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The smallest lens in the world! It’s a 7mm thin pancake lens that fits most any camera, covers full frame, and is ready when you are.
The smallest lens in the world! It’s a 7mm thin pancake lens that fits most any camera, covers full frame, and is ready when you are.
6 backers pledged €2,413 to help bring this project to life.

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What is a prototype?

A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:

Proof of Concept

Explorations that test ideas and functionality.

Functional Prototype

Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.

Appearance Prototype

Looks like the final product, but is not functional.

Design Prototype

Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.

Production Prototype

Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.

817ddef4327a332bdbebb017d19c7747 original.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Prototype Gallery

These photos and videos provide a detailed look at this project’s development.

35mm f/2.7 – The Smallest Fastest Pancake Lens in the World!  

We’ve got the smallest lens in the world! It’s a 7mm thin pancake lens that fits most any camera, covers full frame, and is ready when you are! Never miss another moment!  

ExperimentalOptics is back. The geeks from Berlin that brought you the fastest lens in the world, the 50mm f/0.75, are back to bring you something even bigger…   

…well, not actually bigger.  

Actually it’s the smallest lens in the world! A super flat, super sturdy, super fast and super high image quality pancake lens.  

  • It covers full frame  
  • It has a focal length of 35mm  
  • It has a fast aperture of f/2.7  
  • It has an absolutely bokehlicious Bokeh  
  • It is a joy to handle  
  • It is razor sharp  
  • Plus it is the thinnest fastest lens ever – not just the thinnest 35mm lens, nor just the thinnest f/2.7 (or faster) lens.   
  •  

 The tool to express yourself 

This is not a cheap, low quality, low speed toy lens! It is a high quality, fast lens, giving you the utmost creative possibilities of speed, selective focus and bokeh – and all in an unobtrusive and uncompromisingly compact body that never gets in the way of your creative expression:   

Small. Ultra compact, it fits into any shirt pocket. In fact, your camera with the lens attached will fit into almost any pocket: no protruding parts anymore. This lens gives you the most versatile point-and-shoot setup when paired with your camera!  

Fast. A carefully selected super fast permanent aperture of f/2.7. On close ups, this gives dreamy bokeh and an emphasis on your main subject. Yet you retain plenty of depth of field to easily focus the lens, and ample light for handheld photography with fast shutter speeds. For subjects at greater distances, such as landscapes, groups of people, or architecture, the depth of field is expansive enough to render all elements of the scene in crisp detail.  

Sharp. Really, really sharp! See for yourself.    

Ready. It’s ready to shoot when you are. No collapsing after shooting, and no setting up beforehand. That’s what we call creative freedom. Yet, with a helicoid adapter, it focusses down to 30cm (1 ft) at one turn of your wrist (see technical details below). 

Agile. The ideal travel lens, the ideal lens to always have on your camera. It’s as thin as a lens cap. Only it takes pictures. Great pictures.   

Freeing. Capture your world your way: This lens puts the least bit of glass possible between you and your world. The least bit of glass between you and your creative expression.  

Croppable. Thanks to its very high centre sharpness, images also lend themselves ideally for cropping. Even at a crop equivalent to an angle of view of a 70mm or 80mm lens, pictures taken with our pancake are sharper than many travel zooms at their 70 or 80mm setting. On top of that, you retain the fast f/2.7 aperture. This way, you get a virtual 35~80mm f/2.7 zoom – all you’ll ever need for travelling.  

Bokehlicious. Look at that Bokeh! It’s round, it’s creamy, it’s soap bubbly. Yet it’s not obtrusive. And the depth of field is always manageable.

Characterful. Images have rich colours and a high colour reproduction accuracy. The lens does not add a ‘look’ or a ‘style’ as so many ‘creative’ lenses do – a look you will soon tire of, and a style that isn’t yours. Our pancake doesn't add anything, it takes away: it leaves you with the pure, raw joy of immortalising the world the way you see it.

Sees the world like you do. Angle of view and depth of field are very close to the visual impression our eyes and mind make of a scene. The lens captures a scene the way you remember it and conveys its mood. The easy use makes sure you always get to capture the perfect moment, undisturbed by technicalities.

Versatile. 35mm is just the ideal focal length, whichever camera you use: 

  • The lens fully covers 35mm full frame. Most of our extensive testing was done with a full frame mirrorless camera. 
  • It really shines, though, on APS and smaller cameras, with their less optically critical sensors and where its native 35mm focal length opens fascinating perspectives: On APS-C (and APS-H, such as a Leica M8), the lens becomes the equivalent of around 50mm, the preferred angle of view of generations upon generations of photographers – amateurs and professionals alike. 
  • On Micro Four Thirds, you get the smallest portrait lens in the world, at an equivalent of 70mm and thus perfect for emphasising a person, yet retaining an impression of their surroundings. 
  • And on cameras with smaller imaging chips, you enter the realm of the short telephoto lens – up to an equivalent of 200mm on a Pentax Q – perfect for nature and animal photography. 

Up close. Most other compact lenses have a very limited close up focus range or reduced sharpness up close. This one, combined with a focussing helicoid or Live View, gives you true close-ups! It focusses down to 30cm (see technical details below) and stays razor sharp. Bokehlicious Selfies anybody?  

Desirable. Our pancake lens is a beautiful object in itself, somewhere between sexy tool and seductive jewellery, high end, exquisite, handmade. It’s a tactile pleasure, and a great tool of creative expression for the expert photographer and the casual shooter alike. But let’s not blabber. 

Compatible. Its intelligent combination of native M39 and Leica M mount fits almost any camera. See below for technical details.  

Stealth. The barrel is black and completely untagged: we value unobtrusive photography more than brand image. Add to that its small and coated glass elements, and you have the stealthiest lens in the world. 

Solid. The lens barrel is milled from one solid piece of metal. There are no moving parts. 

Light. 40grams, to be exact. That is less than 1 1/2 ounces.  

The ideal primary lens. We’ve travelled the world with this lens, and little else. That’s how much we like it. Paired with a 200mm telephoto or zoom, it gives you the ultimate travel kit. But even if you’ve already chosen your primary lens, the 35mm f/2.7 will fit into your back pocket and always be ready. And who knows… you might experience a change of heart along the way and make the 35mm f/2.7 your primary lens.

Super limited. We expect to be able to make 10-20 lenses per year. This is not a marketing gimmick, mind you. We find marketing stunts as annoying as anyone. Instead, each item is handcrafted, and we just can't get more done. We strive for quality, we strive for perfection. 

Image quality and sample images  

This is a high end lens. From the material of the body – solid metal – to the detail sharpness of the actual images, this is the lens for professionals, connoisseurs and aficionados alike. 

To show you what the lens can do, we’ve put together a little selection of subjects we encountered during our extensive field testing. Some of these pictures you see right here, many more you can find on our flickr page. There, you can also download full resolution samples, showing you how the lens performs in real life and on a real, famously demanding camera: a Sony A7r with its monstrous first generation 36 megapixels full frame sensor. All pictures are out of camera, with basic optimisation applied. 

Oh, and lest we forget: you should also follow us on Instagram @ExperimentalOptics

We at ExperimentalOptics are photographers! We would not put this lens into production if we weren’t fully convinced of it and excited about it. To make sure we are, we took the lens on a year-long road trip across Europe, shooting it with one of the most demanding cameras currently out there – not just in terms of resolution, but corner sharpness, colour cast proneness and all the other nuisances the real world holds.  

We shot thousands of pictures with the lens, from portraits through landscapes, urban scenes and hiking to close-ups, travelling in cars, airplanes and on bicycles; in museums, cafés, bars and concerts; through a Finnish winter, in the Spanish desert in summer, along the coast of Portugal, across the European continent and back into the damp, drinks-soaked nights of a sweaty Berlin summer. 

The lens performed superbly and flawlessly. And it was the main lens, with a 12mm ultra wide angle and a 200mm telephoto as support acts. Nothing else. 

Do you have any questions?  

How much depth of field does 35mm f/2.7 give you? We’ve carefully selected the aperture to give you depth of field where you need it, and blurry backgrounds where you don’t: at the far end, everything at infinity is in focus. Focussing up close, for a portrait or architectural detail, what you are interested in will be in focus, and the surrounding scene will blur, but remain recognisable. Much like you perceive the scene through your eyes. 

How much separation or Bokeh does 35 mm f/2.7 give you? A lot. Look at our samples to see that you don’t need a superfast lens to get lovely scenic pictures – and at the same time you get a depth of field that is easily manageable on the go. 

Is this a toy lens? Decidedly not. But you can have at least as much fun with it! 

Can it do video? Of course! If anything, the image looks even better in 16:9, full frame or APS. Following focus with our optional helicoid adapter is an absolute joy.  

Does it soap bubble? Yes! :) 

Can it do infrared? Sure. 

How does it compare to other pancake lenses out there? Let’s see… it has more speed, more compactness, less weight, there is no need to collapse it, thus it’s faster to use. It’s easy to handle, the barrel is all black and completely stealth. The lens is extremely sharp, it gives you a very close close-up range with a helicoid adapter, it shows very little field curvature and it is ready when you are.

So why didn't we instead go for… 

  • more wide angle? a) because we feel that 35mm is the most versatile focal length, whether on full frame or smaller format cameras. And b) because more wide angle means losing either sharpness, or speed, or image quality, or compactness, or any combination thereof. 
  • more telephoto? a) see above; b) because the lens would have been thicker. That’s physics, and whilst we’re good, we’re not quite as good as bending physics…yet. 
  • less speed? Because a smaller aperture limits your creative freedom. Plus with a smaller aperture, you lose light and thus the ability to use the lens hand-held in low light situations: in bars, after sunset, at night, wherever. 
  • more speed? Because it makes the lens bigger. This lens is the epitome of compactness. Nothing less. If you want compromise, there’s plenty of choice out there already ;) 
  • a selectable aperture? Same reason. It either makes the lens bigger, or it makes you break your finger(nail)s. As a bonus, we’ve taken out the tedious technicality (pun intended) of selecting an aperture, so you can focus on what really matters: the life in front of the lens. 
  • a cheap far-eastern mass production run? Because, well, where’s the fun in that? And, perhaps even more importantly, where’s the quality in that? 

If you have any more questions, please write to us! 

Rewards  

Support this uncompromising, truly unique project! Take your pick from our different rewards – or any combination of them: 

1) One ExperimentalOptics 35mm f/2.7 pancake lens of the first batch  

Your pledge gets you 

  • The ExperimentalOptics 35mm f/2.7 pancake lens – the smallest lens in the world. It can be used on any native M39 mount camera or combined with an adapter to be used on virtually any camera (see technical details below) 
  • A handmade lens pouch 
  • An English manual 
  • Free worldwide, tracked shipping - envisioned in late 2018 

Note: we have also put together a worry-free, high-grade adapter kit for using your lens directly on either your Leica M mount or Sony E-Mount / Sony Nex camera, respectively: The adapter for Leica displays the correct 35mm frame lines in the viewfinder. The adapter for Sony offers a focussing helicoid that provides focus between infinity and 30cm at the flick of your wrist. It fits every Sony E mount camera regardless of age, series name (Nex, Alpha, Ilce, …) or sensor size. (Note that it will not fit Sony A mount SLR cameras. If you are not sure, just ask us.) To obtain either kit, just add 59 € to your pledge. We will contact you after the campaign to find out which adapter kit you desire. To obtain both kits for using your lens interchangeably on Leica and Sony mount cameras, just add 110 € to your pledge. 

Minimum pledge: 1199 € (this is our suggestion for a minimum pledge. If would like to support our work and permit us to keep researching exciting new uncompromising projects in the future, please feel free to pledge more!) 

2) One ExperimentalOptics 35mm f/2.7 pancake lens of the second batch 

Same as above, including the adapter options. Just that shipping is envisioned through 2019 only. 

3) The Big Box: both ExperimentalOptics lenses: 35mm f/2.7 and 50mm f/0.75  

Yes, we have three – very probably the last ever – of our superfast 50mm f/0.75 lenses from our first crowdfunding campaign. If you don’t just want the smallest, but also the biggest lens in the world, this reward is for you: a big box containing both! It doesn’t get more exclusive nor more spectacular than that. 

Your pledge gets you 

  • One of the three very first ExperimentalOptics 35mm f/2.7 pancake lenses 
  • One of the three very last ExperimentalOptics 50mm f/0.75 full frame lenses out of our first crowdfunding campaign – and still to this day the fastest lens in the world! Read more here 
  • A handmade lens pouch for each lens 
  • An English manual for each lens 
  • Free worldwide, tracked shipping - envisioned for November 2018
  • A high grade adapter of your choice: for Leica M mount or Sony E mount (see above) 

Minimum pledge: 4000 € (this is our suggestion for a minimum pledge. If would like to support our work and permit us to keep researching exciting new uncompromising projects in the future, please feel free to pledge more!) 

4) A print of any picture taken with the ExperimentalOptics 35mm f/2.7 lens – take your pick from our Flickr or Instagram gallery. Whichever you choose will be printed in an actual darkroom with actual light onto actual photography paper – a token of our appreciation for your support. Feel free to select multiple prints or subjects at a suggested minimum of 12 € each. Again, if would like to support our work and permit us to keep researching exciting new uncompromising projects in the future, please feel free to pledge more.

Includes worldwide uninsured and untracked shipping. 

What we need your support for  

We have been working on explorations, prototypes and serial pre-production for the past two years. 

Now, we need your support to produce (machine-mill, coat, ... the usual) the mount and turn the glass from our prototype into a pleasant, tactile product. 

Beyond that, we envision that producing the second batch of lenses will keep us occupied for another year or so. 

Technical details  

If you care for more information, this gets a little technical. We apologise. Just shows the geeks we are… 

The lens is a non-retrofocal optical design. Depending on the camera you are using it with, this can mean that towards the image corners, a drop-off in sharpness may be noticeable, as well as soft vignetting and, with older digital cameras, colour shifts. Depending on both your camera (image chip size; in-camera filter stack in front of the chip; in-camera post-processing) and each picture’s specific subject, this may or may not be noticeable in the final picture. 

We have found any artefacts to be non-existent with smaller size image chips, and negligible in real world pictures with later-generation digital cameras (Sony a7rII etc.). 

Should artefacts show up with your specific camera, the image edges can be corrected in any RAW or image processing software, or with free software like CornerFix, or even in-camera with apps like Sony’s corner correction.  

Mounting and compatibility 

This is where it gets a little more technical. If you don’t like technicalities, get a Sony E Mount camera and our lens plus our adapter for Sony E mount – and you’ll be happy :) 

For everyone else: The lens mount combines an M39 mount and a Leica M mount! This means that out of the box, the lens can be adapted to virtually any camera of this and the last century (except for SLRs). 

On a native M39 camera (any Leica before the 1950s, Voigtlander Bessa, Zorki, Canon and Nikon rangefinders, ...), the lens focusses at infinity*. 

The lens mount is cleverly designed to seamlessly take up (‘swallow’) a Leica M adapter as well - invisibly. Thus, the lens fits any modern Leica M mount camera (any Leica M since the 1950s, all digital Leica Ms, Zeiss, Konica RF, Epson R-D1, ...) where it looks and handles like a native M mount lens. It focusses at infinity*. When getting our adapter for Leica M, the 35mm frame lines come up in the viewfinder. 

The lens is compatible with any mirrorless camera system, present or future. It’s when adapting the lens to a mirrorless digital camera (a.k.a. system camera, EVIL, …) that it really shines. 

A helicoid adapter can be used and allows, depending on the adapter, close focussing down to 30cm (1 ft or 11.4"): The adapter becomes the focus unit for the lens. This is the same principle we've already used very successfully on our 50mm f/0.75 lens; other manufacturers are using this principle as well, such as Voigtlander with their 40mm for Sony E mount.  

When using an adapter without a focussing helicoid, the lens focusses at infinity*. (Note that ultra thin M39 adapters are on the market as well. These are not useful as they would reach beyond infinity.) 

Adapters from M39 or Leica M to virtually any mirrorless mount are available from third party manufacturers. With them, the lens seamlessly fits Sony E Mount / Sony Nex, Fuji X, Canon EOS M, Canon EOS R, Micro4/3 (MicroFourThirds / MFT), Leica L, Nikon 1, Nikon Z, Samsung NX, Blackmagic, Pentax Q, C-Mount, D-Mount, and many more. 

This lens is ready for all the coming mirrorless systems as well! 

 …but not for reflex cameras: The lens can technically be adapted to SLR cameras (any brand, any mount), but you cannot obtain infinity focussing, even with an ultra-thin adapter. Due to physical limitations, on SLR cameras the lens will only yield close-up (macro) focus. Sorry, folks.  

*Setting the lens up for a rangefinder camera: The lens is not rangefinder coupled. The lens is intended to give you infinity focus at its default setting. However, 'infinity' is actually a very vague term. Especially on high resolution digital cameras, you may very well notice a difference in sharpness between an object 10m away and, say, 1000m away, although both technically are at infinity. This difference results in the tolerance accepted when defining 'infinity'. Grainy negative film is a lot more tolerant than a high resolution digital sensor... What's more, the metal in every lens actually shrinks and expands minutely with changing outside conditions. What may thus be the perfect setup for 'infinity' for you may not be within the tolerances for somebody else; and what may be perfect for you at sea level in summer may actually be off at high altitude skiing on a cold day in winter. 

On a mirrorless camera, none of this is an issue: You just focus accordingly, using a helicoid adapter. When setting the lens up for a rangefinder, though, we were faced with the decision to either set it to 'our' infinity, at the risk of you running into situations where you will not actually get infinity focus. Or to give the setup a tiny bit of breathing room. We chose the latter. 

To use your lens to a rangefinder camera, you can thus adjust infinity perfectly by varying how tightly you screw the lens into the camera or adapter. The result is easily verified with a test picture. In the very same way, you can actually set the lens for close focus or portrait distance or whatever you require, by screwing it on more loosely. 

If you use the lens on an M mount camera and thus with an adapter, you can fix the distance setting for future use by fixing the lens into the adapter at the desired distance. We recommend using high quality adapters. We have seen some cheaper offers that did not conform to the measure standards of the mounts they meant to adapt. As a result, focus was way off, too close or too far.

If you use a rangefinder camera with Live View, you can even achieve dynamic focussing: By varying how far you screw the lens into the camera or adapter, you can focus from infinity down to 30cm at the tip of the adapter, as depicted below. This is stretching what we intended the lens to be able to do mechanically, but it just shows how versatile this little gem really is.

Shipping  

We are well on track to completing our first production run of 20 lenses and would expect them to be ready for shipping in December 2018. Depending on where you live, you are likely to receive your lens(es) before Christmas. As for the second batch, we will ship each lens individually upon its completion, on a first-come-first-served basis. This is to be through 2019. 

If you’re interested in cooperating…  

If you're blogging, youtubing, writing for magazines etc. and would like to know more about us, our works or the lens, do please feel free to get in touch! We've had some lovely exchanges when making our 50mm lens and have been honoured about the interest we received. Note please however that due to the very limited quantities, we are unable to distribute free review samples. 

If you're a social media expert or promoter and would like to spread the word about our campaign on a commission basis, please feel free to get in touch as well!

Risks and challenges

Through extended photographic projects, we have tested a prototype of the lens in-depth and in every conceivable photographic situation.
We are thus embarking on this, already our second crowdfunding project, teeming with confidence.
We are an independent small collective and in no way associated with any other entities or brands in the optical, photo equipment and crowdfunding world.
We deliver what we promise, and we really treasure your support!

There is however always a small possibility that delays may occur or changes to the design and functionality might need to be made. For the actual production run, the metal pieces still need to be milled, and their tolerances are very tight. We have some time reserves already factored in (read: if all goes really well, expect your lenses much sooner!). Still, there remains a slight possibility of the first batch shipping in early 2019 only.
All measures, figures and features are based on our protoype and might still change for the final production run. We don't expect them to, but in theory the possibility exists...
As for the second batch, with manufacturing being time-intense, we dare not promise exact shipping dates. The pre-production work so far has shown us that 20 units is a realistic target for one year, but the slight possibility remains that the very last lenses of the second batch might take more than 12 months to ship.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge €12 or more About $14

    One darkroom print of any picture

    A print of any picture taken with the ExperimentalOptics 35mm f/2.7 lens - take your pick from our Flickr gallery. Whichever you choose will be printed in an actual darkroom with actual light onto actual photography paper – a token of our appreciation for your support.
    Minimum pledge: 12 € (this is our suggestion for a minimum pledge. If would like to support our work and permit us to keep researching exciting new uncompromising projects in the future, please feel free to pledge more!)
    Includes worldwide uninsured and untracked shipping.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    1 backer
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  2. Select this reward

    Pledge €1,199 or more About $1,359

    35mm f/2.7 pancake lens of the 1st batch

    Your pledge gets you
    - the ExperimentalOptics 35mm f/2.7 pancake lens – the smallest lens in the world. It can be used on any native M39 mount camera or combined with an adapter to be used on virtually any camera (see technical details below)
    - a handmade lens pouch
    - an English manual
    - free worldwide, tracked shipping
    - envisioned for shipping in late 2018
    Minimum pledge: 1199 € (this is our suggestion for a minimum pledge. If would like to support our work and permit us to keep researching exciting new uncompromising projects in the future, please feel free to pledge more!)

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 2 backers
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  3. Select this reward

    Pledge €1,199 or more About $1,359

    35mm f/2.7 pancake lens of the 2nd batch

    Same as above, including the adapter options. Just that shipping is envisioned through 2019 only.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 0 backers
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  4. Select this reward

    Pledge €4,000 or more About $4,534

    The Big Box: 35mm f/2.7 and 50mm f/0.75

    Yes, we have three – very probably the last ever – of our superfast 50mm f/0.75 lenses from our first crowdfunding campaign. If you don’t just want the smallest, but also the biggest lens in the world, this reward is for you: a big box containing both! It doesn’t get more exclusive nor more spectacular than that.
    Your pledge gets you
    - one of the three very first ExperimentalOptics 35mm f/2.7 pancake lenses
    - one of the three very last ExperimentalOptics 50mm f/0.75 full frame lenses out of our first crowdfunding campaign – and still to this day the fastest lens in the world! Read more here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1745517054/50-mm-f-075-the-fastest-photographic-lens-in-the-w
    - a handmade lens pouch for each lens
    - an English manual for each lens
    - free worldwide, tracked shipping
    - a high grade adapter of your choice: for Leica M mount or Sony E mount (see above)
    Minimum pledge: 4000 € (this is our suggestion for a minimum pledge. If would like to support our work and permit us to keep researching exciting new uncompromising projects in the future, please feel free to pledge more!)

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 0 backers
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.

Funding period

- (60 days)