I've read about a "pancake lens" but don't really understand what that means.

What the pros and cons of having a pancake vs. another type of lens?

I'm thinking of getting a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 which comes with such a lens.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Not what you asked, but the 20mm f/1.7 Panasonic is a wonderful lens. \$\endgroup\$
    – ex-ms
    Aug 9, 2010 at 20:39

2 Answers 2


A pancake lens is designed to be physically very thin and compact, being relatively pocketable when combined with a slim body.

Current pancake lenses have a fixed focal length in the middle of the spectrum (neither wide nor telephoto), and they are relatively slow for a prime lens (often f/2.8) although exceptions exist. The image from a pancake lens looks the same as an image from a bulkier lens of the same focal length; they have no special effect.

Although the pancake design is quite old, it has been popularized lately by mirrorless systems. Currently produced pancake lenses include:

  • Canon EF-M 22mm (35e) f/2.0 STM
  • Canon EF-S 24mm (38e) f/2.8 STM
  • Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM
  • Fuji XF 18mm (27e) f/2
  • Fuji XF 27mm (40e) f/2.8
  • Lomography LC-A Minitar-1 32mm f/2.8 (M mount)
  • Lomography New Russar+ 20mm f/5.6 (L39, M mounts)
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm (34e) f/2.8 (Micro Four Thirds)
  • Olympus Zuiko Digital 25mm (50e) f/2.8 (Four Thirds)
  • Panasonic 14mm (28e) f/2.5 Asph (Micro Four Thirds)
  • Panasonic 20mm (40e) f/1.7 Asph (Micro Four Thirds)
  • Pentax DA 21mm (32e) f/3.2
  • Pentax DA 40mm (60e) f/2.8
  • Pentax DA 70mm (105e) f/2.4
  • Samsung NX 16mm (24e) f/2.4
  • Samsung NS 20mm (31e) f/2.8
  • Samsung NX 30mm (46e) f/2.0
  • Sony E 16mm (24e) f/2.8
  • Sony E 20mm (35e) f/2.8
  • Voigtländer Color-Skopar 21mm f/4.0 P (M mount)
  • Voigtländer Color-Skopar 25mm f/4.0 P (M mount)
  • Voigtländer Color-Skopar 35mm f/2.5 PII (M mount)
  • Voigtländer Ultron 40mm f/2 SL-II

Here is an example of a pancake lens:

Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens
Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens. Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ They don't have to be wide to normal angle. Don't forget the excellent Pentax DA 70mm (105e): mylensdb.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/… \$\endgroup\$
    – eruditass
    Sep 8, 2010 at 23:38
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ For the sake of completeness, the Voigtländer's 20mm/F3.5 Color Skopar and maybe the 40mm/F2.0 Ultron can be viewed as pancakes, for FF & APS-C formats (Nikon, Canon & Pentax): voigtlander.com/cms/voigtlaender/voigtlaender_cms.nsf/id/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Berzemus
    Jun 7, 2011 at 9:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ A lens being "Pancake" has no direct implications about size. While all the pancake lenses on the market currently are compact, the size is not what makes them "pancake lenses". It is the lens's shape. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fake Name
    Oct 26, 2011 at 7:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this answer still up-to-date or have pancake lenses changed much in the past 7 years? \$\endgroup\$
    – gerrit
    Nov 12, 2017 at 11:43

"Pancake lens" is a purely physical description.
If the lens is significantly wider than it is long, it's a pancake lens.

Actual overall size has nothing to do with it, and it has no implications about image performance, aside from the fact that it's generally very hard to pack a telephoto or fast prime into the pancake form-factor.

It's worth noting that a "Pancake lens" does not have to be small or compact, and a small lens is not automatically a pancake lens. It's only a description of the lens form-factor.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting note; do you have any examples of non-compact pancakes? Usually there are buttons and whatnot around lens mount preventing a lens too large to be mounted. It's also optically very complicated to gain anything from a flat lens significantly wider than mount. \$\endgroup\$
    – Imre
    Oct 26, 2011 at 8:07

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