Mar 31, 2014

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


In this review we will be taking a look at the SMC Pentax-DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL WR kit lens.  This is not your typical "inexpensive kit lens" that comes in DSLR bundles, as it is a WR (Weather Resistant) lens, which provides certain level of protection against moisture and dust. This is a feature typically seen only in some of the more expensive professional-grade lenses. It is highly unusual to have weather sealing present in a kit lens, so this feature alone makes the DA 18-55mm WR a unique and desirable lens that's also a great value.

The DA 18-55mm WR was released in mid 2009, along with the (also weather sealed) Pentax K-7 body. From there onward, it has been bundled with other weather sealed bodies such as the K-5 and K-30. Since Pentax has been focusing its campaign in all-weather outdoor and adventure photography, it makes a lot of sense for a weather sealed body to be bundled with a weather-sealed kit lens, therefore this lens fits nicely into the Pentax lineup. 

Pentax has manufactured a total of 5 versions of the DA 18-55mm kit lens.  We've linked each lens to is entry in our user review database for convenience:

  1. SMC DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL (discontinued)
  2. SMC DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL II (discontinued)
  3. SMC DA L 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL (budget model)
  4. SMC DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL WR (lens being reviewed)
  5. SMC DA L 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL WR (weather-sealed budget model, released 2013)

Optically, the DA 18-55mm WR (4) shares the same formula as the DA 18-55mm II (2), which was an optical revision of the original version (1) of the same lens. Apart from the weather sealing and superior build quality, this lens has other unusual traits for a kit lens from any other brand other than Pentax, such as a focusing scale and full-time manual focus override.

For users who seek a less expensive alternative, there is a DA L version of the 18-55mm kit lens (3), which has the same optical formula as (2) and (4), but with a plastic mount and without the Quick-Shift feature or a lens hood.  In 2013, Pentax released a newer revision of the DA L 18-55mm with weather sealing, the DA L 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL WR (5). This version upgrades the DA L 18-55mm (3) with weather sealing and better build quality, but it still lacks Quick-Shift.

As of the writing of this review (3), (4), and (5) are all currently in production.  (3) comes with entry-level cameras such as the Pentax K-500, (5) comes with weather-sealed cameras such as the K-50, and (4) comes with premium cameras such as the K-5 II or K-3 (kits vary by region).

In this review, we will be focusing specifically on the quality and performance of the Pentax SMC DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL WR (4), which is also available as a standalone lens.  Our general remarks still apply to the other current kit lenses, so read on to find out how well Pentax's most affordable lenses fare.  We hope you haven't confused you too much with the different kit lens versions!

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