Top positive review
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At long last, a Canon pancake lens for SLRs.
on June 21, 2012
"Pancake" lenses have always had an appeal to SLR shooters. Their dimunitive size and weight, as well as overall simplicity, make them ideal as walkaround lenses, and many find the focal length of 40mm (give or take a few mm) much to their liking for general photography. Contax, Pentax, Nikon and other manufacturers have produced their offerings throughout the modern photographic era. Panasonic and Olympus have pancake lenses for their micro 4/3 lenses. For some mysterious reason, Canon has remained silent on the issue since 1965, when it produced the FLP 38/2.8 for a limited time. Until now. Let the celebration begin.
I had the pleasure of owning the Pentax and Contax Zeiss lenses in the days of film. I loved them both, and they were never far from reach. When I bought Canon dSLRs, due to lack of any Canon pancake lens being available, I adapted both the Contax Zeiss and the Pentax pancakes to work on my 5D, 5D2 and 40D. Of course, this arrangement has serious limitations, as both the autofocus and the aperture have to be set manually, making for a slow, awkward shooting experience. At very long last, Canon has brought its own pancake lens to market, in the form of the EF 40/2.8 STM.
It is strikingly small and light, and if you've never seen or experienced a pancake lens before, you're likely to wonder how a lens can be so small and even work on full framed dSLRs. Despite its size, there is pleasing build quality to be found. Built nothing like the EF 50/1.8 II, there is a metal lens mount and a solid lens barrel, short as it is. Canon was barely able to fit the AF/MF switch on the barrel, the barrel is so short. I would compare build quality to the EF 50/1.4. Aesthetically, the 40 has a sex appeal all of its own. There's always been something about those pancakes and they way they look and feel. Canon certainly does not disappoint here.
Optically, I have found the 40/2.8 to perform in excellent fashion. CA is well-controlled, I have not experienced problems with flare, and I do not have a hood attached. Center sharpness at f/2.8 is excellent, and I have uploaded a photo here to help demonstrate. Corners look very good as well. Color rendition is excellent, and bokeh is much to my liking.
Mechanically, the AF is fast, quiet and accurate, and the new STM focus stepping motor technology is employed here. I don't shoot video, so I couldn't care less about the lens being quiet for filming of video, but that may we a huge deal for those of you that do use the video features of your dSLR.
While Canon points out that this lens makes it possible to shoot more discretely, I suppose that's true to a point. But it's rather difficult to achieve shooting discretion when the lens is mounted to the larger non-Rebel Canon bodies, being the big black blobs that they are. However, the pancake design does make your shooting experience very pleasant in that there is not a long lens sticking outing of it. Combined with the weight reduction, the shooting experience with this lens mounted to your camera is bliss. I will be using it a lot as a walkaround, and for vacations.
A possible issue with this lens concerns its use with a cropped sensor camera body. The crop on the 1.6x bodies results in a 64mm effective focal length. I'm not sure how useful a 64/2.8 lens would be for most shooters. For me, that's not very useful. You may disagree. I'll vouch for the usefulness of this lens on a full frame body.
I highly recommend this lens, and at this price point, it's a no-brainer to click the Buy button.