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  Reviews by: Jake Holt  

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Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM

Review Date: Mar 27, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,800.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: AF speed, I.S., color, bokeh, zoom range, build quality
Fairly soft at 200mm at 2.8, especially compared to 200 2.8L prime.

I've been using this lens for a month now, so I figure I've used it enough to give my 2 cents.

First, overall, it's a very good lens. The zoom range is very useful, I.S. works as advertised (I've gotten acceptably sharp results at 200mm and 1/15th of a second), and the color and bokeh are great. It's sharp at f4 and very sharp at 5.6.

However, my disappointment comes when shooting at f2.8, particularly at 200mm. I use this focal length primarily for weddings, and up until now I've been using the 200 2.8L prime. While I love the quality and the size of the prime, I decided that it was worth the weight and cost to have the I.S. and zoom capability. While I've loved using the 70-200, I've noticed that that amazing look that the 200 prime had at 2.8 is not there with this zoom. Maybe I've been spoiled by the prime - I use both primes and zooms, and I know that primes are generally sharper at a given aperture - but given the rave reviews this lens always receives, I just expected more. The 200 2.8 is amazingly sharp even at 2.8 - it gives me the absolute best results of any lens in my kit - so I know I'm holding the 70-200 to a very high standard. Still, given the price tag I expected more.

So, once I noticed these results, I began checking around more and lo and behold, I'm not the only one who feels the same - check out the findings here:

As you'll notice, the MTF numbers are rather pedestrian at 2.8, 200mm. Now, I'm not a pixel peeper by any means - this is a difference that's noticeable in 5x7 prints. Look at some other popular lenses on that site, and you'll see that much better numbers are to be found with the 200 2.8 prime and the 70-200 2.8 non-IS. Zooms are always a compromise in some way, but it would seem that a telephoto zoom lens would be engineered to perform best at it's longest setting.

With all that out of the way, I still like the lens, and I would buy it again, although I think for the price it should be better wide-open. It's an incredibly useful tool, and although 2.8 isn't great, it's there if you need it - although I find I tend to bump the ISO before I switch from f4 to f2.8. Maybe the moral of the story is that L series primes will spoil you!

Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM

Review Date: Oct 15, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $600.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Image quality, size, build quality, price, AF speed

This lens is a raging bargain - one of the best price/performance ratios of Canon's entire lens lineup. It's light yet built well, and it's razor sharp. As my non-photographically inclined girlfriend said after viewing some photos taken with this lens, "it's sharper than real life!" I.S. would be nice, but then it would be heavy and much more expensive, so as it is, it's pretty much perfect. Now my non-L primes seem oh so pedestrian by comparison.

Canon EOS 5D

Review Date: Oct 7, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $3,299.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Exceptional image quality (low noise and lots of detail), no crop factor, large bright viewfinder, overall sturdy feel, large RAW buffer
CF door needs redesign (Nikon D200 has a much better locking door design), worthless Direct Print button, sensor and viewfinder dusty direct from factory - Canon's QC is very suspect - my first 5D had a defective sensor

After owning this camera for a month and using it side by side with a 20D, I can say that, overall, I am very pleased.

I'll get the bad out of the way first - my first copy of this camera had a defective sensor - very noticeable horizontal banding at all ISO speeds, even 100 ISO. I took in samples to my local shop and they swapped it out for a new one that is working great. However, this has made me very wary of Canon's QC procedures. This is the second Canon DSLR I have purchased that was defective right out of the box. (my 20D's viewfinder LCD was broken) Not to mention the fact that all 3 Canon DSLR's I have purchased have had dust on the sensor and in the viewfinder straight from the factory. Yes, I know, dust is a fact of life with DSLR's, but really, you'd think they could at least get it to you without dust inside it. Oh well, I rarely shoot above 5.6, so dust is really no biggie.

Now the good - the image quality from this camera has greatly exceeded my expectations. I often hear many people say that you can't see the quality unless you print bigger than 11x14 and so on, yadda yadda. This is not true whatsoever - at least to my eyes. I've done side by side test prints, 5D vs. 20D and the difference is huge. Once you get to 8x10, it's no comparison. I have worked in photolabs full time for over 10 years, and I've seen lots of prints from every media imaginable, and I can say with complete confidence that the files from this camera, properly processed, totally leave cropped sensor cameras as well as 35mm film in the dust.

I shoot primarily weddings, and on a typical group shot, even at 5x7, there is facial detail clearly visible that would just be blurry mush on the 20D. Both cameras are being used with Canon's 17-40L, 50 1.4, 85 1.8, and 200 2.8L. I already convinced one of my friends who also shoots weddings to upgrade to this camera based on the sharpness of the eyes in a series of group shots I printed at 5x7 and 8x10.

One thing that I don't see mentioned very often is this - the out of focus areas are very smooth and noise free, with much more pleasing transitions than the 20D from in focus to out of focus areas. This camera works wonders for people like me who love to shoot with a very shallow depth of field. While I still think the 20D is a good camera, one thing that often bothered me was that the OOF areas were somewhat noisy - not with the 5D! I have a just printed 24x36 hanging on my wall, and there is no more noise in the OOF areas than there is in the in-focus areas. This, for me, is the biggest reason to go full-frame. Plus, with the full frame, a given lens at a given aperture and distance form subject has a shallower depth of field, so you can really take advantage of fast lenses.

Overall, this camera just inspires confidence, from the solid build quality (not 1 series, but still very good - except CF door) to the much more pleasing shutter sound. This is the first DSLR I've used where I feel like I'm not compromising the quality of my images.

If you are thinking about it - do it! Unless you just have to have the exceptional build quality of the 1-series, or the 8FPS of the 1D Mark II N, you will be very happy with this camera, especially coming from a cropped-sensor camera. Just be sure that you test it thoroughly when you get it home, and buy if from someone with a good return policy!