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Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II

24tse
Review Date: Dec 27, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: It does what it was meant to do with aplomb and elegance. Ability to revolve the tilt and shift for greater flexibility. Image quality.
Cons:
None.

This is not a lens for someone just starting out in photography as it has a highly specialized use. But for the photographer who NEEDS a tilt-shift lens, I can't imagine one can do any better than this beauty. The image quality is top-notch, and the redesigned version II is truly a fine lens. The ability to rotate the tilt and the shift mechanisms is amazingly useful and freeing.

Sure, there is a learning curve to fully understanding--and, therefore, utilizing--a tilt shift lens, but once one scales that curve, the possibilities are boundless. And this lens can take tilt-shift photography even farther.


 
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM

ef70-200lisiiu_586x225
Review Date: Dec 27, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Image Quality, Focus Speed, Bokeh, Responsiveness
Cons:
None really...I knew how large it was when I bought it, and I knew what the cost was (and you get what you pay for)

This lens is just amazing. I originally owned the 70-200 f/4L and liked it a lot. However, I was never fully satisfied with the slower version. As my circumstances changed, I was in a position to move up to the f/2.8. Happily, Canon released the version II, and I quickly picked one up. I am delighted that I did. This lens is indeed a "photographer's lens." In other words, it is one that becomes an extension of the eye and it is capable of doing everything I ask of it. The image quality is truly amazing. I wouldn't have believed it could be THIS much better than the f/4, but it makes that lens look like a kit lens.

 
Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX DG Aspherical RF

20_f1_8_1_
Review Date: Aug 18, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: focal length; wide aperture; build quality; sharpness; "fun" quotient
Cons:
big for a prime (though this may bother some, it doesn't necessarily bother me)

Iíve grown very attached to the Sigma 20mm f/1.8. I held off a long time buying one because of the widely mixed reviews. However, the appeal of a 20mm prime that opens up to f/1.8 eventually wore down my resistance. Now that I own it, I am hooked.

Iím not a pixel peeper, but I do know when I like a lens or donít like a lens. At various points Iíve had the Canon 24mm f/2.8 and the Canon 28mm f/2.8. From the first few photos I shot with each of them, I just knew I was going to be returning them--and, in fact, I did. They both went back. Iíd heard great things about each lens, but I just felt that the performance from each of them simply didnít make up for the fact that they only opend up to f/2.8. I compared the photos from these lenses to photos made with my f/2.8 zooms, and the zooms won each time.

With this baby, though, I get a nice, wide lens with a big apertureÖand I like the photos I get from it. I find that my "keeper" ratio is higher with this lens than most others I own, save the 135 f/2L and the 85 f/1.8.

Perhaps I got lucky and got a ďgoodĒ version of the lens right off the bat. All I know is that it is another prime lens that is spending a whole bunch of time in my bag.



 
Sigma 12-24mm f4.5-5.6 EX DG Aspherical HSM

l3a_copy
Review Date: Jun 25, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $599.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Fantastic Wide-Angle Focal Length that is usable on a film camera, a crop sensor, or a FF sensor; Controlling of distortion; IQ; Build Quality
Cons:
None

I was VERY reluctant to purchase this lens, particularly given the various reviews of Sigma lenses that report quality control issues. None-the-less, I was wooed by the fantastic wide-angle focal lengths that could also be used on a FF sensor or a film camera. I just had to take a chance.

And boy am I glad I did.

The first impression right out of the box was that this lens has a satisfying heft, and the build quality is much better than I had anticipated. When you hold this lens, you know you're HOLDING A LENS. The finish is nice, and the focus & zoom wheels are tight and smooth with no creep.

But what really shocked me was the fact that even though this lens is ultra, ultra wide, the distortion is controlled quite amazingly. There isn't the fish-eye effect one would think this lens would produce, nor is there nearly the amount of barrel distortion one would EXPECT. The effect really is something.

Then there's the IQ. Again, given the nature of the lens, I wouldn't have expected such a good image quality. However, I find the CA is wonderfully controlled. I find the sharpness to be much better than I would have imagined. The photos come out bright, and the color is great (although perhaps a step below the Canon 50mm f/1.4, the 85 f/1.8, or the 135 f/2...but then those are quite the primes after all).

In all fairness, when I first tried it out, I was afraid I had received one of those "bad" copies. My first several photos were a bit soft, and I started thinking that I might have to return it for another one. I decided to work with it a little more before I bailed on it. After spending an afternoon with it exclusively, I began to get a feel for the focusing (both manual and auto). It is a different game because of the latitude the field of view provides. Once I became accustomed to it, I realized it wasn't that I had a bad copy, just that I had to hone my skills.

As an example of how much I have grown to like the IQ of this lens, I'd like to relate a story. Recently, I purchased the Canon 24mm f/2.8. I was on the fence about it, but after doing my research I thought I'd give it a go (I do like using primes). Once I received it, I tested it against some other lenses in my collection. First, it went up against my 24-70L, which it matched fairly well. But against my Tamron 24-135, I found it lacking. This speaks more toward the Tamron, I felt, than against the Canon 24mm.

Then, on a lark, I thought I'd compare the IQ of the 24mm against the Sigma 12-24. My guess was that the Sigma would be a few steps behind, mostly because I felt the main selling point of this lens was the wide focal length/zoom and because the 24mm length was at the end of the zoom range. I didn't really think of this lens in terms of image quality and sharpness. After I made a few exposures at different aperture settings, I hunkered down in front of my monitor see what I had. Frankly, I was stunned. The Sigma outperformed the 24mm prime at every aperture I tried. The sharpness (particularly center) was quite noticeably better with the Sigma, as was the brightness and color reproduction. That led me to pack up the 24mm and return it.

In the end, I am thoroughly pleased that I took a chance on this lens. It is a mainstay in my camera bag.



 
Tamron 24-135MM F/3.5-5.6 AD Aspherical (IF) Macro

24135mm_1_
Review Date: Nov 6, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $400.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sharpness, zoom range, build quality
Cons:
I would just love it to be faster

After my very favorable experience with the Tamron 28-75 f/2.8, I thought I'd give this lens a shot...and boy am I happy I did. It is a perfect walk-around lens because of the useful zoom range. The build quality of this lens is very nice. It feels substantial in your hands and on your camera. The zoom is a bit tight, but that is nothing that one can't get used to after just a few minutes.

But when talking about a lens, the proof is in the photos, and this lens does not disappoint. Sharpness is great throughout the range. I haven't noticed any CA in the time I've been using this lens.

My only qualm is that it's relatively slow: f/3.5-5.6. I understand the give and take between price and max aperture, and here the trade off is pretty significant. Sure, it's on the slow side, but a lens of this quality, with this zoom range, and with such great performance coming in at or below $400 really is something special.


 
Tamron 28-75MM F/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical (IF)

2875mm
Review Date: Aug 2, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $330.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, size, color reproduction, consistent f/2.8 aperture, price
Cons:
Back cap not swappable with Canon AF lenses

Let me start by saying I didn't want to like this lens. I've been a Canon lens purist since my first camera. I've always considered second party lenses to be inferior and not worth my time. Recently, however, I acquired another body (EOS 1). I wanted a dedicated walk around lens for it, since I'd been alternating my 24-70L between my digital and this new body. Unfortunately, my funds are a bit limited at them moment, so I wasn't able to purchase another 24-70L as I would have liked. So I began an extensive search for a lens that would fit my needs AND budget.

After a while, I started leaning toward the 28-105 f/3.5-4.5. However, although I got close to purchasing one several times, I just couldn't pull the trigger. It seemed good enough, but I just wasn't convinced. Then just by accident, I read a review of the Tamron. The review went on and on about the performance and sharpness of the lens. I thought it was all just hot air. Then I saw a second review that stated the same thing. I became intrigued. I started my research. I went to several different sources and a clear picture began to emerge: this is a lens that a lot of people really like. This is a lens that consistently gets compared to my beloved 24-70L, and consistently holds its own--or even out performs it. At first I thought it unfair to compare it to the 24-70L, but then I saw sample images. I saw sharpness tests. I was impressed.

So I took the plunge, and I'm so glad I did. As soon as it arrived, the first thing I noticed was that it did not feel like a cheap lens. I had expected it to be feather-light and almost flimsy. Instead, it feel substantial. It also came with a lens hood.

I threw it on my 400D and fired off some shots and took a look. I was very happy with the results. The color reproduction was great. And so was the sharpness. Just for my own edification, I set up my tripod and made some test shots with the Tamron and then the same shots with the 24-70L. The first go 'round was done at f/5.6. I made exposures at 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 70mm with each camera. I had a friend rename the files so I wouldn't know which shots came from which camera, so I couldn't claim bias either way. I then examined the shots. It didn't take nit-picky scrutiny to see the differences. After I selected the photos I found to be sharper in each group, my friend gave me the exif data on each one.

Here is what I found:

First Impression--At 25% magnification on my screen, all the photos looked fantastic. This puzzled me because I figured I'd be able to spot the 24-70L right away. I really couldn't tell the difference.

Then I zoomed in to 100% and the fun really began.

28mm--The difference in sharpness was very pronounced at this focal length. One photo was the clear winner, and that was the Tamron, particularly in center sharpness.

35mm--Again, one of the photos was a clear winner, and again it was the Tamron.

50mm--For the third time, the Tamron's sharpness outperformed the Canon. I was beginning to really develop an affinity for this little baby.

70mm--At this length, the photos were pretty comparable. I picked one, however, and, to my surprise, it was the Tamron once again.

-----

After these tests I felt like a heretic. I had preferred the Tamron lens over the Canon in each trial. Granted, there are more I need to do, from wide open to fully stopped down. But this initial test has made me very happy.

I have seen no evidence of CA so far, and given Tamron's claims, I would have been surprised if I had.

The AF is a touch on the loud side (no USM), but it works well and is accurate. A bit of noise from the AF is nothing to complain about when one sees the results in the photos.

It's not weather sealed like the 24-70L, but that is not as important to me as to someone who is out in extreme weather with some regularity.

Finally, given the fact that this lens is just a third of the price of the 24-70L, and given that I am so impressed with the results, I'd have to say this is one of the better purchases I've made in a long, long time.

I know all Tamron lenses do not perform this admirably, just like all Canons are not "L" class. However, I will certainly add them to my research when I have a new need for a lens.


 
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

ef85mmf_18usm_1_
Review Date: Dec 1, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, bokeh, color
Cons:
none

This is quite a lovely little lens. Even though it's not designated as an L, the images it produces come quite close. I am quite excited about its sharpness and color. I began my lens collection with zooms, but recently I have begun to explore the wonderful world of primes. Buying this lens started me down that path (which has, incidentally, led me directly to the phenomenal 153 f/2L).

I believe the quality of this lens outstrips the cost. If I had paid more, I would still have been very pleased.


 
Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

ef135mmf_2l_1_
Review Date: Dec 1, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $889.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, lovely bokeh, build quality, rich color
Cons:
It makes me wish all lenses were as good as it is

I was in the market to expand my prime collection. I had a rewarding experience with purchasing an 85 f/1.8 (a fantastic lens), and was interested in exploring the 135. After reading all of the reviews here (yes, every single one) as well as reviews on other sites, I got to thinking: can this lens actually be THAT good? A part of me didn't want to believe it. I wanted to think it was some sort of mass hysteria. But another part of me knew that such accolades aren't tossed so casually here. So I broke down and bought one.

And I haven't looked back.

I've been used to using zooms--and L zooms at that. I thought they were wonderful. I loved them. I never thought I'd want for more. However, this lens really drives home the difference between primes and zooms. The performance of the 135 is nothing short of stunning. I had read the reviews of people using this lens and then marveling at the results. I thought this was quaint, and a result of "lens placebo." But after seeing what this lens produced for me, I knew all the gushing was true. I then took comparison shots with this lens and my 70-200 f/4L. The results were quite convincing: sharpness and color produced by the 135 are definitely on another level than the 70-200 f/4L (and I won't even talk about bokeh because of the f/2 vs. f/4 difference). Since I bought the 135, I haven't put the 70-200 on my camera except to make the comparison shots.

Believe the hype. This lens is THAT good.