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12-16-2008, 06:01 AM   #1
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DA 17-70 versus DA 16-45 on photozone

Now that Photozone has tested the DA 17-70mm F4 ED (IF) SDM it is possible to compare this newer lens to the DA 16-45mm F4 ED AL SMC . This is important to me, as I am always recommending the DA 16-45mm; I consider it a bargain lens, especially suited to those who want a good landscape or urban zoom that covers the most used focal lengths on digital.

Photozone really like the new lens, saying it is "undoubtedly the most desirable standard zoom lens in the current Pentax lens lineup", quite a statement considering there is a faster f/2.8 out there! However, comparing specs and test results, what are the main differences?
  • The 17-70 has an SDM motor only, and so cannot work on older bodies without this feature. The 16-45 has slot drive only.
  • The 17-70 is slightly larger but distinctly heavier, 485g versus 365g.
  • The 17-70 has similar though slightly better vignetting characteristics. At the wide end it has slightly poorer MTF, especially wide open, but this is indeed very slight. Neither of these measures are different enough to overcome sample variation.
  • The 17-70 has worse barrel distortion at 17mm compared to the 16-45 at 16mm -- 3.1% versus 2.5%.
  • The 17-70 has improved CA control, but it is still distinct enough to need post-processing in troublesome cases. I have never had big issues with the older zoom; I think perhaps Photozone got a particularly bad sample.
  • To state the obvious, the 17-70 takes away 1mm in the wide end to provide 25mm in the tele. Personally I'd always reach for something faster when shooting portraits, and when capturing landscapes only once (IIRC) did I wish the 16-45 had more reach. But for others the versatility might be nice.
For all this, the newer lens is 330, now that prices have settled. That compares with the bargain price of 195 for the 16-45mm.

I will still recommend the following to beginners looking to upgrade the kit: replace the zoom with the 16-45mm and save up the 135 towards the FA43 or FA77.

12-16-2008, 06:34 AM   #2
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Well I'm impressed! I didn't expect the 17-70 to do so well, and always thought it was a little expensive for an F4 with limited compatibility. But what a great range!

The 16-45 is definitely a bargain for the performance right now, but I always found the 45 too short for general purpose. I ended up selling mine and getting a Tamron 28-75, which suits my needs better, plus gave me F2.8.

I guess the big downside of this new lens is that on non-SDM bodies it's manual focus only, plus with the short focus throw it'd be next to useless at manual focusing! I noticed the DA* 55 is the same (though no idea about the focus throw) so it looks like the way of the future for Pentax.
12-16-2008, 07:21 AM   #3
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Thanks for the great summary points. Aside from SDM being "forward" technology, it appears I still get better bang for buck still with the 16-45 as a more economic complement to my 50-135.

Will have to keep an eye out for a good deal.

QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote
what are the main differences?
  • The 17-70 has an SDM motor only, and so cannot work on older bodies without this feature. The 16-45 has slot drive only.
  • The 17-70 is slightly larger but distinctly heavier, 485g versus 365g.
  • The 17-70 has similar though slightly better vignetting characteristics. At the wide end it has slightly poorer MTF, especially wide open, but this is indeed very slight. Neither of these measures are different enough to overcome sample variation.
  • The 17-70 has worse barrel distortion at 17mm compared to the 16-45 at 16mm -- 3.1% versus 2.5%.
  • The 17-70 has improved CA control, but it is still distinct enough to need post-processing in troublesome cases. I have never had big issues with the older zoom; I think perhaps Photozone got a particularly bad sample.
  • To state the obvious, the 17-70 takes away 1mm in the wide end to provide 25mm in the tele. Personally I'd always reach for something faster when shooting portraits, and when capturing landscapes only once (IIRC) did I wish the 16-45 had more reach. But for others the versatility might be nice.
12-16-2008, 10:15 AM   #4
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I had the DA 16-45mm for some time but sold it. I am using a Sigma 17-70mm in its place. The DA 16-45mm I had gave an even optical performance in the center and the edges. It gave nice punchy colors but my copy consistently underexposed by 1/3 to 1/2 stop when compared to my calibrated light meter.

On the negatives, it does come up a little short on the long end. Build quality isn't very robust, especially the well used copies that I have seen have very loose zoom and focus rings. The lens barrel extends at the 16mm setting, which makes use of the built-in flash pretty much useless. I would imagine the new DA 17-70mm would be more versatile in terms of focal range and the quiet focusing gives it the edge in certain shooting situations.

12-16-2008, 11:00 AM   #5
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The short-throw of the DA17-70/4 is suppose to make AF faster. Are most DA17-70/4 users happy with the AF speed? Instead of developing ring-type SDM, is Pentax trying to increase AF speed with short-throw focusing and micro-motor?
12-16-2008, 11:24 AM   #6
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I recently got Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 and I really like the performance of the Tamron zoom, especially in the wide angle. I sold it due to the need to plan for a 2nd system in trimming zoom lens. And before I know it, I saw a used copy of Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4.5. While it is not as wide as 16mm, it covers the broader range a bit better for me. The Sigma has some compromise on lower speed but I find it great overall with pleasing performance in the wide angle and very useful with closeup. The extra gain on focal range from 50mm to 70mm will allow me to have less lens change and I like the results in portraits from 35mm to 70mm on this lens. It is one of the versatile lens that serves few purposes on wide angle, close up with 1:2.3 magnification, and portraits from 35mm to 70mm. It has a trio usage and all perform quite satisfactory for the price.

While the DA 16-45mm is a great performer, I recommend a look into the good old popular and maybe forgotten Sigma 17-70mm zoom that share the same focal range as the DA 17-70. I find sharpness to be a bit better in Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 but I find the close up to be enjoyable to use with Sigma. The Sigma zoom can rival well with Tamron 28-75 and it fills in the need for wide angle very well.

Someone may pick the zoom lens not to have the overlapping gaps, I on the contrary will welcome overlaps on zooms. The reason is simple -- less lens change, perhaps my lame LBA excuses. I prefer shorter zooms with lesser compromise but when the zooms overlap, that is okay by my book of LBA excuses.

Say for the combination of Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4.5 and Pentax DA* 50-135 f/2.8, I pick Sigma for the wide angle needs but it can also fill in the need for portraits from 35mm to 70mm. When it is dim, use flash to make up the lack of speed. And of course, DA* can do well in portrait along with the longer needs, and the weather proofing needs as in the beach or light rainy days or sport action requiring a longer reach. I wish the DA* 50-135 is a DA* 50-200 f/2.8, it would have been more perfect for the price tag on the zoom.

Thanks,
Hin
12-16-2008, 11:50 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by creampuff Quote
I had the DA 16-45mm for some time but sold it. I am using a Sigma 17-70mm in its place. The DA 16-45mm I had gave an even optical performance in the center and the edges. It gave nice punchy colors but my copy consistently underexposed by 1/3 to 1/2 stop when compared to my calibrated light meter.

On the negatives, it does come up a little short on the long end. Build quality isn't very robust, especially the well used copies that I have seen have very loose zoom and focus rings. The lens barrel extends at the 16mm setting, which makes use of the built-in flash pretty much useless. I would imagine the new DA 17-70mm would be more versatile in terms of focal range and the quiet focusing gives it the edge in certain shooting situations.
I had a 16-45 and I found that it under exposed a lot of the time also. I also found the the corner sharpness wasn't there, at least for my copy, so I sold it for a Tamron 17-50 and couldn't be happier.
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