Canon EF 28-105 3.5-4.5 USM Review
Compact Normal Zoom
Peter Kun Frary
This zoom debuted in 1992 as the kit lens for the EOS 5/A2E and was a popular lens for well over a decade. I used it from 1992 to 2005, taking thousands of images in rain forests, beaches, mountain tops and urban jungles. It proved to be a very reliable walk-around lens.
Small size (75mm L) and zoom range make it an excellent travel lens for film or full frame digital. Polycarbonate construction, but with a metal mount, keep it to a featherweight 375 g (13.1 oz). The twist action zoom is smooth and does not creep. Zooming is accomplished by expanding and contracting the nested barrels. Like most AF lenses, the manual focus ring is small and not as silky or fine turning as the manual lenses of yesteryear.
Nak San Sa Temple Eave Detail | Korea | EOS 10S, EF28-105 3.5-4.5 USM, Sensia 100, Canon FS4000US film scanner
It sports a ring-type USM (Ultrasonic Motor) that drives an internal lens group and, thus, AF flies. Later versions (1999 onwards) of this lens sport a 7-blade diaphragm while older ones have 5-blades. Out of focus areas (bokeh) are slightly smoother with the 7-blade model. The front element doesn't rotate and the barrel remains stationary during focusing. However, the nested barrel extends considerably when zooming to 105 mm. Of course, being an USM lens, it is silent when focusing. It has FTM, allowing you to manually focus without switching out of AF mode. If you prefocus manually, the distance window in meters and feet is useful.
The filter size is a modest 58 mm, making filters affordable and easy to share with common Canon lenses. There is only one gotcha with this lens: the front element is extremely close to the filter threads and, thus, prone to accidental scratching when changing filters. A larger filter thread (e.g., 62 mm) would be safer and add the possibility of stacking filters without vignetting. Two standard filters vignette at 28 mm but are fine at 35 mm.
Canon EF 28-105 3.5-4.5 USM | Small, light, sharp and versatile
For a consumer zoom, the EF 28-105 USM delivers sharp and contrasty images. Although quality is decent wide open, the best image quality is at F8 or 11. The long end is slightly softer than the wide angle side, but still good enough for excellent 11 x 14 inch enlargements.
Like most zooms, the EF 28-105 USM suffers from a small amount of barrel distortion at the wide end and pincushion distortion at the long end. If you shoot lots of architecture, avoid zooms and embrace the superior correction of prime lenses. For general use, I haven't noticed distortion except in close-up subjects with lots of parallel lines (horizons look fine). Indeed, distortion increases considerably in the macro range, especially at 28 mm. Although flare is well controlled for a zoom, flare and ghosting occur if you shoot bright sunsets. Hazy sunsets come out nicely. I always keep the lens shade on to help keep flare in check (my hat works even better!).
Waikiki Beach Girl | EOS A2, EF28-105 3.5-4.5 USM, Sensia 100, LS-1000 scanner
This is a nice lens for the Elan series, Rebels (film), EOS 5/A2E, 6D and 5D series. Due to its light weight, it balances well on smaller cameras such as the Rebel or Elan series. With a 28 mm short end, it may not be wide enough for APS-C cameras unless, of course, you prefer a 45-170 zoom range. I almost sold my EF 28-105 USM but found it makes a great walk around lens on an EOS 5D when you need to travel light. Pair the EF 28-105 3.5-4.5 USM with the EF 100-300 4.5-5.6 USM and you have a fine two-lens kit at a bargain price.
Honolulu City Lights Festival | Honolulu HI | Canon EOS A2, EF 28-105 3.5-4.5 USM, Manfrotto 190Tripod, Sensia 100
Canon released an upgraded version of this lens in 2000, the EF 28-105 3.5-4.5 USM II. The optical formula is identical but minor physical improvements were added: aluminum main barrel, metal gear train (the old version is plastic) and 7-blade diaphragm. They also moved production offshore. This design enjoyed an extremely long life for a zoom but finally ceased production in 2008.
More sample images taken with the EF 28-105 3.5-4.5 USM:
6/11/2001 | Revised 03/13/2016
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