Review: Canon 28mm f2.8 IS (Canon EF)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS review images product shot front (1 of 1)ISO 4001-30 sec at f - 8.0

Canon’s 28mm f2.8 IS is one of the company’s latest additions into the wide angle image stabilized market. Like the 35mm f2 IS that we also previously reviewed, the lens is a wide angle stabilized optic designed for the photographer that loves to shoot wide while stopped down and for the person that loves to shoot video and wants an affordable option. And like many of Canon’s newer lenses, it shows that the company knows that they’re on top and doesn’t want anyone to dethrone them anytime soon.

A lens like this will not only appeal to a landscape photographer, but also those that want to shoot event and weddings but can’t afford L glass. And while it is really quite good, it isn’t perfect.

Pros and Cons

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS first impressions product photos (1 of 7)ISO 2001-125 sec at f - 2.8

Pros

– Solid build quality

– IS at a wide focal length can make shooting much easier

– Very compact lens

– Sharp

Cons

– A slower aperture than I’d really like

Gear Used

For this review we used the Canon 5D Mk II with the Canon 28mm f2.8 IS lens. We also used it with the Canon 580 EX II, 430 EX II, and Phottix Odin wireless triggers.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the B&H Photo Listing of the lens.

Performance
Focal Length 28 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/2.8
Minimum: f/22
Camera Mount Type Canon EF
Format Compatibility 35mm Film / Full-Frame Digital Sensor
Canon (APS-C)
Angle of View 75°
Minimum Focus Distance 9″ (22.86 cm)
Groups/Elements 7/9
Diaphragm Blades 7
Features
Image Stabilization Yes
Autofocus Yes
Tripod Collar No
Physical
Filter Thread Front: 58 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 2.69 x 2.02″ (6.83 x 5.13 cm)
Weight 9.2 oz (261 g)

Ergonomics

This section is pulled from the ergonomics section of our first impressions.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS first impressions product photos (4 of 7)ISO 8001-60 sec at f - 1.8

Canon’s 28mm f2.8 IS is a pretty darn small lens. When you hold it, it is synonymous with gripping onto a small fruit–smaller than an apple but larger than a strawberry (think kiwi-sized). With that said, the front of the lens follows Canon’s minimalist style and has nary anything jarring.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS first impressions product photos (5 of 7)ISO 8001-60 sec at f - 2.8

The finish is made from plastic and has a textured feel: which is deviation from their older smooth finish. We personally like the textured feel more–especially when coupled with the smaller size because it gives a better feeling of having a good grip on the lens.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS first impressions product photos (7 of 7)ISO 8001-60 sec at f - 2.8

When you look right down at the lens, you’ll notice a depth of field scale for manual focusing. This is better than Canon’s previous attempts, but they still don’t have it quite right.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS first impressions product photos (6 of 7)ISO 8001-60 sec at f - 2.8

On the side of the lens is the control layout: here you’ll spy IS and auto/manual focusing. We’re much more used to just having one control on a wide angle lens like this, so the second switch will take some getting used to.

Build Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS review images product shots (1 of 1)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 10

The Canon 28mm f2.8 IS has a solid exterior with a textured finish. The texture makes the lens feel better and also gives you more gripping power in contrast to Canon’s older smooth finish.

We took this lens to a beach wedding where it was subjected to lots and lots of sand blowing onto it. When I brought it back home, I cleaned the contacts and any switch or opening with isopropyl alcohol. It continued to work flawlessly and never failed on me during the wedding. There was one point where I needed to switch lenses and the camera got sand inside from the wind. The lens and camera still continued to function.

Ease of Use

This lens is as simple as can possibly be. You point, focus, shoot, and that’s all. Like other Canon autofocus lenses, it has a depth of field scale that is nearly useless. But otherwise, you can just manually focus it.

The only thing that we’d recommend keeping in mind is the fact that there is IS built in. So if your camera is in a stable position and not handheld, we recommend turning it off.

Autofocus

Snappy, accurate, and smooth: the Canon 28mm f2.8 IS focuses quickly in good light and low light situations. With the Canon 5D Mk II, it was able to focus quickly on moving subjects at night using the center focusing point and a tad slower using the other points. If you use Canon’s newer cameras, this shouldn’t be as much of a problem.

The reason why the lens focuses so quickly is because of the very light lens elements inside.

Image Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS review images (4 of 12)ISO 4001-40 sec at f - 2.8

For this review, we edited many of our images using VSCO Film Pack 3 that simulates the look of instant film. While the presets render images to look softer, we normalized the sharpness and clarity levels for the sake of the review.

When you really think about it, no one is making a bad lens these days–at least no one reputable is. Some options, however, are better than others. And that applies to this lens as well. Canon’s 28mm f2.8 IS is a fantastic lens with awesome image quality that anyone will be pleased with. It is sharp, contrasty and though it suffers from vignetting it isn’t too terrible in regards to the image that you get out of the camera. However, that vignetting is nearly gone by f5.6.

As for the other aspects of this lens, we have nary a complaint and loads of compliments.

Bokeh

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS first impressions (19 of 31)ISO 4001-800 sec at f - 2.8
We wouldn’t really describe the bokeh of this lens as creamy, but we can surely call it smooth. This bokeh isn’t going to make you fall head over heels like you would to a cute suitor on OKCupid, but it will at least have you giving it a second look. Because of this reason, feel free to shoot with it wide open or stopped down. We say this because many lenses that have fast apertures and positively scrumptious bokeh may be done an injustice stopped down as the lenses exhibit their best image quality wide open.

Color Fringing

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS first impressions (9 of 31)ISO 1001-1600 sec at f - 2.8

Canon’s years of experience producing lenses has helped them to mostly nail this color fringing problem down to a T. Throughout our review, we witnessed barely any color fringing except in the most extreme of circumstances x17. In the end, that means one less slider that you need to push or pull in Lightroom.

Color Rendering

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS first impressions (15 of 31)ISO 1001-80 sec at f - 2.8

Out of the camera, the color rendering with this lens is a bit muted if you have it on the standard color profile. However, I typically shoot with my own custom setup that usually gives me beautiful, punchy colors. The 28mm f2.8 IS gave me punchier colors than previous Canon glass has, but is isn’t as punchy as what Rokinon or Zeiss might give me all across the board.

Sharpness

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS review images (7 of 12)ISO 6401-40 sec at f - 4.0

Something that we really want to praise this lens on is its sharpness. Though we feel that its 35mm f2 IS cousin is a tad sharper, we really can’t complain about what this lens can do. The only way that one can take an unsharp photo with this lens is by either misfocusing or not turning on the IS–unless you’re shooting at a super slow shutter speed.

Distortion

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS review images (6 of 12)ISO 1001-80 sec at f - 5.6

This lens was doing so stellar until we got to the distortion part of it. Oh man, will it distort when shooting people. However, if you use Lightroom’s lens profile and the new Upright tool, you should be fine.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS first impressions (6 of 31)ISO 1001-2000 sec at f - 2.8

If your subject isn’t up close and personal and you apply the two fixer methods I list, you’ll have little to no issues with this lens.

Extra Image Samples

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS review images (1 of 12)ISO 8001-30 sec at f - 3.5

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS review images (11 of 12)ISO 32001-25 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS review images (10 of 12)ISO 16001-25 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS review images (9 of 12)ISO 64001-30 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS review images (8 of 12)ISO 6401-50 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS review images (5 of 12)ISO 1001-800 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS review images (3 of 12)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 28mm f2.8 IS review images (2 of 12)ISO 4001-80 sec at f - 4.0

Conclusions

Because we know that loads of aggregation sites will do nothing else but pull our conclusions and people in forums and many readers will follow through and just read that section of this review, note this: the Canon 28mm f2.8 IS is a stunning lens. It has an excellent build quality, can deliver wonderful images, focuses fast, and is nice and small. But to be honest, we couldn’t warm up to it. Personally, I feel that f2.8 is too slow of a maximum aperture and all of my own lenses are f1.4–I only stop down that much when I’m using lighting or I really need to.

If Canon gave this lens an f2 aperture, it would have been a perfect update to their 28mm f1.8 currently on the market. We would not have cared about a larger size as long as we had that extra stop of aperture speed. And trust us–it matters.

But if you don’t mind f2.8, then spring for this lens. You won’t be sorry and despite the moderately high price tag, you’ll enjoy it for everything that it is.

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