The nikon 28 2.8 is a tossed salad when it comes to performance and, well just over all “ness”. When i say tossed salad though i mean the good kind, like the kind you’d get at a good italian restaurant served with generous amounts of balsamic vineagarette. Basically what I’m trying to say is I love it, but i can see why many wouldn’t. My first real experience of the lens has fortunately been in New York over the course of my 18th , meaning i have been able to really out this lens through it’s paces in both controlled environments and of course the street.
So as a how does this lens perform as a street lens? Well this is a question I’d assume, the answer to which would prove useful to the majority of those considering this lens. I have only used this lens on the d90 so my metering has been all manual and my focal length magnified. BUT this has not hampered me from growing very fond of this lens for fast, reactive street work. I have found this lens to be my new walk around lens, out ranking the 50 1.8 so far for usefulness with it’s wider focal length and speedier operation. I have found the manual aperture ring to be a lot faster and more useful for the speed and feel i need to get for the street (i know all non-g lenses have this as well but as i am forced to use it, it has really grown on me) and has allowed me to get great shots of spot lighting and hard light in shadowed ares of the city really efficiently.
The focal length and separation isn’t ideal, perhaps a faster lens would offer more but i really think it’s just a case of the focal lengths hyper-focal distance coming into play. I mean i can really get along with this approximate 42mm focal length but i feel the separation is just not always their at a useful focus distance. The DX sensor of the D90 will also be a contributing factor to the separation and DOF i have been experiencing so if your a FX or film user ignore me on this point. I am the type of shooter that likes to be able to isolate entire person from their surroundings at least, large groups of people would be preferable (thats why i carry a minolta x300 on me) and this lens just doesn’t give me either. I can get some separation if i frame the shot for just a head and shoulders shot but i never take shots like this, I’m a street shooter. Don’t get me wrong though, you can separate people or groups, you just have to be very lucky and work very hard, but it is possible and the results ARE worth it.
As for build quality, the lenses primary construction consists mainly of plastic, but this is not a negative point, oh no, the plastic used is very, very tough feeling and feels very reassuring in the hand. This also makes the lens very light and being one of Nikons 3 pancake lenses, this lens makes a great walk-around and everyday lens. Don’t be put off by the plastic construction though, the lens mount is all metal, so it’s gonna outlast it’s useful life.
The focus ring feels very smooth (on a good condition specimen) but has a relatively small focus range, which can be a good thing in terms of speed, but not so much for focus accuracy. With the 50mm 1.8 the focus ring has a much broader gamut, not to say it focuses that much closer, just that it has much smaller focus increments.
The aperture ring has a good feel, positive movements and solid increments. One thing i have found is that it exhibits my pet hate play at the 2.8 end of the ring. This is were the aperture ring has that very small bit of movement at the wide end, meaning it clicks into 2.8 but then moves just a little bit more causing the precision of the lens to be compromised and, at times, making me want to rip the rings off the lens (it gives that kind of feel)
Suggestions + conclusion
Would i recommend this lens? Yes, but only if you can get as good a deal as I did (I traded old camera gear i bought for about £10 at a boot fair for it). Ok i know this is amazing deal that will probably not come to fruition for the majority of you so I’d recommend a £40-50 cap for this lens which isn’t as low as you may think, this is an average price for this lens. If you can spring for it, I’d strongly recommend getting a wider and even faster lens if you can, something like the Nikon 20mm 2.8 or even the Sigma 20mm 1.8 as I have found 28mm to be a little tight to be able to capture the drama of the street. But other than this the lens is sharp enough, produces excellent colours and feels good to use, so yeah, I like it. I love how this lens has forced me to really think about every exposure and given me the ability to alter my exposure to nab a highlight in a flash. If your seriously considering one, get out to a second hand camera shop and have a try to see if it’s the right lens for you.