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Nikon 28mm f/2.8 AI-s
FX Manual-Focus (1981-today)  
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Nikon Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AI-s

Nikon 28mm f/2.8 AI-s (52mm filters, 9 oz./250g). enlarge. You can still buy them brand-new at B&H Photo Video. You may be able to find these used at Adorama, and always can find them at this direct link to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay).

July 2013   Nikon Reviews   Nikon Lenses    All Reviews


Ideal Uses

Fantastic as a general-purpose wide-angle lens for manual-focus cameras.

Also works as a high-performance lens on all digital cameras, especially FX, but must be focussed manually.


Not for

I'd skip it for AF and digital cameras, since the 16-35mm VR zoom is more practical, but much larger and more expensive.


Ergonomics, manual camera
Ergonomics, AF camera
Usefulness, manual camera
Usefulness, AF camera
Availability: only available new at B&H



Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio
I use these stores. I can't vouch for ads below.

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.

No other Nikon 28mm lens performs this well: the 28mm f/1.4D AF has some barrel distortion and really is optimized for night photography, and every other 28mm lens just isn't designed as thoroughly.

This AI-s lens (1981-present) is completely different from the older AI lens. Nikon made a big upgrade to the optics when they upgraded it to AI-s, and they really pulled out all the stops.

Not only does this Nikkor uses 8 elements, it also uses floating elements to optimize its performance as it is focused at every distance.

This is also Nikon's closest-focusing lens, with a close-focus distance of 7 inches (0.6 ft), or 20 cm.

There is no sharper manual-focus wide angle lens made by Nikon, and it is the only Nikon wide angle, along with the 15mm f/3.5, that is completely free from barrel distortion at ordinary distances.

Optically this is an almost perfect lens, and one of the most perfect lenses you can get to fit a Nikon camera.


Compatibility       intro     top

The manual-focus 28mm f/2.8 AI-s works great with most Nikon cameras, film and digital.

It works flawlessly with every manual focus Nikon ever made, from the F of 1959 through the FM3a and today's FM-10.

On the D3X, D3, D700, D300, D200, D2 and F6, use the "Non-CPU Lens Data" menu option to set 28mm and f/2.8 to get full matrix metering, EXIF data and finder read-out of set aperture. It works great in aperture-preferred as well as manual modes on these cameras.

It works perfectly on every professional film camera (F, F2, F3, F4, F5, F6), and adds Matrix metering on the FA, F4 and F6.

The meters of cheaper digital (D90, D5000 and below) and cheaper film cameras (N80 and below) will not couple (or work at all) with this lens, so you'll be on your own guessing exposure using the rear LCD or an external meter, or get a tiny Gossen Digisix meter and hot shoe adapter to meter manually.

See Nikon Lens Compatibility for details on your camera. Read down the "AI, AI-s" column for this lens.


History and Comparisons


Nikon made 28mm f/3.5 for its S-series rangefinder cameras. It's not very good, but it is tiny.



Nikon made 28mm f/3.5 F, AI and AI-s lenses in several iterations.



Nikon made the 28mm f/2.8 AI, which had 7 elements in 7 groups.

It lacks CRC and focuses to only 1 foot, and is also a great lens.



Nikon made an optically inferior 5-element 28mm f/2.8 lens that was sold as the Series E, and also as the first two iterations of non-D AF lenses.



Today's AI-s lens came out in 1981, and has been sold unchanged ever since, even as optically inferior autofocus versions came and went.



Nikon redesigned the crummy 5-element 28mm f/2.8 design, used for the Series E through the AF version, into a 6 element 28mm f/2.8 AF-D version. Its performance is still much poorer than this 8-element manual-focus AI-s lens.


Nikon Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AI-s

Nikon 28mm f/2.8 AI-s on my Nikon FA. enlarge.




8 elements in 8 groups.

Close range correction (CRC).



Diaphragm            top

Seven conventional blades

Stops down to f/22.


Close Focus            top

The 28mm f/2.8 focuses more closely than any other Nikkor.

It focuses down to 7 inches or 0.2 meters, which is closer than any of the macro/micro lenses. It does have some barrel distortion this close and remains sharp.


Maximum Reproduction Ratio            top



Filters            top

Familiar 52mm filters.


Hard Infinity Focus Stop?            top


This is great for astronomy; just turn to the stop and you have fixed laboratory-perfect focus all night.


Focus Scale            top



Depth-of-Field Scale            top



Infra-Red Focus Index            top

Yes: red dot in depth-of-field scale.


Aperture Ring            top

Yes, Metal.

Full-stop clicks.


Filter Thread            top

52mm, metal.

Does not rotate.


Size            top

2.5" (63mm) in diameter by 2.3" (59mm) long, specified.


Weight            top

9 oz. (250g), specified.


Hood            top

HN-2 metal screw-in.


Nikon Product Number            top

1420, as of April 2010.


Price            top

2012 March: $540 new.

2010: Nikon USA's price: $540, new, B&H Photo Video's price: $500 new.

2008: $380 new from B&H.




Performance is just about perfect. Read accordingly.



There is some very slight coma in the corner at f/2.8 that is gone by f/4, far better performance than any other wide angle Nikkor wide open save the 28mm f/1.4D AF.


Falloff (darkened corners)          performance     top

I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background.


Nikon 28mm f/2.8 AI-s falloff on FX at infinity.


© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.




Ghosts and Flare

It has no ghosts or flare, so feel free to put your light sources in your image.


Mechanics      performance     top

Like all Nikkor manual focus AI-s lenses, the Nikon 28mm f/2.8 AI-s is built to the highest mechanical standards of any lens ever made.


Barrel Exterior

Anodized and enameled aluminum.


Filter Threads

Anodized aluminum.



Threaded anodized aluminum.


Focus Ring

Metal, rubber covered.


Focus Helicoids

Feel like brass: smooth and silky with no play or need for damping grease.


Depth-of-Field Scale

Engraved into barrel and filled with different colors of paint.





Aperture Ring

Cast aluminum, anodized and enameled.

Engraved markings filled with different colors of paint coded to the depth-of-field scale.



Dull-chromed brass.



Engraved into the metal and filled with paint.


Identity and Serial Number

On front of lens inside filter ring, engraved into the metal and filled with paint.


Ass-Gasket (dust seal at mount)



Made in



Sharpness      performance     top

Sharpness is extraordinary.

The 28mm f/2.8 AI-s is diffraction limited by f/5.6. That's lens designer speak for "really, really good!"


As shot on the 24 MP Nikon D3X:

It's simply stunning. Even at 24MP, it's brilliantly sharp and contrasty even at f/2.8, and doesn't get any better as stopped down.

It's so good that it's diffraction-limited at f/5.6, meaning that it's slightly less sharp at f/8.

The sides are just as sharp.

The last few millimeters of the corners are less sharp due to some mild coma at f/2.8. They improve as stopped down.


As shot on Velvia

f/2.8: sharp all over with the exception of very slight coma in the corners, and some light falloff.

f/4: Fantastic, seems diffraction limited!

f/5.6: Ditto. I've never seen a sharper lens on my Nikon.


Speed, Actual      performance     top

It seems to be a bit slower than f/2.8, probably closer to about f/3.0. That's not a big deal; cheating a bit like that allows Nikon to squeeze in a little more sharpness.



This is the sharpest manual-focus wide angle made by Nikon. Even Nikon's newest and best 16-35mm f/4 VR zoom isn't any sharper, except maybe in the last few millimeters of the corner, and it distorts.

If you want great sharpness and perfectly straight straight lines, go get one of these lenses new or second hand. You'll love it.

This lens is fantastic on manual-focus cameras, however on digital FX cameras I prefer the convenience of the extraordinary 16-35mm f/4 VR zoom.

You can still buy this 28mm f/2.8 brand-new at B&H Photo Video in 2010, or of course used over eBay.

On some cheaper AF cameras you lose metering, but heck, mounted on your F6, F4 or FA you even get matrix metering.


Help me help you         top

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Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.


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July 2010