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28-85/4 lens performance

Jiri Pavlovsky , Jun 29, 2006; 07:35 p.m.

I've been using FD system for about a year now. I reentered the photography hobby after a years long hiatus via the digital route as an early adopter of Canon EOS 300D. That did not make an enthusiast from me yet. During the next two years I used it occasionally, mainly on holidays etc.

Slowly I was becoming more and more interested in photography and decided to upgrade - I bought a Canon 20D plus some lenses. But my shooting style developed more and more towards some kind of a street photography and the bulky DSLR didn't feel like a good tool for this. I was wishing for something smaller and lighter. Not finding this amongst the digital offerings I found myself one day in local camera shop buying a used T70 plus 50mm lens. I was hooked. I got 35mm lens then 28 then a new body (AV1) etc.

Now I have several bodies and a whole line up of prime lenses. I sold my digital equipment. It was lying on the shelf covered in dust. I like my AV1 and my T90. T90 has thoroughly modern design and solid feel. I prefer it to any of my EOS bodies.

So much for my rant. Recently I got 28-85/4 zoom lens. I used mainly when I wanted to travel light. Recently I took the same scene with both my 50/1,4 and the zoom. When looking at the pictures I noticed that the zoom lens produced sharper image. It moved me to do (a very basic) test of the lens: I shot hanged newspapers. The zoom kept very well against the primes I have (35/2, 50/1,4, 85/1,8). At 50/11 it even outperformed the prime in terms of sharpness (the prime still having an edge in vignetting).

Is this in line with experience of others?

Responses

Mark Wahlster , Jun 29, 2006; 09:32 p.m.

All three of the mid range Canon zooms from the same family the

28-85mm f4.0 nFD

35-105mm f3.5 nFD

50-135mm f3.5 nFD

are all very good lenses capable of near prime level quality when shot in their sweet spots (typically f5.6-f8.0)

I have owned all three and after a lot of use I have decided to keep the 28-85 and 35-105 as their focal lenghts and two ring configurations suit my uses for a zoom in this range.

Though I do find myself using the Tokina 28-70mm f3.5/4.5 SD more often as it is more compact and the color is amazing. My wifes std lens.

Roger B. Clark , Jun 29, 2006; 10:26 p.m.

Well, Mark has had his FD stuff even longer than me since he kept his when I moved to AF so his opinion probably out weighs mine.

However, my copy of the 28-85 was not in the same league as either my 35-105 3.5 or my 50 1.4. I would be very surprized to see the 28-85 out resolve the 50 1.4 (a highly regarded lens in the SSC version and still highly regarded in the FDn mount).

My sharpest FD lenses (in no particular order) were:

50 1.2L
50 1.4
35-70 2.8-3.5
35-105 3.5
80-200 4.0L
500 4.5L
All history now as I have moved to Digital EOS (1DMK2N).

Every one of these lenses would easily out resolve the 28-85 (IMO). I would re-shoot your test and be as accurate as possible with focus as that is all I can think of that would make the zoom out perform the prime (unless the prime has a problem).

dirk Dom , Jun 30, 2006; 03:35 a.m.

Two other lenses which are extremely sharp are the 20 - 35 mm F 3.5 L zoom, and the 100 mm F2. Both aren't cheap, but extremely good.

Bye,

Dirk.

Peter Galuszewski , Jun 30, 2006; 05:37 a.m.

Nice to hear a back to film story for a change!:) Personally, I have used both the 50mm 1.4 SSC and the nFD version, and the only difference I see between the two is that the old lens felt more robust. As far as sharpness goes, I have yet to see anything outright outperform this lens in any but the most academic of terms. I did have the 80-200 f4L zoom, and it was remarkable especially for a zoom - but still, I can't say it was better than the 50mm 1.4. While I am not claiming enough expertiese to deny or confirm what you found, I would suggest that there is a great likelyhood that you may have a flawed example of the 50mm, or there is some small part of your test that you are perhaps overlooking. I understand that many pros would take several examples of one lens, test them and keep the best one - so there is apparently some latitude between different examples of the same lens. Some go as far as saying that the biggest difference between the really good Japanese lenses and the legendary (but extremely expensive) Leitz and Zeiss lenses is exactly that: less variety in quality. As such, you may have a bad 50mm and a really good zoom. Also, these lenses are getting up there, most are well over 2 decades old, and like anything mechanical, there is some room for wear. To give you an example, I bought a really inexpensive 24mm lens in a Nikon mount (the lens itself is of no consequence), and while I knew that it would not knock my socks off in any way, I was shocked that I absolutely could NOT get a decent, sharp picture with it. At no apperture, under no circuimstances. This, mind you, was a pretty severe shortcoming - it just flat out would not make a sharp image. I was playing with it one day, and noticed that the retaining ring on the back element was loose! I tightened it, and I know have a very average WA lens - crappy in many ways, but at least able to focus. Now, this is a EXTREME example - but somewhere in the hundreds of tiny, low tolerance components, plus the many users over many more years of use, thousands of smaller and/or larger impacts, temperature changes, etc., something (however small) may have been affected in your 50mm. I am just throwing out some ideas to show you the huge variety of things that can affect a lens - please don't take this post as some exact diagnosis. Still, the fact that this zoom is even the subject of this kind of discussion speaks really highly of a lens made when zooms were not exactly known for their high quality in most cases.

doug nelson , Jun 30, 2006; 08:30 a.m.

Gary Reese's tests of FD lenses (http://members.aol.com/canonfdlenstests/default.htm) show a degree of barrel distortion at the wide end of nearly all zooms that I find unacceptable for travel shots involving buildings and streets, and shooting through arches, doorways or windows. If you otherwise like your zoom, you can opt to back off on the wide end for architectural shots. For FD wides with very slight distortion (undetectable) I like the 35 f2 FDn and 28 f2.8 SC. The 24 f2 is said to be nearly distortion-free and extremely sharp.

Duane Kucheran , Jun 30, 2006; 12:34 p.m.

The 28-85 is fine lens & I prefer it over the 35-105 especially for range, versatility & contrast. I think that of the lenses I have, the primes have an edge over the zooms in terms of detail and contrast but there are some exceptions - I've always thought that the 50 f/1.8 was flat and not as snappy as the 50 f/1.4 and the above zooms. That being said, the zooms could very well be better than the primes in as Canon steadily improved the performance of their lenses, especially contrast.

One big warning with the 28-85 is that it is fragile. It's real easy to break it off just ahead of the mount. Replacement parts are hard to come by so be careful with it.

Cheers,

Duane

Mark Wahlster , Jun 30, 2006; 10:03 p.m.

Just to be real clear about what I said:

"are all very good lenses capable of near prime level quality when shot in their sweet spots (typically f5.6-f8.0)"

Please be sure to read the word NEAR meaning close to in the realm almost practically etc. BUT not in any way better.

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