Canon 40mm vs 50mm FULL Lens Review

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If you don’t have time to read this article, and want to know the quick difference between the Canon 40mm vs 50mm lens, it is that the Canon EF 40mm lens is best for unobstrusive street photography, while the Canon EF 50mm lens is best for portraits.

Canon 40mm vs 50mm

Most photographers choose a 50mm prime lens as their first lens following the kit lens that came with their camera. But there is another option in the form of the Canon 40mm prime. This has a slightly wider focal length and a narrower aperture at f/2.8, and is a similar price to the 50mm 1.8 lens.

So, why would you choose a Canon 40mm lens vs 50mm lens? Read on for the full reviews of the Canon 40mm vs 50mm, including Canon 40mm lens sample images. If you’re short on time, look below for the quick lowdown.

Canon 50mm vs 40mm Quick Lowdown

    • Best Lens for Street Photography
    • Best Lens for Everyday Use with a Crop Sensor (APS-C) Camera where it has 64mm Effective Focal Length
    • Very Sharp Images
    • Close Focusing Distance of 11.8 inches (0.3m)
    • Quick and Quiet Autofocus
    • Very Small

The Canon 40mm pancake lens is an excellent choice if you are using a crop sensor (APS-C) camera, as the apparent focal length will become 64mm. The maximum aperture of f2.8 allows for a shallow depth of field while also remaining razor sharp, unlike the 50mm 1.8 lens.

This is the preferred lens for street photography due to its small, unobtrusive size, quiet and fast autofocus, and sharpness.

    • Best Lens for Portraits
    • Very Wide Maximum f/1.8 Aperture
    • Minimum Focus Distance of 1.15 feet (0.35m)
    • Best for Full Frame Cameras as this has 80mm effective focal length on APS-C cameras
    • One of the Cheapest Canon Lenses

The Canon EF 50mm F1.8 STM lens is of a similar quality to the 40mm pancake lens, but nonetheless offers exceptional value for money – this is the only Canon 50mm lens available for less than $100 renewed, and has been known as the ‘nifty fifty’ thanks to this low price and its performance.

The depth of field and low light capabilities make this more suited to portraits than street photography. If you are not selling photos professionally, or you are on a strict budget, this lens will be good enough for you in most situations.

Canon 50mm vs 40mm Lens Comparison

Look at the below table for a quick Canon 50mm and 40mm lens comparison, where you can see which lens of the Canon 50mm or Canon 40mm comes out on top for each of the most useful features. Comparing the 40mm vs 50mm field of view on a Canon crop sensor, the 40 mm lens has an apparent focal length of 64 mm, while the 50 mm lens has an apparent focal length of 80 mm.

Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens

canon 40mm lens

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

Autofocus Performance
  • STM motor – slower and can ‘hunt’ to get focus
  • STM motor – slower and can ‘hunt’ to get focus
Number of Glass Elements
  • 15 elements in 12 groups
  • 6 elements in 5 groups
  • 4.6 ounces / 130g
  • 5.6 ounces / 159g
Closest Focusing Distance
  • 0.98′ / 30cm
  • 1.15′ / 35cm
Portrait Lens Comparison
  • Wide maximum aperture, but 1 and 1/3 of a stop darker than the 50mm lens, which is noticeable in real world use
  • Very wide maximum aperture meaning a brighter viewfinder and faster autofocus

Based on comparing the Canon lenses above, in the Canon 50mm 1.8 vs Canon 40mm 2.8, there is no clear winner.

But the features compared above might not apply to you, depending on your style of photography. To get a better view of what each lens is capable of, have a look at the full reviews, and sample images from real world tests, below.

Canon 40mm vs 50mm for Portraits

It’s difficult to intuitively know the difference between the 40mm vs 50mm focal length when it comes to portrait photography. Although The 50mm focal length is generally considered superior for this use, the 40mm does also produce quite a nice, un-distorted image. Rather than write about what is a 40mm lens good for, take a look at these sample portraits to directly compare the 40mm vs 50mm lens.

There is a good gallery of photos, including portraits, taken with the 40mm 2.8 lens here.

And a gallery of images with portraits, taken with the 50mm 1.8 lens here.

Is 40mm Better Than 50mm?

Overall, the 40mm lens is better than the 50mm lens for street photography, due to its smaller, less obtrusive size and slightly wider focal length. The 50mm offers better background sepration for head-and-shoulder portraits, but no one can definitively state that one focal length isbetter than the other.

Is 40mm Good for Landscapes?

40mm is perfect for landscapes on a full frame camera, as it is wide enough to capture most details of a scene, but still offers a strong f/2.8 max aperture for a low cost. Any wider lenses at this max aperture are much more expensive, and are much heavier and bulkier. The light weight and small size of the 40mm lens is perfect for long days of hiking when your photography takes you off into the wilderness.

Canon EF 50mm f 1.8 Review

For the full review of the Canon 50mm lenses, take a look at the 50mm 1.8 vs 1.4 Canon page.

Canon f1.8 50mm

Best Value Canon 50mm Lens

  • Pros:
  • Cheap – can be bought for under $100
  • Great depth of field, particularly when compared to the 40mm lens
  • Light and small, but larger than the 40mm
  • Good sharpness
  • Cons:
  • Noisy, slow autofocus
  • No distance scale on focusing ring
  • Construction can feel ‘cheap’

The Canon 50mm f1 8 STM lens is an excellent choice if you are on a strict budget, or you are looking for a first lens to buy following your kit lens. Despite not being quite as sharp as the 40mm lens, the quality of the images that you can take with this lens are still very good, and would be more than good enough for most everyday uses.

The construction quality is very similar to the 40mm lens, particularly if you find the newer, version 2 edition of this lens, which has a metal lens mount, and a better positioned focusing ring. The first edition was primarily plastic.

The f1.8 aperture makes for a shallow depth of field, particularly if you are coming from a kit lens, which often only have maximum apertures in the range of f3.5 – f4. If this is your first wide aperture lens, then you will see a huge difference from your other lenses, even over the 40mm lens, which only has a maximum aperture of f2.8. It’s possible to buy an f1.4 aperture 50mm lens, but unless you are a professional, I would highly recommend this lens for the cost saving over the 1.4 50mm lens.

The downsides to this lens is the slower, more clunky autofocus, that can sometimes really ‘hunt’ to pick up focus.

If you are using this on a crop sensor DSLR, this lens will have an apparent focal length of 80mm.

Canon 50mm 1.8 Sample Photos

The Canon 50mm f1.8 bokeh is generally very good, and better than the 40mm lens. Take a look at the below Canon 50mm 1.8 sample images to see the strength of this lens.

Canon EF 40mm f 2.8 STM Review

Canon 40mm 2.8 Review

Best Lens for Street Photography

  • Pros:
  • Excellent image quality
  • Very sharp
  • Very good autofocus
  • Relatively cheap
  • Cons:
  • Front element is unprotected, so you get lens flare in bright environments
  • No lens hood provided
  • Less good for portraits due to maximum f/2.8 aperture

The Canon 40mm f 2.8 STM is the best 40mm lens you can buy, and makes an excellent street photography lens due to its high quality optics, very small size and near-silent autofocus. The Canon 40mm lens price is currently around 50% more than the comparable Canon 50mm 1.8 lens, but as long as you are not primarily interested in shooting portraits and still life pictures, the 40mm pancake lens is the better option. This is particularly true if you are using a crop sensor camera (APS-C).

On the downside, the 40mm lens can have a problem with lens flare, due to the front element being completely unprotected. With the relatively cheap price, this is no lens hood provided. You can buy a Canon 40mm lens hood for a few dollars, and this is highly recommended if you are going to be regularly shooting outside.

Canon 40mm Lens Sample images

There a few Canon 40mm pancake sample photos below, taken at various apertures. Note the sharpness and excellent image quality.

Below are Canon 40mm 2.8 sample images. Although the f2.8 aperture is not as wide as the 50mm f1.8 maximum aperture, you can still use the lens to take fantastic pictures of the stars, like the one below.

Which is Best Canon 40mm or 50mm?

Out of the Canon 40mm or 50mm, the best lens for you will depend on how you intend to use it. If you are regularly shooting portraits, then the Canon 50mm f1.8 lens is ideal for you. If this is a large part of your photography life and/or you want to move towards selling photos in this area, then you may want to consider the much better Canon 50mm f1.4 lens. Read the full comparison here.

If you are more into street photography, or you are shooting portraits for fun on a cropped sensor (APS-C) camera, then the Canon 40mm STM would be the better option for you, but whichever your choose out of the Canon 40mm 2.8 vs 50mm 1.8, you can be assured of an excellent lens that will stay with you for years to come.

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