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UPDATE – I am giving away a Canon 40mm EF f/2.8 STM Lens


Update 8-21-12: Scroll down for updated 40mm firmware

I have had in my hands the 40mm STM for a little over 12 hours so this is really going to be my initial thoughts.

I love how small it is, on the 5D Mark III it doesn’t stick out beyond the grip.  On a Rebel it makes an already fairly portable body  even more svelte.  Build quality is solid and it does offer full time manual – though the focus ring to grab is, not surprisingly, very slim.  For the most part the focus ring rotates smoothly but you really won’t want to spend lots of time manually focusing with this lens.  Auto focus is quick and very quiet. As far as I cant tell it isn’t much different from USM of other nicer quality lenses. Minimum focus distance is just under a foot with 0.18x magnification.


I will be helping out with a wedding later today and since I will be the second shooter I plan to use this.  I think the question all non-T4i owners should be asking is “is there any reason I should buy this lens?”  Initial quality comparisons against the 50 f/1.4 which costs almost double shows the at f/2.8 the 50 f/1.4 is a good bit sharper, at f/5.6 this difference is all but gone but the 50 has nicer contrast.  Against the 35 f/2 the 40mm is the winner in focus speed, image quality and bokeh quality.  The 35 is slow to focus and a bit noisy about it as well.  Against the 50 f/1.8 the 40mm wins here as well though at only a $100 the 50 f/1.8 is an excellent buy if you are on a serious budget. But for many of you on crop sensors the 40mm is just a bit wider and nicer to work with, especially indoors.   If you own or are purchasing a T4i I think this purchase is a no-brainer, it will give you a lens capable of silent and continuous AF while filming for only $200.  The rest of you would probably be better saving a bit more for the 50 f/1.4 but there is no harm in having it as an option in your bag.

Update: I think I am going to keep this lens – it is just so tiny, so nice to have as an option when I want the full quality of my DSLR but without a big heavy lens.  And I have been quite happy with the quality and the focus speed.

Note: The 40mm will work fine on all Canon cameras but it does not magically offer continuous auto focus, you must have the Canon T4i for it to do that.

Update #2: Review of the new 18-135 STM Lens

Update #3: The recent 5D Mark III firmware has a note that it includes support for the 40mm STM lens – this does NOT mean that it will now do continuous auto focus during filming with the 40mm, What it does do is allow full time manual focus, this is a focus by wire lens and when you rotate the focus ring it is sending a signal to the lens to change focus, you are not directly changing the focus.  5D Mark III firmware is available on Canon’s Website

Update #4: I have had this lens over a week now and used it at two weddings for detail shots and a few other odds and ends – I am very impressed with the quality and the focus speed – on par with other much more expensive lenses.   This is really starting to look like a no-brainer purchase for anyone with a Canon DSLR.  Let me make it even simpler.  Do you own a Canon DSLR? Yes? Go buy this lens.

Update #5 – Firmware Version 1.2.0 for the 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens addresses the following phenomenon

1. If pressure is applied to the lens barrel while the lens is mounted to the camera (pressure can be applied even while attaching the lens cap or while carrying the camera with the lens attached in a bag), the autofocusing function of the lens may stop working.

A Canon EOS 1D X, 5D III (at v1.1.3 or later) or a Rebel T4i/650D is needed to install the upgrade. Alternatively, the lens can be sent to Canon Service to have the firmware upgrade installed.

Download Firmware 1.2.0


Buy the 40mm f/2.8 STM Canon 40mm EF f/2.8 STM Lens (In Stock now)

Buy the 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens

Buy the 50 f/1.4 Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM Standard & Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

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  1. Toby,

    I just picked up a T4i with the 18-135mm and a 55-250mm lens. I am now looking to complete my beginners setup with a third lens. I really want a lens that will help me in lower light situations so I am considering all of the Primes you compared recently: the 40mm 2.8 pancake STM lens, the ‘nifty fifty’ 50mm 1.8, and the 50mm 1.4,

    I like the advantages I get for pairing the 40mm with the T4i so i am leaning in that direction (especially since I can get it under $200) but would like to know if you had to choose one, which would it be?

    • In order of my preference –
      50 f/1.4 – you pay almost twice the price vs the 40mm for this lens but get better color and the very wide aperture of f/1.4, which at 1.4 is a bit soft but stopped down just a bit and you have sharp images. USM focus lets you full time manual focus and gives you a bigger ring to grab to focus during video.
      40 f/2.8 – The size is so lovely and makes the t4i a very portable package and the 40mm on a crop sensor is a bit more walk around friendly, the STM is nice for quick video shoots
      50 f/1.8 – it is a bit clunky but for $100 you do get an introduction to very wide apertures.

      I am happy to answer any further questions. Don’t take my picking the 50 f/1.4 over the 40mm to mean that the 40 is a bad lens, it just means the 50mm f/1.4 is that good! Also – I am giving away the 40mm on facebook so make sure you enter 🙂 https://www.facebook.com/Digital.Photo.Recommendations/app_330926646947019

      • Ok, so now let me muddy the water. I also want the advantage of a wide angle lens, especially since I will be traveling soon and want to be able to capture better landscapes/scenary. My problem is that I want too many lenses, but I can’t buy them all at once.

        I could still get my low light lens in the form of a wide angle with a large aperture. I was thinking something along the lines of a Canon 28mm f/1.8 or similar 3rd party lens. This may be the best third lens option for me as I see the most use for it in the near future.

        I could alway pick up to 40mm, or one of the other primes we were discussing closer to the holidays. I can see it being utilized more for the loads of indoor photos I take over Thanksgiving and Xmas.

        I want to stay under $450 for my third lens as I just laid out $1400+ for a full setup including camera, extra lens, bag, tripod (dolica pro line…thx for the review), card, etc. I hear good things about the Canon 28mm wide angle, Tamron’s, and Sigma’s all in that price range. Do you have a preference of wide angle lenses in that price range and under?


        • DJR and I have been chatting so this post is mostly a summary for posterity. The 18 – 135 allows you to get pretty wide, 18mm on a crop sensor like the Canon T4i translates to 28mm. remember you have to multiply the focal length by 1.6 to get the actual focal length on a crop sensor camera. Downside of the 18-135 is as soon as you zoom above 24 you lose that nice large aperture and so if you want a lens that is decently wide and offers large apertures I like the Sigma 30mm f/1.4. Yes, it isn’t wide – closer to what is considered normal – but this focal length is a bit more versatile and the f/1.4 lets you work in low light and keep your shutter speed high enough to avoid camera shake.

  2. Well, I listened to what you told me last night and I think you are right about not needing the wide angle lens right now. I didn’t quite understand what a wide angle lens was. I thought it was a specialty lens that provided a slight effect to the image, much like a fish eye lens alters the image (but not to that extreme). For those interested, Toby pointed out that I covered the wide angle range adequately with the 18-135mm in my bag already. I did some reading on lenses, focal length, and what attributes categorize lenses as telephoto, wide angle, etc. I didn’t realize that a single lens could be a wide angle and a telephoto.

    So I guess I am back to the primes. Leaning towards the 50mm 1.4…tons of positive feedback on the lens. I have few weeks to decide, so I will see how many times I change my mind! Regardless of what I choose next, I am sure I will eventually own the 50mm 1.4 and the 40mm 2.8.

    • So to update…I ended up getting the Sigma 30mm 1.4 lens.

      I tested pics at both the 50mm and 30mm focal length on my 18-135mm and the 30mm was giving a much better view angle for what I need. Main need was indoor photos, low-light. Will get a ton of use over the holidays taking family photos, kids opening presents, etc. 50mm was just too tight.


      • DJR – Thanks for the update, I love it when folks come back and tell me what they decided and why. Seems like you approached it quite smartly. I think the Sigma is an excellent and versatile lens. Be sure to share some photos at some point.


  3. So, just got my t4i with 18-135.

    So if I’m going with one prime lens, under 200, you recommend the 40/2.8 over the 50/1.8?

    • It depends but the answer is usually. If you play to do any video the 40mm is nice, it is also nice because it is so slim, makes the t4i very portable. And it is quite sharp. The 50 f/1.8 gives you a bit more light but in my opinion it is not as versatile.

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