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03-31-2020, 06:19 AM   #1
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SMC DA* 16-50 vs HD DA 16-85

I'm trying to get back into Pentax... And photography in general. And I've lost track of all the new developments.

If you guys were me and were trying to decide between the SMC DA* 16-50 and the HD DA 16-85, which one would you pick? And why? Obviously I intend to use this lens for general shooting. And to take it to places where the conditions are unsuitable for my precious limited lenses. I used to have a 18-135 that purpose, but I want something better now.

If I look at reviews and the scores at, for example, opticallimits, I get completely lost.

03-31-2020, 07:24 AM - 1 Like   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by Clavius Quote
I'm trying to get back into Pentax... And photography in general. And I've lost track of all the new developments.

If you guys were me and were trying to decide between the SMC DA* 16-50 and the HD DA 16-85, which one would you pick? And why? Obviously I intend to use this lens for general shooting. And to take it to places where the conditions are unsuitable for my precious limited lenses. I used to have a 18-135 that purpose, but I want something better now.

If I look at reviews and the scores at, for example, opticallimits, I get completely lost.
You may want to check both the user database and in depth reviews of both lenses on this forum and see what other users have to say about both lenses. This could help you decide, when you see what other users like and dislike about both lenses, which most meets your interests. As for me, I cannot speak for the DA* 16-50 since I do not have one nor have I even handled one. As for the 16-85 it is one of my most used lenses. It has quick reliable autofocus and is very sharp even when I compare it to my SMC Limited primes and DFA 100 macro WR. I bought mine to replace my DA 17-70 SDM and am very pleased with the 16-85.
03-31-2020, 07:50 AM - 1 Like   #3
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Me - personally - I would probably go with the DA*16-50 because I don't mind the size (and the 16-85 isn't a small lens either anyway). Though since you have a K-5IIs, the smaller aperture of the DA 16-85mm might not be a big issue for you - and you might enjoy the longer reach.
The DA*16-50 has its issues with flare and PF at the wide end, but it does generate some pretty amazing pictures, especially at smaller apertures. And it doesn't look bad at larger apertures if you shoot more for bokeh than for edge-to-edge sharpness. Meaning, it does a great job in what it's designed for - landscapes at smaller apertures, portraits/details at larger apertures.
Mind you, I don't have either one, but I have the DA 16-45mm f4 which has a similar range compared to the DA* 16-50mm f2.8, hence my answer...

...and to be perfectly honest, I find the DA 16-85mm pictures to be very good technically, but I have yet to see "pixie dust" or anything "magical" in its rendering... and that's a completely subjective thing! Not trying to start a fight over it....

Last edited by ChristianRock; 03-31-2020 at 08:03 AM. Reason: Typo
03-31-2020, 07:52 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Clavius Quote
I'm trying to get back into Pentax... And photography in general. And I've lost track of all the new developments.

If you guys were me and were trying to decide between the SMC DA* 16-50 and the HD DA 16-85, which one would you pick? And why? Obviously I intend to use this lens for general shooting. And to take it to places where the conditions are unsuitable for my precious limited lenses. I used to have a 18-135 that purpose, but I want something better now.

If I look at reviews and the scores at, for example, opticallimits, I get completely lost.
I like to know which camera you use. You have a really good lens: the 18-135. But the 16-85 is also very good. Those two are compared in the 16-85 review on this forum. Both are unique lenses, there is not a better quality lens with the same mm specifications. So another lens will be completely different and not easily comparable. So tell us about your camera and what you like to achieve with the new lens.
I just read you own a K5, I would go for the 16-85. In the Netherlands there are plenty of nice offers on this lens at the moment. It is sharp and it is affordable. It gives good quality images and it is fast AF with this one. I own this lens and it is perfect, did not need to try for a better one as it was a Ricoh-Pentax UK demo. I really like the 16mm side of it.


Last edited by AfterPentax; 03-31-2020 at 09:00 AM. Reason: found out he uses k5
03-31-2020, 07:55 AM - 1 Like   #5
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Many who used to own the 18-135 prefer the 16-85, and spoke with their wallets. (Always a good recommendation.)
IMHO ƒ2.8 in a wide angle is un-necessary, especially if you can cover low light with your limiteds.

My choice would be 16-85 plus DA 55-300 PLM, and keep all your limiteds.
But of course not everyone needs a telephoto.
03-31-2020, 08:02 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Clavius Quote
I'm trying to get back into Pentax... And photography in general. And I've lost track of all the new developments.

If you guys were me and were trying to decide between the SMC DA* 16-50 and the HD DA 16-85, which one would you pick? And why? Obviously I intend to use this lens for general shooting. And to take it to places where the conditions are unsuitable for my precious limited lenses. I used to have a 18-135 that purpose, but I want something better now.

If I look at reviews and the scores at, for example, opticallimits, I get completely lost.
Better than the 18-135 in what way(s)?

I only have the 16-85. I have the fifth copy I tried and am still not fully happy with it. I think the 27th copy might have been awesome; persisitance is the key. Seriously that's true for almost every lens, although there are some issues peculiar to the 16-85. The tendency for the image to reframe itself when you touch the focus ring, for example. I get soft edges (right at one focal length extreme, left at the other) on close-ups. So, despite the lens having almost no front barrel wobble, I have a label on the lens telling me which way to push the front barrel at different focal lengths - and amazingly that helps. And it only affects close-ups, I have no idea why. Also, with this lens and only with the lens, on all my bodies, AF just goes away sometimes and won't lock. I don't know what fixes it - I usually reboot, shake the camera, say nasty words, and some combination of that gets it going again, shortly after the picture opportunity has passed by. Luckily a lot of my photos are of things like rocks that don't move. Having said that, based purely on reviews, I would have zero interest in a 16-50 unless someone gave me one for free, in which case I'd send it directly to KEH and accept whatever they offered for it. I have the 17-50 Tamron and it (and another copy I tried) both lost communications with my bodies frequently. Amazingly, Tamron fixed mine under warranty on the second try! Seriously I think that's very good. But they can't fix the AF, which is just inconsistent across the focal length range at larger apertures - it's just not accurate enough. Plus the focus field curvature also affects performance at larger apertures. I might try a Sigma 17-50, and would surely try it before a Pentax 16-50. The actual competition for the 16-85 is probably the 17-70 Sigma. If I could find a really good copy of that I would like to get one and try it, although Sigma has bailed on Pentax of course. Oh, there's my 16-45 Pentax, which isn't bad, except the barrel wobbles so much it need its own passport in case it crosses national boundaries. It was better at 6mp, but moving up to 16mp you can see where gravity has its effects on vertical (but not horizontal) shots. Unlike with the 16-85, you can't push it in one direction or the other, since you'll overshoot and just end up with a different but equally unappealing effect. I know Pentax has a 17-70 too but just based on reviews and specs I'd try the Sigma first.
03-31-2020, 08:08 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
IMHO ƒ2.8 in a wide angle is un-necessary
Really? I thought the depth of field varies by the square of the focal length, meaning I can use my 15-30 @ 15mm f3.2 and get all in focus frame and enjoy the lower ISO thank to opening up the lens aperture to f3.2
03-31-2020, 08:10 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
I only have the 16-85. I have the fifth copy I tried and am still not fully happy with it.
Oh My, aren't you Mr. Persistent? That's insane that you didn't get one you liked.

QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
I have the 17-50 Tamron and it (and another copy I tried) both lost communications with my bodies frequently. Amazingly, Tamron fixed mine under warranty on the second try! Seriously I think that's very good. But they can't fix the AF, which is just inconsistent across the focal length range at larger apertures - it's just not accurate enough. Plus the focus field curvature also affects performance at larger apertures.
I once did a test shoot with it where it didn't nail the focus in 20 tries. The next day it was fine. Yet, my wife loves it. It's never behaved for her as it did for me. Maybe it just likes K-5s and doesn't like K-3s.

I always wonder about these lenses that were designed for lower MP and slower AF systems.

---------- Post added 03-31-20 at 11:15 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
Really? I thought the depth of field varies by the square of the focal length, meaning I can use my 15-30 @ 15mm f3.2 and get all in focus frame and enjoy the lower ISO thank to opening up the lens aperture to f3.2
But the lens will still be sharpest at ƒ5.6 and better edge to edge at ƒ8. It's a personal decision to compromise that not all of us will accept.
I get lower ISO by using a tripod in most circumstances.
These tend to be philosophical decisions, not practical ones.

That being said, if you're happy with the results, then it's all good.

Sometimes you do things because you have to, other times you make the choice that suits your philosophy. Most of us don't even check to see what the trade offs might be, or even if there are any. But I think most photographers shoot just under the diffraction limit, there aren't many lenses where that is ƒ 3.2.


Last edited by normhead; 03-31-2020 at 08:41 AM.
03-31-2020, 08:15 AM - 1 Like   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Clavius Quote
If you guys were me and were trying to decide between the SMC DA* 16-50 and the HD DA 16-85, which one would you pick?
Unless you need f/2.8 get the 16-85. I used the DA*16-50 for years on various cameras. Bought the 16-85 to try and after evaluation sold the 16-50. Obviously the 16-50 'wins' at f/2.8 and at some focal lengths it might be better optically. But not enough better to overcome the other limitations.

The only downside to the 16-85 is the slower and variable aperture. Which really is not an issue for general photography especially if it is backed up by prime lenses for special shots.
03-31-2020, 08:45 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
Oh My, aren't you Mr. Persistent? That's insane that you didn't get one you liked.


I once did a test shoot with it where it didn't nail the focus in 20 tries. The next day it was fine. Yet, my wife loves it. It's never behaved fo her as it did for me. Maybe it just likes K-5s and doesn't like K-3s.
I'm happy with the optics on #5, but wasn't on the first 4 copies. It's a wide zoom range and they all had edge issues at one point in the range or another. This one is as good as I need for 16mp and an AA filter. Give me a 24mp and no AA filter and... I'm really scared to go there. Maybe I should retrofit my K5 with a 6mp sensor. :-) Well only if it had the same dynamic range it has now. The only reason I don't like the 16-85 now is the annoying focus lock issue - which has improved over the last year all by itself to be maybe less than 5% of the time, down from maybe 10%, so again for what I do normally not a big issue. To give an example where it was a problem: I was still photographing rocks and trees, but from a tour boat. So frustrating. I'll confess I totally can't MF this lens on my K5 with the standard screen. I can use live view but... not really fast enough for the tour boat scenario. The crazy image jumping around when I even accidentally touch the focus ring... that's a very minor irritation for me, it just doesn't happen with any other lens I own, so I mentioned it. And of course others here on PF have reported the same thing with this lens.

As for the multiple copy thing, it's usually all about that last 10-20% on the edges. It just seems so hard for manufacturers to get that right all across a wide zoom range. I have only a couple of FF lenses and I don't see the issue there, maybe just because the last 10-20% isn't really the edge of the image. Even my 70-300 Tamron is more consistent across the APS frame than most of the theoretically superior 55-300s I've tried (I can't try the new version since I only have a K5, but wish I could.) Yes, I know, the Tamron has horrible purple fringing, especially at the long end. But pretty consistent sharpness - the edges are still worse than the center, but they're consistently worse, which is what I'm looking for. And it has pretty good sharpness across the field stopped down, at least under 200mm. I see no edge issues at all on my 50mm Sigma macro. While not quite FF, my 60-250 is very consistent across the frame, and especially after Pentax adjusted the AF under warranty, I'm happy with the performance.
03-31-2020, 08:47 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
I get lower ISO by using a tripod in most circumstances.
Most museum (and the like) don't allow tripods anymore. IBIS + wider aperture on a wide lens is very useful.
03-31-2020, 08:51 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
My choice would be 16-85 plus DA 55-300 PLM, and keep all your limiteds.
But of course not everyone needs a telephoto.
I am with Norm on this. I recently took these two lenses along with a couple of my primes on a trip to Australia/NZ, and I didn't end up taking one shot with the primes. These two lenses in combination are as versatile as it gets for general and travel photography.
03-31-2020, 09:02 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
I see no edge issues at all on my 50mm Sigma macro.
If you like consistent across a flat surface macros are the way to go. Their out of focus areas tend to be a bit messy though, although my Sigma 70 macro is excellent for both (although it still sacrifices some centre sharpness to keep th edges sharp.) It would be my favourite macro, if it wasn't so big and was WR.

---------- Post added 03-31-20 at 12:05 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
Most museum (and the like) don't allow tripods anymore. IBIS + wider aperture on a wide lens is very useful.
lol... we don't have any museums in Whitney.
There is always a reason why a given feature is a good thing in some circumstances.
But in this case the limiteds will cover the museum thing, and for many museum settings Id' go with a 2.8 Macro, not a 2.8 zoom.

Last edited by normhead; 03-31-2020 at 09:32 AM.
03-31-2020, 09:29 AM - 2 Likes   #14
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I love my DA* 16-50

I've owned the following lenses: Tamron 17-50, Sigma 17-50, Pentax DA 18-135, Pentax DA 16-85 and the DA* 16-50. And the only one I kept was the DA* 16-50. It's not perfect but it's the lens I like most. It's not the sharpest either - but it's realiable and I like the rendering from it. My copy of the DA 16-85 had soft borders and the images I took with it was boring and lacking something. I like the colors and the contrast from the DA* 16-50. Maybe I have a good copy because I also use it at 2.8 and don't get bothered by CA. My Sigma 17-50 was better at 2.8, but the colors were missing something - too cool to my taste.
03-31-2020, 09:33 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
If you like consistent across a flat surface macros are the way to go. Their out of focus areas tend to be a bit messy though, although my Sigma 70 macro is excellent for both. It would be my favourite macro, if it wasn't so big and was WR.
I would have preferred that 70mm but they are much harder to come by and more expensive generally. And of course WR would be nice and so too would be a bayonet hood. I took some photos recently with the 50mm with some OOF areas and I should check to see how they look, I honestly don't think I've paid much attention but now that you mention it, I should.

Last edited by tibbitts; 03-31-2020 at 09:41 AM.
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