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Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

85II
Review Date: Jun 16, 2012 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

 
Pros: Buttery smooth output, very sharp even at f/1.2, unique "look"
Cons:
Slow and laggy AF, cumbersome physical design, insane placement of red lens mount alignment dot, would be better with IS

This is an update to my previous APS-C review. I have no used the camera on full frame extensively, and am now a portrait and wedding photographer and will largely discuss it from that point of view. Sample gallery is at: http://www.clartephoto.com/canon85liisamples

The Canon Lens EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM (hereon in denoted as the 85L II) is a “L Series” designated short telephoto lens in Canon’s EF lens range. Released in 2006, the 85L II was a minor upgrade incorporating the technological advances in microprocessor technology and optical coatings made since the 1989 release of its predecessor, the Canon Lens EF 85mm f/1.2L USM, a functionally identical lens.

This lens has a legendary reputation, and deservedly so. It is widely regarded as one of Canon’s signature lenses and a flagship of the EF lens range. In their EF Lens Work III publication, Canon regards this lens as their “definitive portrait lens”. Wedding portraiture and photojournalism is my primary usage for this lens.

This lens, and its predecessor, the Canon Lens EF 85mm f/1.2L USM have single handily kept many customers loyal to the Canon system, widely quoted anecdotally as a key reason why many Canon system users do not switch to Nikon.

There have been few lenses that have transformed my photography more so than this lens. If I could only own one lens, it would be this lens. I would then use a Point & Shoot for my wide angle needs. It goes without saying that this lens well and truly deserves its status as a Canon L series lens.

BUILD:

As a rule, all L lenses are built extremely well, and the 85L II is no exception. However, there were some less than optimal decisions (or compromises) made on the construction of this lens.

The focus ring is wobbly and loose and shifts when pressure is applied, similar to how a loose tooth would move around. Although it does not affect functionality, it does cheapen the feel of the lens and gives new users a fright about whether the lens is broken or not.

The lens itself is not internal focusing, and is of a front group focusing design (the forward group moves in and out of the lens barrel), and this, together with the loose focus ring, and where the lens mount is screwed into the body, are the primary causes of its “dust pump” characteristic. After a few weeks of usage, large particles of dust made their way inside the lens, landing on numerous internal elements. Whilst image quality is not visibly impacted, the lack of dust resistance is disappointing at this price point. Some users have performed DIY cleaning attempts on this lens, but I am not so brave.

Similarly, the lack of weather sealing on a L lens at this price point is disappointing, however potentially unavoidable given the design of the lens.

By far the most bizarre decision was to place the red lens mount/camera mount alignment dot on the rear of the lens, rather than at the side. This makes it extremely difficult to mount the lens as the red dot is not visible when trying to mount the lens. Particularly as this lens features an exposed rear element (the glass is level with the end of the lens), this bizarre placement of the red alignment dot slows down the speed at which this lens can be mounted, and increases the risk of damage to the exposed rear element due to inaccurate alignment caused by an inability to see the red alignment dot when putting the lens on. Practice improves speed, but it’s absolute hell when a novice 85L II user borrows your lens and your heart starts fluttering when they start struggling with mounting your lens, clumsily rubbing the rear element back and forth on the camera mount. Terrible.

To Canon’s credit, the rear element is quite strong and scratch resistant, despite (or because) of its exposed nature. I don’t want to test the full extent of its scratch resistance though.

The 85L II is a Focus By Wire design. That is, manual focus (MF) is achieved electronically. As the lens has no power source, this means that MF is not possible when the lens is dismounted. Remember when I said the lens had a front lens group focusing design? The trouble is, when the front group is extended, and the lens has been dismounted, you cannot retract it without remounting the lens and turning the camera back on. This can be a pain in the field when your lens suddenly can’t fit back inside the back because the front element group is extended. In the field, it’s quite difficult to remember to focus the lens to infinity before dismounting the lens. Yes, it is partially my fault, but I doubt many would miss the focus by wire feature if it was scrapped in favour of conventional manual focusing.

The lens hood is a clip on design, not a Bayonet Mount. The hood looks ugly (Like most telephoto lenses, it is of a rounded design (not petal style)) and is quite flimsy compared to the lens, as is typical of most Canon lens hoods. The lens hood is even fatter than the lens, and severely restricts the types of bag slots the lens will fit into, whether mounted or reversed.

WHAT'S MISSING:

The biggest feature missing from this lens is Image Stabilisation (IS). Canon has historically struggled implementing IS on fast primes and only since 2012 has IS been implemented on a prime lens below 200mm focal length.

Some photographers are dismissive of whether IS is required in large aperture lenses such as the 85L II. Their arguments are that IS are not needed for fast lenses due to their ability to yield faster shutter speeds with their large apertures. I wish they were right, but unfortunately I have countless images ruined by camera movement induced motion blur disproving this theory.

I, and many other photographers, believe that IS would be invaluable on these lenses for the following reasons:
(a) A fast prime is designed for low light situations, and this is a usage this lens will typically find itself in, however even f/1.2 at high ISO is often not enough to get a handholdable shutter speed, and I have the photos to prove it!
(b) Even if f/1.2 and high ISO is sufficient to get a handholdable shutter speed, the implementation of IS will allow the photographer to stop down the lens or deduce the ISO, to get cleaner output and/or more depth of field (DOF)

I would gladly pay an extra $1000 for this lens for the inclusion of IS. Obviously, I’d prefer it to not cost anything extra though!

OVERALL IMAGE QUALITY:

When this lens is being discussed, three words frequently are mentioned: “Buttery”, “Creamy” and “Bokeh”. Once you use this lens you will understand why. I will attempt to explain how the optical attributes of this lens combine together to form this effect.

The colour response from this lens is unlike other Canon lenses I have used. The contrast delivered from this lens is more subdued, and more elegant. It definitely is a less punchier lens than a Canon Lens EF 200mm f/2L IS USM, however, I would not regard this as a bad thing. It is not worse, it is different. In my opinion, the lower contrast is suited well to portraiture work. The lower “roll off” in contrast transitions is what contributes to the “creamy” look for portraiture.

Together with the bokeh delivered by the f/1.2 aperture and the 8 rounded aperture bladed diaphragm (relevant when stopping down), this lens delivers spectacular background blur. Bokeh refers to the quality of out of focus areas, not the quantity, however there is no doubt our evaluation of bokeh is subjectively affected by the quantity of background blur. And the f/1.2 aperture delivers this in spades.

Note that due to the large aperture, out of focus highlights (out of focus bright spots in the background) are truncated by the mirror box, even on full frame cameras. At times this can be to the image’s detriment, and stopping down the lens will yield a rounder highlight.

Find some great lighting, open up this lens, and you are almost guaranteed a spectacular photo.

OPTICS:

Chromatic Aberration (CA):
Optically, susceptibility to longitudinal CA (purple and green fringing at areas of defocus) is by far the weakest attribute of this lens. This lens is most heavily afflicted by CA in the following situations:
(a) When used wide open or at large apertures
(b) When photographing high contrast transitions particularly in bright light (e.g. white wedding dress against black tuxedo)
(c) When photographing metallic objects

Typically, stopping down to f/1.6 and lower substantially minimises the impact of CA. I have also found that CA is much reduced in dark environments when I use bounce flash (which is a very flat, even light source), and more prominent in harsh, natural light.

Having said that though, this is not a game stopper. Situations like the above are not as prevalent as may seem, and the susceptibility of this lens to CA has not impacted me as much as I would have thought.

Vignetting:
Yes, it vignettes wide open. Bring it on I say. Vignette adds character and gives a very “classical” look to the image, accentuating the subject. I don’t mind vignetting at all, however if you prefer a uniform look, most Canon cameras and post processing software have vignetting correction features.

Distortion:
Nothing noticeable, which is not surprising for a short telephoto prime lens.

Flare:
The sun in the frame or close to the edge of the frame introduces veiling flare (overall “misty” look to the photo). In the field, the biggest impact is when you are photographing with the sun behind the subject. Even if the sun is very close to intruding into the frame, you may experience this veiling effect. I have noted ghosting from the elements (coloured shapes in the photo) however these are relatively minor compared to zoom lenses and wide angle lenses.

Sharpness:
This lens is sharp wide open. I utilise this lens wide open 95% of the time and sharpness is sufficient for all usages I have had for this lens. There is a slight but noticeable improvement in contrast as it is stopped down, and a post processed sharpened photo at f/1.2 will come close to a stopped down photo. Because the resolution is there, f/1.2 photos sharpen up very well - as long as it's in focus!

I regard this lens has being sharper wide open than both the Canon Lens EF 35mm f/1.4L USM and the Canon Lens EF 50mm f/1.2L USM (both of which are very sharp wide open anyway).

At times, in high contrast conditions, lens flare and CA work to reduce the apparent sharpness of this lens, and optically these result in haziness or ghosting on the image, reducing the effective sharpness of the shot.

As with all lenses, if you are concerned with the sharpness of your copy, it is critical that you use manual focus to ensure that the autofocus system is not responsible for the softness. Carefully take a photo of a flat surface containing detail, using Manual Focus, aided by 10X magnification in Live View.

From f/2 onwards, I regard this lens as reaching peak sharpness and out-resolving the current camera sensors. However, I must stress that one should not stop this lens down for sharpness reasons only, you should only need to stop down this lens to increase Depth of Field or to reduce the impact of optical defects such CA and vignetting. I use this lens wide open 95% of the time. The miniscule improvement in image quality is not enough to offset the damage to the image from losing depth of field control (resulting in reduced blurriness in the background) which I love.

The biggest limit on sharpness is imposed not by the lens resolving power, but by AF inaccuracy, motion blur, low DOF and CA. Few photographers will complain about the sharpness delivered by a tripod mounted, 10X magnification aided, manually focused laboratory test photo utilising this lens, but unfortunately life doesn’t always allow us to photograph that way. If over half or more of your photos are consistently front or back focused, I would recommend you investigate the possibility of requiring AF calibration, either using the AF Microadjust feature, or a trip back to Canon for cameras without this feature.

Depth of Field:

A f/1.2 aperture yields a very thin depth of field (DOF) at close focus ranges, however I feel that some photographers exaggerate just how thin DOF is in most field applications.

It is true that if you are at minimum focus distance (MFD) and you photograph a person’s head turned at a 45 degree angle, only one eye will be in focus. This has led to an internet notoriety with this lens that f/1.2 is “too shallow” and “not enough DOF”. Critics of this lens use this as a platform for remarks such as “Why would you photograph at f/1.2? It’s too thin” etc.

However, with the exception of headshot photographers, it is extremely rare for most photographers to photograph all their photos at such close range. A headshot offers little in the way of context and environment. For practical applications where you include other people, or the environment, f/1.2 provides enough DOF for photos of even multiple people, let alone one person.

I frequently use this lens for photos of couples and groups, at f/1.2. Sometimes fitting everyone within the DOF will be challenging, but the following techniques will assist you :
(a) Align people on the same plane (on a line parallel to the front of your lens). Avoid people at the ends positioning themselves forward or behind of the rest of the group.
(b) Step back as far as you can, and focus on the closest person, as it is much more obvious when the person closest is out of focus, compared to the person furthest away from the camera.
(c) Take multiple exposures focusing on both the near and far people, and then merge in photoshop (this technique is called focus stacking)
(d) Stop down Smile

AUTOFOCUS:

This lens is notorious for slow autofocus (AF) performance, despite the upgraded AF microprocessor compared to its predecessor. I can confirm the AF is indeed slow (on a 400D, 40D, 5D, 5D2, 1D3, 1D2N), however it is still usable for most photographic applications including some sports.

In my experience, the sensitivity (ability to lock focus) of the AF is more so camera dependent, however speed and accuracy are also impacted by the lens characteristics.

The biggest problem for me is the delay in response (lag) between when you press the button to AF, and the actual actuation of the AF cycle. For instance, at a wedding, if I observe a person close to me suddenly coming forward to hug the bride, even if I raise my camera up quickly, the lens will often fail to respond in a sufficiently timely manner before the hug is complete, causing me to miss the shot.

At weddings, typically the bridal waltz is another time I will use this lens out of necessity. I am generally happy with a 33% AF hit rate when used for this application due to the low level of light and the need to use AI Servo.

Due to my lack of confidence over the AF performance of this lens, I have not extensively used it for sports or other taxing AI servo applications. I also never attempt to use this lens with the outer focus points of the Canon EOS 5D or Canon EOS 5D Mark II. This often causes me to frame photographs poorly as I attempt to use the centre point. Fortunately Canon has released a camera with usable outer focus points (Canon EOS 5D Mark III), which I have ordered.

USAGE:

Portraiture and wedding work are obvious usages of this lens, however there are a few other applications which I feel that this lens is especially well suited for:

Indoor functions:
Many photographers make the mistake of thinking that a flash forgoes the need for fast glass such as the 85L II. I tend to think of a indoor flash as a tool to change the quality of light, rather than simply a tool to increase the quantity of light. Used correctly, I see indoor flash as a tool to complement existing light. A 85L II, used at large apertures, allows this to happen, sucking in the ambient light, delivering photographs with a superb rendering of the ambient lighting – photographs that a slower zoom lens just cannot achieve.

Photographs taken by slower zoom lenses at the same settings often have a “cave” like look where the subject is illuminated but the background is extremely dark – this is caused by the failure of the slower lens to pick up the low ambient lighting.

Tourism, general walkabout usage:
The DOF control that this lens provides enables superb class leading background and foreground blurring. DOF control is an excellent tool to focus a viewer’s eyes on a subject, or to accentuate subjects.

Consequently I frequently carry this lens on general photo excursions where I expect to photograph objects in a bit of detail, that a Macro lens would be too magnified for.

Accessories:
As is the case with most L lenses, this lens comes with a Canon soft felt lens case, manual, front and rear caps and lens hood.

From experience, this lens will fit into the following carriage accessories:
a) Lowepro Lens Case 4S (with or without hood)
b) Crumpler 7 Million Dollar Home (with or without hood, mounted on a SLR)

VALUE:

For a lens of its stature and performance, the 85L II is surprisingly cheaper compared to counterparts such as the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, however it still ranks as one of the most expensive non Super Telephoto Canon L lenses. That said, it delivers exceptional utility, versatility and photographic output, and therefore I regard it to be of excellent value despite its price. For me, it has been worth every cent.

CONCLUSION:

This lens will not make you into a super photographer. You will need to put in the hard yards in learning and practice, and this lens is a tool that you can use to demonstrate the knowledge and skills you gain. Expect much hardship in utilising this lens, but also expect much reward for the effort you put in.

The lens is not without its weaknesses. The latency and low responsiveness of its AF will cost you shots if you are not careful in its application. The chromatic aberration in certain scenes will come close to overwhelming the photo. Its cumbersome shape and mass will make it difficult to carry around with you, particularly when you need to pack light.

However, all these weaknesses fade to the background when you start making images with it. Its quality of output and the photographic opportunities it opens up to you are unmatched in its class.

This is a legendary lens, with decades of optical science and countless photographers who have used it before us making up part of its history. Work hard on your skill development, treat it with respect and humility, and it will be a loyal partner, rewarding you with spectacular output for many years to come.

My sample photo gallery is here - full EXIF is available, as are full resolution downloads for select photos towards the end of the gallery, so you can inspect optical characteristics for yourself!
http://www.clartephoto.com/canon85liisamples


 
Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM

ef200_f2lisu_586x225_1_
Review Date: Jan 17, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Color, Contrast, Sharpness, Uniformity in Image Quality, "Pop"
Cons:
Cost, Unwanted Attention, Size, Mass

I purchased this lens for myself as a graduation from college present. Well, actually, a “will soon graduate from college” present. The good folks at BH Photo gave me a price match with Amazon and as usual the price was better than any Australia dealer by over $400.

Canon Super Telephoto lenses are the flagship lenses of their EF range. Needless to say, they have no inherent weaknesses designed into the lens. Their biggest weaknesses are more so from an economical and practicality perspective. That is, cost, mass and size.

Cost:

You get what you pay for. If you want a fast lens which is close to optical perfection, unfortunately this is what it costs.

Is it expensive? Yes.
Is it overpriced? Hard to say.
Is it good value? I believe so. Value is a function of cost and utility. This lens costs a lot, but I also use it a lot. A lens may be cheap, but it is poor value if you use it for the occasional snap, such as a 50mm f/1.8 which is used every once in a while. I use my 200L almost every time I take photos, consequently, it is excellent value for me.

Mass:

It is unavoidable that a f/2 aperture lens at 200mm will weigh a lot. However, Canon has impressively reduced the mass of this lens substantially from its 0.3 stop faster predecessor, the 200mm f/1.8L lens.

Having said that though, short of having a medical condition or injury, a typical adult photographer should not have difficulty carrying or using this lens. I never use a tripod or monopod with this lens and I can handhold it all day. To put it in perspective, the additional heft above a 70-200 f/2.8L IS is simply the sum of the mass of a battery grip and 580EX. Whilst not trivial, for me mass has definitely not affected my usage of this lens. The lens is so good I force myself to carry it with me.

f/2 Aperture:

How often does one use f/2? There are my usage statistics of this lens, sorted by aperture:
f/2: 99.999998%
f/2.8: 0.0000001%
f/8: 0.0000001%

Size:

The problem with this lens is that it attracts unwanted attention. This attention will affect your ability to take genuine candids, and will make you feel a bit odd especially at public locations. Telephoto lenses have obvious negative connotations, so the need to avoid such associations may convince you to leave this lens at home for certain locations (e.g. the beach)

Image Stabilization:

Effective, but not a miracle worker. You can't have sloppy handholding technique and expect good sharpness. You will get A LOT of motion blur, even with IS, and even with shutter speeds of 1/100 and faster, if you don't have good technique or steady hands. It's harder to handhold than you think as the lens tends to jerk in your hands sometimes due to its mass.

Sharpness and Contrast:

This lens is uniformly sharp across all apertures until diffraction starts rearing its head. Please note Depth of Field is quite thin at 200mm f/2, and accurate focus is required to get top sharpness wide open. There is a very, very small improvement in sharpness stopping down to f/5.6. The improvement is virtually imperceptible if your focus at f/2 is correct.

In conjunction with a Canon Extender 1.4X II, there is a small but noticeable drop in performance. Performance is excellent stopping down one stop.

This lens is widely touted as being one of, if not the, sharpest Canon EF lens. I think it is difficult to assess this claim, as so many Canon EF lenses outresolve current sensors that it isn’t likely going to be any sharper than say, a $80 USD 50mm f/1.8 II. However, unlike other lenses, the 200L is sharp across the whole frame, and furthermore, the “apparent sharpness” of the photo is enhanced by the incredible contrast and colours.
In my opinion, what makes this lens stand out from a sharpness perspective is the contrast wide open. Many Zeiss/Leica/whatever fanatics will wax on about how their lenses show incredible micro contrast and all that. To be honest, I don’t really know what that discussion is about. But one thing is for certain: the “pop” and contrast hit you get from a well exposed 200L photo in great lighting conditions with this lens is unmatched compared to any other lens I have used.

The background blur attained at 200mm, f/2, as well as the natural vignetting of this lens, all contribute towards this jaw dropping effect.

However, it is important to note that the lens does not reward sloppy photography. Do not expect to point this lens and get a jaw dropping photo. It will require a lot of work from you as a photographer to choose the right scene, the right light, the right composition etc.

When I do my job right, I find this lens requires no post processing. What does one need to do when the colours, contrast and composition are all excellent? Well, I guess you need to convert from RAW, but sometimes I feel like I haven’t done my job properly as I hardly need to PP (post produce) any of the images.

Chromatic Aberration:

The usage of a low dispersion fluorite element is generally associated with very well controlled lateral chromatic aberration (purple fringing at high contrast transitions). The 200L is no exception to this rule. The only scenario where I have ever noted chromatic aberration with this lens was when I took a test shot of a shiny/highly reflective metal object in harsh, direct sunlight. Even then, it was very well controlled. If you have used any Canon telephoto with a fluorite element (or two), you will be aware of the clean, chromatic aberration free look, which is typically the norm.

Vignetting:

This lens noticeably vignettes wide open, like all other large (for their class) aperture lenses. However, I LOVE this feature of this lens. Often I find that stopped down images do not “pop” as much as images wide open. Upon closer inspection, it is because of the lack of vignetting stopping down. For me, vignetting helps accentuate the subject, and adds a classical look to the image. I often associate the lack of a vignette with the photo being too “clinical” or lacking “feel”. I love vignetting. I have never corrected vignetting in the thousands of photos I have taken with this lens. I actually wish the vignetting was stronger at times. Some people say that it is desirable to have zero vignetting in a lens, and then add it in photoshop if required. I disagree. I think it is very easy to remove vignetting by using Peripheral Illumination Correction, or stopping down past f/2.8, or using any post production software. But adding vignetting is time consuming, and I don’t feel it looks as natural as lens induced vignetting. Notwithstanding this subjective debate, most photographers will agree vignetting is the least serious optical defect, and far from a blight on the 200L’s optical performance.

Distortion:

None noted for my typical usage, however critical users may need to consult more objective lens tests.

Autofocus Performance:

Overall, very accurate and very fast. It is difficult to assess the autofocus performance of this lens as the camera, subject, lighting conditions and the photographer play a large part in determining autofocus performance. But here are some estimated statistics to give you an idea. These are ESTIMATES and do not exclude photos caused by my poor technique, which is a big factor:

- With a 1D Mark III photographing tennis on AI Servo, in focus rate is > 75%
- With a 1D Mark IIN photographing a person running towards you, in focus rate is > 90% on AI Servo
- With a 5D Mark II photographing a person for a portraiture photo, in focus rate is >80% on one shot

Accuracy is definitely better than my Canon calibrated 70-200 f/4L IS on AI Servo

Notwithstanding my results above, given that Canon utilises its latest and best USM motors in its flagship Super Telephotos, needless to say, no other current lenses are likely to be significantly superior in autofocus performance.

Please note, this lens is VERY hard to manually focus handheld using Liveview. You need VERY strong arms. Manual focus is excellent with liveview, but difficult.

Bokeh:

This will be controversial, but I believe the bokeh from this lens is nothing special. Don’t get me wrong, you will be hard pressed to find another non Super telephoto lens that blurs the background as comprehensively and creamy as this one does. So what do I mean?

The issue is, you are relying on the long focal length, and the f/2 aperture, to get a blurry background. When you stop down the lens, or put your subject behind a busy background, you are really asking for the impossible from this lens. Whilst bokeh is about the quality of the out of focus areas, there is no doubt that our perception of it is affected by the depth of field of the image.

The lens is no bokeh miracle worker. As it is with any other lens, your selection of your background, your aperture and the distance between the subject and background play a pivotal part of the look of the out of focus areas. If you can get the above right, then yes, the 200L will obliterate the background for you. But don’t go expecting to use some ugly shrubs for background and expecting creamy perfection, particularly when stopped down.

All that said though, the 200L is a bokeh machine. Put a clean background behind a subject, find some nice lighting, and you will get a jaw dropping, creamy background photo.

Best Uses for this Lens:

Any. Many lens reviewers will recommend lenses for particular purposes, e.g. wide angles for landscapes, telephotos for wildlife and sports. This lens is so good that I try and find any and all uses for this lens. I like to use this lens as my primary walkabout lens, so don’t let anyone

Do not get seduced by the background blur of this lens however. If you go onto any forum and have a look at “example photos” taken by users of this lens, a large portion tend to be of random objects in a boring rule of thirds composition, with a blurred background. Boring…
In my gallery listed below, I have included some photographs from a wide range of settings to show the versatility of this lens.

Portraits:

Amazing Portraiture results. Ever since I have gotten this lens, I no longer use my 85mm f/1.2L II where space is not an issue. The 85mm just feels too wide in comparison, almost like one is using a wide angle prime. I know this will be sacrilege to many, but it is my perception of the 85L for outdoor portraiture.

That said, the 85L is still king of the hill for me for indoor portraiture and indoor events.

Note that in my opinion, the 200L at f/2 blows out the background better than the 85L does at f/1.2 for equal framing. The 85 at f/1.2 has shallower DOF, but the 200L has the blurrier background. (Please research on focal length and background blur and DOF if this seems counter intuitive to you)

Group Photos:

Group Photos from this lens are amazing. You would not think to take group photographs at 200mm f/2, however if you are willing to put in the effort, you will get very nice group photos with naturally blurred backgrounds. Naturally, I use f/2 for all my group photos too. Too shallow DOF? Only if you aren’t imaginative in how you can combat the problem (Focus Bracketing, Photoshop, row manipulation, angle manipulation, the possibilities are endless)

Many photographers use wide angle lenses for group photos. I think this is boring. Sometimes it is unavoidable due to space constraints, but where possible I always use longer lenses to get great telephoto perspective and a diffuse background.

Landscape:

Why not? The colours coming from this lens are special. However, note that if you are photographing distant scenes, atmospheric effects will induce loss of contrast, so use this lens with care. This lens probably isn’t worth the load for most during a long hiking trip, but I love it so much I still carry it. Like other applications, I take landscapes at f/2. Generally the DOF is more than sufficient for distant scenes.

Wedding Photos:

Beautiful lens for wedding couple shots, and photojournalism. That said, it is a very restrictive focal length at a wedding, so you need to use with care. In my opinion, the ideal situation would be a 2nd shooter using this lens. I once photographed a wedding entirely with this lens as a second photographer, and the couple loved the output far more than main’s output from a 24-70L and 16-35L. That said, I do not recommend this lens as a primary wedding lens for obvious reasons. Otherwise, you will miss shots.

How to carry gear:

For gigs, I use a Thinktank Airport Security v2. When I’m out and about, I use a Crumpler Whickey and Cox backpack which can hold the lens with hood and camera mounted. The lens will also fit (without hood) into a Lowepro AW75 toploader, backwards. There are many other cases available.

Lens Cap:

Many people buy expensive lens caps for this lens, but in my opinion, you don’t really need this lens cap if you intend to store the camera with the hood on. I always have the hood on and I never use a lens cap. Actually, I never use lens caps for any of my lenses, but anyway…

Other Accessories:

I recommend a lens coat (overpriced, but effective) and Permacel Professional Grade gaffer tape to protect your gear. Permacel professional grade is the only brand of gaffer I have used which is removable from cameras/lenses after 2 years +. (standard disclaimer applies)

Here are some sample galleries: http://dawei.zenfolio.com/p757773147

If enough people request it I can do some objective tests and allow original download, but I think sites like TDP are better for these. I will also add more images over time.

Please note the majority of photographs have had no post processing correction with respect to imaging parameters such as saturation and contrast and colours and things like that. My standard workflow is RAW capture using Canon DPP and Landscape Picture Style, White balance change (if required), Exposure change (if required), crop and vignette (if required). I do not apply any colour altering actions or procedures.

EXIF is accessible by holding mouse over photo and clicking relevant button.

Cheers,
Dawei Ye

Ex President, Fotoholics – Melbourne University Photography Club
Long time FM member
Gear Collector and Lens Test Chart Photographer




 
Canon Speedlite 580EX II

580exii
Review Date: Feb 15, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $329.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Versatility, Will take your Flash photgraphy to a new level
Cons:
Flash Footing isn't very secure, there will be times when the footing becomes loose and TTL will come up instead of ETTL

Firstly, you NEED a Hotshoe Flash, especially if you do any low light indoors photography. Hotshoe flashes give more bang for the buck than a better lens in my opinion. They are essential as photography is mostly about the quality of light. On board direct flash often gives unacceptable results.

Well you want to get a Canon flash, but given you use Canon Cameras you don't have much choice...it boils down to the 430EXII vs the 580EXII

An often asked question is: "I'm a newbie do I get a 430EX/430EXII or a 580EX/580EXII?"

A common response is "Get a 430EXII, it will more than satisfy your requirements"

I beg to differ. In my opinion, there is no reason why anyone should purchase a 430EXII over a 580EXII. If you ask anyone who has used both a 430EXII and a 580EXII, I doubt you will find a single one of those people will recommend a 430EXII over a 580EXII. The latter is just far more versatile and effective.

- The 580EXII can rotate both left and right by 180 degrees. The 430EXII cannot

- The 580EXII can accept a CP-E4 Battery Pack. The 430EXII cannot

- The 580EXII has Flash Exposure Bracketing. The 430EXII does not

- The 580EXII has Stroboscopic functions. The 430EXII does not

- The 580EXII is weather sealed. The 430EXII is not. (But I don't recommend getting it wet anyway)

- The 580EXII can control other off camera Speedlites. The 430EXII cannot

- The 580EXII is more powerful than the 430EXII.

- For the same output, the 580EXII recycles faster than the 430EXII especially with a CP-E4 attached.

The list goes on and on and on...

The 430EXII is a GREAT flash BUT, trust me, when you buy a 430EXII you will be over the moon, but the day you use a 580EXII will be the day you will ask yourself "Why was I naive enough to get a 430EXII?". I say this because the same thing happened to me, and so I strongly recommend you save up a little bit more for a 580EXII.

One good thing about the 430EX and the 580EXII is that both are built tough. I have dropped both onto concrete whilst running - to no ill effects functionality wise (but obviously I don't recommend it) (They are heavily scarred and a switch on my 430EX has snapped off though, but they still work perfectly)


 
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

ef50mmf_18_1_
Review Date: Dec 20, 2008 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

 
Pros: Sharp Wide Open, Very sharp stopped down, Light, Inexpensive
Cons:
Very weak construction, Erratic AF, Bokeh (Boke) a bit harsh (not very creamy)

I thought I would post a bit of an updated Review to one I did a long time ago (well, not really, but I know much more now than then)

You are likely reading this because you are considering the purchase of this lens. Please be aware of several important pieces of information and myth surrounding this lens

MYTH 1: THIS LENS IS SOFT WIDE OPEN

lens either suffers from significant sample variation, or it's used by newbies (given its "consumer" status) who don't know how to use a lens wide open very well. But there are reports of dud copies so if yours is not sharp wide open get it replaced.

My copy is sharp wide open, almost as sharp as my 85mm f/1.2L II wide open and my 35mm f/1.4L wide open. Other reviewers have reported this lens as soft as s--- wide open. It leads me to be uneasy about the variation. If you don't believe that this lens is sharp wide open send me a PM and I can link you to some of my test shots. What is my definition of sharpness? Well I'm a pixel peeper who views the 100% view for every photo I take, so my idea of sharp is very sharp.

Getting sharp photos from this lens is complicated though. Firstly this lens has erratic focus accuracy. Secondly, because the depth of field is thin at f/1.8 you have to be wary of what your AF sensor is locking onto, as well as avoiding any movement yourself either from swaying or camera shake.

MYTH 2: THIS LENS IS CHEAP AND PRACTICALLY DISPOSABLE, IF YOU BREAK IT JUST BUY A NEW ONE

This lens is weak. I have snapped mine in half on numerous occasions. But note what I just said about "numerous occasions". That's right, you can easily fix this lens yourself for the most common breakage where the lens breaks into two halves.

Many forum users suggest you just dump your broken 50mm f/1.8II lens and buy a new one because its so cheap. Wrong. I'd rather save that money towards a nice L lens instead. If you drop your lens and snap it in half, you will have to find the little plastic pieces that snapped off, superglue them back into the top half, then lock the two pieces back together. It takes a bit of trial and error but the lens works perfectly if you do it right.

MYTH 3: THIS IS A GREAT BEGINNER'S LENS

I made a mistake of buying this lens because many people said "It's a great beginner's lens" or "It's only $XX, it's like pocket change". Well, any amount of $ you spend on this lens means it will take that much longer for you to buy a quality lens like the 35L or 85L II or another lens that you really need. My 50mm f/1.8 II is just sitting at home doing nothing. (I dropped it and superglued it back together so whilst it still works, it's unlikely to fetch much

I am not convinced this is a good lens for beginners. Many users are seduced by the hype and the "affordability" of this lens, but does it really have value for money?

Wait...did I just say the 50mm f/1.8 II (which is always voted best bang for buck Canon lens) is bad value for money? Yes. I did. It is bad value for money for me at least.

Why? Well ask yourself what can this lens really do?

General Use? No, with its 80mm FOV on APS-C bodies (what most newbies use), it's too long for most walkabout purposes

Landscapes? No for similar reasons

Portraits? Yes...but this lens has a harsh quality to its out of focus regions, meaning there are better options

Wildlife? Sports? No because it is too short and slow AF

Weddings? AF is too erratic, and I like my primes to have nice creamy bokeh (boke)

As you can see it's usefulness is very limited.

Make no mistake, this lens is for you if you are happy with the focal length and you don't do time critical photography and you just want great image quality in a lens without spending heaps of money. But don't think for a moment that this lens is for everyone.

And if you don't like the 50mm focal length, or you do time sensitive work, then better to save that money towards a nice L lens or a Speedlite...

Hope that helped in your buying decision. My recommendation? (Unless you are sure the 50mm f/1.8 II is for you) If you are a newbie with a APS-C Camera, put the money towards a nice walkabout zoom lens like the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 or preferably Canon 17-55 f/2.8 IS for the time being, and then save up for a FF camera with quality primes like the 24L,35L,85L,135L if you want primes.


 
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

85II
Review Date: Dec 17, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Lovely.
Cons:
CA (both lateral and longitudinal), Battery Metering Issues with 40D, Expensive (but not poor value) Dust Magnet, Dust Pump, Exposed Rear Element, Fat (hard to fit into Camera bags/lens slots), Heavy, Not Internally Focusing, Near unusable for AI Servo in poor light conditions and poor AF cameras...but once you see the photos it creates all this becomes irrelevant :)

[Apologies for the incomplete review from me posted below this one, I accidentally pressed the send button in the middle of typing Sad I'll make this review especially detailed to make up for the spam caused by my previous erroneous post]

---
Summary:
Overall: 10 (Awesome)
Build: 8 (Solid but a dust Pump and no weather Seal)
Price: 8 (Expensive but not poor value - worth every cent)
Price Paid: $2375 AUD Brand new from Camera Action Camerahouse, Melbourne Australia
---

Note this is a APS-C Review on a Canon 40D and Canon 400D (XTi):

People say this lens was built for the 5D. Well, I haven't used it on a FF camera yet, so I'm sure I'll be in for a treat. I'll post another review when I get a 5D/5D2 or 1Ds/1DsII/1DsIII

Firstly, this lens has MANY problems:
1. Chromatic Aberration. Far out it's bad wide open. It tends to dissipate (is that the right word?) from about f/1.6 to f/1.8 onwards, but it is horrible in high contrast conditions and metal/chrome objects. Having said that though, it is rarely an issue in 99% of photos, and stopping down mitigates it. I can only vaguely remember one or two photos where the CA wrecked the shot, and those photos were test shots anyway where I wasn't properly exposing and composing. Just be careful and don't be afraid to stop down a bit (if you can) in bright high contrast conditions.

2. Has Battery Metering issues with 70-80% of Canon EOS 40D's. Canon has acknowledged this issue but as of yet has not been able to solve the problem (or likely just sweeping it under the carpet given the 40D is now obsolete). Basically you will need to flick the off-on switch every 30 shots or so because of the battery will report "empty" incorrectly with this lens. Often a freshly charged battery will report empty before you even take one photo, so you'll have to do a off-on flick. Not all 40D's are affected - you may want to test out the lens on your 40D before buying if you are concerned.

3. Dust Pump. The inside of my rear element is full of fluff and dust after 6 months. Maybe my copy is unique in this regard, but it is an absolute dust magnet, and the extending front focusing design of the lens only contributes to this. Some report that it is easy to get dust off by unscrewing the rear mount and blowing off the dust, but the dust has not yet affected image quality so I think I'll leave it. I've gaffer taped the edges of the lens mount though because I think that's where the dust is going in.

4. AF: Not as slow as others say, but it is noticeably slow, especially if you are used to the blazing fast AF of the 70-200 lenses. This lens focuses nicely in low light on a 40D though, it doesn't tend to hunt that much. But mine hunts like crazy on a 400D in low light though.

Don't even think about using this for AI Servo in low light for a fast moving object, unless you have a Camera with awesome AF and you have good skills and can . AI Servo is usable in good light for something like bike rider, but in low light, the keeper rate is really low. (Doable in a pinch though). Note this is camera dependent too though.

5. Design Issues:
* Exposed Rear Element (basically level with the lens mount) - Although exposed and easily scratched and soiled, it is quite tough to Canon's credit
* Not Internally Focusing (only adds to the dust pump effect). When the lens focuses, the front extends, similar to the 50mm f/1.8 II.
* Focus By Wire (no MF if Camera is off) - what was Canon on when it gave the 85L this feature? It's especially bad for me because the 85L "just" fits in my bag's slot when its retracted, but if I forget to focus to infinity before dismounting the lens, I can't fit it in my bag Sad Partially my fault yes, but I doubt many would miss the focus by wire feature.
* Canon did a Tokina and put the Mounting Indicator (red dot) on the back of the lens rather than the side Sad It's a pain to mount this lens when you're under pressure, especially when you are also careful not to hit the rear element on the camera mount (because the rear element is basically level with the lens mount)
* Focus ring is a bit wobbly
* Canon for Christmas please give me IS (Image Stabilization) on this lens, thank you! :D (Not if it compromises Image Quality though)

6. Some other aspects of this lens that are interesting:
* Focus Ring has a very large range, you will have to do a few twists to cover the entire range. Good and Bad depending on the situation
* If you need a Lowepro Lens Case for it, the Lowepro 4s will fit it with the hood attached. Thanks to Bryan from the-digital-picture.com for this info. It is a good fit, but a teeny bit hard to put in and out because it is a little tight with the hood on. If you don't use the hood, the lens will bounce around inside the case, so you might want a smaller case if you don't use the hood.
* The hood is a clip on, not a Bayonet Mount. The hood looks ugly (its round not petal) and is a bit flimsy compared to the lens.

You know what, despite these issues, this lens still gets a highly recommended 10/10 from me. This lens is legendary, and well deserved.

An often asked question is "Why Canon over Nikon". Many photographers quote a simple word: 85L

The stuff you can do with this lens is just spectacular. Don't expect this lens to substitute for photography knowledge, skill and good light, but if you have these ingredients and you add this lens, then you will be capable of awesome results. If you suck, you will still suck after buying this lens. You have to earn the right to get great images from this lens.

The Bokeh (Boke) is just heavenly. I am not talking about the amount of background blur, I am talking about the quality of the background diffusion. It's just buttery smooth.

Image Quality? No worries from a APS-C perspective. I don't even have to say much here. This lens is sharp wide open. The contrast at a 100% crop level (micro contrast is it called?) is a tad lower than when stopped down, but this is ok because with a bit of sharpening in Photoshop - WOW. This lens sharpens up VERY well. If you are concerned with the sharpness of your copy, carefully take a photo of a flat surface with detail using MF aided by 10X Live View. It should look sharp. If its hazy or blooming, then you either stuffed up the test or your lens is stuffed up.

Seriously, it's sharp wide open, at least on APS-C 10MP sensors. This is coming from a pixel peeper who inspects the 100% view for EVERY photo he takes. Yes it does improve when stopping down though, mostly through improved contrast. From about f/1.6 onwards, not much can touch this lens for sharpness.

The biggest limit on sharpness though is imposed not by the lens resolving power, but by motion blur, low DOF and AF errors and CA.

At the end of the day, I have listed a whole list of nitpicks I have with this lens, but you quickly forget them when reviewing the images you take with this lens

Again, a warning, this lens will not make you into a super photographer. You will need to put in the hard yards in learning and practice, and this lens is a tool that you can use to demonstrate the knowledge and skills you gain. Expect much hardship (dealing with motion blur especially if you are used to IS lenses, dealing with AF issues, inaccuracies, AF calibration) but eventually you'll get better and better with it.

Highly Recommended!


 
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

85II
Review Date: Dec 16, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated

 
Pros: Lovely.
Cons:
CA (both lateral and longitudinal), Issues with 40D, Expensive, Overpriced, Dust Magnet, Dust Pump, Exposed Rear Element, Fat (hard to fit into Camera bags/lens slots)

APS-C Review:

People say this lens was built for the 5D. Well, I haven't used it on a FF camera yet, so I'm sure I'll be in for a treat. I'll post another review when I get a 5D/5D2 or 1Ds/1DsII/1DsIII

This lens has many problems:
1. Chromatic Aberration. Far out its bad. It tends to disappear from about f/1.6 to f/1.8 onwards, but it is horrible in high contrast conditions. Sometimes visible on a 17 inch screen without zooming. Having said that though, it is rarely an issue in 99% of photos, and stopping down mitigates it.

2. Has Battery Metering issues with 80-90% of Canon EOS 40D's. Canon has acknowledged this issue but as of yet has not been able to solve the problem (or likely just sweeping it under the carpet given the 40D is now obsolete). Basically you will need to flick the off-on switch every 30 shots or so because of the battery will report "empty" incorrectly with this lens. Often a freshly charged battery will report empty before you even take one photo, so you'll have to do a off-on flick.

3. Dust Pump. Maybe my copy is

4.


 
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM

ef70-200lisusm
Review Date: Sep 26, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharpness (Generally), Overall LACK of aberrations (CA, Distortion, Vignetting), IS effectiveness
Cons:
MFD problems at long end, Non petal shaped hood (nitpick)

Date Code: UV0203
Price: $1629 AUD (now much cheaper)
Purchase Date: November 07

I have had a mixed history with this lens, and whilst I don't want to retell my life story I've discussed some issues about this lens that I've come across in my personal experience.

Let me say up front that all things considered this lens is crazy sharp. This lens is as sharp as the 85L and 50 f/1.8 II stopped down. There's no point trying to split these 3 lenses in sharpness...they are all crazy sharp (though I think the 85L gets the nod for crispness).

When I first got this lens, I had major softness issues with it on my 400D. Part of the softness was due to the MFD problem I describe below, but it was more than that..my 400D just didn't like this lens.

Then I got a 40D and wow! Day and night difference. On a 40D this lens is sharp, sharp, sharp. Since calibration, my 400D likes this lens better too so maybe it was a focus issue Smile but psychologically I still perfer the 40D for this lens.

On the issue of sharpness, I'm a pixel peeper who presses the "View at 100%" button on every photo I take. I can tell you that my lens, even when examined at 100% crop DOES NOT IMPROVE when stopping down. It is as sharp at f/8 as it is at f/5.6 as it is at f/4. I can't be bothered testing this at all focal lengths but in my quick tests I stand by this. I do not hesitate to use this lens at f/4 for sharpess reasons (I hesitate for dof reasons)

I hear some say that it isn't as good at 70mm especially wide open. To be honest I don't use it at 70mm much but at the times I have, I haven't noticed anything particularly bad at 70mm. Photozone says this lens is best at 135

Sports? I'm not sports photographer but on the one occasion I did try AI Servo at a Lacrosse game on my 40D, when I did my bit properly in keeping the focus point on the target, the in focus rate was in the 80%+ region, and those that locked on were tack sharp. When I say tack sharp, I mean that 100% crops are tack sharp.

My only disappointment is its well documented poor performance at the long end at MFD. For some reason my copy of the lens, as well as many other copies, is terrible at the 200mm end, at the MFD, especially when wide open. (Some users claim to have no problems with this regard though, but many believe this is a design compromise).

It would have been great to use this IS lens for flower shots etc. when walking around instead of having to cart around a Macro Lens.

As for IS, let me just say that if you are considering the 70-200 f/4L non IS version, DON'T! Get this one with IS. You WILL regret not having IS. I would not get a non IS version of any lens if I could help it, or if my primary interests were fast action sports or if I exclusively used a tripod or monopod and wanted to save some money on the lens.

But do I hear you saying the 70-200 f/4L is a better value?

I disagree. Where is the value of the 70-200 f/4L when you have to get a monopod or tripod to use it in lower light. With the state of the art IS unit on this lens I can handhold at 1/15 at 200mm. With the non IS version that is a near impossibility. A 4 stop advantage is absolutely real.

In summary: Will I ever sell this lens? No. Would I rebuy it if I had my time over again? Yes.


 
Lowepro Lens Case 3


Review Date: Apr 18, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Good Protection
Cons:
No strap/strap loops, a bit too bulky to wear on the belt, a divider would be useful, hard to carry by itself - needs a hand strap

I really like the Size of the Lowepro Lens Case 3, and it provides good protection for the contents. Like all Lowepro products the (at least subjective) degree of protection is very high though you wouldn't want to throw it around though.

I dislike its lack of straps and handles though. It's near impossible to carry around without attaching it via its sliplock attachment to another Lowepro bag or your belt or something.

When on the belt, it is pretty awkward, though I guess you can't blame the product for having a large cargo compartment.

All in all though, it is very useful to me and if I'd still buy it if given the option again. It fits the items I have listed below very well.

Possible Cargo that I have tried:
1 X 580EXII (in supplied case)

or 1 X Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 AND 1 X Tokina 12-24mm f/4 with at least a 2cm piece of foam in between (all hoods reversed)

or 1 X 70-200mm f/4L IS (hood reversed)

(Bryan at the-digital-picture.com in his review has a list of possible contents for this lens case, and I originally purchased this for my 70-200 f/4L IS based on his site. Since then, I've kept my 70-200 attached constantly to my 40D though so I've used the Lens Case for carrying the 580EXII or 2X compact zoom lenses):

I paid AUD $28 for mine


 
Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical [IF]

1750diII
Review Date: Dec 17, 2007 Recommend? | Price paid: $480.00

 
Pros: A very versatile workhorse lens for me. IQ is very good, don't let elitists bullcrap you that 3rd party glass sucks, Tamron lenses like this one are very, very good.
Cons:
For the price it is hard to fault, but I would have liked improved focusing system including Full Time Manual (FTM) and a bit more sharpness wide open.

This is another review from me, I previously gave it an 8 in an earlier review, but if I could I would give it a 10.

It is an absolute work horse for me and performs shot after shot. It is on my 400D almost 100% of the time and it has never failed on me and never given me a crap shot when I have done everything correctly on my end.

Focusing is loud, whiny and not as fast as USM, especially in low light, but

IQ is excellent, not perfect but even a sharpness freak like myself is satisfied with the results. For newbies like me, skill is the limiting factor with this lens in terms of sharpness. With practice you will see your results becoming sharper and sharper. My sharpest shots look crisp even at full size (100%). Things like landscape shots get a little blotchy but that is due to the limitations of the sensor too. I am nevertheless happy with IQ on this lens, especially given the price. I'm not afraid to say it but IQ rivals some Canon "L" glass.

Highly Recommended Lens until you can afford/want a Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 USM IS

It is also a very useful zoom range for the APS-C sized sensor that it was designed for. Perfect for everything except perhaps if you are in a small room and need ultra wide angle or taking photos of birds. I have taken very good group shots, portraits, landscape, buildings, everything with this lens.

Highly Recommended Lens. Make sure you get a good copy though, or get it calibrated/exchanged if it isn't sharp and focus isn't accurate. My copy is almost as sharp as the 50mm f/1.8 II at most apertures (a tad softer, but only noticeable when viewing zoomed in).


 
Canon EOS Rebel XTi (400D)

rebel_xti
Review Date: Nov 20, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $800.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Very Good Resolution, Very Good Value, All round great camera to use, Makes the Owner very happy
Cons:
AF Assist Flash Burst; Limited Self Timer Mode; Slight Image Review Lag; Build Quality; Small viewfinder; Self Cleaning System sucks majorly

Build: 7; Price: 10; Overall: 9

Paid around $970 AUD for this great photographic tool about 2 months ago. It has been worth every single cent.

Image Quality is very important to me, and the 400D does not disappoint, especially given its price. However, like other cameras, you will need good glass and good skills to get the most out of this camera. I daresay, you really need to know what you are doing to get results that reflect what this camera is capable of. Please, please invest in some good glass otherwise this camera's 10MP sensor is wasted.

This camera is just great. It isn't the easiest to use (The Auto mode sucks compared to that of a Point and Shoot) but it is just all round a great, polished camera. It isn't a premium model by any stretch of the imagination, but it does have very good features and does not feel overly crippled compared to other models. Ok maybe things like the viewfinder should be a bigger and brighter, but this camera still represents excellent value.

Build Quality on the 400D/XTi is much maligned, but honestly, if this is your first dSLR, you won't notice anything. If you are used to the more solid feel of the 40D or more prosumer models, then the 400D may seem a bit toy-ish to you, but this was my first dSLR and I was pleased with the build, as well as the size of the grip when I first purchased it (my hands are huge). Since then I have gotten a 40D and I admit it is a big step higher, but that is not a criticism of the 400D.

This camera isn't perfect, but its shortcomings are all niggly things that are more irritants than major issues. I am very picky and here are some I can think of:
- The Self Timer mode is a joke compared to any decent Canon compact. There is no custom burst or custom countdown options for the self timer. The latter is not that important, but the former is. However, I use the AEB (Auto exposure bracketing) to make it do a burst, and this is better than nothing (and even better sometimes)
- No (Useable) AF Assist Beam. The usage of the on board flash to strobe the target for AF assist in lowlight will not please your subjects...get a Speedlite, it is well worth it.
- The Remote Control Sensor point is located in a stupid position. Someone's hand always is in the way when I want them to just hold the camera so I can trigger the shutter Smile
-My 400D tends to lag in Image Review mode especially with one of my Sandisk Extreme IIIs, maybe it is that card that is defective though...the other one seems much better.
- Self Cleaning Sensor (or more accurately, the vibration of the low pass filter) is next to useless. This is a glorified feature that sucks. It may be useful for some light dust, but you could have used a blower anyway...I am very disappointed with this feature

One other thing is that some elitists may dismiss you as a newbie if you lug this camera around...but who cares Smile


 
Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical [IF]

1750diII
Review Date: Oct 12, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $500.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Edge Sharpness better than many more expensive zooms, Wide even on 1.6X Sensor, Includes Lens Hood
Cons:
Overrated Image Quality, Low light focusing, tends to underexpose but not sure if it is Lens fault

In interests of disclosure I am a newbie with a Canon 400D (Rebel XTi) and I own this and a 50mm f/1.8
Paid AUD $560 (approx $500 USD) compared to AUD $125 for the 50mm Prime

Build Quality feels incredible relative to my 50mm f/1.8 which is a farce.

This is a capable lens but I feel it is a bit overhyped from the reviews. However, it is starting to grow on me though as my skill levels increase, and I feel it's performance is improving every day as my skills improve (unlike the Prime which was easy to use and obtain good images straight out of the box)

I was initially very disappointed by the lens and thought I got a dud even though I got a Made in Japan one, but after going back to the shop another sample was only very slightly sharper, and comparing to my friend's L Lens (which resolves better resolution but has softer images, especially at the edges), I know that it was more my unrealistic expectations after seeing too many 1Ds Mark II sample images.

But on my copy I still can't help but feel sharpness seems overrated, it is comparable to my 50mm f/1.8 at 5.6, but is much worse at 2.8 (which would be expected). True it is a zoom and you can't expect prime like results for its price, but it does cost more than 4X more than the 50mm f/1.8 prime.

Colours seem a bit subdued and dull, I don't know if this is because of constant underexposure due to user error, the camera (400D/Rebel XTi) or what...but images are often dark and smudgy. I bought a Speedlite 430EX though and this has helped significantly giving slightly sharper, and much better colour when I use Bounce Flash.

You do get a lot for your money though: Constant f/2.8 (though a bit soft was you would expect), useful zoom range on a APS-C sensor, though a bit more on the telephoto end would be useful!!!, Lens Hood is included, negligible if any zoom creep, almost as good sharpness as the 50mm f/1.8 prime.

Some annoyances are no FTM, focus ring turns, and needs more on the tele end Smile (I don't care about Autofocus noise)

All in all an ok lens, I gave it a 8, but if I did this review a week ago it would have been a 7 (and a 6 a week before that), so it is growing on me!


 
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

ef50mmf_18_1_
Review Date: Sep 22, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $100.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharp Images; (Relatively) Cheap in Price
Cons:
Breaks very easily, and even when not broken it feels like it will imminently break; Not Cheap enough to be "Disposable" Not wide enough on a 1.6X Crop Autofocusing in the dark

I'm an absolute newbie but here are my views:

Paid $125 AUD (around $100 US) which is exceptionally cheap compared to my Tamron 17-50mm which was $560 AUD (though still cheap) and $970 for my EOS 400D (Rebel XTi)

Wow! When I first purchased it I thought this is a piece of crap, my Powershot A640 gave sharper images, but now that I have learnt how to take photos properly with my 400D, it is very sharp. the A640 also gave sharp images, but they had that 'grainy' noise stuff you get from sharpening in Photoshop, so I assume it is due to more aggressive in camera sharpening. The 50mm f/1.8 on a 400D gives both SHARP and CLEAN results with barely any of that oversharpened noise/squiggly thingys. In practice, it is also much easier to get sharp and "SLR like" results from this lens than my Tamron 17-50mm, especially at night, though this could be because of my (lack of) skills.

Not very good at focusing, I don't mind noise, but in dark locations it tends to "hunt" (?) a lot and feels like it will break apart with all those shudders. Also the AF Assist Flashes of the EOS 400D pisses off people as this happens, but that's another issue Smile

Not a fault of the lens per se, but often I use it instead of the Tamron at parties at night because it performs better, but unfortunately you have to back up quite a lot and people think you are a weird or something (e.g. "WTF is that guy doing??"), so it is a bit too ?"long"? on a APS-C 1.6X crop camera

At time of writing, I have just dropped mine from about 1m high whilst it was in it's box and bubble wrap and plastic and it still broke!!! with two of the hook things on the top part snapping off. I have superglued them and will see how it goes Smile This has left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth because I feel I was just getting used to this lens and being able to use it properly. So a big gripe is that it isn't cheap enough to warrant such poor durability.

I admit when I first got my dSLR and this lens, I thought that comments about it feeling like a toy were a bit harsh, but after getting another lens (Tamron 17-50mm), and after it breaking on me, I understand and agree with the comments.

Whether my broken one will work in the morning, or whether I get a replacement, I am going to sticky tape padding all over it!!!