Saturday, January 2, 2010

Nikon 28mm F2.8D, Lens Review

Nikon 28mm F2.8D

The Nikon 28mm F2.8D is a lens that has a less than stellar reputation, and there are some very good reasons for that poor reputation. My copy of the 28mm F2.8D was made in Japan, so it is hard to say if later copies will have the same results. I think I can say right from the start that the best thing about this lens is the relativity low price. I bought this lens used, as a stop gap measure while I was waiting for the arrival of my Tokina 12-24mm AT-X Pro, since I needed a wider angel lens than my 35-70mm F2.8 for a vacation last summer. The 28mm F2.8D did the job for my vacation, although some of the results were not as good as I would have liked, more on that later though.

Build Quality:
The build quality of the 28mm F2.8D is a step up from the Nikon 50mm F1.8D, which feels cheap. The plastic barrel is one of the first areas of the 28mm F2.8D that is clearly of a higher grade than that of the 50mm F1.8D. It feels solid enough for a plastic casing, and the lens mount is brass with a chrome coating. The manual focus ring is a little loose, and mine makes a squeaking noise when turned from one extreme to the other quickly, although not every time. I am not sure what the cause of the squeaking is, as the lens looks clean, but it could be some dust in the focusing gears. The focus distance markings are under a plastic window on top of the lens, rather than painted onto the focusing ring, as on the 50mm 1.8D.

Auto Focus:
This is a AF-D lens, so it will not auto focus on any of the newer entry level Nikon bodies, such as the D40, D60, D3000 and D5000. I have used this lens on a Nikon D80, D90 and D300, and it focuses very quickly from minimum focusing distance to infinity on all those bodies. The lens focus has a hard stop at minimum focusing distance and at infinity, unlike some AF and AF-S lenses.

Image Quality:
Image quality is one of the areas where this lens can fall short. I find sharpness depends a great deal on focusing distance and how much you stop it down. The best sharpness is between F5.6 and F8, so the range of total frame image quality is very small. Wide open even the center of the frame can be soft, at some focusing distances, but not all. I can think of very few lenses that are worse at this focal length, and I would not hesitate to say that any one of Nikon's DX kit lenses is better at 28mm in terms of overall sharpness. That being said, this lens can be effectively used for some subject matter. On a DX body the field of view (thanks to the 1.5x crop) is 42mm, which is decent for full body portraits. The softness of the lens makes older peoples skin look smoother.

My comments about image quality, can be somewhat miss-leading, as the 28mm F2.8D can be a good lens, if used in a few ways. I find that the Nikon 18-55mm, 18-70mm and 24-120mm VR are all sharper at 28mm, but of course those lenses do not have the wide aperture of this prime. With a modern DSLR, this could be a useful semi-low light lens. I think the best aspects of the Nikon 28mm F2.8D are the relativity low price, light weight and size.Another advantage of this lens is the close focusing distance of 25cm. If you don't care very much about those advantages, stay away form this lens.

I do not have much else to say about this the Nikon 28mm F2.8D. Stopped down to F8, I'd say it is as good as most kit lenses, but unless you need a small, close focusing, light weight wide angle prime, stay away from this lens. Just about all of Nikon's kit lenses including the 18-55mm DX, 18-70mm DX and 24-120mm VR are just as sharp, if not better than the 28mm F2.8D for most situations. For DX users that need an fast lens at 28mm, the Nikon 17-55mm F2.8G or just about any other F2.8 zoom can do the job, if you do not mind the additional weight. Since I received my Tokina 12-24mm lens, I have not found much use for the Nikon 28mm F2.8, and I will likely end up selling the lens at some point.

This lens is no longer part of my kit, as of February 2010.