As I walked back from Kinkos, I thought about the DA 18-55 WR. I'm sorry that I didn't look at it when I was at Redondo Beach, but I was much more interested in checking out whether I could live with the size and weight of the 200 (and 300, though that was more curiosity than anything else).
My thoughts about the WR lens are mixed, and I hate to say it, but you - Scott - are partly to blame
. You see, I was perfectly content with the original kit lens and the DA 50-200 - that is, until I bought the A*300. Buying my first really good lens and seeing the results that I got from it over the DA 50-200 made me realize the difference. So when the 50-200 broke, I bought the DA 50-135. Even then, I was still happy with the kit lens because I was using the K100 and K10. But as soon as I put the 50-135 on the K20, I was doomed. After I saw the comparison shots with these two lenses, I put the kit lens aside and it's only been on the K100 once or twice since. Even Dan didn't like using it on the K100 because the viewfinder is that much dimmer than with the 50-135.
My second DA 55-300 is a good lens, very workmanlike and with good sharpness across the frame. However, I often find myself wanting more when I look at pictures I've taken with it. It is brighter than some of my other lenses - almost too contrasty, the A*300 can capture a greater dynamic range than it can (the difference isn't all that big, most people probably wouldn't even notice it) and it isn't as sharp as the old prime lens (as well as being slower). I got it because I wanted an all-rounder with something around 200mm, that was lightweight and it does that very well. But I still notice myself finding excuses to take the heavy lenses even when hiking because often I find myself looking at 55-300 pictures and thinking that there's something missing, something I can't explain, which I could get with the larger, heavier and very much more expensive lenses I have.
So that's why the DA*16-50 was my first choice - it's weather sealed for hiking, fast for indoors/low-light, offers a small DOF for arty shots either indoors or out and good ones seem to be really sharp (verified by the center sharpness of the one I shipped back) - a major weakness of mine. It's lighter than the DA*50-135 and so I figured the weight wasn't all that big of an issue, considering what else I own.
Next year, if they don't extend our pay cuts, I'll think again about covering the 24-50 range. I've been finding myself happier with prime lenses recently over the zooms I have (with the exception of the two ultra-wide lenses I have). So if I take weather sealing out of the equation, I may just opt for something like the FA31 Limited in a year or two. If I ever get a chance to check out the kit WR lens I might change my mind - I've heard that some people find the later version of the kit lens to be better and I understand that the WR is optically the same. It would have the advantage of being lighter, smaller and cheaper.
Short term, I figure I can use the refund to buy a bigger camera bag, and that's something I need right away. Perhaps another part will go to buying a couple of plamps (thank you, Scott, for telling me about them) and maybe a Hoya P72 filter. All that would still be less than what I spent on the 16-50, assuming I don't buy a 77mm filter. But I haven't made up my mind and won't until the refund is in the bank.
Besides, for the next couple of days I'm going to be too busy thinking about how to use what I do have to advantage. I'll be wandering around bristle cone pines, peering through windows into the wild, wild west days and looking at tufa. There might be enough time after all that to examine some columnar basalt, but it's not really on the agenda this time. I don't think I'll have any internet connection until the weekend.