Pentax-DA 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 Review

Conclusion

Since the DA 18-135mm lens it arrived in the hands of Pentaxians, the 7.5x all-in-one zoom has amassed quite the following. As of the publication of this review, there are 82 user reviews that amount to an average rating of 8.52 out of 10. Head on over to B&H Photo Video's listing of the 18-135 and there's an even more impressive 4.6/5 score amassed over 63 reviews. Furthermore, over 90% of each location's reviewers stated they would recommend the lens to others.

What's interesting is that there is only one other lens that competes against the DA 18-135 that also features weather resistance. The latest super zoom announced by Fuji bears the same exact millimeter range and variable aperture (F3.5-5.6), albeit at twice the price and almost 100 grams more. As it stands today (July 2014), there is no other all-in-one zoom that offers wide angle to telephoto in a weather sealed package available for Pentax.

So who is this lens good for? Whether it's a first lens with that brand new shiny Pentax or a new addition to a seasoned photographer's camera bag, you'll be happy to know that this weather-sealed zoom isn't a one-trick pony. Unless that trick is being on your camera all the time and eliminating the need to change lenses when hiking up mountains, exploring your nearby concrete jungle, or getting caught in the rain.

At the end of the day, the bottom line is this - the DA 18-135 WR isn't a perfect lens, and we never made the mistake of positing it as such. It does a lot of things well, and some not so well. But we can honestly say that if there ever were a "Jack of all Trades" lens for Pentax cameras, this is surely it, especially when Mother Nature is in a foul mood.

For an excellent and relatively compact two-lens kit, we highly recommend this in conjunction with the also weather-sealed HD 55-300 WR. For our recently published in-depth review of that lens, click here.

Pros

  • Weather Sealed and overall excellent build quality
  • Excellent kit lens for beginners as well as "foul weather standard zoom" for advanced users
  • Highly accurate, fast, and silent DC autofocus
  • Maintains faster aperture across entire range as compared to similarly sized 18-55mm kit lens
  • Great overall image quality, contrast, and color rendition with excellent center sharpness
  • Highly versatile 7.5x zoom from 18mm to 135mm (27mm-203mm equivalent)
  • Compact - only slightly larger than 18-55mm kit zoom and smaller than Sigma's 17-70 "C"
  • Lightweight and a joy to use as a walkaround zoom
  • Excellent value, especially when bundled together as a kit with weather sealed Pentax cameras
  • Capable of excellent shallow depth-of-field portraits
  • Capable as a pseudo-macro lens with larger objects thanks to its 1:4 maximum reproduction ratio
  • Beautiful creamy bokeh, especially at longer focal lengths with a near subject
  • Relatively small 62mm filter thread size allows for affordable filters
  • Highly resistant to flare and other chromatic aberrations
  • Quick-Shift full-time manual focus override
  • Minimal vignetting at longer focal lengths
  • Supports in-camera lens corrections
  • SP coating makes the front element highly resistant to grease, oils, fingerprints, and water droplets
  • Handy weather sealed two-lens combo from 18-300mm when joined with the HD 55-300 WR

Cons

  • Corners are terribly soft and lacking in contrast, especially at wider angles due to high distortion
  • Distortion at wider angles can be problematic, particularly indoors
  • Narrow focus ring and focus ring placement makes manual focusing cumbersome
  • Lack of focus distance scale 
  • Vignetting is very strong at wider angles with little improvement after 2-3 stops
  • Long minimum focusing distance
  • Starbursts are relatively unattractive until stopping down past the point diffraction sets in

Purchasing Options

Unlike most lenses where they can only be purchased as stand-alone products, Pentax offeres the 18-135 bundled with camera bodies as well. As of the publication of this review, the 18-135 WR can be purchased brand new in one of the following ways:

Lens Only - $496

Lens Bundled with (also Weather Sealed) Pentax K-50 - $846

Lens Bundled with (also Weather Sealed) Pentax K-3 - $1546*

*Currently includes a free BG-5 Battery Grip ($218 value)

Rating

Build Quality 
 9
Handling 
 8
Sharpness 
 7
Bokeh 
 9
Aberrations 
 8
Distortions 
 7
Autofocus 
 10
Value 
 9
Overall 
 8.4 (Very Good)

Tell us what you think about this lens: post a review in our user review database!

EDITORIAL NOTE: the above value rating assumes that the 18-135mm is purchased as part of a camera kit, which results of a savings of $100-200 over the stanalone price.

Comments

 

 


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