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Compact Shooting With Pancake Camera Lenses

For a long time, SLR photography meant carrying around a camera body and multiple heavy lenses, resulting in bulky photographic kits. However, pancake lenses offer a compact and lightweight alternative, with technological innovations meaning that their optics are constantly improving to match their larger counterparts. They are available in a range of different focal lengths and apertures, from wide-angle 21mm lenses to 70mm zooms, and are providing a more professional alternative to compact point-and-shoots.

What Is a Pancake Lens?

A pancake lens refers to a flat lens with a short barrel, which is usually a prime, and traditionally offers a slightly wide angle of view. They have a compact design without compromising on the quality of the optics, and can result in a camera and lens package that's small enough to slip into your pocket.

  • There are no specific size and weight restrictions when it comes to pancake lenses, although most are only a few centimeters thick and light in weight.
  • You can find both prime and zoom pancake lenses, but due to the thin profile and reduced space for internal micro motors and image correcting elements, most are fixed focal length primes.
  • Pancakes lenses have seen a resurgence thanks to the developments in mirrorless interchangeable digital cameras.

What Should You Look for When Buying a Pancake Lens?

Pancake lenses offer all the features you've come to expect from modern-day lenses, including autofocus, with manual focus override, capabilities, and image stabilization technology.

  • Make sure the lens you're considering is compatible with your brand and model of camera body.
  • The lens that's right for you depends on the focal length you prefer and how wide an aperture you need, with variable models of both also available.
  • Look for Limited lenses with a high-definition (HD) multi-layer lens coating on the diaphragm designed to help reduce flare, enhance details, and create beautiful bokeh effects.

Which Pancake Lenses Are Available?

While pancake lenses are predominantly in the slightly wide range, you can now find both wide-angle and short telephoto lenses, as well as those that enable much closer focusing to your subject.

  • Pentax offers a wide selection of pancake Limited lenses to complement its compact APS-C-format digital single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras. Their wide aperture DA 40mm f/2.8 isn't much thicker than a lens cap, while their HD 40mm f/2.8 features an inverted-style lens hood.
  • It also produces a 21mm pancake lens ideal for environmental portraits and landscape shooting, while its 70mm is a good option for portraiture and mid-range telephoto applications.

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