Small pancake FX lens for D850 -- Series E, Voigtlander, other?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by kevin_beretta, Sep 26, 2020.

  1. Once this silly Corona virus abates, I am set to do a significant amount of travel. I'm a D850 shooter and mostly backpack/hike/mountaineer so weight is an issue. My earlier exploits saw me carry a D700, 24-70 f2.8 and 105 f2.8 as sole equipment. I want to go a little lighter and am debating D850, 24-70 f2.8 and a small pancake lens for a "walk around anywhere" sort of lens. I would then also leave the Canon S95 home which I used for that purpose.

    I've read a few reviews on the Nikon Series E 50 mm 1.8 and apparently there are a few versions of these for different markets. Some focus a little closer to 0.45 meters vs 0.6 meters but the quality of the former seems better than the other versions. Sadly the "good" version is a bit harder to find. Cheap things at around $100 or so.

    The other option is to buy a Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2 SL IIS Aspherical new from BHP or somewhere else. A tad more at about $420. But hey ... It's a new toy.

    So my question is whether there are other small pancake options for the FX I am not aware of? I like the 40 mm in the Voigtlander vs. the 50 mm for the Nikon lens. The manual focus does not bother me at all. In fact, I have a Zeiss 50 1.4 and it's a beast but hasn't been off the camera much for the last 6 months since I bought it. Too heavy for travel though.

    Any ideas welcome.
    q.g._de_bakker likes this.
  2. Voigtlander 40mm f/2, this is the one you want. Far better than the 50mm Series E. Buy it used for less than $300 in mint condition—easily done.

    The Ai-Nikkor 45mm f/2.8P is even thinner. It has many fans of its particular optical qualities, but full-frame sharpness is not among them. The Voigtlander is much more competent, if less distinctive.

    Btw there is no 0.45m close focus Series E lens. That's the first pancake Nikkor Ai-S model. You're right that it's hard to find (outside of Japan). I think the optics are the same except for the coatings.
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2020
  3. IF you can find one : Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AI-s Pancake-NIKKOR ( MARK III version if you can..)
    The E-series 50mm is not really a "Pancake Nikkor" ..
  4. Thanks both @chulster and @c.p.m._van_het_kaar for your replies. If I go the Voigtlander route, I'll likely get a new one. But I may take a look around first for a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AI-s Pancake-NIKKOR MARK III
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2020
  5. Mark III? Is that the first, Japan-only pancake version of the 50/1.8 Ai-S, with the 0.45m close focus and a rubber-clad focus ring? Or the second and last pancake version, with 0.6m close focus and a hard-plastic focus ring? I like the first one better.
  6. Found this site .... helpful to find lenses... Lens Database
  7. SCL


    I've had 2 versions of the series E 50/1.8. Stopped down to f/5.6 or so it does a fine job, wide open it isn't sharp. I'd give a vote for the Voigtlander, as it is a newer design and a little wider field, and what the heck, money is to spend, right?
    kevin_beretta likes this.
  8. The difference in size between a so-called 'pancake' 40/50mm lens and a standard AF 50mm f/1.8 is minimal.

    An AF D 50mm f/1.8 Nikkor weighs next-to-nothing (certainly compared to a D850) and is maybe 5mm longer than the manual focus Series E lens. Add a lens hood that's more necessary on a pancake lens, and that difference becomes unnoticeable.

    You've got a camera that's nearly 80mm thick and weighs over a Kilo. So why bother trying to save a few millimetres on the lens and almost nothing in weight? Not one of Nikon's f/2 or f/1.8 50mm lenses is going to unbalance the camera, or look anything but dwarfed by it.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2020
    NHSN and kevin_beretta like this.
  9. Agre to that, but if looking for a "Panncake" i guess that the OP wants it a s flat as possible, so 0.5cm then counts, difference is that it just sticks out of the grip on the camera , or is just inside it..
  10. srry, it should be the mark II version wich focusses at 0.45 m, and has the rubber focussing ring, the mark III is more like a version of the series E, and more "plasticky..
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2020
  11. Ever hear of the Nikkor 45/2.8 Ai-P???
  12. I read a review or two and neither were very positive about it.
  13. Rodeo Joe makes a good point ... I have the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G but put it up for sale to fund a new lens. It seems the Nikon AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4D is actually the lightest and smallest of the 3, although volumetrically, the Voigtlander is the smallest. Part of the reason I am looking at the Voigtlander is because I am so happy with the way shooting has changed since using the Zeiss 50 1.4 manual. The Nikon 1.4G lens never really threw off any good pictures for me but I can't tell you why because they are perfectly sharp but a bit dull, not sure what it is.

    40 a nice step between the 35 and 50 lenses I have now. And the reviews on sharpness and picture quality seem really enticing too.

    The pondering continues... :)

    Nikon AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4D Lens
    Dimensions (ø x L) 2.54 x 1.67" / 64.5 x 42.5 mm
    Weight 8.11 oz / 230 g

    Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G Lens
    Dimensions (ø x L) 2.89 x 2.13" / 73.5 x 54.2 mm
    Weight 9.88 oz / 280 g

    Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2 SL IIS
    Dimensions (ø x L) 2.61 x 1.48" / 66.3 x 37.5 mm
    Weight 9.17 oz / 260 g
  14. But you've never seen one, much less shot one, right? Have a half dozen 50mm Nikkor AF and MF 1.4-1.8s and don't find the little 45mm trailing the pack. Old reviews disliked its price more than its performance. But then as is so typical of PN, posters heed the echo chamber and blithely comment on gear they never owned.
  15. I didn't comment on any grear, I just mentioned the reviews I read. If you don't like PN then why are you here?
  16. The "Japan" 50/1.8 is a nice lens. It looks similar to the later "chrome-ring" series-E version but has all-metal build, better coatings and focuses closer - 0.45m vs 0.6m. The optics are the same, and also the same as the later "pancake" AI-S version and the AF and AF-D versions.

    Personally I prefer the AI 50/1.8 "long nose" version. It has a regular size barrel which greatly improves handling, the pancake lenses have very narrow focus and aperture rings which can be fiddly to use. The AI 50/1.8 has different optics which I think are slightly better, a little sharper and with nicer background rendition. It also has a longer focus throw so focusing is slower and more accurate, especially at far distances.

    The Voigtlander 40mm ultron is also a very good lens, especially the SL IIS version as it focuses much closer than the previous versions without use of closeup attachments.

    However, getting perfect focus using manual lenses on the D850 is a challenge unless you usually shoot at smaller apertures, or shoot static subjects where you have time to carefully adjust focus, or you can use magnified live view. My recommendation would be the AF-S 50/1.8. Optically it should as sharp or better than the other lenses mentioned, and being an AF lens you are much less likely to lose shots due to focusing errors. It's not a pancake lens but it is still small compared to the size of the D850 body, or the 24-70 and 105mm lenses you have been using.
  17. Why ask a question you've obviously already answered to your own satisfaction? Pointless.
  18. I don't think I answered the question before I came here. I was looking for input and differences of opinion, other ideas etc. I did the same a few (12 or so) months earlier when I debated buying a 50 mm manual lens and I ended up with the Zeiss Milvus 50 1.4 instead of the Zeiss Planar T* 50 I had originally targeted. It was an excellent choice and driven by input from this forum and a number of online reviews. I find there is an incredible wealth of info and knowledge on this board and I certainly am not going to try all the lenses myself before making a decision, so I'm left with the opinions of others and some judgement in making a decision, granted with some bias and risk. I find this works for me.
  19. Thanks Roland for the info. That's some good additional information to consider. As to the manual focus, I find that the only manual lens I have now works quite well in that regard. In reading some of the reviews and methods of work, I've quickly learned to not rely on the focus dot to be lit up, but by picking the point where the "<" arrow to the right of the focus dot just makes the focus dot flicker a bit. That nails focus for me most every time, even at f1.4 . I suspect it might be a bit easier with a 40 mm and f2 at the widest. The slowness and deliberateness of shooting with a manual lens seems to work for me. I am having a chat with a friend of mine tonight who has at least one Voigtlander to my knowledge so I'll ask him how he finds it. However, there is a very strong case for the AF-S 50/1.8 indeed as you mentioned over all the others. I'd never considered it as I'd always had an AF-S 50 1.4G, but that is quite a bit heavier. Thanks again for the input.
  20. The Voigtlander Color-Skopar 20mm f/3.5 SL II N and 28mm f/2.8 Color Skopar SL II N are also nice pancake lenses, sadly they're discontinued so they tend to be pricey when you find them. I'll never sell mine!

    The Voigtlander 90mm F/3.5 SL II APO-Lanthar, while not a pancake lens is very small and compact for it's focal length and can do near macro at 1:1.8 with the included close up lens.

    My Voigtlanders make a nice light and small prime lens walk around kit! 20mm, 28mm, 40mm, & 90mm

    50f691f566b948438d90faf1ea832ef0.jpg 18c094548d2742cc8800f49e259f4da9.jpg
    kevin_beretta likes this.

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