Why I love Fujifilm’s Tiny Weatherproof ‘Pancake’ 27mm f2.8 Lens

A practical, portable, portrait pancake

Key Takeaways

  • Fujifilm XF 27mm ƒ2.8 WR is a 2021 update to the 2013 classic.
  • It’s a tiny, lightweight, super-practical “pancake” lens.
  • The 8-year-old autofocus design sucks today.
The Fujifilm 27mm f2.8 lens mounted on a camera body.

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

This little 27mm lens for Fujifilm X-series cameras is probably the most annoying lens I own, and yet it’s so good that I’ll probably never sell it. 

The Fujifilm XF 27mm ƒ2.8 R WR is a tiny ‘pancake’ lens, so-called because it barely pokes out from the camera it’s mounted on. This is Fujifilm’s second version. Internally, it’s the same. Externally, you get weather- and dust-proofing, and an aperture ring (the original required using the camera’s menus or dials to change the aperture). 

This old design is slow to focus, noisy while it does it, and the ƒ2.8 maximum aperture makes it hard to blur the background behind your subject. Yet, the optical quality is stunning, and the size so handy, that it might be the perfect travel and carry-around lens for my X-Pro3.

Why Is It So Good?

Optically, the 27mm pancake is just great. It’s plenty sharp, and when you do manage to blur the background, the quality of that blur is both pleasant and non-distracting. The photos you take with this lens will be indistinguishable from those taken with bigger, fancier lenses. 

View looking down on the Fujifilm 27 mm f2.8 lens to show how thin it is.

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

In fact, they may be much better because any photo is better than no photos, right? The single biggest advantage of this lens is its size. Protruding less than an inch from the front of the camera, the 27mm makes it practical to slip the whole camera into an oversized pocket, or a small bag or fanny pack. Dangling from a strap, the lens doesn’t poke out enough to get in the way. Used on the X-Pro3, or one of Fujifilm’s smaller camera bodies, the whole package can pass for a basic point-and-shoot camera, or even a film camera (mine has been thusly mistaken several times).

The 27mm focal length is also a great all-rounder. It’s the equivalent of a 41mm lens on a full-frame camera, which is wider than a standard 50mm, but longer than a wide-angle. But rather than being a compromise, it’s surprisingly practical in many (but not all—see below) cases.

This compact portability may not sound important, but it can be the difference between taking your camera out for a walk, and leaving it at home, or at the bottom of a camera bag. It’s also absurdly lightweight (84 grams or 3oz), which adds to the portability.

Another pro is the WR—weather-resistant—sealing, which keeps out dust, drizzle, sea-spray, and the like. On the weather-sealed X-Pro3, this means you can leave them on a strap all day long, give them a wipe down when you get back to your home or hotel, and never worry. 

An image taken with the Fujifilm 27 mm pancake lens.
An image captured with the Fujifilm 27 mm pancake lens.

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

My last favorite feature is the aperture ring. On most Fujifilm bodies, you can set the aperture from an on-camera dial. But putting it on the lens, itself, makes for more immediate control, especially if you prefer aperture-priority auto, where the user chooses the aperture and the camera takes care of the rest. The A (auto) position on this ring has a switch to lock it in place, too, which avoids mishaps. 

And the Bad?

The worst part of this lens is its autofocus, which is unchanged since the original version. Compared to an old AF lens on a DSLR, it’s quick and quiet. But compared to the newer Fujifilm lenses, it’s not great. The motors sound like they have sand stuck in them, and the lens has a tendency to hunt back and forth when it can’t easily lock onto a subject. 

But as I said, this is relative. The 27mm only looks bad when compared to Fujifilm’s amazing modern models, and that grinding noise is only noticeable by a sensitive photographer indoors. Your subjects will probably never hear it.

But that’s enough of the theory. The proof of this little lens is in the fact that I use it so much despite its flaws. The autofocus is still great, and the results are just stellar. The only time I wish I had another lens is when snapping across-the-table candids, where the extra length of a 50mm lens can cut the clutter. But you can always crop the photo, a photo which I may never have gotten if I’d left the camera and bigger lens at home.

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