Pancakes

Mmmmm.... Pancakes....

Or more specifically; pancake lenses.

Like the one I just got for my Fuji X-E1. It is very small. And kinda squished down. Like a pancake.

Mmmmm.... Pancakes....

A 27mm f2.8 Fuji lens review (of sorts)

Special Specifications & What They Mean

The technical stats of the lens are:

  • Focal length: 27mm (equivalent to 41mm on 35mm film)
  • Maximum aperture: f/2.8
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.34m
  • Weight: 78 grams
  • Length: 23mm
  • Filter Thread: 39mm

Okay, so what does any of that stuff actually mean?

The focal length of this little guy is supposed to be equal to the way the human eye perceives things. So a picture of a pancake would actually look like a pancake with the background at a distance similar to how the eye would see it. Whereas with a wide angle lens (say 27mm) it would kind of stretch things so that the pancake would look far away from whatever is in the background. A telephoto lens (i.e. 82.5mm) would make the two things (pancake and background) look closer together. It would flatten it.

I dunno if that makes sense to you but it was the easiest way to explain it. Here are some pictures of a pancake to help. Well a pancake lens as I ate all the real pancakes.

The top picture was taken at 27mm (35mm film equivalent) while the bottom picture was taken at 82.5mm (35mm eqv.). See how the TV is further away in the first picture? And closer in the second one? That be what I'm talking about. The 27mm F2.8 Fuji gives a 'normal' field of view.

Max aperture? Well this is one of the compromises of the lens being so small. Aperture size is like a window. A big window (i.e. an aperture of f/1.4) will let in a lot of light compared to a small window (i.e. an aperture of f/16). F/2.8 is pretty small for a prime (no zoom) lens. However if it were an f/1.4 or f/2 aperture (bigger window) physics would complain and it could not be a small lens. Therefore no pancake. Silly physics.

Fortunately the ISO performance (how sensitive the camera is to light) of the X-E1 is fantastic so I can accept the loss of light entering through the aperture window thing.

One thing that is a bit harder to swallow is the minimum focus distance. 34 centimetres. That is a long way. If you want to take close up shots then this is the wrong lens. I don't really want to do close ups however I have found this a little annoying as even things which seem to not be close are out of focus.

But.

This lens is so tiny any quirks it has are forgiveable. 78 grams. 23mm long. A filter thread of 39mm.

That's the same weight as this Hammered Finish Bowl (http://www.ebay.com/itm/HAMMERED-FINISH-BOWL-STAMPED-PELE900-WEIGHS-78-GRAMS-/120654075697)!!!

Or perhaps in more relative terms... The Iphone 5s weighs a whopping 112 grams. Or over 40% more!!!

This thing is tiny. It is 23mm long.

In fact, after going back to using my 18-55mm lens I was quite surprised at how large it was. When I put the 27mm on my X-E1 it turns it into a Fuji X100s with a slightly longer focal length and slower aperture.

The 27mm is without a doubt tiny; pancake tiny.

Picture Samples & Words

Below are some samples of the lens. Or samples of the pictures that the lens has taken. Or just actual images that I have taken with the lens.

Because that is the best way to figure out how a lens works. By taking photographs with it.

P.S. I will update more images soon.

At f/4.5. Nice Fuji colours.


Straight from RAW. F/2.8.


F/2.8. Sharpish. At least in the centre of the image.


Over exposed shot at the golf. At f/2.8 with +2 sharpening.


Pretty well the smallest depth of field that you'll get with this lens. Taken at f/2.8


A veeeery heavy crop of the previous image just to prove it was sharp. In case you were wondering.


F/2.8.


The previous image taken at f/8, f/4 and f/2.8. Cropped into the corner.


Who needs a faster aperture? Taken at f2.8, ISO 6400 and 1/6 of a second. After the sun had set by the way. Boring picture but I love the film-like look and even how the noise/grain looks. Taken from RAW, no noise reduction.

Conclusions

I like this lens. I like it alot.

Sharpness

One of the only flaws I've found with this lens is its soft corners wide open. This doesn't bother me one bit because from now on I think I'll mostly be shooting portraits at f/2.8 (and I don't mind the corners being a bit soft with those). Once I've stopped down to f/4 the sharpness is fine. F/8? Really really good.

Focus

The Autofocus is also fine. I mean it is definitely better than my 18-55. At least in good light as it can tend to hunt a little bit in poor light. So the autofocus of this slightly newer lens is improved but still not great. Maybe it's because I'm not using an X-E2 or the latest X-T1? I dunno. The worst thing about the focusing would have to be that minimum focusing distance. 34 cms is bad any way you cut it.

Other

I haven't had any problems with chromatic abberations so far and from the photos that I've taken I've noticed lens flare just once. One complaint from some people is that the lens is plastic and has no aperture ring. For me, the build quality is good and having no aperture ring means I can use this lens one handed and still be able to adjust the aperture.

All in all I'm quite happy with the 27mm. Part of me feels like I should've gone for the 35mm f/1.4 at some $100 more. However having this lens on my X-E1 transforms it, as I mentioned previously, into a Fuji X100s. With the bonus option of being able to interchange lenses, a 'normal' 41mm field of view and razor sharp images at f/4 and above . I'll take any disadvantages that may come with it.

And have I mentioned that it is tiny? I mean like really tiny. There is a reason why this type of lens is called a pancake.

JR

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Joel Gibson

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Perth, Western Australia

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