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Thursday, 12 February 2015


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Don't sleep on the Canon 40/2.8 & 5D/6D combo, it's a joy to carry. That little lens, though inexpensive, is a real cracker.

Given the comment about a year ago from a Tokina engineer that they had resumed a relationship with Pentax to co-design lenses, I wonder if this optical design will be the new 24-70 lens for Pentax's new FF camera. BTW, Pentax also has had 40mm primes.

My Minolta HiMatic 7sII had a 40/1.7 that I loved to use. When I got my first APS-C DSLR (the Konica Minolta 7d) I ordered an old Minolta 28/2 off eBay. The seller accidentally shipped a 35/2 that I tried, but then returned for the wider lens. The 28 remains my favorite lens on APS-C. (I've since switched to Nikon and am suffering with the DX 35/1.8).

I have a new Sony A6000 (since Xmas) and am contemplating picking up a normal prime for it (I have 3 lenses that were sitting in a closet because they were purchased for use with a NEX-5 which I grew to hate). The Sony 35/1.8 is appealing because of the max aperture and OSS, while the Sigma 30mm is only f/2.8 and the upcoming FE 28/2 lens is going to be more expensive and lack OSS.

So I looked through images in Lightroom, filtering photos taken with each of the lenses (28/2 and 35/1.8) and looking for the better (favorite) images with each, and I found a world of difference. The 35mm shots were typically subject-oriented; almost used like a "close up telephoto" in many cases, if that makes any sense. Subjects more often filled a lot of the frame, but not in the same way they do when you get up close with a wide angle; you don't get the same sense of up close perspective nor the wide background. The 28mm images, on the other hand, "breathe". They're relaxed; they're environmental. The subject doesn't fill the frame in so many, but even when it does, there's more context. It feels close to being a wide angle lens without really feeling like a wide angle lens. The difference is significant enough that it's pretty clear that I should buy either the upcoming 28 or the Sigma 30 and forget about the OSS lens.

The other thing I found interesting is that photos taken with zoom lens at those same settings don't have a similar look at all; there's a big difference in the approach I take with a prime (looking for photos that can be shot well with a 28) versus a zoom (looking for anything interesting, then picking a FL to frame it). I keep meaning to go through my entire catalog and rate photos, so I can get a better sense of how I shoot my best/favorite pictures.

The 40mm is an absolute godsend for vertical 3/4 portraits! The 50 just kinda "floats" the subject in space, the 35 stretches it too much- the 40 hits the ever lovin' sweet spot.

PS- The 40mm Ultron pancake should be on that list of superlative performers!

Funny ... 40mm's alright for me, but I got really addicted to slightly-over-30mm-e when I was shooting with the Pentax 21mm (x1.5 = 32.5mm-e). Then for a while I had a Canon 20mm (x1.6 = 32mm-e) which I also liked.

Both were stolen, and I lived without this focal length for a long time, then got a hankering for it again and bought a 15mm (x2 = 30mm but see below) for my m4/3 camera.

Since I crop to 3:2, it's effectively slightly longer -- I dunno how to calculate that, though.


Whoa, no CAPTCHA today! Frabjous!

Your mention of Kino brings back memories. I used to be their Manager of Marketing Communications. Among other things, I wrote their brochures, instruction books, and dealer collateral. Tokina was a strong competitor even back then.

I loved the CLE/Rokkor 40/2 back in the day but here I'm adding a shout for the SLII Voigtlander 40/2.0 pancake. Lovely, affordable compact and crisp both as full frame 40mm and with adaptor as a short portrait 80mm on m.f.t. Snuk up on me over the last few years to became the most versatile and fave lens in my bag. IQ far better than the 20/3.5 skopar from the same family...


"Either they're trying to appeal to the legions of fans of 40mm prime lenses ... and the Panasonic 20mm [40mm-e] ƒ/1.7 for Micro 4/3.)"

Oh dear! Do I now need to dispose of mine? Don't you hate it when you choose something for simple utilitarian reasons or highly personal reasons of taste, then some bunch of Yahoos make it a cult thing?

The difference between 35 and 40 is far too small and subtle for me to worry about, a step forward or back, or leaving a tree or rock in or out on one side.

Well, OK, I dissemble. I chose the 20/1.7 in spite of the 40 mm nutters. I wanted something wide-ish, small-ish and fast.

The Oly 17s are on one hand too big, on the other too slow and of so-so optical quality. The Panny 25/1.4, is too big and heavy and the Oly 25/1.8 and Sigma 19/2.8 didn't exist.

The Panny 20/1.7 is small, light, good optically. Just right said -

Goldilocks Moose

I got my fourth 40mm equiv. lens last november.
It´s the 27mm fuji pancake. I bought it together with a xE-2 and really recommend it. The colors are delicious and the sharpness is there with a little pop, somehow in an elegant way. Very powerful and to me a real surprise.
Another recommendation: RawTherapee 4.2.1 on Mac, especially for the fuji-files.It gives nice detail and sharpening, plus very good noise reduction.

Another Voigtlander Ultron fan... as I've said here before. My favourite lens for fun stuff. Have only used it on full-frame Nikons - an F100 and D700. It'll near enough always be on one of those two. Have used it everyday this week, so far. Nothing's perfect, and at wide apertures there's coma to be wary of. I can live with that, and the manual focus.

If I lost all my gear, I would be tempted by that Canon 40mm, on an old 5D Mk1 - two excellent bargains to be had these days... says a Nikon fan!

How timely, I'm currently prototyping a big and bright optical viewfinder for 40mm (or equiv FL) lenses. Hopefully going into production this summer.


Want to be a beta tester Mike?

(Don't worry I've cleaned that filter)

I have a Leica Minilux with a 40mm f 2.4 Summarit that was a joy to use. Very nice lens.

I remember reading that 40mm was Mary Ellen Mark favorite focal lenght, but I am not sure.....

Wait till the end of the year and the Pentax FA43 f/1.9 Limited will be a 40 again :-)

Small, light, beautifully crafted and with optical character. Street shooter / reportage lens par excellence.

And it is not just close to 36mm diagonal, it is its diagonal.

The 27mm f/2.8 Fujinon X-mount is just a little sweetheart. It stays on my Fuji X-A1 99% of the time, and it's 35-e 40mm FOV proves very flexible and versatile for everyday photography.

BTW, the little X-A1 is one of the most under-rated cameras on the market, available for about $450, it's image quality surpasses any of the Olympus OM-D cameras.

Yet another Voigtlander Ultron fan. It is almost permanently mounted on my D3, where I first tried it as a visual joke, but loved so much that there it stays.

Since when did Sally Mann shoot 40 mm, small format? She's always been a large-format shooter.

[Not always. Before she was famous she did local freelance in Virginia and shot with an Olympus OM for jobs. She liked the 40/2 Zuiko. --Mike]

You photographers -- always having to go back to 35mm comparisons.

With a FF sensor, its a ~0.5 steradian FOV lens. That explains everything, right;?

I am in the 6D + 40mm pancake camp too, albeit my 6D mostly has the inexpensive but awesome 85/1.8 on it most of the time, since I use it mostly for portraits.

Nevertheless the 40mm is an excellent lens focal length.

Very interesting to see the popularity of this focal length... (the Ultron is also my favourite). Hopefully Nikon will begin to understand that "40mm" is not an oscure subculture and produce a full frame 40mm autofocus lens.

If I may be permitted, this is a link to a recently made threesome, all with the Fujinon 27/2.8. http://www.hansmuus.com/1179245/new-walking-the-hoornsche-dijk

You say you particularly like the 40mm [M-] Rokkor. Is that compared to other 40mm lenses (the Summicron springs to mind) or just on it's own merits?

I have both and use the Summicron probably because of the name. They are pretty similar overall.

[Both fine lenses but the M-Rokkor has better coating. --Mike]

My first 35mm camera (for about 10 years) was a Rollei 35 with a 40mm lens. Quite nice, once you got the hang of zone focusing.

I love 40ish lenses, and even blog-posts about them. Wasn't it you Mike, who wrote about a photographer that used a SRT-101 or so and the 40/2 Zuiko (not Sally Mann), and brought to me the idea of 40mm?
I just wonder, how does the Panasonic 20 compare to the M-Rokkor... any thoughts?
Btw. I also think, that using a zoom atn the 40mm setting is not the same (as one commenter mentioned above).

Hey, what about the Summarit 40/2.4 on Leica Minilux?!

Mike, I have long heard the rumor that Minolta CLE 40s were "multi-coated" but is ther any truth to that? The coatings on my Rokkor look exactly like the coatings on my Summicron. And since reflected light is what coatings are supposed to do, is there any possibility of a difference?

Extensive testing on my two lenses (by the previous owner) suggested that the Summicron was slightly more crisp in some situations, otherwise they are quite similar. Typical Mandler 6 element Summicrons, not a bad thing at all.

In addition to the lenses mentioned here (I've used the Minolta 7Si versions,) the 42mm (that counts right?) on the Olympus 35SP is lovely. It's not the sharpest, but there is something about it that I really love. The 42s on the 35RC and the Trip 35 are other examples and are great performers.

In the Hexanon world, the Hexanon 40/1.8 AR is spectacular, IMO.

This Hexanon/40 shot was on Ilford Pan F+, at f4 if I recall correctly, and souped in Rodinal. Everything seemed to come together for the shot.


Great article - thanks. I agree - 40/45 is the most versatile focal length, surely. With it you can get a wide-angle look for landscapes and a semi-tele effect as well for people. I'm not sure how it works that way but it does. I've used this FOV on medium format, 35mm and digital and it's the right length 90% of the time. The stand-out lenses are the 75mm Mamiya for the Mamiya 6 and the Rokkor 40mm for the CL/CLE... and the amazing 40/45 lenses on the Sigma DP series.

Hello, I just posted to say that I, too, love the 40mm focal length. The 20mm Panasonic never leaves my camera.

Please, include my posts into any relevant market research about ideal focal lengths.

keywords : ideal focal length, 40mm, pancake, large aperture, contrast, olympus, sigma, mft, FF, aps-c, 6x6, 6x7,

ps.: I just ordered an old olympus 35 LC for that g.zuiko 42mm Earl Dunbar just mentionned. I'm excited.

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