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SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited Review RSS Feed

SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited

Sharpness 
 8.8
Aberrations 
 8.6
Bokeh 
 8.4
Autofocus 
 9.4
Handling 
 9.5
Value 
 8.7
Reviews Views Date of last review
92 341,122 Fri October 30, 2020
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Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
95% of reviewers $411.47 9.09
SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited

SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited
supersize
SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited
supersize
SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited
supersize

Description:
The SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited is a compact "pancake" lens designed for use on Pentax DSLR's only.

SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 AL Limited
© www.pentaxforums.com, sharable with attribution
Image Format
APS-C
Lens Mount
Pentax K
Aperture Ring
No
Diaphragm
Automatic, 7 blades
Optics
8 elements, 5 groups
Mount Variant
KAF
Check camera compatibility
Max. Aperture
F3.2
Min. Aperture
F22
Focusing
AF (screwdrive)
Quick-shift
Yes
Min. Focus
20 cm
Max. Magnification
0.17x
Filter Size
49 mm
Internal Focus
No
Field of View (Diag. / Horiz.)

APS-C: 68 ° / 59 °
Hood
MH-RBA 43mm
Case
Dedicated pouch
Lens Cap
Dedicated metal push-on
Coating
SMC,SP
Weather Sealing
No
Other Features
Diam x Length
63 x 25 mm (2.5 x 1 in.)
Weight
140 g (4.9 oz.)
w/ Hood: +15g
Production Years
2006 to 2013
Engraved Name
smc PENTAX-DA 1:3.2 21mm AL Limited
Product Code
21590 (black)
Reviews
User reviews
In-depth review
Unofficial Full-Frame Compatibility Tests by Pentax Forums
☆☆☆ No coverage at any setting
Show details
Notes
The filter thread on the lens is 49 mm. The dedicated hood which screws into the filter thread has a 43 mm filter thread.
One aspherical element.
Variants

Black and silver

Features:
Screwdrive AutofocusQuick ShiftAutomatic ApertureAPS-C Digital OnlyDiscontinued
Purchase: Buy the SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited
In-Depth Review: Read our SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited in-depth review!
Sample Photos: View Sample Photos



Add Review of SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited Buy the SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited
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Sort Reviews by: Date | Author | Rating | Recommendation | Likes (Descending) Showing Reviews 1-15 of 92
Site Supporter

Registered: October, 2009
Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 118
Lens Review Date: October 30, 2020 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $250.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: perfect starbursts, small size, clever lens hood
Cons: slightly soft corners
Sharpness: 7    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 8    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-S2, K200D   

So much more than the sum of its parts!

The standout features of this lens don't fit neatly into the provided boxes. The colors are rich yet balanced. The lens is tiny and sturdy. And the starbursts (or sunstars) are astonishing.

I bought this lens second-hand because I wanted a green SMC Pentax-DA 15mm Limited for landscapes, but I couldn't find an affordable copy. So I got this, hearing that the starbursts were comparable. Well, they are not "comparable," they are "every bit as good." It has become my favorite lens, with the possible exception of my DA Fish-Eye.

It's hard to explain why this lens is so good. It's sharp, but not perfect. É/3.2 isn't all that fast. 21mm on APS-C isn't particularly wide. This should be a ho-hum lens.

And yet. And yet. This lens delivers. It is so tiny, the colors are so good, and the starbursts are so sharp. I now own four Limiteds: the 15mm, 40mm, 70mm, and this one. This is the pick of the litter.
   
Pentaxian

Registered: May, 2015
Posts: 1,196
Lens Review Date: June 2, 2020 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: size, focal length, contrast
Cons: barrel distortion, speed
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 8    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 8    Value: 7    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K-5, K-3II   

Nice compact lens with very flexible focal length. I had this lens practically glued to my camera for long periods of time. The focal length can do everything and gives a wide but somehow normal looking perspective.

The colours, contrast and rendering are all very good.

My copy developed a distinct wobble of the barrel despite the short length but no visible impact on optical performance.

The barrel distortion isn't huge but for someone shooting architecture it made me miss the perfectly vertical framing far more often than I'd liked.
   
Site Supporter

Registered: November, 2014
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 1,569
Lens Review Date: January 9, 2020 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $270.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Size; Image Quality; Fast Aperture;
Cons: A little wobbly construction?
New or Used: New   

My first limited! I got this for a trip abroad where I was attracted to the relative speed (3.2 is basically 2.8) for the small profile, with a wide-normal field of view for general scenes including landscapes and people. At first I thought, I might buy it and then sell it after the trip, but it fit its purpose so well that I kept it and got more limiteds! Shoot.

I've noticed CA but nothing major, it's a good sharp lens. I like placing my subjects on the edges of the frame, and sometimes if they're farther away and i'm shooting wide open the softness is not great and it looks like they're out of focus. So not great for that particular purpose. But for landscapes, general travel photography, grabbing shots with great color and sharpness, it's a killer lens! Unfortunately, it did not really help too much with avoiding attention. It's better than a big 24-70 lens of course, but attached to a K-3 and up to my face it's still obvious what's up. (I've found it's easier to not be noticed with a smaller point and shoot like the GR) A more concrete benefit to the slim profile is the ease of taking it anywhere and packing it. Other notes: I got a 43mm filter and screwed it into the flat lens hood, also the focus ring wobbles a bit, which isn't too worrying but a little unfortunate.
   
Senior Member

Registered: June, 2018
Posts: 125
Lens Review Date: January 5, 2020 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $220.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Small, lovely colours
Cons: Could be faster, but I wouldn't want it any heavier
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K50, K3ii   

As others have said, an excellent walk-around focal length. Colours (especially blues) are beautiful. Centre sharpness is very good from f4. Floaty light, lovely to use. Out of focus areas look very natural. Would replace immediately if I lost it.



   
Pentaxian

Registered: September, 2018
Location: Poland
Posts: 684

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: December 23, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $200.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: build quality, IQ
Cons: nothing
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-50   

This little lens has a lovely color rendition. Its focal length makes it a perfect walk-around prime for APS-C sensor. Very good build quality and a clever lens hood. Sharpness is ok when wide open and gets very good stopped down.

F/3.2:


F/4


F/5.6
   
Site Supporter

Registered: December, 2011
Location: Somewhere in Northern NJ, USA
Posts: 69

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: September 2, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $200.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: great viewing angle, fast focus in low light esp. with K-70, compact design
Cons:
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 8    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-70   

I primarily bought this as a lens to take with me for low light street shooting. Will try it soon with a bounce flash, and daylight stuff.

I'm pleased with the results thus far. Definitely worth the money to add to one's Pentax lens collection.
   
Site Supporter

Registered: May, 2013
Posts: 218

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: April 2, 2018 I can recommend this lens: No | Price: $590.00 | Rating: 7 

 
Pros: good autofocus, light and very portable
Cons: poor edge to edge sharpness
Sharpness: 7    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 8    Value: 7    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: Pentax K-5iis   

I love the portability of the lens and the hood design which does not project out from the lens body and is easy to put on and remove. Unfortunately, for a prime lens, its not as sharp as it should be as edge to edge sharpness falls off even at higher aperture values, f8 and up. Flaring is also an issue.
   
Veteran Member

Registered: June, 2012
Location: Tokyo
Posts: 1,040

3 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: March 23, 2017 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $300.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Starburst Effects, Build quality, Price
Cons: n/a
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 8    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-3   

It used to have a FA20 and now DA21. This review will be more of ďwhat I feelĒ between using 21 and 20.

Sharpness: I equally satisfy with 21 as I did with the 20. Both are sharp. I mostly use both lenses for night cityscapes / long exposure type of shooting. There are a few trick to get the most out of wide angle lens when focus at infinity for landscape photography which I am not going to mention here, but you can read a more extensive explanation from this page. The author did quite a good job explaining using real world example + offering tips.

Build / Handling: I am not a fan of pancake lens. In fact I like the size of FA20 a lot more but when talk about build quality; you cannot go wrong with the limited. I prefer the build quality of 21. Focus ring on 21 is small but donít let the size fool you. You will get a sense of preciseness when rotate the focus ring, solid in hand and easier to handle when manual focus compare to that on FA20.

Price: FA20 used is about the same as a brand new 21. However I went with 20 at first because back then, I planned to move up to FF. 20 didnít disappoint me in term of image quality but now I put my FF upgrade on hold. Since I will stick with APS-C for a while I think it is a no-brainer for APS-C shooter to get a 21 rather than pay extra for the 20. One more point I want to make here is; my 20 later on has an internal problem with its focus mechanism. Something seems to be broken inside out of the blue. I can hear strange sound when shake the lens, and Pentax Square in Tokyo cannot open it up for a possible fix. Keep in mind that 20 is an old lens, it is a bit of gamble buying one. At the same price tag, you get 2 shots with used 21 but only one with 20.

Starburst: 21 (green) offers nicer, sharper looking Starburst Effects than that on FA20. If you like Starburst Effects on DA15 (green), you will like the 21 (green) too.
   
New Member

Registered: March, 2017
Posts: 2

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: March 17, 2017 I can recommend this lens: No | Price: $200.00 | Rating: 5 

 
Pros: Size, quick-shift manual focus
Cons: soft
Sharpness: 5    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 7    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 9    Value: 6    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K7   

I've owned a Pentax-M 20mm f4 for over 30 years. I didn't use it very much in the film era. I wasn't fond of the distortion towards the edges, I thought it was soft and the colour was subdued unlike other Pentax glass I owned. When the digital era arrived with cropped sensors I gave it another try. Distortion was no longer an issue but it was too soft and continued to sit on the shelf and collect dust.
However, I found that I was using the 20mm focal range on a 17-50 Tamron quite frequently so when a 21mm Limited appeared on CL for a good price, I bought it.
When I was testing it the day of purchase there were a number of concerns, focus seemed soft and it had problems locking infinity focus at times. I thought the problems could be fixed with a fine focus adjustment so I completed the purchase.
I've now been testing the Limited for a number of days. I was surprised to find the IQ virtually identical to the Pentax-M 20mm. Actually I was more shocked than surprised, although colour and contrast tended to be better on the Limited if it was a shot taken in good light it was hard to tell them apart.
I thought that there must be something wrong with the Limited. I stripped it down and inspected everything but couldn't find a problem. The last step on reassembly was to set infinity focus and when that was done it was in the exact same position the factory had set.
Even though I found no mechanical issues with the lens I think there's a problem with the lens pack. Either the assembly wasn't adjusted correctly at the factory or some of the glass is sub-standard. I shoot a K7 and to correct focus I had to adjust the firmware to +40 UM and the lens +10. That's the equivalent of +14 when thinking of it in a menu equivalent adjustment, not something I consider normal.
What I do find surprising is that someone lived with this lens through the warranty period (in Canada I believe 2 years). When other reviewers extol the sharpness of their lenses I must believe that their copies really are that sharp. For what is marketed as a premium lens I would consider mine unacceptable. Pentax needs to improve quality control if they haven't already done so, in my opinion this lens shouldn't have been sold.
I consider it to be OK for street photography (what I bought it for) but unacceptable for landscape photography. Focus is soft and doesn't improve with smaller apertures although edge sharpness and contrast do.
   
amateur dirt farmer

Registered: December, 2014
Location: probably out in a field somewhere...
Posts: 22,079

3 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: December 4, 2016 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $239.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: build/feel, quick AF, color rendition
Cons: MFD, could be quicker
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 7    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-3, K-50   

my review for the SMC DA21mm f3.2 AL Limited (Ambrosia)...

I attempted to Single with the DA21 a couple of months ago, but discovered that it was no longer focusing at infinity, so off to Advance Camera for what was essentially a CLA job...

all the things that you read about the DA21 Ltd are true: quality feel/build, comfortable FOV on a crop-sensor body, warm color rendition, quick/accurate AF.... all of that is present in my copy of the lens...

but so much more - the hood/lens cap arrangement is so much better than the DA40 Limited; I never considered anything but the stock hood on the lens, and therefore the stock lens cap works perfectly...

it's light and unobtrusive on the front of my K-3, almost as much as the DA40, and makes for a nice working combination for so many things: street shooting, landscapes, candids, set-up compositions...

bokeh is just OK - you can get decent bokeh from it, but the shorter depth of field from this lens really does not lend itself to dreamy bokeh...

and don't forget about the starbursts - legendary.... almost too easy to create starbursts from almost any point of light...

only a couple of negatives: I wish the MFD was a little shorter (at about 7", it's not bad, but I kept finding myself having to recompose just because I was too close), and that it was a little faster (f3.2 is not awful, but maybe f2.8 or 2.4?)... my only complaints at all during the month...

this is an easy lens to own - not a doubt in my mind that this one is a keeper for me...

and the pictures... a few of my favorites:

".... it's another flamingo sunset....." by Pepperberry Farm, on Flickr

sunflowers by Pepperberry Farm, on Flickr

fall colors by Pepperberry Farm, on Flickr

black-eyed susan against the sunrise by Pepperberry Farm, on Flickr

the rest of my album with the DA21:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pepperberryfarm/albums/72157667854525090/with/25344046009/
   
New Member

Registered: May, 2013
Location: New York tri-state area
Posts: 3

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: August 30, 2016 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $230.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp, small and light, build quality, depth to images, cheap for a limited
Cons: Funny looking hood, some may say slow
Sharpness: 10    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 9    Value: 10    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-01   

This lens is my new ideal walk around "never leaves the camera" lens! A lot of people talk poorly of this lens, and I can't at all see why. I was reluctant at first to even purchase it until I found a great deal on a silver copy for only $230, and pounced on it!
It's super sharp! it's a great walk around field of view! the colors are unbeatable! and the bokeh, while not as plentiful as some of the 50mm fuzz factories is subtle and creamy!
Some of the complaints that worried me before and after i owned this incredible gem of a lens
* "it's too slow"- it is not a super night vision see in the dark kind of lens, but I found that it's just fine for indoor and even pretty dim restaurant settings. Even though the images may be slightly dark, the and clatity more than make up for the "slower aperture" it's actually very realistic and presents an almost three dimensional image that is very dynamic!
* "it's hart to handle due to the small focusing ring"- I am a carpenter by trade, a mechanic by necessity, and a drummer by choice. I have battered and bruised and broken my arthritic hands and fingers, and even when I first got this lens with a broken middle and ring finger on my focusing hand I had absolutely no problems with quickly and accurately focusing this lens. And my hands are huge. Always need the XL gloves
* "it's a strange "oddball" focal length"- I personally fell in love with the focal length over all my other lenses the first day I had the pleasure of using it. For me it was like the perfect bed, not too hard, not too soft, it was juuuust right! Get in tight for portraits, and take only a couple of steps back for wider shots. I can see that for timid people how they may not want to get that close for street shots, but if you don't mind getting alittle dirt under your fingernails, it seems to be extreeeemly personal and truer to personality.
* "too much barrel distortion compared to other limiteds"- there is a slight bit of noticeable distortion, but this can be "fixed" in post processing, or even better yet (what I do with it) use it to my artistic advantage. I find that it doesn't distort the human face enough at all to make it any less beautiful, and with architectural photos, I rarely take those from angles that don't play up this lenses strong areas, so it's really not a problem with my own style of photography
* "this lens has no personality, or special character like its other limited siblings"- NO! I strongly disagree. In fact this lens in my opinion has waaaaay more personality than most of the limiteds I've tried including one of my favorites the 40mm. Judging Personality, or character, or magic in a lens is a purely subjective analysis, and also a self fulfilling prophecy. If a photographer doesn't think the lens they are using has anything special to it, there is no way for them to play up the special aspects of that lens. The 50mm is a perfect personal example for me. I've never met a 50mm on a crop body that I've gotten along with! Including all the greats like the legendary 8 element or the 1.2. I don't personally see in 50mm, and
Can never seem to find a good angle to use them. Some, actually most people love them, and use them incredibly well! but as I said before, personality and magic is subjective and based only on how a particular user sees their own art in daily life.

In conclusion, I would recommend this lens and don't think anyone should be scared away from it by some of the negative opinions on it. Knowing now what I do about this lens, I would gladly pay more than double what I payed for it if I ever needed to replace it, and I wish that more lenses had this much "magic" to them.
   
New Member

Registered: December, 2013
Location: Maine
Posts: 10
Lens Review Date: March 12, 2016 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $300.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Sharp, great build quality, lightweight, all metal construction, color rendition, contrast
Cons: soft at the edges
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 6    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 10    Value: 8    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-3   

This is a nice, lightweight prime with great center sharpness, contrast, and color rendition. Its a pleasure to use on my K-3 and is especially useful for landscapes and group portraits. Although a little soft at the edges it makes up for this by being very sharp in the center of the frame. For landscapes it's a joy to use giving a nice 31mm equivalent focal length (on the K-3). Use at 5.6 or 8 for great, sharp, and contrasty images. Loves black and white, giving a classic film feel to the image!

   
Pentaxian

Registered: October, 2014
Posts: 384

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: August 12, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $260.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Color, contrast, flare resistance, small size, built in hood, build quality, close up capabilities.
Cons: Corner sharpness not exceptional, distortion not very well controlled.
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-3   

Just like all the Limiteds, this lens is beautifully crafted, and with the K-3 it forms a nice unobtrusive and compact package. The built in hood is nice and also physically protects the front element.

The main traits of this lens are its contrast and color rendition (as all the limiteds) and its great flare resistance, making it perfect for general landscape and cytiscape use. I love its field of view, not too wide, not too narrow, that coupled with the ability to focus very close (for a lens of this focal length) make ithe DA21 very versatile. The SMC version also produces distinctive starbursts even at large apertures.


This is not a design particularly geared towards sharpness and distortion correction, however the center of the frame is sharp even from wide open, only the corners suffer a bit and require stopping down. Distortions are easily corrected with processing software.

AF is very fast and relatively silent thanks to the short travel and low weight of the lens.

Initially, i was attracted bys the DA15 Limited to complement my DA 35 Ltd in a compact two-lens kit for travel...but i found this DA21 for a below-average price, and bit the bullet.

Ever since i took hold of this beauty and put it on my K-3 i have never for one second regretted my purchase.

Very highly recommended.
   
Senior Member

Registered: April, 2011
Location: LODINGEN, Northern Norway
Posts: 275
Lens Review Date: May 6, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $714.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Small, Color rendering, focal length
Cons: A bit soft on the borders
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 8    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K5 and K3   



Its small, and light
Funny shade
Fantastic color rendering
Almost perfect for street photo


   
Pentaxian

Registered: February, 2015
Posts: 7,914
Lens Review Date: April 6, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $400.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Small, rendering, focal length on APS-C
Cons: Not so fast, not very sharp on the borders but acceptable
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 8    Value: 9    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K-5   

The lens is small, has a very useful focal length for street photography and landscapes. Color rendering is great , and corners are not very sharp but get sharper when the lens is stopped down to f8. I used this lens essentially when I used DA kit zoom and DA super zoom where the DA 21 ltd was showing its better IQ. But then I equipment myself with a sharper zoom that is almost as sharp and faster then the DA 21ltd @ 21mm. Color rendering of the DA21 is still better than zoom.

Pros:
- small
- light weight
- rendering

Cons:
- not so fast
- a bit expensive
- compete with zoom regarding sharpness

If I had to buy this lens again , I'd buy the HD version of the 21 Ltd that seems to have a slightly better corner sharpness.
Add Review of SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited Buy the SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited



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