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  Reviews by: James Sawle  

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Lowepro Mini Trekker AW

Review Date: Jun 27, 2007 Recommend? no | Price paid: $89.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: Easily Configurable, Handles 1 D-SLR and a few lenses OK, Comfortable to wear, Looks like a ruck-sack and therefore less lickly to be picked up thinking it's a Camera Bag.
Not at all Waterproof, the so called waterproof cover is a JOKE!, Too small really and therefore you will out-grow it FAST, Price now that I know...

It was the first bag that I brought, I wanted a bag that was not a 'Camera' bag to look at, and also being that I go most places on a Motorbike, the ruck-sack looking bag seemed the obvious choice.

It fitted my camera gear for all of 2 months, like most people starting out a purchased the Camera, with 2 lenses, after two months I had 4 lenses, filters, and loads of accessories, and then I had to start leaving stuff behind.

My pet hate on this bag is the so called waterproof cover that LowPro have, first of all it fits the bag well, IF the bag has nothing in it, if the bag is fully packed, and you stuff a few items in the outer pockets as well, then the cover takes ages to pull over the seams, it is also so not water-proof, as I found out one day, luckily for me my gear is insured, but I was not happy.

The ripod mounting is a joke, yes it does hold a tripod in place, but not that well and it is also unconfortable when wearing the bag with a tripod as the tripod can not be completely locked in place so it will swing from side to side, and also pulls on the bag, generally a annoyance.

The straps are generally OK, all in the right placed and all can be adjusted OK, works for me on a motorbike at 150+ mph, so a thumbs up here, although more confortable could be nice, but then this is an entry level bag really so expected.

I now use this bag just for day trips when I know I am just going to be a snapper as opposed to anything serious. If you need a bigger and waterproof bag, then look at Tamrac or Think Tank, both are better quality and bigger.

Would I buy another Lowpro. Nope NEVER!

Canon Extender EF 2x II

Review Date: Apr 4, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: It Works, It does what it states, and it does it well, not brilliant, but then it is a 2x extender. Works well with the 70-200 f/2.8 IS and can not even notice any softness
AF Does not work with the 100-400 IS L USM Lens, which is a real shame, but manual does and the improvement is good, but the lack of AF is a real pain.

I was a bit disappointed that the 100-400mm IS L USM Lens would work with this adapter, but the AF is totally useless with this lens, which is a shame as it was purchased for this in the hope of getting a cheap useful lens for Motorbike Racing Photo's. That aside I have found a VERY good use for this adapter on this lens, Wildlife, and it takes some stunning photo's with the 2x adapter plugged into it.

I have done some tests with the adapter and without, and with the lens set to 100 and then to 400, the 4 resulting images are very crisp, and the quality loss between the 400 and the 800 (400 + 2x Extender) is very minimal.

Is it worth it, Maybe not, for wildlife and still-ish photography, then yes, but compared to the 1.4x it was a bit of a let down, but I am not really complaining about it, and it will be used, especially with the 100-400mm lens, even though I can not use Auto Focus, the reach with this lens is stunning, and like I said before, not that bad, not great, but it is a very cheap 800, that set to 600 works very well.

If you wanted to choose between the two, I would pick the 1.4x, if you can afford both, it is worth the risk, with the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM it does work very well and the images at 400 are still better than the 100-400 without the extender, so it is a worth while purchase.

As a side note, and more from a bit of fun, if you want an extender and you are using a 100-400mm lens, then take a look at the Life Size Adapter for the 50mm Macro, and forget what they say about it only working with the 50mm Macro, it works fantasic with the 100-400mm and some others as well.

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

Review Date: Mar 15, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $989.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Cheap for what it does, and especially as it is an 'L' series lens, Very versatile, quick to zoom when unlocked and great fun to use.
Zoom Mechanism is a pain, the locking ring is annoying, and can be a little soft above 300mm in low light, but these are VERY minor gripes.

I was so glad to see this lens on offer over christmas, (2005) that I could not refuse it, It was at the time my only big lens, and since then it has been added to with a 70-200, and a 600mm Prime. But when I am not enjoying Macro, this is the next most used lens.

The 'Only' real pain of this lens is the zoom locking ring, I normally leave this in the unlocked position, but if you are walking around this could end up causing the lens some damage, as if you forget that it is unlocked and then move the camera from one direct to another without thinking, the lens could shoot open or smash closed, and this has happened a few times, although no damage has been caused, this is a rather expensive piece of glass, and should be taken care of, so my view here is to either lock the zoom when you are moving around, or keep your hand on the zoom to keep it from moving around to much.

But that said, this is a FUN lens, I have taken some cracking shots, even with a 1.4x and/or a 2x extenders added to the lens, though for this it needs to be a sunny day.

That said, this lens does need light, do not expect it to perform as good or anywhere near as good as a 300 or 400mm prime lens, and the sharpness is not as good as the 70-200 f2.8, but it is still better than some other lenses in the Canon range.

I do love this lens, I do wish the zoom function was a normal twist type, but that said I have managed to zoom from 100 to 400mm and back again a lot quicker than any other lens, and this has helped a lot, I do not rate this as a Pro (Money Shot) type of lens, though I have sold a quite a few images taken with this lens, but for Wildlife and Sports (Motorbike Racing especially) I think this lens is just great, it is cheaper than a 400mm prime, and can reach further than a 70-200mm (even with a 2x added), the weight is not that bad, some do seem to complain about this, but after using this lens a lot, you get use to it so quickly.

Overall, It is worth the money, but only if you have the light to take advantage of it, if you are looking at low light, then look at the 70-200mm f2.8, if you want fun and versatility, then this is it. I certainly do not regret buying it, and I will not ever sell it on, well not unless they bring out another that can handle a lower f stop.

Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo

Review Date: Mar 15, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $719.99 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Build Quality, Ease of Use, Picture Quality, and most important, the Fun / Wow factor.
A pig to focus with, especially in low light, needs the use of a focusing rail (Manfrotto 454) to get the best from this lens, and time to play, the mounting ring foot means that the lens has issues being mounted if you are using a battery grip or a 1D size of camera, but all these are minor gripes.

Fantastic lens, Great Quality, and really Sharp. I can not fault this, I have loads of lenses, and some a lot more expensive, but this lens is the one that I enjoy using the most.

It does need a flash unit to get the most from this lens and it is not as easy to use as the 100mm Macro, but the results are truly outstanding, and so much fun can be had with this lens when the weather doesn't allow you to get out.

I really do not know how anyone that enjoys macro could not want another lens, there are issues with the lens, but nothing that you would not normally expect from a lens that offers you 5x magnification, and when you start to use that level, or anything above 3x, you really start to see some wonderful stuff, and everyday objects look so different, but insects, etc, look the best, so long as they stay still long enough.

I do not think the lack of a lens hood is an issue here, I have used the lens now for 8 months, and in that time I have never required one, the only real annoyance for me is the mounting ring foot, I use Manfrotto Tripods and head units, and with the quick release plates, the lens has to be fitted to the head unit first and then the camera, but the camera (Canon EOS-30D) will not fit on to the lens if the battery grip is on the camera, but it will fit without it, so this is only just a bit annoying, but more of an issue is with the Canon EOS-1D series, in that they will not fit at all, not using the mounting ring anyway, so when using this camera I tend to remove the ring, and mount the camera directly to the head unit via a Manfrotto 454 focus rail, this works fine, but can get a bit unbalanced, especially at 5x with the weight of the glass so far from the pivot point, to remedy this I had to get a good geared head unit, with the focus rail mounted in between this and the camera, and then even when using the flash unit as well, and at 5x magnification, you can fully control the camera and lens.

This is a fantastic lens, and if I was going to recommend any lens, then this would be it, worth it's wait in gold, and a better performer than the wife.