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

Review Date: May 28, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $389.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Image quality: colour, clarity, contrast, surprisingly nice bokeh
Handling issues

This is one great lens. Bought for my first safari in a few weeks time on my 10D, and looking forward to it. Trialled it at a wedding last week, and happy with performance.

The IS works well. The images are great even wide open. Image quality compares to my excellent 24-70L, and has that non-consumer colour and contrast performance I expect from Canon's L range.

Processing in Lightroom, I dial clarity up to 25 and then the results are indistinguishable from my L zoom. No joke. Single hair strands sharp wide open with rich colours. I'm delighted.

With more money I would prefer the 70-200L f4 IS with 1.4 teleconverter or the 100-400L simply for the slightly faster focusing, and better build and handling.

But this is a winner if all you need is image quality and image stabilisation...I'm planning to sell it after my trip, but already I know I'll miss it!

P.S. Price paid in GBP.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

Review Date: Mar 19, 2008 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated


to terminator:
If its VERY sharp at close range, the lens quality is fine, but your camera or lens' focusing is off.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

Review Date: Mar 11, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, well built, great colours and contrast, fast silent focusing
Fairly heavy and large, but what do you expect?!

What can I say that hasn't already been said?

This lens is as sharp as you need. No, it's not quite as sharp as my unusually good Tamron 28-75 or some top-grade primes, but it has much nicer background blur, a wider end, better distortion control, and most importantly of all, faster quieter focus.

I think the reasons why people have trouble with this lens is sometimes because their non-1 series camera's focus is not perfect. For example, when you focus on someone's eyes at f2.8, check that the nose or ears aren't sharper than the eyes. I had this problem with my 10D a couple of years ago.

I sent my Canon 10D to Canon two or three times and it wasn't fixed, just calibrated. Lehmanns in Stoke (UK) managed to fix it using some kind of software calibration eventually.

My point is, perhaps many people complaining of sharpness on wide aperture lenses haven't checked their camera's focus perfectly. Maybe that goes for some professional reviews as well?! Who knows.

Anyway, now the Nikkor 24-70 f2.8 is out, this lens has some real competition. I would imagine that as the Nikon is newer, it has the edge in sharpness, and this is corroborated by some comparisons. But an extra jot of sharpness does not a better picture make.

The Canon has an ingenious lens hood design, good handling, and supreme focusing abilities. It also has good distortion control. And as for Image Stabilisation, I couldn't care less. Don't want it any heavier that's for sure, and the new full frame cameras are noise free at ISO 3200 for goodness sake!

This one is a keeper for me. In fact I've sold all my other lenses, and I'll be getting a compact (the raw-shooting Canon G9) for when a large lens is unsuitable.

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

Review Date: Oct 22, 2007 Recommend? | Price paid: $400.00

Pros: Sharpness, size, weight
28mm on crop not wide enough, some samples backfocus

I already rated this lens, but I'm drawn to write about it again following comparisons with my 24-70L.

This lens is simply a star, and I almost regret letting it go. In fact it was as sharp as my 50mm at f2.8 wide open.

The only things the much more expensive Canon 24-70L has over this are:

Much faster autofocus
Creamier bokeh
Better edges on full frame

The Tamron is MUCH smaller and lighter, and noticeably sharper.

I decided to upgrade due to the focus speed on my 10D. If Tamron upgrade to a usm equivalent, and if I get a 5D in future, I would consider this lens again.

I do miss the sharpness and size/weight very much. I actually trust this lens more than the 24-70L in harsh conditions, especially for landscapes with a crop camera. If all you want is a sharp zoom instead of a few primes, THIS IS IT BABY!!!

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

Review Date: Nov 1, 2006 Recommend? | Price paid: $425.00

Pros: Sharpness, no flare or ca. Contrast and colours excellent
Build, handling, low light focus, compatibility with AF assist

Update: I should have waited for a couple of weeks before posting as I've now returned my lens to the store!

While my copy was optically perfect, to the extent where I don't think a zoom can be better, I couldn't get used to the handling.

I kept missing shots due to the stiff (and reversed) zoom ring and low light focus. I miss the 24mm wide end more than I thought I would, the focus in low light is no good compared to Canon's USM (cannot focus quickly if at all on someones eyes at dusk!) While the focus was accurate if I had good light, my copy backfocused when used with the assist light on my 550EX which I use a lot.

I would still recommend this lens, just not for pictures of fast-moving kids! I'm going to go the full hog and buy either a Canon 24-70L 2.8 or the 24-105L. I'm not expecting picture quality to get any better, but I know the faster focusing and AF assist function will sort things out.

Sigma 24-60mm f2.8 EX DG Lens

Review Date: Oct 27, 2006 Recommend? no | Price paid: $400.00 | Rating: 4 

Pros: Sharp where in focus even at 2.8, handling, good focal range for standard use on a crop camera (although way too short to be ideal on FF for my kind of shooting) Size and weight much smaller than Sigma 24-70 2.8. Useful 38mm wide end equivalent. Build quality.
Front focus very common apparently, plus a fair amount of purple fringing. As zoom is quite short and focus ring moves with AF, focus mechanism could be vulnerable.....don't forget the front focus!!

How I would love a good copy of this lens!

I tried three copies (took two of them home for extensive testing) and they all front-focused badly on my 10D so I gave up, and bought a Tamron 28-75 which focuses very accurately (first copy I tried) and is a little bit sharper to boot.

So why do I still yearn for one of these Sigmas? ...Basically for the build quality! The Tamron zoom ring is nowhere near as nice, it requires more turning, and it is not smooth. The 24-60 has a smooth, dampened feel to it.

In my opinion, the 24-60 is an excellent range on crop cameras. 24mm is fine for wide angle as far as I'm concerned ( I have an excellent ultra wide 10-20 HSM) I can live without the 17 or 18mm wide end that so many people think is essential for serious photographers' standard zooms. 38mm equivalent is wide enough as standard lens for me and doesn't distort people too much. Also, 60mm is just fine on the long end, yes you have to walk a few steps forward sometimes, but no big deal. To put this into perspective, nobody complains that their Canon 17-55 is too short, do they? So, for me, a 24-60 is a good compromise between range and size.

Sharpness (where in focus) is about the same as my new Tamron 28-75 which is excellent. Its also similar to the Tamron in terms of focus speed, size and weight. My Tamron is much better at resisting flare and purple fringing - I have yet to see any in fact whereas the Sigma 24-60s I tried exhibited this a lot even in indoor testing. Tamron is ideal apart from the handling I think, where this Sigma beats it hands down. Unfortunately as I have said, my three copies of the Sigma though sharp, were unusable due to focus issues. Perhaps Sigma could have fixed them, but I didn't want to risk it.

If you can get a good one, go for it. But I tried all three of my local stores' copies, and none of them were any good at focusing accurately (it always looked like they were okay at first glance, but on closer inspection, if I had focused on eyes, nose would be sharp, not the eyes)

My advice is don't even think about buying this lens without testing it, unless you can easily return it to the shop for replacement or refund, or are prepared to send it to Sigma for calibration.

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

Review Date: Oct 14, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $425.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Amazingly sharp wide open, contrasty, accurate focus on 10D
Zoom ring isn't dampened

Like many people I have been searching for an outstanding standard zoom, and at last -slight handling niggles aside- I think I have found my favourite.

This lens is so sharp wide open, I never believed it could be so good. Nevertheless, this wasn't my first choice.

I tried three Sigma 24-60s before I got this, and all of them front-focused so that when I focused on eyes, all I got was a sharp nose! I had really wanted the 24mm wide end but I couldn't use a front-focusing lens. Reluctantly I returned the last Sigma 24-60, and asked to try a Tamron 28-75...

After a few test shots I was sold! Reliable autofocusing and sharpness (on the first sample I tried!) trumped all the Sigmas.

I'm really enjoying this lens now. Its great to be able to blur backgrounds properly, and not compromise on sharpness. Bokeh seems quite nice, better than my Canon 50mm Mk2.

The size and weight are good. In fact, it looks quite small on my 10D! I don't like the build or handling as much as the Sigmas, but neither are that bad really all things considered. I don't like the 'feel' of the zoom ring, but focusing is fast and image quality is first rate, so I'll try to ignore it!

I will miss the 24mm wide end of my 24-85usm, but not that much. I have an excellent Sigma 10-20 for wide angles anyway (thankfully with no focus issues!).

In summary, I would recommend this lens to anyone who wants possibly the sharpest f2.8 standard zoom available, but who doesn't mind slight handling imperfections!

Canon EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

Review Date: Mar 31, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Extremely sharp from f4.5-f11, great focusing, good price used, size weight.
Satutration and contrast needs a boost usually

This is an excellent standard zoom.

I have the black version which in my opinion looks much better than the silver. It is small, focuses fast, and is capable of fantastic sharpness when stopped down very slightly.

Wide open performance is decent / usable but personally I'd rather use (bounce) flash and get super sharp with f8.

I find the focal range excellent on a crop body. Apart from the wide end, its equivalent to the (most) popular 28-135mm zoom range. Personally I don't miss the -not so wide anyway-28mm equivalent!

I like my 24-85 a lot. I wouldn't swap it for a 17-85 IS because I don't think my pictures would improve... but I'd swap it for a 24-105L!

Highly recommended...don't waste your money!

Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM

Review Date: Mar 31, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp and contrasty, fast silent focusing, good range, good build.
Some red / yellow chomatic aberration in harsh lighting but this is minimal (and expected). Easily fixed and practically invisible unless you're pixel peeping.

I've only had this lens for one day but I'm very happy with it.

I tried this out in Jessops (UK) and the contrast and price won me over.

I just shot a resolution chart at home and its sharper wide open than my sharp 24-85 USM at f8!

I deliberated between this and the Canon 15mm fisheye, but I know the long end of this zoom will be useful for the occasional snapshot with people in it, and the distortion doesn't need correcting either.

This is an outstanding lens. I'm sure there are a few duff copies that will need servicing / replacing, but if you buy it locally there's no need to worry is there?!

Absolutely recommended.