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Just as it was 100 years ago and just as it is today, every camera—be it film or digital—is nothing more than a lightproof box with a lens at one end and light sensitive film or a digital...

Canon EOS EF 28-70/2.8 L

by Don Baccus, 1996

First Impression

When I first took this lens out of its box, I was impressed. "This is the BIGGEST 28mm lens I've ever seen! Heck, it's the biggest 70mm f2.8 lens I've ever seen!". The lens is bulky, and has an equally bulky lenshood. The fact that it takes 77mm filter should give you some idea of its size - and it's much longer than it is wide.

Second Impression

After shooting my first roll of Velvia with the lens, not a formal test but a variety of subjects shot with the camera mounted on a tripod, I spread the resulting slides on my light table. I invited Suzy, my girlfriend at the time and a die-hard Nikon fan, to inspect the slides using an old 50mm lens I use as a loupe. She closely inspected slide after slide for several minutes, in silence. Finally, she quietly said, "That's one *bleeping* sharp zoom!"

She's right.


This lens replaces the earlier EF 28-80/2.8L. What happened to the extra 10mm at the long end? They were donated to the 70-200/2.8L, which was introduced in 1995 as a replacement for the earlier 80-200/2.8L.

Besides improved optical performance over its predecessor, the EF 28-70/2.8L includes a ring USM motor, and Full-Time Manual (FTM) focusing. It is a two-ring zoom, which I prefer, with the ring closest to the body controlling focal length. Though the lens can be switched to manual focus, the FTM feature means that I rarely do so. The lens focuses quickly and almost silently. As is common with autofocus lenses, the manual focus ring is a bit looser than I'd like, but whenever I get grumpy over it I just look at some slides, shake my head, and mutter, "sheesh, those are SHARP!" The front does not rotate while the lens is focused, which is handy when using polarizing or split-density filters.

Zoom action is smooth, though my sample has a slight hitch right at 50mm. This lens has five cams to move everything around, and the barely-noticable hitch occurs as one lens group appears to change direction, and is probably due to a tight curve in the cam's slot. The lens is longest at the 28mm end, shortest at the 70mm lens. Since the lenshood mounts on a non-moving portion of the lens, as you zoom to 28mm the front element crawls up to the front of the hood. Cutouts in the hood ensure it will not vignette at the wide end. Zoom back to 70mm, and the lens retracts, the resulting being a nice, deep hood at the long end. Though not unique to Canon, it is a great design.

The lens contains a lot of plastic, but feels solid to me, and the lens weighs less than its bulk suggests. I do field work each fall in a rugged mountain range, in a backpacking situation, and this lens has held up well to the bumps, storms, and dust there.


You can't judge performance from highly compressed JPEG images, but I've included a couple anyway. The older woman was shot in a Diary Queen - she was a student in an Elderhostel I was teaching at the time. The second photo is of the Goshute mountains, which hosts the largest fall raptor migration in the western United States. I work at a banding and monitoring project there each fall. The third photo was taken at the Chiricahua National Monument, in Arizona.

Philip Greenspun's photos with his 28-70/2.8L

One of the luxuries of having root password on this Web server is that I can randomly add stuff to contributors' articles. :-) Here are some of my snapshots from Cape Cod.

Rescue board at the Wasque Reservation, Chappaquiddick, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts Black Labrador puppy on the wharf in Menemsha, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Shiretown Inn, Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, notable as the spot where Ted Kennedy spent 12 hours before reporting the drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne Charter fishing captain cleaning a tourist's catch. On the wharf in Menemsha, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

... and from my brother's wedding ...

Harry and Katerina's wedding. Lake Placid. September 4, 1999. Harry and Katerina's wedding. Lake Placid. September 4, 1999. Harry and Katerina's wedding. Lake Placid. September 4, 1999.

Harry and Katerina's wedding. Lake Placid. September 4, 1999. Harry and Katerina's wedding. Lake Placid. September 4, 1999.

Text and images copyright © 1996, Don Baccus

Article created 1996