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

Construction and Handling

The first impression upon handling the Pentax 18-55mm WR is its mechanical tolerance. The zoom and focus ring feel tighter than its predecessor, the AL II version. The extension of the lens barrel has barely any wiggle room if any at all. When observing the rear portion of the lens (on the K-mount), the unique WR red gasket of this lens can be seen.

This lens does not have internal focus or internal zoom. There is a small barrel extension, no more than 1cm. The point of longest extension is at close focus (0.25m) and 55mm focal length, while at infinity focus and 35mm focal length, there is no extension. Our opinion in this topic is that, although the weather resistance of this lens is proven when used in the field, it can be further improved by making it a internal focus and internal zoom design.

Maximum barrel extension No barrel extension

Apart from the red gasket, the rear element and mount is as usual for Pentax screw-drive lenses. It includes the aperture lever, the electronic contacts, and the autofocus screw. While the construction of the barrel is plastic, the lens mount is metal, which is something not all kit lenses have. This feature provides additional robustness and longevity to the DA 18-55mm WR lens.

The DA 18-55mm WR does not have many controls, only the zoom ring, focus ring and their respective scales. As with other DA lenses, it does not have a aperture ring, as the aperture is controlled by the body.

A. Focus scale

B. Focus ring

C. Zoom ring

D. Focal length scale

The zoom ring is rubberized and generously large, enabling the user to easily zoom this lens. The same cannot be said about the focus ring, which in our opinion, is too small for manual focus usage. It can be said that this lens is not really designed for full time manual focus usage, although it includes the Quick-shift feature, in which the user can override the autofocus at any given moment and fine tune the focus after focus confirmation.

Interestingly, this lens also includes a focusing scale, a highly unusual feature for kit lenses of other manufacturers. This feature is very characteristic of Pentax kit lenses, as it is also included in the I and II version of this lens. One difference from these two older lenses is that on the WR version, the "green ring" is located between the focus and zoom ring (instead of between the zoom ring and the Pentax logo and name label.)

Another very unique Pentax feature is the removable door in the lens hood. The user can temporarily remove this door in order to adjust polarizer filters while having the lens hood mounted.

The shape of the lens hood is the same as the one used in version I and II of this lens; however, the bayonet mount on the WR version of the 18-55mm is different, making older hoods incompatible with it.  The new hood designation is PH-RBC 52mm, whereas the previous hoods were known as PH-RBA 52mm.  The RBA hood is still use on the DA L 18-55mm (non-WR).

The size of the lens hood is appropriate for the focal lengths and it's reversible for storage. Although the lens can be used with its lens hood in reversed position, this is not recommended since the focus ring cannot be accessed and the zoom ring is only partially accessible.

The front lens cap is a pinch type, which is a lot easier to put and remove correctly than the older squeeze type lens cap.

In regards to the handling, our opinion is that the 18-55mm is very versatile and highly usable. The weight is not significantly heavy and the size is fairly compact (for a kit lens). It is not the smallest in the DA line of lenses, but it can be easily stored in all camera bags designed for DSLR's. The zoom ring is well dampened and quick to operate. The focus ring is small and not dampened enough for our taste, but this is a trade-off for the Quick-shift feature. Our only other minor complaint, apart from the focus ring, is that there is barely any space on the lens barrel to hold on to for support (that is not the zoom and focus ring).

Verdict

We have no major complaints about the construction of the DA 18-55mm WR lens. Everything in this lens seems solid and durable. Although its build quality cannot be compared to premium lenses, it is certainly a step above most kit lenses at this price level, including the DA L 18-55mm. The weather sealing is a nice value-adding feature, and it makes this lens a very economical way to add full weather sealing to your kit.

The size and weight is well within our expectations for a kit lens. Since most users will be using the lens in autofocus and it includes the Quick-Shift feature, the not-very-usable focus ring isn't a major concern. Just remember that this lens does extend while zooming, and it is not advisable not extend the lens in adverse weather whenever possible, as this increases the chances of water ingress.



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