Pentax HD DA 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Pentax

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published May 2015

Special thanks to Dean Mengel for providing the lens for testing purposes!

Introduction

It has been quite a while since we published our last Pentax review but we haven't forgotten our Pentax fellows. Pentax may be a niche player these days but this never meant bad products really. In fact their lineup of APS-C format lenses is pretty much complete by most standards. Pentax has been especially busy in the standard zoom lens segment. Unless we missed something, they are offering no less than 8 lenses today - that's probably more than any other player. One of the most recent additions is the Pentax HD DA 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR. Internally it competes with the (pretty good) Pentax DA 17-70mm f/4 AL (IF) SDM with slight variations in priorities obviously. Unlike its older cousin, it features Pentax' new HD coating - although the old SMC coating was far from being bad anyway - and a DC AF micro-motor instead of the ultrasonic SDM AF. Regarding its 5.3x zoom ratio, it bridges the gap between the mainstream standard zoom lenses and the popular but usually rather mediocre "super"-zoom lenses.

In terms of design, the HD DA 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR is quite an interesting beast. Pentax decided to go big rather than following the recent trend of making things as small as possible. While a comparatively big (to be precise: long) size may not be up to everybody's taste this is at least a promising statement regarding the potential performance of the lens (bigger tends to be better). It also extends quite a bit when zooming towards 85mm and if you attach the petal-shaped hood, it's actually quite a sight then. However, even so the build quality is very high with smooth & nicely rubberized controls and virtually no play between the inner lens tubes. Pentax is emphasizing the weather-resistance across large portions of their lineup and this also applies here.

As mentioned, the lens relies on a conventional DC motor rather than SDM. At least initially SDM was a bit of a troublemaker for several Pentax users so a more reliable DC motor may be a good thing. However, at least when compared to the best in class (Canon USM or Nikon SWM), the AF speed feels a little slow albeit it's still fast enough for most use cases. Pentax Quick-Shift Focus system allows the user to switch to manual-focus operation after the subject is captured via AF. The AF accuracy was pretty good via phase detection (standard) AF but, surprisingly, we had a few outliers in live-view/contrast AF mode (which is usually far more precise than phase detection) beyond the middle range.

Specifications
Equivalent full-format"24.5-130mm f/5.4-8.7"
Optical construction16 elements in 12 groups inc. 1xED & 3x aspherical elements
Number of aperture blades7 (circular)
min. focus distance0.35m (1:3.8)
Dimensions78x94mm
Weight488g
Filter size72mm
Hoodsupplied, petal-shaped, bayonet mount
Other featuresHD Coating, SP (Super Protect) Coating, Weather-Resistant, Quick-shift Focus, Filter Window