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  Reviews by: Derek_S  

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Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM

ef_35_14_1_
Review Date: Jul 12, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,224.23 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Bright aperture, feel of "rightness" on a grip-equipped SLR, excellent performer
Cons:
Price leap from f/2.0 version, lens hood-lens cap relationship

I upgraded from the f/2.0 version due to realizing that a good chunk of my photography came from dimly lit areas.

I harbor absolutely no hesitation to use this wide open. It's that good (and better be for the price). However, the tiny depth of field at f/1.4 forces me to be very judicious about focusing. And before you ask, yes, it IS somewhat difficult to get proper focus on a fast lens - even if it is a wide angle. Fortunately, autofocus is generally fast and accurate, even on a "lowly" 10d. I get a 70% keeper rate in regards to autofocus, 95% if paired with the st-e2 - good enough for me.

Stopping down, my copy gets "HOLY CRAP!" at f/1.8, "OW, MY EYES!" at f/2.8, and "Unsharp mask?! I don't need no stinkin' unsharp mask!" at f/5.6.

Now, the build - the shell definately feels like plastic, but it's friggin dense. Ergonomically, mounted on either a 10d + grip or a 1d, there's a certain feel of rightness - the zone from my palm (which tend to cradle the "lip" of the battery grip) to my focusing fingers are never cramped nor stretched too far. If I could nitpick, I would've loved it if Canon made the smooth part of the barrel similar to the 85mm f/1.2L's rubberized pseudo-crinkle finish.

A downside to this lens comes in the lens cap. I generally tend to leave my lens hood facing outward, but the lens cap has to be pinched from the edges to get it out. Like another lens I reviewed on this site, I have to deduct a point for this almost ass-backwards choice of cap. Mind you, you could easily replace it with a center pinch cap, but for 1130 retail - you'd think Canon could at least be thorough in thinking their lenses' functionality through.

Quibbles aside, it r0x0rs.


 
Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM

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Review Date: Apr 1, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $475.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Rectilinear ultra-wide can finally be had on a APS-C DSLR, minus the EF-S exclusivity bullcrap.
Cons:
Weird distortion character at 10mm, variable aperture design can be annoying, stupid hood/cap design, Sigma QC?

Optically, this lens is alright. It can be sharp, and is amazingly resistant to flare and veiling artifacts for a super-wide. The lens does exhibit a weird distortion character at 10mm - it's essentially free of any distortion in the center, but as you get to the edges, there's some barrel distortion going on. It is correctable, so getcher plugins out. Perspective distortion on the other hand is very high, but that's a consequence of it's focal length, not this lens. I don't dig the variable aperture design, but I generally treat this lens as I would a (SLOOOOOOW) prime and avoid zooming for any given shoot. There is some slight vignetting wide open, but that can either be corrected for or used as an artistic border for images. Overall, I can pretty much print photos made with this lens at 13x19 with no huge complaints.

From a mechanical point of view, I like how this lens handles. Zoom and focus rings are smooth, almost close to the way manual focus lenses of yesterday were. On the other hand, the lens cap design is flawed - you can't remove it from the lens if you have the hood mounted facing the subject. Well, actually you can, but you'll need a long set of fingernails to do this. Deduct a point for this backwards-assed design. I hear that Tamron make a 77mm center pinch cap that might actually circumvent this, but Sigma should've made one and included it the lens. The lens case is a pretty nifty idea, and for my uses, it does help when I play switcheroo with some of my lenses.

Now that I got that out of the way, this lens is FUN AS HELL! I really like that I can get some sense of scale and perspective for subject-background relationships that I can't always get from my telephotos. Mind you, it is perhaps a little exaggerated, but a cool tool nonetheless. For my needs, this alone is indispensable.

For the money, you can't do much wrong going with this, but you may get as many kicks as I am out of it. I honestly wish ultra wides for aps-c dslrs came out sooner, but better now than never I guess.


 
Canon EF 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 II

ef_28-80_35s_1_
Review Date: Nov 22, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 4 

 
Pros: If you bought one of the Canon film kits, this might've came in free; the build is somewhat solid for what it is
Cons:

I won't beat around the bush - the resolving capabilities border on abysmal. A few experienced photographers will tell you that most lenses outresolve their users, and this lens just might be the exception that proves the rule. I could swear a few of my primes are sharper wide open than this lens stopped down. Color rendition is pretty good for greenery, but so - so for portraits.

So if it performs badly, exactly what is it's purpose?

Aside from a "plug-and-play" mentality as a kit lens, I believe Canon included this as their "Whitman's focal length sampler" - a testing ground for the amateur shooter to find what focal length they use. It just about covers the focal lengths that the average joe will use, and if you want a better performing focal length, you've got the option of upgrading to primes or that 24-70L waiting for you (and your wallet). On that basis, I think it succeeds well.

Besides, I think it's a better idea to just shoot and work on your compositional skills with a crap lens than to be a sharpness whore and do nothing but shoot brick walls and MTF charts.

I recommend this lens with three cautionary bits :
-Get the 50mm f/1.8 first, it's a much better value in my opinion
-Do not pay over 50 bucks for it
-You shoot 35mm film more than you do digitally. On 4x6 film prints, this is alright.


 
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L USM

ef85mmf_12_1_
Review Date: Nov 7, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Amazingly sharp stopped down and a "look" that only f/1.2 can impart upon your compositions
Cons:
Average autofocus on anything less than a 1-series body (no, I haven't tried this on a 20d)

Instead of regurgitating what the others have said here, I'll tell you how useful for applications this lens is:

-Showing off your depth of field photos on photo boards : 9.5/10
-Weddings : 8/10
-Compressed landscape : 9/10
-Posed portraits : 9/10
-Concerts (where the performers just sit and almost resemble inanimate objects) : 8/10
-Photojournalism : 6/10 (formerly 4/10)
-Concerts (where the performers actually move) : 6/10 (formerly 4/10)

The humble pie addendum (December 2, 2004) : After trying out a different copy of this lens, I found that the AF speed is noticeably faster (I "slap" the mf ring around a lot less). I've therefore given it a slight bump in certain areas I initially thought it was deficient in. Sharpness is the same; it's still very sharp wide open and quite possibly the sharpest one I've tried (with regards to the EF line) stopped down.

I've rented this lens enough times from a friend. But after trying this copy out, I'm very tempted to pick it up as the light vacuum brother to my 85mm f/1.8.


 
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8

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Review Date: Sep 22, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $90.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: It's really cheap!
Cons:
It's really cheap(ly built)!

Surgeon General's Warning : Use of this lens "filterless" on female portraiture is extremely hazardous to your health. In some instances, you will receive a kick to the groin upon showing women pictures of them taken with this lens.

Outside of that, this is the Grado SR-60 (if you get that reference, you are really, really, really cool. Really.) of the photography world. It's sharp, has a nice contrast, focuses relatively well in low light, and cheap to boot!