Canon EF 28mm f/2.8
(From Canon lens literature) Highly portable wide-angle lens with a good price-to-performance ratio. Its light weight of 6.5 oz. (185g) makes it ideal as your standard wide-angle lens. The high-precision aspherical lens minimizes distortion and other aberrations for sharp and high-contrast images.
Prior to beginning this site and seeing just how lenses really performed on an objective basis, we were inclined to believe that the claims of the prime-lens snobs were more smoke than fire. Now though, as we're seeing the results of more and more rigorous tests of prime lenses, we admit they were right all along: There's no question that you get far higher optical quality from even moderately-priced primes than from many expensive zoom lenses.
The Canon 28mm f/2.8 illustrates this nicely. Despite selling for well under $200, it delivers excellent sharpness wide open and lower distortion than all but the most expensive zooms. On a sub-frame DSLR like the Canon EOS-20D, it's impressive sharp even wide open, and only gets sharper as you stop it down, finally softening slightly from diffraction limiting as you progress past f/8. Light falloff is impressively low for a moderate wide-angle lens, at only 1/3 EV wide open, dropping to just over 1/10 EV from f/4 on. Maximum barrel distortion is 0.5%, probably about average for both zooms and primes at this focal length. The only significant limitation we found with it was that its chromatic aberration on the 20D was higher than average, particularly at smaller apertures. (Oddly, CA was much higher on the 20D than on the 5D. Some of this can be explained by the 5D's larger pixels, but not a difference as large as we actually saw. This may be an artifact of how the cameras focused: Our software looks for the best blur numbers overall, weighted towards center sharpness, but making sure that the corners don't go crazy in the process. Given the larger image circle of the 5D, it seems likely that the point of best overall focus was shifted such that the lens' curvature of field (which will tend to produce both softness and CA) was slightly compensated for by the process of choosing the best overall focus.)
Mechanically, you can tell that this isn't a thousand-dollar "L" model, as it has the somewhat plasticky feel of most inexpensive lenses. It worked very well though, and there's no arguing with the results. (We do wish there were a bit less CA though.)
Full-Frame Test Notes:
On the full-frame EOS-5D, the little 28mmm F/2.8 shows its weak points a bit more, but it still does an excellent job, particularly in terms of sharpness corner to corner. The corners are slightly soft wide open, but closing down just one stop to f/4 gives nice crisp results corner to corner, and things stay very sharp as you stop down, increasing slightly at f/11. Even at f/22, the 5D's larger pixels help keep diffraction limiting to a reasonable level. As noted in our sub-frame results, chromatic aberration tested much better on the 5D than on the 20D, perhaps because the point of optimum focus was slightly different. About the only weakness this lens has on a full-frame camera is its light falloff ("vignetting"), which hits a high of one EV at f/2.8, dropping to 0.6 EV at f/4, finally reaching its minimum of 1/3 EV at f/8 and beyond. Vignetting is pretty easy to correct for in Photoshop though, so with minor work, this lens is an excellent match for full-frame cameras like the EOS-5D and 1Ds Mark II. (And on full-frame cameras, 28mm is a pretty useful wide angle too.)
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by lucasbutchart (3 reviews)small, lightweight, sharp, affordablecould have a tougher build
Just wanted to offset the bad reviews with a good one. This lens produces sharp images on my 5D and T2i.reviewed March 31st, 2012 (purchased for $50)
Even at f2.8 the images look crisp and the colors are good. Of course with these newer DSLRs color can be tweaked in-camera so it's not a big issue. But I would say this lens' color is neutral, like the Canon ef 50mm f1.8.
I tested this lens against my ef 50mm f1.8 and found the 50mm f1.8 to be sharper wide open, but still the 28mm was acceptable.
I can't compare this one against the ef 28mm f1.8 USM but imagine the USM version is better.
I found this little gem for 30 euros and in perfect condition. It is a great lens value compared to $500 for the USM. This one is also smaller, lighter and has a more standard 52mm front thread size.
Don't hesitate if you run across one. Many may be 15-20 years old so sample variation from heavy use may be a factor in so many bad reviews of this lens.
Test it first if you can.
Here's a review:
6 out of 10 points and not recommended by Ashley_Pomeroy (6 reviews)Small, very cheap, sharp and good walkabout range on APS-CAncient design, not great on full-frame, redundant
There's an odd thing; I have a Canon 24mm f/2.8, which has a terrible blur plot here at SLRGear but performs well on my full-frame Canon 5D MkII when stopped down to f/8. It is sharp in the extreme corners at that aperture and beyond. I also have a 28mm f/2.8, which is the other way around, in the sense that SLRGear's profile is glowing but my copy, at least, is very unimpressive.reviewed May 5th, 2010
Having said that, my lens was made in August 1987, so it's almost as old as the EOS system itself and might have been knocked about. The optical design apparently dates from the FD era. The lens is still in production, unchanged since it was introduced, although it is overshadowed (and should really have been dropped in favour of) the 28mm f/1.8. For a while it was, I assume, a popular "second lens" for people who bought a Canon Rebel SLR and a 35-80mm kit zoom combination. Subsequently it has assumed a role as a decent "normal" lens on APS-C digital cameras, although Canon's modern 18-55mm IS is nowadays a much better choice.
On a full-frame camera, my copy of the lens is sharp in the middle at all apertures, with a bit of glow at f/2.8, but it gets very sharp when stopped down. However the corners are no better than my old 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 zoom lens, and are objectively not great, even when stopped right down. The extreme edges are downright mushy at wider apertures than f/5.6. The 24mm f/2.8 is much better in this respect. I have no complaints with regards to colour and contrast.
On a physical level it has a noisy focus mechanism and a titchy manual focus ring. It's built to a higher standard than the 50mm f/1.8 but not by much. It doesn't seem particularly robust but then again my copy is twenty-three years old and still works. The 24mm f/2.8 doesn't rotate or extend during operation, whereas the 28mm f/2.8 has a filter thread section that moves in and out when focusing. As with the 50mm f/1.8 MkII I am wary of screwing anything too tightly into the thread.
It appears to be the second-cheapest Canon prime lens on the used market, after the 50mm f/1.8, because nobody really wants it. The 50mm f/1.8 is one of those lenses that people buy and keep because it fills a niche and it has emotional appeal. The 28mm feels anonymous and a bit pointless. There are oodles of cheap old manual focus 28mm lenses out there, some of which are excellent performers - the Olympus OM 28mm f/2, f/2.8 and f/3.5, for example, and also the Contax/Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 Distagon. The Zeiss will set you back a bit, but you could buy a pair Olympus 28mm f/3.5's for the price of a used Canon 28mm f/2.8 and pay for the postage too.
And that is that. Even in the 1990s it had been made redundant by a legion of 24, 28-Something zoom lenses. On a full-frame camera the corner sharpness is insufficient for my needs, and on a crop-sensor camera it offers very little over a decent zoom lens.
3 out of 10 points and not recommended by pepstein (5 reviews)Small and lightNot sharp, chromatic aberration
Tested on a full frame body, my copy of this lens seems even worse than average, as it is sharpest at f/16 to f/22, where diffraction normally makes sharpness decrease from its peak. Chromatic aberration and blurry corners make me wonder when I'd ever choose to use the lens. I'd love to have something small and light for hiking photography, but this lens isn't good enough. The noisy auto-focus is annoying, but I'd gladly put up with it if image quality was better.reviewed June 25th, 2008
5 out of 10 points and not recommended by _Mike_D (12 reviews)Small, seemingly well builtbroke after 5 months, very soft wide open.
This is the only canon lens that I regret buying. I bought it thinking it would be a good walk around ~50mm lens, but after a few shots I was surprised how soft and bland looking my shots were. After a while, I found that stopping down to f5.0 or so corrected many of the problems. But soon after that the apature ring got stuck in it smallest position.reviewed January 1st, 2007 (purchased for $150)
I probably just got a bad copy, but I still would not recommend this lens to anyone.
8 out of 10 points and recommended by jon (1 reviews)cheap, great image qualitynoisy when focusing
Got this lens second hand for $70 bucks, and it turned out to be my most loved lens. i still shoot film and i have this on my cam most of the time. i shoot mostly landscape and although 28mm is sometimes not wide enough, i get by pretty well with this baby.reviewed November 15th, 2006 (purchased for $70)
Focusing speed is slow and noisy, but not a big problem. good thing the front element doesn't move when you focus, so using a polarizer won't be a problem. Image quality is way better than any consumer zooms (even with mid range priced zooms).
One thing i like, it has almost exactly the same built as the older 50 1.8 mark I, which has a metal mount and a distance scale.
For digital shooters(with cropped sensors) who needs a normal lens, nothing can beat this lens for the IQ at this price.
8 out of 10 points and recommended by drwho9437 (9 reviews)Light, sharp, flare resistant/contrastA bit slow, noisy
I use to have one of these. Its a fine lens, but I felt my 35 f2.0 all but replaced it. This lens has very few elements in it. I say this because I noted when I used it that it was a good performer looking into the sun, pretty flare resistant and maintained contrast pretty well compared to lenses I had used up to that day.reviewed November 15th, 2006 (purchased for $160)
I would only complain really that it is 2.8. At this focal length that doesn't give you quite enough DOF control I don't think. You can't really isolate a subject as well as with the 35 f2 or the sigma 30 1.4 etc.
Its still a fine lens though and has its uses, find the DOF chart and see if it suits you. It like all its twins in this series has a noisy focusing motor but its quick and gets the job done.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by David Hay (8 reviews)Small, light, cheap, sharp.Noisy AF.
I bought this lens second-hand. It is well corrected with little barrel distortion. It produces high contrast images sharp from edge to edge. It came with a lens hood but I rarely need to use it as flare is not a problem. Manual focus is light but rough and AF is noisy although quite quick.reviewed November 7th, 2006 (purchased for $143)
5 out of 10 points and not recommended by joe_e_e (2 reviews)price, sizeimage quality
Perhaps I had a bad exemplar of this lens, but its image quality on my 20D sucked. At f/2.8 it was quite unsharp even at the centre. At f/4 image quality improved dramatically, but was still below my 17-40/4@28/4. At f/8 the two were just about equal.reviewed November 5th, 2006
I only heard good word about this lens, and the test here at SLR-gear is quite positive. But as I was looking for a high-speed "normal" prime for my 20D, this lens certainly failed to impress me. I should probably test another exemplar at some point.