Review: Nikkor 28mm 1:2.8 Ai-S

Review may be the wrong word. This is not going to be any scientific lab test. You’ll find plenty of such elsewhere on the Internet. This is simply my thoughts on this lens.

Nikon 28mm 1:2.8 Ai-s

Nikon 28mm 1:2.8 Ai-s

See more images taken with this lens in the gallery at the bottom of the article.

Nikkor 28mm 1:2.8 Ai-S is a lens of older design. Though it was introduced in the early 1980’s it is still sold new today! I picked up mine from a second-hand dealer a little while back. I only did a couple of test shots before I bought it. Now I’ve been using it a little while and thought I’d let you know what I think about it.

Why manual?

I’m interested in old manual focus lenses for shooting video on my DSLR. Manual focus is much better for video and older lenses also have a manual aperture ring that lets you control the aperture during filming with ease. However I’ve come to realize they’re excellent for stills as well. Yes, they are older, but in my experience that may not be a bad thing. Especially older prime lenses tend to perform really well.

Build

I really like the build quality of older lenses. This lens is no exception! It’s all metal and feels sturdy and well-built. It snaps on my camera nice and tight and it feels like real craftmanship. The focus is smooth and the aperture ring is tight as they should with no excessive play. The lens has a focus distance meter in both feet and meters on the focus ring and color coded a depth-of-fields scale as well. It’s light weight and small, but the focus and aperture rings are wide and easy to operate. This makes this lens very handy as a walk around lens.

Performance

What makes this lens stand out is the close focus distance of 0,2 meter. This is the closest focus on any Nikon wide-angle lens and it makes for some interesting perspectives when playing around with this lens. When I tested this lens with my D800 I got very pleasing results.

As every review of this lens will tell you it’s very sharp and performs well, especially at close distance, however focus is a little soft on infinity. I’ve experienced the same thing when I’ve used it, though I mostly use it on closer distances and it’s not much of a problem for me.

On the other hand all other aspects about this lens is right! It renders nice colors and contrast, vignetting is hardly there and there are almost no problems with color fringing. Not to mention it produces some really nice bookeh as well.

It performs surprisingly well wide open at 2.8 and it’s sharp on close distances, but stepped down to 5.6 it’s really good! All in all in my experience this lens performs very well!

Conclusion

This is a lens I’m very happy with! It’s a lens you can get second-hand rather cheap and if you look at cost vs. performance you’ll get lot of lens for your money! It performs well on my D800, so I wouldn’t hesitate putting this lens on a new camera.

Due to the performance on distant focus subjects it may not be the optimal lens for landscape photographers who require distant focus. Also, a deal breaker for a lot of people would probably be that this lens is manual focus only. On the other hand, this lens is perfect for street photography, journalism, nature and as a general walk around wide-angle.

Further reading

Nature photographer Bjørn Rørslett has a great survey of lenses on his website Naturfotograf.com. Check out what he thinks of this lens here. (Scroll down to find it)

Read what the users on SRLGear.com thinks of this lens here.

Photography in Malaysia have some interesting history and resources on the lens here.

Darin McQuoid has an excellent review and comparison of the Nikon 28mm f/2.8 and 28mm f/2 lenses here