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08-28-2018, 07:30 AM   #1
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HD 16-85 vs 55-300 PLM, DA* 50-135, M28/2 & M50/1.4 : IQ/Sharpness

Hi everyone,

After having used extensively the 55-300 PLM this summer and being blown away by its image quality for the price, I acquired the acclaimed HD 16-85 to build a 2 zooms light kit.
I was having quite high expectations because of reviews that all seem to point out the great IQ/sharpness. I've lasted a few weeks to have some proper testing and.. I just realize that my copy of 16-85 isn't quite sharp.
Today I shot some comparison tests with my DA* 50-135, PLM 55-300, M 50/1.4 and M 28/2, mostly at infinity focus / landscape-ish.


My 55-300 is not quite differentiable in terms of sharpness from my DA* or my M 50.
My 16-85 is worse than DA*, M28, M50 or PLM55-300.

Here are a few comparison pictures 100%crop, taken with K-3 II @ISO 250, 1/320, F8 (variations in exposure due to some ISO200 pictures).
JPEG L*** straight out of camera, "natural" processing with all values set to 0.


16-85 @28mm :


M 28/2 :


16-85 @48mm:


M50/1.4 :


55-300 @ 55mm:


DA* 50-135 @50mm:


16-85 @85mm:


50-135 @85mm:


55-300@78mm:




Am I expecting too much ?

If so, is my copy of 55-300 such a good copy that it's easily better than my 16-85 ? Or is it supposed to be this way ?


Last edited by azath; 08-28-2018 at 07:37 AM.
08-28-2018, 07:47 AM   #2
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Have you used autofocus or manual focus in LV with magnification?
In your first image the pine cones look more in focus to me than the hill, so maybe your AF needs finetuning.
If you focused manually in LV you probably have a bad copy of the lens.
08-28-2018, 07:58 AM   #3
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Your expectation are on the right level - only your lens doesn't deliver. The question is: why?


I'm using the 16-85 on a K3-ii and get decent results. However: it's the third copy of this lens. The first two had decentering issues (mooshy corners at one side). The first also had problems to deliver sharp pictures at great distances (the focus wouldn't lock occasionally).


Decentering does not explain why a picture which is not sharp across the frame - as your shot @28mm shows -, so I doubt that this is the explanation in your case.


Before returning the lens I suggest checking for front-/backfocus. If all pictures are soft there may be a cure by adjusting focus for this in-camera.
08-28-2018, 08:11 AM   #4
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I have the 16-85 and 55-300 plm and they're about as sharp, with similar drop towards the long end. I'd also suggest focus fine tuning or checking with live view focusing, your examples look misfocused. That being said, the 16-85 is at its weakest at 85mm, whereas the plm (and I'm guessing the star) are in the better part of their range.


Last edited by aaacb; 08-28-2018 at 08:28 AM.
08-28-2018, 08:29 AM   #5
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Thank you for your answers.

I do always get the same kind of results while manually focusing with LV magnification : far from sharp.
So I guess this is just a bad copy...

---------- Post added 08-28-18 at 08:55 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by othar Quote
In your first image the pine cones look more in focus to me than the hill, so maybe your AF needs finetuning.
On the full image, the pine is not more in focus. I was using AF for this shot, but I've been since doing more shots using LV magnification, and even though highlighted as "in focus" in LV, the shots are every time quite as unsharp.
08-28-2018, 04:40 PM   #6
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Having had the 16-85 (gave it to my daughter when I got my 16-50 ), it should do better. I think you must have a bad copy. Also, isn't the 55-300 PLM a sweet surprise? I've been impressed with some comparison shots I did with the DA* 60-250, and if you need focus speed, game over.
08-29-2018, 01:38 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by clickclick Quote
Having had the 16-85 (gave it to my daughter when I got my 16-50 ), it should do better. I think you must have a bad copy. Also, isn't the 55-300 PLM a sweet surprise? I've been impressed with some comparison shots I did with the DA* 60-250, and if you need focus speed, game over.
Yes, thank you.

Abouth the PLM, I've been using the 60-250 quite a lot and was also stocked by the IQ of the 55-300 compared to the DA*.
The focus speed is indeed impressive with the PLM. BUT ! The AF.C tracking is more precise with the SDM. Being a rafting (river sports) shooter on the summer and producing hundreds of shot of this type daily, I can tell you I was not worried about loosing the focus with the DA* (rafts are relatively slow moving), while with the 55-300 I'd miss shots with the focus slightly off (say, 20% of the shots).
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