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Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Lens Review

Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews this bright wide-angle Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM lens. Find out how it performs in our review.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM
Price : £388
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Handling and features
Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM

This classic wide angle prime from Canon provides a wide angle field of view, fast, silent focusing and a bright f/1.8 maximum aperture. With this lens costing around £380, could it be the perfect budget solution for hand held low light shooting?

Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Handling and features

The lens barrel is constructed from tough, shiny black plastic with a gold accent towards the filter ring. It only weighs 310g, so should feel as at home on compact DSLR bodies as it does on the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III used for testing.

Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM

An Ultrasonic motor powers the autofocus, and focusing is fast as a result. Focusing accuracy can be a little hit and miss, especially at wide apertures, so extra care may need to be taken to ensure the image is properly focused. Manual focus adjustments can be made at any time, whether the lens is set to AF or MF. The focusing ring has a slightly gritty feel to it and it tend to tighten up as it is moved towards either end of the focusing range. This can make applying fine adjustments a little tricky, especially if attempting to focus on something near the lens' closest focusing distance, which is 25cm.

Focusing is performed internally, which means the 58mm filter ring does not rotate. This is ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters.

Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM

Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Performance

As far as resolution is concerned, this lens disappoints, especially at apertures faster than f/2.8. At f/1.8 clarity in the centre of the image is fairly poor. Images taken at this setting has a hazy appearance, thanks to uncorrected spherical aberrations robbing images of any contrast or sharpness. The less said about the quality towards the edges of the frame at f/1.8 the better.

Stopping down does improve quality across the frame as the effect of spherical aberrations on the image diminish. A big jump in sharpness level in the centre of the frame can be seen with the lens stopped down to f/2.8, but the clarity towards the edges of the frame doesn't reach good levels until the lens is stopped down beyond f/8.

Peak sharpness across the frame is achieved at f/11, where clarity in the centre is excellent, and very good towards the edges of the frame.

Resolution at 28mm
Resolution at 28mm

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations can be an issue at wide apertures also. At f/2, fringing exceeds one pixel width, which may cause issues with images that have high contrast edges towards the periphery.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is quite pronounced, as you might expect from a wide aperture lens like this. At f/1.8 the corners are 2.12 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination is achieved when stopped down to f/5.6 or beyond.

Chromatic aberration at 28mm
Chromatic aberration at 28mm

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III using Imatest.

Only a mild level of 1.49% barrel distortion is present and the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which should make it relatively straightforward to correct in image editing software afterwards. Although level of distortion present is only mild, it's still probably slightly more than you might expect from a prime lens like this.

No lens hood is supplied as standard by Canon with the 28mm f/1.8. Unfortunately flare and loss of contrast can be be issues when shooting into the light, or with a light source, such as the sun in the frame.

Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Sample Photos

Value for Money

With the poor performance at fast apertures considered, it is difficult to see the value this lens brings to the table. Most f/2.8 zooms will perform better across the frame than this lens at f/2.8, even though sharpness in the centre is excellent.

An alternative is available from Sigma. Their 28mm f/1.8 costs around £345 and I would hope that it performs better than Canon's offering at fast apertures.

Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Verdict

If ever there was a case for updating an old lens design, then this is a pretty strong one. At apertures faster than f/2.8, this lens could be considered unusable, that is unless you're after a hazy, soft focus effect.

With the lens stopped down, it can yield pleasing results, but then if this lens can only be used stopped down, it may be worth saving your £380 to put towards a high quality zoom in the same range, or any other alternative, for that matter.

Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Pros

Good build quality
Reasonably lightweight

Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Cons

Poor optical performance at fast apertures
CA at fast apertures
Price versus performance doesn't add up


Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Canon EF USM
Focal Length28mm
Angle of View0 - 65
Max Aperturef/1.8
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size58mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Min Focus25cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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JackAllTog Plus
6 4.1k 58 United Kingdom
21 Jun 2012 10:41AM
Excellent review and advice, reviews that show the weaknesses are very valuable thanks.

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13 Nov 2013 4:38PM
This is sad, when a well respected manufacturer is producing a lens like this. I would thought they would be doing their up most to produce the best possible to keep ahead of the up coming manufacturers stealing their customers. Both Canon and Nikon will have to do something quickly or they both will continue to lose out to Sony and Fujifilm who are ready taking a larger share of the market than I thought they could have done a few years ago.
joshwa Plus
4 755 United Kingdom
14 Nov 2013 9:10AM
Canon has released the 28mm f/2.8 IS lens as a replacement, although it is twice the price:

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