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03-18-2018, 06:21 AM - 1 Like   #1
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Sigma 17-70 Contemporary v. Pentax HD DA 16-85 v. Pentax 18-135 WR

Now, even being new here, I know this is not a new subject, and has been discussed previously. Still, I don't feel like I'm getting much smarter from reading other people's threads, so I'm making my own.

I'm replacing my trusty 9-year-old K-x with a K-70 very soon, and I'm looking for a walk-around zoom lens to go with it. My collection of lenses so far can be summed up with "whatever I could afford at the time": my previous go-to Sigma 18-50mm that I got alongside the K-x broke, so now I have an old wide-angle Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5, Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8 and a Sigma DC 50-200 f/4-5.6. Oh, I think I have the kit 18-55 from my K-x lying around somewhere too, though I've never used it.

I'm a bit better off financially than I have been, but by no means rich, so price does factor into the equation here. As I see it currently, I have three options: getting a kit with the K-70 and the Sigma 17-70 Contemporary; getting a kit with the Pentax 18-135mm WR, or getting the K-70 body only for now, saving up for a bit, and getting the Pentax HD DA 16-85mm at a later time - I can't afford to buy that lens and the camera right now.

From what I've seen so far, impressions seem to be that the 17-70 and 16-85 are quite comparable in terms of image quality, while the 18-135 is quite a bit behind, while also being slow to focus. I'm by no means an image quality snob, though. Also, the 18-135 has a killer combination of price and range. Lastly, the 16-85 is around 50% more expensive than the Sigma, and in return I would get weather sealing, an infinitesimally wider wide-angle and a bit more telephoto range - this seems expensive.

Given that I have a 50-200, I don't really need more range, but the extra wide-angle interests me. Then again, 16mm v. 17mm (v. 18mm?) shouldn't really be noticeable, right? Not to mention that the Sigma has a wider aperture. Weather sealing is a big plus, though, for travelling to humid and dusty/sandy locations. Then again, my K-x has survived both the Peruvian Amazon, jungles of Borneo, and two months backpacking through southern India when it was brand-new.

As you can probably see, I don't really have a clue, although I'm leaning towards the Sigma, even if it lacks weather sealing. It seems like a great combination of image quality, price and range. I'm just wary that I'd ultimately be happier with the 16-85, and that it'd last longer due to the weather sealing - but then I'd be without a walk-around zoom for this summer's trip to Cambodia. Or might the 18-135 be good enough for me, with the benefit of a lower price and more range without changing lenses? #firstworldproblems, I suppose.

03-18-2018, 06:36 AM - 1 Like   #2
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I have never used the 16-85 or that 17-70. I have used the Pentax 17-70 and many great lenses including all the DA* zooms. I have no idea what you mean about slow focusing on the 18-135. The 18-135 is a DC motor lens like the 16-85 and is rather fast focusing. The sdm DA* 50-135 on the other hand is very slow to focus comparatively.

Also quite a few of the opinions I've seen in the 18-135 seem to be from people who haven't used it. Read the forum review of the 16-85 where they directly compare them and look at this thread DA 18-135 WR, Show us what it can do - PentaxForums.com before you decide. Given that you have the 10-24 and Sigma 50-200 you could get away with the 18-55 you have but that's a noisy slow to focus lens.

Essentially it boils down to, what range is best for you and do you like better as far as image quality vs price.
03-18-2018, 06:37 AM - 1 Like   #3
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There is a thread dedicsted to the 18-135mm with many photos that demonstrate how good a lens it is. IMO,it it is a bargain, if you are on a budget. I like to shoot in bad weather, so the WR is a real positive for me. I would like to try out a 16-85, IIRC there is also a thread for that lens.
03-18-2018, 06:59 AM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Valantar Quote
Now, even being new here, I know this is not a new subject, and has been discussed previously. Still, I don't feel like I'm getting much smarter from reading other people's threads, so I'm making my own.

I'm replacing my trusty 9-year-old K-x with a K-70 very soon, and I'm looking for a walk-around zoom lens to go with it. My collection of lenses so far can be summed up with "whatever I could afford at the time": my previous go-to Sigma 18-50mm that I got alongside the K-x broke, so now I have an old wide-angle Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5, Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8 and a Sigma DC 50-200 f/4-5.6. Oh, I think I have the kit 18-55 from my K-x lying around somewhere too, though I've never used it.

I'm a bit better off financially than I have been, but by no means rich, so price does factor into the equation here. As I see it currently, I have three options: getting a kit with the K-70 and the Sigma 17-70 Contemporary; getting a kit with the Pentax 18-135mm WR, or getting the K-70 body only for now, saving up for a bit, and getting the Pentax HD DA 16-85mm at a later time - I can't afford to buy that lens and the camera right now.

From what I've seen so far, impressions seem to be that the 17-70 and 16-85 are quite comparable in terms of image quality, while the 18-135 is quite a bit behind, while also being slow to focus. I'm by no means an image quality snob, though. Also, the 18-135 has a killer combination of price and range. Lastly, the 16-85 is around 50% more expensive than the Sigma, and in return I would get weather sealing, an infinitesimally wider wide-angle and a bit more telephoto range - this seems expensive.

Given that I have a 50-200, I don't really need more range, but the extra wide-angle interests me. Then again, 16mm v. 17mm (v. 18mm?) shouldn't really be noticeable, right? Not to mention that the Sigma has a wider aperture. Weather sealing is a big plus, though, for travelling to humid and dusty/sandy locations. Then again, my K-x has survived both the Peruvian Amazon, jungles of Borneo, and two months backpacking through southern India when it was brand-new.

As you can probably see, I don't really have a clue, although I'm leaning towards the Sigma, even if it lacks weather sealing. It seems like a great combination of image quality, price and range. I'm just wary that I'd ultimately be happier with the 16-85, and that it'd last longer due to the weather sealing - but then I'd be without a walk-around zoom for this summer's trip to Cambodia. Or might the 18-135 be good enough for me, with the benefit of a lower price and more range without changing lenses? #firstworldproblems, I suppose.
On the wide end a millimeter or two do make a significant difference (percentage of angle of view), however you already have wide covered with your Tamron. If you want to consider another option, both Tamron and Sigma offer high quality 17-50mm f/2.8 lenses that gather a little more light than the others. Personally, before investing in more glass, I would give the 18-55mm kit lens a chance to see if that focal length range is what you would be most likely to use, or if the option of longer (18-135) would get more use.

03-18-2018, 07:27 AM - 3 Likes   #5
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I went for K-70 and 18-135 mm and also added 55-300 mm PLM WR RE lens. This combination is fantastic, you will never regret and yet your budget will be very much under control. I would advise you to get wide prime lens to be added later such as 15 mm ldt or 14mm f/2.8 lens.

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03-18-2018, 08:02 AM   #6
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I have had the 17-70 for a few years and recently bought the 16-85. I consider it an upgrade over the 17-70 in IQ particularly on the wide end, and add the extra range and WR, to me there is no comparison. Right now it is only $50 more than the Sigma on BH.
03-18-2018, 09:03 AM   #7
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I've never used the Sigma but I have and use the 16-85 and the 18-135. Actually the 16-85 is on my K-3II and the 18-135 is on my wife's K-3. When we shoot together it is a a toss up which images are better, some mine, some hers. I believe the 16-85 is a bit better but certainly the 18-135 is not "quite a bit behind". The 16-85 seems to be slightly sharper on the edges, in the center there is no practical difference in the real world. Both use DC motors for AF and are fast, silent and accurate. No idea where you came up with "while also being slow to focus", that is simply untrue.

The biggest difference is the extra 2mm at the wide end of the 16-85 which can be significant and the extra 50mm at the long end of the 18-135. If you have the budget I would go with the 16-85 but if budget does not allow I would have no hesitation buying the 18-135. If you are satisfied with the performance of the 50-200 then either the 16-85 or 18-135 will impress you.

QuoteOriginally posted by Valantar Quote
Then again, 16mm v. 17mm (v. 18mm?) shouldn't really be noticeable, right?
2mm at 100mm is not noticeable. 2mm at 16mm is very definitely noticeable.
03-18-2018, 09:41 AM - 3 Likes   #8
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I have the 18-135, the 16-85, the *16-50, and the first-generation Sigma 17-70. Which lens you choose depends more on what you want to do with the final images and a few other factors. If you are a pixel peeper, and want corner sharpness, the 16-50 is better, followed very closely by the 16-85, then the 17-70, and the 18-135 is last. Center sharpness is basically the same between them, the corners are where the big differences lie. The 18-135 corners are worst at the long end, but never amazing. On your monitor, or on facebook, the differences are small. Printed big, or on a 30" monitor, you can definitely see the differences.

18-135: If it's the Pentax kit with the 18-135 already in it, and the plus-cost is around $200, this is your very best bang for the buck. You can sell it for around $200 or a little more, so if you don't like it, sell it along, you have lost zero dollars. The 18-135 is a great one-lens vacation lens, hiking lens, whatever. It's WR so you can take it out in bad weather. There's really a lot to recommend this. You can shoot with this lens while you save up another 350, sell it for what you paid, trade up to the 16-85!

Sigma: The first-generation Sigma is screw drive and you can get one used for around $150 or so, so a very budget-friendly solution. The contemporary is a little nicer, doesn't focus quite as closely, and it has a silent motor. Not WR. I'd say the IQ is very slightly nicer than the 18-135, but what I really like is the close focusing. Focuses very close for dramatic wide angle shots of things. If you have to pay more for the Sigma C vs. the 18-135, I wouldn't do it.

The 16-85 is nicer than the 18-135 in their shared range, but the 135 will get you closer to the action. If you already carry the 50-200, then you don't need 135, but then again, this is a big step up, price wise. The 16-85 is much better for flare, which is important for me, not so much for others.

The 16-50 can be had used for around $300 if you are patient. The SDM motor WILL fail on you eventually, and you'll need to get it converted to screw drive, but whatever. It's a great lens at this price. At full retail? No, but at $300? YES!! My only caveat for recommending this lens, assuming you will buy only one lens, is me personally, I hate having to switch at 50mm as I often hover around this FL. If I know up front I won't need to be around 50, I'll take this and my 55-300, or a 70-200 if I'm feeling strong (the 70-200's are all very heavy). Or if what I'm planning on doing is slow enough that I will have time to change lenses, and photography is my main objective, then this is a great choice. If my main objective is spending family time, or taking a vacation, or seeing the sights and the camera is along for the secondary purpose of photography, the 18-135 is ideal in this case.

The 16-85 you said is out of your budget now, and if I were in your budget-shoes, I would get the 18-135 and not worry one bit! I'd get the 18-135, next step upgrade the 50-200 to the 55-300 PLM, then another $300 later get a 16-50 (or the Sigma 17-50/2.8) used. After that, you should explore the DA or FA primes, but now we're in big-money territory!

03-18-2018, 09:41 AM   #9
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Well, that was quick Thanks for your replies. I'll try to clarify things a bit:

- My main reason for not looking at anything ~18-50 is that I've quite consistently felt constrained by my old Sigma 18-50, and that there's virtually no price difference between those and the 18-135 or 17-70. That was before I got my 50-200, but is still relevant for when I don't have that with me. While the wider aperture across the range is good, I don't know how much use I'll actually have for that. I don't mind pushing the ISO a bit higher when needed (especially given reportedly excellent high ISO performance from the K-70) - noise doesn't bother me all that much, and I don't envision needing, say, 50mm f/2.8 all that often. Of course, I also have my 50mm f/1.8 for that.

- Ideally, I want this lens to have enough range that I could leave one or both of the telephoto and wide-angle zooms behind for city walks and the like (at least unless I know I'll want more wide-angle for something). Conversely, I'd probably leave this lens behind for any hikes and similar trips, as the telephoto and wide-angle should have me covered there. Then again, having a wide-enough low end to leave the wide-angle behind (if the hike is in dense forest, or something) would also be a plus. I can't imagine I'll be carrying all three zooms with me often, which is why a certain degree of overlap is good, especially on the wide end.

- I've seen the 18-135mm photo thread, and a lot of the stuff there looks great - I'm in no way denying that. Most of the criticism I've seen has been from reviews (such as DPReview's K-70 review). As I said, I'm not an IQ snob, so it's not at all unlikely that the 18-135 is good enough for me, but it does feel a bit redundant, given that almost 2/3 of its range is covered by my 50-200 at equivalent apertures (while not being long enough to replace it outright). This leads me to think along the lines of "If I have to pay this much anyhow, why not pay for image quality, when the extra telephoto range is already covered?" A base aperture of 3.5 also seems like somewhat of a drawback (have to draw the line somewhere, I guess) - but that counts against the 16-85 too. I'm also aware that most reviewers seem quite uptight about things like AF speed, to a degree that I'd probably never even notice. Anything that isn't screw-drive is most likely good enough.

- When it comes to my current two zooms, I'm planning on replacing them both at some point. The 55-300mm PLM is definitely on my wish list (mainly for the added range), but given that the 50-200 is my most recent lens purchase (and I'm surprisingly happy with it, especially as I only paid around $70 for it new!) that can wait a few years. The wide-angle uses screw-drive focusing, which is enough of a reason to replace it, but I've also struggled to get properly sharp pictures with it. I'm not sure if that's a problem with it, me, or the K-x, though, so I'm holding off until I can look into that with the K-70. Still, a replacement for that is likely my next purchase.


For me right now the Sigma C seems like the best compromise in terms of price and range - roughly the same price as the 18-50 options and 18-135, with significantly better range than the former and better IQ and a wider base aperture than the latter. The 16-85 has even better range and equivalent IQ to the Sigma C, but at a significantly higher price. All the options seem to have their own advantages - better apertures on the 18-50 options, WR and better range on the Pentax lenses, and so on. This is exactly why I'm asking - this is a really difficult call to make.


A specific reply to ToddK: being in Norway, buying from B&H isn't really an option, as the price would rise quite a bit due to VAT and import duties. It would likely be a bit cheaper than buying the lens here in Norway, but not significantly, and certainly not enough to bring it down to the level of the other lenses discussed here (especially given that your comparison, the Sigma C, seems disproportionately expensive at B&H for some reason). Not to mention that any RMAs or similar processes would be an utter nightmare. My options are mainly japanphoto.no and scandinavianphoto.no.
03-18-2018, 10:14 AM   #10
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I have the 16-85, and it is very impressing. I had an 18-55 AL II and it was an excellent lens, I also used it for a lot of shooting. I decided to get the 16-85 because it gave me the wideness and length that I wanted, and it is excellent. If you do want the 16 wideness as opposed to the 18 I would recommend the 16-85, otherwise I would recommend the 18-135 if you want more telephoto versatility. I just want to note that the 16 end has given me a very nice advantage when doing landscape as opposed to the 18. I am not sure how much you plan on using your camera indoors, but if you do, a flash will do well with the 16-85 or the 18-135. If you wanted to get something F 2.8 for portraits later you could possibly plan on a Pentax 70-200, which I also have, and it is nice.

Last edited by C_Jones; 03-18-2018 at 10:23 AM.
03-18-2018, 10:22 AM   #11
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I own both the 16-85 and the 18-135. They are both fast focusing and I am happy with the IQ of both though the 16-85 has s slightly better. I use the 18-135 over the 16-85 when I think that I may need a little more reach.

If you canít afford the 16-85 now then buy the 18-135 and you will be very happy.

PS
I purchased my 18-135 from a forum member for just under $200.
03-18-2018, 10:45 AM   #12
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Well, I suppose I should leave behind any impression that the AF speed of the 18-135 is a drawback, then. Good to know, and especially comforting when mistaken impressions left by overly-picky reviewers are corrected

As such, it seems right now that my choice is between the 18-135 or the Sigma 17-70. Or, if I can live with it, dusting off the old screw-drive 18-55 K-x kit lens and using that for a year while I save up for the 16-85. That's not exactly appealing, though.

As it stands, for me:
The Sigma 17-70 seems to have a slight edge in IQ (I probably wouldn't notice), and is slightly wider at 17mm, which is a priority. Lacks WR, but has a better aperture range.
The Pentax 18-135 has a far wider range, but the vast majority of it is redundant. If I know I'll want a telephoto lens, 135 isn't enough, and I'd bring my 50-200. On the other hand, it's 18mm at the wide end. Has WR, which is definitely a good thing.

As such, it more or less boils down to whether I want a slightly wider lens with a better base aperture, or weather sealing. Frankly, that seems like a toss-up, especially since I don't know how well I'd trust the weather sealing anyhow (haven't ever had a sealed DSLR, so ...). Could I comfortably use it in pouring rain? My K-x and various lenses have survived drizzles, mist and 100% humidity fine, but I've never pushed it beyond the camera getting sort of wet.

---------- Post added 03-18-18 at 11:04 AM ----------

In case any of you are wondering what prices I'm working from when I say that a bunch of these lenses are roughly the same cost:

Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f2.8: 3593 NOK
Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8: 3893 NOK
Pentax smc DA 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6: 3973 NOK
Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC C: 4288 (although another store currently has it at 3499 after a -1000NOK rebate code)

Pentax HD DA 16-85mm ED WR: 6894 NOK

K-70 Body: 6594 NOK
Pentax K-70 + Sigma 17-70mm kit: 10499 NOK (so, with the offer above, it's cheaper to buy them separately, at 10094 NOK)
Pentax K-70 + 18-135mm WR: 9398 NOK (+2804 NOK, or more than I'd be able to sell the lens for given the atrocious used Pentax market in this country, but a significant rebate from buying separately).
03-18-2018, 11:05 AM   #13
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The weather sealing may give some more protection, though like you said, vulnerability is sort of a universal thing. It looks like you want something like the 16-85 though, and that you have its' characteristics in mind for the shooting you want to do. I think what might be nice for you is to do some shooting with your 18-55 after you clean it thoroughly, and see/learn what you like to do, for example long exposure landscape, then apply some of that experience/technique to a 16-85. I really don't know how much or what type experience you have, but that seems like a part of what you are interested in. With a tripod you will have a versatile availability of technique, whereas most walkaround scenes at the wide to medium range would be possible.
03-18-2018, 11:05 AM   #14
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Oh, and I forgot about the macro capabilities of the Sigma 17-70, which definitely counts in it's 'pro' column for me. This just keeps getting more complicated :P
03-18-2018, 11:18 AM   #15
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Once you get the K-70 you will be experiencing an advancement in performance. You could either go with the 18-135 in a K-70 kit to start, or if you can't go without the wide end being 16 or 17, you may want the 16-85 or 17-70. I opted for the 16-85 for image quality. Of course it is your decision though.
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