Thursday, 1 August 2013

Review: Canon Eos M & EF 40mm f2.8 STM 'pancake' lens - Part Five

My user report of the 40mm F2.8 pancake lens and the Eos M . . .

These two were made for each other...

Read part five of my review.


Canon makes a lot of zoom lenses and there are also many professional 'L' series zoom lenses available too. But zooms are big and heavy and some of the L series zooms are very expensive. Canon also makes a whole bunch of L series prime lenses, but for me they are too fast, usually f1.4, big and heavy and with price tags to match.  The rest of the prime,  wide to normal offerings have been around for a long long, long time and not all have a good reputation for sharpness especially in the corners! Thus I was pleasantly surprised when Canon released the Ef 40mm F2.8 'pancake' lens. It had almost everything I wanted in a lens...small, sharp and inexpensive. The only thing missing was IS. I bought one as soon as they were available and it has become my 'normal' lens on my 5D2 as it is very close to my most used focal length of 35mm. Canon has since released a 35mm F2 lens with IS and I certainly would like to get one sometime. They have only recently been released here but my Eos M with 35mm equivalent f2 lens, flash and Ef lens adapter cost less than the new 35mm f2 IS lens...for me it was a no brainer to get the Eos M ahead of the 35mm f2 IS...

Ef 40mm f2.8 STM & EF M 22 f2 STM

As mentioned in earlier blogs the 35mm lens has become my 'standard' lens in that it is really the only lens I need and the lens I used almost exclusively for my personal work the last two and a half years. Using this one lens has really fine tuned my vision, but occasionally I wished for something a bit longer. The camera I used at the time was a fixed lens Leica X1 so there was no chance of using another lens with this camera. 

Enter the Eos M and all of a sudden I realize that I have my 'almost perfect' camera and lens combination. The 40mm pancake gives me a field of view of about 64mm on the Eos M which is slightly longer than a 'standard' lens and almost half the field of view of the 35mm lens. 

Almost perfect? Well yes I wished it also had IS!

To see how the 40mm lens would fit in with my shooting style I ventured out the last couple of days and shot with this lens and camera combination only. I didn't use a tripod either because with a tripod viewing and framing  becomes too easy, but it also slows one down and the point of the Eos M, as a 'personal' camera, was something that I could carry around with me all the time,  always ready for a quick 'grab' shot.

On Tuesday afternoon I drove to a client in Bapsfontein, about half an hours drive from where I live. It is the middle of winter over here and the landscape is dry and grey with cloudless skies. The farmland has been plowed over and the trees have lost their leaves...

Bpasfontein. 100iso, f11 at 1/180sec

Bapsfontein road. 200iso, f8 at 1/750sec

Bapsfontein road. 200iso, f8 at 1/750sec

Bapsfontein road. 200iso, f5.6 at 1/1000sec

Bapsfontein road. 200iso, f11 at 1/350sec

Yesterday I took a drive over to the north side of Pretoria, to my old photography haunt, Steve Biko str. Here the 40mm pancake's slightly narrower field of view worked perfectly to tightly frame the buildings across the street. Because the Eos M has a live view screen I could actually hold the camera high above my head to minimize the vertical distortion.

Steve Biko str, Pretoria. 200iso, f6.7 at 1/250sec

Steve biko str, Pretoria. 200iso, f8 at 1/250sec

Steve Biko str, Pretoria. 200iso, f8 at 1/500th sec

Steve Biko str, Pretoria. 200iso, f5.6 at 1/1000 sec

Steve Biko str, Pretoria, 200iso, f5.6 at 1/1000 sec

Steve Biko str, Pretoria. 200iso, f8 at 1/350 sec

Pretoria North. 200iso, f8 at 1/180 sec

Pretoria North. 200iso, f8 at 1/125sec

Pretoria North. 200iso, f8 at 1/350 sec

Today I made a few test images here at home. One of our walls is newly plastered and there was a streak of sunlight falling on it. I photographed my domestic worker against it. I used the 40mm wide open and stopped down. Some of the wide open images were sharp enough but some were slightly off. I think its more a case of the camera's AF focusing spot being too large to accurately focus, on the eyes, for instance. I even tried face recognition but it was unfortunately a bit inconsistent in that it would sometimes recognize the face and when I tried to focus again it would not recognize the face.

 Personally I would love to have a super accurate face recognition AF enabled camera. What could be easier than locking onto the face and the moving the camera around for framing and composition without having to worry about focus on the face? The Eos M needs some more work here....

Stopped down sharpness became a non issue. I am happy with that in that I am not really a wide open lens type of person. I like things to be in focus with good depth of field so my lenses 'only' has to be sharp from f4/5.6 to f11...

'Martha' at f8

100% crop of image above.

I also made some close up detailed shots. Wide open the center is sharp but it starts to become less sharp towards the corners. But stopped down all is nice and sharp right into the corners. The lens definitely has visible chromatic aberration and vignetting, but because my software, DPP & LR4 takes care of this I am not worried about it. More importantly is the fact that there is very little distortion visible so little that I don't even bother to correcting for it. 

Close focusing at F5.6 

100% crop from image above.

The 40mm pancake handles very well on the Eos M. I use the lens and adapter barrel as my main 'grip' using my left hand and the right hand to hold the camera and move the AF with my thumb. Its actually all very easy and comfortable. I use the lens hood of the EF 50mm f1.8 lens also on my 'pancake' lens and it works and fits perfectly with no vignetting even on a full frame camera. It makes the whole package a bit larger but everything still fits nicely in my hand.

Focus is fast enough and quiet and the focus speed was never a limiting factor in any of the images posted above. 

My one gripe is the lack of IS and particularly when using the Eos M. Because there is no viewfinder framing and focusing is at arms length wich with the longer lens becomes a bit more problematic and here IS would have helped tremendously. I am really looking forward to the next generation Eos M's with 'proper' viewfinders!

In conclusion, the Canon EF 40mm f2.8 STM 'pancake' is the perfect companion to the the EF M 22mm f2 STM lens. The whole package is still compact enough in keeping with the 'small' philosophy of the Eos M system. The pancake lens has the same solid 'metal' quality feel as the camera and apart from all the 'Canon' logos  ( I counted four white Canon logos and all on the top side! ) feel as if it was custom made for the Eos M. An added bonus is that the lens is listed in Canon 's DPP lens digital lens optimizer software which corrects for lens softness in the corners and elsewhere, corrects for vignetting and chromatic aberrations etc to such an extend that very little sharpening is necessary afterwards. DPP is quite slow to use but if the lens is listed its a worthwhile alternative for ultimate image quality...

Regards, Ivan

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