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  Reviews by: BiPolarBear  

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Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM

Review Date: Jul 6, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $580.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, solid build, fast AF, not white, price.
Would like to see this also offered as an IS version (i'd pay the extra).

I think this little gem probably gets overlooked by many. What a shame.
Having had it for a little over a year now, it's wide open IQ still makes me wonder how Canon put this lens together for the price it did. If i do my part right, it is brilliant.
Build is very nice, solid without being heavy. It's relatively compact, light enough to use all day without effort, and being black it makes a great lens for candids at events or on the street. AF is quick, silent and sure. It's a fun lens to use!

I will no doubt eventually get one of the 70-200's some day for the added flexibility, but with all the right things going on with this lens, and the way i shoot, i am in absolutely no hurry to go to the zoom.
I'd really like to see it offered in an IS version as well at about $1K... i'd buy it in a heartbeat (it would still be about $5K less than the f/2 version!).

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM

Review Date: May 12, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Smooth silent fast focussing, rich colours, bokeh galore, built like a tank.
A tad more CA than expected in extreme contrast images, but fixable if needed.

I've had this lens about 4 months, and while i'm not sure it's perfect, it's pretty darn close.
When you have this on your camera, you know it. Not heavy, but solid. Take a look at the business end of this thing and there's a whole bunch of bit fat glass in there. I like the match with my 20D, it's probably perfect on a 5D, but might be a little nose heavy on a Rebel sized body(?).

Overall image quality at f/1.4 is to me very good.
Once in a while i'll see a little more CA on high contrast areas than i'd like (the infamous tree branches against the sky shot for example), but only under extreme high/low contrast conditions. Fixable in PP if you need that shot.
I've read many times that it's "tack sharp wide open". Maybe my copy is a little short of the norm, or maybe my idea of tack sharp is different than others, but i need f/2.0 to start getting what i feel is sharp right out of the camera. But with a little USM, there's no problem getting wide open shots as sharp as i'd ever expect them. So no issue to me, as any shot i am printing i'll be working on anyways. I look at it this way..... if I didn't have that extra stop of light in some cases when i needed it, i may well not have had the image to work on in the first place.

What impresses me most about this lens is it's bokeh and colour. If you are shooting relatively close to the subject at f/1.4, the background just melts. And it melts beautifully. It's often referred to as "creamy" and "buttery smooth", and i can't think of a better way to describe it. The background is just gone. I appreciate that an out of focus background generally is all just a matter of physics, but the quality mechanics and glass in this lens makes the theory of the physics turn into an artistic rendering.
Colour is pure and deep. I rarely need to boost the saturation to the images from this lens. And if you add a polarizing filter to the 35L, the output can almost be 3D given the right scenery/lighting. Stunning.

I found it took a while to learn this lens. And i'm still learning it wide open. I never had a f/1.4 of any kind before, and in some circumstances you are shooting with about zero depth of field. So be forewarned, this lens can be unforgiving, and attention to the focus point is critical if your subject is close. My keeper rate is a lot lower with this lens when shooting wide open, but the keepers that I do get more than make up for it. Then again, that's what this lens is all about. Shallow depth of field and low light ability.

So is it worth the pricetag?
To me, absolutely.
It's the only lens I own that can produce images that make me look like i'm a significantly better photographer than i really am.
And how do you put a price tag on that?