By: Rudy Winston
October 11, 2018
Canon’s EOS M series of compact, lightweight mirrorless cameras and lenses has been gaining traction on the worldwide marketplace, especially with the recent additions of the sophisticated entry-level EOS M50, and more advanced EOS M6 and M5 cameras. The dedicated EF-M lens series has been well-regarded by many customers as well, but more experienced users have requested more choices in compact, fixed focal length (“prime”) lenses. The line has been nicely served up to now by the fast, moderate wide-angle EF-M 22mm f/2 STM lens in this regard. Now, in late 2018, Canon introduces a second lens aimed squarely at the more experienced camera enthusiast — the EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM.
We’ll discuss this lens and its features in this article, hopefully adding to information initially available in press releases and so on at the time of its release.
Equivalent Coverage, and Compatibility
Since all EF-M lenses are designed to optically cover the image circle of the APS-C size sensor, there’s an effective increase in coverage over and above a lens’ marked focal length. In terms of field of view, the EF-M 32mm f/1.4 lens gives coverage equivalent to what you’d see on a full-frame camera (or 35mm film camera) with a 51mm lens. In other words, this lens provides the coverage that classic, traditional 50mm standard lenses have delivered in the past.
While a fixed focal length, 50mm (equivalent) lens with a fast f/1.4 maximum aperture clearly targets the critical, experienced photographer, this EF-M lens can be mounted onto and used with any Canon EOS M-series camera that been produced to date. (That includes the original EOS M mirrorless camera, which was launched in 2012, and all subsequent M-series models.)
The lens is exclusively for EOS M-series cameras, and cannot be mounted onto Canon EOS digital SLRs, nor can it be adapted to be used on the EOS R system (full-frame mirrorless) cameras, as of October 2018.
Even with its wide f/1.4 maximum aperture, the EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM continues the EF-M lens series tradition of a constant barrel diameter of approximately 2.4 inches. In other words, every EF-M lens to date (as of October 2018) will have nearly identical barrel shape, so tactile “feel” and handling is very similar as you change from one lens to the next. Their barrels extend from the lens mount steadily, with no change in size or diameter as you move toward the front of the lens. With this 32mm lens, the one ring on the barrel is a wide manual focus ring, which has a smooth, nicely-dampened design so its manual focusing action has a quality character to it.
Manual focusing on this lens is electronic, and not via a direct mechanical linkage to the optics that move for focusing. As users turn the focus ring during manual focus, an optical system in the lens precisely detects both rotation direction and amount of rotation, and transfers this into very precise signals to the STM focus motor. This in turn moves the focus optics.
The only other control on the lens is a 2-position distance limiter switch for focus operation. It’s normally set to its FULL position, allowing the lens to autofocus over its entire range, from infinity to its nearest focus distance of 9 inches (0.23m). The 0.5m–Infinity position limits close-focusing during AF to about 20 inches, speeding up AF recovery if the lens has to “hunt” to find focus in exchange for restricting closest-focusing.
If the camera is set to Manual focus, or AF + MF (with EOS M-series cameras, this is set in the red Shooting Menu), you can manually focus over the entire distance range, regardless of the setting on the distance limiter switch on the lens.
Inside the Lens
Optically, this is a sophisticated design with 14 lens elements (by comparison, the current Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens for EOS digital SLRs is a 7-element design), highlighted by one glass-molded Aspherical lens element toward the rear of the lens. It focuses by extending the first 12 lens elements together, moving them forward as the lens is focused progressively nearer. It’s not an “internal focus” or rear-group focus design, but in spite of moving a large group of elements both its AF performance and manual focus operation are smooth and swift.
Unlike the majority of lenses in the Canon EF-M lens line, the 32mm f/1.4 STM does not have optical Image Stabilization.
Canon’s proven STM (Stepping Motor) with a gear train for actuation is used as the focus drive system in this lens. STM drive is especially noteworthy for its smooth performance during video operation, without losing its ability to focus quickly for fast near-to-far (or vice-versa) transitions during still-image shooting. As noted above, manual focusing is electronic, so you’ll need to have the lens mounted to an EOS M camera, with the camera turned on, and a functioning battery to have manual focus operate as you turn the manual focus ring on the lens.
An important note is this lens’ close-focusing capability. While of course not a true macro lens, the EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM lens provides a maximum close-up magnification of 0.25x — ¼ life-size reproduction at its nearest focus distance. This lens can fill the frame with a subject as small as 3.5x2.4 inches (90x60mm) in size — in other words, it can fill the frame with a subject about the size of the lens itself. This is remarkable close-focus performance for an f/1.4, standard lens.
The “Fast” f/1.4 Maximum Aperture
This 32mm lens’ ability to shoot at apertures as wide as f/1.4 can be a game-changer for some EOS M-series photographers, especially if compared to current zoom lenses in the EF-M line. Some of the benefits it can add to what a Canon EOS M user is experiencing with zoom lenses include…
In keeping with the 32mm f/1.4 lens’ compact size, it uses 43mm diameter screw-in filters. (Canon engineers specifically recommend attaching only one screw-in filter at a time, to limit any risk of strain to the lens’ focus system from added weight at the front of the lens.)
The other primary accessory is the optional Canon Lens Hood ES-60. This is a dedicated hood specifically designed for this lens, with a satin texture on its interior surface to further reduce risk of stray reflections. A soft lens case, the Canon LP-1014, is also available as an optional accessory.
An Important Addition to the Canon EF-M Lens Line
The EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM lens becomes a significant member of the M-series lineup, answering requests from seasoned photographers for a high-quality, fast-aperture prime lens. Aside from the 32mm lens, as of fall 2018, the EF-M lens line for Canon’s compact mirrorless cameras looks like this:
EF-M 22mm f/2 STM
A wide-angle, fixed focal length lens with a fast f/2.0 maximum aperture. If offers moderate wide-angle coverage, equivalent to a 35mm lens on a full-frame camera — a length that traditionally has often been used for street photography, travel, and so on. It’s physically extremely small, and another excellent way for photographers who started with zoom lenses to step into a faster lens for low-light work.
EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM
A true macro lens, able to focus from infinity to life-size magnification, and adds even higher “super macro” with magnifications to 1.2x life-size. And, it offers built-in optical Image Stabilization. It has built-in LED lighting to fill in shadows or illuminate nearby subjects in dim conditions. And since it focuses out to infinity, this lens with 45mm (equivalent) coverage doubles nicely as a sharp, normal lens for shooting at ordinary distances.
EF-M 32mm f/1.4 USM
The subject of this “What’s New” article, it’s the widest aperture lens in the EF-M lineup, at the time of its introduction. Again, this lens is designed to provide equivalent “normal lens” imagery, with its 51mm (equivalent) coverage.
EF-M 11–22mm f/4–5.6 IS STM
This is an exciting, ultra wide-angle zoom lens — equivalent to an 18–35mm lens, on a full-frame camera. It’s the EOS M-series widest lens (as of October 2018), and in a compact form factor. Image Stabilization makes it even more appealing for low-light interiors, landscapes early or late in the day, and even night shooting in available light.
EF-M 15–45mm f/3.5–6.3 IS STM
This is the standard zoom lens for EOS M-series cameras, providing super-compact size, Image Stabilization for sharper pictures and steady video (especially in dimly lit conditions), and coverage equivalent to a 24–72mm lens on a full-frame camera.
EF-M 18–150mm f/3.5–6.3 IS STM
The long-range standard zoom lens in the EOS M-series, with coverage equivalent to what you’d get with a 29–240mm lens on a full-frame camera. Its range makes it an excellent, one-lens package for travel, and its optical Image Stabilization also makes it practical in many low-light situations.
EF-M 55–200mm f/4.5–6.3 IS STM
This is the telephoto zoom option in the EF-M lens line, and an ideal match with a standard zoom like the EF-M 15–45mm lens. It maintains the constant barrel diameter of M-series lenses, and offers Image Stabilization to provide for sharp still and video imagery. The 55–200mm focal length gives coverage equivalent to an 88–320mm lens, on a full-frame camera.
Even with the excitement and “buzz” created by the introduction in late 2018 of Canon’s full-frame mirrorless EOS R system, the EOS M system remains a viable option offering lens interchangeability in a much more compact form-factor. The introduction of a fast, wide-aperture “standard” lens is a clear indication that even with the launch of a full-frame mirrorless alternative, Canon intends for the M-series to remain a strong option for photographers who put a priority on compact size and light weight. The EF-M 32mm f/1.4 lens is a noteworthy addition to the system, for experienced enthusiasts and more casual users alike.