Tricky lens ? Lackluster ? "Creative" lens ?

In a way, it is a lens that is both cool, yet more often frustrating and strange.

The Canon EF 28 mm f 1.8 USM, with its bright aperture of ƒ 1.8, and pretty compact size... is a lackluster in terms of optical performance. The center is the only one, that works well - unless you go really close, then the performance drops there, too.

The corners and even more so, the extreme borders - are the WORST. You have to stop down to 8 or 11 to get something that would come close to acceptable. (If you use Topaz Sharpen AI - you may get away with f 5.6, already)

However - I can still use it on all Canon EOS cameras, including the analog film EOS cameras - which means it is highly flexible - in certain situations where the lens can shine.


Interesting or weird background blur

The EF 28/1.8 has a strange background blur, with its pronounced bokeh balls a lá Leica lenses from the 70s and 80s. It reminds me a bit of the Leica Summicron-M 35/2 "IV" with it's famous bokeh balls. But in this one, those bokeh balls get often streched at the borders - which can look funky.

You can make some nice environmental lowlight, outdoor portraits, let's say at 1.5 to 2 meter distance with wide open aperture ƒ1.8 - with sharp eyes in a face, and a blurry background combined with a hint of "Leica 70s feel".

Like the image with Per-Olof back in 2010:


Bokeh balls

I actually like them a lot in the above photo - due to their funky, a bit unusual character (Or better said, i like the way street lights are rendered with pronounced circles... as I said.. it has a kind of ol' Leica feel to it).

Yet - this does not always work with other motives... It works for Black & white environmental portraits, though. Black & White is more forgiving for the optical errors this lens exhibits. After all - it is still abright ƒ 1.8 lens.

I still keep it in my arsenal of Canon lenses - because it has a certain character that no modern lens exhibits - plus that i can use it with analog film on an analog EOS camera (i should make BW images with this lens on film, just to see... how that feels and performs)

But for landscape... rather not use it !

Only if you stop down ƒ 8 and give it a light touch of Topaz Sharpen AI - then the image does sharpen up - but be aware that the center is already sharp (don't oversharpen the center !). The problems are the borders and the extreme corners.


Close up performance

like in many older lenses, degrades, too. But this one get's really bad (most of the time).

If you combine aperture ƒ1.8 together with going really close - then you get very mushy results. Here, Topaz Noise AI too, may sometimes help, but not always. The background blur shows a weird distortion, if you get far too close to your subject...

As you can see... this degradation in the leaf image, is just too much; It is all mushy. Unless you desire a romantic style - then this performance comes (perhaps) in handy. As i said - it is really a funky lens.

Below too, being close and using it at wide open aperture, I added a little bit of Topaz Sharpen AI - and could retrieve some sense of sharpness. But it was very close to get all mush again. Of course, the image benefits from being smaller. If you go really close... you may want to take a blind fold... there are barely any micro details left.

Yeah. It is that "bad".



Hawai'i - Mauna Iki

Wide open aperture ƒ1.8 - and relative closed focus. I manipulated aspects via Photoshop to help the image a little bit; • Mild sharpening. • Elimination of the red-green color fringing. • Softened the background blur to become less distracting. The distorted bokeh "balls" are mainly gone now.

Below the cooled lava on Hawai'i Big Island. The first two images were taken with aperture ƒ5.0

A little plant sprouting up from the old lava, taken near the Holei Sea Archat the South coast of Hawai'i Big Island. The sky was already darkening here...

Mediocre performance in Berlin

I took this photo at aperture ƒ 8.0 on a Canon EOS 6D (fullframe). As I inspected the fine details at the borders, the leaf in the trees - i could tell that this lens wasn't really fully sharp - not even at f 8.0

It reminds me of the new RF 16/2.8 lens where the borders never turn crispy sharp due to the strong distportion corrections performed on that lens. It is kind of the same class of optical performance. In other words: mediocre.

But again, this can be adressed with Topaz Sharpen AI, by sharpening up the borders (but without sharpening the center, because the details are already sharp - and would otherwise over sharpen if you use Sharpen AI across the entire frame). It is only the borders that need with some sharpening.

Plus you need to address the red-green fringing with this lens.


Still a funky lens. Yepp.

Some lenses have such a different character between excellent and bad - that you need to explore its "soul" in depth. Like the Leica Noctilux being a primary example: Many images will turns out dreadfully bad and flat, blurry and off beating. Because in the "wrong hands" this niche lens, often turns dull and funky - absolutely not worth the price tag.

But in the right hands - it can turn into magic.

The Noctilux is a very diffiult lens in terms of understanding it's soul, it's "draw", it's rendering. And to understand in which situations the Noctilux lens will fail you (which will be guaranteed in many situation when used without thought). It needs deep experience, in order to shine. Strange, isn't it ?

I consider the Canon EF 28/2.8 lens be in the same category of tricky lenses, albeit the Noctilux 50/1 is actually a sharp lens, if you use it correctly. The Canon EF 28/1.8 is not up to the task - in the borders.

Those are the major problem.

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