Expecting SLRGear.com? We’re moving our lens reviews to Imaging Resource! Read about it here.

Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM

 
Lens Reviews / Canon Lenses i Lab tested

Lab Test Results

  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion
  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion
28mm $509
average price
image of Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM

(From Canon lens literature) With the large maximum aperture, excellent background blur is possible even with a fast shutter speed. The aspherical lens element makes the lens compact and corrects spherical aberrations. The image is sharp even at the edges. Lead-free glass is used.

Test Notes

We tested this lens shortly after we shot the Canon 28mm f/2.8, and found a lot of similarity between the two. As you'd expect, the f/1.8 isn't as sharp wide open as the f/2.8 lens is, f/1.8 being so much larger an aperture than f/2.8 is. At f/1.8, this lens shows a lot of softness in the corners, even on a sub-frame camera. More than that though, we found that the corner sharpness varied radically with very minor shifts in focus. The corners were always soft, but as we progressed through our focus bracket, we found that the blur graph almost "rolled" across the screen, with first one side off the frame being high, decreasing, and then the other shooting up as the focal distance was progressively changed. This made the point of optimum focus very tweaky. The point that gave the best overall results left one side of the plot higher than the other. As usual though, stopping down even slightly made a big difference: Even at f/2, things were much improved, and at f/2.8, the lens was very sharp all over. - In fact, this lens is a shade sharper overall at f/2.8 than does the 28mm f/2.8 lens we tested earlier. From f/2.8 to f/8, the lens is impressively sharp, with diffraction limiting just starting to become a factor at f/11.

Surprisingly, light falloff ("vignetting") is very well controlled, reaching a maximum of only about 1/3 EV with the lens wide open, and decreasing to around 0.15 EV from f/2.8 on. Geometric distortion is also pretty low for a wide angle as well, at only about 0.4% barrel. Like the 28mm f/2.8 though, this lens' weak point is chromatic aberration, and again is higher on a subframe body like the 20D with its smaller pixels than it is on a full-frame camera with larger pixels, like the EOS-5D. The chromatic aberration curve of this lens is similar to that of the 28-f/2.8, but is slightly higher throughout the aperture range.

All in all, a fine lens at an affordable price. As with its smaller-aperture brother though, we'd like it better with less chromatic aberration. It does get way soft in the corners at f/1.8, but if you're shooting in limited lighting, that nearly stop-and-a-half advantage over the f/2.8 model could be well worth the extra $200-plus.

Full-Frame Test Notes:

On the full-frame EOS-5D, this lens gets really soft in the corners wide open, and doesn't completely settle down until f/4. Shooting wide open, we again saw the tweakiness with respect to focal distance that we observed on the 20D, and vignetting increased significantly at maximum aperture. (No surprise in that.) It's worth noting though, that this lens does show much lower vignetting on the 5D at f/2.8 than the lower-cost 28mm f/2.8, so if vignetting bothers you, it might be worth paying the extra freight for this lens, even if you don't absolutely need its maximum aperture. As noted in the sub-frame commentary, chromatic aberration was actually better on the 5D than the 20D, a fact that we attribute to the 5D's larger pixels. We were also pleased to see that, while geometric distortion did increase, it was only by a relatively small amount, to just under 5% barrel.

If you need a really fast wide-angle lens on your full-frame Canon SLR, this lens could serve nicely, and at an affordable price point too. - But you'll have to be willing to accept a lot of softness in the corners when shooting wide open.

Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM User Reviews

8.9/10 average of 13 reviews Build Quality 9.1/10 Image Quality 8.8/10
Write your own review! link will open to SLRgear.com
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (2 reviews)
    "Normal view" for a APS-C camera, sharp, excellent bokeh, lightweight compared to zoom lenses, excellent built, great film lens
    Some "travelling" of the auto focus, difficult to focus in low light

    I recently got this after thinking about buying it for at least one year. After reading the reviews I decided to go for this one instead of the Sigma 30mm F1.4.

    This lens have been "glued" to my Canon 7D after I got it. The feel and "fun factor" of this lens is huge. This lens makes the focus point stand out like you want it to due to the F1.8. However, I choose to use F2.0 and above since F1.8 can seem a bit soft and some different colours than above F1.8.

    The bokeh is absolutely lovely. For filming this lens is superb. I wish it had IS, but so far it seems ok without it as well.

    For low light, handheld photo or filming on a APS-C sensor camera I would not hesitate to recommend this lens.

    Get it.

    reviewed December 31st, 2012 (purchased for $500)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (52 reviews)
    fast f1.8, IQ, price
    rather soft wide open

    this is a lens intended to be used on FullFrame (35mm) system. Use it on Full Frame cameras, and it shines. I use it mostly for street photographs with my 5D. It never let me down. It's like a 24mm f/1.4 on a budget (for a fraction of price and weight).

    I wouldn't use it for my APS system. Tried once, and it sucks (so so results). You won't buy one of these for an APS system.

    reviewed October 9th, 2012 (purchased for $425)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (3 reviews)
    Small, great build, very sharp away from extreme corners
    slightly soft wide open - clears up by f/2.2, hood not included

    Honestly, I think this lens has an undeservedly bad reputation among "technical" reviewers on the internet. I'm sure it sucks at shooting test charts wide open. I don't shoot test charts - I shoot people indoors (groups, activity-based portraits, etc) with this lens on an original 5D with wide apertures. The image quality is great as far as I am concerned. Test chart reviewers knock this lens for soft corners at wide apertures - I couldn't' care any less about that in my style of photography.

    Build is great - very solid and fast AF via ring USM.

    My only real complaint is the noticeable softness at f/1.8. It's useable there, but it's so much better just 2/3-stop away at f/2.2 that I shoot there most of the time.

    reviewed May 21st, 2012 (purchased for $360)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (31 reviews)
    Fast and accurate AF, light, very good IQ at f2.0
    no hood, no leather case

    On my 5D Mark II this lens is the total opposite of the Ef 50 1.4. It is fast and accurate. Even if at f1.8 it tends to be a tad soft, at f2.0 this one is really good. I have no clue how so many people complain about this lens. I had the 50mm and that one was really not good. No 10, because the 70-200L IS II USM is sharper. ;-)

    reviewed February 3rd, 2012 (purchased for $450)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (3 reviews)
    Ultra fast autofocus, decent sharpness, bright lens
    Soft corners, some CA, cost

    This is a bright lens, good for its fast autofocus, shooting young kids running around. Even if they move, the wide angle is sufficient to cover the area. Has nice bokeh and good for low light photography. I now realize its a bit expensive, but still cheaper than the 35L and 24L. A poor man's fast wide angle lens.

    reviewed June 6th, 2011 (purchased for $540)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (4 reviews)
    Size/weight, build (for the price), AF, Aperture.
    Softer at f/1.8, esp. on crop sensor. MF ring too stiff.

    When I purchased my first L lens I worried I would never be able to enjoy a cheaper lens, but I'm finding that's not the case, I'm simply more picky. The 28mm is not L-quality, but it's very good for what it is. On a full-frame 5D it's brilliant to use, just enough heft to make it not feel cheap but light enough to not be a burden. At f/1.8 it's a bit soft and lacks contrast, but it's still very usable for low-light work. It improves dramatically even at f/2. Colors are spot-on, as opposed to many aftermarket lenses I've used, and AF is as good as I've come to expect from anything with USM.

    However, this is a lens that doesn't seem to like pixel density. On a 10D, my thoughts are the same for this lens as they are for the 5D. On a 40D, however, it remains soft at f/2 and only really improves in sharpness as you approach f/2.8. There also seems to be more bloom in highlight areas. It's harder to justify the purchase of this lens on a newer crop-sensor body since you're losing so many stops to image softness. In my opinion a lot of the "cool" factor of this lens is lost at 45mm, too.

    reviewed January 26th, 2011 (purchased for $360)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Razor sharp images, fast accurate and silent auto focus, light weight and built like a tank.
    A bit pricey but not bad.

    I recently bought my first camera to take to Europe.

    I had no idea what I was doing so studied long and late on the online sites and decided on the Canon 50D.

    I also got this lens for the low light indoor, no flash shots I would be taking. I stumbled right into optical excellence, beginners' luck I guess.

    As I had no photographic experience I used the camera's auto scene modes and took every pic with different settings till I got what I wanted.

    The thing that struck me first was how all the images shot in the dark interiors were brighter than what I was seeing with my eyes!

    Color and contrast were exceptional even in very low lighting. I didn't even know enough to manually focus in dim light and most shots were great.

    Outdoor landscapes were sharply focused all the way through the optical range using Canon's A-Dep setting. It basically sets a high aperture setting and lets fly.

    I recently read an online review that said this lens has very poor image quality.

    I went back to look at my results and am even more amazed at them given the fact that as a complete beginner the camera/lens combo did all the work and still got some amazing shots. The low light ones really show what the lens can do.

    A friend of mine who travels all over the world has never had anything but a cheap point and shoot.
    Now that he's seen my results he's going to get real equipment to record his travels.

    My son also wants to get into photography after seeing the night shots I took in Paris while riding down the Seine River.

    Two converts with one lens,what else needs to be said?

    reviewed July 18th, 2010 (purchased for $489)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Perfect for indoors low-light portraits
    Forget it in architecture shots

    This lens really shines when comes to portraits of children indoors in poor lightning. Its tack sharp on short distance. Not so sharp if you want to take a picture of a group of people. I use it set to 2,0 when my three grandchildren (boys) visit every sunday. I tried my 17-55 2,8 and my 50 1,4. Both great lenses, but the images can´t match those taken by the 28 1,8. If I use my flashgun 430 ex ii the images are almost to sharp. The bokeh is wonderful by the way.

    /JT

    reviewed February 4th, 2010 (purchased for $5)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Fast, accurate, never miss AF. Excellent center sharpness even wide open.
    Price a bit steep ...

    The standard criticism of this lens revolves around (a) corner softness wide open, and (b) CA issues. But unless you're in the habit of putting your main subject in the corner in a low-light situation where f1.8 counts, the sharpness issue is moot; this lens if plenty sharp in the center wide open. Similarly, unless you're shooting landscapes in daylight at f1.8, the CA "problem" never arises.

    Great lens, particularly for folks looking for a normal lens on an APS-C frame. Dead-bang AF accuracy - and great speed - at all settings. Blows away focus-troubled products like the Sigma 30mm f1.4.

    reviewed December 24th, 2009 (purchased for $475)
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    very fast lens, good price
    not terribly sharp

    I use this lens on a 1.6x crop body and take it mainly to museums, churches and other dark places. In places where you can't use a flash this lens is the difference between a decent shot and none at all. The lens is small, unobtrusive and has a good solid feel to it.
    I tried it for portraits once, because the room was too small for a 85 or 100, but the photos looked weird and weren't really usable. It is however quite decent for landscape, outdoor and campfire scenery.

    reviewed June 30th, 2007
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (62 reviews)
    great image quality
    none

    On a crop camera, this is the much cheaper alternative to the 35/1.4L as a "normal" lens. For many - the price difference between the two doesn't translate to an image quality difference. This lens is 90% of the 35L at 30% of the price.

    Highly recommended.

    reviewed January 5th, 2007
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (10 reviews)
    Useable at near-max aperture, high-speed low-drag
    AF accuracy in sub-optimal light

    This is a splendid little lens which has forced me to be less lazy on my feet. I like it as an indoor lens when quarters are tight and the light is low. It improves dramatically from 1.8 to 2, and I find that I can achieve a good number of keepers at that aperture — better to have a little less sharpness for the sake of the shutter speed, but really, f/2 produces quite good quality. Above about f/5.6 it's impressively sharp (or f/4, by the SLR gear tests). Its small size make people less unsettled by the photographer's presence, especially when he's up close getting a tight shot with a short lens.

    Autofocus is another issue. I'm not sure if it's the lens or the body (350d), but at distances of over eight or ten feet, focus precision is really inconsistent. Perhaps it's because of the stage lights, or maybe the subject was isolated enough from the background; my EF-S 17-85 is more accurate and hunts a bit less at 28mm given the same conditions. Nonetheless I only feel comfortable using this lens at close range. The wideangle nature combined with a small viewfinder makes it very difficult to manual focus in conditions where the autofocus won't do. I know available light is tough, but this is the sort of lens designed for such situations. As usual, good light solves the AF issues.

    reviewed December 31st, 2006
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (9 reviews)
    Relatively small and lightweight, very sharp
    none

    This is a great lens on a full frame body, like the 5D or 1Ds series cameras. My copy is significantly sharper and less prone to flare than my 16-35 f2.8 zoom, even wide open and it focusses very quickly (much faster than my 50 f1.4). It is a terrific lens with no negatives.

    http://web.mac.com/kurtzjack/iWeb/

    reviewed July 22nd, 2006 (purchased for $400)