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Sony a7

Screen_Shot_2013-11-13_at_3_25_04_PM_copy
Review Date: Sep 10, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,699.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: excellent detail and dynamic range, light weight, nice ergonomics (for a small body), ability to adapt legacy lenses, EVF benefits
Cons:
poor battery life, dim viewfinder in bright light

I'll start with a little background. I used to own a Canon 7D and a couple of 40D's and have shot a lot of nice DSLR lenses in the past (17-55, 70-200 mark II, 100-400, sigma 50 etc.) I can honestly say that the images that I'm getting with the a7 and cheap legacy glass are better than what I got in the past with a few caveats.

I had to sell all my Canon gear after a move, so when I decided to get back into photography I wasn't tied to a system anymore. When I looked at all the options out there I felt like it would be worth it to look into the a7 since I could get great IQ from legacy lenses without spending a great deal of money.

I have found that in general this has proven to be the case. the a7 has much better dynamic range and image quality than the APS-C Canon cameras I had used in the past. Detail is there, even cropped into the image. I have been pleased with the IQ even though I am not using any high end lenses with the system currently.

That being said, the camera isn't perfect for everybody. It is much slower in operation than the 7D I had and would not make a good wildlife or sports camera due to these limitations and slower frame rate etc. I am wanting to get back into wildlife photography and will most likely pick up a DSLR (or SLT) camera to be used for that task. For anything slow paced though, I really like the a7. It makes me slow down and think when shooting and manual focusing is actually enjoyable with the helpful features of an electronic viewfinder. Being able to see the actual changes in the viewfinder is the best part to me and is very useful.

I have heard a lot of objections to the ergonomics, but I haven't had any issues. I tend to be a minimalist and shoot all manual, so I don't make changes too often anyway. The menu system is slightly inferior to Canon (in my opinion) but easy enough that I picked it up quickly. I was able to customize most of the controls to what I liked as well. I do wish that I didn't have to tap twice to zoom in for precise focusing, but I reprogrammed the button to the AF-on button, so it's not that bad. Overall I would rate the handling as an 8/10 and the 7D would be a 9/10 for me.

I sometimes get annoyed at the dim viewfinder in daylight and that is where I have missed the OVF. I believe that the benefits of EVF outweigh the shortcomings though for things like street shooting, portraits and landscapes. I enjoy using these cameras for all those things and having the small "take anywhere" size is a bonus.

The native lens system is definitely limited at this time and can be a turnoff for some people. I have found this to be a positive because I can find great legacy lenses at reasonable prices.

Prospective buyers should consider whether or not they are willing to give up the speed of operation of a traditional DSLR. If you want great IQ in a small form factor and don't mind adapting lenses, then the a7 series is a great option. It might be a good idea to rent a body and try it out before going all in.


 
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

ef100_400l_1_
Review Date: Apr 26, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,067.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: build quality, stabilization, versatility, colors contrast, decent sharpness
Cons:
(somewhat) slow focusing, awkward manual focus ring

This lens is used on a 7D.

I moved from the 70-300L to this lens for extra reach. That is a great lens and if the focal length works for you, I'd actually recommend it over the 100-400, even though I think that it is overpriced and that it definitely should come with a tripod collar and nicer case for the price.

I have also owned the 400 f/5.6 before, but sold it when I bought my kayak since I wanted to shoot from the 'yak and figured IS would be a big advantage for that use.

As far as the 100-400 goes, it is a real work horse lens. I bought an older copy (UT) and was concerned at first that the rumors about copy variation would mean that I would have a soft lens. Luckily this turned out to be a false rumor (at least in my case). I did have to MA my lens to +7 though for optimum results.

The lens is sharp enough for my uses wide open, but does show some improvement stopped down. I like the fact that the MFD is much closer than the 400 prime since it makes the lens more versatile for closeups. Image stabilization is not as good as on the newer design, so I usually count on 2 stops compensation. I also wait for a couple of seconds for the IS to kick in, which seems to help. Colors and contrast are great. I have found the bokeh to be harsh sometimes in very busy backgrounds. The prime seems to be a little bit better in this area. The push/pull design makes the lens easy to transport but takes some getting used to. I usually either leave the tension ring all the way loose or cinch it down when I know I'll be shooting at 400mm. The manual focus ring is in an odd location next to the tension ring which I don't care for. Luckily I rarely use manual, so it's not a big deal. The autofocus is on the slow side for USM, but is usually fast enough. When shooting distant objects the focus limiter comes in handy.

My ratings on a scale of 1-10

Build Quality -9 Bokeh- 8
Focusing - 8 sharpness- 8.5
colors/contrast-9


If you are expecting 70-200 II sharpness wide open then you will be disappointed. If you expect great results in a versatile package at a reasonable price, then you'll be very happy with this lens.


 
Canon EOS 40D

40d
Review Date: Jun 10, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,000.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: speed of operation, nice colors, good autofocus using outer points, "bang for your buck" quality.
Cons:
ISO performance over ISO 400, ai-servo only so so, LCD IQ when zoomed in, weather sealing could be better

This is a really fantastic camera, especially at it's current price point. I started with the 40D and ended up buying one as my second camera rather than going with the 50D. I didn't see anything about the 50D that was worth spending the extra money (for me).

I consider this to be a very well rounded camera. It isn't excellent in image quality like a 5D or 1D series, but still produces very nice images. Paired with top lenses, the 40D is capable of delivering professional level results. The autofocus system is "good." Not fast like the 1d IV or 7D, but holds it's own and is good enough for general purpose use and amateur sports and wildlife. 6.5fps is very handy in certain applications as well.

I would stack the 40D up against just about anything under ISO 400. It begins to show it's age however when you use the higher ISO's. ISO performance is certainly reasonable and good enough for small print and web use up to ISO 1600 with some careful processing, but images begin to look flat over ISO 400 in general. It probably isn't too far behind any of the APS-C offerings out there today though in this regard.

Over all I consider the camera to be a current best buy in the APS-C class. If you want the best in image quality for the price, get the 5D. If you want a camera that you can use in virtually any application and get great images, the 40D may be the camera for you.


 
Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM

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Review Date: Jun 10, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: wide open sharpness, colors, contrast, IS
Cons:
mediocre build quality

The only fault I have found with this lens is the build quality. Feels more robust than the 28-135 I used to have, but is basically the same build quality with less zoom creep.

Other than that, I love everything about this lens. It has an excellent ability to capture detail from corner to corner, especially for a zoom lens. I can always count on this lens for great images. I also really enjoy having the IS system. This puts this lens in a league of it's own and comes in very handy when shooting indoors or when I need to stop down and don't feel like using the tripod.

I think that another weakness of the lens is IS and autofocus failure. I had to have my autofocus system fixed on mine. It was frustrating, but I was willing to deal with it because I enjoy using the lens so much. Only better zoom lens I've used is the 70-200 II and this one comes close.


 
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM

ef70-200lisiiu_586x225
Review Date: Jun 10, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,067.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Wide open sharpness, colors, contrast, 4 stop IS, fast autofocus
Cons:
price

This is easily the best zoom lens that I have gotten the privilege of using. I used to have a Sigma 70-200 HSM II, which was a good lens (steal for the price), but was always renting the Canon IS version I lens for event shooting. I decided to give myself a Christmas present last year and went for the lens. I knew that I would always regret settling on a lesser lens so I spent the extra money.

This is one of those lenses that you try to find a way to use for everything. Awesome build, fantastic image quality corner to corner at all apertures and distances, and a fantastic 4 stop IS system. I liked the first version of the lens, but there is a noticeable difference between the two. Highly recommended!