40mm Prime Lenses

40mm Focal Length Prime Lenses

Legacy Lens Review:

40mm Focal Length Prime Lenses

'Three highly recommended 40mm focal length manual and autofocus lenses for  35mm full-frame cameras'

For still photographers using 35mm full-frame cameras, a 40mm focal length prime lens, normally a tiny and lightweight pancake, is probably the only lens you will need on your camera most of the time. These compact lenses, either manual or autofocus, are purpose-built to be perfect for general-purpose photography, family snapshots, scenes and landscape, street photography, and may even excel in specialty photography genres.

40mm Focal Length Prime Lenses 01

Being normally small with an incredibly compact form factor, these pancakes will fit discretely on your camera, making the camera easy to use and manage the camera, convenient to carry or lug around. With a maximum aperture that is not normally very fast, these lenses are very adaptable and easy to set up for hyperfocal focusing, the focus distance for maximum depth of field.

40mm Focal Length Prime Lenses 02

With a focal length of 40mm, a dimension close to the 43.3mm diagonal measurement of the 24x36mm film frame, the lens can be considered as a 'perfect normal'. The lens captures an angle of view about 53°, one that is almost virtual to what the human eye sees, matching both the real-world and rendered perspective, with objects in the photo looking exactly the same size as the real objects.

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When compared to the 'nifty-fifty', or 35mm alternatives, 40mm lenses are akin to a dark horse, not too often seen or mentioned, and within the mainstream, have always remained conspicuously in the background. That shouldn't be the case, taking 10mm of a 'nifty-fifty', or adding 5mm to the 35mm wide-angle will give you just the right capture angle to work with, and a perfectly composed picture frame to capture.

40mm Focal Length Prime Lenses 03

Barring the choice of a camera to fit, these are the easily available low-cost options look at:

Konica Hexanon AR 40mm F1.8

The Konica Hexanon AR 40mm F1.8, seen here mounted on the Konica Autoreflex TC, was a standard lens shipped with some Konica 35mm SLR film cameras from 1979 till the early 80s. It is a lightweight plastic and metal 6-elements in 5-groups construction with 6 blades, measures 27mm deep and weighs 140 grams. The lens takes 55mm size filters and has a minimum focusing distance of 0.45 meters.
Konica Autoreflex TC,, Konica Hexanon AR 50mm F1.8
Konica Autoreflex TC,, Konica Hexanon AR 50mm F1.8 Konica Autoreflex TC,, Konica Hexanon AR 50mm F1.8
Konica Hexanon AR 50mm F1.8
Konica Hecanon AR 40mm F1.8
The odd one out among the three discussed here, the Hexanon AR has a wide F1.8 maximum aperture, fast enough for a degree of subject isolation. The lens is known to be sharp enough for rendering finer details when stopped down. Images are pretty contrasty with nice colors, while RAW images shot on digitals do not require much post-processing.

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Konica AR mount lenses are also known to the shortest flange distance (40.5mm), the distance between the mount and the image sensor or the film plane, of any 35mm SLR film camera system. This means that when the lens is mounted on a digital camera with an adapter, the extruded length is only about 50mm long, a great fit for digital ILCs.

SMC Pentax-M 40mm F2.8

The SMC Pentax-M 40mm F2.8, seen here mounted on the Pentax MV-1, is one of the smallest legacy lenses ever made and came with an incredibly compact form factor. It was in production from 1976 to 1984. The lens is a 5-elements in 4-groups construction, 5 blades, measures only 18mm deep, and weighs 110 grams. The lens takes 49mm size filters and has a minimum focusing distance of 0.6 meters.

Pentax MV1, SMC Pentax-M 40mm F2.8
Pentax MV1, SMC Pentax-M 40mm F2.8
Pentax MV1, SMC Pentax-M 40mm F2.8
SMC Pentax-M 40mm F2.8
SMC Pentax-M 40mm F2.8
Due to its petite size, the lens does face some criticism in the handling department, especially with the focusing ring which is just a thin just back of the filter ring. Acknowledged as a great walkaround lens with a hyperfocal distance setting, the lens is very sharp from F5.6 upward, with good contrast and colors.

On the digital front, the lens is also available as the SMC Pentax-DA 40mm F2.8 Limited, 16mm deep, and the even thinner SMC Pentax-DA 40mm F2.8 XS. At only 9.1 mm thick, the F2.8 XS is currently one of the thinnest autofocus pancake lenses ever made. On 1.5x crop-sensor Pentax digital SLRs, the lens has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 60mm.

Canon EF 40mm F2.8 STM

A modern child, but seen here mounted on a legacy Canon EOS 700QD, the Canon EF 40mm F2.8 STM was first announced in June 2012. The lens is a 6-element in 4-group construction with an aspherical element to reduce aberrations, has 7 blades, measures 37mm deep, and weighs 130 grams. The lens takes 52mm size filters and has a minimum focusing distance of 0.3 meters.

Canon EOS 700QD, Canon EF 40mm F2.8 STM
Canon EOS 700QD, Canon EF 40mm F2.8 STM Canon EOS 700QD, Canon EF 40mm F2.8 STM
Canon EF 40mm F2.8 STM
Canon EF 40mm F2.8 STM
The lens is known to be pretty sharp wide open, which improves on stopping-down, with very low distortion, CA, and vignetting. Compared, the lens is like-for-like and closely matches the EF 50mm f/1.8 II and EF 35mm f/2.0. The EF is an AF/MF lens, with an electronically-driven, 'focus-by-wire' manual focus override control and is the smallest EF lens made bu Canon.

The lens shares the same EF mount that has been the standard across all Canon EOS bodies, which has a relatively short flange focal distance of 44mm. Besides being usable on both Canon EOS film and digital SLRs, the lens can be easily adapted for use with Nikon F-mount, Olympus OM, Leica R, and universal M42 lens mounts via a mechanical adapter without aperture or autofocus electrical connectivity.

Not To Say The Least

And not to say the least, as an alternative, and why not, take a look at the fully automatic point-and-shoot Olympus Trip 35, the perfect camera for the casual film photography hobbyist. The 35mm compact is also fitted with a fixed 40mm focal length lens, which you can just leave the focus at infinity and still come away with high-quality images.

Olympus Trip 35
Olympus Trip 35 Olympus Trip 35
Olympus Trip 35

The Trip 35, with the Tessar-type 4-elements in 3-groups D.Zuiko 40mm F2.8 Zuiko lens, is highly recognized and acknowledged for its simple operation and images that are sharp from edge to edge, without chromatic aberration, spherical aberration, or any kind of distortion. The camera was the subject of an advertising campaign during the 1970s featuring popular British photographer David Bailey and sold over ten million units.


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