The forty millimeter, part two

Well it looks like the sun is never going to shine again around here. At least not for longer than a few seconds at a time. So in the slightly less darkness of the past weekend I did some more testing of the Canon 40mm EF prime lens. Let’s see how it went.

Clearest sky we’ve had in a long time.

This sky picture shows that for ‘general views’ the 40mm is more than acceptable, even with the slightly telephoto focal length (due to the 1.6X crop factor on the APS-C camera). It has good sharpness, contrast, and colour rendition even under less-than-ideal lighting conditions. Now let’s see how it does at 100% of image size.

Raven over head.
Cropped version.

The first is the full picture shrunk down to 640×427 (note this is about 53% reduction). The second is a 640×427 crop of the full-size image. Very good results here: the blurring of line detail is due to sensor resolution limits not optical fall-off. In film terms you’d be looking at the difference of the grain versus the glass.

Now for the ‘acid test’. How does it compare to the Canon 18-55mm EF-S zoom shot at approximately the same focal length? I’ll spare you the full size images and just go with the cropped segments of the 100% size.

Segment taken with the 40mm prime.
Segment taken with the 18-55mm zoom.

Not bad at all. In fact we can see the 40mm comes out ahead in resolution, colour rendition, and contrast. The latter two by an almost imperceptible margin, but the sharpness difference is definitely noticeable.

So how is the image quality when you really put some effort into making a picture?

Frost on the wild rose.

Very good indeed. Perhaps as sharp as the Nikon? Well that is something I’ll test next:

Crop of full size image taken with the Nikon P610 at approximately 40mm focal length.
Cropped from full-size, taken with the Canon.

It is difficult to get the Nikon to exactly 40mm focal length, and it does have a slightly less MP (16 instead of the Canon’s 18) sensor. Also we see the colour difference and the lower contrast the Nikon has developed over time (it used to be crisper). In terms of outright sharpness, the Canon has a small but visible advantage. I tried to take a close-up image to compare the two, and the Nikon did its now usual false focus lock. *sigh* One day it is going to fail me when I really need the picture, and that will be that.

One more shot from the Canon:

The ice melts slowly.

All these images were shot at ISO 200 to use a slightly smaller than wide-open aperture to optimize sharpness (shutter speed is not much of an issue at 40mm). Even under the shooting conditions available the 40mm EF lens performed remarkably well. In fact I’m so encouraged by the results from it that I may just spring for a Canon 75-300mm EF lens to see if that is better than the 55-250mm EF-S zoom I’ve got.

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