Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens Review

Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens Review

When DSLRs first became popular, the Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens was THE general purpose lens to have. No other lens covering this focal length range or a similar range came close to the image quality, build quality and focus performance of this 1993-introduced lens. The Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens was my first DSLR lens upon moving to the Canon system with the Canon EOS D60. I had no regrets with this decision.

The introduction of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens, with improvements that included weather sealing and an important-for-most additional 4mm of wide angle focal length ended the 28-70 L's reign as king of the general purpose range. And now, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens has improved upon the version I lens with notably improved image quality. Here is a comparison between these three Canon L Series Lenses:

Comparison: Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens

with hood: Retracted | Extended    no hood: Retracted | Extended

For most people, the general purpose focal length range is what they need and use most frequently. Combine that range with a wide-as-it-get-on-a-zoom f/2.8 max aperture and you have a lens that fills needs ranging from wedding photography to indoor sports action photography to landscape photography and MANY other uses.

The image quality of the Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens is quite adequate for professional needs. The 28-70 L lens I evaluated is very sharp in the center with a wide open (f/2.8) aperture at 28mm with a gradual decline in sharpness until relatively soft center results are experienced at 70mm and f/2.8. Wide open, the corners at 28mm are slightly soft and do not change significantly until 70mm where the corners are noticeably softer.

At f/4, the corners show a nice improvement in sharpness and by 70mm, the entire frame is much improved. Even more sharpness improvement is seen at f/5.6 - especially at 70mm.

Typical for a zoom lens is barrel distortion at the wide end transitioning to pincushion distortion at the long end. The 28-70 L shows a moderate amount of flare.

The Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens incorporates Ring USM (Ultrasonic Motor) AF. This lens internally focuses quickly and quietly. As you would expect from a quality lens, the front element does not rotate during focusing and FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is enabled.

The 28-70 L is not remarkable in its close-focusing capabilities as seen in the chart below.

ModelMFDMM
Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens13.8"(350mm)0.21x
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens11.0"(280mm)0.22x
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0 L USM Lens11.0"(280mm)0.25x
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens13.8"(350mm)0.16x
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens9.8"(250mm)0.34x
Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens15.4"(390mm)0.28x
Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens17.7"(450mm)0.24x
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens15.0"(380mm)0.21x
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens15.0"(380mm)0.29x
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens17.7"(450mm)0.23x
Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens19.7"(500mm)0.18x
Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens19.7"(500mm)0.19x
Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 L IS USM Lens27.6"(700mm).030x

The Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens has a high quality build with smooth focus and zoom rings. Like the 24-70mm L (but unlike the 24-70 L II - and most other zoom lenses), the 28-70 L extends to its longest length at its widest focal length.

A benefit of this extension direction is that the large lens hood (included) mounted to the non-extending portion of the lens barrel provides proper flare protection throughout the full focal length range. Most extending lenses are only optimally protected from flare at their widest focal length.

Note that the lens hood shown in this review is a non-Canon EW-83BII Lens Hood.

Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens Product Images

Select View:  MFD |    MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    MFD |    Rotated        Compare >

With a solid build and wide aperture (lots of glass), this is not a lightweight lens.

ModelWeightDimensions w/o HoodFilterYear 
Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens20.3 oz(575g)3.2 x 3.4"(81.6 x 87.5mm)72mm2009
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens22.6 oz(640g)3.5 x 4.4"(88.5 x 111.6mm)82mm2007
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0 L USM Lens16.8 oz(475g)3.3 x 3.8"(84 x 97mm)77mm2003
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens22.8 oz(645g)3.3 x 4.4"(83.5 x 110.6mm)77mm2006
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens7.1 oz(200g)2.7 x 3.3"(68.5 x 84.5mm)58mm2011
Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens16.9 oz(480g)3 x 3.8"(76.6 x 96mm)67mm2012
Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens21.0 oz(595g)3.1 x 4"(78.6 x 102mm)72mm2008
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens28.4 oz(805g)3.5 x 4.4"(88.5 x 113mm)82mm2012
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens33.5 oz(950g)3.3 x 4.9"(83 x 124mm)77mm2002
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens23.7 oz(670g)3.3 x 4.2"(83.5 x 107mm)77mm2005
Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens31.1 oz(880g)3.3 x 4.6"(83.2 x 117.6mm)77mm1993
Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens19.1 oz(540g)3.1 x 3.8"(78 x 97mm)72mm1998
Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 L IS USM Lens59.0 oz(1670g)3.6 x 7.6"(92 x 194mm)77mm2004

 
For many more comparisons, review the complete Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.

The common 77mm filter size will be convenient for those with L-lens collections, allowing sharing of filters among lenses.

The reviewed 28-70 L Lens was purchased used. Since the Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens was discontinued in 2002, you might have to search hard to find a reliable copy of this lens.

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