Looking for the Best Pancake Lens? We Really Liked These 3

The pancake lens is a favorite of so many photographers who want to travel light.

Mmmm, the pancake lens. It’s seriously one of our most favorite optics for any camera. Mount it to your mirrorless camera and the whole package will be small and lightweight. It’s hard to hate on the image quality when the feeling is this great. Luckily for you, we’ve reviewed a ton of different pancake lenses. So we dove into the old Reviews Index to figure out which ones on the market are the best. Without further adieu, here’s the list.

The Phoblographer’s various product round-up features are done in-house. Our philosophy is simple: you wouldn’t get a Wagyu beef steak review from a lifelong vegetarian. And you wouldn’t get photography advice from someone who doesn’t touch the product. We only recommend gear we’ve fully reviewed. If you’re wondering why your favorite product didn’t make the cut, there’s a chance it’s on another list. If we haven’t reviewed it, we won’t recommend it. This method keeps our lists packed with industry-leading knowledge.

Pro Tips on Making the Most of a Pancake Lens

Here are some pro tips on making the most of your new pancake lens:

  • There’s always a bit of a compromise with pancake lenses. They won’t be the sharpest optics, and sometimes they won’t focus quickly. But you make up for it with a smaller package overall. 
  • Sometimes, they may need an extra assist from you. Use the touchscreen!
  • You don’t always need to shoot RAW. Combine this with your camera’s creative JPEG imaging profiles to get the most from the experience. 
  • Because these lenses are so light, you’ll be able to handhold them at slower shutter speeds. Give it a shot!
  • If you really want sharper image quality, use a flash. Instantly, your images will have the sharpness of a brand new camera and lens. It’s really that simple. It’s amazing what a well-metered image using a flash can do.
  • Pancake lenses are sometimes the best lenses to travel with. Mount it to your camera, and just throw it in your camera bag. You’ll have nothing to worry about. They’re so small and so light that you’ll be hard-pressed to not like them.

Fujifilm 27mm f2.8 R WR: Our Favorite Pancake Lens

In our review, we said:

Pros

  • Compact
  • Weather-sealed
  • Great bokeh, when you get in close
  • Good center sharpness
  • Great price

Cons

  • Some colored fringing
  • Softer corners

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Panasonic 20mm f1.7 II: A Classic Pancake Lens

In our review, we said:

Pros

  • Pretty darn sharp when stopped down, but not so much wide open
  • Fast to focus on the GH4, not so much on the OMD E-M5
  • Very film-like color rendition
  • Distortion is fairly low
  • Nice build coupled with a low profile design

Cons

  • Wish it were sharper wide open

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Leica 28mm f5.6: The Vintage Look

In our review, we said:

Pros

  • Very low profile build
  • A very classic look to the image quality that I wish more manufacturers did
  • F5.6 is probably what I would use for street photography anyway
  • Smooth operation

Cons

  • Full stops for aperture, though if you’ve shot film then shouldn’t be an issue
  • Weird zone focusing scale so it’s tough to figure out what you’ve got in focus

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.