Top 5 Pancake Lenses

Pancake day is here, which means it’s time to start flipping some tedious pancake lens references. So, without further ado here is my pick of the best 5 pancake lenses you can buy today:

1. Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM

You’ve probably heard about the affectionately nicknamed “Nifty Fifty” a.k.a. Canon 50mm f/1.8 – it’s plastic, fantastic, produces the goods and dirt cheap. People can ignore the fact that it feels like it was made from recycled Tupperware because of the pleasing price-to-performance ratio. But if you want a cheap standard lens that has excellent optics, nice build quality despite being cheap and pancake-like, then I’d heartily recommend the Canon 40mm f/2.8 – the “Naughty Forty” if you like to address your lenses by cute rhyming monikers. The only compromise is that it’s 1 1/3-stops slower than the “Nifty Fifty”.

2. Panasonic 20mm f/1.7

I don’t see any compromises here apart from the fact that you’ll have to use this on a Micro Four-Thirds camera and I don’t mean that as a slight on M4/3 – it’s just unfortunate that not everyone will be able to enjoy this fantastic fast-apertured flatty. It’s nice and sharp wide-open with very pleasing bokeh. If you own a M4/3 camera it is a requisite to own one of these and should you choose not to then…well…that’s your problem.

3. MS Super Triplet Perar 4/28

I’m not sure I should be calling this a pancake – it’s more like a blini. This diminutive optic is made in small numbers by Miyazaki San in Chiba, Japan. It’s based on the Cooke triplet design so there’s only 3-elements and interestingly the 10-bladed apertures sits on the outside of the optics. The original Cooke triplet is over hundred years old so this was never meant to compete with modern optic designs but the images it produces will still surprise you in a good way. Ironically, a number of pancake lenses are based on Tessar designs, which was introduced in 1902 and was a design that outclassed the Cooke triplet. You didn’t need to know that, I’m just showing off my ability to use Google.

4. Pentax DA 70mm f/2.4 Limited

Pentax do make good stuff. They make some gorgeous optics are slap a “Limited” label on some of them, which makes it sound like they don’t make many of them but in reality I’m sure there will always be more supply than demand. That’s a shame too because this 70mm pancake is a must-have for all Pentax DSLR owners. It’s one of the better performing Limited lenses and it’s built better than a great number of Canon and Nikon lenses. Sadly, it’s designed for APS-C Pentax DSLRs only so maybe the “Limited” means “limited scope”. Shame.

5. Fujifilm XF 18mm f/2 ASPH

A bit thicker than some other pancakes but this is one of my favourite lenses for the Fuji X-mount. Image quality is good enough, low distortion, fast-ish aperture, generally well-corrected but the best bit is that because it’s effectively a 28mm, everything is in focus so you don’t have to worry about your Fuji camera hunting for focus. Everything is in focus. Seriously though, a nice lens and probably my favourite when I tested the X-Pro1 simply because it has the best form factor and worked the best in my opinion.