
05-13-2017, 12:35 PM - 1 Like   #7
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I upgraded 18-135 to 16-85, and image quality is way better. As per your criteria, speed of AF is nearly the same (at least I have not noticed any significant difference), and both have WR. Both lenses use DC motor, therefore AF is pretty quiet. I think there are three key differences between these lenses: image quality, price, and focal length shifted to wider end in case of 16-85. If you haven't seen review posted by Heie, please check this excellent comparison of 16-50, 16-85, and 18-135.
05-13-2017, 02:21 PM   #8
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What pentageek said😜

05-14-2017, 11:40 AM - 1 Like   #9
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I owned the DA 17-70 for a little over a year and considered it, optically, a really nice lens. My copy was particularly good in the 20 to 35 range, where I mostly used it. But the AF was useless — I had to use it exclusively in manual focus. So when the DA 16-85 came out, I grabbed one. It's a better lens overall, not merely in build quality and AF reliability and accuracy, but WR, and in image quality (sharper at the long end, better contrast, flare control, saturation throughout). If you have a well performing 17-70 (in terms of AF), there's no super compelling reason to upgrade to the DA 16-85, unless you really need the WR. Image quality improvement is hardly night and day, as a good copy of the DA 17-70 is pretty darn good and you have to do some pretty serious pixel peeping to notice a difference in resolution between the two lenses (at least in the 17 to 50 range).
05-14-2017, 02:18 PM - 1 Like   #10
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Yeah, I remember when I took my first 17-70 with me on a trip to Laos and Cambodia. The lens was very nice to use, but the AF was all over the place.

What I like about it though, is that 70mm f/4 gives you decent portrait capabilities. I shot these in Thailand several years ago with my second copy:



05-14-2017, 03:46 PM   #11
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I do think you have better options now available that have what you are looking for- better AF, build quality, and WR. These are good reasons to make a change. The DA 18-135mm is a very good, very versatile lens that has very fast, quiet, sure AF. It is also remarkably compact for its wide zoom range. I know, it is one of my most used lenses. It can likewise hold to f/3.5-4.5 wide open from 18-70mm for good portrait results, just as shown above with the DA 17-70 f/4. I believe the DA 16-85mm will hold to f/4.5 to about 50mm. The DA 18-135mm is at its best image quality at 18-70mm, quite close to that of the DA 16-85mm. It has been downgraded mainly because of soft corner and edge performance, mainly beyond 70mm. For portrait use, and usually for longer tele FL use, the edge and corners tend to be of less importance. Central sharpness and good contrast are very good throughout its range. In another thread comparing these lenses, someone showed their DXO photo editing software able to sharpen up edges and corners of images taken at longer FL with this lens.

In my case, however, I don't have to rely exclusively on this lens. I have others, including the DA 20-40mm Limited, numerous primes including the 15mm LTD, pro-grade zooms such as a Sigma 24-60mm f/2.8, a DA* 50-135mm f/2.8, and a very wide-angle DA 12-24mm f/4 for when I really want to go for ultra quality.

If you choose the DA 16-85mm because it has better edge performance especially at the longer end, and also because you are more interested in having more wide-angle, you cannot go wrong! It still offers a wider zoom range than what you have, WR and better build quality, and better, more reliable AF.

The quality the camera body you are using also is a factor. You've not indicated which. Superior high-ISO performance, for instance will partially make up for less aperture.
05-15-2017, 01:02 AM   #12
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So here's the thing: if the 18-135 is not so good from 70mm onwards, and you do want good image quality, the 17-70 offers that in the same range, plus 1mm more at the wide end and a constant aperture. Also I've read that the 18-135 is f/5.6 from 78mm on.

Regarding the importance of edge sharpness (I won't go as far as extreme corner sharpness), I have also put the 17-70 at f/5.6 or f/8 and 70mm and got tack sharp landscape shots of an island in Khao Sok national park. So to me it is important, at least when you close the aperture down a bit.

As for range, I also brought the 55-300 (and the 35/2.4 as well). But, despite getting a few nice shots with the 55-300, I more often wished I had something wider.

Yup, continuing to make a case for this lens.
08-21-2018, 01:47 AM   #13
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Can't help with a direct comparison. I skipped both the 17-70 and 18-135 for various reasons (mostly I wanted a silent/fast focus motor and WR lens for my main zoom). So I got a 16-85 and I'm happy with it so far.

08-21-2018, 05:15 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Luc More Quote
Can't help with a direct comparison. I skipped both the 17-70 and 18-135 for various reasons (mostly I wanted a silent/fast focus motor and WR lens for my main zoom). So I got a 16-85 and I'm happy with it so far.

Well, it is a little more a year after I posted this thread. Since then the SDM on my 17-70 died and I replaced it with a like new used DA 16-85. After having the 16-85 for a year now I am absolutely thrilled with it. It has prime like sharpness and the zoom range is even more versatile and the autofocus works perfectly all of the time. The only one disadvantage is the f3.6 to f5.6 variable aperture compared to the fixed f4.0 of the 17-70 but this has not had any impact in everyday use for me on my K-3. So my conclusion is that the 16-85 is 100% better in every way, including build quality.
08-21-2018, 05:15 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Luc More Quote
Can't help with a direct comparison. I skipped both the 17-70 and 18-135 for various reasons (mostly I wanted a silent/fast focus motor and WR lens for my main zoom). So I got a 16-85 and I'm happy with it so far.

Well, it is a little more than a year after I posted this thread. Since then the SDM on my 17-70 died and I replaced it with a like new used DA 16-85. After having the 16-85 for a year now I am absolutely thrilled with it. It has prime like sharpness and the zoom range is even more versatile and the autofocus works perfectly all of the time. The only one disadvantage is the f3.6 to f5.6 variable aperture compared to the fixed f4.0 of the 17-70 but this has not had any impact in everyday use for me on my K-3. So my conclusion is that the 16-85 is 100% better in every way, including build quality.
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