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Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Review Date: Nov 29, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,500.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Great screen, full frame, familiar feel for those upgrading from 30D or 40D. Side buttons are better than the bottom buttons on the 40D. ISOs up to 3200 provide good quality. HD Video opens up new possibilities
Lots of noise on ISO 6400 and up. Live View is still pretty fiddly. Shutter is noisier than the 40D

It was a long wait for this camera, so the anticipation has been building. I put my name on the wait list the day it was announced. I received the beast yesterday. A few hundred frames and several .movs later, it has produced some decent results, but nothing totally amazing yet. With the 14 mm mounted, it does create a unique perspective! Panning in movie mode with the 14 mm is a completely different effect.

On the other hand the L-Series lenses that were altogether crisp are now revealing their edge sharpness weaknesses, so there are a bunch of new considerations about tools that I thought I knew, but only the context of the APS-C sensor and film.

So far AWB seems not as accurate as for the 40D. The lens peripheral illumination correction only affects jpegs and RAW images have to be corrected in ACR, CS4 or DPP. (Fortunately Adobe put out an update to support the 5D Mark II just in time for me.)

HD video is a whole new game with a whole new set of issues, but for those of who do both still and video, it will definitely be exciting.

This camera is keeper, but it is also clearly only the first in a series that will ultimately result in something that handles both stills and video in a more integrated and effortless fashion.

More to come...

Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM

Review Date: Sep 25, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,150.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Crisp, accurate color, great perspective.
Heavy and expensive

I saw it a couple of days ago in the store - an unusual sight. Then read the FM reviews on it. I am in the queue for a 5D Mark II and wanted something to give me 10-22 functionality on a full-frame camera. I took some shots with the EOS-1V today to get a true sense of the perspective and then some shots with a 40D to check the center crispness and color. As others have said, this lens is likely to become a favorite.

It was a lot of money for a small prime lens and feels like block of lead in my hand, but it offers so much potential.

Canon EOS 40D

Review Date: Sep 17, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: In the context of upgrading from a 20D, you get faster focus, quieter shutter, spot metering, picture styles, large screen, 'My Menu' Settings, moderate boosts in resolution (both pixel count and bit depth), faster transfer to PC, three programmed custom set ups (C1 to C3), self-cleaning sensor and dust removal.
Dull screen, awkward Live View, complicated plethora of options.

Overall a substantial upgrade from the 20D and a better camera to use. Definitely worth the price of admission for some one with a well-worn 10D or 20D. (My 20D has over 70,000 exposures on the clock.)

Liveview is a disappointment. The process is too complicated and the screen is too dull to use outside for those unusual perspective shots. My G7 is much better for the purpose. Most of the ones that I took using Liveview were out of focus. It is useful in a studio setting for framing shots on tripod, but turn it off when you want to actually take photos. I suppose you could use a black cloth like the photographers of previous generations and hide under it to frame and focus - with a tripod of course! The large screen is not as crisp as it should be. The good news is that if a photo looks good on the screen, it will be great in CS3, but it is not like an Epson P-2000 or equivalent. Dare I say that the screen is actually too large? Is that possible? The buttons are crammed at the very limit of the body so that they are actually a little uncomfortable to use.

I don't know whether I had forgotten the initial set up trials that I had with the 20D (now nearly three years ago), but I went through the process again with this beast and only now after about 700 hundred exposures and many adjustments, is it beginning to produce predictable results.

I did some side-by-side comparison shots with the 20D, 40D and G7. Of course the 40D and G7 have the same resolution though the aspect ratio is different. Both DSLRs blow the G7 out of the water for quality, noise, etc. But I am still trying to identify how the 40D images are better than the 20D. Images from both cameras take tweaking, but I am trouble seeing the effect of the additional 2-3 bits of depth resolution. Perhaps it will become apparent under high contrast or other difficult situations.

So where are we after this ramble? I needed a new body. I would like full-frame, but the 5D doesn't cut it for me and the others are waaaay out my price range. I love the quieter shutter and the increased responsiveness over the 20D. The 40D still feels good in my hands, though there are many subtle changes in the shape of the body. Overall, I have no buyer's remorse. I am going to enjoy this camera and may be even take a good photograph or two.

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM

Review Date: Dec 3, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: It is light, fast, sharp and economical. It is currently my favorite carry-around lens. Adequate for birding and pseudo macro functions. Not a bad portrait lens. All of this is in the context of use with a 20D and Rebel. It is a full-frame 35 mm lens.
The lens face rotates with focus, so use of a circular polarizer is problematic. You choose MF or AF, but not both at the same time like the 100-400 L-Series.

This is not an L-Series lens. It doesn't have the feel. The first one I put on the camera I rejected, more because the sound of it. The second, sounded better and meets my needs very well. It is a full-frame lens and with the EOS-20D, I only use the center region, so I have no idea about the real edge-to-edge sharpness. I like the idea that when I upgrade to a full-frame DSLR, I will still be able to use this lens.

It does focus very rapidly compared to the 100-400 L-Series, but then it is much newer technology.

The weight difference between the 100-400 and 70-300 is the real key. The 100-400 weighs in at 3.2 lb. and the 70-300 is about half of that.

In terms of everyday use, it is almost always on the camera. If I had to sell either the 70-300 or the 100-400, it would be a hard call, but right now I think I would sell the 100-400 and keep the 70-300. It is that good!

Now how do I justify the 24-105? There is nothing better than a nice piece of glass, especially Fluorite!

Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM

Review Date: Jun 18, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Just got this lens today and have already been blown away! Crisp edge to edge. Just right for portraits as well as spider's eyelashes! The color tends to the warm, but is rich and just right
AF is somewhat slow, but I got this lens for tripod and manual focus work, so not a big deal.

In the first few hours, I shot some honeysuckle pollen, water drops on ivy, a tiny red spider enjoying an even smaller fly. All shot in raw and one or two images printed at 13x19 on an Epson R1800 acquired at the same time. (I snagged my local dealer's first copies of the both the lens and printer!) To compensate, I took him a large print to mount and display. It should excite others to buy both products.

I also did a standard portrait of my wife using a 580 EX in bounce mode. Using AF and TTL metering, both exposure and plane of focus were spot on. Perfect color and sharp where it ought to be. Good compression. Overall a very flattering image. The print was poor for as yet unexplained reasons. My current guess is that I allowed the use of the gloss optimizer, but I was using Ilford Smooth Gloss Paper and it probably doesn't work properly on that paper.

Canon EOS 20D

Review Date: Dec 28, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,600.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: With 17-85mm lens - 5x zoom with reasonable quality, instant on, 5 fps. Lots of control and easy operation. Good feel and balance for my hand size. Fast display for checking quality of shots.
Noisy shutter, but see below.

I suppose the main point I want to make is about the shutter. I was used to 6x zoom and 5 fps and did not upgrade to a real DSLR, because of specs like 3x zoom and 3 fps. The 20D dealt with slow start-up, limited zoom at a moderate price and gave me the 5 fps that I wanted for quick candids, base-ball pitches and the like. If I had a choice of quiet shutter or 5 fps, I would pick the 5 fps. If I need quiet, I'll use the finepix and sacrifice quality. In public venue, I have had people annoyed by the shutter, so it is a problem. But every choice is trade-off and the 20D is a pretty good one.

On the lens, there is significant distortion and fuzziness when wide open, so it is not good enough for situations requiring spacial accuracy, but as a general purpose lens, it is much better than most. As a package deal, it was good enough to make me lay down VISA card and become a committed Canon user.

Now when will my 580EX show up? I borrowed a 420, but it simply does not cut it with this camera. Then there is the matter of the long L-Series for birds, etc.