While those delicious cakes of batter are great, do you know what’s even better? A pancake lens!
So, what is a pancake lens? A pancake lens is typically a small and fixed focal length lens that maintains a small profile on a camera body. A pancake lens usually doesn’t extend more than an inch or so from the mount. These lenses are popular not only for their size and convenience, but also for the stunning quality that can come from them.
Most maintain a fairly wide-angle range, but there are some options that expand to short telephoto ranges. These little lenses are high-quality and great to have, especially for travel!
Pancake lenses come in a variety of sizes and mounts; for a variety of cameras, but I took a specific interest in some of the top rated Sony lenses that are available. In this review, I will look at some of the best Sony E-Mount pancake lenses. These Sony compact lenses will all work on a Sony A6000 mirrorless camera body. The combination of the small body and the pancake lenses was a match that I love - small size, light weight, and just amazing quality.
This lens is specifically designed for Sony APS-C (A5000 and A6000 series) cameras, which are small mirrorless camera bodies. This Sony E 16mm f/2.8 lens, in silver, reviewed on the A6000 body, captures a 1.5x view, so closer to 24mm. The lens focuses at a close enough 9.4 inches (per Sony). Overall, this lens seems to be very well built and a solid piece of gear. The size is so perfectly small, that the camera feels like a point and shoot in hand. But, the quality is what we’ve come to expect from Sony and gives sharp detail in the results. The angle of view in this lens is very wide, creating some fun perspectives and amazing captures of wide landscapes.
If something with a slightly more narrow range is needed, then this lens is the pick. This lens fits both the full frame and the APS-C bodies for Sony. The little blue “Zeiss” logo on the side should be a clue to what this lens is capable of. Amazingly sharp focus and detail! This lens competes with some of the best lenses I’ve used, especially in the sharpness category. The Zeiss 35mm 2.8 with Zeiss T* anti-reflective coating greatly enhances image clarity and contrast. While this lens is a bit bigger than the 16mm, when it is paired with the larger A7 bodies, it is still a very small lens. It extends roughly 1.5” from the mount. The 2.8 aperture is on the slower side for primes in this category, but if you can let go of lower aperture, then the size of this lens may win you over. This lens pairs nicely with the A6000 line, but really shines on the full frame bodies it can pair with.
This lens is an easy favorite. The quality is felt in hand, and seen even more in the resulting photos. Given a choice of lenses for a Sony body, this would be in my top five. It’s great for walking around, great for just about any scenario, and produces truly beautiful quality photos!
If zoom is a requirement, this Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS telephoto should be on the list. This lens is smooth and works great for video, making it a versatile piece of equipment. Focus is auto, but can also be manual, another ideal for video. It features optical image stabilization, and covers a great range for most situations. 16-50mm on the APS is equivalent to 24-75mm, a crowd favorite! Even while covering that zoom range, this lens remains in a small package, still only extending just over 1 inch from the mount. For the size and weight alone, this is a great addition to a gear bag. The added functionality of the zoom makes this lens incredibly versatile. This is a great “walking around” lens, if prime isn’t needed.
This camera system and lens in this review are all available used from KEH for great prices. The A6000 series is one of the best in the market, for mirrorless and compact cameras. Even better, the Sony A6000 used from KEH is a great bargain! One of my favorite things about the A6000 and any of these lenses is the size. I walked around for a couple of hours with a very small camera bag. In that little bag, I had the camera, three lenses, and some small items - with room for wallet and phone! That alone makes the setup of pancake lenses and the Sony bodies so versatile and easy to carry.
If you’re considering a pancake for your camera, take a look at what KEH has available! And hopefully you enjoy some delicious pancakes for National Pancake Day, or better, celebrate it with a new pancake lens!