Small lenses quite obviously help keep your camera package portable and lightweight. Since the mirrorless camera movement has been around, folks have been asking for small pancake primes to really make the system work towards its original intentions. But DSLRs also have great small pancakes, and if you’re looking for one, check out this list.
Canon 40mm f2.8
As the first and only autofocus pancake lens for the EOS system, the 40mm f2.8 is quite the performer. It is sharp wide open, has an STM motor to focus silently, is tiny due to the pancake design, and is at a nearly true normal focal length on a full frame camera (true normal is 43mm.) The only thing that someone could ask for is for it to be a stop faster. But for the most part, you never will want to take it off your camera.
When we reviewed it, we rated it quite favorably. It’s a lens that many Rebel and 70D users will appreciate because of the fact that it is small and will pair nicely with the camera.
This is a lens for folks that want to bring their camera around for a vacation and to have lots of fun with it. Due its small size, it is also great for capturing candids because the lens won’t stick out so much in someone’s face.
If you’re a Canon user, you’ll also be happy to know that we’ve added this one to our best budget lens list.
Panasonic 20mm f1.7 II
Panasonic really didn’t need to update their 20mm f1.7 lens that quickly became a cult classic when it was launched, but they did so anyway. The newer version is better built, but early reports have stated that the older lens had better image quality.
For what it’s worth, the 20mm f1.7 is the lens that made everyone start to look at Micro Four Thirds very seriously to begin with. The lens is not only a pancake offering which keeps the already small package down to a minimum size, but it is sharp and offers a 40mm field of view–which many folks love.
These reasons are part of why it became a cult classic. That and the fact that street photographers valued to wide f1.7 aperture for low light shooting and its natural light gathering abilities.
If you’re looking for image quality, spring for the older version. But if you can’t find it, the newer version is still quite a good offering for your Olympus or Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras.
Sony 20mm f2.8
Sony used to have another pancake lens in the form of the 16mm f2.8. While we liked it a lot, it wasn’t the sharpest offering and seemed a tad rushed into production. When Sony discontinued the lens, they came out with the 20mm f2.8 pancake for the E mount system.
This lens is said to be sharper than their previous offering and works well with Sony’s already small E mount cameras. To be clear, this one was designed for the APS-C offerings and will appear to have vignetting on the A7 or A7r.
Combined with Sony’s already very fast focusing capabilities, we’re positive that this is a lens that will live on your Alpha E mount camera due to the fact that it will make the overall package easier to simply throw into a weekend bag and tote around your shoulder as you have all the fun that your heart desires.
Suggest this lens to anyone that wants a kit zoom–a prime is always a better offering.
Voigtlander 40mm f2
What would this list be without a solid manual focus performer?
When I was a kid, I had a tradition where my father and I would get together every evening and watch the Simpsons on television. If you’re a fan of the show, you probably know about Homer’s tendency to drool uncontrollably–especially to donuts.
When I first tried the Voigtlander 40mm on a Nikon D700, I had Homer’s same reaction. It’s beautiful, small, sharp, not too contrasty, and has bokeh that will make the most smitten of photographers bite their lips.
But of course, it is a manual focus lens with focus confirmation, so you’ll need to take your time to ensure that you’re not only in focus but also that you’ve got everything carefully setup before you fire the shutter.
All this and Voigtlander creates beautiful glass.
Fujifilm 27mm f2.8
Last but not least on this list is the only current Fujifilm pancake lens. Though its a bit expensive, the performance is pretty darned good as well as the focusing speed. For starters, the lens is sharp, contrasty, and can deliver nice bokeh at the right distances. Otherwise, this lens is great for street shooting due to the small size and the fact that it gets so much in focus on a given aperture.
We had a lot of fun reviewing this one but more so than any other lens, we encourage you to get the right lighting to really make the results pop.
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