When it comes to lenses, I enjoy working with wide-angle offerings, and they can genuinely tell you how dedicated a company is to manufacturing and designing quality optics. And even with my limited experience with Canon EOS lenses, the 28mm f/2.8 surprised me. It’s a tremendous carry-around lens that, despite being a first-generation model, still stands up today as delivering quality results in an affordable lens. And this was the second EOS lens I picked up, as I knew I wanted something fast and wide that wasn’t a zoom lens.
Model: EF 28mm 1:2.8
Focal Length: 28mm
Focal Range: ∞ – 0.3m
Aperture: f/2.8 – f/22, 5 Blades
Structure: 5 Elements in 5 Groups (1 Aspherical Element)
The EF 28/2.8 is a solidly constructed lens despite its age. While most of the body is plastic, the internals and the mount are metal. The lens is relatively heavy and adds a bit of front weight to the camera. You won’t notice this on larger and heavier camera bodies, but I do see this with my EOS 3000 but less with the 650 and Elan IIe. The 5×5 optical construction is on par with similar focal length lenses in my toolkit, but what makes it stand out is the addition of an aspherical element. This is the key to helping with solid distortion-free optics. The front element is a little close to the front of the lens, so a lens hood would not go amiss when shooting in direct high-contrast light. It takes a 58mm filter, which makes it challenging to keep a single set of filters around, as Canon isn’t as uniform as Nikon is with their prime lenses. Since this is a first-generation lens, the autofocus, faster than similarly aged lenses of the period, is slow compared to modern versions of this lens that use the Ultra-Sonic Motor. And I do notice that this copy is a bit noisy compared to other Canon EF lenses in my kit. But when paired with all three Canon bodies, it performs well and accurately.
Here is where this lens shines. The addition of the single aspherical element is vital to the lens’s optical performance. Most wide-angle lenses tend to have barrel distortion when focusing in close; there is almost none in images produced with this lens, which is impressive for a lens of this type. I’m sure if we got in even closer in the 30cm range that there would be some distortion but nothing that could not be easily fixed. The second piece that surprised me is that there’s no fall-off or vignetting around the corners, even at f/2.8. And these two qualities certainly help sell the lens in my books. And this lens also produces sharp images at any aperture; even at f/2.8, the items in focus will be sharp, and once you start using the lens and stopping it down, things get even sharper. As a wide-angle lens, you get good field depth immediately when you’re into real-world applications, and things will be incredibly sharp. The out-of-focus rendering is smooth but nothing special; there is no ghosting at the edges, things get a decent blur, and there is no noticeable swirl. I feel that this lens will flare in high-contrast off-axis light, but any good lens hood will mitigate the lens flare.
Given the build quality and image quality, the EF 28/2.8 has much to offer any EOS system photographer. Being an EF mount, the 28/2.8 will work flawlessly across any EOS camera body, both 35mm and digital. The lens will give you approximately a 45mm focal length on a crop sensor body, which is excellent in the long run. And it offers a good, budget-friendly excellent-quality lens for your digital and film systems. Probably the primary application I would give for this lens is landscape and urban photography; with that aspherical element, you can keep your straight lines straight. It is also excellent for architectural photography, both indoors and outdoors, and for event photography, such as capturing large groups of people. With the close-focus capabilities, you can even use this for environmental portraiture or, in the case of using it on a crop sensor body, a forced macro lens.
The Low Down
The EF 28/2.8 is a lens I highly recommend for any EOS system photographer. It offers a wide-angle lens with solid optical performance and excellent build quality. And while modern versions of this lens with faster autofocus and improved optical build, this lens hits all the right points. And it won’t be hard on your wallet, with most going for between 80-140$ on the used market. With excellent compatibility, you can even use this lens on your modern digital SLRs and your film cameras. And what isn’t to love about an affordable, fast, optically sound lens? And it isn’t often these days that you can get all three together.
Don’t just take my view on the Canon EF 28/2.8; check out these other reviews.