Friday, March 25, 2011

Pancake Lenses

Judging just by the number of hits to this blog from people searching for the Fuji X100, it may well be way more popular than I estimated. I still don't get it though, at least not at the price.

Amateur Photographer magazine ran an almost gushing article in the issue published on 22nd March, but what caught my eye more in that issue was an article about 'pancake' lenses. Especially as they had a nice big picture of a D7000 with a silver 45mm pancake lens on.

For those who don't know, pancake lenses are simple fixed-focal length lenses designed in such a way so as to protrude less from the camera body. The intention is to make something light, compact and discrete for travel, reportage and candid shots. Typically, but not always, they are close to the focal length of a 'standard' lens, i.e. 50mm for 35mm/full frame digital.

The article also mentioned the Nikon 50mm E series lens, but failed to mention that there are two other lenses that may be even more suitable for the D7000, as also part of the E series were a dinky 28mm and 35mm.

The E series were produced to compliment the Nikon EM, FG and FG-20 cameras, Nikon's compact range of 35mm SLRs, launched from 1979 to 1984. The E series were cheap and did not have the robust build quality of their corresponding Nikkor counterparts. However, they are optically pretty good (but not the best), and are very compact and lightweight.

These days they can be picked up for a song, especially the 50mm which was probably sold with practically every EM (you might even have an uncle, parent or grand-parent with one of these stashed away, possibly still in it's box!). One thing to note about the 50mm lenses is that it came in two versions. The later version, which is easily identified by a silver ring around its midrift, had a little more robust feel and wider focus grips, but was actually no smaller than the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AiS, i.e. only about 8mm shorter than the AF-D version still on sale today. So, for our purposes, despite the thin focus ring, the older, more compact all-black models might be preferred.

So there you go, pick up a D7000* body and an E series 'pancake' lens for less than an X100. Ok, I know it's a lot bigger. Ok, I know it's a lot heavier. But it's still not big or heavy :-)

*I mention the D7000 as it is fully compatible with AI lenses, other DX bodies are not, so, as always, check the manual!

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