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Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM

Review Date: Dec 17, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $10,900.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Diminutive size for an optic of this length, and very reasonable weight as well.
Top 10 cons about this lens: 10. Rather long min. focus distance of 6m (workaround: use extension tubes). 9. "Only" f/5.6 (workaround: use a high-ISO-friendly body). 8. Price (workaround: start playing the lottery?) 7. Price 6. Price ... 1. Did I mention the price? :)

The lens is built to the best of Canon's toughness standards. No plastic--er, I mean--"polycarbonate" barrels here. Yet despite the build quality is actually lighter than the 600 f/4 and 400 f/2.8! 16% lighter, actually!

It takes the same hood as the 400/2.8 (so you an get an idea of the size of the first optic) and is just a hair longer than the 600 f/4 (by only 5mm--the thickness of a few coins.)

I find the lens is handholdable for reasonable lengths of time, but to get every last ounce of quality you'll want to tripod mount it.

On the tripod, the IS 'wanders' negating its effectiveness at longer shutter speeds. The effect cannot be seen in the viewfinder--use LiveView at 10x to watch the scene slide around. Note that this is direct contrast to what Canon says--that the IS is tripod-aware and will help with issues like mirror slap (and presumably shutter vibration, wind vibration, and vibration from the photographer moving about nearby--all of which are issues with this lens). You must turn off IS at slow shutter speeds with this lens. I tested a number of other lenses, tripods and bodies, and have determined this to be normal behavior across the EF 200/2L IS USM, EF 300/2.8L IS USM and EF 800/5.6L IS USM lenses with a 5D Mark II and a 1D Mark III with carbon and aluminum tripods. Others have reported similar behavior with other Canon super-teles. At high shutter speeds, I don't see how it will hurt--IS will at worst turn high-frequency vibration into low-frequency vibration, which the high shutter speed will all but eliminate, yielding sharper pictures.

I found that this lens magnifies the air itself, readily showing heat waves (even with snow on the ground here in Seattle) once the sun comes up. This shows up as somewhat ugly bokeh; I've shot in more stable air (including indoor) and/or with a faster shutter speed to eliminate the problem.

With all the factors 'just right', this lens does just what it claims. Obviously with 16x optical magnifcation, it will demand the very best of your technique to realize this, but the buttery smooth bokeh, and the pin-sharp details will make it all worth it.

Recommended--if you don't mind working on your technique.


Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

Review Date: Oct 25, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,050.00

Pros: Nice build quality, IS, weather-sealing, reasonable weight
For a macro, AF speed is quick, but not as fast as Canon's fastest (that should not be a surprise to anyone)

A razor sharp lens. Incredibly flat field, just about aberration-free! Beautiful, smooth bokeh. One of the best of Canon's offerings.

Doesn't snap into focus like, say the 300/2.8 IS, but as a macro lens the helical has much further to travel. That being said, as a macro, I still consider it a quick focuser, at least on par with 135/2's AF, for example.

I'm not sure whether the Hybrid IS makes it more effective than Canon's previous generation 4-stop IS, but the IS is very effective. Tack-sharp handheld macro photography makes for a more spontaneous and free-flowing creative shoot.

Highly recommended!