The concept of the pancake lens has interested me for a while now, so when Canon announced its 40mm pancake lens I bought one. So far it has proved a useful addition to my lens collection. But what exactly is a pancake lens? Is the lens as good in practice as I hoped? Here are my thoughts.
WHAT IS A PANCAKE LENS?
A pancake lens is simply a lens that is shorter than it is wide. This is unusual in lens design and as a result a pancake lens is smaller and lighter than a regular lens.
The above photo shows the dimensions of the Canon 40mm pancake lens. As SLR lenses go it is tiny.
PANCAKE LENSES HAVE SEVERAL OTHER ADVANTAGES:
They are prime lenses. From an optical design point of view they are pretty simple, much like a 50mm prime lens. The Canon 40mm pancake lens has six elements, whereas zooms usually have ten to twenty elements. This translates to high image quality and lower manufacturing costs.
Price. Pancake lenses tend to be inexpensive. You get a lot of bang for your buck in terms of image quality.
Aperture. The maximum aperture of my 40mm pancake lens is f/2.8. This is not especially impressive for a prime lens, but better than most zooms. If your main lens is a kit lens you will certainly appreciate the improvement.
Short minimum focusing distance. The 40mm pancake lens can focus on a subject within 28 centimetres of the camera. This is quite close, and you can get even closer by using extension tubes.