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09-12-2011, 10:49 PM   #1
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DA21 ltd vs DA35 ltd... Which has the most useful focal length?

I've been saving hard for the DA35 Ltd... About two weeks away from being able to afford it... This'll be my first Ltd lens...

Just been looking on flickr and fallen in love with a massive amount of DA21 Ltd shots...

It appears that the DA21 is a more useful focal length for outdoor-portraits, street-shooting and such and the colours are just WOW!
For indoors it's slower than the DA35Ltd but wider whhich could be useful

It also appears (according to reviews) that it's nowhere near as sharp as the DA35Ltd (although I'm not altogether really sure how much that matters) and macro ability is something I would quite like...

It could be that the shots I'm seeing from the DA21Ltd have simply been taken by better photographers than those of the DA35Ltd but I appear to be 'leaning' toward the 21...


The DA21 is not as fast... More expensive... Doesn't do as much... Have I lost the plot?!

In an ideal world I'd buy the 15, 21, 35, 40 & 70 in a single swoop... Alas... They will arrive separately and with distance between them...

This could cost me an extra month (or year or two for the set) of saving...

Anyone with both (or either I suppose) offer opinions?


Last edited by DaveHolmes; 09-12-2011 at 10:52 PM. Reason: re-worded
09-12-2011, 10:54 PM   #2
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Just done my math... 3.5 years for the set...
09-12-2011, 11:15 PM   #3
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The best focal length? Depends on what/how you shoot. I find 35mm good for people-shooting walkabouts, 28mm just right for many circumstances, 24/2 just right for many indoors, 21mm just right for much street shooting, 16/2.8 FE (slightly fishy) just right for tight indoors, etc.

Comparing just 21mm and 35mm on APS-C: Those are roughly FOV equivalent to 28mm and 50mm on 135/FF. Both are useful focal lengths. On the street, the wider is for grabbing scenes whilst the longer is for grabbing individuals (but I prefer longer yet). Don't choose -- get both!
09-13-2011, 12:06 AM   #4
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@RioRico, your math has a small error: 21mm's equivalent on APS-C is roughly 35mm, not 28mm (which should be 18mm).

09-13-2011, 12:15 AM   #5
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The DA35 will be far more flexible as it can do any kind of shot, 35mm really is the ideal normal on APS-C. Itīs incredibly sharp wide open, which means that you wonīt need to shy away from using it so.
09-13-2011, 01:12 AM   #6
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I'd be happy with either.

First the 21: IMHO, the 21mm is not slower than the 35mm. Yes, I know it's 3.2 not 2.8, but it's also wider and therefore more hand holdable by at least a stop.
Don't worry about the bokeh either. It can close focus and has the same "vivid-dreamy" effect as the FA50 can produce, only it requires you to be very close to the subject. Also, the starbursts I got when I tried this lens at the shop were truly the best I've ever seen.

Having said all that, I bought the DA35.

The reason was, I'm very happy with my 18-55 at it's wider settings and I already own the Sigma 10-20 and 17-70 if I need wide angle or fast and wide.
I got the DA35 as I wanted the best possible 'normal' for my camera. You can use it at any aperture and there's no noticeable difference in sharpness, which makes it so flexible. At 2.8, images are already retina scratching sharp and probably already better than my K-7 can resolve. As far as macro goes, 100mm would be more convenient for lighting. Rather than a macro lens, it's best thought of as having infinite focal range - it can focus from the horizon right down to the dust on an attached filter glass - so in practice I tend to use it at 1:2 macro, unless the subject is my UV filter. Focus speed has been called slow in some reviews, but between 0.5m and infinity, it barely has to turn to snap into focus, so it's actually very fast auto-focus at normal focal distances.
09-13-2011, 01:13 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by swifters Quote
@RioRico, your math has a small error: 21mm's equivalent on APS-C is roughly 35mm, not 28mm (which should be 18mm).
At 1.5x, 21 --> 31.5, which is slightly closer to 28 than to 35. But I don't have a 31 so I *roughly* approximated to 28, which I'm familiar with.

FOV's on APS-C:

28mm - 57deg
31mm - 52deg
35mm - 47deg

QuoteOriginally posted by Jonathan Mac Quote
35mm really is the ideal normal on APS-C.
Technically, 'normal' FL is the frame diagonal. Nominal APS-C has a diagonal of 31.1mm. My K20D's sensor has a diagonal of 28.1mm. A 135/FF frame has a diagonal of 43.3mm -- the 50mm standard is really short-tele, not 'normal'. And on APS-C, 35mm is also short-tele. REALLY short. Some love it. I happen to prefer a bit shorter or a bit longer.

50mm on 135/FF became a standard for reasons other than optical convention. (That's for another discussion.) Any standard focal length that's used a lot becomes 'normal' to its happy users. Some of the full-frame standards:

35mm - Olympus XA and similar minis
43-45mm - many fixed-lens RF's
50mm and 55mm - many cameras
58mm - Zenit SLRs (with Helios-44)

That's a pretty huge range of normality! Over a 1.5x difference between 35mm and 58mm. See, 'normal' is just what we're used to. (Not the same as geometric or statistical or evidential normality.)
09-13-2011, 03:36 AM   #8
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A normal lens has very little to do with the frame diagonal and everything to do with what the lens capturing approximating what you saw before the camera & lens were raised to the eye. Yes, the two are related, but in this way itīs stated in a far more meaningful way. Itīs therefore subjective, and the only way one normal can be considered more so than another is the number of people who prefer it, which is meaningless for an individual except as a starting point in recommendations of what to try. Iīve tried 28mm on APS-C, and while I do find it useful, I find 35mm far superior. Much of that is to do with itīs usefulness for portraiture, which 28mm is not so good at. But overall, my favourite type of photo is probably the portrait, so you could say Iīm biased...

09-13-2011, 03:52 AM - 1 Like   #9
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You will be deliriously happy no matter which of the 2 lenses you get first. I think you will learn more from having the 35mm as it will make you think about composition more. With the 21mm you will get a nice big field of view to play with. But the 35mm will make you think more about what you want in the photo.
09-13-2011, 04:52 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by DaveHolmes Quote
The DA21 is not as fast... More expensive... Doesn't do as much... Have I lost the plot?!
Well, the DA21 is no true macro but it can focus pretty close, and for flowers and such it delivers great colours. I didn't know it was more expensive than the DA35 LTD?

I believe it boils down (if you exclude the 1:1 macro) to the focal lengths, because both lenses are excellent. You own many lenses covering these FL. Are you able to decide which FL feels more comfortable to you?

Hint : for me, 21 was the prime of choice. Look at my lineup and you'll see how I spread my primes. There might only be a 70-77 missing, but I doubt I'd use it often.

QuoteOriginally posted by calsan Quote
First the 21: IMHO, the 21mm is not slower than the 35mm. Yes, I know it's 3.2 not 2.8, but it's also wider and therefore more hand holdable by at least a stop.
That's true.

QuoteOriginally posted by calsan Quote
Also, the starbursts I got when I tried this lens at the shop were truly the best I've ever seen.
Also very true.
09-13-2011, 05:20 AM   #11
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I own the 21 Ltd and the FA 35/2.

These FLs don't conflict but rather complement. Two different beasts that are both worth owning. The priorities are purely yours, based on your needs and preferences. The 21mm is a very useful wide-angle whereas the 35 is an equally useful normal FOV. If you need to choose one - then buy the one you'll use the most - wide-angle or normal macro.

I also think that you will end up with both (or with some other combination). Once you go the prime route, you need several FLs to complement your various needs.
Personally, I owned the FA35/2 and FA50/1.4 (and some zooms), and ended up buying the 15, 21 and 70 in one swoop, because I wanted a versatile compact combo to go with. I think that the 21+35+70 combo is incredibly versatile and insanely compact (not to mention high-quality of course). The 50mm and zooms now stay at home most of the time, where the 15mm comes along when I feel like going extra-wide. Another route I considered was ordering the 100WR instead of the 70 for a more spread-up combo of 15+21+50+100, but I don't regret it - I'm in love with the 70.

I have no experience with the 35 Ltd, but it is supposed to be great, and razor sharp (typically for a good macro lens).

I like the results from the 21mm. It's plenty sharp and vivid, and its handling, along with miniature dimensions, is simply a delight. 3.2 Is not that slow either - merely 1/3 stop above 2.8.

You may consider getting the 21mm and the cheap 35/2.4 if you want both FLs now for less money. You can always outgrow the 35/2.4 to 35Ltd later.
09-13-2011, 10:31 AM   #12
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The kit lens can act as a focal length simulator. Tape it at 21mm for a while, then at 35mm, then compare how that felt. Advice here won't be much better than that.

Many people have overlooked the DA 21 because of speed, especially when the DA* 16-50/2.8 came out. They seem to think that all primes slower than f1.8 are useless. You don't see them rushing out to buy the Sigma 20/1.8 though.

Thomas Bojer Eltorp has had a DA 21 about since it first came out, and sometimes posts stunning photos from it. (They are always stunning photos, just infrequently posted). His blog is here, and his member name on forums is Duplo.

The only reason I can think of to skip the DA 21 is how it integrates into a set of primes. It might be a little close to the DA 15. My choice would be something like 15-24-35-55-85-120, but Pentax needs to make a few more lenses to make that work, and I might need money.
09-13-2011, 11:35 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Just1MoreDave Quote
The kit lens can act as a focal length simulator. Tape it at 21mm for a while, then at 35mm, then compare how that felt. Advice here won't be much better than that.
Quite true. Kit zooms are good test-beds, to learn what focal lengths suit one's shooting style, and thus what primes to strive for.

QuoteQuote:
The only reason I can think of to skip the DA 21 is how it integrates into a set of primes. It might be a little close to the DA 15.
And here I must disagree. There is a vast difference between 15mm and 21mm on APS-C cams. The steps from 15-->18-->21-->24mm each seem small but they're noticeable and important. I need merely twitch my Tamron 10-24 to see that. The FOV numbers tell the story:

FOV's on APS-C

15mm - 90deg
18mm - 80deg
21mm - 71deg
24mm - 64deg

That almost 20deg difference between 15-21mm really is significant.

I'll add that the Tam 10-24 has lead to a sharp decline in use of my Zenitar 16/2.8 (defishes to 12mm) and Tokina 21/3.8, though it poses no threat to my Kiron 24/2. Alas, I have no Pentax prime s in that neighborhood -- my shortest is an M28/2.8 -- so I don't know if I'd be seduced and tormented by choices between Pentax 15-21-24 glass. Should I get a job so I could afford to torture myself with indecision?
09-13-2011, 12:10 PM   #14
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I don't think you can make a rational choice because we develop strong biases towards good lenses. I didn't think I wanted a 21mm until I rented one for a week. I absolutely fell in love with it the first time I shot. It was as much a feel and balance thing as usefulness. Once you get used to any focal length your brain just incorporates that automatically when you shoot. The 35 is a very nice lens. I just didn't fall in love with one. I've rented from both BorrowLenses.com and CameraLensRentals.com. That's informed my buying choices.

The suggestion to tape a kit lens to one focal length is helpful but won't give you the feel of what it's like to shoot with particular lenses, especially not high quality ones.

Last edited by mysticcowboy; 09-13-2011 at 12:19 PM.
09-13-2011, 12:18 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Noam Quote
I own the 21 Ltd and the FA 35/2.

You may consider getting the 21mm and the cheap 35/2.4 if you want both FLs now for less money. You can always outgrow the 35/2.4 to 35Ltd later.
What he said. Primes are best used in combinations of focal lengths (fields of view) rather than in isolation, IMO. The kit's the thing. :-)
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