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Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar T*

Review Date: Nov 5, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $950.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Outstanding open performance, great colours, micro-contrast & bokeh, flexible in application
Manual-focus lens = difficult in live-event situations for mere mortals

Though the Zeiss lens is a manual-focus lens & limited in live-event settings, to me it represents the best-available option to Canon shooters at the 50mm focal length. The aforementioned 50L produces to-die-for output most of the time from f/1.6 to f/2, but severe/complex field curvature hampers the focusing accuracy of the lens at close portrait distances. Sigma 50mm options, while sharp, lack character & also present additional AF-consistency issues to booth.

With 2:1 (50% reproduction) macro capabilities & outstanding image quality at all apertures & subject distances, the Zeiss 50MP represents a flexible all-purpose lens. Wide-open, the extreme edges are uncorrected & show slight softness, making the lens favourable for natural environmental portraits. At the center of the frame, the lens is already very sharp at f/2 & bitingly so at f/2.8. In both studio (f/5.6 – f/8) & macro situations (f/8 – f/16), the Zeiss 50MP is sharp & consistent across the frame, boasting a natural but distinct sense of that Zeiss micro-contrast.

Sample Photos can be seen at:

Canon EOS 1D X

Review Date: Nov 22, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $5,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: AF capabilities (acquisition + consistency) in any setting, 12FPS (wow, if you thought 10FPS was fast..), outstanding high-ISO performance, dual CF cards & their write-speeds, 18MP is a great resolution for me, new larger/brighter viewfinder provides a better experience, larger LCD screen, tons of customization possibilities
None that really count now that the f/8 AF & AF-illumination issues have been addressed - this camera isn't a true replacement/improvement over the 1Ds Mark III (Canon's former full-frame studio champion) at ISO100, so Canon's marketing department deserves a slap in the face for trying to sell the 1DX as a replacement for both the 1D4 & 1Ds3 lines.. Battery life on this behemoth is also noticeably shorter than on the impressive former 1-series bodies, but that is likely due to the larger screen & improved throughput required for the improved performance & AF/metering of the 1DX

Without a doubt the most complete DSLR on the market today.

For anyone not requiring medium format resolution in-studio, the 1DX is as close to the perfect camera as any manufacturer has delivered to date & is a tool I'd absolutely feel confident depending on in any situation for any job unless I needed more than 18MP (ie. billboards, etc)

Wasn't planning to purchase one of these badboys until next spring, but when an amazing deal came up I couldn't find any reasons to delay the switch (sold my 1Ds Mark III) & I have no regrets.. This camera is the ultimate performance-driven tool any sports shooter could ask for & performs just as well in less-demanding situations as well - from AF-acquisition speed to reliability to image quality, the 1DX is top-notch & is indeed a "game-changer" as my local retail rep described the camera, months prior to the official release.

Canon's firmware updates now allow the 1DX to AF at f/8 (very important for wildlife shooters & birders) & I've found the intermittent AF-point illumination issues adequately addressed as well.. (It still isn't as faultless as the original 1Ds3/1D4 viewfinder design, but the firmware changes combined with the new larger viewfinder of the 1DX are a good enough compromise for my needs.)

For more of my thoughts on the 1DX:

Canon EOS 1DX – Hands-On Review

Canon EOS 1DX – High-ISO Stress-Test Samples:

Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Review Date: Nov 22, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $3,250.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Improved AF (better in terms of both coverage & speed/reliability relative to 1Ds3), improved high-ISO performance (1/2 stop better RAW noise at ISO 1600 than 1DsIII, 1/3 stop better RAW noise at ISO 1600 than 5DmkII), much better LCD screen for image review, silent shooting mode is awesome, compatible with faster CF cards (older 1Ds3 couldn't take advantage of this), improved menu interface, build quality (relative to the 5D2)
No AF-point linked spot-metering which is very important to me, viewfinder issues (black AF points hard to see in low-light situations, lack of pre-flash in AI servo mode makes seeing the tracking point impossible in dim light)

For weddings, event coverage & other general purpose photography, the 5D Mark III is very nearly the perfect camera, which is high-praise coming from a full-time pro used to Canon's 1-series bodies & who depends heavily on equipment to deliver consistent, predictable results..

It caught quite a bit of flack for being introduced at $3,499 but I actually think it is quite the value performer for its pricepoint - at a mid-level price far lower than what the 1Ds Mark III was introduced at ($7,999 I believe?), Canon's 5D Mark III delivers 98% of the same performance, while improving on the former full-frame champion in several key areas.. (I won't bother comparing this camera to the crippled & very limited 5D Mark II, as I really don't think these cameras were meant for the same crowd at all)

Most notably, the 5D Mark III sports an improved AF ability that is noticeably better than the 1Ds Mark III (which was definitely no slouch & my workhorse money-maker for years).. Lenses SNAP to focus on the 5D3 & I definitely noticed more consistently sharp photos from this camera.. The new 3.2 inch LCD screen was very useful for determining sharp photos as well, something I definitely missed on the 1Ds3 when I returned to using that..

That said, the smaller form factor than I was used to & viewfinder regression were big issues for me - I like shooting events with my eyes glued to the viewfinder & not being able to see the AF points half the time was a non-starter for me.. I also missed the AF-point linked spot metering feature (thanks Canon for crippling your products!) on the 5D3.

Ultimately I sold the 5D3 after a month because I found I could live with the 1Ds3's shortcomings more so than the 5D3's shortcomings, & I didn't find myself necessarily NEEDing the 5D3's improvements.. but, the 5D3 still remains one of the more complete digital SLR offerings on the market today & is a great value IMO - strongly recommended for 95% of shooters for sure. (I have no doubt that you'll hear most wedding shooters RAVE about this camera for the silent shutter feature & general performance offerings, it just wasn't for me.)

For Sample Photos from the 5D Mark III & more of my thoughts on Canon's EOS 5D Mark III, please read the my first impressions at:

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

Review Date: Nov 21, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,400.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Everything that matters to me - amazing F/2.8 sharpness throughout the focal range, much improved colours & microcontrast relative to the previous 24-70mkI, impressive AF reliability & speed (really jumps to focus & is really consistent on the 1Ds3 - basically never misses on the 1DX), better build quality & balance, reduced weight/size
Price - while the improved performance/image quality of the mkII lens is worth the price of admission to me (an event/wedding shooter - especially after my CPS discount), I know a lot of pros/hobbyists alike will be left wondering where the inclusion of IS went given its $2,499 price..

While covering the same focal range at the same constant f/2.8 aperture as the original EF 24-70mm f/2.8L, the new 24-70mm f/2.8L Mark II has a completely re-worked design. Boasting a larger filter thread (82mm compared to 77mm – which theoretically allows more light into the lens) & different new lens elements, the new 24-70mm f/2.8L Mark II lens is noticeably faster to focus & much sharper throughout the focusing range.

Photos from the new lens also showcase a level of micro-contrast & colour richness normally only found in Canon’s best large-aperture primes such as the EF 24mm f/1.4L Mark II & the EF 35mm f/1.4L. Both flare control & bokeh from the 24-70mm f/2.8L Mark II is also incredibly impressive (you’ll see the pleasing tonal transitions in the samples at the site - link below), given the new lens’ updated coatings & 9 rounded aperture blades respectively.

My primary complaint of the original 24-70L was that the images were usually very clinical/flat & lifeless, while altogether lacking the critical sharpness I’m accustomed to attaining with my primes. I basically never found the original 24-70L to be sufficient for my standards, despite liking the convenience of a 24mm to 70mm zoom lens for both event coverage applications & in-studio shooting. Not surprisingly, the Canon’s new 24-70mm f/2.8L Mark II blows the original 24-70L out of the water in every which way with regards to both image quality & AF performance.

What was surprising to me, however, was the 24-70mm f/2.8L Mark II’s image quality relative to notable super-primes like the Canon’s famed 35L & 24LmkII lenses. While the zoom obviously lacks the large-aperture flexibility of the f/1.4 primes, the convenience of a quality close-range zoom can outweigh the luxury of using multiple, faster primes in many situations. (A lot of times during an event coverage assignment or wedding, it simply doesn’t make sense to waste 30 seconds to a minute to swap lenses.)

Wide open at f/2.8, the new 24-70mm f/2.8L Mark II is an absolute engineering marvel: the capable zoom produces results that rival & nearly supersede the 24LmkII & 35L prime lenses at the same apertures in terms of sharpness, colour & contrast. Within a week or two of owning the 24-70mm f/2.8L Mark II, I made the decision to sell both of my beloved 24LmkII & 35L primes – the 24-70mm f/2.8L Mark II is simply that good & I haven’t missed either of my wide-angle L primes at all. Going forward, I have no doubt that the 24-70mm f/2.8L Mark II will become my primary workhorse lens in most paid assignment situations. (In the sample photos shot at f/2.8 you'll see there’s basically no chromatic aberration or purple/green fringing.)

For Sample Photos from the 24-70mkII & more of my thoughts on Canon's EF 24-70mkII, please read the full review at: