Canon Pancake Lens – What Are Your Best Options

A tiny Canon pancake lens is a good way to keep your gear on the light and ultra-portable-side. You don’t have to switch to a mirrorless camera just because they are the smaller alternative to a DSLR.

DSLRs can also be fitted with exceptional pancakes. We’ve rounded up Canon’s two extremely thin lenses that will take your skills to a new level.

canon pancake lens 24mm and 50mm

What Is a Pancake Lens?

Why do they call them pancake lenses and why should be consider getting one? It’s not food – this much we know. Well, it all lies in the shape and weight of these flattened barrel-shaped lenses.

The most obvious description would be that this type of lenses is shorter than it is wide. This results in smaller and lighter lens than the standard ones that can get quite long and heavy. They are valued for their high-quality optics and low manufacturing costs that make them quite affordable.

Another characteristic is their fixed focal length. This means that pancake lenses do not offer zoom capabilities. This could be an impediment, indeed, but the fact is that we don’t always need a zoom. Photographers can rethink their composition and shoot extremely sharp images with these fun lenses.

Pancake lenses also provide fast apertures when compared to the standard kit lenses. This makes them perfect for capturing moving subjects or to shoot portraits with a lovely bokeh. Some of these lenses also possess close focusing capabilities, which allows for dramatic macro shots.

They enjoy a wide popularity, especially among mirrorless camera designs. However, pair them up with a DSLR, and you can make the camera as pocketable as it can get. Pancake lenses should be a traveler’s first choice, as you can pack lightly and still get those high-quality photographs you’re hoping for.

The history of these lenses dates back to the early 1900s when Zeiss came up with the famous Tessar lens design. The first Canon pancake lens was produced in 2012 and, chances are, you’ve heard some great things about the Canon 40mm f2.8 STM lens.

canon 40mm f2.8 pancake lens

EF 40mm f/2.8 STM – The First Canon Pancake Lens

The Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM is not much larger than a lens cap but it offers unbeatable optics. The less weighs around 4.6 ounces and is less than an inch deep. The build is of superior quality, coming in with a metal lens mount that will outlast any plastic mount. It is optimized for full-frame digital SLRs and it works with every EOS camera ever made.

Why go for a 40mm focal length? This figure is quite the novelty, as most prime lenses are 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, or 100mm. However, a 35mm lens on a full-frame camera might be too wide. Additionally, the 50mm might provide a little too long results. And that’s when the necessity for a 40mm comes in – the middle ground length that many are looking for.

It’s one of the first lenses to be equipped with an STM focusing motor – a faster and less noisy alternative to the conventional micro motors. The motor can continuously autofocus during both video recording or live-view photography.

Another thing worth mentioning in terms of focusing is that the minimum focusing distance of the Canon 40mm lens is less than 12 inches. This means that photographers can get very close to their subjects and still keep a sharp focus.

At maximum aperture, the sharpness it excellent. The resistance to chromatic aberrations is also very good and corner shading is inexistent at any aperture other than f/2.8. When it comes to distortion, you will find a slight amount of barrel distortion but will only be evident in the corners.

canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM

Let’s look at the specs:

  • Focal length – 40 mm
  • Format – FF, APS-C
  • Maximum aperture – f/2.8
  • Aperture blades – 7
  • Filters – 52 mm
  • Reproduction ratio – 0.18x
  • Stabilization – No
  • Focus – Lens AF motor
  • Internal AF – Yes
  • Full-Time MF – Yes
  • Tripod ring – No

Being priced around $200, it is well worth the money. The features that Canon has managed to offer in such a small package are quite impressive.

EF 24mm f/2.8 STM – The Latest Canon Pancake Lens

The Canon 24mm f/2.8 lens is even smaller than its full-frame 40mm sibling. Weighing in around four and a half ounces and being less than an inch deep, you can easily fit it in your pocket and carry it around with you anywhere. It has a durable metal mount and matte black plastic filter threads.

This new wide-angle pancake lens from Canon is designed for APS-C DSLR cameras. The Canon 24mm f/2.8 pancake lens is a quick performer when it comes to auto-focusing. It takes around 0.15 seconds for it to lock onto your subject. It uses Canon’s Stepping Motor Technology focusing system that allows for a more smooth and silent focus.

For its price range, the 24mm f/2.8 is unexpectedly sharp. A trace of corner softness is present when shooting at f/2.8 but stepping down to f/4 ensures total sharpness across the frame. The chromatic aberrations are well controlled, and you will most likely experience them as purple fringes along the edges.

When opening the aperture to f/2.8 there will be some shading in the corners and a mild barrel distortion, just as with any wide-angle lens. However, the latest APS-C bodies will automatically correct the light fall-off when shooting JPEGs, so it isn’t a too big of an issue.

Unlike the EF 40mm f/2.8 lens, this new Canon pancake lens can actually double up as a macro lens.  it delivers a 0.27x magnification at a minimum focusing distance of just over six inches.

canon 24mm f2.8 STM pancake lens

Here are a few notable specs:

  • Focal length – 24mm
  • Maximum aperture – f/2.8
  • Minimum aperture – f/22
  • Minimum focusing – 6.3 inches
  • Maximum magnification – 0.27x
  • Internal focusing – No
  • Stabilized – No
  • Blades – 7
  • Elements – 6
  • Groups – 5

Priced at around $150, it doesn’t get much better than this. The Canon 24mm pancake lens is great for just about anything. Every shot will be sharp and clear, and consider how much money you could save. It’s the ultimate travel lens for those who can’t afford to bring too much gear with them while wandering the world.

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fundy@fundysos.com' About Andrew Funderburg

Andrew "Fundy" Funderburg is a father, husband, photographer and the creator of Fundy Software. He lives in the Portland, Oregon metro area.