A Gaggle of 28mm Lenses

I now have both new (actually old) Nikon 28mm AIS lenses in my hot little hands along with the ancient pre-AI f/3.5 I’ve been using extensively. For comparisons sake I’ve chucked in a couple of other lenses with the bunch. The 50mm 1.4G, 28-70 2.8 AF-S behemoth, and a 50mm 1.2 AIS. Over the next several weeks I plan on utilizing both of the new members of the family thuroughly in diverse shooting conditions in order to get a feel for their characteristics. Of course I’ll compare some more pedantic images made with the behemoth but it’s pointless beyond the academics. I know I’m not going to lug that beast around.

I’m happy with the two new additions in terms of condition and initial performance tests. The only nit that’s bothersome is that the 28/2.8 AIS is stiffer than it should be for a Nikon manual focus lens. Not horrible but it could use service to clean the hardened/dirty grease and replace from the focus helicoids. I might actually have that done by someone else given I’m a bit squeamish about taking a CRC lens apart to do it myself. If it was a 50mm I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’m under the impression that to get to all the helicoids I’ll have to disconnect the front and rear lens groups… Anyone know for sure? If so I’m a bit on the brutish side for that.

The 28/2 focuses a bit closer than the 28/3.5 and is infinitely better at close range w/ the CRC the 28/2.8 focuses even closer than that. For all practical purposes they all focus crazy close (a bit less than 1ft) so that’s not going to be the make/break. They all have faults wide open to varying degrees - so far I like the variability the best on the f/2. They all have reasonably pretty OOF transitions and renditions due to spherical aberrations so none of those things are glaringly different.

With just a few test shots it’s obvious both the AIS lenses have much flatter fields which is certainly not a bad thing. I’m happy that a lot of the better-ness doesn’t completely mangle some of the renditions of the more sophisticated designs. It’s definitely going to take some experience in the field to see which of the newer 28mm lenses best fits what I like to see. All of them are small and light enough for that not to be part of the decision process. I would rather carry all three and a 50mm instead of that 28-70 AF-S. In reality I can probably live with my Domke F-803 holding the Df, a 28mm, and a 50mm as well as have room left over for other bits and an 85mm. That’s a far cry smaller and more convenient than the Domke F-2.

I’ll share thoughts as they develop, not that many people will ever actually use any of these beautiful manual focus lenses ever again. The lure of the the “better” and the delusion of the “auto” usually prevails.


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