What's So Special About the Nikon 28mm Ai-S?
Okay, I like this lens well enough to make another (time-consuming) try as to why
the Nikon 28mm Ai-S stands out over other, similar lenses in its class.
For starters, the original thread question is selecting "a" lens, other than
macro, I am assuming as an all-around, general purpose lens
, capable of doing many
(Remember, the more specialized the lens, the more limited/useless it is in general contexts.)
The 28mm Ai-S is able to do many "general" things well and
a few specialized things well.
Aside from going wide it also reverses to 2.1
Oriented properly, it lets you get to within 20cm of a close subject, closer
than any other wide equivalent.
It magnifies 1:4, greater
than any other, non-macro wide-equivalent.
It is unique in that it is inexpensive and high-quality, in both construction as well as capabilities.
I have already shown photos showing the wide-range
of what it does, a couple pages back.
The mention of a Sigma 24mm was made, but this is too wide for practical reverse-use IMO.
Barrel distortion sets in. Magnification gets too great (2.6x), when reversed, to be as useful.
Not to mention the Sigma is made of cheap plastic, has a cheesy focus ring (mentioned in every online review), and has zero re-sale value.
The Sigma also isn't highly-corrected for color/CA either (it is sharp, but doesn't have the high-end color correction of the Nikon 28 Ai-S).
Yes, Nikon makes a 24mm Ai-S too, but it is not
as good as the 28
Nikon makes a sweet 35mm Ai-S, but it is twice as expensive, doesn't
allow you to get as close to the subject properly-mounted.
This crab spider I shot is somewhat larger than the one on the previous page and yet comfortably fits on my pinky fingernail. The shot is at 2.1x. Magnification greater than that, I couldn't frame its legs. The truth is, very seldom is anyone going to be going over 2.1x in the field. 2.6x is going to be too much, MUCH MORE OFTEN than it will be "just right."
For ONE lens, I would be more inclined to scale down to 35mm (1.8x reversed) or 50mm (1.1x reversed) than scale up to 24mm (2.6x reversed) or 20mm (3.4x reversed), because these latter are too much for most subjects. Yet, here again, the 35mm and the 50mm aren't as wide as the 28 and they don't let you get as close to a flower or bug, to capture the background, either, when properly mounted.For whatever reason, the Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Ai-S is just a "sweet spot," in almost every category.
Do NOT confuse this lens with the 24mm--which sucks by comparison.
I will now provide some links to many life-time expert opinions which echo my own. These links were part of my research, and my own use confirms their sentiments:Other Reviews:
- "The Nikkor 28mm f2.8 Ai-S is one of the sharpest Nikon lenses ever. The manual focus is great and smooth with a dream-like dampened action."
ImagingResource.com (Rates 9.7/10)
- "Nikon's Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AiS is one very impressive piece of optics. Despite its age, the lens can rival some of the more expensive modern primes. Combination of excellent overall image quality, superb build quality, good color reproduction and affordable price, should put this lens at the top of the shopping list for many photographers."
SLR Lens Review
- "Nikkor Ai-S 28mm f/2 comes with an exceptional build quality and super smooth focusing - most of today's lenses feel cheap in comparison and the glory doesn't stop here. At medium aperture settings the lens is capable to produce some of the highest resolution figures tested to date."
- "This lens doesn't have any rival today. Newer AF versions don't focus as close, aren't even nearly as sharp, and are made of plastic."
LensTip.com (Rates 5/5)
- "Its image quality has long been recognized as top class Nikkor performer as it has packed with some of the best optical innovation Nikon has developed for their MF wideangles within. The lens closes down to a minimum focusing distance that few other Nikkor lenses are able to match while retaining the same high optical performance at such close distance. The Nikkor 28mm f/2.8s also famed for its ability to deliver images of extremely high contrast and resolution. It has long been a favorite among many seasoned photographers as one of the best wideangle lens for all round photography."
- "Tale 57 covers the AI Nikkor 28mm f/2.8S, one of these lenses that is cool and popular among experts ... more importance should be placed on minimum focus distance and maximum reproduction ratio. These aspects are directly related to the degree of flexibility a lens offers ... (and) with actual shooting, the minimum focus distance is every bit as important as focal length. ... the unique characteristics of the AI Nikkor 28mm f/2.8S covered in this tale become clear. It has a minimum focus distance of just 20 cm, one of the shortest among wide-angle lenses, and a high maximum reproduction ratio of 1/3.9×. This is one of the reasons this 'approachability' is still included in our manual focus lens lineup."
Nikkor -- The Thousand and One Nights
- "This is Nikon's sharpest manual-focus wide angle lens. Nikon let their designers go wild on this one. Instead of a simple 5 element design that every other 28mm f/2.8 lens uses, including the original AF version, this lens has EIGHT elements in EIGHT groups. This allows it a level of correction seen in no other Nikon wide angle ... Performance is just about perfect ... built to the highest mechanical standards ... This is the sharpest manual-focus wide angle made by Nikon."
Ken Rockwell (Rates 5/5)
Do not be fooled, or confused, by other lenses or (supposed) equivalents.
Yes, there are other great lenses out there, but they are NOT as all-around flexible. For example, the new $5,000 Carl Zeiss 28mm Otus is a better "fine art lens," but at $5,000 it ought to be!
But as a total nature documentation lens? Not so much. They don't make 95mm reverse-rings, for starters, so the Zeiss Otus 28 can't do what the Nikon Ai-S can do (you can't even reverse it). Further, the Zeiss doesn't reproduce 1:4 either and can't get as close as the Nikon 28 Ai-S. And who wants to use a $5,000 non-weather-proofed lens in inclement weather anyway? Or to expose the rear element by reverse-mounting it (assuming you could even do, which you can't). In other words, a Ferrari may have a better ride, in perfect conditions, than an Army Jeep, but can you take a Ferrari off-roading, like you can the Jeep?
The simple, versatile, rough-and-tumble characteristics of the Nikon f/2.8 28 Ai-S are truly unmatched as a total "general purpose lens" ... that is in
expensive (so you don't have to worry about it) and yet
high-quality (so you can truly enjoy owning it).
No, it can't replace my Nikkor 300mm telephoto for distance shots ... and I can't capture a 1:1 butterfly shot from a far-away distance (as I can with my Voigtländer 125mm) either ... but the little 28mm Ai-S can
capture everything else
about the natural world that these two lenses cannot
duplicate. And, reversed, it goes 2:1, not just a mere 1:1, so it can take me beyond a standard macro also. When oriented properly, it can go super-wide all the way up to very
close "near-macro" shots, also
capturing the environment behind the tiny subjects (and doing so with optimized color-correction in its lens elements).
Okay, my rant is done
In closing, the all-manual, well-crafted Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Ai-S may not be perfect at all things; but it is really good
at just about everything a person could need a lens to be good at ... and it is easily adapted to Canon or Sony