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Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 Prime Lens Review - On My Canon EOS 350d / Digital Rebel XT

Have a look at a slideshow of photographs taken with the Canon EF 28mm f2.8 Prime Lens.

(All of these photo's below have been post processed in Adobe Camera Raw, Photoshop, Nik Silver Efex Pro, and the HDR's in Photomatix.)

I'll start off by saying that I like this lens a lot. It's the "default" glass my my 350d - the lens I always have on my camera. I may swap it out for longer focal lengths, but I always switch back to the Canon EF 28mm f/2.8.

The Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 is a prime lens, which means that has a fixed focal length, so no zoom ring here. If you want to get closer to your subject you'll have to use your feet! A 28mm lens is usually considered to be "wide-angle", you'll get quite a lot of the scene in front of you into your photograph. Bear in mind that on crop-sensor digital camera, like my Canon EOS 350d / Digital Rebel XT, the 28mm will behave more like a 50mm, so it's almost like a standard lens. (Whereas the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 is more like a 75mm on a crop sensor, so it's a bit telephoto.)

The advantage of a prime is sharpness at a great price. With the simple design required to make a 28mm prime versus the complications of a zoom, you can get a very sharp lens for your money. It also is smaller and a lot lighter than it's larger and heavier variable focal-length cousins.

The EF 28mm also offers a pretty "fast" aperture. Being able to open up to f2.8 means that this lens can let a lot more light in than the average kit lens - great for low-light situations or where you want a really blurred background. Being a 28mm you can hand-hold at fairly slow shutter speeds anyway (say down to 1/50th), so you can tighten that aperture right up for super sharp shots or expansive depth of field and not have to worry about the shutter speed.

View From Forton Lake Bridge

Look at it big.

This 28mm also offers a nice little depth of field viewing window, more common with more expensive camera lenses. This enables you to judge the depth of field, or how much of a shot is going to be in focus, at different apertures and distances.

You've also got auto and manual focussing, changed by a small switch on the side of the lens. Because of the lack of split prisms in dSLR viewfinders, manual focussing can be tricky, but at least it's there for those tricky low-light situations when the on-board AF can't seem to get a lock on.

Promenade, Stokes Bay

Look at it big.

This is a very light lens - almost as light as the EF 50mm f/1.8. You could have this lens on your camera all day, around your neck or in your bag, and it wouldn't weigh you down. The cost of this is obviously build quality, the Canon 28mm isn't a pro-spec lens. I wouldn't drop it or expose it to heavy rain, but it doesn't feel as cheap as the 50mm f1.8. Not that either lenses are bad, far from it, but we have to acknowledge that these budget lenses have to be treated with more care than their more expensive siblings.

Abandoned Buildings, Explosion Museum

Look at it big.

I got my 28mm as part of a pair on eBay. I got the 28mm f2.8 and the 75-300mm zoom together for £100 (with a cheap film slr), quite a bargain. They were being sold by someone selling some old Canon film gear on a friends behalf, so here's my little tip if you want to pick up cheap lenses on eBay: Search for Canon Film, and look for poorly listed and photographed EOS Film SLRs that come with lenses. You'll be amazed at what you could find!

Fishing Boat, Stokes Bay

Look at it big.

As for image quality, I've been impressed. There's some barrel distortion, where straight lines appear curved near the edges of the frame, but overall it's sharp and with plenty of contrast. I'm not into shooting test sheets, so have a look at these photos large (or original), and come up with your own conclusions. Remember that these are not as the photographs came out of the camera, all of the images have been heavily processed, but it will give you an idea of what you could produce with this lens.

View Along Promenade - Lee On Solent

Look at it big.

When you're new to dSLR photography (like me) it's easy to get caught up in the lens race, thinking that your photographs would be much better if only you could get the next, better glass. I started with cheap m42 lenses I bought from our local car boot sale, then moved on to EF lenses, but I think with the addition of the 28 f2.8 and 75-300 I've got all the glass I need for the time being.

The EF 35-105mm is a good walk-around lens (its currently on the front of my film slr, the 50e), this 28 is great for wide stuff, the 50 f1.8 for closer, sharp work, the 75-300 for long stuff, and the Lensbaby Composer for artistic messing around.

The only m42 lens that I still use regularly is the Soligor 90-230mm, which when paired with extension tubes makes a great macro set-up.

Solent Heights

Look at it big.

I mentioned it at the beginning of the review, but it worth repeating here. Don't think a prime, non-zoom, lens will limit your photography. Far from it, the great thing about primes is that they force you to move towards or away from you subject with your legs, and in the process you'll discover different angles and view-points that you wouldn't have seen if you had just stood there and used the zoom ring.

Fort Gilkicker Viewed From West

Look at it big.

I've found that with these wider focal lengths, it helps to think that this lens makes everything shoot away from the camera very quickly. Your camera height will appear higher than normal, so get down lower as a matter of course. The relative distance between objects appears increased, great for creating converging lines to give an impression of perspective, but you do have to watch out for distortion that could detract from what you're trying to achieve.

No. 2 Battery, Interpretation Centre, Stokes Bay, Gosport, WWII AA Emplacements

Look at it big.

I haven't done much portrait work with the 28mm, but if you were, I guess it would be worth keeping in mind the extreme perspective a wide lens gives. If you're up close noses appear bigger and features distorted. Perhaps not the best "beauty" lens, but you'll definitely get some interesting results.

Remember that the real advantage of the Canon EF 28mm f2.8 is the large angle of view you can squeeze into your photographs. Don't just think in terms of landscapes - how about sports, product or interior photography?

No. 2 Battery, Interpretation Centre, Stokes Bay, Gosport, Cannon

Look at it big.

I hope I've managed to convince you of the advantages of the 28mm f/2.8. It really is a good lens for the money, and I love it.

Cheers, Rob.

More Reviews Of The Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 Lens:

FM Reviews.

Photography Review.



Reader Comments (2)

These shots are beautiful, the contrast and tonal range are awesome. Did you use any filters? Some of them look like you used red filters. Or did you do that in post-processing?

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterandy prickett

Hi Andy!

The shots with the really dramatic skies are HDRs, but I always shoot in Colour them convert to black and white in post.

I'll often use a simulated red filter to darken the blue sky, which then goes almost black when converted.

I do my b & w's in PhotoShop with the Nik Silver Efex Pro Plug-in.

Thanks Rob.

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob_Nunn

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