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Canon EOS 20D

Review Date: Oct 14, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Good ISO noise control, very solid build, reliable machine
Noisy shutter, AE accuracy. UI can't match the Nilon's

I have been using this camera for years now. About years ago, I bought a 5D as upgrade, and after careful comparason, I decided to keep the 20D, that speaks it all.

The strongest side of this body is the tough build and good spead. It is very reliable for all these years. Battery last long enough for a whole day shooting. The ISO noise level is visiblely better than the D70 I compared.

It is not a perfect camera in any sense, and the new 40D fixed most of the issues. But if you look back to its time, this is really a legendary camera.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8

Review Date: Dec 3, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $160.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Sharp and cheap
Noisy and slow focus

I sold this lens a while back to get the better 50/F1.4 USM. I don't even know it was a smart move or not. The guy who got it is still happy with it.

The Mark I 50/1.8 is a really good value. At a price that is cheaper than many UV filters, this lens delivered sharp image, good color...

This is the lens get me into portrait shooting. I use 20D, so it is practically a 80mm/1.8, good for head-shouder portrait. It is a too long for full body, and too short for tight framed head shot. But it is an important lens for me. It made me start thinking about light, bokeh, etc.

As mentioned, it is slow and noisy in focus area. I wanted to be a little for serious on portrait, so I upgraded to F1.4.


Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC

Review Date: Oct 8, 2006 Recommend? no | Price paid: $450.00 | Rating: 5 

Pros: Good optical quality
Focus problem

This was the first lens I bought for D-SLR (20D), it has focus problem and I have to zoom-in, focus, then zoom-out to get a clear shot. Too much for me, and I returned it.

The image quality when focus is very good, little better than my 17-85 IS. There is a obvious warmer color tone than Canon lenses, which I like it. The build is excellent, nice hood, the zoom feels like a Canon L lens.

In short, a great lens if you are lucky to have one that can focus.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM

Review Date: Oct 8, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $500.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Perfect to its specification. Light, easy to handle, Sharpest lens at wide open I've used.
I know what I don't get when I buy (F2.8, IS, etc.), but can't complaint, can I ? :)

I am rating this lens from amateur point of view.

I bought and sold many lenses in the 75-300 range, IS or none-IS. I didn't keep any of them because I found myself a "wide" person, using wide/ultra wide more often.

After I use the 50mm/1.8 Mark I and 50/1.4 as portrait lens for a while, I am more into this type of shooting, and decide to get a 70-200mm lens. I got a Tamron 70-210mm/F2.8 and this lens. The F2.8 lens is just too heavy to handle, and I found the bokeh on the F4 is about as good, so I sold the F2.8.

Back to this lens. I did a brickwall test, and was so impressed that at F4, this lens delivered about the same sharpness as F8. You can tell me that my F8 is soft, but I only care about F4 since it is one of my portrait lens Smile

Color, contrast, AF speed, build quality is what I expect from a L lens. I owned a 24-105L before that, and was not so impressed about its IQ, and the lens hood on 24-105L seems loose to me.

I used it on my relative's wedding and some candid shots during my business trip. Here are some examples:

Because it doesn't have IS, shanking is number one problem. I have to use 1/250s or faster most of the time. When shooting indoor, I do use fill flash. The candid shots I posted was taken on a double decker tour bus while it was moving. I used ISO 400 and F4, it seems most of my shots are not shaky. This lens is light enough, I can use it without tripod most of the time.

I can't complaint about facts that is not in the specification, like IS, F2.8... To me, this lens does exactly what I expected, so I give it a 10.

Sigma 15-30mm f3.5-4.5 EX Aspherical DG DF

Review Date: Aug 28, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $350.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Good color, contrast
Minor edge softness wide open, size

Used on 5D and very happy with it. The lens produce a typical Sigma warm color, which I like. It is littler softer than my 10-22, but not too bad. At F10, 11, which I use this lens mainly, the result is just great. And this is the lens (not the 224-105L) that shows the advantage of the 5D body !

The mark price for this lens is also attractive comparing with the Canon lenses.

This lens is about the same size as the Canon 24-105L, and weight about the same too. But the build feels better than the Canon.

AF is slower and noisier than Canon USM lens. This is not a HSM lens, so you should expect that. But for a landscape lens, I think it is perfectly fine.

In short, GOOD DEAL !

Canon Speedlite 420EX TTL

Review Date: Aug 28, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $180.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Light, very functional - GREAT PRICE
Not for this price. Some controls can be easier, which Canon fixed them all with the new 430EX.

I bought 420EX as my first flash, knowing it will be the slave unit once I got a 550/580EX. I rearly rate anything 10 out 10, but for what I've paid, (and I know what I will get by then), I think 9 is not fair for this little flash. Whenever I use one flash, I still prefer the 420ex. Now I got two of them.

It works as salve flash, it does exactly what it should, and worked very well for me.

It is hard to find new ones now, and I am lucky to get it from B&H while it is still available Smile

Canon EOS 5D

Review Date: Aug 28, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,400.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Overall a very very good camera.
ISO info is not in VF; focus points are not stretch far enough (seems same as the 20D, but for a much bigger sensor)

If you can find good lens for it, it is really a near perfect camera. Compare with the 20/30D, it has nice and graceful shutter, large VF, etc. I do have two complaints listed in the Negative aspects, hoping Canon will fix them later.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

Review Date: Aug 28, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: Light and good range; IS; L build quality; Color/contrast
not much sharper than my 17-85, especially wide open; distortion

It was my first L lens, and frankly quite dissapointed. At F4, it is not sharp as my 50/1.4, and not much better than the 17-85, which is an under rated optically IMO.

I also wish the zoom ring and the M-F ring switch places. The zoom operation doesn't feel right to me because of that.

The good side: light and well suited for the 5D. Great color and contrast - better than the 50/1.4.

I think this lens is over priced and over rated.

Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

Review Date: Jul 30, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $630.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp and light, very useful. Great for landscape, good for portrait as well. Very low distortion for this focal range.
expensive (but may be reasonable for its quality)

I like landscape, and this lens is a must have for 20D ! Optically, it is really excellent. It is obviously sharper at the edges than my 17-85. The image quality is quite good wide open. This is the lens makes me wondering if I should leave EF-S/APS-C world...

I also used this lens for portrait and like the result.

The distortion is so well controlled, I only need to change perspective, and everything will straight up !

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Review Date: Jul 30, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Nice build quality IMHO; Quick and quiet focus (way better than the F1.8); Very sharp; Very good color and contrast; A perfect shoulder to head portrait lens on 20D, and all purpose on 5D; Very compact design.
Can't think of anything in my experience.

I first got myself an used 50mm/1.8 Mark I on the 20D. I quickly found out that was one of my favorite purchase, but the focusing is a bit slow and noisy, so I upgrade to the F1.4 USM version. On my 20D, it is a perfect shoulder to head portrait lens, and that is what I have been using it for. I recently use it in a relative's wedding, and this fast lens did great inside the church. I rearly use larger than F2.8, because the DOF won't be large enough to cover both eyes, and that could be the reason I won't complaint the "softness of F1.4" like many do.

I recently got a 5D and this lens finally acts as a real 50mm, and it seems very pleasent to use as well. Again, since I am not using F1.4 much, I have not yet notice vignette problem on FF 5D.

I have the 24-105L/F4 and still want to keep this lens for low light. I will certainly recommend it to anyone, regardless he/she is using APS-C or FF body.

Canon Speedlite 550EX TTL

Review Date: Jul 16, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $250.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Almost as powerful and functional as the much more expensive 580EX.
Don't like the seperate buttons for tilte and turn. Very hard to operate, especially turning. Big and heavy.

I am not a pro and only use this unit as hobby.

I bought it second hand, mainly to try out the wireless flash setup. It does exactly what I expected for, and does very well! Although I heard many complaints about Canon's flash exporsue, I personally never have any problem using the 550 and 420 on my 20D. I don't even use the FEC much. The result of the 550/420 pair is very satisfying:

Compare with Nikon flashes, the used 550EX is still not cheap. The controls of this flash can be improved, and the 580EX does enhance it, but the price of 580EX is higher too.

I highly recommend the 550EX to non-Pros, who want to try out the multiple flash setting, and don't want to pay the extra for 580EX. Function wise, it is almost as good as the 580.

Canon EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM

Review Date: May 16, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $589.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: Focus is dead-on, IS works beautifully, quiet, nice looking and nicely built. No glare.
CA is the worst I've seen. Lack of the sharp feeling, the edge very fuzzy at 17mm, and still soft at F8-11. Distortion is very visible.

I first got a Sigma 18-50/2.8, and found out over half of the picture taken are out of focus. That lens is very nice otherwise, but I don't have time for the exchange, so I returned it and bought this 17-85 from a local store. This give me an opportunity to compare those two lenses.

I like the focus 17-85, even in very dark situation. The focusing chart test always shows perfectly. I tried the AF assist light from the 20D on board flash. it worked as advertised. (I also found out that you can turn off the flash function but still use the AF assist light). It just seems the lens and the 20D work as ONE.

My copy doesn't vignette at all with regular UV on. If I put my thin heliopan c-pl filter on top of the UV, the upper corners will show some vignetting, which is fair to me.

The IS is my favorite part of this lens. I can shoot with 1/15s, sometimes 1/8s. This function improves my sucessful rate more than any other factors.

Glare is very well controlled.

Build is nicely done. The zoom is smoother than the Sigma, but has a bit plastic feel.

The downside is also significant:
Compare with the Sigma, the sharpness is not close, center or edge. The edge seems worse than my Nikon 4500 P/S.

The CA bothers me the most. It is visible everywhere if the background is bright enough, and I have no effective tools to remove it. I've never seen a lens that has worse CA than this.

Distortion is visible. But it can be fixed easily and nicely by PTLens. (I don't even need check the Vignette box in the tool). In that sense, the big tummy distortion won't bother me much.

The lens seems less contrasty than the Sigma. But because the lighting condition was different for the two testing, I can't tell you it is because of the lens. But Sigma produces brighter image overall.

Bokeh is not very graceful, but if I can avoid highlights in the background, it won't show up that bad.

The sweat spot of my copy seem to be F8-11 at all focal length. F16 is about the same as F5.6 in terms of sharpness.


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