Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS Lens Review

Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS Lens Review

The Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens delivers fast and accurate AF, very good image quality and image stabilization in a light, compact and moderately-priced package. This statement may sound familiar, and if you read the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Review, the rest of this review is also going to sound very familiar.

Canon EF 28mm IS Lens on Canon EOS 1D X

The 28mm f/2.8 IS and 24mm f/2.8 IS differ primarily by their 4mm difference in focal length. And, since these two lenses arrived in the same shipping box, this review and EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Review were created (mostly) simultaneously.

Replacing the 25-or-so-year-old and also-similar-to-each-other Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 Lens and Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 Lens, the 24mm and 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lenses offer improved image quality, add image stabilization and Ring-type USM AF, have reduced minimum focus distances and have a much improved build quality - including a much better MF ring than the replaced 1987/1988-era designs. A significantly higher price tag (at introdcution) is the big downside.

The 28mm focal length, while not quite as popular as the 24mm focal length, is still popular - and quite useful. I spent some time with the EF 28mm f/2.8 IS Lens while in the North Maine Woods. Following is my favorite 28mm f/2.8 IS capture from that trip. This is the beautiful Rocky Brook Falls.

EF 28mm f/2.8 IS Lens Sample Picture

The above image was captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR using a 2.5 sec, f/8 exposure at ISO 100. A circular polarizer filter was used to cut reflections.

As I said, focal length is the biggest and really, only, significant difference between this lens and the Canon 24mm f/2.8 IS Lens. Choose your focal length based first on the perspective you wish to capture with the proper framing achieved. Of course, if you are perspective-limited - limited in your ability to move closer (there is a big, deep drop off beyond the foreground rock in the above falls example) or farther away (trees and a cliff could have prevented this) - then chose your focal length for proper subject framing.

Back at the falls: Here is a comparison between the 24mm (Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens), 28mm and 40mm (Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Pancake Lens) focal lengths from a fixed position full frame DSLR.

Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Focal Length Range Example

When used on an APS-C format DSLR, the 28mm focal length delivers an angle of view similar to what a near-normal 44.8mm lens delivers on a full frame sensor format body. While a prime lens does not have the versatility of a zoom, the 44.8mm angle of view is about as general purpose as it gets for a prime lens.

28mm f/2.8 IS Lens on Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D

In general, uses for this lens are similar to what the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS Lens' uses are. The 24 IS would be my preference for landscape photography and the 28 IS would be my preference when people are in the frame.

In addition to landscape photography and portraits (don't frame portraits too tightly with this lens), many other indoor and outdoor 28mm uses can be found including large product photography, automobile photography, reportage/photojournalism ...

Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens on Canon EOS 1D X - Top/Slant

F/2.8 is a relatively narrow max aperture for a prime lens in this focal length, but matches the widest apertures available in any Canon zoom lens. F/2.8 is what I typically consider the minimum aperture for capturing action indoors or in very low light outdoors.

Sharing the honors with its sibling 24mm f/2.8 IS Lens, the Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens is the first Canon prime lens wider than 100mm to have image stabilization. The combination of an f/2.8 aperture, 28mm focal length and 4-stop IS makes the 28 IS, at review time, arguably the second most low-light-handholdable full frame format Canon lens available (just behind the 24 f/2.8 IS). And perhaps the second most handholdable Canon lens available.

Lenses being introduced with image stabilization far outnumber those coming without it. Image stabilization has matured nicely since it was first introduced, and the IS system in the 28 f/2.8 IS is example of this maturity.

The IS sound from this lens is barely audible. I have to put my ear to the lens to hear the light IS shhhhhhh that is mixed with light clicks when the lens is moved. The viewfinder shows no evidence of image stabilization going into effect (jumping/shaking/etc.) - aside from the stabilized view in the viewfinder.

With good technique and a stable, standing shooting position, I am getting a very good percentage of sharp shots at 1/5 - 1/4 second. Beyond 1/4 sec, the keeper rate drops off gradually with sharp images still obtainable at close to 1 sec exposures. The IS assistance I experience is about 3 stops.

Reality is that we are not going to get indoor stability when shooting in the wind and/or with unstable footing, but IS will still make a big difference - perhaps making the same relative difference in results. Case in point:

I like to trail run - for physical fitness and/or to get to the next shot faster. The 28 f/2.8, with its tiny size and light weight, is a good choice for this activity. On this particular day, I knew that the weather was unsettled - and perhaps setting up for a great shot. I also knew that rain was in the area and likely to hit (note that rain always looks the worst from inside).

I mounted the 28 f/2.8 IS to a 5D Mark III, grabbed a 58mm CP filter, put all in a Lowepro Toploader Pro 65 AW (for rain protection) and took off for a run. Sure enough, about 2 miles into my run (and about 600' of elevation increase) it started to rain. And this beautiful rainbow appeared.

Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Image Stabilization Sample Picture

I quickly installed the CP filter and began looking for an interesting shot. The above image, though not amazing, was my favorite from this run. It was shot handheld at a non-remarkable 1/25 sec.

Non-remarkable until you consider the distance/elevation gain I had just run (very heavy breathing), that I was holding the Lowepro case upside down and open over the camera (for rain protection) and that I was shooting one-handed. I love IS.

Image stabilization does not stop subject motion blur. You need a still subject for long exposures (unless, of course, motion blur is desired).

I am modestly surprised that Canon decided to not include the Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens in the L Series, but, like the 24 f/2.8 IS, the 28 f/2.8 IS has image quality that challenges these impressive lenses. The 28 f/2.8 IS had an introductory price that made adding weather sealing and the extra red paint around the end of the lens seem logical.

As usual, Canon made the 28mm f/2.8 IS Lens' MTF chart available at announcement time. Here is a comparison between the old and new 24 and 28 lenses.

Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens MTF Chart

Fast forward to reality, the new lenses are clearly sharper than the old ones. Here is a comparison: Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS vs. non-IS. The old lens is quite sharp in the center at f/2.8, but don't let its stronger barrel distortion make you think that it is better than it really is. Barrel distortion enlarges the center-of-the-chart details. The 28 IS is considerably sharper in the mid and peripheral areas of the image circle than the original EF 28.

The 28 IS is quite sharp across the frame at f/2.8 - and is razor sharp at f/4. There is no need to stop down any further for better image sharpness.

Peripheral shading in full frame corners is about 3 stops at f/2.8 (moderately strong, but not unusual) and about 1.5 stops at f/4.0. Stopping down to f/5.6 improves vignetting slightly on a full frame DSLR with about 1 stop of corner shading remaining at f/11. These amounts are very similar to the 24mm f/2.8 non-IS lens.

APS-C DSLR users should expect to see just over 1 stop of corner shading at f/2.8 - enough to be visible, but not strong.

The EF 28 IS shows a modest amount of CA in the corners - and as usual, CA will be most noticeable in full frame format sensor image corners. The previous 28mm f/2.8 Lens produces a similar amount of CA. CA does negatively affect perceived image sharpness in the outer portion of the image circle - unless corrected.

The 28 f/2.8 IS lens design has 4 additional lens elements (9 vs 5) over the previous non-IS design, but remarkably shows less flare than the previous lens. Almost none - flare is very well controlled.

The Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens has a small amount of barrel distortion - slightly less than the older 28. As usual, distortion is most noticeable when straight lines are placed near the edge of the frame. APS-C sensor format DSLRs will not likely notice distortion in EF 28mm IS images.

The 24 IS and its 7-blade (up from 5) rounded aperture delivers nice background blur quality (often referred to as bokeh). Click ion the image below for a comparison of several lenses focused on the same very close subject from a fix tripod position under a clear sky (opens in a new window).

Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Aperture Comparison

The obvious observations from these 5D III-captured images are that wider apertures and longer focal lengths deliver a more strongly blurred background. The 24 f/1.4 L II and 28 f/1.8, at their widest apertures, rule the blur game in this comparison.

Not quite as obvious is that the new 24 IS and 28 IS deliver smoother blur with more-rounded specular highlights than their predecessors. This difference is most noticeable in out of focus highlights (small flowers in this example) at stopped-down aperture settings (try comparing the f/5.6 results). Notice the 5-sided shapes created by the older 5 blade apertures.

Following is an outdoor image quality comparison shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III under clear skies (any clouds in the sky can change the lighting and unfairly change the images in a comparison). The 100% crops shared below are taken from near the lower left corner of the frame. Exposures are equalized.

These images were captured in RAW format and processed into 16-bit TIF images in DPP using the Standard Picture Style with a Sharpness setting of "1" (very low). Adobe Photoshop was used to output these 70-quality JPG crops.

Be aware of the location of the plane of sharp focus in each image - the DOF (Depth of Field) does not include all features shown at the widest apertures tested. Vignetting is very apparent at this location in the frame and the advantage goes to the wider aperture lenses when identical apertures are compared.

As I said earlier in the Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens review, I was evaluating the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens at the same time, so lenses with both focal lengths are exampled here. In this comparison, the camera was moved closer to the scene for the 24mm examples - the horizontal framing was closely matched for both focal lengths tested. Again, click on the image below to open the results.

Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Image Quality Comparison

The Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens would be my easy choice among the 28mm lenses compared here. You can see the slightly decreased barrel distortion in the 28 f/2.8 IS samples compared to the 28 f/2.8 non-IS in this example - watch the details in the near-corner examples change size. The 28 f/2.8 IS delivers a slightly brighter image with better color and contrast than the 28 f/2.8 non-IS.

I've never been a fan of the 28 f/1.8's image quality. Notice how the area of sharp focus is unusual in the samples from this lens - with the right side of the image not as sharp as the left from f/4 through f/8.

As I said earlier in this review, chose between the 24 and 28mm focal lengths based on your angle-of-view needs. Having both of these focal lengths in our kits is a luxury - not a requirement - for most photographers. I included more comparisons between the 24mm lenses in the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Review.

28mm f/2.8 IS Side View

Utilizing Canon's Ring-type USM (Ultrasonic Motor), the Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens internally focuses quickly, quietly and accurately. AI Servo performance is very good.

In a quiet environment, you will be able to hear the shuffling of elements inside the lens while autofocusing, but ... this is one of the quieter-focusing lenses available. FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is available, and filters do not rotate during focusing.

The EF 28 f/2.8 IS lens' autofocus system is a major upgrade from the older EF 28 f/2.8. And the manual focus system is at least as much improved.

The 28 IS has a moderately-small manual focus ring that is smooth and nicely damped. There is a nice amount of rotation and no play. You will see subject sizes change somewhat as this lens is focus-distance-adjusted, but the framed image remains smoothly centered.

Another focus-related improvement this lens enjoys over its predecessor is a shorter MFD (Minimum Focus Distance) and higher MM (Maximum Magnification). There are only two review-time-current non-macro and non-tilt-shift Canon prime lenses with a higher MM value. Those two lenses, the Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 Lens and Canon EF 300mm f/4.0 L IS USM Lens, with a 0.24x MM value, better the Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens by only 0.01x.

ModelMFDMM
Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens7.9"(200mm)0.15x
Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 L Tilt-Shift Lens9.8"(250mm)0.14x
Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM Lens9.8"(250mm)0.14x
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM Lens8.3"(210mm)0.16x
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens7.9"(200mm)0.23x
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 Lens9.8"(250mm)0.16x
Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens8.3"(210mm)0.34x
Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Lens9.8"(250mm)0.18x
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens9.1"(230mm)0.23x
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 Lens11.8"(300mm)0.13x
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L USM Lens11.8"(300mm)0.18x
Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 Lens9.8"(250mm)0.24x
Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Pancake Lens11.8"(300mm).18x
Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift Lens15.7"(400mm)0.16x
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens17.7"(450mm)0.15x
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens17.7"(450mm)0.15x
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens17.7"(450mm)0.15x
Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Macro Lens9.1"(230mm)0.50x

 
Having a lens that focuses very closely is often an advantage - especially for the creativity and flexibility close focusing allows.

Adding extension tubes to a wide angle lens generally makes a dramatic difference in that lens' abilities to focus closer. With the Canon EF 12mm Extension Tube II behind it, the 28 IS has a 0.71-0.50x MM spec. Use the Canon EF 25mm Extension Tube II and MM goes to 1.30-1.11x.

This lens is not compatible with Canon Extenders.

Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Product Images

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

The Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens has a clean, smooth, fixed-size design that is comfortable to carry and use. While light and small, the 28 IS feels solidly built. The barrel is made of an engineering plastic that has a nice quality feel to it. Plastic is light - light is an often-desired lens characteristic.

Smaller max apertures require less glass which also means less weight - and less size. The 28 f/2.8 IS is even shorter than the 24 f/2.8 IS - by .34" (8.5mm).

ModelWeightDimensions w/o HoodFilterYear 
Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens22.8 oz(645g)3.1 x 3.7"(80 x 94mm)mm2007
Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 L Tilt-Shift Lens28.9 oz(820g)3.5 x 4.2"(88.9 x 106.9mm)mm2009
Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM Lens14.3 oz(405g)3.1 x 2.8"(78 x 71mm)72mm1992
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM Lens22.9 oz(650g)3.5 x 4.2"(88.5 x 106.9mm)77mm2008
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens9.9 oz(280g)2.7 x 2.2"(68.4 x 55.7mm)58mm2012
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 Lens9.5 oz(270g)2.7 x 1.9"(68 x 49mm)58mm1988
Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens27.5 oz(780g)3.5 x 4.2"(88.5 x 106.9mm)82mm2009
Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Lens10.9 oz(310g)2.9 x 2.2"(74 x 56mm)58mm1995
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens9.2 oz(260g)2.7 x 2"(68.4 x 51.5mm)58mm2012
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 Lens6.5 oz(185g)2.6 x 1.7"(67 x 43mm)52mm1987
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L USM Lens20.5 oz(580g)3.1 x 3.4"(79 x 86mm)72mm1998
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens11.8 oz(335g)3.1 x 2.5"(77.9 x 62.6mm)67mm2012
Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 Lens7.4 oz(210g)2.6 x 1.7"(67 x 43mm)52mm1990
Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Pancake Lens4.6 oz(130g)2.7 x 0.9"(68.2 x 22.8mm)52mm2012
Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift Lens22.8 oz(645g)3.2 x 3.5"(81 x 90.1mm)72mm1991
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens19.2 oz(545g)3.4 x 2.6"(85.4 x 65.5mm)72mm2006
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens10.2 oz(290g)2.9 x 2"(74 x 51mm)58mm1993
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens4.6 oz(130g)2.7 x 1.6"(68 x 41mm)52mm1990
Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Macro Lens9.9 oz(280g)2.7 x 2.5"(68 x 63mm)52mm1987

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

I mentioned this being a good lens choice for trail running. I also carried the 28mm f/2.8 IS Lens along with the 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens, 70-300mm f/4-5.6 L IS USM Lens and an EOS 5D Mark III on a rough 6 mile, most-of-the-day hike in Maine. I barely knew that the smaller two lenses, weighing just over 1 lb total, were on my Lowepro belt.

As indicated in the above table, the 28 IS utilizes small and moderately common 58mm filters.

EF 28mm f/2.8 IS Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right in their fully retracted positions are the following lenses:

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 Lens
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 Lens
Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Lens
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM Lens

The same lenses are shown below in their fully extended states with their lens hoods in place.

Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

The 24mm f/2.8 IS is nearly identical to the 28 f/2.8 IS in appearance. You can essentially use the product images in the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens review interchangeably with those in this review.

Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens on Canon EOS 1D X - Angle

The optional release-lock-equipped Canon EW-65B Lens Hood is useful to have, but I feel overpriced. This lens hood is nicely made, looks nice and works well for flare protection. But all is not well in lens hood land.

Canon's side-pinch-only lens cap is very difficult to install or remove with the hood in place. The hood is not very deep, but the design of the rear of the lens hood is such that there is little clearance for the lens cap that sits deeply within the hood mounting rim. Fingernails are required to remove the lens cap (unless the hood is removed first).

Accessing a CP filter inside this hood is also frustrating.

The 28 IS does not come with a case. Also note that the Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens is not weather sealed.

Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens on Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D - Angle

Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens on Canon EOS 1D X - Top

Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens on Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D - Angle 2

Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens on Canon EOS 1D X - Front

The reviewed Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens was purchased retail.

Like the 24mm f/2.8 IS lens, introduced with a moderately high price tag, the Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens may be overlooked by some of those who could be well-served by it. I of course appreciate a lower prices (and this lens has seen some nice price drops), but I'm satisfied with the value this lens provided at the intro price. You get fast and accurate AF, very good image quality and image stabilization in a package that is sized and weighted to go everywhere with you. <%

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