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Thread: DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

  1. #1
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    Default DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

    I have always like the DA 21mm Limited. When paired with my past Pentax cameras - K100D and the K10D GP version, it sucks big time. Always got a problem focusing correctly, and most thought Pentax must have QA issues and yet called it Limited Lens. I remembered approaching Kelvin at Shriro 2 - 3 times asking him to help me check the copies that I have out, and only got more frustrated with the lens.

    However, I heard from Frank that once paired with the K20D, it's almost like a new lens. Was tempted to add it into my lens setup, but wasn't too happy with a f3.2 and I'd the 12-24 earlier as a walkabout for most of my travels.

    Interestingly, a few more pentaxians started picking this lens up, and I started seeing a lot more shots of this lens especially from Le Petit Prince, and Creampuff, and it certainly got me interested again.

    With the current crop of Pentax cameras, f3.2 isn't so much a limitation any more due to the fantastic sensors incorporated, and the DA 21mm pancake certainly looks less intimidating to passerbys, or photography subjects during travel. I decided to get it when someone offered his 2nd hand.

    This is how it looks like (pardon the picture quality) coupled with a "weather-proofed" K-r



    I truly believe it's worthy of being called 1 of the most versatile pancakes in Pentax's APS-C lens offerings even in wide situations.

    This is a stitch of 3 - 4 vertical shots with the DA Limited, thanks to the L-plate from Sunwayfoto (DPL-02), and Black and White treatment as the sunrise wasn't as colourful as I would like.




    Another 3 shots stitch with the DA Limited of our Boat Quay in the early hours of Saturday morning...



    Looking forward to your 21mm shots that shows the street and close up capabilities. And of course, this thread wasn't intended to fuel a Silver DA 21mm Ltd LBA. , I hope.
    Last edited by hjbyeo; 13th February 2011 at 01:19 PM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

    curious by what you mean a "weather proofed" k-r? interesting.
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    It went for a swim and recovered. Please do not try that at home...

  4. #4

    Default Re: DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

    This used to be my "kit" lens. Would have preferred a faster aperture though. These days I prefer to use to "DAL" 30mm f/2.4 instead although recently I am leaning back to my DA40 pancake.
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  5. #5

    Default Re: DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

    Quote Originally Posted by hjbyeo View Post
    It went for a swim and recovered. Please do not try that at home...
    hahaha i see. Real lucky camera!
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    Quote Originally Posted by airconvent
    This used to be my "kit" lens. Would have preferred a faster aperture though. These days I prefer to use to "DAL" 30mm f/2.4 instead although recently I am leaning back to my DA40 pancake.
    You mean the 35.. Yes, a classic 50mm fov. Good to know the "lens cap" back in favour.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wilb87

    hahaha i see. Real lucky camera!
    That's how well built pentax cameras are, and how reliable the K-r is. You'll surely like a 21 coupled w a K-r or K-x.

  8. #8
    Senior Member creampuff's Avatar
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    Default Re: DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

    This is a great thread Bernard.
    When I first started to be interested in the original DA Limited lenses (21mm/40mm/70mm) way before the DA 15mm and DA 35mm Macro were introduced, the lens that I found the most critical to get was the DA 21mm Limited. Why is this? Well the 40mm and 70mm pancakes have very close alternatives in terms of focal length with the FA and FA Limiteds. For the DA 21mm, the only closest alternatives were the discontinued FA 20mm f/2.8 and FA* 24mm f/2 both hard to find and naturally expensive... OK I'm cheap and got no big budget...

    Now during the era of traditional 35mm film cameras, next to the ubiquitous 50mm standard lens that came with the camera, the most common choice for a wide-angle and tele were the 28mm and 135mm lenses repectively. On today's APS-C sensors, the closest to the 28mm wide-angle on film in terms of angle of view is the DA 21mm Limited. It gives a wide enough perspective but shots still deliver a fairly natural look that makes it great for street shooting and naturalistic landscapes like this shot of the Singapore River.



    As much as many people gravitate and love the ultra wide zooms and primes like the Sigma 10-20mm, Tamron 10-24mm, Sigma 12-24mm, DA 12-24mm, DA 14mm and DA 15mm, I firmly believe there is a place for the DA 21mm.
    The large angle of view of the ultra-wide lenses means they need to be used carefully in terms of composition and taming the exaggerated perspective.

    While not as wide, the DA 21mm gives a good balance in terms of subject size in the frame that makes it a natural story-telling lens when you want to establish the subject to the environment. In my shot of workers in a spice milling shop, you can quickly establish the monotony of their job in the context of their place of work.



    This wide but not overly exaggerated perspective make it useful if you need to do panoramas like this 360 degree pano shot taken with the DA 21. As you can see it makes for a great lens for IR shooting as there is no visible hot spotting.



    Finally, as a tribute to cat and dog lovers, here's an in-your-face shot of a tom cat, displaying the useful close focusing ability of the DA 21mm (0.2m min focusing distance). OK forget bokeh, I just wanna get to shoot a cat without lying on my tummy and waiting for the cat to sit still while I try to compose and focus. As you can tell this fellow already quite bored and ready to move off already. With the fast AF I can shoot one-handed, the lens is so compact in size that it won't intimidate shy animals and people put off by a honking big lens in front of that camera.



    Metal build quality and small size means the DA 21mm always finds a place in my bag. It is sufficiently sharp but barrel distortion could be improved... a good time to try out that in-camera lens correction feature.
    Go out and buy one, especially now that it is available in silver...

  9. #9

    Default Re: DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

    Quote Originally Posted by creampuff View Post
    This is a great thread Bernard.
    When I first started to be interested in the original DA Limited lenses (21mm/40mm/70mm) way before the DA 15mm and DA 35mm Macro were introduced, the lens that I found the most critical to get was the DA 21mm Limited. Why is this? Well the 40mm and 70mm pancakes have very close alternatives in terms of focal length with the FA and FA Limiteds. For the DA 21mm, the only closest alternatives were the discontinued FA 20mm f/2.8 and FA* 24mm f/2 both hard to find and naturally expensive... OK I'm cheap and got no big budget...
    Hi Denis,

    If the FA 20mm f/2.8 and FA* 24mm f/2 were available, and budget was not too much of an issue, would you choose either lens or still the DA21 f/3.2? Advantage of the FA lenses is that they would also be compatible with Pentax film cameras, giving a secondary use as another prime lens with equivalent field of view of 13mm and 16 mm respectively on APS-C sensor. Currently torn between different ultra wide angle options, FA20 (2 primes in one), DA21 (now available in silver!) and DA12-24 (flexiblity at the cost of size).
    The cure to LBA? A dry cabinet too full to take in any more lenses :)

  10. #10

    Default Re: DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

    Creampuff, thanks for sharing some insights about the DA 21, I have always felt that the DA 21 is an odd focal length choice but now I understand its positioning a little bit better.

  11. #11
    Senior Member creampuff's Avatar
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    Default Re: DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

    Quote Originally Posted by ElectricBlue View Post
    Hi Denis,

    If the FA 20mm f/2.8 and FA* 24mm f/2 were available, and budget was not too much of an issue, would you choose either lens or still the DA21 f/3.2? Advantage of the FA lenses is that they would also be compatible with Pentax film cameras, giving a secondary use as another prime lens with equivalent field of view of 13mm and 16 mm respectively on APS-C sensor. Currently torn between different ultra wide angle options, FA20 (2 primes in one), DA21 (now available in silver!) and DA12-24 (flexiblity at the cost of size).
    Well personally I'd still stick with the DA 21mm even though it has a smaller max aperture than the FA 20mm and FA* 24mm. At f/3.2, the DA 21mm is just 1/3 stop slower compared to the FA 20mm and 1 & 1/3 stops slower compared to the FA* 24mm. The FA 20mm is a nice lens but some say it needs to be stopped down a little for optimum sharpness, which negates the f/stop advantage and the DA 21mm has the slight edge in build quality and size. The FA* 24mm is a big lens, especially with the big lens hood on and some on the internet say it is least deserving to get the FA* label. You have people saying it is so-so wide open while others say it is fine wide-open. Who to believe? I haven't owned this lens and you'd get a better and more objective opinion from a few bros who got this lens. Anyway current crop of cameras got good high ISO performance, so maximum aperture is less of an issue here.

    The FA 20mm and FA* 24mm equates to a 30mm and 35mm lens on APS-C in terms of field of view. Not really wide in equivalent 35mm film terms but for that kinda money there are lots of cheaper and more versatile options that cover a wider zoom range (DA* 16-50mm f/2.8, Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8, Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8).

    I've stopped shooting 35mm film so I'm not sentimental whether a lens has a FF image circle or not. So it's no big deal in my book and besides why pay the premium for it? If you really need an ultra-wide to shoot 35mm film, a MF lens something like the Tamron or Tokina 17mm f/3.5 can easily be found on eBay dirt cheap or you can go with Voigtlander 20mm ... To me it don't make sense to spend so much money just to have a lens with FF capability when film cameras aren't worth much nowadays... I seriously doubt most people shoot more film than digital nowadays given that most people keep their film cameras more for collectible or sentimental value. I'm pretty pragmatic on this... that's why I disposed off all my 35mm film cameras. If you feel you need that FA 20 or FA* 24 prime because it can serve double duty on film and digital, then go for it. But in my book don't waste time and money with a neither here nor there option.
    Last edited by creampuff; 14th February 2011 at 12:30 AM. Reason: spelling

  12. #12

    Default Re: DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

    posting some noob photos I took with this pancake:





    Last edited by angkukueh; 14th February 2011 at 01:03 AM.

  13. #13

    Default Re: DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

    Interesting thoughts on the DA21, hjbyeo and creampuff.

    For me, it's essential as my wide-angle lens, my other lens being the FA43 and DA70. My shooting style, lack of muscles and overexcess of shyness leads me to go as small as possible while maintaining the best optical quality.

    I like the focal length, it's sharp and fast enough, and I also adore its compactness and lightness. When, say, you're hiking uphill, you'll appreciate such qualities Very Much. :P

    Though I don't really do street shots, here are some examples of what the lens is good for.









    Another reason to go DA21.. if you travel or move around a lot when you take photos. It's ideal to go light when you're backpacking. These were shot in Singapore, Indonesia, Australia and Timor Leste respectively, with the K100Ds and K-7 accounting for 2 photos each.

    By the way, hjbyeo, I'm surprised you are "only" using the K-r. I thought you'll be shooting with the K7 or 5 at least, as you were using the flagship models previously. Any story behind the 'downgrade'?
    Last edited by le petit prince; 14th February 2011 at 02:05 AM.

  14. #14

    Default Re: DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

    Hi there ppl i m new to the forum ..
    kx user from msia =)

    i have seen some review saying that the distortion of this lens is on the high side since it is a fixed focal at this kind of range, around 2% , and we have got to stop down to f5.6 to get the excellent image quality out of it , what i want to know is how much would it affects the picture in normal shooting condition ?

  15. #15

    Default Re: DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

    Thanks Bernard for such a nice thread. DA21 is indeed a very nice little lens. Its FOV is similar to FA31 on film, very versatile focal length for general daily use. I had been searching for a good copy (w/o focusing problem) on my K100D and K10D for so long, ended up I gave up. But while I tried the lens on K20D, man, it really shined. I don't mind having a silver one on my K5 silver (yeah, I'm getting one that's for sure ) if the price is right.

  16. #16
    Senior Member creampuff's Avatar
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    Default Re: DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

    Nice night shot photos angkukueh. Tilting the lens too much will affect how your buildings will appear.

    le petit prince, lovely shots with nice composition and color.
    Last edited by creampuff; 14th February 2011 at 06:57 AM.

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    Default Re: DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

    Quote Originally Posted by jie88 View Post
    Hi there ppl i m new to the forum ..
    kx user from msia =)

    i have seen some review saying that the distortion of this lens is on the high side since it is a fixed focal at this kind of range, around 2% , and we have got to stop down to f5.6 to get the excellent image quality out of it , what i want to know is how much would it affects the picture in normal shooting condition ?
    I presume you've looked at photozone's review of the lens to quote the 2% figure. This relates to barrel distortion, the predominant lens aberration common to wideangles. This applies irrespective to whatever aperture is used. Not too much an issue if the subject has not much vertical or horizontal lines at the edges but it can show up, depending on subject you're shooting. In such cases, use the camera's own lens correction feature or adjust for it during post processing as I've done here in this shot.



    Stopping down about 2 stops from the largest aperture to get optimum sharpness is pretty normal for a lot of lenses. For the 21mm, the center sharpness is pretty good even wide open but obviously, stopping down will improve corner sharpness. Realistically in normal shooting, I've not experienced problems shooting even wide open.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

    Quote Originally Posted by fengwei View Post
    Thanks Bernard for such a nice thread. DA21 is indeed a very nice little lens. Its FOV is similar to FA31 on film, very versatile focal length for general daily use. I had been searching for a good copy (w/o focusing problem) on my K100D and K10D for so long, ended up I gave up. But while I tried the lens on K20D, man, it really shined. I don't mind having a silver one on my K5 silver (yeah, I'm getting one that's for sure ) if the price is right.
    Yah I think the silver DA 21mm is very cool too.
    Yeah, this is the real 31mm lens, APS-C speaking.
    I like the cutout bayonet lenshood for this lens. Flare control with this lens is pretty good.
    One thing about the DA 21 is don't lose that push on metal lens cap... so hard to find a replacement.

  19. #19

    Default Re: DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

    Quote Originally Posted by creampuff View Post
    Yah I think the silver DA 21mm is very cool too.
    Yeah, this is the real 31mm lens, APS-C speaking.
    I like the cutout bayonet lenshood for this lens. Flare control with this lens is pretty good.
    One thing about the DA 21 is don't lose that push on metal lens cap... so hard to find a replacement.
    You can use the cheap China made 49mm screw on hood w/o any problem

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    Default Re: DA 21mm Limited appreciation thread: the versatile pancake

    Wao ... just a few hours not reading the forum and suddenly a flurry of images from the 21mm!

    Some really beautiful examples. Certainly shows the capabilities of the lens (color, versatility).

    I like the push on cap, and it certainly helps to prevent any accidents on the front elements of the lens, and still keep the lens compact. And quite ingenious idea of screwing the 43mm filter onto the lens hood, except it's not that easy to get 43mm filters.

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