I have a very old (18 years or so) Canon 28-105 3.5-4.5 USM lens. I bought it for my Elan 2e and then 7NE, and then used it on my XTI. I thought it took great pictures.

Now i'm shooting the Canon Kit 28-135 3.5 -5.6 USM IS lens on a Canon 7d.

The 28-135 has greater range - but is a significantly bigger, heavier, and more cumbersome lens. the 28-105 is the same speed at 105, so i'm curious is there's any benefit to using it, especially since it isn't IS.

Which is the better lens for everyday shooting?

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Well, from a technical standpoint, the optics are not "perfect" in either lens. Both of those lenses are consumer-grade, so the optical quality suffers quite a bit. When it comes down to which is better, that is really a personal evaluation...do you like the pictures from both? From one or the other? Is the lighter weight of the older lens a very valuable feature to you, even if it means you deal with slightly worse IQ? No one here can really tell you much more than the technical specifications and MTFs of those lenses. As for which one is better...only you can decide that. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Feb 20, 2013 at 19:45
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ If you really truly are interested in a lens with much better optics that offers better IQ and higher sharpness, you should look into the EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM. It is more expensive than either of the lenses you have (maybe more expensive than both together), but it is a very high quality lens that would provide optics much closer to "perfect" than the other two, and is renown as an excellent general-purpose, every-day, "walkaround" lens. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Feb 20, 2013 at 19:47
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You are asking for us to decide which tradeoff's are acceptable for you. Only you know this. Higher quality lenses are often bigger, heavier, and more expensive. Do you need smaller, lighter, and cheaper? Is IQ paramount or not? All decisions you have to make, and we can't make for you. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Feb 20, 2013 at 20:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jrista - Might even be a better bet to go with the EF 24-70 f/4L that just came out. The IQ on it is substantially better and the image stabilization is also more adjustable, though it does give up a little bit on the longer end of the focal length range. Looking forward to getting my evaluation version of the 24-105 F/4 and the 24-70 F/2.8 tomorrow. (Sadly CPS doesn't have the 24-70 F/4 yet.) \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Feb 20, 2013 at 20:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ The EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM that came with my 50D kit does have IS. Was there an earlier, non-IS version? If so I've never noticed a reference to it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Feb 20, 2013 at 21:41

6 Answers 6


At the longer end of the focal length, the IS is going to make a huge difference for any free-shooting. Also, optics have taken pretty significant steps forward in the past 20 years, so chances are good that a newer lens will produce a better image, but it's also hard to determine the exact trade off since longer focal length ranges tend to sacrifice image quality as well.

My guess would be that the newer IS lens will generally give you better performance, but the best bet would be to take a look at the total image distortion charts for both lenses to see which is cleaner.

Edit: Apparently, both lenses are old. The 28-135 is from 1998, so it doesn't have a lot of the more recent benefits. I couldn't find any details of the I variant of your older lens, but the II variant had better f/stops through significant portions of the range. I would suggest doing some more comparisons and see how the lens actually performs, but the 28-105 may actually be better.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks - I guess my original question wasn't clear. But you seemed to have answered it. In the same way that people can say, with great certainty, that the 24-105 is optically a much better lens than a kit lens, I was hoping there would be an "optically-based" answer for my question - but I like your answer. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Seth
    Feb 20, 2013 at 20:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Seth - updated my post after some additional research. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Feb 20, 2013 at 20:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ The 28-135 is slightly better optically, especially with regard to edge sharpness across the range of focal lengths and aperture. Less so in the center other than at 28mm wide open where it is obviously superior. The 28-135 is also 1/3 stop wider at 35mm than the 28-105, but by 105mm the difference is 2/3 stops the other way. Both of these lenses are a bit better at f/5.6-f8 than at maximum aperture. I would say copy-to-copy variation might be more of an overall factor for you, considering the age of your 28-105. If the 28-135 is fairly new it might be in better calibration. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Feb 20, 2013 at 23:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelClark - were you looking at the newer 28-105 F/4 or the much older 28-105 f/3.5 - 5.6? The older lens is also the Gen I rather than the Gen II lens that most sites have now based on the 18 year age. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Feb 21, 2013 at 14:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AJHenderson: I'm not familiar with the 28-105 f/4. There is a 28-105 f/4-5.6 (junk) and a 24-105 f/4L (excellent lens). See my answer for full details. Some of the comparisons were to a review of the EF 28-105 f/3.5-4.5, some were to a review of the 28-105 f3.5-4.5 II. That review said the optics were the same as the original version, the only differences were cosmetic between it and the "II" version which came out in 2000. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Feb 21, 2013 at 14:27

Only you can define what better means to you.

The EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM was introduced in 2000. I'm assuming the older lens you are using is the EF 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 USM (the previous version) introduced in 1992, for which I could find less test data. As far as I can ascertain, the two versions of the lens were optically identical and the changes to the "II" were only cosmetic. There is also a much smaller and lower quality EF 28-105mm f/4-5.6 introduced in 2002.

The EF 28-135 f/3.5-5.6 IS USM was introduced in 1998. It was the first standard SLR zoom to use Image Stabilization.

Both of these lenses were designed in the 1990s for use with 35mm film cameras. There isn't a lot of difference between them optically. At 28mm and wide apertures the 28-135 is clearly sharper in the center, but the 28-105 is just as sharp by f/5.6 in the center. The 28-135 is generally sharper at the edges across the entire range, but not by a lot. As we would expect, the higher zoom ratio of the 28-135 leads to a little more distortion at the wide end, but both lenses are pretty good in this regard. The 28-135 also demonstrates a little more vignetting than the 28-105. At most common focal lengths and apertures both lenses control CA fairly well for their price range. The 28-105 has noticeably more at 28mm when using narrow apertures above f/8, but has slightly less CA than the 28-135 at most other focal lengths and aperture combinations. Although they both start out with maximum aperture at 28mm of f/3.5, at 35mm the 28-105 is f/4 while the 28-135 is still f/3.5, by 50mm the 28-105 is about 1/3-2/3 stops faster than the 28-135 through 105mm.

What it really seems to come down to is:

  • The 28-105 is 6 oz. lighter (13 oz. vs. 19 oz.), but has less reach and no IS.
  • The 28-135 is larger and 50% heavier, but slightly better optically, has 30% more reach on the long end and first generation IS that is good for about two extra stops when shooting static scenes handheld.

When factoring in the weight of your 7D body, the 28-135+7D is only about 13% heavier than the 28-105+7D. In return you get more reach, slightly better optics, and some IS.


Comparison ISO 12233 charts between the 28-105 II and the 28-135

  • \$\begingroup\$ Links to reviews added. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Feb 20, 2013 at 23:19

I bought a Canon 28-135 IS with a Canon EOS 3 a couple of years ago on Ebay. I really just wanted to try the lens out with a view to selling it again because I already have the Canon 24-85 USM which is better with a crop sensor DSLR due to the wider end. My 24-85 effectively becomes a 35-120 whereas the 28-135 becomes a 45-210 (approx) which is much less flexible.

I was interested in the 28-135 having used the Tamron Adaptall 28-135 for many years. The Tamron is faster because it opens to 4.5 at the long end and the Canon drops to 5.6 at about 80mm which is pretty slow. Hence why it needs IS. But what did I think of it?

I tried it on film and digital. Some scenics and landscapes then a full glamour shoot. The former was outdoors in sunny weather, lens stopped down mostly. I found the results acceptable. In dull light opening wider images were fairly soft. Shooting at f11 with studio flash on the glamour shoot I got decent results but not on a par with my 24-85 which is sharper. The big front end tends to pick up a bit of flare which can soften image. Wasn't too perturbed because the slight softening effect complimented the model.

I then sold it again on Ebay having satisfied my curiosity. I don't think it's even as good as the much older Tamron, which uses leaded glass being a 1980's design and slower than the Tamron although the Tamron admittedly doesn't have IS. If I was paying for a Canon EOS 5 then I would want something else, on a crop sensor DSLR the focal range isn't ideal for the purpose of versatility for which the lens is designed. Notice you do see an awful lot of them on Ebay. I got what I paid for mine so it was worth it just to try it out.

I would like to note that having tried every lens combo out there, for me a 28mm, a 50mm and a 70-210 or 70-300 is a much better option if seek the best image quality. Not as handy as an all in one solution but I can use a consumer grade 70-210 at f4 and get tack sharp results.


I recently sold my Canon Kit 28-135 F3.5-5.6 USM IS on craigslist for $240. I tried for several months to get more, and the market value was $240.

I got it as the kit lens on my 50D. I quickly came to hate the lens. If I had not picked up a 50mm F1.4, I probably would have given up digital photography.

The 28-135 F3.5-5.6 has a fundamental problem: its too slow. Sure, its F3.5 at 28mm, but it is not linear, it becomes F5.6 very quickly as you zoom out, and F5.6 is much too slow for 95% of the photos I wanted to take.

I found the image quality to be acceptable only when I added flash, and it had to be off-camera flash to have the photos be interesting. When shooting "wide open" I was not happy with the image quality.

I replaced it with the EF-S 17-55 F2.8, which I love and which allowed me to like digital photography. I gave up the 55-135 zoom range for a while, then I picked up a 70-250 for $100. I rarely use the long lens, I live in the 17-55 zone.


I have not used the 28-135, but many years ago I used the 35-135 USM with a film camera and found both handling and IQ to be excellent. However I did use the 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 USM with DLSRs for a long time, and liked it a lot. There is not much wrong with the IQ delivered by the 28-105 f/3.5-4.5, even in the corners, as you can see in this un-cropped, full frame shot (with the 16.7Mp EOS 1Ds mark ii):


... and unless you are shooting fast-moving subjects in poor light the apertures are plenty fast enough.

Someone above suggested looking at the highly praised 24-70 f/4. I recently bought that lens for the wider 24mm angle, for the genuine Macro capability, but most of all for the Image stabilisation.

It is a lovely lens, and lets me get images in low light that the 28-105 would not.

I do not miss the focal lengths from 70-105 (and if I want them I can user a different lens) and although it is noticeably heavier that is not a problem, but the extra bulk makes it less pleasant to handle than the old 28-105. As for IQ, there might be marginally less distortion, and slightly more detail and sharpness, but the tiny improvement would not justify the "upgrade". The change is justified only if you "need" (i.e. want!) the weather sealing, the 24mm FL, IS, or a decent macro (without having to carry a specialist lens like the 100 f/2.8 macro)


Further to my previous answer, I recently bought a 28-135 lens to try it out as a versatile "walkabout" lens. It is slow, but with a camera that gives clean images at ISO 6400 and above that is not much of a problem. MY copy had no zoom-creep, was easy enough to use, versatile and made sharp images. But compared to the 24-70 f/4 L that is still my main lens (and also as compared to old 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 USM that used to be my main lens) I found the out-of-camera colours rather dull and muted, and no amount of post-processing would give me the lovely vibrant colours that I got effortlessly from the other two lenses, which is why I sold it again.

But that was the only problem, and only for me. If you like the colour rendition, and have a modern camera that gives clean images at high ISO you might love the 28-135 USM.

I believe there is a lot of sample variation, and as it is an old lens some will have been better looked after than others. What this means is that it is not reasonable to pass judgement on the lens on the basis of a single sample, especially a well-used one.

My copy also had a slight misalignment problem. One side of the frame was a bit sharper than the other. It showed up only in big enlargements and at small apertures DOF hid the flaw. At wider apertures I usually wanted the edges and corners blurred anyway, so in real life use it made very little difference.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Amazing. A 28-135 with no zoom creep is a unicorn. Don't ever give it up. :-) Oh, you already did. Never mind. \$\endgroup\$
    – dgatwood
    Nov 7, 2018 at 21:55

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