I almost always have a hard time picking out which lens or lenses to pack for a trip, though the number of items to choose from is quite little… When I backpacked through six European countries for almost a month with my other half, we brought all we had – a Sigma 50mm f1.4 and a Canon 24-70mm f2.8 USM L with a 5D Mark II body. The 50mm has always been my favorite but it’s a better fit for portraits than travel photography. The 24-70mm is much more flexible with the ability to zoom in and out, making it easier to capture both detailed and broad view of a space. Also, the F2.8 ensures a sharp and quality image. But my 24-70mm (first version) is terribly heavy. Together with a 5D Mark II body, it doesn’t make a great combination for my needs. I want something compact yet produces excellent quality images which bring two options to mind: a mirrorless camera (we will chat more later on) or a smaller lens (that meets the need).
So last week, when I tagged along with some friends on a road trip from Boston to the South, I decided to start a so-called challenge to carry one and only one lens (with my 5D mark III body). That baby is Canon 40mm EF f2.8 STM or also called the “Pancake lens”.
** The term pancake lens is used to describe a flat, thin lens that is usually normal or a bit wider than prime lenses.
This lens is only 0.29 lbs and nearly an inch thick. It is so tiny that many people think it was some sorts of a joke on a big 5D body. Yet, this is my current favorite lens for travel. It is so lightweight that it doesn’t become a burden wearing the camera around your neck while trying to figure out the maps. The 40mm distance covers a well range of landscape and the F2.8 again ensures sharp images. Another great thing about this pancake lens is that it focuses really fast and quiet. This lens is also very affordable (around $150 for a brand new version, mine was bought for $80).
With the maximum aperture at F2.8, it is tough to shoot under low light unless you have it on a high ISO camera. Except for that and some heavy vignette when shooting at F2.8 (which can easily be fixed in Lighroom), I have nothing to complain about this baby. Comparing to my second choice, Sigma 35mm f1.4, I prefer this pancake lens much more. If you’re considering a convenient and lightweight lens for travel, give this one a look!
Below are some photos from the trip–all was taken with 5D Mark III and Canon 40mm F2.8. Most of them was taken at F2.8 and I kept the lens correction option unchecked so that you can see the vignette as it is. I’ll test this lens in a portrait session soon!
Don’t make travel a burden. Make it an enjoyment.