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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
93 343,667 Sun January 3, 2021
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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
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SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited
supersize
SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited
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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 93
Site Supporter

Registered: December, 2011
Location: Melbourne + Malvern East Victoria Australia
Posts: 371
Lens Review Date: January 3, 2021 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 10 

 
Pros:
Cons:

great lens
   
Site Supporter

Registered: October, 2009
Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 137
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. ƒ/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.
   
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.
   
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


   
Community Manager

Registered: March, 2007
Location: Toowoomba, Queensland
Posts: 23,680
Lens Review Date: December 21, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $400.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Compact size and weight, excellent IQ, fast focusing
Cons: f/3.2 max aperture, which if larger would mean a larger lens
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-5 IIs   

This is a long awaited lens for me, not having decided to buy it until I had to travel overseas. I already have the DA 12-24, which serves my wide angle purposes perfectly, and I found hard to beat. The size of this lens makes it less amenable to travelling, but the DA 21 (as well as its sibling the DA 15) is perfect for the job. Its excellent build quality matches its IQ and makes me wanting no more in a lens. I would forego a zoom for travelling having this lens on hand.

I have found this lens to be very sharp for all my purposes - I rarely have to shoot wider than f/4.5 with it and recognise that it is hard to have a lens exhibit perfect IQ at or near wide open.

I have long tossed up the idea of replacing the 12-24 with the 15/21 combination, but the IQ of the 12-24 is so good itself at the wide end that the DA 21 fills in the 12-24 shortcomings at the long end quite nicely. However way this is rationalised, the DA 21 is a remarkable little wide angle lens that is second to none throughout all systems. Highly recommended +++
   
Site Supporter

Registered: November, 2010
Location: California
Posts: 2,223
Lens Review Date: December 21, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $400.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Small, compact, Pentax colors, no noticeable distortion, walk lens
Cons: not so fast, but who cares
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-3   

Excellent lens, no distortion, great colors and compact enough to walk with it around.

Pentax DA 21mm f3.2 - Palmeras en la Playa-1 by Palenquero, on Flickr

Pentax DA 21mm f3.2 by Palenquero, on Flickr


x21mmf3.2-Laguna-8-1 by Palenquero, on Flickr

x21mmf3.2-Laguna-7-1 by Palenquero, on Flickr


x21mmf3.2-Laguna-4-1 by Palenquero, on Flickr
   
Inactive Account

Registered: June, 2009
Location: Berlin
Posts: 103
Lens Review Date: July 28, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Fast focus, small, great built, great optics
Cons: none
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: New    Camera Used: K5   

Great lens: easy handling, solid built, picture quality is excellent, even wide open.

I have to admit, though, that I use it quite rarely, it is just not my focal length ;-)
But if it should be yours then get this lens.
   
Senior Member

Registered: December, 2013
Posts: 109
Lens Review Date: June 1, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $360.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Fast (and very quiet) AF, Sharp open, small, light
Cons: f3.2 but its okay
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 9    New or Used: Used    Camera Used: K-30   

My favorite prime. Great for street photography. Light, sharp and everything you can ask for.
   
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/
   
Pentaxian

Registered: November, 2012
Location: Newark, Delaware
Posts: 976

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.
   
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.



   
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: 1,654

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:







   
Pentaxian

Registered: May, 2012
Posts: 2,917

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: 2,616

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.








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