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  Reviews by: DamienB  

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Canon EOS 20D

Review Date: Dec 29, 2004 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 2 

Pros: Speed
Unreliable AF and assorted bugs

Used side-by-side with a D60 for an hour or so, and found the 20D massively disappointing for action work.

AF was unreliable; it was totally unable to lock onto a distant small moving target (which was high contrast, and on which the D60 had no problems), and on closer targets produced around 40% out of focus shots.

Exposure varied +/- 1/3 of a stop on an unchanging scene, which was very strange.

The speed of the thing in terms of FPS and how long it takes to fill the buffer in Large/Fine JPEG mode was highly impressive - it just kept going like a machine gun. But what's the point if half the images aren't useable?

Didn't experience any of the other reported problems - lockups etc. - but no doubt would have if I'd had it any longer!

Canon EOS 10D

Review Date: Dec 29, 2004 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 4 

Pros: Image quality, low ISO noise
Unreliable AF, poor quality control

Went through five bodies before giving up on this model entirely. First had a hair embedded on the sensor. Second looked like it was previously owned despite coming out of an unopened box.

The third I was very happy with, for about 6 months, by which time I was becoming increasingly unhappy with the sharpness of the images it was producing during action sequences. Sure enough some testing found it was producing 40%-60% of misfocussed frames during a sequence in AI Servo mode. Looking back at sequences taken just after it was bought found that a gradual deterioration had set in - initially it was just as good as my D60 (which would only produce say 10% of duff frames).

The fourth was fairly good to start with (though again not quite as reliable as the D60), but also deteriorated over a six month period.

Exchanged for a fifth and final 10D body, which had rubbish AF right out of the box.

Everything else about the camera I loved - but the unreliable AF was just a killer. Ended up buying a second D60, where the AF is slower, but has never deteriorated and is far more consistent.

Sigma 15-30mm f3.5-4.5 EX Aspherical DG DF

Review Date: Oct 24, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $420.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: Price/performance ratio
Build quality, flare

Compare to the examples I tested of Canon zooms in a similar range, this lens was sharper so I bought it.

Use in the real world taught me that it suffers awfully from blue circular flare marks - my first copy was so awful for it I returned it for another. The second example didn't suffer as badly but the zoom ring sounded like it had something grinding inside it, so I returned that one too. The third had flare again, but not as bad as the first.

It also broke down on me after 11 months, just within warranty, with the aperture blades sticking in position when taking a shot, rendering it useless. Repaired under warranty within 3 days by Sigma though.

The reason I bought it over supposedly superior Canon lenses - sharpness - only applies when it isn't wide open (both zoom and aperture), at those points it is a little 'digital' looking - almost over-sharp, difficult to put over in words really. Outside of those areas it's generally excellent so I'd still recommend it, just make sure you get a good one!

(price paid is in UK )

Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

Review Date: Oct 24, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $350.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Good zoom range, IS, can be found much cheaper than RRP
Build quality, sharpness, slow at the long end

A versatile and very useful good value lens. IS has been a boon for air to air photography, where it helps cancel out some of the camera ship's vibration (but I do mean *some*!).

It's never really as sharp as I'd like, and the construction is very plasticky and 'cheap' feeling - the way the extended barrel wobbles from side to side at full zoom is particularly worrying. But given the price of anything that even compares, it's sufficed for my needs up til now.

If it was a 28-135 f/2.8 IS, a bit sharper, and felt more solidly made it'd be perfect...

(price paid in UK )

Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM

Review Date: Oct 24, 2004 Recommend? no | Price paid: $140.00 | Rating: 4 

Pros: Cheap. Fairly sharp.
Overwhelmingly bad chromatic abberations, soft above 150mm or so.

Compared to similar third-party zooms this one's sharper, but suffers from appalling amounts of chromatic abberation - say hello to bright pink/purple fringing on the edges of any high contrast areas. This alone makes it nearly useless for use in bright weather.

Definitely a lens only for beginners or snap happy amateurs.

(price paid is in UK )

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

Review Date: Oct 24, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $950.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Focusing speed, relatively light weight, sharpness
Build quality, IS bugs

A fantastic all-rounder for airshow photography, and pretty damn good for candid people photos too (lovely bokeh at 400mm!). Sharpness is excellent though it does fall off a bit above 300mm, and in low contrast conditions.

I like the push-pull zoom action, much faster than twist zooms; my copy has picked up only a little dust inside but in 18 months use at lots of outdoor venues I'd expect any lens to do this really.

The IS system works very well, but freaks out when pointed anywhere near the sun, necessitating turning the camera off, dismounting the lens, reattaching it and turning the camera back on. The lens hood acts like a sail in windy conditions but without it this lens is very prone to flare.

Build quality is a problem and I have heard of many people who've had the bearings in the tightening/focusing ring fail, which initially causes focusing difficulties and eventually grinds the zoom mechanism to an expensive and messy halt. For the price this is NOT the quality I expect from Canon - because yes, mine's done it now too.

At full UK RRP I don't think this lens is worth it. If you can negotiate a discount, however, then despite its faults its an excellent bit of kit.

(price paid is in UK )

Sigma 50-500mm f4-6.3 EX APO RF HSM

Review Date: Oct 24, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Price, zoom range, sharpness, lack of chromatic abberation or flare
Weight, build quality, vignetting

I only upgraded to a Canon 100-400 L IS because this lens was too difficult to use in windy conditions when I wanted slower shutter speeds. Otherwise, it was a peach - sharpness does not vary greatly through the zoom range (and above 300mm performs identically to the Canon) and it focuses pretty quickly for a third party lens.

The only other problems I had were that it does vignet at the edges of the frame (even on a 1.6x body such as the D60/10D/etc.), though it's much less noticeable at f/11+, and the portion of the lens barrel where it meets the camera can work loose in time (repaired for free - and it was out of warranty - while I waited at Sigma's UK base).