Grand Canon has got a new act. Mindful that the tiny, near-flat lenses called "pancakes" have been popular for other brands, Canon has released an EF autofocus 40mm ƒ/2.8 pancake lens, its first pancake...ever, if I'm not mistaken. The new lens covers full-frame as well as APS-C.
Appropriately, it's tiny. Its overall length is only .9 inches (22.8 millimeters), and it weighs only 4.9 ounces (130g). Filter size is 52mm*.
In common with a great many pancakes, it's on the slow side, at ƒ/2.8. Of course with today's super-high ISOs that's not much of a problem ("ƒ/2.8 is the new ƒ/2," as they say)—and many people are well used to ƒ/2.8 maximum apertures from using fast zooms.
People might not be as accustomed to the 64mm focal-length equivalent on APS-C sensor cameras. It's one I never had occasion to get used to myself (although it's close to the 58mm longer-normal focal length that wasn't uncommon in the early days of fast and super-fast planar-types**).
Optically, it consists of 6 elements in 4 groups. Canon has published an MTF chart but not a block diagram.
What's it for?
I believe the most sensible use for a pancake of this type is as an auxiliary lens to use in conjunction with a standard zoom that already covers the same focal length. A zoom is conventionally as large as the largest lens it replaces, yet there are times when you just don't feel like carrying the big, heavy zoom. Users of full-frame Canon cameras whose main lens is the 24–105mm or either the new or old 24–70mm will especially appreciate the new pancake—it will be the lens to take along when photographing isn't going to be the main activity and you don't want to lug the full rig, yet would still like your "real" camera with you just in case. Users of 5D-series cameras especially will be surprised how light on the shoulder and handy in their hands their cameras can become.
It's a marvel to see stately Canon releasing such interesting new prime lenses—this is the third one announced in just the past few months. This new one does make the hope of an image-stabilized 35mm lens to go with the new 24mm and 28mm IS primes much more dim, I suppose, but there are always tradeoffs...it's great that Canon, too, now has a true pancake prime of its own.
* Traditionally a Nikon filter size, but shhh.
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Karl: "Just pre-ordered this lens from my local shop. Can't wait to use it! I'll slot nicely in my lineup of 24mm ƒ/2.8, 30mm ƒ/1.4, and 50mm ƒ/1.4. Have absolutely no need for it, and ƒ/2.8 is really slow, but for the low price why not?"
Mike replies: Whoops! I forgot to mention the low price—$199.
Featured Comment by John Hufnagel: "This may well be technical nit-picking, but though not labled as such, I feel that Canon's 38mm FLP and 19mm FL both could be considered pancake lenses. Both require the use of mirror lockup on normal SLRs, though the Canon Pellix can use the FLP (but not the 19mm). Nonetheless, this is Canon's first general-purpose pancake SLR lens."
Featured Comment by Ken Tanaka: "I was actually quite excited to see this unexpected news. So much so that I pre-ordered one at 2 a.m. when I saw the announcement! I occasionally enjoy the Voigtländer 40mm manual lens (that Dave mentioned) but, ooh-la-la, I'd much rather have autofocus (and indoor plumbin' and electric lightin') in the 21st Century! I'll gladly donate a sliver of brightness (ƒ/2.8 vs. ƒ/2.0)."
Featured Comment by Mike: "During my deployment to Kosovo, I used a Pentax K10D with 40mm pancake, which I carried with me in a pouch on my belt. You can easily get used to 40mm on APS-C when it allows you to always have your DSLR on your person. That was my one camera year."