Traveling with one lens: The Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 Pancake lens

Traveling with one lens: The Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 Pancake lens

  • There's one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street. It's the perfect lens for my travels, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8. | Click Magazine

I’ve never considered myself a gearhead.

Yet inside my drawer, there are many lenses with different focal lengths.

I am fascinated by them and how each one allows me to see the world in a different way.

For my commercial work, I depend heavily on my zoom lenses. They allow me the flexibility I need when things are moving quickly, namely children.

Then there are the shots I never would have captured if it weren’t for my prime lenses. They handle low light so beautifully.

And don’t even get me started on my fun and funky fisheye, my Lensbaby Velvet 56, or my iPhone.

But there is one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street with my camera. It is the perfect lens for my travels, whether in my hometown or elsewhere. It’s the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens.

Would you believe I have named mine? His name is Morty, the Shorty Forty.

Yes, I’m declaring my undying love for Morty.

There's one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street. It's the perfect lens for my travels, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8. | Click Magazine

Here’s why I love my 40mm lens.

I love how this lens reinvents my camera.
When I attach the 40mm, my camera feels new, smaller, but with all the bells and whistles I’m used to.

I’ve tried compact mirrorless cameras but none compare to the comfort and speed of the one I know inside and out.

There's one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street. It's the perfect lens for my travels, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8. | Click Magazine
There's one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street. It's the perfect lens for my travels, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8. | Click Magazine

I go unnoticed.

Size matters. People notice big lenses. They can be intimidating, not just with strangers but with family, too.

The 40mm is much friendlier and less obtrusive. Honestly, I was shocked at the difference it made when I first started shooting with it. No more stares when I raised my camera.

I guess that’s what happens when the length of your lens goes from 6 inches to less than an inch. Sometimes I still get noticed but it happens far less.

There's one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street. It's the perfect lens for my travels, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8. | Click Magazine
There's one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street. It's the perfect lens for my travels, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8. | Click Magazine

I stay light on my feet.

Weight is everything. To create my best images I have to be comfortable.

Lugging around a lot of gear is no fun. We’ve all been there. The “but what if I need this lens?” devil on my shoulder is pretty persistent.

I’ve found that when I didn’t have any other option, I made the most of the lens I had with me. Some of my favorite images have been made when there were no other options.

There's one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street. It's the perfect lens for my travels, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8. | Click Magazine

I make the dreaded TSA security check easy-breezy.

Traveling by plane can be a headache. It seems the rules are always changing. When you simplify your gear, you simplify your entire travel experience. By lightening your load you have less to worry about.

My last vacation I brought three lenses and guess what? I used the 40mm the entire time. It made things so easy. I could carry a small bag, and my camera was easy to stash in case of rain. Which it did, a lot! Lesson learned. Next time I’m a one-lens traveler.

There's one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street. It's the perfect lens for my travels, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8. | Click Magazine

I am one with the camera.

Because this lens is so small and discreet, I find myself not even thinking about the camera in my hand. My camera and I become one. Because of this, I am much more comfortable getting close to the scene, waiting for the decisive moment.

There's one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street. It's the perfect lens for my travels, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8. | Click Magazine
There's one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street. It's the perfect lens for my travels, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8. | Click Magazine

I don’t break the bank.

This lens is amazingly affordable. Never once have I looked at an image shot with this lens and wished I had another lens with me. Never! It’s fast and sharp, and for my needs, it totally rivals some of my favorite L lenses in the Canon lineup.

There's one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street. It's the perfect lens for my travels, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8. | Click Magazine

Things I think about before and while I shoot.

I make it mine.


I’m always looking for a way to make my images unique. So I ask myself, “How can I capture a scene in a fresh way that really shows my point of view?” The last thing I want is the typical postcard shot.

I have found that a great way to practice is to join a local photography group. After a shoot, it’s so inspiring to see the images everyone captured.

Even though we all took pictures in the same area, I learned to find my unique vision by seeing others’ work. So many times I would see an image captured by a fellow shooter and think, “Wow, I never even saw that!” By participating with others, I’m able to expand my vision and see things differently.

There's one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street. It's the perfect lens for my travels, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8. | Click Magazine
There's one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street. It's the perfect lens for my travels, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8. | Click Magazine

I shoot with intention.


Digital cameras make it way too easy to over shoot. I learned this the hard way when I returned home from vacation a few years ago with a crippling amount of images to cull. Nobody has time for that.

I try to keep in mind the end use of my images while shooting. I try to visualize my end product. It’s key for me to shoot for something. Do I want to create a wall gallery for my home? Perhaps a book documenting a particular trip or photography project? Or maybe I just want to shoot and share on Instagram right away. Thinking about the end result keeps me on point.

There's one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street. It's the perfect lens for my travels, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8. | Click Magazine

I take intention a step further.

In addition to having an end use for my images, I also try to have a concept or theme and shoot for it. I found that it can be freeing to look for something specific. The body of work will be stronger with a common thread.

When I first started shooting, I looked for patterns in my work and that helped me come up with a theme. For example, the graphic designer in me is drawn to messages, signs and words, and how they play against everyday scenes. My “It’s A Sign” series was a project born by shooting with intention.

There's one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street. It's the perfect lens for my travels, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8. | Click Magazine

I make it fun.


I do whatever it takes to keep it fun. This means simplifying and lightening my gear so I can focus on my environment. Like the saying goes, “The best camera is the camera you have with you.” Same goes for the lens. Make it the perfect one.

There's one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street. It's the perfect lens for my travels, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8. | Click Magazine
There's one lens above all others that I use when I hit the street. It's the perfect lens for my travels, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8. | Click Magazine

Words & photos by Sally Ann Field, member of the Click Canon 12

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We love lenses! Don’t you? Here are a few more stories about lenses that we think you might like: How to create amazing photos with a tilt-shift lens3 surprising lenses pro photographers use everyday and Traveling with one lens: 4 reasons you should love zoom lensesPlus, read more product and gear reviews here.

About the Author:

Sally Ann Field was born in Sandusky, New York. She grew up in a creative household where the Polaroid was omnipresent. She moved to Florida to study design and became an award-winning art director and designer. She then relocated to Los Angeles and spent a decade as a creative director and stylist, eventually moving behind the camera into commercial and fine art photography. Visit Sally Ann Field online.
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9 Comments

  1. Tarah November 21, 2017 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Great article! I purchased the 40mm on a whim years ago and chickened out and returned because I didn’t think the focal length made sense for me. But you’ve reinsured me! I’m traveling this winter and have been debating between a wide angle and now the 40mm. Love your street work. Great work!

    • Sally December 1, 2017 at 5:48 pm - Reply

      Hi Tara, thank you! I hope the 40mm works out for you. Canon also makes another pancake lens. Check out the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM. Sadly, the EF-S mount is not compatible with my camera. I would love to have another tiny lens at this focal length!

  2. Anna November 21, 2017 at 10:53 am - Reply

    Are you using a full frame camera or crop sensor?
    I have a crop sensor Canon, EF-S 24mm 2.8 STM and EF 50 1.8 STM…now you have me interested in the 40mm too…

    • Sally December 1, 2017 at 6:10 pm - Reply

      Hi Anna, I have a full frame camera. You are lucky because you can use both EF-S and EF lenses. I sure wish that 24mm mount was compatible with my camera!

  3. Leigh-Ann November 28, 2017 at 9:57 am - Reply

    What would the Nikon equivalent lens be? I have a d5300.

  4. Suzy December 4, 2017 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    Get a FujiFilm 100F and one of the extenders – you get 27,35 & 50mm. Very small and light.

  5. Michelle December 4, 2017 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    Question… how does this 40mm 2.8 compare to the 35mm 2.0? The 35mm lens has been my go-to lens for a LONG time for many similar reasons you stated for the 40. Do you happen to notice how the two compare? It’s time for me to replace my 35mm, but with the difference in prices ($149 vs $599), I’m wondering if the 40mm is the better way to go for now?!

  6. patty connelly January 29, 2018 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    Great article! I also LOVE my 40mm for the same reasons. It’s so lightweight and unobtrusive and gives me beautiful images!

  7. Neil Mc Whirter August 12, 2018 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    Sally thank you, great blog and beautiful pictures. Feeling inspired.

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