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10-30-2009, 09:50 PM   #1
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20/21mm range Primes - Pentax - Voigtlander - Zeiss?

Good Evening,

I like the wide angle end of photography, in particular landscapes and based on my time available, I usually shoot in the late afternoon and early evening / night. So overall, I do not have the best lighting, but I go for the lighting effects - sunsets, etc. I essentially completed my lens acquisition with the DA 12-24 over a year ago (~ the LBA is pretty well in check). I like it very much - its my primary lens. I also have the DA 16-45. I will admit, as I am currently packing for another business trip on Monday, that these two lenses are not among the smallest and lightest. I have usually been on the year plan - one lens a year (rounding out my 4 main lenses DA 10-17 FE and DA 55-300). Lately, I have been thinking of acquiring a prime. I have stuck with Pentax glass - one of the reasons why I went with Pentax in the first place (along with in body SR).

Also, the thread on 40 mm got me thinking about other quality glass other than Pentax. I also came across this 20mm thread on Vogtlander.

So the question. If Pentax ever comes out with the 11-16/2.8 (from Tokina) I might be interested, but it would certainly not any size/weight reduction. Essentially, I have been thinking of primes. The DA 15/4, I would probably bypass, as it is not any faster than the 12-24 and I am finding that 20mm is somewhat of a draw in the images I have been taking.

What is the current thinking on the following lenses?
  • Pentax 21mm F/3.2 AL Limited
  • Voigtlander Color Skopar 20mm f/3.5 SL-II
  • Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 ZK Distagon T*
  • CZJ Flektogon 20/2.8 (M42)
  • Sigma EX Wide-angle lens 20 mm f1.8
I do have to admit that I have serious doubts about parting with $1,500 for the Zeiss - my wife would probably have me institutionalized for metal defect, plus its not the smallest lens around - given the massive front element.

I mainly ask this because, I have not seen a lot of discussion other that the one thread on other 20mm WA lenses. I usually (like always) go for a very deep depth of field, so manual focusing should not be that large of issue. IQ, sharpness, richness in color, wonderful contrast are what I am interested in. I know the Pentax 21 is held in very high regard. Is there anything that is better - the Voigtlander? Does anyone have any experience with these, especially to compare and contrast? I am thinking that it essentially comes down to the Pentax and the Voigtlander...

Thanks!

10-30-2009, 10:04 PM   #2
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AFAIK, the original C/Y Zeiss 21mm was the best you can buy, even for 5D. I have no idea if the new ZK would be as good. Contrary to common belief, I have found wide angle more difficult to focus. The loss of detail is not going to be saved by DOF if it is not in focus. This is especially true for scenery when you try to squeeze every little detail out of the camera.
10-30-2009, 10:17 PM   #3
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I have both the DA21 and the C-V 20, and IMO the DA is the better lens, especially in the corners.
10-30-2009, 10:29 PM   #4
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I had the Sigma 20mm f1.8 and the DA21.. If you don't need the f1.8 to f3.2 range than the DA21 is better lens.. The colour/contrast was not impressive from the Sigma 20mm, the images just looked very flat in comparison to the DA21..

I did want to buy the "Voigtlander Color Skopar 20mm f/3.5 SL-II" but I really haven't been impressed with what I have seen of its optical performance and am not sure what it offers over the DA21.

10-31-2009, 02:58 AM   #5
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I think the voigtlander 20mm takes a while to get used to - I have just gotten it recently, and yes, it is a good lens but lacks the "omph" factor of say the FA ltds.

That being said, there is a lot of potential to this lens - from my limited time with it, I found the two characteristics that I like about this lens are: (i) the close focusing distance, and (ii) the bokeh (smooth and gentle). Despite being a wide angle lens, I don't think the Vt 20mm would excel in taking landscape (then again, I would have a biased opinion in this regard as I seldom take landscapes), but more as a street shooter kinda lens. The close focus ability does open up interesting options for composition. I think its a matter of getting used to the characteristics of this lens to maximise its performance.

Now, the two pictures below are not impressive by any means, but I've just put them in to show the optical quality of the lens. Both are wide open, and shot close to the subject.

this one more to show its sharpness, and colour rendering, which I found slightly warm:



the second one to show its performance in harsh light - this was shot near noon without shade. The focusing is slightly off, too much to the front of the small boat.



And one last shot from this lens at this post.
10-31-2009, 03:41 AM   #6
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Although it is probably not all that easy to find, there is also a Cosina 20/3.8 which is pocketably small. I'll grant you that Cosina is not the best lens in the world, nor even high up on anyone's list, but I'll mention it just so you have something else to choose from. One advantage it does have is that it is not expensive. Here are some sample images taken with various makes of camera.
10-31-2009, 08:18 AM   #7
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I am glad that this thread came up. I have a similar decision to make - I want to get a normal wide angle lens around 21mm. My current set of primes are - DA limited 70 and Voigtlander Ultron 40 (that I got yesterday). I am very impressed by the Ultron and focusing is very smooth.
And I came up with almost the same contenders as in your list. For Zeiss, I think I read somewhere that it does not have a CPU and so it can not take advantage of any metering. Can someone confirm or deny this?

Voigtlander on the other hand does have a CPU and I can attest that it works great.

Out of the three non-Zeiss choices, Sigma is the fastest but I read that the quality is not consistent and you have to carefully pick the right piece. Its the biggest one too.

I wanted to go with DA 21 on this one because it was slightly faster than the Voigtlander. But then I read at least 2 or 3 reviews that found DA 21 not of the same quality as the other limited lenses and said that it is the weakest of the limited series. So I am again a bit confused because I have read on this forum that DA 21 is great.

do let us know what lens you go with and why.

cheers
10-31-2009, 08:53 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by dexmus Quote
. . .
And I came up with almost the same contenders as in your list. For Zeiss, I think I read somewhere that it does not have a CPU and so it can not take advantage of any metering. Can someone confirm or deny this?

Voigtlander on the other hand does have a CPU and I can attest that it works great.

. . .
As far as the Zeiss goes:
QuoteQuote:
The "ZK" version is for Pentax K-mount cameras. This lens will fully support Program mode, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and full Manual modes with any K-type camera introduced after 1998 (e.g. PZ, MZ, ZX, and all digital SLR cameras).
QuoteOriginally posted by dexmus Quote
. . . But then I read at least 2 or 3 reviews that found DA 21 not of the same quality as the other limited lenses and said that it is the weakest of the limited series. So I am again a bit confused because I have read on this forum that DA 21 is great.

do let us know what lens you go with and why.

cheers
The DA 21mm ltd is built as good as any DA ltd lens. The Zeiss 21mm f2.8 ZK Distagon is a fine lens. However, I don't think it is $1 K USD better.

10-31-2009, 09:15 AM   #9
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If you have the 12-24 then the only really justified choice would be the DA21 where you gain speed and lose a lot of size while still having full functionality for not too outrageous of a price. All of the others are some subset of manual focus, huge/expensive, manual exposure, or slow.

I would put it near the top of my favourites and most frequently used.
10-31-2009, 09:15 AM   #10
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Here is a comparison of the DA 21mm ltd and my $21 Tamron 21mm f4.5 lens. If you look at the tree line in the background, you can see differences due to the fov being different on the digital sensor and 35mm negative.



Shot on Kodak BW400cn and negatives scanned:

10-31-2009, 12:48 PM   #11
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Original Poster
Well, I just came in from chores, and was thinking that there might be a response? Little did I think that there would be so many....

I had been mulling this over for a while now, thinking that the DA21 Ltd was more than good enough for my lowly photography skills. However, I have been saving my lunch money trying to acquire the best glass I could - so that I would not have to acquire something better the second / third time around.

QuoteQuote:
If you have the 12-24 then the only really justified choice would be the DA21 where you gain speed and lose a lot of size while still having full functionality for not too outrageous of a price. All of the others are some subset of manual focus, huge/expensive, manual exposure, or slow.
I think that really puts my question in context.

QuoteQuote:
I have both the DA21 and the C-V 20, and IMO the DA is the better lens, especially in the corners.
QuoteQuote:
If you don't need the f1.8 to f3.2 range than the DA21 is better lens..
In some respects, the DA 21 was a given, in that its an automatic K mount Limited already and what more can you ask for, especially with the small size and light weight, with a stellar reputation. I am almost embarrassed that I even asked.

Several times over the last few years I have referenced this article, that I have always found interesting....

sm-02-05-02



... and here I was thinking that the Zeiss lens was expensive. At least the shipping is free.

10-31-2009, 07:39 PM   #12
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not fair to comapre Zeiss 21 to the other lenses.
I just got my Zeiss 21 ZE which is the Canon version and this lens shines.
My Pentax 21DA is great, but Zeiss 21 is a completely different league:




11-01-2009, 01:48 AM   #13
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I'd say that if you shoot film or believe in a coming FF DSLR, and prefer the MX/K7 + pancake style of "small is beautiful", the Voigtlander becomes best option in terms of currently produced lenses. If you only shoot digital and do not believe Pentax will go FF, then the DA is a no-brainer. The Zeiss is very large and heavy on top of being expensive. Might just as well go for a 16-50 or 12-24 at that size/weight....

I have the 21 DA, and it is plenty good. But I regret not having opted for the Voigtlander, as it would also have been a great super-wide to use with the MX....
11-01-2009, 06:05 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by dexmus Quote
I wanted to go with DA 21 on this one because it was slightly faster than the Voigtlander. But then I read at least 2 or 3 reviews that found DA 21 not of the same quality as the other limited lenses and said that it is the weakest of the limited series.
The poor DA 21Ltd has sure taken a beating. I think it's now starting to get it's due but it seemed to get off to a rocky start. When I was researching it a year or two ago there were all kinds of posts like this. Some even complained that it was a terrible FOV on digital........I could never figure that one out because it's pretty much equivalent to the FA 31mm on film and I've never heard many complaints of it! People also complained about it's AF on the K10D and said it was a new lens on the K20D. I've often wondered if the complaints about it's "softness" was actually due to focus issues. I don't think I've ever autofocused it on either body, it manually focuses just fine on both, though. I've never understood the rap that it's the weakest Limited. Does this mean it's a weak lens or the weakest Limited? If it's the weakest Limited how in the world do you compare it to the, say, 77Ltd, or the DA 40, or any of the others? It's a 21 mm lens, not a 77 or a 31 or a 40 or a 43. After already having the FA Ltds I was worried about the DA Ltds build quality compared to them and the lack of the aperture ring but believe me there is no let down in build quality. The only reason I would consider the Voightlander over it would be for full frame issues if I wanted to shoot film. The Zeiss should be in a different league considering it's price.

I've found no issues whatsoever with the DA 21mm's sharpness or rendering, it takes gorgeous photos. It does have a bit of distortion but that is not an issue for me with landscapes. I have done some interior shooting with it and while I would love to get the DA 15 for this type work the 21 is coping just fine till I can afford the 15.

If you're looking for a wide angle for the mythical future FF Pentax digital camera or for film, then other lenses need be considered. If you want the very best spend 3 times the money for the Zeiss. If you want a beautiful, small, light, gorgeously built prime that takes very very nice photos that stand right along side it's Limited brothers, get the DA 21/3.2 Limited.
11-01-2009, 06:38 AM   #15
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The DA 21mm is a decent lens, just that it is one of the lenses that shows up the K10D's failings when autofocusing. Paired with the newer bodies, all the AF gremlins go away.
I like it because it gets to be a real challenge to get pin sharp images when manual focusing, so I definitely need the AF.
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