Pancake lenses have been very popular for a long time in the mirrorless market. So far Canon has been reluctant to enter this market. The release of the this 40mm pancake lens might be an approach to competing with mirrorless designs by minimizing the size of a DSLR set. But how useful is a lens in this (price)range? Lets take a look!
A 40mm lens sits pretty nicely between 35mm and 50mm. As this 40mm is not very fast (f/2.8), it’s lens design is very simple. When looking at lens designs, we generally see 50mm is easy to make, even at f/1.4 (see the Canon and Sigma 50mm f/1.4 as an example). Building a fast 35mm on the other hand is pretty hard (you can tell from the price of the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L).
The 40mm sits neatly in between. And even though it is not that fast, the lens design could be kept extremely simple. For those who thought the 50mm f/1.8 was pretty small, this Pancake is really extremely tiny:
The “STM” is a Canon’s first: It is a new type of focusing motor. The oldest lenses still have micro motors, the modern lenses have an USM (UltraSonic Motor) which is faster and more silent. The new focusing motor is designated as STM (STepping Motor). The idea is that this motor can deliver better silent focusing while shooting video with your DSLR. At the monent of this post, the EOS 650D is the only camera that can use this special feature. To be clear: The lens WILL work on other DSLR bodies, but these bodies will not be able to make use of this special focusing feature. If not used for video, to my understanding USM is still the focusing motor type to beat.
Do we need 40mm f/2.8 ?
When I saw the announcement for this lens, my first thought was that is falls in between all worlds: It is not wide. It is not standard. It is not zoom. Not really suited for portraits (not even on a cropped camera). Not really wide, so not really usable for landscapes. Not for macro, not for wildlife. So what remains? Maybe it will make a cool cityscape lens, especially on a full frame camera. But then again, if you shoot with a high end camera, you’ve probably invested in something like a 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 17-40L or 16-35L for that type of shooting.
In my opinion, the 40mm adds little to the array of lenses available, not even for price: Consider the Canon 50mm f/1.8 which is far cheaper and faster too. Plus if you stop it down to f/2.5 it is optically pretty much on par as well.
Build quality is reported to be better than the 50mm f/1.8 though (which I could have guessed considering the extremely low price of the 50mm f/1.8). And yes, the 40mm f/2.8 STM is very compact being a pancake. Maybe video fanatics will love this lens, but as I hardly do any video that does not really “do it” for me personally.
Conclusion and reference to a good online review
For me, the 40mm pancake adds little to the game. Although it is a nice lens if you are looking for the 40mm range, I doubt this focal distance will make much sense when shooting stills. As I have little knowledge on videography, it might be the greatest thing since sliced bread for this kind of work.
I found a very good review (as are all reviews on this website) on the Canon EF40mm f/2.8 here: www.photozone.de/canon_eos_ff/752-canon_40_28_ff:
|“The Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM may not be perfect but that’s whining on a very high level. So if you can make sense of the lens’ focal length and max. aperture we can certainly recommend it highly!”|
As you can read in the photozone.de review, this lens does pretty well, IF you can make sense of the focal length.