The Best Pancake Lenses to Make Your Camera Small


No, Pancake lenses don’t go well with maple syrup. The pancake lens is a favorite of so many photographers who want to travel light. Mmmm, the pancake lens. It’s one of our favorite optics for any camera. Mount it to your mirrorless camera and the 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 are the best. Without further adieu, here’s the list.

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 have 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. Your images will instantly 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 light that you’ll be hard-pressed not to like them.

Canon 22mm f2 STM: What a Gem!

pancake lenses

Pros

  • Sharp output
  • Nice bokeh
  • Pancake size is perfect for a camera like this.
  • Fast aperture, which the EOS M5 really needs
  • Lets the M5 fit into your pocket

Cons

In our review, we said:

“Well, here’s the fantastic thing about the Canon 22mm f2 EF-m lens: it offers fantastic image quality. I wish every brand made a pancake lens this good. It’s sharp, contrasty, has beautiful bokeh, there’s no chromatic aberration, etc. It’s so perfect. Yes, I’m saying it’s perfect.”

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Fujifilm 27mm f2.8 R WR: A Pancake Lens to Make Your Camera a Compact

Pros

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

Cons

  • Some colored fringing
  • Softer corners

In our review, we said:

“The Fujifilm 27mm f2.8 R WR is a new lens that’s kit for cameras like the XE4. But, the lens captures images way better than most kit lenses. It’s a tiny, versatile lens great for lifestyle and street photography and, in a pinch, portraits and landscapes.”

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Panasonic 20mm f1.7 II: A Classic Pancake Lens Loved by So Many

Pros

  • Pretty darn sharp when stopped down
  • Fast to focus on the GH4
  • Very film-like color rendition
  • Distortion is fairly low.
  • Nice build coupled with a low profile design

Cons

  • Wish it were sharper wide open

In our review, we said:

“Considering that this is a very typical Micro Four Thirds autofocusing lens, all you need to do is mount the lens to the camera, point, shoot, and enjoy the images. Considering that there are no switches on the lens, you’ll need to go through camera buttons and menus to switch the focusing type. Otherwise, simply mount it and forget it. It’s a true joy to use.”

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Leica 28mm f5.6: The Vintage Look

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 this shouldn’t be an issue
  • Weird zone focusing scale so it’s tough to figure out what you’ve got in focus

In our review, we said:

“The Leica Summaron-M 28mm f5.6 has a very specific and nice image quality to it. If you’re looking for something super contrasty and saturated, then look for Zeiss lenses. This isn’t going to do that. Instead, this lens is designed to give classic though manicured look. I wish more manufacturers made lenses like this.”

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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.