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Pentax 16-45mm/4 Lens Review

by Josh Root, August 2007


The Pentax SMC DA 16-45mm f/4.0 ED/AL is a fairly-compact wide zoom lens with a high image quality and a lower price than that of similar offerings from other manufacturers. This lens covers the wide to short-telephoto range and can do everything from capturing candid photos in a crowded room to creating nice portraits of a couple or small group. One of the most useful lenses that a photographer can have is a mid-range zoom.

The DA designation signifies that the lens is specifically designed for Pentax mount digital SLR bodies, which helps to keep the weight and size down. The ED designation signifies that the optical elements are made with "extra-low dispersion" glass, a more expensive and higher-quality material. The focal length of this lens makes it an excellent choice as an upgrade to the cheaper "kit" lens that is typically packaged with digital SLRs. The fact that this lens is not a 2.8 lens can be a limiting factor for the advanced photographer. However, due to the fact that this is a wide-angle lens, and it's only one stop slower than 2.8, most photographers will be able to compensate with a lower shutter speed or higher ISO level. Photographing indoors using available light is more of a challenge than with a 2.8 zoom or a 1.8 prime lens, though the 16-45 still performs well in these conditions.

If you have a Pentax K10D, (compare prices) (review), Pentax K100D, (compare prices), or other Pentax mount DSLR, and need a wide to short-telephoto zoom, buy one right now from amazon.com and help to support photo.net.

Performance

As with all of the DA series lenses, the Pentax 16-45's image circle is sized to cover the APS-C sized CCD in Pentax DSLR cameras, cutting down on weight and size. The focal length range is 16-45mm, which is equivalent to 24.5-69mm in 35mm format. 24mm is about as wide of an angle of view as you can get without starting to get the distortion and optical effects that wide-angle lenses have. 70mm is a nice mid-telephoto portrait length, allowing you to avoid the unflattering effects of wide angle lenses when doing portrait photography.

However, the f/4 aperture won't be helpful in creating a shallow depth of field for your portrait image. As this is a wide-angle lens, you would have a hard time doing that anyway. If you are looking for a portrait lens with the ability to create a very shallow depth of field, you might be better off with a fast prime like the Pentax DA 70mm f/2.4 Limited, (compare prices) (review). The focal length of the Pentax 16-45 makes it a good choice for scenic or environmental portraiture. Due to the slower AF speed, capturing fast-moving action is somewhat challenging. Autofocus is slow when compared to the internal motor style of Canon's USM or Nikon's AFS. The Pentax is driven by the old Nikon-style "screwdriver blade" body motor. If you demand lens-motor driven AF for your Pentax DSLR in this focal length, you might consider the soon-to-be-released (as of Aug '07) Pentax DA* 16-50mm f/2.8 ED AL IF SDM, (compare prices). If hyper-fast autofocus is not your main concern, the 16-45's AF will be satisfactory.

Optics

The Pentax 16-45 is a complex lens design, with 13 elements in 10 groups including two aspherical lenses and ED elements (Extra-low Dispersion glass). There is noticeable barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens. This barrel distortion is not out of line for a lens of this focal length. Sharpness is quite good for a lens of this price and zoom range. Unsurprisingly, center sharpness is frequently better than corner sharpness on the wide end, but corner sharpness is surprisingly good as well. Most interesting is that, unlike many lenses in this focal range, the Pentax 16-45 does not lose much sharpness when used wide open.

Construction

When using the included petal-shaped lens hood, the smart design allows the 67mm filter and lens cap to be threads-free. The reverse-mounted hood allows access to the easy-to-grip zoom ring, but blocks the manual focus ring. As with all DA-series lenses, Pentax includes the Quick-Shift Focus System on the 16-45, which is similar to the Full-Time Manual Focus on some Canon lenses. Unfortunately, the Pentax 16-45's manual focus ring is not as nice as it could be. As it is, the ring is small, hard to find quickly without looking, rotates during AF, and seems to be added on as an afterthought. It also has the awful chintzy feel in use, typical of modern AF lenses irrespective of manufacturer. Of note, Pentax has remained dedicated to manual focus and actually includes the MF ring and distance markings on the 16-45. One unusual feature of this lens is that the lens extends when zoomed to the wide end of the focal range. That is to say, the lens is at its most compact size when set at 45mm. While not common, a few other popular lenses operate this way, most notably the Canon 24-70/2.8.

Weight is 12.9 oz (365g), which balances quite well with the Pentax K10D, (compare prices) (review). The lens's dimensions are a fairly compact 2.8in x 3.6in (92 x 72 mm).

Alternatives

Here are some other lens options to consider:

Conclusion

Overall, the Pentax SMC DA 16-45mm f/4.0 ED/AL is a very nice lens that could find it's way into any photographer's Pentax DSLR camera bag. It is priced so that a beginner would consider it as an upgrade to their "kit" lens. Yet it also has the image quality and well built construction that would give the more experienced photographer reasons to purchase it as well. When comparing its price to its image quality, the 16-45 is a very good value. Although the 16-45 does not have a 2.8 constant aperture, the constant f/4 aperture is only a single stop slower and many will consider the smaller size and significantly lower price more than worth the trade off.

Where to Buy

You can get this lens overnight from amazon.com.

Specifications

Focal Length16-45 mm
Maximum/Minimum Aperturef/4 f/22
35mm equivalent focal length (Pentax DSLR)24.5-69 mm
Lens Construction13 elements in 10 groups, 1 ED and 2 aspherical elements
Minimum Shooting Distance0.92 ft (0.28 m)
Aperture Blades6 blades
Filter Size67 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length)2.8" x 3.6" (7.2 x 9.2 cm)
Weight12.9 oz (366 g)

More

Examples

29mm, f/6.7, 1/500th, ISO 200. The wide end of the 16-45 gave me a large enough field of view to capture this juggler's performance while still staying at the front of the crowd.

16mm, f/6.7, 1/250th, ISO 200. Another street performer photographed in motion. Again, the wide end of the Pentax 16-45 allowed me to capture the excitement of the moment and add some drama into the photo.

45mm, f4, 1/90, ISO 400. While the wide end of the zoom has its uses, in this case I was pleased to have just enough zoom on the long end to isolate these two and bring the focal point to the mirror's reflection.

50mm, f10, 1/250, ISO 200. While the AF is not blazingly fast, the lens did respond quickly enough to allow me to take some wedding images.

34mm, f/6.7, 1/180, ISO 100. The 16-45 on a Pentax K10D is a nice range for images of groups of people.

36mm, f/5.6, 1/180, ISO 400. Yes, that is exactly what you think it is, a stump with a bunch of old chainsaws stuck in it. What can I say, I love logging shows.

16mm, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO 400. F/4 is a little slow for street photography, and I usually prefer something with a faster maximum aperture. In this case I didn't need it. Since there wasn't room to back up further, I could have used 1 or 2 mm's more on the wide end in order to get the woman's head in completely on the right.


Text and pictures ©2007 Josh Root. All images were captured using the Pentax K10D, (compare prices) (review), camera body.

Article created August 2007

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Phil Liao , August 27, 2007; 02:25 P.M.

I have this 16-45 lens and the 18-55 kit lens. The picture quality differences from these two lenses are barely noticeable. However, 16mm wide angle (24mm equivalent) is quite important to me.

The recent unofficial lens tests of the 16-50 f/2.8 by other people on various forums have been disappointing. The SDM is not very fast and the picture quality is on par with the 16-45. It is heavy and expensive as well, though f/2.8 is very important to many shooters.

On the long end, the 50 f/1.4 is incredible and not too expensive. The 70 f/2.4 and 77 f/1.8 might be more suitbale focal lengths for traditional portraits though. The mystical 85 f/1.8 and f/1.4 are nearly impossible to find these days.

Stephen Graham , September 07, 2007; 05:29 A.M.

I've also got both the 16-45 and the 18-55 and my experience differs from the previous poster in that I find the 16-45 significantly better, especially with regards to corner sharpness where I've found the 18-45 a fairly poor performer - even stopped down.

So far I've been quite happy with the 16-45, ok F4 is still quite slow however it's a decent size/weight compromise and a good general purpose lens. The relatively short 45mm long end isn't a concern for me because I'm lucky enough to own one of the "mystical" FA* 85mm F1.4's mentioned by the previous poster!

Michael Kuhne , September 17, 2007; 10:49 P.M.

While not a super expensive f/2.8 pro lens, f/4 is not slow for this focal range- but still faster than average. f/2.8 is as fast as it gets. 16mm also provides a wider angle view than average for a wide-to-short-tele zoom. On top of this, being very sharp center to corner throuout its range makes this lens an excellent value.

Bella Lee , December 31, 2007; 02:14 P.M.

I highly recommend this lens if F/4 is all you need. It delivers clarity, sharpness and contrast comparable to fix focal length lenses in this range. Beside ,the fact that it is sharp wide open and has strong close-foucsing performance makes the DA 16-45 vastly superior to the kit lens (DA 18-55). With its price dropping after the introduction of the DA* 16-50, this little brother is truly a cost-performance champion against which all standard zooms should be measured.

Robin Parmar , April 09, 2008; 06:38 A.M.

This lens is commonly available at a bargain price. I literally have not mounted my kit lens since purchasing it. I find it is wonderful for cityscapes and urban shots, but also used it on a recent landscaping outing with nice results. I cannot compare with the DA* 16-50 but this is much less expensive. The lens extends enough at wide-angle to make this too prominent for indoor candid shots in some situations. I will wait on the upcoming 15mm limited for that. Competing f/2.8 lenses are heavier and have poorer IQ so I am not tempted. The 16-45 hits a sweet spot for me.


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