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  Reviews by: Don Merz  

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Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

Review Date: Dec 9, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,450.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Crisp, sharp images with excellewnt, well-defined color, bokeh at a level that is very useful for the portrait and wedding shooter
Occasional focus anomalies, but no worse that 135/F2 or 35F1.4

At some point, you have t get a grip. To log on here and see the 50/1.2 rated lower than the 50/1.4 is a surreal experience. I shoot weddings as part of a two man team. We have both of these lenses. The 1.2 blows away the 1.4 and we have practically had fights over which one of us gets to use the 1.2 lens. So lets set the record straight: The overall image quality, sharpness and color of an in-focus image taken with the 1.2 lens is much better than the same image taken with the 1.4 lens. The difference can EASILY be seen with the naked eye. Other reviewers have attacked the focusing oddities of this lens without acknowledging it's complete optical superiority over Canon's other 50mm lenses. That ain't right. Now, to the focusing issue. Yes, this lens is not always consistent in its autofocus response. A thoroughbred race horse is not easily ridden. But I have found it more than adequate for normal usage. If you're a sports shooter, this probably isn't your lens of choice. For weddings and portraits, this probably IS your lens of choice.

Canon EOS 50D

Review Date: Nov 19, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,350.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: The best LCD screen I've ever seen on any camera, fast and accurate focusing, fabulous image quality at ISO 800 and below, automatic sensor cleaning.
15.1 noisy megapixels, ISO 6400 and 12,800 are basically un-useable without Noise Ninja or similar tools, still using the long-obsolete BP-511A battery

I am a wedding photographer shooting the 1DMark III with the latest D series camera as my backup or (at times) second body. When the 50D came out, I sold my lightly used 40D to stay current. I've owned the 50D for several months now and have shot thousands of wedding images with it.

When I first got the camera home, I immediately had to do a firmware upgrade to avoid the dreaded ERR 99 problem. The next thing I noticed was that the LCD on this camera is incredible. If the camera would play them, you could watch DVD movies on the thing and enjoy them--it's that good. The DIGIC 4 focusing is very fast and very accurate. It's at least as fast as on the 1DIII with its 2 DIGIC 3 processors. Low-light focusing performance of this camera is excellent (important for dark reception halls) but I should say that I lock my cameras on the center point, focus (and meter) and then recompose. The center point is more sensitive than the other points (see your Canon manual). So YMMV if you are using other focusing points or (ugh) letting the camera choose them.

But let me get to the heart of my review. I didn't buy this camera for its extra MPs. In some ways 15.1 MPs are a disadvantage to a wedding photographer because they take longer to post-process and take up more storage space. And I didn't buy this camera for the high-ISO performance. I don't need it. I can shoot ISO 3200 on the 1DIII all day and nobody will know the difference becasue the 1DIII's pixels are very clean. How clean are they? Well, to test this I recently shot identical images in a typically dark gothic-style church where no flash was allowed. I ran the 1DIII at ISO 3200 and the 50D at ISO 1600 with the result that the 1DIII blew the 50D away and gave me a full stop more exposure to work with. But surely this is unfair--the 1DIII costs 3 times what a 50D costs. No question--all this test proved is that you get what you pay for. So I am not trying to compare the 2 cameras as buying alternatives. I am only saying that the low-light ISO perfomance of the 50D is barely adequate for professional use (if I may assume that most professional have, like me, become spoiled by the incredible ISO performance of cameras in the 1DIII class).

ISO 3200 on the 50D is quite noisy. ISO 6400 on the 50D is like taking a class called "Digital Image Noise: How Bad Can It Get?" And the only way anyone would ever use the 12,800 H2 ISO setting would be to capture martians landing on earth in the dead of night when that was the only way to get any image at all. Noise Ninja will clean your images up better than you might expect. But NN only works on JPG images or full-res TIFF files. So a RAW workflow shooter has to convert his images to one of these formats in order to remove the noise. This is no small thing when working with many 15.1MP files.

If you shoot outdoors at ISO 800 and below, you're going to love the images this camera produces. Great stuff. As soon as you cross into ISO 1600 and above though, your love affair may grow sour. I can't in all candor recommend a 40D to 50D upgrade. Not enough bang for the buck. Better to wait for the 60D or 5D Mark II or ???

Finally, let me squeeze in one pet peeve. What the heck is Canon doing with the BP-511A battery pack? This ancient battery design was obsolete 3 years ago! Canon certainly loses points in my mind for not coming out with a respectable, modern battery design for the D camera series.

Don Merz

Canon EOS 1D Mark III

Review Date: Jun 8, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $4,525.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Everything you've heard about how good this camera is--is true. Light weight. Much improved control layout and user interface. Simply marvelous picture quality. Fabulous array of customization options let you configure the camera to the way you want to work.
Expensive--cost more than the first car I bought new. Adobe Photoshop CS3 is required to process RAW files. No upgrade to any Adobe product is available that fixes this--you must purchase CS3. Nit pick: That line of info underneath the viewfindr image is getting awfully crowded. Long term wish: Move the meter to the LEFT of the viewfinder image. We read left to right. It makes sense to have the meter on the left. Another nit: Gee, there sure are a lot of little plastic hole-cover doo-dads on this thing. Design enhancement wish: Make the mount on the side for the wireless transmitter more universally useful for pocket-wizards, FreeXwire, Budweiser cans, etc. Too many lose-able plastic covers like the two on the battery charger. Canon needs to look at how the handheld radio makers build battery charger docking stations for their batteries and radios and then emulate that. You've got USB, but it's a clumsy cable connection. We should be able to drop the whole camera into a docking station and have the battery charging while the camera off-loads its images over the USB connection--all with no wires and without removing the battery. That dual battery charger with its' two plastic covers and incredibly inconvenient power cord is an absurdly user-unfriendly design.

Love the new ISO button.
Love the new AF-ON button.
Steve Jobs is rumored to have said that "the most user-friendly quality any technology can have is speed." By that measure, this camera is VERY user-friendly.
Adobe CS3 is currently $629 at Amazon. Add that cost to your purchase price for this camera because CS3 is required.