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SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited

Sharpness 
 8.9
Aberrations 
 8.7
Bokeh 
 8.4
Autofocus 
 9.5
Handling 
 9.6
Value 
 8.7
Reviews Views Date of last review
85 283,175 Thu March 23, 2017
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Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
95% of reviewers $422.49 9.13
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
Image Format
APS-C
Lens Mount
Pentax K
Aperture Ring
No
Diaphragm
Automatic, 7 blades
Optics
8 elements, 5 groups
Mount Variant
KAF
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.)
Only Hood: 15g
Production Years
2006 to 2013
Engraved Name
smc PENTAX-DA 1:3.2 21mm AL Limited
Product Code
21590 (black)
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



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Senior Member

Registered: December, 2012
Posts: 146
Lens Review Date: May 26, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $470.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Small, light, built quality
Cons: Average IQ, soft corners, some CA, pronounced geometric distortion, noisy AF, "slow" max aperture, focus ring turns on AF
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 8    Value: 6    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: Pentax k-5II   

This lens is light, small and very well built.

In my view it would make a very good street/travel photography lens if it weren't for the overly wide field of view.

Image quality was a bit of a disapointment (soft corners, some chromatic aberration, pronounced geometric distortion, vignetting wide open).
Focus ring shouldn't turn on AF modeÖand they could perfectly have made it wider for easier handling when focusing manually, or added a finger tab ŗ la Leica.

Expensive.
   
New Member

Registered: July, 2011
Posts: 8

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: April 10, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $320.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Color, size
Cons: working with filters and the lens hood combined
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K5   

Quite simply an excellent lens for street photography, but also for landscapes (although there I might prefer the 15mm). The quality is up to the limited standard, and this lens is very compact and light. It's size makes it an excellent compagnon in the town or on a hike.
The screw drive autofocus is slower than some SDM systems, but reliable and the quick shift is ideal. 3.2 is not very fast, but who needs speed (or a very wide bokeh) from a 21 mm lens.

I will not comment on the field of view: 21mm is 21mm. How does Pentax gets the limited to get so color-rich images - I almost get suspicious that they have a hidden setting somewhere in the camera...

Edit/addtition. I lived for two month in another place and obviously took my K5, but in the plane the gear was limited. I brought my DA 18-250, DA 35 2.4 and M 50 1.7. Of the number of other lenses I own, here was one lens I missed: my 21 limited....
   
New Member

Registered: March, 2014
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
Posts: 13

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: April 7, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $500.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: close focus distance, sharpness, colour rendition
Cons: none
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 8    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: New    Camera Used: Pentax K-5 II   

This is among my very favourite of the Pentax Limited lenses. It is small, light, discrete and versatile--a perfect walk around lens. It is a handsome looking lens and the lens hood does a great job of protecting the lens itself. Because it stays firmly in place the hood really eliminates the need to use a protective UV filter. The sharpness and colour rendition are spot on. Photos look great straight out of the camera.


https://www.flickr.com/photos/jengel-aiello/10469614523/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jengel-aiello/8803323049/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jengel-aiello/8442410229/
   
Forum Member

Registered: September, 2013
Posts: 59
Lens Review Date: April 4, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $400.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: compact and lightweight, sharp, fast AF.
Cons: not detected yet
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-30   

Yes - it has fast AF, as usual at DA Lim lens
Yes - it is very compact lens with also compact shade.
Yes - it is enough wide for usual indoor-tide room-landscape shooting. enough - it is mean that 15mm I do not need.
Yes - it is has a good colors ets...

Yes, it is sharp - but even it is wide angle lens, distant and near objects are not to easy to fall into DOF, if lens are wide open.


at close-up, (f/4) child face at 3/4 from 0.3m distance and focusing on the eye, near ear and distant eye are also out-of-focus!

I mean - it is sharp (!) wide-angle-lens, and focusing are critical.

UPD - after some time of use this lens I need to NOTE:
the lens are very sensitive to focusing. if focusing are perfect - image very sharp and has nigh resolution. even at f/3.2
I did calibrate auto-focusing on the body (K-30) and after most that shots are near perfect.
also - remember about DOF. for 16MP bodies DOF are very narrow.
   
Pentaxian

Registered: January, 2012
Location: Tokyo
Posts: 1,266

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: March 5, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $300.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: contrast, flare resistance, build quality, centre sharpness
Cons: lower sharpness at the edges
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 8    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-01   

I went through a few stages after buying this lens. The first shot I took was amazing, catching the early evening light in a way that none of my other lenses could do. Then I fell into the trap of pixel peeping and started wonder whether it was worth the money. I noticed softness at the edges of the frame wide open. Then I took it on holiday to Paris and really liked the way it captured scenes around the city.

So now the DA21 has become my most used and appreciated lens. I have it on my K-01 by default. The focal length is great, especially in cities, where it is not always easy to step back from the subject. It feels natural because itís similar to my field of vision.

I like the design of the hood, because it works effectively and it is very discreet, making the K-01 look almost like a compact. Iím convinced that looking into a big, open lens puts some people on edge, so this is a benefit when you want to catch people going about their normal business without your presence affecting the scene too much.

As a prime, it may not be the sharpest, but my copy is still sharper than any zoom I have at this focal length. Given itís aperture and focal length, the DA21 does not blur out of focus areas very strongly. Having said that, what bokeh there is is very pleasant looking. Contrast and flare resistance are fantastic. It can also produce start bursts at smaller apertures.

I think a lot of Pentax users avoid this lens, or buy the other limiteds first, because of its average test scores. Iím not going to argue with the tests themselves, but for me this is the most essential lens I have.



   
Pentaxian

Registered: April, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
Posts: 4,414

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: February 17, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $450.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Small, light, very good image quality
Cons: Distortion, a little slow, not the sharpest wide open, horrendous green blob flare
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 6    Bokeh: 7    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K200D   

This lens is very nice. It's small and light, AF is fast and overall IQ is good. It's nice to finally have a small, wide prime for use on digital, so I don't have to use a zoom for wide-angle.

This lens is good as a walk-about wide lens and for indoor use for groups. It's wide but not too wide. It's a very useful focal length in a small package. Colour and contrast are very good. It's perfect for night shots, the stars from lights render extremely well.

The first problem with the image quality are that it's not that sharp wide open (though perfectly useable). It's nice and sharp by f/4.5. Secondly, it has barrel distortion that is noticeable in many shots, something which is hard to understand considering the lens isn't really that wide, though this is easy to fix in post. Thirdly, and most importantly, when the sun is in the frame this lens can produce large and extremely ugly green blobs of lens flare. The hood is not the ideal size/shape to block this even when the sun is slightly outside of the frame. I've seen stunningly beautiful, sunny landscapes and come away without a single useable wide photo due to the green blobs. It's a blight on what should be a very good lens for landscapes and both points I've taken off the score are for this problem.

Aside from that, the only down-side to this lens is that for the price it really should be at least f/2.8. It's barely faster than the kit lens at that focal length.

As I've said, this lens is useful in many situations, so I wouldn't get rid of it, but if Pentax could make one without the green blob problem (and if it were f/2.8 too), I'd certainly swap.

[
British Musuem stitch (sml)
by Jonathan MacDonald, on Flickr


IMGP5518a por Jonathan_in_Madrid, en Flickr


IMGP9444a por Jonathan_in_Madrid, en Flickr


IMGP6491a DA 21mm
by Jonathan MacDonald, on Flickr


IMGP5387a
by Jonathan MacDonald, on Flickr


IMGP9921b 21ltd
by Jonathan MacDonald, on Flickr
   
Pentaxian

Registered: November, 2012
Location: Newark, Delaware
Posts: 641

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: January 23, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $429.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: compact size, build quality, sharpness, versatility, autofocus speed
Cons: Nothing significant
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K5 and K10D   

Already having the DA 15, DA 35 and DA 70 Limiteds, I bought a used version of this lens admittedly on impulse despite knowing that this has the lowest general ratings of the limiteds. This was definitely a pleasant surprise. Despite it being used, the lens is indistinguishable from a new lens, a tight solid constructed metal gem. I have taken many outdoor shots as well as indoor shots and am impressed with the sharpness and color accuracy. This is my first choice for indoor photography. I have read this lens is prone to barrel distortion but have not noticed it in my pictures. I give it a 9 only because it is not quite the equal of my level 10 lenses, the DA 35 Macro and the DFA 100 WR Macro. But it is close and one of my favorites. I would consider it a 9.5 if it were possible.
Update: after another month with this lens. I am liking it even more. Sharpness better than I expected, great walk around lens, compact size and exceptional build quality. I even like the hood/cap combo, so I up my rating to a 10.
   
New Member

Registered: January, 2012
Posts: 15
Lens Review Date: December 26, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: concept design, accuracy & fast autofocus, compact size & weight , build quality, focal length, color, contrast
Cons: sharpness at border @f3.2, CA
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 9    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K10D   

Only sharpness at border is not so good, compare with my DA16-45(very good) & FA28(perfect).
But another is pefect such as size, weight, design, good looking, responsible to traveller function.
   
New Member

Registered: October, 2013
Location: Naples
Posts: 10

5 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: October 31, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $350.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Size, optical performance/size ratio, colours, construction.
Cons: Not fast and not enought sharp, to be an expensive prime.
Sharpness: 7    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 8    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 7    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: k5   

This lens is a real "one direction" project. It's made to be small, light and non noticeable piece of glass. Optical performance and maximun aperture are sacrified to allow this main feature of compactness. For some one it should be great, for someonelse it may be a limit. But considering it's only 21mm on apsc, it's not such a masterpiece of optical engineering, to be a limited, and to be in the same focal of the glorious 31mm Limited (the price tells it of course).

Maybe I'm not the right one to express an impersonal and impartial opinion about this peculiar lens, because, as a "street photographer" I would prefeer something different than what this lens is intended to be by Pentax. I would had appreciate something more similar a "31 limited" for apsc... a bit heavier, a bit bigger, but a bit faster, at least 2.4 (the maximum light on apsc) and sharper all across the frame from the biggest aperture. Even if it should have had a bit bigger price. It's because everyone will use this 21mm on a reflex body, and all tha compactness became a non sense... and a quite bigger lens should not change anything but allow a better optical performance or a faster aperture. Such a small lens may be equally paired with a mirrorless compact photocamera, like fuji x-series or sony nex, but on a k-something it simply does not change the game of "street ph. stealth mode" or the global weight/size ratio of your gear.

This 21 limited is the most compact lens possible with an optical performance good enought for street ph. pictures at the typical "street reportage" focal lenght (21-24 on APSC). It' true that even 3.5 may be a sufficient aperture for street ph., a kind of shoot where immage quality is non the main mission, secondary in front of the frist need of being a low profile presence of the scene, but on a dslr a bigger but optically better or faster glass give a lot more performance without a real loss in terms of use and "street profile". Maximum aperture, borders and corners sharpness, distortion, and globla rendition, are too much sicrified to get a non-sense mini-sized lens. Everything in this lens is made to keep the size and the weight as low as possible without degrading the otpitcal performance valuable good enought for a street ph. and all-around shooting, even if it's non the best and a little bit substandard for limited series. It's a unecessary sacrifice for me, because the pro of a "semi-pancake" is totally vanified mounting such a small glass on a quite big camera like a dslr, which size makes unsusefull all that extreeme compactness of the lens. The 40 limited is soo small tha you can put the camera body in a smllare bag, or seem you have no glass on it, and are non shooting, but the 21 is not so "invisible".

Let's have a closer look:.. starting form...

THE GOOD
optical quality is very good... it has a very very good contrast and an ecceptional tone-to-tone colour transition, with a great "vibration" and sometimes a 3d effect, good flare resistance, well controlled Colours Aberration, good bokeh (not the best but it's a 21mm) and has everything else you should expect from a Limited lens, in terms of optical and mechanical performance. Optical rendition, except from sharpness, as said, It's globally better than my 16-50 at f.3.5 and 21mm, but not so much, considering it's a high priced prime and the Star a not so "star" 2,8 zoom. The 21 limited has a kind of "zoom" performance in sharpness.

THE VERY GOOD
Exceptionally good is the AF, very very fast (more than other prime like the F 50 or DAL 35 I have) if you get a good copy (some have af issue).
It's very usefull in street shooting and all around lens, even by night o indoor if you don't fear push ISO of one or two stop. The best, in this lens, is the focal/dimension ratio. 21mm is a perfect view for almost every kind of general ph, , the ideal for street ph., trip and many kind of reportage. And it's so light and compact, that you won't miss to much a zoom lens. If you can "fuse" with that focal, you can try a "3rd eye" photographic experience, even more than a "Normal" focal lenght. The minumum "evidence" of this lens is its core meaning in street ph.

THE NOT SO BAD
Not so "woow" effect as many of the "limited", each one with its own "character". The 21 has no its own "superb" rendition, it's more like a very good prime, but anything else. I can compare it to my 16-50 (wich is not a "woow" zoom as other star are... like the 50-135). They are similar in rendition too (around 24mm). Basically, on the "woow" effect, the comparison to the 31 limited is not eve imaginable. There no such a "3D" or "live" sensation, and no "unique" rendition.
Another thing to complain is distortion, not so well corrected (but a good post-production or in-camera correction is a simple way to fix this little problem in thoose shoots where it's too evident and may compromise the entire look), to be "only" 21mm (on APSC), but it's another pancacke issue. Some CA and PF, non much.


THE BAD:
It's not so sharp, to be a F/3.2 prime, and not so fast, to be a prime, of that focal lenght, and a "expensive" one... It's sharp in the center from 3.2, but not "such a razor" as I would expect from a hight quality prime of that price at similar aperture... it becames sharper all the frame long by f 4, and very sharp at 5.6... this is a more the behavior of a medium-hight quality zoom lens than of a prime... but I have to say that it's also the kind of optical issue that every pancake lens has due to ist "little" center in comparison to greater lens. Anyway, for the use it's supposed to be, the "street" ph, it's good enought even at 3.2. In actual camera, you can shot a f4 and 5.6 all the time with perfct 400 and 800 ISO results, when the light is not much, to compensate the relativelly modest "sharpess" at full aperture.


PERSONAL CRITICS:
I didn't exactly desired the APSC version of the 31 limited... but just a compromise between the "BIG ONE" and this "TINY ONE" street reporter... a more balanced lens,.. a bit faster and sharper, and, because of that, a bit heavier, bigger even if higher priced. in the middle... not as "exceptional" as the 31 limited is for film camera, but not even the typical "pancake compromise" lens. Even because this lens is exepensive, and is not tropicalized or WR, as a "all around" should be.
Honestly I had payed even 1000$ for a 21 limited f2 equal in performance to the 31limtied. Look at the fujinon x 23mm... that's a masterpice of reportage!
My complain is that the only good alternative is the FA 20 2.8, wich is sharper, has a better optical rendition (for my taste), can be used on film (and a future FF), but is such a rare and so inaffordable lens, with a ridicolous price now. The FA* 24 f2 is so heavy and not so good performing on digital that becames a non sense to use on a apsc digital camera, also because it's really expensive. The FA 28mm 2.8 should be to "long" in focal lenght to be a real all around one, and it is not even such a performer. I would appreciate if pentax will make a 20/24 mm DA 2.4 for all around and street reportage, for the one like me who does not need at all a so "tiny" lens, but prefere a sharper and faster glass, in a common size, a common construction (non limited), a common prime aperture, and common price.


VERDICT:
I can reccomand this to people who put "size" at the first place of their needs, and don't expect the best "limited" optical rendition that made thees lenses so famous Basically, the hight price is fot that performance/size ratio for a medium wide angle lens (and of course the "limited" construction). So, the real reason to buy this lens is the size and the focal lenght... everything of this lens should be judge in term of "...for its size" and in theese terms it's a winner, for sure, becouse in Pentax we have not realistic similar focal lenght alternative. I will never pay the price if that "small size" is not what I'm looking for most of all for a street reportage lens.
Anyway, I have to say this lens could be found used at half the price of new... and take it at this price (as I did) it may be a good deal for many of them who look for a good all arounder prime lens with good to very good optical performance and a top levele construction. In any moment you can resell it at the same price.

VOTE: 8

I gived this lens an 8, and it should be intended as a medium vote between the "7" as a general "street reportage" prime lens and a "9" as a "pancake" lens.


Sorry for my low english level.
   
Pentaxian

Registered: September, 2013
Location: Sydney
Posts: 844

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: September 8, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $439.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Great image quality.
Cons: Takes some getting used to. Not so great in low light.
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 8    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 8    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K-x   

This lens is a bit of an odd ball. This was my second limited (after the 40mm), and initially I was a little underwhelmed (I'd been spoilt by the 40mm I think!). With the 40mm, almost every shot you take gives you an immediate 'wow' factor, and initially I didn't get that same feeling with this lens. Shots felt a bit flat, and a little bland. As a landscape lens, I actually find it a bit disappointing (although I've not tried it myself, it does sound as though the 15mm would be better for that purpose).

After forcing myself to get to know the lens better, I finally figured out how to get the best from it. It's not an all-rounder like the DA40, but once you discover it's strengths and weaknesses, you'll find that the focal length can add more 'drama' to your shots than is possible with the DA40 (one of the reasons why the 21mm is now my most used lens). At f3.2, it does struggle a little bit in low light (you wouldn't want it for evening shots of friends), although tripod shots at night are fantastic! I find it's best used for 'street shots with a subject'.

If the focal length is right for you, and you're willing to invest some time getting to know it, then it is a great lens. I think it's a fantastic lens, but I would perfectly understand someone who said it's not for them. My advice would be to try before you buy!
   
Forum Member

Registered: June, 2013
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 97

4 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: July 8, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $450.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: compact size, nice focal length for APS-C, metal build
Cons: a bit slow (f/3.2)
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-01   

I believe that very few, if any, of the reviews of this lens (as of the date of my review) involve the DA 21mm paired with the Pentax K-01. So I'll add my take since this lens is quickly becoming stuck on my K-01. I favor using it over the DA 15, DA 40, and DA 70, for the sheer convenient focal length alone-- awesome for street shooting, group shots, even some indoor pictures (because of the K-01's great high-ISO capability). I find I use it about 70% of the time, with my other DA limiteds taking up the other 30%. It's such a compact lens even with the hood on, just a bit bigger than the DA 40, that I find the K-01 plus DA 21mm makes for an excellent all-day combination when out traveling or exploring my home surroundings and on family vacations. I find that images I take using this lens have colors that just pop off the screen, with great contrast and flare resistance. And the square hood is uber-cool. Looks beautiful paired with my Yellow K-01. The metal build quality is the icing on the cake.



   
Senior Member

Registered: September, 2012
Location: Vancouver Island
Posts: 108

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: April 15, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $550.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: size, weight, pretty much everything
Cons: It's a little on the small size, I find myself gripping the filter(s) or hood instead of the focus ring, and even once there my fingers and easily slip and obscure part of the image.., also seems to feed off natural light
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 8    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K-30   

This lil' beaut is meant to be shot wide open, super sharp and the bokeh is marvelous. Some don't like it, some simply find it odd and carry on, I love it.
Yes, the field of view is a little odd, takes some time to get used to it especially when your only other lenses are the DA 18-55 WR and D FA 100mm WR macro...but when you think about it, it's your fault if you don't like the focal length, that's a defining feature of the lens along with the aperture, you knew what you were getting into when you got a 21mm lens for APS-C sensors. Stop complaining.

This first one made my inbox explode with emails from 500px about people commenting on it, highest rating of mine. That made up for a kinda unpleasant weekend.
f3.2


f5.6
   
Veteran Member

Registered: December, 2009
Location: Georgia, VT
Posts: 1,653

6 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: January 15, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $395.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Size, Metal Construction, Sharpness, Colour Rendering
Cons: Finicky Hood, Small Max Aperture
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 6    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 9    Value: 10    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K-5, K-x   

A very bizarre little gem, this is by far my most-used lens. Everyone else has already covered the aspects of this lens to death (weird hood, small size, etc), so there's no reason for me to re-hash that here.

I also won't rave or complain about the focal length or field of view. It's a 21mm lens. It has the field of view of a 21mm lens on an APS-C sensor. That's not one of its qualities or faults, that's just what it is. If you don't like the field of view provided by a 21mm lens, then you shouldn't buy one. End of story.

One of the cons I listed is the small-ish max aperture. There's no denying that F3.2 can seem a little disappointing in a prime lens. But it turns out that this limitation isn't nearly as restrictive as I thought it would be. That's because most large-aperture wide-angle lenses need to be stopped down a fair bit before they become acceptably sharp. For example, the Pentax FA* 24mm F2 doesn't really get sharp across the frame until you stop down to F2.8 or F3.2. Meanwhile, the DA 21mm Limited is surprisingly clear across the frame right from F3.2, and it gets marginally better until it peaks around F5.6 or so. That's exactly the range where this type of lens tends to get used anyways. So while the F3.2 max aperture may turn some people off, it turns out Pentax actually tuned the optical performance of this lens to be exactly where it needs to be.

While out shooting with this lens in Montreal last summer, I accidentally dropped it from 4 feet high onto concrete. It landed on its side and rolled away from me for about 6 feet before coming to a stop. The incident didn't leave a single mark on the lens anywhere, which is a testament to its build quality. But from that point on, the left side of every picture was always noticeably soft. The problem was bad enough that I had the lens repaired by C.R.I.S. Camera in Arizona at a cost of $160.

Did I think it was sharp before?!? When I got the lens back from repairs, it was even MORE impressive than ever before! It's amazing what a test bench-assisted assembly can do to a lens. I think this is more a reflection of the poor assembly done by Pentax line workers than anything else. C.R.I.S. didn't replace any elements, they just re-seated the lens elements and re-adjusted the groups to achieve the Pentax-defined sharpness benchmark.

I can't imagine my lens collection without the DA 21mm Limited. It's almost always on my camera, and when it was away being repaired, I felt like I had a missing limb. A few of my favourite shots taken with this lens:







   
Site Supporter

Registered: May, 2012
Posts: 2,683

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: December 27, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $540.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: FOV, color rendition, sharpness, small, light
Cons: slow
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 8    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K-5   

I gave the lens a 10 because I feel the overall rating of the lens in the database is skewed. Its given lower marks than it deserves. If I was offering a my true opinion it would be about a 9.6 (if it were cheaper though it would be better).

I love the focal length. It is absolutely perfect for walking around. I shoot on full resolution RAW so my crops are still good. The color rendition with this lens is awesome and it has something special about it. I won't use the "3D" word but something good is there with this lens.

The FOV is great. Its not as wide as the 15mm but for walking around its amazing. On the street in natural light this thing is awesome. I found that if I stop down some and shoot in daylight it helps produce some great images.

Keep in mind the focal length dictates that this is technically a wide angle lens so physically the characteristics are going to be as such.

Downside is its slow. Shooting indoors is not its forte unless you use a flash or some other better lighting. Give this lens light and its absolutely fantastic.

The DOF is what I find different and tricky about this lens. At wide open and 1 meter from the subject the calculations are that the DOF is .29 meters... or almost 1 foot. The farther out you go from the subject the wider your DOF is and when you stop down its even more. This lens is equivalent to between 30-35mm on a FF camera as to FOV but because its designed for crop sensors you have a shorter focal length and because of its pancake design you don't get the sub f2 apertures.

You are trading off DOF so there is less bokeh but its the physical traits of the lens. To me though shooting outside or in natural lighting this lens is fantastic. In that scenario I would rate it higher than 9.6.

And the colors are just great. There is a learning curve to using this lens. If you try to use it the same way you do as a 50mm lens its going to be different. If on the other hand you learn and get the technicals down you can produce stellar images with this lens. Compare the calculations for a 35mm on a FF at f2 and your DOF is tiny. At 1 meter from the subject its less than 4 inches vs 1 foot for this lens.

Its a mixed breed between that type of FOV and a wide angle lens.

You can get about 8 inches up to your subject with this lens and with it being a pancake design that feels a bit weird, like you are doing macro on someone's face... but it works!
   
Pentaxian

Registered: September, 2010
Location: Manchester, UK
Posts: 2,416

3 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: December 5, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $640.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Size, sharpness, build quality
Cons: Lens cap, price maybe
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 8    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K-7, K-5ii   

I've got the DA35 macro but often I would end up using the kit 18-55 at its wide end instead. The DA21 seemed like the ideal answer.

The DA21 is small and the clever lens hood hardly adds to its length. On a K-7 it looks positively diminutive. As with all the limiteds, the design and build exude that certain satisfying precision feel. The lens hood design is unconventional but effective. The lens cap is a solid piece of felt lined aluminium, in keeping with the look and feel of the lens, but a bit impracticable and probably expensive to replace. Fortunately a standard old Pentax slip-on 51mm plastic lens cap fits perfectly.

The 21mm focal length is just right on an APS sensor camera, such as my K-7. It is just wide enough to make a difference but not too wide to give that somewhat boring stretched effect of ultra-wides. Autofocus is accurate, quiet and quick - there isn't a great deal of mass to spin around with this lens.

Optically, this lens is sharp enough to allow some cropping without a great loss of quality. It is quite sharp even wide open and gets better stopped down. The sweet spot seems to be somewhere between f/4 and f/5.6. There is a fair amount of barrel distortion and some CA, both easily correctable in post-processing. Contrast and colour rendering are excellent. Flare resistance is good, although when shooting into the sun at a certain orientation it is possible to provoke a 'green blob' flare, probably a sensor reflection. Stopped down it gives nice highlight 'starbursts'.

The DA21 is inconspicuous enough for street photography and sharp and wide enough for landscapes and architectural shots.








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