The OG wide angle lens: P. Angénieux 28mm f3.5 Retrofocus Type R11 review

April 20, 2020

The OG wide angle lens: P. Angénieux 28mm f3.5 Retrofocus Type R11 review

I didn’t think much of it when I first picked up this lens because it seemed rather old. But after only a few minutes of googling I was impressed by the small feat of mechanics I held in my hand.

Pierre Angénieux, the creator of the lens, was a french engineer. He pioneered the technology used in modern zoom lenses and famously the retrofocus optical design. The latter allowed for wide-angle lenses to be mounted on SLRs. Previous wide-angles required the rear element to be very close to the film plane to achieve the wide field of view. This meant that wide-angles were only compatible with rangefinder cameras, as they didn't have a reflex mirror. The Angénieux I am reviewing today is one the first retrofocusing lenses.

It was introduced in 1953 as the second lens with with a retrofocus design, the first one being a 35mm f3.5. The lens is beautiful with its black and silver design. I was lucky, mine is in good condition, apart from some 'Schneideritis'.

To test this lens I adapted it to my Canon AL-1 using an Exacta to Canon FD mount. This allowed me to use the fantastic aperture priority mount on the AL-1. Since there is no meter coupling between these lenses and the camera body I had to adapt the way I shot. Just like shooting with other older (usually M42) lenses, you must leave the lens on f3.5 to compose and focus. You can then slide the aperture down to the correct stop just before taking the picture. This darkens the viewfinder and allows the aperture priority mode to work it's magic.

Here are the results:
Everything was shot on Kodak T-Max 400, developed by us and scanned on a Fuji Frontier SP3000.

F8 at 1/125

F8 at 1/500
F8 at 1/125

F11 at 1/500

F16 at 1/250

I am quite impressed by the sharpness of this lens. This picture was shot at F11 and 1/250 second.

F11 at 1/250