A pancake lens is exactly what it sounds like: a thin, flat lens with a short barrel. Compact with fewer lens elements, these pocketable accessories nevertheless provide quality optics. They even make a nice alternative to point and shoots when placed on compact DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Traditionally, pancake lenses are wide angle primes, but today’s selection is a bit more diverse – some even come in short telephotos! Suffice to say, there’s a lot to love about these under sung lenses.

Compact

Most obviously, pancake lenses are compact, which makes them great travel companions, whether that travel is through the streets of New York or the mountains of Colorado. In fact, their unobtrusive nature lends pancake lenses to intimate encounters. If you’re in a situation where a big lens seems flashy or flagrant, then a pancake lens is a better bet.

Lightweight

As a related factor, pancake lenses are lightweight. Not only do they take up less physical space, but they’re less to lug around. If you’re going into the wilderness, you’re in luck as most pancake lenses offer wide angles. You’ll get lots of beautiful, sweeping nature shots with extra space and weight in your pack for necessities. You might consider a pancake lens as an alternative to a nice point and shoot while hiking for this reason.

Price

For what you get, pancake lenses are usually pretty inexpensive! You can get a pancake lens for as little as $150, when a regular lens of the same angle can run you almost $2K. When it comes to expanding your lens arsenal, pancake lenses are an inexpensive way to move forward.

Pancake lenses are typically wide-ish prime lenses for mirrorless or DSLR cameras. They’re extremely useful due to their small size, lack of heft, and compact frame. Plus, pancake lenses retain the enhanced optics of larger lenses, so you’re still getting a nice piece of equipment!

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