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SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited

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93 343,591 Sun January 3, 2021
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
95% of reviewers $411.47 9.10
SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited

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

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
©, sharable with attribution
Image Format
Lens Mount
Pentax K
Aperture Ring
Automatic, 7 blades
8 elements, 5 groups
Mount Variant
Check camera compatibility
Max. Aperture
Min. Aperture
AF (screwdrive)
Min. Focus
20 cm
Max. Magnification
Filter Size
49 mm
Internal Focus
Field of View (Diag. / Horiz.)

APS-C: 68 ° / 59 °
MH-RBA 43mm
Dedicated pouch
Lens Cap
Dedicated metal push-on
Weather Sealing
Other Features
Diam x Length
63 x 25 mm (2.5 x 1 in.)
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)
User reviews
In-depth review
Unofficial Full-Frame Compatibility Tests by Pentax Forums
☆☆☆ No coverage at any setting
Show details
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.

Black and silver

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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Registered: January, 2009
Location: East Bay Area, CA
Posts: 6,273

13 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: April 13, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $510.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: great color and contrast, small size
Cons: price
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 8    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: New   

I am mostly a wide & landscape shooter and the bulk of my landscapes are with the DA15 which i love. I also shoot with the FA31 and have discovered some situations where i needed a FL wider than 31 but didn't want to crop from the 15.

Enter the DA21. I have a feeling this is my new "default" lens, that is, i will keep this on the camera and then step up or down in FL as the scene requires.

I love the size of this lens - how do they pack so much IQ into such a little piece? lol.
The sharpness is unquestioned, contrast and colors are rich and flare resistance is notable. This lens, like the DA15, has a 7-bladed aperture for those wonderful starbursts when stopped down. I do notice the slight barrelling when shooting horizons but it is easy to correct in PP.

The minimum aperture is a non issue for me as I don't intend to use this lens for shallow DOF shooting; rather, i am typically shooting at f/9-f/13. Also, my low light needs are better met with long exposures and a tripod, which i use 100% of the time for landscapes. For those shallow DOF or interesting bokeh wide shots, i have a couple of other lenses i'd grab, such as the Vivitar Series 1 28/1.9.

OK, how bout a picture? This is literally the first pic i shot with this lens:

a couple months later...adding a current pic shot with this little gem:

Storm Over Kapho

Manhattan Sunrise

Crookedest Street

Primordial Shores
New Member

Registered: October, 2013
Location: Naples
Posts: 10

6 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: October 31, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $350.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Size, performance/size ratio, colours, construction, st. ph. point of view
Cons: Not fast as it could be and not enought sharp, to be so expensive. It should have been a bit bigger but a bit better.
Sharpness: 6    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 7    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 7    Value: 7    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: k5   

This lens was born in a clear project. It's made to be a small, light and non noticeable piece of glass. Optical performance and maximun aperture are sacrified to the size. For some one it should be great, for someonelse it may be a limit. But, anyway, it's only 21mm on apsc, not such a wideangle, and just 3.5 (not even a 2.8)... Soft in the corner until f5.6. At least, it's not a masterpiece of optical engineering. I could say i'ts a bad edition of a street ph. imited, if we consider than it's in the same focal length of the glorious 31mm Limited. And , one last thing, it's not cheap at all... I'd reccomend it only under 500$ / 450Ä new, and olny if you really need a small wide lens. It has the same quality of the 40mm limited pancake, in terms of optical rendition. But if you ar a street, this 21 dwarf is a great companion, because all of his defective aspects does not affect your style of photography. It's sharp, fast, small and af capable as much as you need, in the smallest wideangle with K bayonette.

But at the price it's proposed, I would appreciate something more similar to a "31 limited" for apsc... a bit heavier, a bit bigger, but a bit faster, at least 2.8, and sharper all across the frame from the biggest aperture. Even if it should have been a bit more expensive. It's because everyone will use this 21mm on a reflex body, and all that compactness became a non sense... and a bit bigger lens should not change anything, but could allow a better optical performance or a faster aperture, saving some shoot from motion blur or lack of detail. Such a small lens should be paired with a mirrorless compact camera, like fuji x-series or sony nex, but on a k-something reflex (or mirrorless) it simply does not change the game of "street ph. stealth mode", or the size ratio of your gear. So, I have to say, that it has been a non sense sacrifice the lack of sharpness and max. aperture due to such a unbalanced compactness. It's not a pancake anyway. The 40 limited is soo small tha you can put the camera body in a smllare bag, or let you seem to people nearby that you have no glass on it, and you are non shooting... but the 21 is not so "invisible" to let you take stealth shoot, it's not small enought to let you use an "only body" camera bag, and it's not cheap at all.

I didn't exactly desired the APSC version of the 31 limited... but just a more balanced compromise... a bit faster and sharper, and, because of that, a bit heavier, bigger even priced. I can reccomand this to people who put "size" at the first place of their needs, and don't expect the "limited" optical rendition.

Sorry for my low english level.
Veteran Member

Registered: December, 2009
Location: Georgia, VT
Posts: 1,654

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:


Registered: November, 2013
Posts: 4,854

5 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: August 17, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $400.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: great colors, small, light, perfect walkaround lens
Cons: soft on corners
Sharpness: 7    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 8    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-3   

Hi !

I own this lens for some time now and feel ready to review it.

It is not the perfect lens, mainly because it is quite soft on borders, even stopped down. My understanding is that this is not softness but field curvature. The result is the same: border tend to lack sharpness even stopped down... At least when you put focus to infinite.

This is really the only drawback. What to say? This lens just give great colors, crisp images that just look fantastic in practice. It is small, very small, the build in hood system mean you'll never remove it, getting rid of flare and removing completely the need for a protective filter.

The focal lens is near perfect for landscape and as a walkaround lens. You can take maybe half of your shoots with it ! From time to time you'll find it is not wide enough, for some buildings or maybe indoors. For thoses occasions, the DA15 might be a better fit.

It is also does nice close-ups, photos of flowers, and make the subject pop.

The f/3.2 apperture? Not really a problem you'll use f/8 most of the time for landscape anyway. For closup, f/3.2 is more than enough, you might want to stop down for more deph of field. For the night shoot, well just shoot f/3.2 for fast shutter speed handled.

Here a few examples that show the nice colors, rendering and close-up capabilities:

by Nicolas Bousquet, on Flickr

by Nicolas Bousquet, on Flickr

by Nicolas Bousquet, on Flickr

by Nicolas Bousquet, on Flickr

Edit: another picture

IMGP4821 by Nicolas, sur Flickr

Overall, you don't buy this lens for ultimate sharpness. This lens is not sharp. You buy it for the universal focal lens, the crip micro contrast, the color rendering, it small size...
Forum Member

Registered: June, 2013
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 99

5 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.

Site Supporter

Registered: April, 2010
Location: Calgary, AB
Posts: 4,592

5 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: May 1, 2011 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $650.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: size, sharpness, lens hood
Cons: In ability to use filters with lens hood

This lens was not a priority on my list as I already had the DA15 so I bought it on a whim (well with some unexpected money burning a whole in my pocket...). I used it daily for the month of March and found the focal length awkward at first - too wide or not wide enough. What I have found over time is that this lens has a very nice way of rendering detail and in good light can easily be stopped down to 9.5 or smaller to produce amazingly deep DOF handheld. The ability of the lens to capture texture allows for very effective monochrome conversion. I am looking forward to using this lens if and when spring arrives in earnest.

I hear many debating between this lens and the DA 15 Ltd. If you are not sure about the ultrawide which can bring challenges of composition, this would be the lens to start with. If you are naturally a wide angle shooter I would start with the 15 because for some landscape and architecture uses 21 will not be wide enough. Both lenses you will be pleased to know, produce those fine and fun starbursts. And, in the end, having both is not redundant, the lenses complement each other (or any other limited prime for that matter).

Some images with the DA 21 Ltd:

Retired fighter #2 by jmschrei, on Flickr

Rocky outcrop by jmschrei, on Flickr

Solitary tree - B&W by jmschrei, on Flickr

Downtown reflected by jmschrei, on Flickr

Registered: January, 2011
Location: SkŚne, Sweden
Posts: 474

4 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: November 20, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $355.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Focal length, AF-speed, handling, build quality
Cons: Distortion, corners wide open
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 8    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-5, K-01   

This review is for a mint condition DA21 bought second-hand locally in Sweden, serial nr is in the 0018xxx-range.

  • Very small size and low weight
  • Build quality
  • AF-speed
  • Conversation piece

  • Distortion
  • A bit slow

Build and parameters
At first glance the DA21 might not seem that interesting. The focal length is covered by many zooms, including the kit lenses. The speed is right there between kit lenses at f/3.5 and more expensive zooms at f/2.8. However, when using the lens it speaks to a different crowd. It is unrivaled in size among wide-angle lenses for DSLRs, build quality and handling on the small Pentax DSLRs is great. It also looks very good with the cool square hood!

Image quality
The DA21 produces typical DA Limited sharp and contrasty pictures, already wide open. Corners will benefit of stopping down, but that is expected. Being relatively slow for a prime it is important that it usable on the maximum aperture Ė and it very much is! Bokeh is not a major aspect of a slow-ish wide angle lens, but it is generally fine, but sometimes a bit busy. Aberrations are low and easily (automatically) corrected in software. Distortion is high for a prime lens, about the same as many zoom lenses, and worse than the DA15. As with vignetting, though it might be present it is easily corrected in software if needed to be corrected, unfortunately it ďeatsĒ a bit of the image when you need to correct more. Flares might appear from time to time, a little bit more than most modern primes I have used. Flares and ghosting are more difficult to get rid of in post and could possibly be an issue under critical situations. For general snapshots I don't mind a flare or burst from time to time, but it must still be seen as a negative. I haven't noticed any major difference in flare resistance and ghosting if the hood is used or not.

Use and handling
Like mentioned before, the lens fits perfectly on Pentax DSLRs, and it also works very well on the K-01 which really needs small primes to show its best side. The auto-focus is very fast on both the K-5 and K-01, and the short focus throw and low mass of the glass is key factors. Focus is accurate on my K-5 (and the K-01 of course as it uses all-time contrast detection). The perfect areas of use for the DA21 is too me indoors at parties, where the DA15 might be to wide (perspectives at edges might be weird looking), but flash might be needed because of the f/3.2 maximum aperture. It would also be good as a general walk-around or street lens. It might not be wide enough for interiors or architecture though. If only one lens can be brought, I like to think that a classic wide-angle is a great choice, and the DA21 sits right in between the classic 28 and 35 mm focal lengths. It actually gives me a preview of what the FA31 might be like on a full-frame DSLR...
Much like the DA15, you don't really have many alternatives that can match the size at this focal length. Maybe a FA20, or some manual Voightlšnder, but they are either larger or only manual focus. Price is usually relatively low (second-hand) as many users might go for the DA15, which makes the value proposition of the DA21 a bit more interesting.

Overall impression
The DA21 is yet another pretty unique Pentax-offering. At first glance it might not seem as special as the other DA lenses, with pretty standard focal length and aperture. But when size, build and handling are weighted in, it comes together in a unique offer. The DA21 is a great general wide-angle lens, right between the 28 and 35mm classic focal lengths. It is great for general use and especially indoors shooting people. If I had to choose between the DA15 and the DA21, it would be the DA15, but the DA21 stills holds a good value for the money and might be more suitable depending on your shooting style.

My pictures on flickr with this lens
New Member

Registered: January, 2012
Posts: 19

4 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: May 3, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $595.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Build, versatility, sharpness, colour
Cons: Expensive
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 6    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 7    New or Used: New    Camera Used: Pentax K-5   

I seem to be one of the few reviewers who actually likes both the design and functionality of the lens hood, because I consider that it provides the front glass element with valuable and superior protection from glare, knocks and finger marks that Iíd otherwise need to reinforce with the purchase of yet another filter. I canít really see what all the fuss is about, because alternative hoods are widely available and inexpensive to buy if this one doesnít suit. For me, the whole styling and build quality of the lens and its attachments are exceptional and high class. There is more than enough mediocrity and similarity out there in the world of photography. If youíre looking for that, youíve probably come to the wrong place.

My photos mostly tend to be of landscapes, coastal scenes or buildings. Conventional wisdom would have it that an ultra-wide lens is most suited to two out of these three and a more Ďnormalí focal length advisable for the other. I beg to differ slightly on those arguments as well. For me, many an attractive outdoor scene is turned into a boring composition by an expanse of dead space. And itís not always possible to stand a long way away from a nice building in order to get the whole of it inside the frame. I will take other lenses with me in my camera bag, but expect this one to be fitted to the K-5 more often than not.

If you are considering a purchase of this lens, I can confirm that the focal length is suitable for a large range of subjects including those referred to above and elsewhere in other reviews. If in doubt, look at the focal lengths you are choosing for your own better images. Iím pretty sure youíve done that already to be honest. In my own case, I expect at least 80% of my photos with the lens to be taken at aperture settings somewhere between f5.6 and f8. Based on a small sample test, Iím already satisfied that the lens will provide excellent image quality from corner to corner in terms of sharpness, colour and contrast. I canít comment on out of focus qualities because they donít especially interest me. Focus accuracy looks spot-on as far as I can tell and I usually look at the end product very carefully.

I think when something looks and feels right, it usually is. This lens is one of the very best Iíve used and despite my misgivings about the cost in relation to the standard of my own photography, I do believe it has been a very good acquisition. I think we ought to value items both in terms of the amount of financial outlay and the frequency of use. I expect the 21mm f3.2 will become one of my most used lenses over many years to come. If I canít get good photos out of it then Iím simply not much of a photographer.
Veteran Member

Registered: June, 2012
Location: Tokyo
Posts: 1,041

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.
amateur dirt farmer

Registered: December, 2014
Location: probably out in a field somewhere...
Posts: 22,808

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:

Registered: January, 2012
Location: Tokyo
Posts: 1,755

3 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.


Registered: September, 2010
Location: Manchester, UK
Posts: 2,616

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.

More here
Senior Member

Registered: January, 2011
Posts: 293

3 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: May 10, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 8 

Pros: size, build, hood, quality, colour, focal length
Cons: slow aperture
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 8    Autofocus: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 8    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K5   

This lens is so alluring because it creates such a compact setup with the small Pentax cameras. That's what drew me to this system from a full-frame Sony camera. Sure this lens could have been made faster or a little sharper in the corners or whatever.

But people, it's the size of an Oreo cookie. This comes with some trade-offs. It's sharp. It's got great colour and contrast and resistance to aberrations. It renders things in a lovely way.

I'm being very subjective. There are enough technical reviews. I like this lens for the shooting experience it provides and the look of the images it delivers.

The DA21 is unique among lenses out there. You can get some nice 20mm 2.8s but they are full-frame, large things. This lens takes advantage of apsc compact format and nobody else has anything like it but Pentax. It's like a rangefinder, perfect street lens. You can take it with you all by itself and get a sort of "stand back and look at things" perspective due to the somewhat wide focal length. You could call it boring. But I call it just right.

You could also say, but even my basic zoom lens is f3.5 at 21mm. OK, but it's bigger than an Oreo and it's likely not as smooth as this little baby. And you have that unique prime shooting experience that trains you to see things in a certain way. So I get a 35mm equivalent lens in a tiny package.

I love the hood. It's just there and I forget about it. The best thing is you hide a filter underneath it and never look back. Build quality has been noted and all that. The close focusing distance is also a charm of this lens. You really can get right up to a subject.

This is an often understated and overlooked cousin, but it really has a special place in my collection as a simple, excellent Ė and unique Ė wide angle.


Registered: January, 2008
Location: Brampton, ON, Canada
Posts: 2,103

3 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: September 5, 2010 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $350.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Size, Quickshift, Fast AF, close to my ideal FL, good colour
Cons: 3.2, some distortion, CA in high contrast

According to my catalog, this is my second most used lens (behind the 40mm). The focal length is very good for street shooting, and walks in the woods.
While not as sharp as the DA 40mm, it is still very respectable.

I have noted CA to be an issue when shooting in high contrast situations.

Of any of the DA limiteds, now that the 15mm is available, I wish this was redesigned as a 22 or 23mm (to give a 35mm equivalent) with a 2.8 aperture, and the distortion eliminated (not an issue on the K-7/ K-X if you are shooting jpgs - same with the CA).

The Travel kit of 21mm, 40mm and 50-200mm is very capable.
Veteran Member

Registered: December, 2007
Location: Montreal
Posts: 1,208

3 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: June 9, 2010 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $400.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: sharp, punchy colors, light, build quality, close focus
Cons: barrel distortions, "only" f/3.2, vignetting wide-open, some flare in contra-light
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 7    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 5   

I feel this is one of the most underrated limited prime lens. I think there are many reasons for this:
- the focal length feels odd for some. Interestingly it would have the same FOV as the FA 31mm Ltd mounted on a FF camera. Myself I like the FOV.
- It's "only" f/3.2. For a WA lens I don't think this is significant, especially considering the diminutive size.
- Barrel distortion. It annoys me too but since more and more software correct it (in-camera, LR3, etc.) it becomes a non-issue and most of time I don't see it.
- A bit expensive compared to the DA 40mm Ltd but not out of touch for a WA lens.

The rendering is special, the colors are very punchy, it seems that the lens is optimized for Landscape rendering.

There are also some vignetting wide-open, I kind of like it actually as I sometimes add vignette to my pictures.

The min. focus distance is quite short and close-ups are possible, add a Raynox DCR-250 and you almost have a macro lens.

In the end I use this lens much more than I thought because of its small size, it always finds a place in the bag.

Rue de la Couronne (Quebec City)

With the Raynox DCR-250

Butterfly and Orange Flower

Pictures taken with this lens
Add Review of SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited Buy the SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited

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