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08-09-2010, 05:20 PM - 2 Likes   #1
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Guide to using the DA12-24mm lens

I just wrote a quick guide to the buyer of my DA12-24mm lens. I figured others here who recently bought this lens can use it as well. Coming from an MF only background and never having used a lens below 35mm, the experience of using this was new to me. I only had the chance to take this lens out for three spins before selling it so I'm sure others with more experience can add to it.


On the K-x there are certain challenges in using wide angle lenses because of a lack of focus confirmation points. I turned off auto focus points because the camera had a tough time guessing which object I wanted in focus in such a wide angle of view. Center focus with focus-and-recompose worked very well in my experience.

At about 9-10 feet and onward is considered infinity focus on the DA12-24. So do not be surprised that the lens will focus at or close to infinity for 90% of your subjects. The lens actually makes very little sound during AF because it doesn't move very far each time it grabs focus.

People think because this is an ultrawide, you don't really need to focus. Absolutely false. At 12mm pretty much everything looks sharp on your small camera screen. However, once you zoom into 100% on your computer monitor you will see that out of focus areas are slightly blurry. The difference between in focus areas and out of focus areas is little but the difference is extremely important. To get the most out of this lens, you will need to focus carefully. You'll know that the object is in focus when it literally pops out for a neat 3-D effect like on the tire treads and wheel hub:



As well as the metal pipes here:



At 12mm, f5.6 to f8 is the sweet spot for sharpness across the entire lens. Wide open f4 surprisingly has the best center sharpness at 12mm.

At 18mm, f5.6 is the sweet spot for sharpness across the board.

At 24mm, f8 is the sweet spot for sharpness across the board.

If using it as a portrait lens at 12mm, you want to focus on the eyes and be slightly above the subject to avoid enlarging their nose. It helps to be taller than the subject of course. You want the closest feature on their face to be their eyes, not their nose. If you're shorter than the subject, you're asking for unflattering portraits. Profile shots at 3/4 angle produces interesting portraits and almost ensures their eyes to be larger.

Because of how wide this lens is, split screens are almost useless. It's best to use AF with spot focusing and the AE-Lock button to do focus and recompose. Another option is to use the AE-LOCK button as AF and disable AF on the shutter release.

The lens is relatively flare resistant. However, on long exposures of 5 seconds and longer, it will be prone to lens flares. You can use it to your advantage at times:



That was from a relatively weak street light on a long exposure. I didn't anticipate it at all until the photo was shown on the camera screen.

Make sure your lens hood is on tight. If it's not twisted all the way in until it clicks, the shorter end will show vignetting on the upper right corner and lower left corner of your image caused by the lens hood. I once had a series of image suffer that particular vignetting, very annoying.

Buy ultra thin filters for this lens. At 12mm, regular filters will vignette.

One of the best features of this lens is its ability to zoom while shooting a long exposure shot. This feature alone makes this lens superior to the DA15 in my book.



A certain weakness of all ultra wide angle lenses is the extremely large depth of field. It tends to flatten out images that would otherwise have strong perspectives. A way around it is to use the gradient tool in LR3. Drag a gradient on the background and decrease sharpness for the entire gradient. It's much like a Lensbaby effect like below:



For the people deciding between this and the DA15. The DA15 boasts of a smaller size, a better build and better center sharpness with lower CA, it also happens to be $150 cheaper. The DA12-24 is an all-around better lens. It is easily worth the extra $150. The DA12-24 vignettes less at 15mm, has noticeably less distortion (very important for ultra wides), has much better border sharpness and extreme border sharpness which is important on an ultra wide considering the natural subject matters (landscapes, cars, small rooms). Oh and the extra 3mm differential is HUGE. Each mm is worth more on the wide end. The fact that it can zoom to 24mm is an added bonus. It's not everyday that a zoom will beat a prime in general sharpness, distortion control and vignetting, but the DA12-24 somehow pulls it off splendidly.

A lot has been made of how the DA15 "controls your mind". Right... in that case, the DA12-24 is the Hypnotoad.

[YT]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W84DLa0CLNE[/YT]

Explore the possibilities of ultra wide angles by shooting downwards. At 12mm, it gives the impression that you're shooting from a higher vantage point. Just be careful to avoid shooting your feet.



While it seems like most of the car is in focus, it's not. Only the door handle is in focus. That photo shows just how little difference there is between the in focus and out of focus areas. The difference may be small but it is crucial.


Last edited by hangu; 08-09-2010 at 05:34 PM.
08-09-2010, 05:55 PM   #2
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Very cool and very useful thread.

I had a few instances of that flare myself when I used this lens... in fact, my sole PPG photo with the 12-24 "suffers" from that kind of flare in the extreme:

08-09-2010, 07:04 PM   #3
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Thanks for that Hangu. Yea the 12-24 is one of my favorite lenses, any time I travel I usually just pack that, and the DA*50-135, and I'm good to go.

I was just out with it on Saturday, nice day and I put CPLs on both lenses- well I forgot to take off the UV filter that was already on the 12-24; then I did get some vignetting at 12mm. But using the CPL alone, the vignetting was eliminated. (Hoya Pro-1 Digital CPL). Slim filters are a good idea, but one thing I noticed with the B+W 49mm model I use for some other lenses, is that you can't then attach your lens cap like normal (B+W does supply their own push-on plastic cap though).

One of the main things that may atttract me to ultimately buy the DA15 as well though, is the minimum focus distance. The 12-24 MFD is 45 cm IIRC, while the DA15 is 18 cm (? correct?). That could prove interesting I think...

Oh, and one other thing about lens hoods, for those of you who may own the DA*16-50 as well: Sometimes you can get the two mixed up, if so you will for sure get some vignetting!
08-09-2010, 07:49 PM   #4
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Thanks for the write up Hangu. This is very helpful.

These are great looking photos. Focus is spot on.

08-09-2010, 09:10 PM   #5
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Sure glad you liked the 12-24 so much, I still like the DA15 that I gave up the 12-24 for. All hale the hippnotoad!!
08-09-2010, 09:19 PM   #6
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Hi Hangu.... ever consider sending Nissan (or better yet - their advertising agency) a copy of your images - for an ad campaign?

08-09-2010, 09:20 PM   #7
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Good synopsis hangu.
I've asserted at every chance I get that the DA 12-24 is a star lens without the star lens build, but it also is the best in the ultrawide range.







08-09-2010, 09:52 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by song_hm Quote
Thanks for the write up Hangu. This is very helpful.

These are great looking photos. Focus is spot on.
Thanks, I do believe I missed the focusing on the last two photos. They certainly do not pop like the other photos. The difference is slight, but it is there. I wish I had focused on the dashboard instruments instead of the door handle but my K-x had problems focusing in low light.

QuoteOriginally posted by NeverSatisfied Quote
One of the main things that may atttract me to ultimately buy the DA15 as well though, is the minimum focus distance. The 12-24 MFD is 45 cm IIRC, while the DA15 is 18 cm (? correct?). That could prove interesting I think...
I would buy the DA15 for its diminutive size. I'm not sure how useful the minimum focusing distance is when the DA12-24 has... well a long end of 24mm. Perhaps the 15mm's wide angle distortion at minimum focusing distance is more pronounced and that can be used to its advantage?


QuoteOriginally posted by interested_observer Quote
Hi Hangu.... ever consider sending Nissan (or better yet - their advertising agency) a copy of your images - for an ad campaign?
Aw shucks, I actually really dislike car photography. Bought the lens to shoot my friend's car three times as a favor and called it quits after that. Sold the lens too since I so rarely used it.

QuoteOriginally posted by Ash Quote
Good synopsis hangu.
I've asserted at every chance I get that the DA 12-24 is a star lens without the star lens build, but it also is the best in the ultrawide range.
Would love to see these photos in a larger size. I know it trumps the DA15 and the Sigma 10-20 in overall image quality. I'm curious as to how it stacks up to the new Sigma 8-16mm and any other ultra wides made for the K-mount.

08-09-2010, 10:00 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by deadwolfbones Quote
Very cool and very useful thread.

I had a few instances of that flare myself when I used this lens... in fact, my sole PPG photo with the 12-24 "suffers" from that kind of flare in the extreme:
So, are you sorry you sold it? I'm not (sorry you sold it).

I did have trouble getting it off the 12mm setting. It's addictive. I just came back from a dance camp where I spent a lot of time on my knees and even on my back looking through this glass.

I do agree with what was written about depth of field. I would have liked to have blurred this ceiling.
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Last edited by GeneV; 08-09-2010 at 10:06 PM.
08-09-2010, 10:01 PM   #10
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Yes its a great lens, probably the best ultra wide zoom on the market for pentax in my opinion.
But accroding to photozone's test's the da15 @ f8 is better on center, border and extreme than the 12-24 at any focal length and aperture.
08-09-2010, 10:09 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by TOUGEFC Quote
Yes its a great lens, probably the best ultra wide zoom on the market for pentax in my opinion.
But accroding to photozone's test's the da15 @ f8 is better on center, border and extreme than the 12-24 at any focal length and aperture.
The DA15 has a different quality to it that is hard to describe, (magic perhaps?)--a little bit like the FA77. I won't be selling the DA15, but having a high quality zoom that hits that range is very handy.
08-09-2010, 10:29 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by TOUGEFC Quote
Yes its a great lens, probably the best ultra wide zoom on the market for pentax in my opinion.
But accroding to photozone's test's the da15 @ f8 is better on center, border and extreme than the 12-24 at any focal length and aperture.
Not really at any focal length or aperture, as the DA15 is stuck at 15mm and that's only true of F8 and higher.

The DA15 is slightly better than the DA12-24 at F8 to F11. The DA15 is 122 points better in center sharpness, 38 better in border and 18 better in extreme border at F8.

From F4 to F5.6 the DA12-24 is 259 pts better at border and 188 pts better in extreme border while losing out by 49 points in center sharpness. That's a bigger differential in terms of points, for whatever it's worth. However, this is for 12mm and there's no data at 15mm. We can also assume that at 15mm, there is a slight drop off in sharpness on the DA12-24 since the 24mm end is also the weakest statistically.

Neither lens lacks in the sharpness department but I wouldn't agree that the DA15 is necessarily sharper, not all-around at least.
08-09-2010, 10:34 PM   #13
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Glad you're diggin' it, Gene.
08-09-2010, 10:37 PM   #14
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I think you read my post wrong,
Put the da15 @ f8 and its better on the center, on the border and on the extreme than the 12-24 at any 12-24 focal lengths at any aperture.
08-09-2010, 11:50 PM   #15
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the versatility and consistent IQ of the 12-24 is it's bread and butter. this is the reason it has become a favorite lens for most people IMO. between the DA12-24 and the Sigma 8-16, the focal length of the Pentax has been more favorable for most shooting situations, atleast for my use. the Sigma is great as well, if only they made it a bit longer, let's say 24mm. yes, 24mm is mostly crucial for my shots. and also I would prefer the 24mm to be a zoom. and I prefer a 1 zoom lens setup at the wider end.
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