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  Reviews by: Enche Tjin  

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Canon EOS 40D

40d
Review Date: Jun 18, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: fast, robust, sturdy, reliable
Cons:
auto ISO, lcd screen is not hi-res

I have been using Canon 40D for two years. It is my second camera (my first camera is Pentax k100). It is big, solid and tough. I thought Pentax K100d is quite big, but it is nothing compare to this 40D. The grip is very ergonomic. I feel confidence handling it.

Body and control
The built quality of Canon 40D is excellent. It is made from magnesium alloy body. It is weather seal as well. It is made to withstand plenty of abuse. I dropped the camera once to the ground, and it still performs like new. I think entry level camera such as Rebel XSi would not able to withstand it.

Canon 40D has many buttons and two main dials. The first dial is thumb dial, located near shutter button. The second one is the big round dial located at the back of the camera. I especially like the round dial. I usually change aperture, view photo, choose menu using this dial. To access live view mode, I simply push the button in the center of the dial.

ISO and Auto ISO
The ISO range starts from 100 to 3200. The auto ISO range is from 100 to 800. I hope it is 100 to 1600. 40D handles noise very well up to 800. You will see more noise creeping in at 1600. At ISO 3200, the image quality is unacceptable. The Auto ISO is the biggest disappointment for me. It tends to stick at ISO 400 most of the time.

LCD Screens
Canon 40D has two LCD screens, the main / back screen and top LCD screen. The top LCD screen is clear in the dim light condition such as indoor or evening, but not clear in the bright daylight. To solve this problem, you can use accessory called Hoodman. The top LCD screens is helpful to check out camera settings at any time and any circumstances. It has green light lcd that could be turned on if necessary.

Auto Focus System
Canon 40D has 11 AF points, distributed in diamond formation. The speed of AF will depends on the lens. Lens that have USM (Ultra Sonic Motor) is generally perform faster than non-USM, but some lenses like Canon 85mm f/1.2 USM AF are quite slow because of the complicated lens elements. Some lenses are also better in tracking subject than other.

Favorite features
There is a feature called Highlight tone priority. I think it is a great feature because it protects the highlight from over exposure. It is great to use for portraits, wedding, landscape and so on.

The shutter has a distinctive noise. It sounds very professional. This camera can also shoot up to 6.5 fps which is great features to capture fast moving object.

Competition
Because this camera is more than two years old now, it has many cameras that match or surpass this camera in term of its specifications. For example Canon 50D which has high-res LCD screen, higher image resolution and better Auto ISO. Nikon D300 is superior regarding AF system. It has 51 points and better tracking system.

There is also Nikon D90 which has hi-res 3 inch lcd screen, cleaner image in high ISO speed but slower continuous speed and worse built quality. Read controversy regarding Nikon D90 vs Canon 40D.

Conclusion
This is a very good camera suitable for either professional or amateur photographer. The size might be a bit too big for casual shooters, but after a while you might use to it. The image quality with the kit lens is good, but I recommend to get a higher quality lens to get maximum quality. Even it is more than two years old now, this camera is still capable and robust for you if you can live with its limitation (hint: Auto ISO and LCD screen). Please visit my blog http://www.radiantlite.com for more reviews.


 
Nikon 85mm f/1.4D IF AF Nikkor

1933NAS_180
Review Date: Jun 17, 2009 Recommend? | Price paid: $1,000.00

 
Pros: built quality, bokeh, image quality, sharpness
Cons:
AF speed

Nikkor AF 85mm f/1.4D has been hailed as legendary lens for Nikon DSLR or film camera. I think it is because of its unique characteristic but also its age. This lens has been around for thirteen years.

Image Quality and characteristic
Mounted in Nikon full frame camera D700, the lens is sharp at maximum aperture of f/1.4D, which is excellent. Stopped down to f/2.8, the lens become very sharp. But extreme sharpness is not what this lens is made for. It is primarily made for its ability in low light condition, and its ability to create a beautiful out of focus effect in background or foreground.

Because of those characteristic and its fixed focal length, this lens is ideal for portrait. It is also good for candid portraiture such as in wedding. For Nikon pro wedding shooters, this lens is one of must have lens.

Unfortunately, this lens suffers a bit from purple fringing in high contrast area (see sample pic below), it is also susceptible to flare, but not as bad as other lenses.

Auto Focus operation
Because Nikon 85mm f/1.4D does not have built-in motor focus like modern lenses (AF-S) lens, it relies on camera body to focus. It speed will also depend on the camera body. The more higher-end model such as Nikon D700, D3 or D3X will focus faster than the entry-level camera.

When mounted in Nikon D700, the lens focus very fast. Unfortunately entry level user such as Nikon D40, D40X and D60 only can use manual focus because the camera body doesn't have the capability to focus AF lenses. This lens also create some noise when focusing because lack of Silent Wave Motor.

In sport games such as basketball, the lens has difficulty in continuous tracking. It fails to lock on the object properly resulting in many blur image. I don't recommend it for sports.

Build Quality
Built quality of this lens is awesome, it is average in size and weight and very nice to handle. The focus ring is smooth. Closest focusing is 85cm, make it not very ideal for macro / close-up photography.

It will come with "metal" lens hood. Unfortunately the lens hood it screw in type and you can't reverse it for more compact storage. In spite of that, the lens hood is fully metal, so it is better than regular plastic type and a lot more durable.

Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D vso 85mm f/1.8D
Compare to f/1.8D version, This lens is 2.5 times more expensive, the cheaper lens is not as sharp as f/1.4D in its maximum aperture of f/1.8. At f/2.8, the sharpness is almost equal. The build quality is also a lot worse than the f/1.4D. But the 85mm f/1.8 is more compact and portable.

In Conclusion
You might want to get this lens because of several reasons:

* You frequently shoot at extremely low light condition which f/1.4D is often needed
* You are concern about artistic, especially smooth background blur.

You might not want this lens if
* You are looking for the sharpest lens from edge to edge of the image. (The lens is designed to be sharp in the center "focus" and soft in the corner).

Don't buy this lens for indoor sports, it is better to get either f/2.8 telephoto zoom lens or lighting equipment.

Please visit my blog www.radiantlite.com for sample photos and video tour


 
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X 116 PRO DX SD

atx116
Review Date: Jun 17, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $600.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: built quality, image quality, sharpness, perspective, f/2.8
Cons:
color fringing wide open and 11mm

This is the best super-wide angle lens up to date. The build quality of the lens is very good. The image quality is excellent in any aperture and focal length. Auto focus is fast and quiet.

Unlike Canon EF-S which have a smaller aperture of f3.5-4.5, and also is not compatible with full frame body, Tokina 11-16mm have a constant aperture of f/2.8 and compatible with full frame body up to 15mm which is great. It is also slightly cheaper.

The constant aperture of f/2.8 made this lens great for low light and also good enough to create shallow depth of field.

The limitation of this lens will be the zoom length. 11-16mm definitely shorter than Canon EF-S 10-22mm, Sigma 10-20mm, Nikon 12-24mm, and ultra wide lens from Tamron. (Tokina is available for Nikon cameras as well).

There is also no manual focus override, you need to push-pull the focus bar to change focusing mode.

Overall this lens is great in super wide angle category. If you are in love with the ultra-wide coverage for landscape, architecture (outdoor and indoor), and some of photo journalistic work (close crowd shots), then this lens is a must have.

Please visit my blog www.radiantlite.com for sample pic and video tour


 
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

ef85mmf_18usm_1_
Review Date: Jun 16, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $400.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: compact, good built quality, sharp, good color and contrast, excellent for portrait
Cons:
not sharp at f/1.8

Canon 85mm f/1.8 is probably the best value Canon lens. The quality of the image is very good, big aperture allow low light hand held shot and create a shallow depth of field. The auto focus is quiet and very fast.

Build quality of this lens is very good, feels very solid and definitely a step up from kit lens. It is relatively short and light weight compared to general purpose lens (3.0" x 2.8", 15.0 oz. / 75.0 x 71.5mm, 425g).

Application of this lens will be portrait, indoor sport (basketball, volleyball), art performance and candid photography.

* Wide open at f/1.8, this lens is soft but create a very nice 'bokeh' great for girls portraits.

* at f/2.8, the center of the image is very sharp, my favorite setting for general portraits and sports.

* at f/4 and above, the image is very sharp edge to edge, especially f/8 where you get the maximum sharpness.

There is nothing that I can complain about this lens at this price point because it has very good built quality, excellent in low light especially freezing motion, and awesome for portraits. It worth every penny. I recommend this lens in addition to your general purpose kit lens.

Please visit my blog www.radiantlite.com for sample photos and video tour


 
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM

ef70-200lisusm
Review Date: Jun 16, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,000.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: relatively lightweight, very sharp, IS
Cons:
non-black color

The Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS USM is very suprising lens. It is lighter and shorter than I thought. The color is close to tan rather than white like we saw in the product shots scattered around the web.

The zoom and manual focus bar are very smooth, and there are 4 settings on the lens, 2 Image Stabilization modes (general and horizontal I believe), Auto Focus - Manual Focus, and focus range.

Included in the package are high quality bayonet lens hood and lens pouch to protect the lens from harm.

I took the lens to the garden and take a couple shots, and it performs brilliantly sharp wide open at f/4. The IS gives you 4 stops advantage and you can see the IS on action straight from camera viewfinder (not like built in camera stabilization).

Although it is longer than most of the Canon lens, it is slim and light enough to carry around.

This lens is also quite versatile. You can use it for Portrait, Nature (include flowers), Outdoor sports, candid photography and art show performance.

Highly recommended for photographer that demand a light weight, high quality telephoto lens. This lens definitely worth every penny.

Visit my blog www.radiantlite.com for sample photos


 
Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM

sigma50-14jpg
Review Date: Jun 16, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $540.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Excellent built quality and image quality, fast AF tracking, very sharp
Cons:
heavy, bulky, price

Following the success of Sigma 30mm f/1.4, Sigma launches 50mm f/1.4. It is Sigma premium prime lens ($475 street) The build quality of this lens is very sturdy.

Mounted in Canon Rebel XSi / 450D, the lens body texture is very pleasant to grip. It is heavier than other prime lenses but it is not a big issue. The lens cap from Sigma has a similar built quality like the lens body. Unfortunately the lens front and rear cap are made from cheap plastic and quite flimsy.

The manual focus bar is wide, smooth and anti creep. Overall this lens has an excellent body construction, up to par with pro grade lens.

Due to the big aperture, the lens are wider than other prime lens, this is helpful for people with average to big hand.

Auto focus operation is fast and quiet due to Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM). But in low light situation such as sunset or dark skin tone, this lens auto focus have problem to lock in the target.

I took several snap shot today to test this lens wide open, the result is impressive. The result is good contrast, and very smooth bokeh or blur due to shallow depth of field. Chromatic Aberration is minimal even in aperture wide open.

Mounted in small sensor camera (Canon Rebels, X0D series, Nikon D40 up to D300, Sony and Pentax digital slr cameras), this lens is equivalent to 80mm (medium telephoto). This focal length and big aperture is ideal for portrait. Other purpose will be low light condition such as indoor sports or art performance.

In Sony or Pentax body, this lens will gain advantage of the image stabilization which gain 1-2 stops than Nikon or Canon cameras. The lens will come with a lens box to store lens when it is not in use. Extra cushion is provided to absorb shock.

Visit my blog www.radiantlite.com for sample photos


 
Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

ef135mmf_2l_1_
Review Date: Jun 16, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: sharp, contrast, excellent built quality
Cons:
lack of IS

The images from this lens are very sharp, contrasty and show a lot of details even in wide open at f/2. The depth of field is very shallow at f/2. As a result, the background will be compressed.

Because of that features, Canon 135mm is ideal for portrait, especially candid portrait, street photography and indoor sports.

Build quality is very good, the best Canon can made. The lens is not as big and heavy as telephoto zoom.

But unfortunately, this lens does not have Image Stabilization built-in. Image stabilization in telephoto is quite important so you can shoot with shutter speed lower than the focal length X crop multiplier. For example, when you attach this lens into crop sensor camera such as Canon Rebel series or 0XD series, then you need to set a shutter speed to at least 1/200 or greater to get a tack sharp result. It is also depend on how steady your hand is. If you have steady hand, then 1/160 will be adequate.

This lens have a decent closing focus (1m) this is better than most of the telephoto zoom range. You can also get a extension tube to get the focusing even closer (.6m with 2x extension tube). Therefore, this lens will be quite good for macro photography.

Read full review with sample photos and video tour at my blog www.radiantlite.com thanks!


 
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

ef_100_28_1_
Review Date: Jun 16, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros:
Cons:

I bought Canon Macro 100mm for fun, because of the deep cashback from live.com in the thanksgiving week. First I think if I don't like it, I will sell it, but the lens is just too amazing to be sold.

Canon Macro 100mm is quite affordable and do a fantastic job. No wonder a lot of professional use and recommend it. The lens is primarily use for macro, for small things. The lens have ability to focus really close to object so that the camera can capture a life size image.

The depth of field is very shallow, especially wide open at f/2.8 as you can see in some samples that I have uploaded. So, f/8 or higher is recommended if you want to capture a sharp object.

But the shallow depth of field is not bad thing for many people, it helps the photographer to point out where is the most interesting part of the picture.

The focal length of 100mm, make it ideal for portrait lens because it flattens out the facial features and blur the background making the subject more appealing especially girls portraits.

The color contrast is also very good, it turns everyday boring object becomes interesting.

Physically, the lens are slightly longer and heavier than most general purpose lens, the built quality is almost similar to 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM and slightly better than 50mm, 85mm primes.

The focusing bar is big make manual adjustment becoming very easy (manual focus is important for Macro work to ensure accurate focusing, although the auto focus is very fast due to USM (UltraSonic Motor). We can adjust the focusing to macro range (close up) or standard to long range.

This lens focal length is bit too long for indoor shot and in crop sensor camera (Rebel series, and X0D series) but ideal for full frame camera (5D, 1D(s) series), but it is perfect for outdoor.

Other alternative for APC-S camera is the EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM which is smaller more suitable indoor and have almost equal price and image quality. The drawback is the EF-S lens can't be use in full frame camera if you want to upgrade later.

Please check out my blog at www.radiantlite.com for sample photos, video tour and more reviews.


 
Nikon 85mm f/1.4D IF AF Nikkor

1933NAS_180
Review Date: Jun 14, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros:
Cons:

Nikkor AF 85mm f/1.4D has been hailed as legendary lens for Nikon DSLR or film camera. I think it is because of its unique characteristic but also its age. This lens has been around for thirteen years.

Image Quality and characteristic
Mounted in Nikon full frame camera D700, the lens is sharp at maximum aperture of f/1.4D, which is excellent. Stopped down to f/2.8, the lens become very sharp. But extreme sharpness is not what this lens is made for. It is primarily made for its ability in low light condition, and its ability to create a beautiful out of focus effect in background or foreground.

Because of those characteristic and its fixed focal length, this lens is ideal for portrait. It is also good for candid portraiture such as in wedding. For Nikon pro wedding shooters, this lens is one of must have lens.

Unfortunately, this lens suffers a bit from purple fringing in high contrast area (see sample pic below), it is also susceptible to flare, but not as bad as other lenses.

Auto Focus operation
Because Nikon 85mm f/1.4D does not have built-in motor focus like modern lenses (AF-S) lens, it relies on camera body to focus. It speed will also depend on the camera body. The more higher-end model such as Nikon D700, D3 or D3X will focus faster than the entry-level camera.

When mounted in Nikon D700, the lens focus very fast. Unfortunately entry level user such as Nikon D40, D40X and D60 only can use manual focus because the camera body doesn't have the capability to focus AF lenses. This lens also create some noise when focusing because lack of Silent Wave Motor.

In sport games such as basketball, the lens has difficulty in continuous tracking. It fails to lock on the object properly resulting in many blur image. I don't recommend it for sports.

Build Quality
Built quality of this lens is awesome, it is average in size and weight and very nice to handle. The focus ring is smooth. Closest focusing is 85cm, make it not very ideal for macro / close-up photography.

It will come with "metal" lens hood. Unfortunately the lens hood it screw in type and you can't reverse it for more compact storage. In spite of that, the lens hood is fully metal, so it is better than regular plastic type and a lot more durable.

Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D vso 85mm f/1.8D
Compare to f/1.8D version, This lens is 2.5 times more expensive, the cheaper lens is not as sharp as f/1.4D in its maximum aperture of f/1.8. At f/2.8, the sharpness is almost equal. The build quality is also a lot worse than the f/1.4D. But the 85mm f/1.8 is more compact and portable.

In Conclusion
You might want to get this lens because of several reasons:

* You frequently shoot at extremely low light condition which f/1.4D is often needed
* You are concern about artistic, especially smooth background blur.

You might not want to get this lens if:
* You are looking for the sharpest lens from edge to edge of the image. (The lens is designed to be sharp in the center "focus" and soft in the corner).

Don't buy this lens for indoor sports, it is better to get either f/2.8 telephoto zoom lens or lighting equipment.