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The "Best-Kept Secret" Lens

Posted on September 17, 2014 by Sean MacDonald


I consider the Canon 40mm f2.8 STM (Pancake) lens to be the new "Best-Kept Secret" Lens. Personally I used to consider the Canon (or Nikon) 50mm f1.8 the "Best Kept Secret" lens because of its low price, huge aperture, and relatively sharp images. It is sometimes referred to as the "nifty fifty" by many, and was a great second lens for many as they "grew up" beyond the kit lens. But now it has been replaced, in my mind at least.

One of the reasons I think the Pancake remains a secret is because of the price. Many people don't take it seriously at $199. I think if Canon charged $400 they might sell even more of them because "serious" photographers would take notice it and give it a shot. So lets go down the list of why I love this lens, and why it has replaced the "nifty fifty" in my mind.

1) The price! $199.99 even on a bad day, and $149.99 if you get lucky when Canon runs its rebates. For most of us, cost is the first thing to consider and this is about as low as you can get a new lens.

2) STM motor! This is the main reason it dominates the 50 f1.8 in my mind. The 50 has a non USM motor, and it is loud, slow, and sometimes inaccurate.  I have noticed this especially at distances over 20'. The STM motor however is very quiet, relatively fast, and is made to be used to shoot servo in video mode with excellent results.

3) Metal rear mount instead of the plastic mount the 50 f1.8 has. This increases the longevity of it, and speaks of the overall build quality of the lens. Every part of the lens seems to be tighter, and made better than the 50. From the rubber focus ring to the switches, big improvements over the 50.



4) f2.8 aperture. Now I know the 50 does have a larger aperture at f1.8, and as far as depth of field and the amount of light it lets in, the 50 wins out. However, for many of the lenses in Canon's lineup, 2.8 is the maximum aperture. And that is especially the case for any zoom lens. So for me, 2.8 is still a relatively fast lens. If the pancake was an f4 lens, I probably wouldn't even consider it.

5) Versatile focal length. As with the 50, one of the things I like about the pancake is the focal length. You can do many things with a 40mm lens. Its not super wide, but you can still do some landscapes with it. Its not super long, but you can still do portraits with it, if you like to include the background and environment into the composition. Its a pretty versatile lens.


6) Physical size. The reason they call it a pancake lens is because it is so thin. This can really be seen when the rear cap is removed or if it is mounted on a camera body. This makes it perfect extra lens to throw in your pocket and carry all day without a problem.



These are some of the main reasons that I find the 40mm f2.8 STM lens to be one of the best kept secrets. I was surprised at first when a few professional photographers that I respect bought the pancake and highly recommended it. It made me give it a second look, and now I know why they loved it. I do too!

As always if you would like to purchase the pancake, we keep them in stock them at our store located at 1135 Main Street, Dubuque IA. We also have one of the pancakes in our rental lineup as well if you want to try it before you buy it.

Here are some other sample images I have taken with the Canon 40 f2.8 STM  lens. Shot on the Canon 5DII







If you are not familiar with our camera store, we are located in Dubuque Iowa, and specialize in new and used camera equipment, as well as camera rental, lens rental, and photography classes and photography workshops. Feel free to contact us at (563) 845-7207, or visit our website at www.everyphotostore.com 
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