Forty millimeters

In an odd detour of my¬†“Master Plan” I have purchased a Canon 40mm EF ‘pancake’ lens. I wanted to see if a prime/EF lens was sharper than a zoom/EF-S lens, and I came across this one for about half the price of a new one. 50% off is always a good deal. Unfortunately the weather has not been good for picture taking lately, so I only have a few test shots to evaluate it with. If the sun ever shines again I’ll try and do some comparisons with the short zoom/EF-S (18-55mm). EF-S lenses are made specifically for the crop sensor cameras and do not work well on the full-frame ones (vignetting). They are cheaper, smaller, lighter, and not as well made. The EF lenses work with either sensor size, but of course cost more. Sometimes a lot more.

My first comment has to be: “What were they thinking with that focal length?” On the APS-C camera it’s slightly telephoto at 64mm equivalent. On a full-frame camera it would be slightly wide-angle. Really 5mm less would have made more sense (56mm on the crop sensor, 35mm on the full-size). As it is I found myself backing up and backing up and backing up more when I took this ‘standard shot’ of the cabin. I wasn’t quite standing in the lake, but it was a near thing. I have taken this same view numerous times with wide-angle and regular lens focal lengths, so the telephoto effect is noticeable to me.

Need to back up a ways to fit the whole cabin in.

The critical test of a lens is how sharp it is. You can always make an image softer, but you can’t make it sharper. I fell back on my favourite subject for lens sharpness evaluation, the thorny wild rose stem.

Full image of the wild rose stem.
640×427 crop of full-size image. Note the grain rather than blotchiness.

Here we see that when you go to 100% the edges fall off not to blur but to the ‘grain’ of the sensor, just as it would be with a film camera. This is the effect we want to see. I’d rate this lens as ‘very good’ for sharpness. Certainly above the two Canon zoom/EF-S lenses I have, but perhaps not as sharp as the Pentax Takumars.

The focus on it is fast and accurate, except in low-light conditions (only full-size sensors really handle low light conditions well). Much faster than the Tamron and possibly a little faster than either of the Canon zooms I have. There are a couple of factors in this, one being the simpler single focal length design and the other being the sharper glass.

This image amuses me.

There is still the matter of colour rendition. This is where the testing conditions were not ideal so I can’t say for certain how good it is. It is clearly acceptable, but without bright light the colour temperature is off and we don’t know how ‘true’ it is.

On the trail.

A hidden yet visible advantage of this lens is how compact it is. True the focal length is limited to 40mm which doesn’t fit with my usual shooting regime, but for use with the ‘experiment camera’ it offers the advantage of being easily carried and donned/doffed which makes it simple to use as a ‘light meter’ to double check my intuitive settings when taking pictures with the purely manual classic lenses. Even the short zoom is a bit of a nuisance to carry just for that purpose.

One small step for a man …

I hope to take some more images with this in sunlight as so far it’s fairly impressive.

As for the rest of the Master Plan, it’s in abeyance. Someone else bought the bargain Sony HX350 and I don’t have a spare $680+ to buy the used Canon 5D with. I shall have to bide my time and see what, if any, other opportunities arise.

BTW, the photos in this series follow the week: the cabin taken Tuesday, the rose Wednesday, the truck & dog Thursday, and the footprint Friday. That’s how the weather has been!