There was a time when the Canon 50mm f1.8 (the nifty fifty as it is affectionately known) was considered the best budget lens. The image quality of the 50mm f1.8 is great, however using it wide open and getting decent shots takes time and practice, and it isn’t a lens you can pick up and get the best from it straight out of the box. The other issue with the Canon 50mm f1.8 is the build quality, which is pretty poor. That said, if you look after the 50mm f1.8 lens it will provides years of trouble free service.
One of the best things about the Canon 50mm f1.8 is the price, which just over a hundred bucks is peanuts, and when you consider this lens has better image quality than lenses costing several times more it is easy to see you get a lot of bang for your buck here.
Many people considered theCanon 50mm f1.8 lens king of the budget lenses, and the must have lens, and so did I when I bought one. The thing is, times have moved on and Canon have released another budget lens that has knocked the 50mm f1.8 off the “best budget lens” tops spot.
The lens that has stole the crown
"This lens is the culprit"
The lens I am referring to is the Canon 40mm f2.8 STM lens. With a 40mm focal length this lens has a slightly wider field of view than the 50mm f1.8, but it isn’t as wide. Personally, I prefer the framing (and also increased field of view) of the 40mm f2.8, and the fact it isn’t as wide doesn’t bother me. At all. Shooting at f1.8 takes a bit of getting used to, and there are times when f1.8 is too wide and the depth of field too narrow so I need to stop down to get the level of sharpness I want. Thinking about it, there are many times when f1.8 is too wide.
The image quality of the Canon 40mm f2.8 STM lens is superb and photos are sharp. Fringing and distortion is not a problem, and the colours are bright and vivid but not oversaturated. The image quality of this lens is better than lenses costing several times more. Use this lens and I guarantee you will not be disappointed with the image quality. Check out some photos taken with the Canon 40mm f2.8 STM below, if you don’t believe me.
"The physical difference between the 40mm and 50mm prime lenses"
The Canon 40mm f2.8 STM is a pancake lens, so it is small, light and discreet and the small 50mm f1.8 lens looks like a monster in comparison. If you want a small and portable setup you won’t go wrong with the 40mm f2.8 STM lens.
As previously mentioned, the build quality of the 50mm f1.8 lens is questionable however this is not the case with the 40mm f2.8 lens. The build quality of this lens is superb and it feels like a “proper” bit of photography equipment, as opposed to a child’s toy. The 40mm lens is not an L series lens, so it isn’t weatherproof or dustproof, but it is still a very sturdy lens none the less. The build quality of the 40mm lens is so much better than the 50mm f1.8 it’s not even funny.
The end glass/front element of the Canon 40mm f2.8 STM lens is tiny and you can cover it with a single fingertip. Many Canon 40mm f2.8 owners don’t use protective filters (because the front element is so small) however I do out of a matter of course. Besides, 52mm UV filters are cheap enough and I prefer to protect all my lenses. One thing I should point out is that sticking a UV filter on the front of the 40mm lens makes it a lot wider (just to put in to perspective how small this lens is in the first instance.
The Canon 40mm f2.8 STM lens is a little more expensive than the Canon 50mm f1.8 but when you consider the superior image quality, superior build quality and the small size (it is more portable and discreet than the 50mm f1.8) it is clear the few pounds extra are well worth it. Overall the Canon 40mm f2.8 STM is the best budget lens in the Canon line up, and it is a lens I highly recommend.
Images captured with the Canon 40mm f2.8 STM
Images captured using the 40mm f2.8 STM lens "Lord Nelson", "Great Yarmouth Empire" and "Horse ride"
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.