Caught between the standard 50mm and 35mm lenses, 40mm lenses rarely get the respect they deserve. Often dismissed for being too wide or not quite wide enough, their versatility is usually overlooked. Over the years I have owned several 40mm lenses, dating back to the when I first became serious about photography.
My first real camera was an Olympus Pen FT with 40mm Zuiko attached to it. I loved that camera but what really blew my mind was the incredible image quality of that lens. The results it produced were amazing and I quickly got used to the roomy, yet focused frame that the focal length provided. It turned out to be a great tool for developing my style, useful for both documentary landscapes as well as general street photography. Next, I bought a used Contax T2 my brother got from a pawn shop for $40. It’s legendary 38mm Zeiss Sonnar is slightly wider than 40mm but has a similar field of view. Needless to say it was a great investment and I still use it regularly almost 14 years later.
Throughout my career I’ve made sure to have a 40mm (or equivalent) lens for any camera I’ve owned and at the beginning of this year I picked up the Fuji 27mm, F2.8 pancake lens. This lens is a hidden gem, combining an extremely small size with excellent sharpness. By capturing more of the scene than 50mm with a greater sense of closeness than 35mm, it’s an excellent choice for almost any type of photography.
For general photography, I highly recommend giving a 40mm lens a shot. It’s the one focal length I absolutely must have in my tool box. It’s proven very effective for my work and I use it often for both personal and professional projects.