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Not A Review, But I Like Pancakes


The Pancake with red velvet pancakes from Cinnamon’s in Kailua.

I’m not a very technical person – I leave that to my better half. Thus, I don’t want to call this a ‘review’, as I wasn’t being very careful about documenting my experimentation with the new Canon EF 40mm f2.8 STM Pancake Lens.  For me, it was a matter of “It’s so cute! Let’s play!”

I ended up renting the Pancake, as it shall henceforth be called, for a week from my go-to camera rental shop, Hawaii Photo Rental, for a mere $3/day. (One day is $12, 3 days is $15, etc.) At an estimated retail price of $200, this lens brings amazing value and quality.  It’s so light, non-obtrusive, and makes my 5D Mark II fit in my purse better than ever – perfect for a daily walk-around lens, especially when doing street photography.  Here are various random photos I took with it during the week, with original raw images next to my edits.

One of my first shots with the Pancake while inside Hawaii Photo Rental of the mister. I was immediately pleased how absolutely sharp it was wide-open at f2.8!

A crop of the preview image. Hey, there I am! :)

One thing about this lens is that it’s pretty dark, because the glass is tiny (especially compared to the large 72-77mm L lenses), so I had to watch my light meter pretty carefully before I’d end up with tragically underexposed images, like the following:

Oops, underexposed…let’s make it DRAMATIC.

The Pancake is also not the best for macro shots. Basically, I’d have to manually focus the lens as close as it would go, and then slightly back up until my subject was in focus. The following image shows how close I could get to my regular-sized iced coffee, as well as some highlight-recovery action in Lightroom 4.

The first of three coffee photos. Considering the majority of my photos are of my husband and coffee, can you guess at what the two great loves of my life are? ;)

As a portrait lens, the 40mm focal length does present some slight distortion, but not in an unpleasant way, in my opinion. People seemed to also be less intimidated by the tiny, flat lens than when they are faced with my 24-70 f2.8L, etc. I wasn’t the only person who found the Pancake to be completely adorable.

Some random handsome guy. He thinks the Pancake is adorable too.

Now, normally, when I’m shooting outdoors, I have my white balance set to 5200K. Since I’m shooting in RAW and am going to edit later anyway, setting the white balance isn’t that critical, but I like to get a good idea of the colors I’m capturing. When shooting with the Pancake, I felt like my images were coming out a little more blue than usual.  Like I said earlier, I didn’t do any technical tests comparing it to the performance of other lenses, but it’s just the impression I got from using it.

Street shooting! Subjects won’t notice the Pancake, just the weird girl crouching like Gollum, intently photographing their shoes.  Sometimes I really feel like a creeper.

I took the Pancake to work with me on my recent shoot with stylist Geremy Campos, and used it for a few shots of our male model.  While I didn’t use it for our final portrait ‘beauty shot’ because of the aforementioned distortion, it was great for the street-style fashion shots. Here’s one ‘before & after’, then a few final shots from our shoot! A $200 lens that can totally create beautiful, professional-quality images is pretty awesome!

Preferred a square crop for this composition, but you get the idea.

Overall, I would recommend this lens to professionals and hobbyists alike. The price and size make it the perfect ‘everyday’ lens for carrying around with you, and is great for social photographers shooting friends, food, and fun, or professionals shooting fashion or photojournalism.  I didn’t experience any issues with it, just the quirks that it’s a dark lens due to size, and it might shoot a little blue (or I might be crazy), but personally I loved it, and have it on my camera gear wishlist for the day I have some disposable income.

Coffee photo the second!

Action!Coffee photo the third, improperly exposed, but oh well, it was salvageable.

Good for pet portraits as well! It’s not as scary as the big lenses, so Koda liked it.

We approve of the Pancake, as well as shave ice trucks coming through our neighborhood on hot summer afternoons.

Say ‘Yes!’ to the Pancake!

TL;DR – Do want.

Red velvet pancakes with white chocolate syrup can be found at Cinnamon’s in Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii. For Oahu photographers, the Pancake lens can be rented at Hawaii Photo Rental at a great price.

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