3 Reasons Why the 28mm Is My Go-To Lens

I'll be the first to admit it: As a videographer, I'm a sucker for a prime lens. While I love the versatility of zooms, nothing has forced me to learn more about what I'm doing in the heat of the moment than using primes. However, I always find myself going back to the 28mm prime. It is my go-to lens in many situations and when it's not it's still in my kit always ready to go. There are a few reasons I love my 28mm and I think they may persuade you to give one a go.

Think About Your Framing

I think this goes without saying for almost anything photographers and videographers shoot. When I first picked up a 28mm lens it was nothing like anything I had ever used before. It was just off enough from a 35mm lens to where I felt my image was packed with that much more negative space or it had way too much going on. It really forced me to take step back and analyze the framing of my shot and how everything would fit into it. 

Get In Close

The 28mm is unforgiving in the fact that is makes you get personal with a subject. You can't just stand back and hope to capture the emotion on someone's face, you have to get up close and personal with your subject. It feels daunting at first because most photographers, myself included, are used to shooting people at a distance. However, this makes interacting with people become second nature, and teaches you how to really connect with people.

Use Distortion To Your Advantage

Another added benefit of a 28mm lens is the slight lens distortion it offers. While it's not to the extent of many other wide angles, it should be used to your advantage. One way I take advantage of it is by shooting portrait-style images. It forces me to frame the photo in such a way that I can distort specific aspects of the image, be it the overall size of a building or the extremities or a subject.

Next time you're thinking about what to attach to your body, check out a 28mm and challenge yourself to really work with it. If you have worked with a 28mm lens, why do you love it, or even better why do you hate it?

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Mike Kelley's picture

Congratulations - you have discovered that you may in fact be an architectural photographer! Welcome to the focal length that comprises literally 90% of our work.

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Mike, that's interesting. So photographers shooting a kit lens at 18mm on a crop sensor are essentially getting the same field of view, just on a smaller sensor. I've actually been a crop sensor shooter for a long time. I might take some crap for this, but even though I own various lenses, I swear my 18-55mm Canon kit lens is super sharp. I love my Canon 85mm, 50mm & 35mm primes as well, but for some reason I've gravitated toward the 18-55mm for a lot of my work.

Mr Blah's picture

You should try the fuji 18mm f2.

It's a wonderfull, small, fast lens. And dirt cheap(used).

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Sounds awesome! I love primes. Would the fuji 18mm f2 work on a Canon though? Obviously I'd need some kind of lens converter.

On another note, I actually just bought the Canon 24mm STM F2.8 and it's a great video lens. It's pretty wide, shallow depth of field, and the stm technology is killer for autofocus on the 70D. Plus even though it's not a macro lens, you can shoot super close to subjects.

Mr Blah's picture

It wouldn't work on canon (flange distances and all...).

I made the switch from Nikon to the XT-1 and their wide primes are among the best. And much cheaper than their equivalent in FF.

Their 16mm 1.4 is 1000$. A 24mm 1.4 is around 1600$ in canikon, roughly.

Worth a try! (You'd have to rent the body though..)

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Yeah, I'd be down for trying a Fuji, I've heard nothing but great things about them. It's hard to make a switch though when you're heavily invested in one brand. If I ever get an opportunity to shoot a Fuji though, I will definitely check out that lens

corrado amenta's picture

my 16-35 is responsible for 99% of my shots

Miles Bergstrom's picture

Honestly, I've never really thought about architecture as a subject I would enjoy shooting. Now that you point it out though.....haha

Michael J Buongiorne's picture

I feel the exact same way on all these points - but about a 35mm prime. It's the only lens I carry for "fun" shooting which for me is a mix of street photography and architecture. I like being on the wide end of the spectrum but also like having a little more compression and background separation when I want it. Otherwise I've considered stepping back to 28mm for a while, just might have too now. Great article!

Mr Blah's picture

That very first shot is distractingly crooked.

Jeff M's picture

sadly the first thing i noticed

Miles Bergstrom's picture

Are we talking about the cityscape or the lead image? I can make those changes quickly. After looking at images for so long sometimes my eyes tend to cross. Thanks for pointing it out =) Always looking to improve!

Mr Blah's picture

The head image. I think it's a bit crooked but it's accentuate by the fact that the camera wasn't parrallel to the painting when the shot was taken.

Ralph Hightower's picture

When I bought my Canon A-1 in 1980, it came with the nifty-fifty, an FD 50mm f1.8. I later added a 80-205mm f4.5 and a 400mm f6.3. in 2012, I bought a used FD 28mm f2.8 and that quickly became my favorite lens; 32 years of shooting being limited from 50mm to 400mm, it was great to get wider!

Mr Blah's picture

I still own one of those! hahaha. It's a bit soft at 2.8, but it's great at f4!

Nissor Abdourazakov's picture

Try 24mm prime. I use it together with 85mm and 200mm for my portraits all the time.

Frank Solle's picture

Looks like you're in line for a Leica Q.

Mazhar Basa's picture

28 is also my favorite, most people say 50mm like the field of view of human eye but I believe 28mm gives real feeling of what human eye see

Mr Blah's picture

FOV and distorsion are 2 things.

The 50 gives "correct" distorsion compared to our eyes, but the 28mm is closer in terms of FOV.

Our eyes can acheive 170-ish degrees of FOV AND correct perspective without distorsion (because our brain corrects it I guess...).

Kursad Sezgin's picture

I sold my Sony Zeiss FE 35 2.8 a while ago and switched to FE 28 2.0 to be coupled with an A7R2. I must say 28mm is really attractive and requires a completely different approach than 35mm. It's challenging yet it's fun to shoot with it.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Do you mean the 28mm as in the 28mm Pancake?

Jeff McCollough's picture

Sorry I forgot that the Pancake was 24mm.

Larry Miller's picture

Voigtlander makes a nice pancake 28mm/F2,8 Ir also comes with an aspherical element...........

Rob Miller's picture

On a whim I picked up a Canon 28mm f/2.8 at a pawn shop because it was inexpensive, and I love it! My favorite use so far was doing a video for groomsmen before a wedding, it was a small house with not much room to move around and I could just set the focus manually and leave it alone while I took the videos. It was plenty wide to see all the people but sharp on the detail. It's a great walking around lens for street and architectural photography.

Larry Miller's picture

Love the 28mm. I have a Voigtlander 28/F2.8 One of the major things I like about this focal length is when you use a Polarizer on it, the picture has an even cast across the pic. Any shorter focal length doesn't have that even cast across it. My gear consists of a 40mm, 28mm and an 85mm. That's all I need........