The Nikon 28mm f2.8 is an often criticized lens. If you look at most internet reviews, they will slate its lack of edge sharpness and chromatic aberration (corner colour fringing). However, having used one professionally this year I have been very impressed with its performance in the real world. It focuses very quickly on my Nikon D700 and retains its fast focusing in low light. It is very sharp in the centre and usably sharp in the corners. Whilst it is sometimes useful to look at charts and tests, in real life you are going to edit your photos, so a lenses’ lack of sharpness is much less of an issue than using correct camera settings – a fast enough shutter speed to freeze your subject for example.
The build quality is very good and whilst I wouldn’t want to drop it, the 28mm doesn’t feel cheap. It has a lovely rubber manual focusing ring and a very smooth operation – useful as it is a manual focus lens on my Nikon D5000. The manual focusing feels as natural and easy as on my old Nikon film SLR lenses, and that is a real compliment. On focusing the front of the lens does move, so it could be knocked. It’s not on a par with Nikon’s top internal focusing lenses, but it doesn’t cost as much. The 28mm renders colours nicely. It does not have the ‘pop’ of top lenses, but I never feel let down by the colour and saturation produced.
Cost is, above all, the best bit about this lens. I picked up mine from Ebay for £150, and it normally retails for around £200. For its sharpness and focusing speed it is an excellent value lens, and one well worth buying if you don’t need anything wider, or want a cheap and compact wide angle.
The only real way to evaluate a lens is to look at the images it produces. So below are three shots. The first two from my last wedding, the third from some recent corporate work. Note the sharpness of the boy’s eyes in the first image, and the clarity of the details in the second. Finally the third image gives you a chance to see the smoothness of the out of focus highlights and how the lens brought out the detail of the scene. (Look out for the severed head on the right hand side of the operating theatre shot!) Yes, I’m sharing edited photos for a lens review, and will probably come in for some criticism. However in the real world we all edit our photos and it is the end product a lens produces that is actually most important.