Let’s face it, a pancake lens is not something you would normally go out and buy as your first lens however if I could turn back time the XF27mm F2.8 would have been one of the first lenses I’ll add to my kit. This won’t be your typical lens review with charts and numbers instead I’ll discuss the lens in practical everyday use, the Pros, and Cons along with sample photos.
The 27mm falls in the same family as other pancakes such Canon’s 24mm & 40mm, Olympus 17mm and the Nikkor 10mm just to name a few. In the past pancake lenses haven’t been known for their image quality and are rather slow with apertures usually set between F2 and F2.8, they are like an acquired taste, you either like them or you hate them. Those that do like them do so for their size and portability so naturally when Fujifilm’s 27mm was released there wasn’t much love for this lens.
Focal Length: 27mm (40mm full frame equivalent)
Maximum aperture: f/2.8
Minimum aperture: f/16
Filter Size: ø39mm
- High performer
- Small size
- Low weight
- Awkward focal length
- Noisy AF
- Struggles in low light
The build quality on the 27mm is very good and tightly assembled with high-quality plastic materials, the focus ring is smooth and pleasant to use. When mounted onto any X-Series camera it maintains the low profile look giving it the feel of an X100 series camera with it’s fixed lens. It’s small enough to fit in your front pocket and light enough that you won’t feel encumbered especially when you have this lens on your camera strapped around your neck.
Below shows a comparison between the XF27mm, XF14mm and XF16-55mm:
Performance & Image Quality (IQ)
I would not have made the statement of the 27mm being my first choice lens if it did not have the performance to back it up. If there was one thing that surprised me the most it would be the performance and IQ this lens produces, it’s no slouch when it comes to AF speed, it is very quick (one of the fastest I’ve observed) faster than both the likes of the 35mm f1.4 and the 56mm f1.2 both of which I found hunts during focusing quite a lot something that is absent in the 27mm. The IQ from this lens is simply superb, to say the least, it is tack sharp in the centre of the frame with a slight drop towards the edges, but this lens is not made for landscape photography where edge to edge quality is important.
However it’s not all perfect, like all lenses with F2.8 aperture it struggles in low light situations compared to some of the other Fujifilm primes at f1.4 but given its size and small frame it is probably physically impossible to achieve an aperture smaller than say F2.8 or even F2 while maintaining its size. Besides that, this is the only bad point in this category I can think of.
The 27mm handles quite well thanks to its size and weight, regardless of which X-series camera body it’s mounted on it doesn’t even feel that there is a lens. It does look slightly weird when mounted on the bigger X-T1 as it looks like you only have the body cap on and not an actual lens. But this can also be a good thing for those shooting street photography and want to keep a low key and go unnoticed.
With a 40mm (full-frame equivalent) focal length, the 27mm isn’t considered to be a wide angle lens so I wouldn’t recommend this if you are planning to shoot landscapes of architectural buildings. This lens is ideal for travel photography and street photography when travelling you will appreciate the size and weight and it doesn’t make you stand out in the crowd as someone carrying expensive camera gear.
It also serves as a great street photography lens, personally, this is my go to lens when it comes to street, I know many people prefer the likes of a faster lens such as the 35mm f1.4 however I found that the constant hunting when trying to focus very frustrating this is more due to my style which I usually shoot from the hips when out doing street photography.
The 27mm is also a great choice for foodies who love taking photos of their meals and when you’re done photographing your food its small enough to be put away or left on the table and not get in the way of plates and cups.
The Fujinon XF27mm F2.8 may not appeal to everyone and it definitely isn’t the most attractive lens to look at nor is it the fastest prime compared to others in its focal range but it definitely is no slouch either. With quick auto-focus and pin point accuracy combined with tack sharp images the 27mm is a clear standout and can easily hold its own in the big leagues. The only deciding factor left is the price, at just under $370 AU (at time of writing) from local store DigiDIRECT this isn’t considered a cheap lens, however, I was lucky enough to pick one up brand new for $85AU thanks to some festive sales (boxing day sale + $200 cashback promotion + duty free). If you come across this lens for under $300 this should be a no-brainer. All in all the 27mm is a great little lens and I really hope that it restores some confidence back to the pancake lens family but more import for other companies to follow and that it is possible to create a low profile lens without sacrificing too much.