Images with this post were all photographed with the Canon 40mm lens on a Canon 5DMkIII body. Images are processed in Lightroom with basic edits. To view more images photographed with the 40mm lens, go HERE.
Product link: http://amzn.to/PXf8L1
When I saw this lens on the market I was immediately excited about it. I really like the ~40mm focal length (used it a lot with my Fuji x100) and the fact that this is a pancake lens (which basically means it has a very small, compact form-factor) and only $200 made the decision to buy it that much easier. I waited around to hear some initial thoughts on the lens, basically to find out if it was awful or not, and when I read good things about it I made the plunge.
And I love it.
I got this lens just before heading out to Nebraska to visit family a few weeks ago, and used it about 99% of the time when I was photographing my nieces and nephews. I wanted to test it out (the main reason I used it the most) but then I found that I liked it so much that whenever I put another lens on I immediately changed my mind and switched back to the 40mm. Here’s a run-down of some of the things I noticed about the lens:
Sharpness: While I haven’t done any “lab-worthy” testing of the quality of sharpness, from my very organic and natural shooting moments it was spot on. I was photographing kids who have the attention span of about 5 seconds, so the fact that I got so many tack-sharp photographs was a huge deal to me. Granted, it’s not as ridiculously sharp as some of my pro “L” lenses, but I’m a self-proclaimed “focus snob” and if I’m happy with the sharpness (hand-held with unruly subjects) then that means it’s pretty darn good. In terms of focusing speed, I never really noticed it being too slow and was able to get photos of kids in a reasonable time … so I’m guessing that it’s fast enough for most situations.
Image quality: So far I haven’t seen anything wrong with the overall image quality, particularly in terms of distortion and chromatic aberration (CA). The distortion is what I would expect with a 40mm lens, not bad or overly stretching anything along the edges, and I actually quite like the results. I think this will make a very nice “overhead” lens for my food photography when I want to shoot straight down on my subject from above. In terms of CA I really haven’t seen any in my normal photos (but I haven’t tested it in any extremely high-contrast situations or with anything chrome or shiny). Since a lot of my images are for stock photogrpahy the quality when viewed at 100% is very important to me, and the less I have to do to get rid of things like CA, the better. :)
Compact size: The physical size of this lens is one of the main reasons I wanted to try it out. The size of it allows me to put my camera (particularly my 5DMkIII) in any of my camera bags without having to remove the lens, which makes it much easier when I need to grab my camera for a “quick shot”. It’s also very discreet in comparison to most SLR lenses. I walked around Seattle yesterday with my Canon 60D and the 40mm and it was such a nice little setup. I never had to worry about the lens bumping into things or getting in the way. Plus, it tucks away quite nicely and even fits easily into my Kelly Moore bag with the lens attached to the camera (which I can’t really say for any of my other lenses).
Build quality: If you’ve ever had a “nifty fifty” lens, like the Canon 50mm f/1.8, you’ll understand that you typically get plastic mounts with a lens that costs this little. However, with the 40mm the mount is metal and solid. It feels sturdy for a lens of this size and price-point.
Cost: Seriously … for $200, how can you go wrong? I don’t really feel like I compromised anything with buying this lens, and got much more than I expected.
A minor “con”: I found that every so often when I would turn my camera (a 5DMkIII) with the lens already attached the focus mechanism wouldn’t kick-in. I had to press the lens-release and turn the lens so it was no longer attached to the camera, and then turn it to “click” it back into the mount. After doing that it worked fine. This doesn’t happen every time, so I’m not sure if it’s a glitch with my camera, or if it’s the lens itself … or maybe it was just temporary. Either way, it’s not enough for me to say anything bad about the lens. :)
Final thoughts: I expect to be using the lens a lot in the near future. It’s a good size for a simple walk-around/photowalk lens, and it will always be in my camera bag when I travel. It’s so, so small that I don’t really even consider it an “extra lens” when I’m short on space … it’s really more like a “fancy” lens cap/combination lens. And, for those of you Canon photogs who need a simple “nifty fifty”, consider spending a little bit more to get the 40mm.