Lens Review: Canon nFD 28mm f/2.8

Summary

The Canon nFD 28mm f/2.8 is a tiny, well-built, sharp, and cost-effective option for those looking for a vintage Canon FD wide angle lens. Wide-open it experiences significant sharpness dropoff in the corners, and vignetting is pretty apparent, but around f/8 through f/11 the lens is excellent.

My recommendation: if your style of photography calls for a wide angle lens, the Canon nFD 28mm f/2.8 is a great buy, especially considering how cheap they are.

Canon ftb and 28mm.jpg
Camera Gif
 

specifications

Length 40 mm
Diameter 63 mm
Weight 170g (6 ounces)
Filter Size 52 mm
Minimum Aperture f/22
Min. Focus Distance 30 cm (1 ft)
Lens Hood BW-52B
 

compatibility

Canon FD lenses are naturally compatible with Canon's FD lineup of cameras, such as the FTb 35mm in the image above. The FD system was first introduced in 1971 and was in production through 1990. Older FD lenses are identifiable by their silver breech lock design, while newer (nFD) lenses lack the silver mounting ring.

FD lenses have recently seen a resurgence in popularity because they can easily be mounted on modern digital mirrorless cameras, such as the Sony A7r, with a simple adapter.

adapters

In order to use a Canon FD-mount lens on a Sony e-mount camera body (such as a A7r), you will have to purchase an adapter. As with anything, there are different price points, and you get what you pay for. 

If you do a search for Canon FD to Sony e-mount adapters, you will find hits for Fotodiox, Novoflex, Metabones, and a number of other brands and knock-offs. 

I have only personally used the Fotodiox FD-NEX adapter, and with great results. The adapter fits snugly and mounting the lens to the adapter is simple. There is a ring on the outer edge of the adapter that you twist to the right to unlock the lens and back to the left to lock it in place. I have had no issues with light leaks, and after using it very heavily for almost a year now I have never worried about my lens coming loose. I purchased mine in August 2017 for under $30.

usage

Because the lens is so small, handling the lens on my Sony A7r or Canon FTb is a breeze. The length, diameter, and weight of the lens seems to be a natural fit for compact mirrorless camera systems and 35mm cameras.

The focus ring has a good deal of resistance, which I prefer, so there is no concern for the lens to slightly move itself out of focus. As you twist the focus ring in either direction the lens only extends a couple of millimeters. The aperture ring clicks in increments of one-half stops from f/2.8 to f/22.

I almost exclusively use a tripod when shooting, but when I do handhold my camera there is no concern for getting fatigued, which can happen when using larger DSLR lenses and camera bodies.

The Canon nFD 28mm fully retracted versus extended. There is very little difference with this lens.

The Canon nFD 28mm fully retracted versus extended. There is very little difference with this lens.

sharpness

The lens is quite sharp from f/4 through f/11, and deteriorates as you move towards f/22. The image below is a 100% crop from the center of an image taken from approximately 3 feet from my bookshelf. At f/2.8 sharpness is good, but, as we’ll see later, vignetting is a serious issue. At f/22 sharpness is poor, as can be seen on the black and dark blue book spines.

Bookshelf Center Comparison.png
 

The images below represent a 100% crop in the upper-right corner of my bookshelf. As you can easily tell, there is extreme loss of sharpness at f/2.8, which progressively improves through f/8. I can’t see a difference between f/8 and f/11 in these examples.

vignetting

Vignetting at f/2.8 is quite noticeable, but once stopped down to f/4 and beyond it becomes practically imperceptible.

verdict

The Canon FD 28mm f/2.8 is a very good lens, and is an even better choice when you consider how cheap these lenses can be had for. As of this writing most items on eBay are around $40-$80. I paid just $60 for my lens in August, 2017.

Continue below to view some sample images that I have taken with this lens.

The lens isn't the best at dealing with flare, and its bokeh isn't spectacular, which isn’t a huge deal (in my opinion) for a wide angle lens. However, as a person who primarily shoots between f/11 and f/14, those are features that aren't as important to me as resolution and contrast, both of which this lens is exemplary.

As with all other Canon FD-series lenses that I have used, the build quality is excellent; this lens is approaching 40 years old and it performs like it was taken out of the box yesterday. If you’re okay with doing everything manually, and since you’re reading a review of a Canon FD lens there is a good chance you are, this is one of the best 28mm lenses you can buy, especially when you look at it on a per-dollar basis.

I don’t shoot with a digital or 35mm camera often, but when I do I almost always make sure I have this lens in my bag with me.

You can shop for the Canon 28mm f/2.8 here.


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sample images

All of the images below were taken with the Canon nFD 28mm f/2.8 handheld using a Sony A7r. The black and white images have been dodged and burned, and the color images are straight out of the camera.

St. Johns Church, Galchutt, North Dakota

St. Johns Church, Galchutt, North Dakota

Galchutt, North Dakota community ballpark

Galchutt, North Dakota community ballpark

Adrian, North Dakota

Adrian, North Dakota

Abandoned school in Sheldon, North Dakota

Abandoned school in Sheldon, North Dakota

Flowers from the closest focus distance, f/2.8

Flowers from the closest focus distance, f/2.8

Shot during the middle of the day, handheld, f/11

Shot during the middle of the day, handheld, f/11