Nikkor Ai-S 28mm f/2 - Review / Lab Test Report
Lens Reviews - Nikon / Nikkor (APS-C)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published July 2006

Joint lens test with Volker Mühlhaus!


The Nikkor Ai-S 28mm f/2 found its way into the test schedule upon special request by Volker Mühlhaus who also provided two other lenses for testing. Throughout the years he checked out numerous Nikkors and suggested that this one is worth a deeper look despite being a manual focus lens.

On the D200 its field-of-view is equivalent to a 42mm lens on full-frame camera so it obviously looses much of its wide-angle character on an APS-C DSLR - it almost behaves like a standard lens within this scope.

Note: product image kindly provided by Volker

Typical for most Ai lenses from the good 'ol times the build quality is excellent. The broad, rubberized focus ring operates very smooth and exceptionally well damped. You should specify the lens data using the Non-CPU Lens Data option in the shooting menu of the D200 in order to get valid aperture information in the viewfinder as well as in the EXIF data of your files. In this case you may even take advantage of the color metering system. Please note that this is not possible neither on the D50 nor on the D70.

Equiv. focal length42 mm (full format equivalent)
Equiv. aperturef/3 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field)
Optical construction9 elements in 8 groups
Number of aperture blades7
min. focus distance0.25 m (max. magnification: 1:5.4)
Dimensions59 x 69 mm
Weight345 g
Filter size52 mm (non-rotating)
HoodNikon HN-1, barrel-shaped, screw-in type
Other featuresCRC - close range correction


The Nikkor Ai-S 28mm f/2 shows only a moderate degree (~1.2%) of barrel distortions which is slightly less than most 28-xxx zoom lenses at 28mm.

The chart above has a real-world size of about 120x80cm.


Regarding its age the Nikkor is naturally a full-frame lens with the usual sweet spot advantage when used on an APS-C DSLR. Nonetheless vignetting is still quite pronounced (~0.7EV) at wide open aperture but from f/2.8 and up vignetting is no longer field-relevant.

MTF (resolution)

The MTF performance of the Nikkor Ai-S 28mm f/2 is still top notch by today's standards. In fact it is about as good as it gets at medium aperture settings where it can rival the best lenses tested to date. At f/2 the center performance is already very good but the border quality suffers at this setting. The contrast performance is also reduced here. At f/2.8 there's already a substantial increase in quality primarily at the borders reaching very good territories here.

Please note that the MTF results are not directly comparable across the different systems!

Below is a simplified summary of the formal findings. The chart shows line widths per picture height (LW/PH) which can be taken as a measure for sharpness. If you want to know more about the MTF50 figures you may check out the corresponding Imatest Explanations

Chromatic Aberrations (CAs)

The degree of lateral chromatic aberrations (color shadows at harsh contrast transitions) is a little mixed depending on the chosen aperture. From f/2 to f/4 CAs are quite low and not really field-relevant. The problem increases at f/5.6 and more so at f/8 to quite pronounced but not critical levels.

Please note that lateral CAs can be quite easily reduced or even removed via tools.


Typical for older manual focus lenses the 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. At f/2 the results are somewhat softer regarding both border resolution and contrast. Distortions and vignetting are quite well controlled whereas CAs could be a little lower at f/8. The lens is no longer in production but if it fits your needs you should be easily able to find one on the used market.

Optical Quality:    
Mechanical Quality:
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