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Pentax DA 16-85mm WR early review.

It’s full name is : HD Pentax-DA 16-85mm/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR. I did owned the Canon 15-85mm/3.5-5.6 and liked it a lot because of it’s range and quite good IQ, it was especially useful during our family vacation we took 2 years ago in the province of New Brunswick and P.E.I. here in Canada. The Pentax is even more desirable to my eyes because it incorporates WR, is cheaper than the Canon as well when there is no rebates. The Canon quickly developed zoom creep, which it’s known for, hope the Pentax will do better in that department. They both focus down to 0.35 meter and uses a 72mm filter size.

First impression

My first impression when i removed the lens from the box was it’s solid feel in my hand, always a positive thing to feel that a lens can take some abuse. The zooming ring feels stiff enough for the moment to prevent zoom creep, will have to wait after some months of field use to see if it will maintain that stiffness and not suffer from zoom creep.

IQ and field experience

One of the most important selling point of lenses is sharpness, if a lens can’t deliver in that department most people will not buy it. Do you need to absolutely have the sharpest lens available, probably not, but a lens needs to be at least very good. Does the Pentax DA 16-85mm is good enough …….. after shooting for some weeks with it in the field i can say that it’s a very good lens.

My first test shot taken with it on my tripod not long after i received it. Lens set at 43mm, at f/7.1, ISO 400. Well, BTW it was taken in RAW, no PP and sharpening and it’s a 100% crop !

Here is the full shot.


This photo was taken on my first field shooting the next morning i received my lens. It’s an Old Canal close to my home, i like to go there to try out my newly purchased lenses. I converted it in B&W. Taken at 39mm, ISO 100, 1/13 sec. at f/13, tripod.

This is a 66.7 % crop from a photo of my older girl, i wanted to see the performance of my K50 and 16-85mm in low light. I was shooting at ISO 2500, at 39mm at 1/15 sec., f/4.5, handheld using AF in LV. This is a processed image, i applied some NR and sharpening.

The focusing ring is placed close to the mount, which is not my favorite place to put it on a lens, which seems to become a “trend” with lens manufacturer, i prefer the “old” way. It’s probably because now peoples are using lenses mostly in AF mode and it’s a better place to put the zooming ring more at the front of the lens. I would have liked the focusing ring to be larger also but i will live with it.  It’s my first Pentax lens with a DC motor and it’s quite fast and silent. The AF is very good in LV at any distances, works really well in the field with most subjects.

Flare control is always very good on Pentax lenses, so this lens is no different than all the other Pentax lenses i’ve owned.

The more i use it the more i find that it’s a very useful lens for nature photography because it’s a complete package.

It was very useful for showing the Skunk Cabbages in their habitat. Taken handheld with the SR activated. 16mm, ISO 800, 1/15 sec. at f/8.

Sometimes wildlife get you by surprise, that spring morning i saw a Canada Geese couple swimming on a lake near the shore among old weeds from last year. They swam closer and closer, i was following them with my 400mm lens, but they eventually were too close, so i grabbed my Pentax K50 which was equipped with my DA 16-85mm. They walked very close and i was able to take some shots, this one was taken at 28mm, 1/80 sec. at f/8, ISO 800, handheld.

It’s a crop to show the Bokeh at 85mm and f/7.1,

The lens doesn’t produce CA in normal use, but in this shot I was able to produce some purple fringing, but it was an extreme situation. Full sun, white letters on a black T-shirt. Taken at 16mm, f/10. BTW, it’s a 200% crop, so at normal viewing you can’t see it, it was easily removed in LR.


Close-up , does the image quality is maintained ???

The lens alone can focus quite close at 35cm resulting in a reproduction ratio of 0.26x, which is not bad. My Canon 15-85mm was not so good at 85mm at the minimum focusing distance, the IQ dropped, especially in the corners. Does the Pentax 16-85mm will perform better, will it make a good occasional “Close-up” kit ?

I gave it a try this morning, mounting it on my tripod i photographed some leaves on the ice. First thing i have to say is that the fact that it’s a Zoom makes it easier to change my framing, when using a prime Macro lens if your too close you have to play with the legs of your tripod, not as fast and effective.

I wanted to try it out for some close-ups in the field with a real subject, i found some leaves on the ice on the shore of a lake. i photographed them at different focal lengths and found no real difference in IQ. Here is one of the shot taken at 53mm, ISO 250, f/13, tripod.


I compared it with my Tamron 90mm Macro (model 72E) to see how it really performs at close range. It’s not fair in term of pure sharpness but i needed a benchmark, i’m not expecting the same degree of details from the DA 16-85mm, especially in the corners. But if the quality is good in the center it might be helpful for some Frog shots.

Here is my test subject:

This shot and the one below are 100% crop of the RAW file with no PP or sharpening. This one is from the Pentax 16-85mm at 85mm at f/8.


This one is from the Tamron 90mm Macro also at f/8.

At f/5.6 the Tamron has the advantage by a slight margin but at f/8 (the crop posted here) there is no real advantage, i would call this negligeable for field work. Adding the PP and sharpening and both could be printed quite large with very good IQ.

Here is the same 100% crop of the shot of from my 16-85mm at 85mm, f/8 with PP and sharpening (radius 1, amount 85).


Final word

Pentax came-up with a great lens, from my experience it’s a better lens than the Canon 15-85mm that i was using  in the past and it has the bonus of weather sealing !!! It makes a very good combo with my K50 and tough enough to shoot in very bad weather. It fits perfectly for the kind of photography I do, it can be landscape, Close-up or even family photos. With that lens i can do all that in good or bad weather while producing beautifully detailed photos. Like i said, my only complaint is the placement and size of the focusing ring, but that’s a personal thing because i’m using MF a lot in my photography.

Well, some will say that it’s pricey but if you look at how many lenses it replaces and how good it is, even for close-up photos, i think it’s well worth the price. Sure it’s a “slow” lens, if you need a lens with a faster maximum aperture to use in very low light it’s not the lens your looking for. But for a nature photographer who want a good lens that is not too big or heavy, for travelling or for everyday use, i think it’s one of the best option in Pentax land. Pentax really proved with that lens that they can make some excellent zoom lenses, not only small prime lenses. I will post updates when I will be able to try it out on Frogs.

The DA 16-85 mm is perfect for what i call “intimate view“, not the big landscape but not Macro either, just intimate enough that you can tell a story. Like here, the leaf that is on the edge of melting ice and a small water channel that run through the ice. Taken at 53mm, f/11, tripod.




14 responses

  1. Peter (flektogon)

    Hi Steeve,
    I think that DP Review would be proud to have you as a reviewer. Great review of a great lens!

    April 27, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    • Hi Peter,
      it’s without a doubt a very good lens, I think it will be with me for the long run.
      Thank you, appreciate the comments.


      April 27, 2015 at 6:32 pm

  2. Great job, Steeve. It’s nice to read a review that doesn’t concentrate on specifications, but focuses instead on the user experience and the image quality. Thanks for sharing!

    Regards, Jim

    April 27, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    • Hi Jim,
      glad you liked it, I will do updates as I will have more field experience, especially for frog photography !



      April 27, 2015 at 7:28 pm

  3. Geoff Lewis

    Well done indeed. I appreciated your analysis and example photos more than graphs and numbers found in some technical reviews. Thanks for posting. Regards, Geoff.
    PS: This is a lens I hope to have before too long.

    April 29, 2015 at 12:41 am

    • Hi Geoff,
      yes graphs are good to compare lenses of the same range but it’s only part of what a lens performs. Using a lens in the field really what it’s all about. If you decide to buy it i’m sure you will like that lens.

      Thank you.

      April 29, 2015 at 1:17 am

  4. Hi Steeve,

    I am a new K3 user with DA 50mm f/1.8 and DA 35mm f./2.4 lens. I decided to buy a walk around lens and was thinking of buying the 18-135mm until I saw your feedback at Pentax Forum and read this nice review. Now I will wait a bit more to save enough fund and buy this lens instead.

    What is your advise re buying this lens as a walk around lens.

    Thanks in advance.


    May 24, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    • Jami,
      I did owned a Canon 15-85mm and really liked it’s range and it’s the reason I bought the Pentax 16-85mm when I came back to Pentax. The 18-135mm is a good choice for sure but the 16mm on the wide end is very useful and the 16-85mm has better IQ but less reach. Choices are great but often it’s difficult to choose 🙂


      May 24, 2015 at 11:55 pm

  5. Wojciech

    Thank you very much for your comment on Pentax 16-85. After having read numerous opinions on Pentax cameras with kit lenses from 18-55 to 18-135 I decided to buy a K50 + 16-85 lens. I would be grateful for your opinion on my choice as the K50 is not the latest model. Regards

    April 27, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    • Hi Wojciech,
      it’s really a great lens and with the K50 it makes a very good combo, not too heavy. Sure the K50 is not the latest camera but for the price it really is a good choice that will not cost too much, you can always update to a more up to date camera later. Better to put the money on better glass than a higher camera but skipping on lenses.

      April 30, 2016 at 12:09 pm

  6. Hi Steeve,
    I can see on your blog that you tried both the Pentax 16-85 and the 20-40 Ltd.
    I would like to get on of those and I don’t really care about the range as I alread own a 12-24mm and a 70mm. I would be very interessted to know how they compare in regards to IQ? Which one do you prefer?
    Thanks a lot and best regards,

    January 23, 2017 at 8:41 am

    • Hi David,
      they both are very good lenses, the DA 20-40mm is a gorgeous lens in terms of build quality and feeling when you use it. the zoom range is short but it makes the lens compact. The 16-85mm is a bigger lens for sure and the build quality is not up to the 20-40mm but still very good. The 16-85mm eventually developed some zoom creep when pointed down. But if I had to choose just one I would go with the 16-85mm because of it’s better close range focusing ability and slightly better IQ, especially near minimum focusing.

      Hope it helps.

      January 23, 2017 at 11:27 am

      • Hi Steeve,
        thank you for your reply, that make sense especially as you’re doing lot of close up shots. I forgot to say than I am looking for a lens for doing landscape, more than close focus photographs, so for this specific use, I need everything too be sharp and in focus. Are both lenses also good for this use? (mid-distance, infinity range).
        Thanks again and kind regards,

        January 23, 2017 at 12:47 pm

  7. Hi David,
    at mid and longer distances they are both good.

    January 24, 2017 at 1:40 am

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