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by Tim Van Damme

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Canon 40mm EF f/2.8 STM

The past couple of months I’ve been thinking about how to improve my camera setup. I bought my first DSLR 4 or 5 years ago, an have been using it less and less ever since.

The reason for this has largely been the iPhone. Generation after generation, the camera kept improving up to a point where the photo quality is almost comparable to a cheap point-and-shoot camera.

Size and weight are another big issue. A DSLR is pretty heavy, and together with a decent lens (which sometimes doubles the weight of the kit) it becomes very impractical to carry it around all day long. Even when traveling with a backpack I would often bring along an extra bag to transport my camera and a couple of lenses (I prefer shooting with primes, but they don’t work in every situation, so I usually bring 2 or 3). Combine all that with a baby and a clumsy stroller and suddenly leaving your camera at home and relying solely on a phone to snap pictures sounds very tempting.

But that’s all an iPhone camera does: It snaps pictures. It doesn’t has the feel of a large-sensor camera (bokeh, hmm…), there are no manual settings (if you’re into that), and you can’t control the exact moment it takes a photo (it needs to focus first and only then will it snap the photo). I’m not a professional photographer, but I do care about the photos I take.

So what other options are there? For a long time I thought a Four Thirds system was the answer; Smaller and lighter, yet with 75% of the features and picture quality you get with a DSLR. I did a lot of research and came across great camera’s like the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the Fujifilm X-Pro 1. Both are capable of shooting great pics and support a whole range of interchangeable lenses.

But I already invested in a Canon 7D body and a range of lenses, and to be honest, I like the solid feel of a DSLR. I played with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 last week and while the build and photo quality was amazing, I couldn’t properly hold it without being afraid of letting it slip out of my small lady-like hands (I carry my camera around without a strap). Every DSLR has a big grip which makes it easy to hold on, and their magnesium bodies can take a beating.

And then, Canon released their first pancake lens, the Canon 40mm EF f/2.8 STM.

I was sold. One look at it and it became clear this was the perfect lens for my needs (and I’m guessing I’m not the only one). It’s compact (barely taller then the grip or flash bump, it feels like you’re taking photos without a lens attached to your camera), fast and silent (it has a new motor built for recording video so they had to make it as silent as possible), the specs are amazing (and the photos are as good as you’d expect), but the thing that surprised me the most was the price: $199.

To a professional, it might not be the best lens out there, but for me it’s perfect. And if you’re one of those people who bought a DSLR camera a couple of years ago only to have it collecting dust today, I’d suggest you buy one of these babies. I did, and it’s now traveling with me wherever I go.