The 28-70 f:2.6 was Angenieux’s last consumer oriented zoom, designed for Canon, Minolta and Nikon AF cameras. With a very wide aperture, an all-glass and all-metal construction, it was positioned to compete with the “pro” series zooms of the big three. The tests performed by the specialized press at that time showed that it was THAT good.
Unfortunately, its price was also on par with the best of Nicanolta, which made it a tough sale beyond the small circle of admirers of French technology. When Angenieux decided to refocus on professional markets and stopped the production of its consumer oriented lenses, Tokina inherited the design, and their Tokina AT-X 287 Series – which was sold as recently as 2007, is a remote descendant of the Angenieux 28-70 AF.
Angenieux is a French company, now part of the Thales Group (a defence and aerospace conglomerate). They have always been involved in optics, designing and manufacturing lenses for the photo and movie cameras since the late thirties. A very innovative company, they will be remembered as the developers of the first retrofocus lens, in 1950, and of the first zoom lens, between 1956 and 1958.
Their products were used by the Nasa during the lunar missions, and Leitz included a few Angenieux lenses in their product range (for the Leica R series, in the eighties). In 1993, Angenieux became a division of Thales. Since then, they have focused exclusively on lenses for the movie industry and on optical equipment used in military or aerospatial applications.
Like any other “full-frame” wide aperture trans-standard zoom, the 28-70 was a large and heavy piece of equipment. It weighted more than 750 g, and needed 77mm filters (it shipped with an Angenieux UV filter, a lens hood, a pouch and two lens caps)
It was fully compatible with original lenses of the big three, which also had its bad side: like an original Minolta lens, the “A” mount version was very loud – when you turn a Minolta AF body on, it calibrates the AF by focusing the lens to the infinite and bringing it back at full speed to the minimum focusing distance, making a big “clonk” in the process.
The lens had a reputation of being prone to vignetting – which was true and no surprise when you consider the f:2.6 maximum aperture and the range of the zoom. Its durability was also questioned by some, but I used the 28-70 as my everyday lens for 12 years, and it did not show any weakness.
Can you still use the 28-70 now, and how does it compare to the best of Nicanolta?
To a large extent, it’s a moot point, because the lens is now a very sought after collectible, and its price has no connection with its usage value anymore.
A brand new full frame 24-70 zoom from one of the big three, with aspheric glass and a super fast ultra-sonic motor will sell for $1,500 approximatly. No doubt it will outperform a pretty good lens from the early nineties, built for the resolution of film without any special glass or aspheric element. An Angenieux 28-70 AF, if you can find one, may cost you up to $2,000.
And don’t bother to ask. The lens shown on these pictures was sold a few years ago, to a collector in China, to pay for my first dSLR, which is now completely obsolete. Isn’t it sad?
[added in April 2018 – I’m a hobbyist, and can’t justify spending north of $1,500.00 on an Angenieux 28-70 AF zoom. But nostalgia is a powerful driver – I just purchased the best substitute to the Angenieux 28-70 AF I could find – a Tokina AT-X PRO II 28-70 f/2.8. More to read about the Angenieux lens and its Tokina cousins in my most recent blog entry: “The four Tokina 28-70 AF Zooms and their Angenieux roots“].