Field Test: Pentax HD DA* 11-18mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Lens

2Share

In the world of APS-C format cameras, the pickings are slim if you’re looking for a wide-angle zoom with a fixed maximum aperture of f/2.8. If you own an APS-C format DSLR with a Pentax K-mount, you’re one of the lucky ones, because based on my experience with the Pentax HD DA* 11-18mm f/2.8 ED DC AW—this lens is the pick of the litter.

Pentax HD DA* 11-18mm f/2.8 ED DC AW

The Pentax HD DA* 11-18mm f/2.8 ED DC AW is a 17-27.5mm equivalent super-wide zoom that captures a near distortion-free 104° to 76° angles of view. To accomplish this goal, and do it well, Pentax’s 11-18mm ultra-wide zoom makes use of 16 Aero Bright II and SP Coated lens elements in 11 groups. Included are two aspheric elements, two ED elements, and a single aspheric ED lens element for optimal, edge-to-edge resolving power, minimized fringing and chromatic aberrations, and an all but distortion-free image field.

When shooting with ultra-wide angle lenses, it’s important to have something dominant in the foreground (or background) as a visual anchor for the eye.

The weatherproof construction of this lens is equally satisfying. The “fore-aft” positioning of the well-textured, rubberized zoom and focus rings eliminate any chance of confusion when working fast and furious. Other lens controls include a Manual/AF Switch and a Focus Lock Clamp, which is an override switch that enables you to lock the focus in place.

The Pentax HD DA* 11-18mm f/2.8 ED DC AW is a natural for expansive land and seascape photography.

Weighing a somewhat hefty 1.55 lb, Pentax’s 11-18mm zoom balanced well on the Pentax KP camera body (3.55 lb) that was supplied with the lens. The minimum focus of the lens is just under a foot (11.81"), which is typical of lenses in this focal range. (Personally, I wish all my lenses focused down to an inch and a half, but that’s my sword to bare.)

The Pentax HD DA* 11-18mm f/2.8 ED DC AW is equally adept at capturing distant scenes, as well as close-ups of subjects surrounded by their environment.

Pentax’s 11-18mm ultra-wide zoom has an 82mm filter thread. Needless to say, if you’re planning on using filters with this (or any other) ultra-wide lens, make sure to use thin mount filters or larger-format filter holder system in order to avoid vignetting. It should also be noted when shooting with lenses with angles-of-view wider than 90°, Polarizing filters can produce unevenly darkened blue skies.

When shooting with an APS-C format camera (1.5x), the AoV of the lens begins exceeding 90° at about 13mm to 14mm, depending on the camera/lens combination.

After using a run of full-frame and mirrorless cameras, I found the viewing system of the camera to be a bit too narrow for my tastes, but in short time I was able to move past it and begin getting more into the lens and what it can do.

The Pentax HD DA* 11-18mm f/2.8 ED DC AW is equally adept at capturing dramatic architectural photographs, as well as creative close-ups that tease the viewer’s eyes.

In use the Pentax HD DA* 11-18mm f/2.8 ED DC AW proved to be worthy it’s price tag. When editing the photos, I took during my time with the camera and lens, I couldn’t help but notice how even the illumination was across the image field. Having owned and used more ultra-wides than I care to acknowledge, I would say the Pentax HD DA* 11-18mm f/2.8 ED DC AW is one of the brighter-edged of the lot.

Image clarity, color rendition, and contrast levels were where they should be, and thanks, in part, to the lens’s 9 curved aperture blades, the out-of-focus specular highlights when shooting at wider apertures (aka bokeh) proved pleasing to the eye.

Monochrome close-up of dune fencing at the widest end of the lens’s focal range

As mentioned earlier, I was given a loaner Pentax KP DSLR as a companion to the lens. It’s been more than a year since I had shot with a Pentax DSLR (See Life After Dark: Pentax K-1 Field Test), and I had forgotten how impressed I was with the Pentax product line, especially when considering how much you get for your hard-earned dollars.

Like the Pentax K-1, the Pentax KP is a solidly built camera containing a 24.3MP APS-C AA filter-free CMOS sensor, ISO sensitivity levels up to 819,200, continuous shooting at up to 7 frames per second, 5-Axis image-stabilization, and a higher-resolution Pixel-Shift shooting mode. To top it all off, the camera is backed by a wide-ranging arsenal of sharp, equally well-made lenses.

Do you shoot with a Pentax product? Do you have any experiences with Pentax products? If so, tell us about your experiences.

2 Comments

It's nice to see that Pentax's recent run of quality lenses continues, and this time jumps to APS-C after the excellent FF releases lately. This is a lens I will look at closely next time I upgrade my APS-C body.

I have used Pentax for my stills photography since buying my Pentax K-1000 decades ago.  I have of course updated my collection of cameras to a Pentax K-3 II, K-5 IIs, and Pentax K-1 II.  Along with my Pentax 70-200 that I have on my K-1 II and a Pentax 16-85 that I have on my K-3 II, I have a Sigma 150-500 DG OS that I use on my K-5 IIs.  Pentax cameras and lenses have always been satisfying for me at all levels (sports, wildlife, and landscape) including performance, body build, and control/menu sets.  I am glad that you have had a nice experience with the Pentax 11-18 and would recommend the Pentax brand to anyone that has photographic interests.

Close

Close

Close