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Tuesday, 14 February 2012


Dear Mike,

If memory serves, Kodak developed that technology for the Disc cameras; it was definitely used there. Molded aspheres were the key to making lenses that reached unprecedented levels of cheapness, compactness and resolution.

Given that this predates cell phone micro-cameras by some two decades, I think Kodak can be forgiven for not having the prescience to take better advantage of their invention.

pax / Ctein

One of the interesting things (that matches up with my own experiences with them) about the original set of EOS primes (of which the 24/2.8 and 28/2.8 are part, as is the populair 50/1.8, albeit the original Mk1 version was a bit better mechanically), is that they were designed for a special balance between performance and price, but with no room for error.

None of them are ambitious (apertures are just shy of `fast', even for their time), designs are limited in exotic glass types and large element counts. Mechanically, they're robust, but not overengineered. But all that adds up to a reliable package, that will perform for a reasonable price.

Which they had to, as Canon had just pissed off all its users by ditching the FD mount. So if they wanted ANY chance of keeping up and possibly catching up with Nikon, there could be NO lemons in the lineup. And there weren't. Any of these lenses, while not perfect, would be good enough to be the last lens you ever used.

Kodak introduced molded lenses with the disk cameras in 1982, at least that's what they told us a couple of years later when they tried to use the technology to make fiber optic connectors. We built the field termination equiptment for these connectors. They also told us they spent over $15million developing these connectors but dropped the project before introduction as they were obsoleted by better technology-another Kodak screw-up!

The press-molded aspheric lens was indeed invented by Kodak... to be used in the Disc cameras. Which were about the same size as an iPhone, only 30 years ago.

A great explanation. Made me dig out my good old 28 and gaze at it lovingly.

Today, a 28mm ƒ/2.8 has become essentially a specialty lens, rather than a standard wide-angle that most every photographer will carry.

You keep saying this, and, the more I think about it, the more I think that, although it's probably literally true, it's glossing over a lot of interesting issues.

To begin with we've seen a lot of new camera systems announced in the past few years, and, if their lineups are any indication, a wide prime is still very much a general-purpose mass-market product. Some systems (Sony NEX, Nikon 1, Fuji X-Pro) some kind of wide prime (often a compact, corner-cutting, consumer-oriented version) has been one of the three or four lenses in the initial announcement, while others (μ4/3, Samsung NX), which started out with other lenses, now have both 24mm- and 28mm-equivalent options (okay, 30mm-equivalent for NX). Further, a number of systems have made 'body+wide prime' one of their standard kit options. So it looks like 28mm-equivalent-ish still has a big, non-specialty market among budget-conscious consumers.

I suspect that a big part of the issue is not a lack of consumer demand for wide primes, but the fact that 24x36mm has become a costly a specialty format, so all lenses targeting that format are going to be specialty lenses, unless they're designed to live double lives as popular lenses for crop-sensor SLRs. I think what's really going on here is that, with the new 28mm and 24mm, Canon has decided to narrowly target the upscale full-frame market, instead of trying to appeal to the 'double life' market of consumer crop-sensor SLRs (possibly because they think consumers wouldn't f/2.8 exciting in a normal lens).

So, yes, a 28mm f/2.8 lenses (as in literally 28mm, not FoV-equivalent to 28mm) are now specialty items, but I think that has more to do with the niche-ification of full frame than with the niche-ification of wide primes, and (at least as I've been reading or misreading your remarks), you seem to have been implying that it's the latter that's the issue.

Thanks for the story behind the Canon EF 28. When I was a student, it was the second prime I bought after a cheap 50/1.8. I remember reading in the brochures at the time it had an aspherical element: which was rare for lenses at the time -- and it was cheap.

I took many great photos with that lens, until I broke it (the front helicoid threaded, because I used a polarising filter on it heavily), then sold it as part of a system change.


Kodak didn't "give away" their GMo skills. They considered closing Kodak Optical Imaging Systems but instead they sold it in 2005 to a group of investors who created Rochester Precision Optics.

And unlike Kodak they seem to be growing and employing people in Rochester. Clearly the Kodak management missed making the most of their R&D (again).



Hello Mike:

Both the "EF 28mm/1.8 USM" and the "EF 28mm/2.8" have a GMo element ~ according to the Canon Camera Museum.

When I was looking for a wide angle prime, neither of those lenses received good, image quality assessments from the three review sites I frequent: photozone.de; slrgear.com; and the-digital-picture.com.

I never tried those 28mm lenses myself. I ended up with the 35/2.0 (one of my favourite lenses) which, by the way, does not have a GMo element and it receives good reviews from the aforementioned sites.

What The L, maybe, at three times the price (of the old 28/2.8), Canon will get it right with its 28mm lens.


Cheers! Jay

The old 28mm f/2.8 is a remarkably good little lens but I went through four of them and never did find one without obvious decentering. Maybe just bad luck, but I never had that problem with any other Canon lens.

Can anyone educate me on the design of the current AF-Nikkor 28mm 2.8? Some people say it's still a repackaged Series E, while others say it's a relatively new and well corrected design.

I have the 24mm f2.8, it's a nice little lens which gained a new lease of life when I got an EOS 550d. Will I upgrade? Well it will have to be very good optically, but now I've started shooting video I can see a place for it in my bag.

Perfect timing. A Canon FD 28mm f2.8 arrived in the post this morning. It's a lovely lens and it looks great on my NEX5n. Super smooth focus and most importantly.......cheap!!! £40 with lens hood and case. Can't wait for my NEX7 to arrive.

On a side note I'm loving the NEX system with APS-C chip and all the adapters. I'm currently using my old MD, FD, M39, Nikon and PL lenses. Photography is fun again.

I own both a 70-200 f/4 L and a 17-55 f/2.8 IS EF-S, the most expensive of Canon's crop lenses and surely one of the lenses Mike is referring to when he says some would otherwise qualify for the 'L' designation.

My personal experience is that the build quality of my EF-S doesn't come close to my 'L'. The zoom and focus rings don't have the same velvety feel. It's a vacuum when it comes to dust. The Image Stabiliser and the diaphragm have had to be replaced. And I didn't realise it was possible to shoot in the general direction of the sun without horrendous amounts of flare until I used a friend's 16-35 f/2.8 L one day.

End of rant.

When I first read about the reintroduced Canon 2.8's, I held out hope that at least this manufacturer was going to get back on the reasonably priced, reasonably fast, prime lens train. While I don't consider 800 bucks reasonably priced, it's certainly an option instead of the 1.4's and 1.8's they make, 800 bucks being better than 1400 or 2000 or?

35mm being my sweet-spot for most things, this at least puts the new 24mm 2.8 at 38.4mm with Canons APS-C sized chips, close enough. My new kit may just be a dirt cheap Rebel T2i body, a new 24mm and a 50mm 1.8!

Still better than Nikon with their old technology shaft drive focusing and manual f/stop ring and 'sort of fits' lens mount in their affordable 24mm 2.8...

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