when a monster meets a pancake

Due to a long story (which is actually kind of boring, or I would tell it here), I recently rediscovered a small lens.  It is what photography people call a “pancake” lens, which is designed to be very flat and very light.  Back in the day, a pancake lens (almost always a 40mm f/2.8 prime) was the lens you put on a 35mm film camera when you wanted to market it as “pocket sized”.  These were the lenses on fixed lens cameras, and the interchangeable version was commonly used on a manufacturer’s smallest camera body to make the “our smallest, lightest camera ever”.

The old Pentax 40mm f/2.8 M looked beautiful on the small mechanical MX body, especially on the black version.Pentax_mx(This is a particularly tasty example with just that little bit of brassing.  The loose leatherette on the far left just has to be be glued down.)  My husband had one just like this and it worked as well as it looks, although I personally felt the LED light meter was not as good as the match needle in my K1000.  But I digress.

I guess when I bought my new model pancake I was picturing some kind of modern version of this most elegant of packages.  Nobody told me that a pancake lens on a modern DSLR looks … profoundly stupid.  Here it is today, mounted on my smallest, lightest camera body, the K-30 we call the Monster. monsterpancake3 Granted, no DSLR is an attractive camera by film era standards, and the Monster is ugly even for a DSLR.  But at least with a longer lens the design of the overall package looks balanced.  The Monster/Pancake combo is, frankly, a bit of a pig.

When I rediscovered this lens this week, I wondered if it would look better with a silver lens hood, so I bought one for it.  The awful thing is it does.  It looks a ton better.  Sad, isn’t it?  Still, handsome is is handsome does.  The field of view is a useful 60mm equivalent, somewhere between normal and portrait, the first images look good in preview, and the whole package is pleasingly small and light, which is of course the reason one buys a pancake lens in the first place. (Well, I bought mine because it was a tremendous bargain, but that’s the long story I wasn’t going to tell.)

So I am going to be carrying the Monster/Pancake for a week or two, in spite of its odd looks, and will share the results of the experiment when I have them.

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