Conclusion - Pros

  • Good 16mm (24mm-equivalent) wide angle and F4 constant aperture
  • 'Quick shift' manual focus override
  • Decent sharpness and reasonably low chromatic aberration, except at extreme wideangle
  • Minimal barrel distortion at wide angle
  • Scarcely any light fall-off at all focal lengths
  • Excellent macro performance

Conclusion - Cons

  • Somewhat soft at 16mm
  • Modest zoom range with short telephoto reach
  • Flash shadowing at wide angle

Overall conclusion

The Pentax DA 16-45mm F4 ED AL represents an interesting upgrade path from the 18-55mm kit lens, offering a wider angle of view at the expense of shorter telephoto range, coupled with a constant F4 maximum aperture; marginally slower at wideangle, but faster at telephoto. This is in contrast to most other manufacturers’ offerings, which tend towards the general purpose, all-in-one ‘walkaround’ lens with expanded telephoto range. Historically this is because Pentax never designed the 16-45mm as a kit lens upgrade, but as a complement to existing 35mm format lenses in the 28-70mm range; it was therefore intended mainly to cover that otherwise unattainable wideangle view, with no real consideration to the telephoto end.

This means that the decision as to whether this lens is a worthy upgrade to the 18-55mm is slightly complicated, and I must admit to being somewhat sceptical of its usefulness at the start of this test. Sure it has that useful wide angle, but at 45mm it’s a little short for even a head and shoulders portrait; most users would likely still want to pair it with a telephoto zoom for the long end. Also the F4 maximum aperture isn’t exactly going to set the world on fire, although that extra stop at the long end compared to the 18-55mm can be useful. The problems with shadowing of the camera’s built-in flash at wideangle can’t be ignored either. The 16-45mm therefore doesn’t really seem to offer all that much more than the kit lens, and newer lenses with greater zoom ranges or faster maximum apertures also appear to be more compelling options.

But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the 16-45mm reveals itself as a fine all-round performer with few faults, both in studio testing and real-life use. It shows pretty consistent image quality across the range, and while the MTF results may not look impressive, its real strengths are elsewhere. In particular it has excellent distortion and falloff characteristics for a wide angle zoom, coupled with reasonable control of chromatic aberration, and impressive macro performance. The only real disappointment is the performance at 16mm, where you'll need to stop down to F11 for best results. And this is all wrapped up in a reasonably small and lightweight package which won’t put much strain on your shoulders. So if your priority is image quality, and the wideangle range floats your boat, this lens is difficult to fault.

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 7.5
Ergonomics & handling 8
Features 7
Image quality 8
Value 8



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Samples Gallery

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Pentax DA 16-45mm 1:4 ED/AL Review Samples

15 images • Posted on Jan 28, 2008 • View album
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