Choice at times can be counter-productive. Too many choices tend to confuse us leading to a decision that we eventually regret or worse – no decision at all. Sometimes, the tools we end up with do not match our requirements. Photography, at times can sadly become a medium for intimidation. One can be obsessed with the idea of showing off the latest super-telephoto, latest and greatest DSLR camera or even a monster medium format camera, just because you can.
The DSLR camera lens is surprisingly the most underrated of all digital photography bits of kit, although it is the only bit of kit that really matters, even more than the camera body itself.
For some, the lens comes after the camera is chosen, more as an after-thought.
“Let’s throw in that 18-55mm zoom lens, and I will call that a bargain.”
When the thing is, it should be more like;
“I want that 24-70mm f/2.8 and I need a good full-frame body to go with it.”
By now you would be wondering “Why such a long prelude?” Because, we are going to talk about something that you probably didn’t know existed - the 40mm prime lens. The 40mm prime, also referred to as the pancake, is an unassuming little piece of optical ingenuity. Gear-obsessed photographers could easily pass it on as a poorly made lens cap.
The 40mm prime sits right between the juicy 50mm prime and the 35mm prime. Arguably it is a two way fight as to which is the king of the standard focal length. The 50mm is definitely a very popular lens and for good reason. The 35mm is a favorite among street and photojournalists. The 40mm, on the other hand, which would probably never even get 1/3rd of the votes sits somewhere quietly. But believe me when I say this, if you are a street photographer and are looking for something that fits the role of an unassuming lens then the 40mm is your safest bet.
There’s only one 40mm prime in the market at the time of writing this article and it is the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM. To say that the 40mm prime is light would be the understatement of the century. It is really light (just 130 grams). Even the EF-S 18-55mm is heavier than it. At only 2.29cm in height the lens is dwarfed by a full-frame camera body it attaches to. Having said that the lens mounts on all crop sensor bodies made by Canon and the effective focal length converts to that of a 64mm lens mounted on a full-frame camera.
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The lens is of particular interest to videographers. This lens comes with the latest STM technology, which stands for Stepping Motor. Oh, yes! This small lens comes with auto-focusing capabilities as well (surprise, surprise!). Ok, STM is an advanced auto-focusing motor that makes small micro-adjustments for adjusting focus, instead of the sudden jerky movements made by traditional auto-focusing lenses. The smoother (and slower) AF performance makes this lens ideal for shooting videos. That is of course if the camera that you use also supports the STM technology.
But does it make sense to buy such a tiny lens? What discernible purpose would this serve, apart from eating away some valuable storage space in your travel bag? For one, the 40mm prime doesn't take up much space. If you have a habit of using filters on your lens you might try the 40mm prime instead and leave it on. But don’t underestimate and think that the 40mm prime is just that – a good replacement for your cheap filter. With a wide aperture of f/2.8 you wouldn’t be left desperately turning the exposure wheel to the left. You might even develop a habit for it.
Not to use it instead of a cheap filter but as the go to lens whenever you travel.
If you want real world photo tips to use the 40mm - here’s one;
There is a definite potential in on the move shooting. You would probably never have to touch the manual focusing ring ever. With an EOS 700D or an EOS 70D’s touch LCD screens focus switching is so easy. Just touch and focus switches to that point. With USM lenses (the technology that STM replaces) focusing is faster though jerky.