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 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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
TL;DR – Do want.