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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.