Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM

We took Canon’s new 40mm to the Norfolk coast, to find out whether this low-profile budget lens could change the way we take photos.

Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM

Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM

40mm might appear to be a bit of an odd focal length for a lens, but after spending a week with Canon’s first pancake lens, it makes complete sense on our crop-factor EOS 60D.

Pancake lenses are, quite simply, low in profile – attached to my camera it adds little to the width past the grip area. This means you can easily pop it into a small shoulder bag.

Testing on a full-frame 5D, sharpness across the frame is excellent at f/8, although wide-open it does tend to drop off a little at the corners. At f/2.8 there was also some pronounced vignetting, which could be easily fixed in RAW if it bothers you. However, on a crop-factor camera, results are of course much better as you’re using less of the glass.

Canon launched this lens alongside the EOS 650D, claiming that it’s better for video, using a quiet and smooth stepper motor, as opposed to the noisy ‘micro motor’ fitted to lenses like the 50mm f/1.8. The ultrasonic USM motors also used by Canon can be quieter, but tend to be fitted to more expensive (and bulkier) lenses. The benefit of this smoothness means the 650D (which has improved Live View and video focusing) can give a smoother autofocus in movies, though still not as good as other kit more designed for video. On our 60D there’s no noticeable difference in video focusing performance. In fact, as the manual focus ring is ‘fly-by-wire’, you still get the motor noise when focusing by hand – it’s not loud, but it’s still audible when recording with the camera’s built-in microphone.

Shooting with just one lens can be quite a challenge, but it makes you think differently, and it’s surprising how quickly you get used to simply changing your position. Having all the control of our DSLR, but being able to tuck it in a small bag, or even a large pocket, could breath new life into your photography. For any Canon user, this is a great value lens that will give you the opportunity to grab new shots. For crop-factor camera owners, the effective focal length of 64mm in such a tiny body makes it a near-essential purchase for portrait, travel and reportage photos.


You might be wondering why you wouldn’t choose Canon’s famously good-value 50mm f/1.8 lens. At around £85 it’s certainly cheap, but having owned one for a couple of years, we can honestly say that it’s not got the quality or sharpness of the 40mm. It’s also nowhere near as compact.


  • Price: £149 (As of July 2016)
  • Lens construction (elements/groups): 6/4
  • No. of diaphragm blades: 7
  • Maximum aperture: f/2.8
  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Close focusing distance: 30cm
  • AF motor: STM
  • Filter diameter: 52mm
  • Size: 68.2x22.8mm
  • Weight: 130g
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This review was first published in the February 2013 issue of Practical Photography - download back issues here.