Optics Not on Par with Build & Features

Started Mar 14, 2014 | User reviews
DDWD10
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Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
Mar 14, 2014

This was to be a cheap, weather resistant walkaround zoom for my new K-5 II S. On the surface, it seemed like a good bet with a tight, modern build, full-time focus override with a distance scale, metal mount, non-rotating front element and weathersealing... not to mention a nice hood included.  Seemed like a lot of lens for $150 USD new.

No zoom creep, very smooth focus and zoom rings for a kit lens and fast (but very noisy) AF using the K-5 II S's screw drive motor.

I think what gets me about this lens is how I cannot get a uniformly sharp image, even at f/8 or f/11. The corners are never sharp. The center of the image is good, even at large apertures, but the muddy corners, pronounced CA and general lack of "pop" make it very hard to recommend this lens. It is a noticeable step down optically from the Canon 18-55mm IS I used on my 30D years ago. I get much better results with my little MX-1 wide open than I do with this lens at f/8. Pitiful.

If Pentax-Ricoh hopes to be competitive they need to modernize their optical performance, pure and simple. This being a kit lens is no longer an excuse for poor optics.

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solarider
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to DDWD10, Mar 14, 2014

Finding a good copy might also be an alternative.

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DDWD10
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to solarider, Mar 14, 2014

solarider wrote:

Finding a good copy might also be an alternative.

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We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. - Albert Einstein
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My samples are pretty much in line with what I'm seeing online.  I might have a chance to post some after this weekend.

It might seem like I'm being too hard on a kit lens, but compared to the kit lens competition from Nikon/Canon/Fujifilm, this lens is so far behind optically.

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KL Matt
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to DDWD10, Mar 14, 2014

DDWD10 wrote:

solarider wrote:

Finding a good copy might also be an alternative.

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The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. - Albert Einstein
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__________
Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous - Albert Einstein

My samples are pretty much in line with what I'm seeing online. I might have a chance to post some after this weekend.

It might seem like I'm being too hard on a kit lens, but compared to the kit lens competition from Nikon/Canon/Fujifilm, this lens is so far behind optically.

At one point, it was ahead. You may really have a bad copy, though.

Also, I believe the other maker's kit lenses are not weather sealed, nor are their mid-entry-level bodies, nor do they come with in-body IS. Are the other kit lenses IS?

EDIT: Looks like there is a stabilized version of the (reportedly now excellent) Canon kit lens.

You might want to try on a Tamron 17-50 for size.

Matt

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DDWD10
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to KL Matt, Mar 14, 2014

Yeah, all other kit lenses are IS for cameras without in-body IS.

I'll likely be replacing this with the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8, provided the AF accuracy issues have been ironed out

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DAVID MANZE
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to DDWD10, Mar 14, 2014

Hi,

My copy is only reasonable, I have had two examples, at some focal lengths it's OK, but nothing more. As somebody has already suggested the Tamron 17-50 is a great lens,but again if you get a good one and that rule applies for all lenses!

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audiobomber
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to DDWD10, Mar 14, 2014

DDWD10 wrote:

It is a noticeable step down optically from the Canon 18-55mm IS I used on my 30D years ago.

I doubt that very much. Canon kit lenses from that period were horrible. Have you considered that you are comparing your memory of 8mp vs. 16mp? The K-5 IIs higher resolution is much more demanding of lens performance.

Here's Photozone's verdict, based on testing with a K-5.

"The Pentax SMC DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL WR is certainly one of the more desirable "kit" lenses - at least in terms of haptics. Unlike other lenses in its class it has a comparatively decent build quality and its weather protection clearly stands out from the rest of the gang. The conventional screw-driven AF and the rotating focus ring are a little dated though.

Performance-wise it is capable of delivering decent results although it's nothing to rave about either. The corner quality is a certain weakness at 18mm specifically at max. aperture and this is also amplified by a fairly strong field curvature here. Stopping down to f/8 is therefore advisable. That's also a good idea to reduce the amount of vignetting at this setting. The lens is pretty sharp in the middle range to upper range if you stop down just a little bit. Lateral CAs are very well controlled and better than usual. The very noticeable barrel distortion at 18mm and slight pincushion distortion at 55m are rather typical for such a kit zoom lens again. So to summarize, it's not an obvious choice but a viable one. "

http://www.photozone.de/pentax/641-pentax1855f3556wr?start=1

I get much better results with my little MX-1 wide open than I do with this lens at f/8. Pitiful.

If Pentax-Ricoh hopes to be competitive they need to modernize their optical performance, pure and simple. This being a kit lens is no longer an excuse for poor optics.

I am not an 18-55mm fan, but from anything I've heard it beats most kit lenses. QC on consumer zooms is always suspect. I think you simply received a bad one.

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Dan

Edited mar 14, 2014 by audiobomber

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DDWD10
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to audiobomber, Mar 14, 2014

audiobomber wrote:

DDWD10 wrote:

It is a noticeable step down optically from the Canon 18-55mm IS I used on my 30D years ago.

I doubt that very much. Canon kit lenses from that period were horrible.

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Dan

The version before the IS was horrible... the IS version was greatly improved, particularly in the corners where the Pentax falls on its face.

Canon:

http://www.photozone.de/canon-eos/404-canon_1855_3556is_50d?start=1

Pentax:

http://www.photozone.de/pentax/641-pentax1855f3556wr?start=1

Look at those MTF charts - not even close!

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walberty
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to DAVID MANZE, Mar 14, 2014

I have one too. It is okay, but I agree with you regarding an update which is way overdue. And updated and improved version will mean a much higher price though.

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OpticsEngineer
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to DDWD10, Mar 15, 2014

In case you missed it, the Pentax 18-55 was reviewed a few years back on dpreview.  Not the WR version, but I believe the optics are the same

http://www.dpreview.com/lensreviews/pentax_18-55_3p5-5p6_p15/

Looking over the test data for Sony/Nikon/Canon 18-55 reviews from about the same era, they look about the same, Nikon being the weakest.

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Unexpresivecanvas
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to DDWD10, Mar 15, 2014

DDWD10 wrote:

This was to be a cheap, weather resistant walkaround zoom for my new K-5 II S. On the surface, it seemed like a good bet with a tight, modern build, full-time focus override with a distance scale, metal mount, non-rotating front element and weathersealing... not to mention a nice hood included. Seemed like a lot of lens for $150 USD new.

No zoom creep, very smooth focus and zoom rings for a kit lens and fast (but very noisy) AF using the K-5 II S's screw drive motor.

I think what gets me about this lens is how I cannot get a uniformly sharp image, even at f/8 or f/11. The corners are never sharp. The center of the image is good, even at large apertures, but the muddy corners, pronounced CA and general lack of "pop" make it very hard to recommend this lens. It is a noticeable step down optically from the Canon 18-55mm IS I used on my 30D years ago. I get much better results with my little MX-1 wide open than I do with this lens at f/8. Pitiful.

If Pentax-Ricoh hopes to be competitive they need to modernize their optical performance, pure and simple. This being a kit lens is no longer an excuse for poor optics.

You are being excessively harsh on your appraisal. For a $100 lens the kit lens is not too bad. It does what it is supposed to do. It is not a Voillangder or an Otus....

If you want better optical quality buy the Sigma18-35mm and be ready to pay for it.

Photography is an expensive art when it comes to get good glass and when yo uwant the best, as seems to be the case with the post.

A Rokinon/Samyan, manual focus, prime, 24mm F1.4 costs above $600. A Sigma Art 35mm F1.4 costs $900.... and we re talking primes. The best short-to-intermediate zoom in the marker right now is the Canon 24-70mm F2.8 mark II, without image stabilization and it costs $2,100..... welcome to the world of modern lenses and modern photography. These prices are to give you an idea of what you should expect to disburse if you want good quality..   There is not a free lunch when it comes to lenses

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RichRMA
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to solarider, Mar 15, 2014

The optics for these things are made on $500,000 machines that computer-generate the same spherical curves, day in, day out. The housings are injection-molded plastic that is about as accurate as machined aluminum, albeit without as much strength. The idea that "bad" examples are floating around out there is unlikely in this day and age.

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afterswish1
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to RichRMA, Mar 15, 2014

RichRMA wrote:

The optics for these things are made on $500,000 machines that computer-generate the same spherical curves, day in, day out. The housings are injection-molded plastic that is about as accurate as machined aluminum, albeit without as much strength. The idea that "bad" examples are floating around out there is unlikely in this day and age.

What's the explanation for the supposed 'sample variation' in tests and user reports then? User error?

FWIW, in the right conditions my copy seems good, especially when compared with a friend's Canon equivalent.

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timo
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to RichRMA, Mar 15, 2014

RichRMA wrote:

The optics for these things are made on $500,000 machines that computer-generate the same spherical curves, day in, day out. The housings are injection-molded plastic that is about as accurate as machined aluminum, albeit without as much strength. The idea that "bad" examples are floating around out there is unlikely in this day and age.

Based on experience, I simply can't agree with you. I have two DA55-300 lenses and their performance is radically different one from the other. I have several DA18-55s (they seem to breed), and they are by no means uniform in performance. I had to return two of the original Sigma 17-70s before I got an acceptable one (which is actually very good).

So, I think you are mistaken.

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justin23
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to DDWD10, Mar 15, 2014

One could also argue that a lens that cheap is never going to have sharpness that you might desire. I'm not sure how it stacks up vs the opposition, but googling shows a lot of people not happy with the kit lens from many brands.

But in a pinch for a cheap WR lens it probably does an OK job. There was a time the kit lens was not WR and didn't everyone complain about that!

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britcam
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to DDWD10, Mar 15, 2014

DDWD10 wrote:

This was to be a cheap, weather resistant walkaround zoom for my new K-5 II S. On the surface, it seemed like a good bet with a tight, modern build, full-time focus override with a distance scale, metal mount, non-rotating front element and weathersealing... not to mention a nice hood included. Seemed like a lot of lens for $150 USD new.

No zoom creep, very smooth focus and zoom rings for a kit lens and fast (but very noisy) AF using the K-5 II S's screw drive motor.

I think what gets me about this lens is how I cannot get a uniformly sharp image, even at f/8 or f/11. The corners are never sharp. The center of the image is good, even at large apertures, but the muddy corners, pronounced CA and general lack of "pop" make it very hard to recommend this lens. It is a noticeable step down optically from the Canon 18-55mm IS I used on my 30D years ago. I get much better results with my little MX-1 wide open than I do with this lens at f/8. Pitiful.

If Pentax-Ricoh hopes to be competitive they need to modernize their optical performance, pure and simple. This being a kit lens is no longer an excuse for poor optics.

Would you buy a top flight state of the art esoteric audio system, and then install a cheap, bargain set of plastic speakers that you might find in the local electrical store? And then complain that the system wasn't producing decent results?

What is the point ...

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Rich S (britcam)

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Adam Aitken
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to DDWD10, Mar 15, 2014

DDWD10 wrote:

I think what gets me about this lens is how I cannot get a uniformly sharp image, even at f/8 or f/11. The corners are never sharp. The center of the image is good, even at large apertures, but the muddy corners, pronounced CA and general lack of "pop" make it very hard to recommend this lens.

To many amateur photographers who start with the kit lenses corners don't matter a huge deal unless you are a landscape/architecture photographer and you print big. So if you are short of cash for something better you would be happy to have it.

Adam A

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audiobomber
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to DDWD10, Mar 15, 2014

DDWD10 wrote:

audiobomber wrote:

Look at those MTF charts - not even close!

The Pentax is sharper in the middle, softer in the corners. Kit lenses are a series of trade-offs. DXOMark scores the Pentax 18-55 a 13, same as the current Nikon and Canon 18-55's. I don't use my DA 18-55, and I'm sure I wouldn't use anyone else's either.

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kriztian
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to DDWD10, Mar 15, 2014

I disaggre but having said that I was very disappointed with the lens for two year because I had callibrated the camera to fit my excellent 50-135 lens. Just like you I thought that the lens 18.55 was useless and that it was impossible to get sharp Pictures. Then one day I decided to dig in deep and try everything to get it to work. And low and behold. When I callibrated the lens and runned the pics in automatic lens correction in Lightrom 5 plus a Little bit of sharpening, the result was good. It is not a professional lens but if one just want p

ictures that are OK for smaller prints I belive 18-55 delivers. Take a look att this to examples and judge for yourself. Cheers

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kh1234567890
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Re: Optics Not on Par with Build & Features
In reply to kriztian, Mar 15, 2014

Oh no, another 'the DA18-55 is rubbish' thread

Some of my DA18-55WR  shots. And some more.

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