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The best lens for travel photography: pretty, tiny, and SHARP!

Croatia, land of dragons and Rakija, was the site of my most recent European excursion – this time, with a new accessory: Fujifilm’s 27mm f2.8 lens. It stayed glued to my camera maybe 90% of the time, and gave me most of my favorite shots from the whole trip. I took over a hundred photos a day with it! Here’s why I think it’s the best lens I’ve used for travel.

Looking for a technical review? This isn’t it – but here are some helpful ones:

A comparison between the Fuji’s X100(S/T) and the FUJINON XF 27mm f/2.8 “pancake” (Fuji vs. Fuji)
Fuji XF 27mm F2.8 Review (Light Priority)
Fuji XF 27mm F2.8 Review: Pancake Lens For The X Series (Finding Range)

The best lens for travel photography: pretty, tiny, and SHARP! This Fujifilm pancake lens is a seriously awesome compaion on the road.

The size makes you look less like a “DSLR tourist”

I finally saw my first DSLR-tourist actually changing lenses in public in Croatia! Swapping out one beast for another looks positively silly, not to mention making you a target for thieves who could become very rich by snagging that lens out of your patient partner’s hands.

The best lens for travel photography: pretty, tiny, and SHARP! This Fujifilm pancake lens is a seriously awesome compaion on the road.

This camera is the cheapest one you can use with Fujifilm’s X series lenses. The results are 100% thanks to the Fuji glass.

This lens on my humble Fujifilm X-A1 means I look a lot less fancy than the guy next to me with a lens longer than my head! Looking like an amateur, in this respect, is a very good thing. As a small girl with a fair amount of money hanging from my neck, it’s important for me to think about safety when traveling with a camera.

You’ll actually take it with you everywhere

One of the best things about having such a light lens option is being able to toss the camera in my bag and not instantly feel like my arm is going to fall off.

The best lens for travel photography: pretty, tiny, and SHARP! This Fujifilm pancake lens is a seriously awesome compaion on the road.

It means that this lens and camera combo has a permanent place on my person, so I never miss a moment (even when I’m just doing the day-to-day stuff!).

Its ability to capture detail

Fujifilm is famous for its lenses. They’ve done it all: space glass, military binoculars, even cinema lenses that cost SIX FIGURES.

What I’m trying to say is: this lens is sharp. Some people argue that this lens is the sharpest Fujifilm has in its lineup. Secret time: I think people say that about like every Fuji lens, but hey, it’s a good reputation to have.

Berlin's Fernsehturm (TV Tower), shot by the Fujifilm 27mm pancake lens Flowers and sunshine in Sibenik Croatia, shot by the Fujifilm 27mm pancake lens The Berlin Cathedrawl, shot by the Fujifilm 27mm pancake lens

Nature, architecture, people – this lens is great for the wide variety of subjects you’ll encounter on your travels.

To be totally honest, I’m no photography expert and I can’t look at two sample shots and see more than the most obvious differences. But I do notice when I open photos I’ve taken with this lens and every leaf is distinguishable, rather than a muddy green mess.

It makes the editing process simple, and there’s no need for additional sharpening. The pictures look good straight out of the camera.

Super fast focus

Zip! This guy hones in on his target like a velociraptor on speed.

Bumblebee in summer, shot by the Fujifilm 27mm pancake lens

If you’re like me and you’d chase a butterfly down a football field just to take its portrait, fast focus is important! I hear that street photographers also dig this lens because it means never missing a fleeting moment on camera.

Wildlife in summer, shot by the Fujifilm 27mm pancake lens

The vibe of the bokeh

Whenever someone is talking about the beautiful “blurry background” of a photo, or balls of light that form in the background of a photo, they’re talking about bokeh. This camera does not create the super dreamy bokeh you’ll find with either of Fuji’s 35mm lenses. BUT. You can get some lovely out of focus areas that are a little more…interesting.

Shot by the Fujifilm 27mm pancake lens

Look ma, I still have bokeh at f2.8!

The out of focus areas in photos by this camera are still distinguishable, and lend a sense of place to the pictures it produces. A few pretty balls of light, along with tangled strands of background activity. I like this effect because I can isolate my subject while still placing them somewhere.

Shot by the Fujifilm 27mm pancake lens

That’s kind of the point of travel photography, right? I’m not looking for a perfect flower closeup – I want to see that flower in its natural habitat! This lens gives you that, beautifully.

Shot by the Fujifilm 27mm pancake lens

Fits everything in – naturally

Do you ever have to take a few steps back – or a lot of steps back – to fit something into your photo? One thing I hate the most is when I have to step backwards, and fitting, say, the façade of a beautiful church also means including a telephone pole or a garbage can. Blech! It can totally ruin the picture and make it not worth taking at all.

Shot by the Fujifilm 27mm pancake lens

At Plitvice Lakes National Park it was absolutely essential to have a slightly wider-angle lens than my usual 35mm.

That’s where a wider angle comes in – while you’re still in front of the garbage can, the whole sceen fits nicely into the frame.

On the flipside, a lens with an angle that is too wide makes everything really tiny, especially if you can’t get close enough. Then suddenly a beautiful butterfly lands in front of you, but it looks so small through your lens that it’ll be indistinguishable.

Shot by the Fujifilm 27mm pancake lens

Check out that awesome foliage! Clearly distinct leaves, great detail on the building. Even the crane on the right is crisp.

The Fujifilm 27mm pancake lens is a fantastic compromise – you get a little bit extra in the frame, but you don’t have to stick the camera in someone’s face to get a decent portrait. Win, win, win!

Solid low light performance

Even though it doesn’t let in as much light as a lot of other lenses do, I think this lens performs remarkably – and I have a ton of night shots to prove it!

Shot by the Fujifilm 27mm pancake lens

Notice in the next one how even the sky has got some activity going on – I don’t even know how that happened, as it was pushing midnight when I took this picture.

Shot by the Fujifilm 27mm pancake lens

Enough about the benefits! What about the drawbacks?

Of course, I can’t share only the good. There are a couple of things you should be aware of when picking up this lens:

  1. No super close shots. The minimum focus distance (how close you can get to your subject and focus) is officially a little under 2 feet, or 34cm. No macro photos with this guy!
  2. It’s not cheap. Current retail price is $350 on Amazon (its normally $450) – but then again, there aren’t a lot of lenses in Fujifilm’s range that aren’t higher than this or edging in on double the cost.
  3. You have to buy the lens hood separately. – Honstly I never bought one, don’t tell!
  4. No aperture ring. – I love the clicky-click of adjusting my aperture with a physical dial on the lens. It’s a disappointment, but if it keeps the weight low and the profile slim, how can I argue with that?

The best lens for travel photography: pretty, tiny, and SHARP! This Fujifilm pancake lens is a seriously awesome compaion on the road.

The 27mm pancake lens is a fraction of the size and weight of my other Fuji lenses, and in the last few months – my most used lens!

With all of that said, its main benefit to me remains

I will bring it with me wherever I go. Not just when I’m traveling, not just when I’m going to an event, but every. single. place. I go. And when I’m spending all day on the go, seeing a new city or walking in nature, having a light camera makes a huge difference.

The best lens for travel photography: pretty, tiny, and SHARP! This Fujifilm pancake lens is a seriously awesome compaion on the road.

The Fujifilm 27mm lens is smaller than the lens hood of my kit lens! I’d never haul around the other one on my daily jaunts.

Do you bring your camera with you wherever you go? Have you ever left it at home or the hotel because it’s just too heavy?

Share your gear and the difference between your daily and your travel photo routine in the comments!

This post contains affiliate links, but is not sponsored in any way. I just love this lens, and I think it’s obvious why :)

About the author

Hi there! I'm Monica, an American expat living in Germany for nearly four years and using every opportunity to explore the world from my homebase in Berlin. My goal is to capture my memories in photos and posts that show how easy it is to start from scratch and travel the world by working abroad.

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