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Canon EF 28-70 f/2.8 L Lens Review
Canon EF 28-70 f/2.8L with Hood

This lens has been my workhorse lens for over 5 years. I purchased this lens in June of 2002 and it has more than paid for itself in the intervening time. The lens was introduced in November of 1993 and was subsequently replaced by the 24-70 f/2.8 L in November of 2002. For those 9 years this lens was considered Canon's best standard zoom. My copy of the 28-70 L is sharp throughout the zoom range and suffers only a slight loss of sharpness when shot wide open. My copy is very sharp by f/3.5 at both ends of the zoom range.

The maximum f/2.8 aperture allows for a nicely shallow depth of field, and the eight-bladed aperture provides a very nice quality of the out-of-focus areas (bokeh). This can be seen in the photograph directly below. What I like most about this lens is the sharpness. I've used it quite a lot for portraiture and glamour, and sometimes I think that it's almost too sharp for those photographic styles since the subject's skin imperfections stand out too strongly. Still, this lens spends a lot of time on my cameras, especially when I need a low-light, indoor zoom.

This is definitely not a light lens. It weighs in at 1.9 pounds (880 grams), but I have taken it on many hikes with me simply because it is such an outstanding lens. I've used it for quite a bit of faire and festival photography as well, but I currently use a 24-105 f/4 L IS for outdoor event shooting since that lens is lighter and has significantly more reach. If I needed to shoot a night event, however, I would chose this lens over the 24-105 L. The extra stop allows for a brighter viewfinder image and more accurate focus when using a precision focus screen such as the Ee-S, Ec-S and Ef-S.

The zoom ring is smooth and well damped. The lens extends as you zoom out to the 28mm end and retracts as you zoom in to the 70mm position. The hood mounts on a non-extending portion of the lens barrel and the petal shape ensures there is no vignetting at the wide end of the zoom range. The focus ring is also wide and well damped, and the focus moves smoothly and easily across the range.

Portrait at 70mm and f/2.8

As expected of a Canon L lens, the build quality is excellent. The lens uses Ring type USM auto focus which allows Full Time Manual focus override. Minimum focusing distances is 1.6 feet (0.5 meters ) and the lens utilizes an internal focusing system with a non-rotating front element. This is great when shooting with a circular polarizing filter. Unlike the newer 24-70 f/2.8 L, this lens is not weather sealed.

The EW-83B hood fits snugly via a bayonet style mount and is flocked on the interior to absorb light. The hood is made out of high impact plastic and is very easy to mount. I reverse mount my hood on the lens for easy storage. Filter size on this lens is 77mm making it easy to share filters with the other L zooms such as the 70-200 f/2.8 L IS, the 24-105 f/4 L and the 17-40 f/4 L.

The lens contains 16 elements in 11 groups. The first element is a large aspherical element which helps provide the excellent contrast and sharpness exhibited by this lens. Flare is well controlled at all apertures and images are well saturated with excellent color rendition.

Did I mention that this lens is rugged? In 2003, during a pre-dawn hike to an observation point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to shoot sunrise, I tripped and fell onto the rocky trail. This lens, mounted on my Canon 10D, bore the brunt of the fall despite my attempts to twist in mid-air to protect it. Once my cursing stopped and I pulled myself together, I determined that the lens was essentially undamaged except for a nasty scratch on the lens hood. I subsequently shot the sunrise and many thousands of shots since that fall with no issues whatsoever. So, despite its heft and weight, this lens goes with me on most serious hikes.

Although the lens has been superceded by the 24-70 f/2.8 L, it can occasionally be found on the used market for about $600 US dollars. They go quickly when available, so if you're want one you'll need to act fast. I don't think I've met anyone who has owned this lens who hasn't loved the image quality.

Technical Details for this Lens


Additional Images

Hiking in Zion
Las Vegas at Night
Tioga Pass - 28mm, f/11, 1/200, ISO100 Canon 10D


2007 Mark Cohran, All Rights Reserved
Latest Revision: November 19, 2009