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4 Important Things to Know About Canon’s New 40mm Pancake Lens

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1. Long History of a Short Lens

What’s all the fuss surrounding Canon’s new 40mm “pancake” lens? So called because of their flat, short-barrel look, pancake lenses are primes made with thin glass and have been a convenient carry-along for photographers for over 100 years. They are an unobtrusive lens with aesthetic appeal, a longtime favorite in the mirrorless/Micro Four Thirds crowd. Canon has finally jumped on the bandwagon with its inaugural pancake: the EF 40mm f/2.8.

2. Better Focusing Distance and Bokeh

Most pancakes fall into the normal-to-wide focal range and this one is no exception. While most, especially older, pancake lenses are unable to focus down on anything closer than 18 inches, this one is able to home in at a relatively close 11.8 inches. And with 7 diaphragm blades at f2.8, the bokeh on this lens is quite good.

3. STM Enables Video Auto Focusing on the Canon Rebel T4i

This lens is certainly a great go-t0 for travelers looking to pack light, however, the technology of the 40mm is principally for video and will allow the camera to focus continuously while shooting video. The STM (STepping Motor) feature of this lens offers smooth and quiet continuous auto focusing when used with the video functionality of the new Canon Rebel T4i (for our review of the T4i, click here).

4. Why a 40mm Focal Length?

But why 40mm’s? The focal length is certainly a bit of a novelty. The most commonly-found lengths for prime lenses are 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and 100mm (with 24mm becoming a favorite as well). For some, it is just a matter of having a very specific preference–the 35mm, on a full frame camera, is just a little wide while the 50mm is a little long. For a crop sensor camera, the 40mm is the equivalent to about 64mm–still a good “middle ground” length.

In case you missed it, see how the 40mm focal length stacks up to other traditional focal lengths in our Facebook Lens Face-Off Challenge.

Our Conclusion:

If you’re a photographer looking for a lightweight lens with a decent focusing distance, good bokeh, and is unobtrusive (a great feature for street photographers), give the 40mm a try. If you’re a videographer, especially if you are trying out the new T4i, the STM will impress, especially for the price.

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Alexandria Huff is a portrait photographer based in San Francisco. Her tutorials can be found here on the BorrowLenses Blog, 500px, Shutterfly, Snapknot, and SmugMug. She specializes in studio lighting. Follow her work on 500px.

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Comments

  • Lisa says:

    Can the new Canon 40mm pancake lens be used with the video function on the 60D and the 7D?

  • For right now, the new Stepping Motor Technology is only compatible with the Canon T4i. However, there are rumors that compatibility will expand to other models with firmware releases. We will keep you posted on when those get released.

  • Tobias says:

    I feel like item #3 is a bit misleading. The T4i will do continuous autofocus with any lens that is capable of autofocusing but it is the STM that will do this most smoothly and silently . To answer several questions above – The STM technology will work fine on ALL canon cameras but it will NOT make any of these cameras continuously AF during filming.

  • I bought one to use on my 5D Mark II and have done a couple of tests with it. The best of it is in the f4 ~ f8 range. I do like it, but I have a long time friend (and a Canon Explorer of Light) telling me that the 50mm f1.8 Mark II is optically a better lens. I’d prefer something in the 30-35mm range, but it’s ok.

  • Ken Dobos says:

    For under $200, I’m going tp pick one of these up fairly soon. If it’s half as good as the now-famous “nifty-fifty”, Canon will have another winner on their hands. Also, Glad to see i can now pick-up lenses in Manhattan, saving me the $100+ in shipping and insurance. Good move!!!!!!

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