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New Canon 40mm Pancake - A Threat to Pentax?

Full-Frame EF 40mm STM lens for under $200 · Posted on 06-08-2012 in Photographic Articles
New Canon 40mm Pancake - A Threat to Pentax?

Canon has just introduced its first 40mm F2.8 "pancake" lens together with a new Rebel (T4i) DSLR.  Could this launch have been inspired by Pentax's iconic lineup of "Limited" prime lenses? Up until now, Pentax was practically the only manufacturer that offered small pancake lenses for their DSLR cameras. 

Pentax Limited Pancakes

Pentax_DA_15mm.jpg SMC_Pentax-DA_21mm_F32_Limited.jpg 21730_DA35mmMacro.jpg SMC_Pentax_DA_Limited_40mm_Pancake.jpg pentax_da70mm.jpg
15mm (APS-C) 21mm (APS-C) 35mm Macro (APS-C) 40mm (Full-Frame*) 70mm (APS-C)

Canon's new 40mm lens features a built-in focusing motor, and despite this, it will only be slightly larger than the Pentax DA 40mm Limited.  Even more interestingly, it seems that this 40mm Canon lens will be targeted at the intro-level market, with a launch price of just $199.  If Canon were to develop more such lenses, they could pose a serious threat to the size advantage of the Pentax system, especially for beginner photographers.  This new Canon lens is cheaper than both of the corresponding Pentax lenses, as Pentax's 40mm Limited current retails for $499, while the slimmer XS version retails for $249.  While the Canon lens still significantly larger than the Pentax 40mm XS, there's no doubt that it will still be classified as a "pancake".  How big of a threat to Pentax is this recent development, combined with other recent Canon and Nikon announcements?  Read on for our thoughts!

This isn't a first time that Pentax's innovation has been adapted and/or improved upon by other brands, as we saw similar trends as early as when the film SLR was first introduced, when Nikon launched the Nikon F to compete with the Asahi Pentax.  After acquiring Pentax late last year, Ricoh vowed to aggressively compete with Canon and Nikon, but it seems that all the recent Canon and Nikon announcements are putting Pentax under more pressure than ever: Pentax still has no full-frame DSLR, their intro-level DSLR body (K-r) has been discontinued, and their aging high-end DSLR body (K-5) does not yet have a successor.  With the launch of the 5D Mark III, the older 5D Mark II has now turned into a rather affordable full-frame camera, and the launch of the 36-megapixel Nikon D800 is raising questions as to whether or not it's worth spending an extra $7,000 for the 40-megapixel Pentax 645D.  The Pentax K-01, which featured a unique design and was the first mirrorless camera to natively support DSLR lenses, wasn't as big of a hit as we had hoped for.  Furthermore, the Pentax Q, Pentax's other mirrorless camera, is still too expensive to appeal to micro-4/3 users or to compete with Sony's NEX system.  Lastly, the recent 15-90% price increase of all Pentax lenses has made the Pentax system much less affordable than before.

Pentax K-30

On the other hand, we think that the recently-announced Pentax K-30 will hold its ground well in the mid-range market, as no current DSLR in the same price range is both weather-sealed and offers the same feature set.  In addition, the availability of the Pentax 18-135mm WR at a discounted price of $350 will affordably turn the K-30 into an all-purpose weather-sealed camera.  We have high hopes that the Photokina trade show, which is coming up in September (and which we will be covering live), will bring exciting product announcements for both the K-mount and 645D product lines from Pentax.  In any case, one thing is clear: the Pentax lineup needs to be boosted with new and even more competitive products if Ricoh wishes to be a serious competitor in the consumer photo industry.


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hcarvalhoalves [Delete] Jun 15th, 2012 1:43PM

If they keep releasing cheaper pancakes lenses I would rather sell my Pentax gear and buy a Canon body. Pentax lenses prices are just ludacrious right now. Too bad their entry-level bodies suck.

stevelink [Delete] Jun 12th, 2012 9:34PM

Good comments all. As far as I'm concerned, and as others have said, Pentax still has the advantage of built-in IS, water-resistant bodies and optics, as well as very high-quality primes (DA* and DA/FA Limiteds), not to mention the stellar DA* 50-135. I do wish they would invest in a FF DSLR with the build quality of the K-5 (Along with expanded DA* optics). That would, IMHO, truly put them in the Game!

junyo [Delete] Jun 11th, 2012 8:31AM

If you're buying into a SYSTEM, Canikon crushes Pentax; simple fact. They have more, better, and deeper 3rd party support, sales channels, and brand awareness. And whenever people said to me that small bodies and primes was the unique niche for Pentax, I asked '...and if it's successful, what stops Canikon from getting into that business?' The answer apparently is 'nothing'.

Alizarine [Delete] Jun 9th, 2012 8:50PM

What size advantage can Canon offer if they have a pancake but the body is chunky as a slab of beef?

Rupert [Delete] Jun 9th, 2012 5:15PM

SR is still a major advantage........try turning it off, and you will quickly realize this. September holds the key to the near future of Pentax.......I'm not all that sold on Ricoh, but if I was a gambler, my bet is that they will meet the challenge.

Edgar_in_Indy [Delete] Jun 9th, 2012 6:45AM

The biggest thing that distinguishes Pentax for me from Canon and Nikon is Pentax's sensor-based IS. If Nikon or Canon finally blinked, and started putting IS in their DSLRs, I would consider them an option.

james458 [Delete] Jun 9th, 2012 2:56AM

Perhaps not a threat to Pentax, but more a trend in the market, to have smaller and lighter lenses. Canon's take on the pencake lens is a great news! More of a threat to the 4/3 system.

ogl [Delete] Jun 9th, 2012 1:12AM

Add FA43/1.9 - it's pancake lens too.

dmort [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 8:16PM

I don't have anything against Canikon, but why should we care what theydo? I don't think there is anything canon and nikon can do to diminish pentax's market share. I think the ball is in pentax's court to compete with the big two. I think this lens is much more likely a response to the size of interchangeable lens compact cameras. Canon hasn't built an ILC and with a small lens, on a smallish camera like the t4i, perhaps they don't have to. I cite pentax's general attitude: we don't compete, we create something that other companies don't make. Pentax doesn't like to be redundant. Imitation as flattery is flattering, but it doesn't mean we need to care.

Biro [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 7:37PM

The new 40mm pancake is great for Canon shooters but wouldn't make me jump ship. In fact, neither would any of Canon's cameras.

Yamanobori [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 4:42PM

??? How is this a threat to Pentax? It won't fit a Pentax camera just like the Pentax lenses will not fit a Canon. BTW, the 15mm, 35mm, and 70mm lenses are not pancake lenses. They are simply single-focal length lenses. A pancake lens is a very flat lens.

DSims [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 3:17PM

The article covers the same thoughts I had when the Canon announcement last night. A lower priced pancake with STM.

But didn't anyone notice the price is EXACTLY the same as the K-30, $850 or $1200 with the 18-135 lens? And the Canon 18-135 is also f/3.5-5.6, and it includes IS! It looks as if the response to the K-30 is being considered very positive, and is even being taken seriously by Canon, which is a good sign. The camera and lens have long been in development, but since the cameras are so similar they packaged and priced theirs to match. They also wisely undercut even Pentax' old price on the 40mm pancake, since Canon can make money so many other places once they have users roped in to their brand. In my view Canon's low and mid-range lens lineup is rather weak, so they can potentially make BIG bucks once they have you roped in.

mugund [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 2:13PM

I think pentax lacks a zoom & prime lens optimized for CDAF & possibly another imaging sensor with PDAF sensor built in ala nikon 1 or canon t4i. Then k-01 will be even more valuable inspite of its size

chaza01 [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 1:53PM

@garethwebber Funny, I was thinking about waterproofing the limteds just today - surely it couldn't be too hard, especially given the size.

Jean Poitiers [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 1:18PM

Competition (and imitation) is good ... Putting Pentax on edge product-wise and price-wise is good news for us Pentax users. Let'em fight it out in the marketplace where it really counts ... and let the "best" product win IMHO.

Be careful Pentax, because when you hunt on others' playing field, the response may be to hunt in your backyard ... Canikon are not going "to roll over and play dead" during your push to increase Pentax market-share and presence!

garethwebber [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 10:28AM

Pentax attracted me for three things - water proofing (with DA*), size of travel kit (with limiteds) and in camera IS.

In the UK water-proofing is unfortunately essential. The travel kit isn't water proof but hasn't needed to be. It would be nice if they water proofed the limiteds though.

Pentax used to have price. Now, not so much.

godavari [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 10:19AM

Considering the strong market share of Canon/Nikon, I guess they can do whatever and still get better sales than Pentax. Other day I was at a school graduation, there might be around 50 (or more) SLRs and as far as I could see I was the only one holding a Pentax.

Edgar_in_Indy [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 9:50AM

@wed7, I find IS welcome at ANY focal length. I don't see why IS wouldn't be useful at 40mm. True, you can bump the ISO up, but that's called a compromise.

emergo [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 9:16AM

a prime is unlikely to attract a beginner looking to buy into a system. most folks - beginners, hobbyists, and pros alike - tend to shoot with zooms (beginners are most likely to want zooms almost exclusively). So I don't see a threat from this lens in the beginner market. As I see it, this 40 is targeted towards the shooters that already own Canon. Heck, when I had my 10D, I would have liked to have had this lens. I switched back to Pentax from Canon primarily because of the high quality Pentax primes. Canon simply saw a void in their product line and filled it. Sure, they may have learned how popular that focal length was from Pentax's success. However, it's still just a plastic body lens (I assume) that can't match the Pentax build quality.

wed7 [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 9:15AM

Full Frame 40mm at less than $200, it really is a steal for Canon users who wants to travel light and unobtrusive. Moreover, IS is not that needed in that FL paired with relatively high ISO imho.

Edgar_in_Indy [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 7:08AM

In my opinion, Canon's lack of in-body IS limits the appeal and usefulness of this new 40mm lens. With Pentax, your pancake lenses are all stabilized.

I think the most interesting announcement from Canon is the phase detection autofocus in live view for their new Rebel t4i. I'm very curios to see how this system performs.

blackcloudbrew [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 6:55AM

Well they say imitation is the highest form of flattery so I guess with the release of this lens Canon is (?) trying to compete with Pentax in this area? For my view, I think this is a bit interesting but almost a 180 from Canon and will not get more than just limited notice from the user community. The Canon users I know all hunger towards L glass and/or zooms not primes. Beginners tend to have a kit lens and the kit tele, I think a lot of them would not see the point of this new pancake lens. IMHO, Canon users want bigger, Pentax users want smaller.

gut1kor [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 4:24AM

@Julie:I couldn't agree more. Pentax has become more expensive for beginners and constricted for advanced shooters.

Canon's 50mm f1.8 is very attractive for people and now this sub 200$ 40mm f2.8 is going to make Canon more attractive and affordable. And add to this list, manual video controls in their DSLRs ;-)


aurele [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 4:16AM

Pentax should at least do some teasing to keep lights on him during summer.

Big pressure from the big two. Hope Pentax will create some nice things/lenses (so not like the K01)

JFN [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 3:51AM

40mm f/2.8 for $200 ... heck, should the quality of that lens turn out to be even half good, then Pentax should start to get scared, then of course, we have the 35mm DA L F2.4 AL lens for only $219, which is an excellent lens for the money ....

Julie [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 2:47AM

Most "intro level" photographers do not care about what sensor their camera has, how high iso performance is handled, and other technical features. Heck, they probably don't know what iso is or any other technical aspects of photography, for that matter. For them, almost any DSLR will be a step up from their cellphones or point and shoots. They will want the best value for their money and right now, from the looks of Canon's announcement, it looks good for them- I could walk into almost any store that sells digital cameras, pick up a basic Canon body/kit lens for $450-$650, a 50 1.8 for just over $100, and this new pancake for $200- and how much would one have to pay for the Pentax equivalent? Almost twice as much.

While I understand that Pentax cameras crush their competition in some areas like high iso and having weather-sealing and see this as a reason to pay a bit more, but try telling that to someone who is looking to buy their first DSLR and want to spend as little as possible. Will they really fork over the money and buy into a brand that- a) they have most likely never heard of (especially younger people who are just starting out and b) a brand who's products they cannot see/test at the store for themselves (because lets face it, Pentaxe's marketing in the US is bad).

In today's beginner DSLR market, what it all comes down to is price and brand/name recognition (which advertising/marketing fall into)- two things which Pentax has been struggling with... Hopefully K-30 will be a hit and maybe even find its way to more US stores so people can see and feel for themselves what Pentax is all about...

calsan [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 1:54AM

Considering you can get a camera complete with two lens kit from Nikon or Canon for less than $600, they've already got the consumer market stitched up....

zany225 [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 1:03AM

Let's imagine what will happen if Canon and Nikon will keep producing fix-pancake lenses with af-s (or ef-s) with the other focal lengths. This 40mm lens from Canon is telling me that it is possible and will happen soon.....

What I see is just WHITE FLAG from users.....

Eulogy [Delete] Jun 8th, 2012 12:15AM

Personally - I'm just going to assume it's a chance to try and regain some ground. After Nikon announced the D3200, it was found to be decent(A sliver worse than the K-5 sensor wise), and Canon comes back with what? A T4i. Basically a botched attempt to "Improve" Their product line without developing a new sensor.

Seems like Canon will try anything at this point...they're losing ground to the Sony sensors for APS-C(Majority of their sales for DSLRs)

Then again...maybe they just wanted to try and save Pentax lenses from having their Aperture levers cut off.