The New Canon 40mm Pancake Lens

All About the Canon 40mm Pancake Lens

These short lenses have a long history. So-called because of their flat look, pancake lenses are primes made with thin glass. They have been a convenient carry-along for photographers for over 100 years. They are unobtrusive lenses with aesthetic appeal and are a longtime favorite in the mirrorless/Micro Four Thirds community. Canon has jumped on the bandwagon with its inaugural pancake lens: the EF 40mm f/2.8.

Most pancake lenses fall into the normal-to-wide focal range and this one is no exception. While most, especially older, pancake lenses are unable to focus down on anything closer than 18 inches, this one is able to home in at a relatively close 11.8 inches. And with 7 diaphragm blades at f/2.8, the bokeh on this lens is quite good. While it’s certainly a great go-to for travelers looking to pack light, the technology of the 40mm is principally for video and will allow select Canon cameras to focus continuously while shooting video. The STM (STepping Motor) feature of this lens offers smooth and quiet continuous auto focusing when used with AI Servo Focus while shooting video.

The focal length is a bit of a novelty. The most commonly found lengths for prime lenses are 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and 100mm. For some, choosing the 40mm is just a matter of having a very specific preference – the 35mm, on a full frame camera, is just a little wide while the 50mm is a little long. For a crop sensor camera, the 40mm is the equivalent to about 64mm – still a good “middle ground” length.

If you’re a photographer looking for a lightweight lens with a decent focusing distance, good bokeh, and is unobtrusive (a great feature for street photographers), give the 40mm a try. If you’re a videographer, especially if you are trying out cameras with AI Servo Focus, like the in the Rebel series, the STM will impress, especially for the price.

Alexandria Huff's photography and lighting tutorials can be found on 500px and her blog. See her lighting tutorials here. She is a Marketing Associate Manager at She learned about lighting and teaching while modeling for photographers such as Joe McNally and has since gone on to teach lighting workshops of her own in San Francisco. Before focusing on studio portraiture, she shot motorsports for X-Games, World Rally Cross, and Formula Drift. See her chiaroscuro-style painterly portraits on her website.


  • Susan Clenney

    Will the 40 mm pancake lens be adaptable to T5i Canon Camera ?

  • Alexandria Huff

    There is no disadvantage but you won’t get the advantage of the STM feature.

  • Richard

    Are pancake lens recommend for a film camera.

  • Ary Himawan

    Canon STM lenses work with any EOS body. They are built especially for video, because they are fast, accurate and silent focus.

  • Alexandria Huff

    If you are shooting on a crop sensor camera, then your apparent focal length will be closer to 64mm – too tight for a group shot. If you are shooting on a full frame sensor camera, then 40mm is pretty good for groups (though I feel that 32mm is better for groups if you’re sticking to primes). Here is more info on effective focal length and sensor size:

  • Alex

    Hi ! Can I use this pancake lens to shoot some group photos ? Also, is it a good lens to use for indoor event photography ? Thank you very much.

  • Alexandria Huff

    Yes. You can mount it and shoot with it just fine but the STM feature will not do anything for you on a Canon 5D original.

  • tammy

    will this lens work with the Cannon Mark I (considered the Classic D5)

  • Balaji d gupta

    Will this less lens work with a EOS T300 rebel model?

  • Steve

    I own this 40mm STM lens and yes, it works with the Canon 60D – for video and stills – which is my current DSLR.

  • Ken Dobos

    For under $200, I’m going tp pick one of these up fairly soon. If it’s half as good as the now-famous “nifty-fifty”, Canon will have another winner on their hands. Also, Glad to see i can now pick-up lenses in Manhattan, saving me the $100+ in shipping and insurance. Good move!!!!!!

  • John MacLean Photography

    I bought one to use on my 5D Mark II and have done a couple of tests with it. The best of it is in the f4 ~ f8 range. I do like it, but I have a long time friend (and a Canon Explorer of Light) telling me that the 50mm f1.8 Mark II is optically a better lens. I’d prefer something in the 30-35mm range, but it’s ok.

  • Tobias

    I feel like item #3 is a bit misleading. The T4i will do continuous autofocus with any lens that is capable of autofocusing but it is the STM that will do this most smoothly and silently . To answer several questions above – The STM technology will work fine on ALL canon cameras but it will NOT make any of these cameras continuously AF during filming.

  • Nick Baldwin

    Well, the continuous autofocus only works with the T4i, this is still a GREAT buy for someone who needs a good “any time” lens at a VERY affordable price.

  • Marc

    So a lens that only works with T4i, that’s just doody.

  • Alexandria Huff

    For right now, the new Stepping Motor Technology is only compatible with the Canon T4i. However, there are rumors that compatibility will expand to other models with firmware releases. We will keep you posted on when those get released.

  • James

    same question here; i own the 60D and am wondering whether the SMT will work for me.

  • Marc

    I have the exact same question. I own a 60D and need to know if the SMT technology works on my camera.

  • Lisa

    Can the new Canon 40mm pancake lens be used with the video function on the 60D and the 7D?

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