Pentax-DA 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 WR Review

Conclusion

We find the DA 18-55mm WR to be the most desirable and impressive version of the 18-55mm Pentax kit lens.  Compared to the budged DA L variants, the DA version of the kit lens includes all the usual features you'd find in other typical DA lenses, such as a metal lens mount and full-time manual focus override. Not only is its build quality superb, the optical performance is quite decent as well. Being a modern lens, it has excellent control of flaring and chromatic aberrations. Since it is a kit lens it does have a few weaknesses, mainly the distortion (which can be corrected by the camera body's software or in post-processing), softness at wider apertures, and vignetting. The most notable feature of this lens is Pentax' signature weather sealing, which was only available through much more expensive lenses until the DA 18-55mm WR came out.

Pros:

  • Best build quality and robustness among Pentax kit lenses
  • WR - Weather Resistance
  • Good value considering all features and performance
  • Light and compact, high usability
  • Relatively fast autofocus and Quick-Shift manual focus
  • Well controlled chromatic aberrations and fairly flare resistant
  • Convenient features such as the polarizer adjustment door and focusing scale

Cons:

  • Sharpness falls short of other lenses
  • Significant vignetting and distortion
  • Not the cheapest for a 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens
  • Focus ring too small for precise manual focusing, not enough space for hands to hold the lens
  • Noisy autofocus

Who is it For

If you want a fairly inexpensive yet capable "walk around" zoom for outdoor shooting, the DA 18-55mm WR is the lens we suggest. It is light, compact, versatile, and unobtrusive, its high quality construction, weather sealing, and overall robustness are class leading among kit lenses. Also, its styling and weather sealing are good match for a Pentax weather resistant DSLR body (such as a K-7, K-5, K-5ii, K-5iis, K-3, K-30, and K-50).

It is well suited for all sorts of outdoor shooting, such as street, landscape, environmental portraits, wildlife, etc. The only reason we hesitate to recommend this lens for indoor usage is because the slow aperture is not suited for low light scenarios. If used with strobes, this slow aperture of this lens is much less of a concern (as can be seen in the image gallery portion of this review). 

While the optical performance cannot be compared to more expensive lenses, we feel that the DA 18-55mm WR is a lens that every Pentax enthusiast should consider having in their camera bag. The WR and build quality are well worth the price. Now there are no reason to stop photography while you "find your element", as the Pentax slogan states!

If you happen to mostly shoot with manual lenses or non-sealed primes, then this is a great lens to have in case you need to take your camera outside on a rainy day.  It also gives you all-in-one convenience for when switching lenses is not an option.

The Bottom Line

Priced at 196.95 USD, the decision to acquire a DA 18-55mm WR should be a fairly easy choice, it's simply the best Pentax zoom in production and under 200 USD. It has a metal mount, which is superior to the plastic ones of the DA L kit lenses, and a very nice build quality. Optically, it does have its own strengths and weaknesses, but we consider that the overall performance is more than acceptable, and that it would be highly unreasonable to expect a near perfect performance out of a kit lens. Even with its few shortcomings in optical performance, we consider the value of this lens to be excellent.

Whether you're looking for the best Pentax 18-55mm lens or an inexpensive lens for adventurous outdoor shooting, we highly suggest considering the SMC DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL WR!

Rating

Build Quality 
 8
Sharpness 
 6
Bokeh 
 7
Aberrations 
 7
Distortions 
 7
Handling 
 9
Autofocus 
 8
Value 
 8
Overall 
 7.5 (Good)

Do you own the Pentax SMC DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL WR? Post your own review and rating in the Lens Review Database!

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