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Customer Review

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Generally good lens for wide zoom range., August 8, 2011
This review is from: Pentax 21977 DA 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 ED AL (IF) DC WR Lens for Pentax Digital SLR cameras (Electronics)
This is the third superzoom lens I've owned, and it's the best of the three. Not perfect, but quite decent and I have few complaints. The first I had was the first generation long zoom range lens from Tamron- 28-200mm for canon- similar to this 18-135mm Pentax. I still have it, and it's attached to my Canon EOS 500 film camera in the back cupboard. The second was the Tamron 18-200mm lens, which you can read my review on Amazon for, if you so wish. In hindsight, I rated it slightly higher than I now realise it was deserving of, as my expereince has grown over the last year.

I just went on a 4 day holiday, brought along 4 lenses to try out, and this 18-135mm spent 99% of the time on my K-5. I used a Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 at a few times at night, and the Sigma 30mm f1.4 never got used.

In short, it is everything people say. Focusing is quick and quiet. The zoom range is very useable. Photos are sharp. The ability to close focus at 40cm, regardless of focal length, is very helpful. Other zooms have a minimum focal length of around 1 to 2 metres (3 to 6 feet), so you can really get in close with this lens.

To be frank, this is how all their (Pentax) lenses should be in terms of focusing. Canon has had quick and quiet lenses for years.

The Weather Resistance aspect isn't very important to me, but it helps I dont have to worry if it starts raining and rush to put the camera away while diving for the nearest sheltor. It is also small and light for it's zoom range. Well suited to general walkabout and travelling photography. Not well suited to those who demand more sharpness, bokeh, reach or sensitivity.

I did find I wish I could get more bokeh, and it was faster so my night photos weren't always at iso 12,800.

The only problems I've had, after taking around 1000 photos, are some unexpected focus hunting half a dozen time, usually with more distant objects, especially narrow buildings or objects. I have no idea why.

So far, no sign of zoom creep, although there is no lock. Early days though. The barrel is not as stiff as it was when I first bought it last week.

Other shortcomings I've noticed are evident in all long zoom lenses. at it's widest, photos are not as sharp. Bokeh is not really something you can get very often, but look ok compared to the other long zooms I've had. It's very different to, say, my Pentax DAL 50-300mm, which seems to naturally produce very lovely bokeh with most photos, despite an even longer zoom range.

If they were able to produce this with constant f2.8, I would defintely give it a look, even though it would probably weigh a kilo or more. (it'd probably be beyond my budget though!)

Edit 25th August 2011

Found a few tiny tiny bubbles of water (too spherical for dust imho- only 0.3mm across- ok- i dont know exactly how wide- my point is, is that they are really small) on the plastic inside the lens, though not on glass of lens, so doesnt affect the photo. Sent back to Japan with my K-5 to fix. (K-5's rear LCD had a defect).

In general, these types of lenses- super zooms, produce in focus photos, but usually only moderately sharp, and rarely with bokeh. I found I can produce bokeh, but you have to work at it. This is why I mentioned the 55-300mm lens before, because it produced bokeh naturally, if I can put it that way. For the 55-300mm, all I would have to do is focus on, say, a tree or flower, and the background would be naturally out of focus. With the 18-135, and superzooms starting from 18mm (28-35mm in 35mm format), there is no bokeh and the subject and surrounding is usually all in focus, unless you position yourself the make the subject a reasonable distance from the background. Otherwise, everything is in focus, as if f22 plus is a aperture by default, despite settings.

Update 12th March 2013

Yep, I've had this lens for a while now, and it's still pretty good. Some further thoughts about it.

Sometimes I wish it had a longer zoom but none of the options around have the HSM/ultrasonic focus motor or weather resistance- the new 18-270mm has come out from Pentax, but that costs a small fortune and isn't weather resisitant, I tried the Tamron 18-250mm but the screw drive makes me screwy (pun intended, weak as it may be) and the photos are not quite as punchy as the 18-135, so I stick with the tried and true 18-135mm. I've learnt to get around it a little and shoot at max resolution, then crop. Many people might already do that, but I don't- I rarely print my pics- they usually go onto computer or online, so I shoot at 10mp, not 16mp on my K5, and set at x4 stars JPG image quality, so they are small enough in size to be uploaded.

Physically, the lens is fine. There is no zoom creep, the HSM focus motor is as quick and quiet as the day I bought it, there is no paint or colour chipping, the lens hasnt gotten mouldy, despite my best efforts dunking it in pools, rain, showers or using it for hours at Thailand's Songkran festival (look it up- it's a water soaked festival of both Thai tradition and youthful fun!).

Colours remain bright, images generally sharp, and straight lines at the edge at wide angle 18mm are, sadly, still distorted, though not a problem for me. I'm also still pleasantly surprised at the bokeh. I've taken photos of bees buzzing around flowers, and it looks fantastic. Often I don't even crop. I'd say I'd probably have to use a prime like the 77mm to get better bokeh, for the same image.

Besides the lack of really long zoom, the biggest shortcoming is the weight. It's not that it's bad, for this class of lens, but since the 18-270mm is only slightly heavier, I do wonder if it isn't possible to redesign it with less glass, and shave 100-150grams off. It'd make a difference for me when I put it in my backpack travelling- and that's one of the selling points of the lens, isn't it?- weather resistance- attractive for hikers, adventurers?

Thanks again for reading ^_^
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 24, 2011 7:19:59 AM PDT
now what says:
Thanks for a thoughtful and informative review.

re: "focus hunting half a dozen times, usually with more distant objects, especially narrow buildings or objects."

Have you set AF to a single point and put that point on the subject? This is a recommended cure for focus hunting at full zoom. I've had the same problem with my zooms (such as Pentax 55-300) and this solution ended the problem.

And of course there's the old standby of focusing on some other object at equal distance, using AF, switching to manual, and capturing your subject. Very useful for, say, photographing a small boat at long distance over water on a hazy day.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 24, 2011 9:39:12 AM PDT
Adrian says:
Hi Dr Surf,

Thanks for your suggestions. I haven't set it for a single point, but do try to focus on nearby objects if possible. I don't know how to do it, or how to creatively utilise that function yet.

I'd only bought the K-5 and 18-135mm a week before the trip, so I am the first to admit I don't know how to make the most of the combined camera and lens. I haven't had a chance to use them more because Pentax sent the K-5 back to Japan 3 days after I got back to fix the LCD screen (looked like a 2mm section at bottom had unpeeled, if that makes sense) and inside the 18-135mm there were a couple of what looked like tiny tiny bubbles of water. It was on the plastic, not the lens, so no effect on photos. But surprising to see.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 24, 2011 9:51:24 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 24, 2011 9:52:46 AM PDT
now what says:
To change the AF focus to a single point:
1. The simple way: turn the AF pointer (above LV, below green button on back of camera) to the uppermost position (picture of a square with a small point in the center). This will focus on whatever is in the center of your frame when you shoot. I now use this setting 99% of the time.
2. The custom way: turn AF pointer to center position (SEL), turn on camera, let INFO screen appear that has a graphic of the AF point on the lower right of the LCD display (if necessary, push INFO button until you get screen that shows it). Use arrows to move focus point around. You would only need this if you deliberately want to focus on something not at the center, for contextual or artistic effect.

The K-5 is an incredible instrument, but like many complex, computerized items, it takes some getting used to.

BTW, if you purchased the camera and lens at Amazon, it might be better to just send them back for exchange. My first K-5 was defective (blurry images and odd color) and they replaced it, no charges and no questions asked. The replacement works perfectly.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 13, 2011 6:04:51 PM PDT
Thank you so much for the review - I wish everyone would tell us the kinds of detail you mentioned here. It helps a lot.


In reply to an earlier post on Sep 19, 2011 9:54:48 AM PDT
Adrian says:

Thank you :)
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