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  Reviews by: John Black  

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Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L

Review Date: Apr 13, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,099.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Very sharp - best WA lens I've used on a 1Ds and 1Ds2
Not seeing appreciable value from tilt - could be me.

I'm only going to add things not already mentioned or follow-up on some points in earlier reviews that I don't agree with -

The lens is very sharp from edge to edge. F8 is good, F11 to F16 really shine --- and on the 1Ds2 that's saying alot. F3.5-F5 are so-so, about F5.6 the corners start doing much better on full-frame.

Shift is very useful for creating the big sky look you get from ultra wide lenses. Normally you tilt a 17-21mm lens upwards to get that effect, but with the TS-E you just shift up - your subject is nice parallel and you've got a giant sky (if you want that effect).

I'm not seeing much bang for the buck with tilt - maybe for creative uses it pays off. Maybe another 6 months I'll finally figure out how to use to it to my advantage...

CA is not your typical purple disaster. It's more of the reds & greens, it's intermittant - not uniform across the entire image. Overall I think it's minor and I haven't lost a shot due to CA. Every shot has it somewhere, but it doesn't jump out.

Colors are very strong and lots of contrast - very bold images. You know when you used the 24 TS-E --- its boldness reminds me of the 35L, but with even more punch.

Metering can be off, but just watch the histogram and life is good. On film it could be a deal breaker, but on digital - big deal... just bracket the shot.

At 24mm the TS-E outperforms my: 24-70L, 24-105L IS and 16-35L.

Date code is UT12xx (December 2005).

Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

Review Date: Sep 10, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $725.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Superb image quality, great weight & size & balance.

Ever since I sold my Zeiss 100/2 Planar, I've been obssessed in finding a replacement. The Zeiss (IMHO) is as good as Canon's legendary 200L F1.8. I sold the Zeiss because I wanted AF and normal metering. As replacements I've tried: Canon 100/2, Canon 70-200L F2.8 and Canon 200l F2.8 II. None of those came close to the Zeiss.

However, the 135L... It may be better than the Zeiss! Edge to edge sharpness on the 1Ds2, great micro contrast and the color is very nice. The lens is light and has great balance, so handheld use is very natural (the Canon 200 F2.8 L was alittle nose-heavy and lens shake was a problem for me).

I guess there are 100 posts above saying how great this lens is, so no reason to write what has already been said. This a great lens and performs wonderfully on FF.

Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM

Review Date: Aug 12, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $369.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Nice bokeh, reasonably sharp wide open, lightweight, decent build quality for a non-L lens.
Barrel distortion. Color & saturation fall short of an L lens, and since Canon doesn't have a 100L, I was hoping this lens would have more punch.

Overall the 100/2 is a nice lens. I had been using a Zeiss 100/2 Planar on the 1Ds and loved the Zeiss. I sold some Zeiss lenses & 1Ds to buy a 1DsII. I didn't want to go with a manual lens again, so I purchased a Canon 100/2 to replace the Zeiss.

The Canon 100/2 is sharp and a good all around performer, but it doesn't have any pop to the color. I think the 24-70L has more punch (stronger colors, richer saturation) at 70mm than the Canon 100/2. The 100/2's barrel distortion is really bugging me (on a 1DsII).

On the positive note:

1) AF speed is pretty quick & quiet
2) Very lightweight - very easy to carry around
3) Build quality is solid, much nicer than Canon 50 1.4
4) Color & contrast are nice - just not L-like
5) CA hasn't been a problem
6) Sharpness is good wide open
7) Bokeh is nice & very smooth

On the downside:

1) Images feel/look dark, I'm usually shooting +2/3 to compensate
2) Manual focus ring is the typical garbage
3) Barrel distortion (on a 1DsII)

Overall the Canon 100/2 is a very competent lens, but I really miss the Zeiss 100/2 --- punchier colors and less distortion.

Sigma 150mm f2.8 APO Macro DG EX HSM

Review Date: Mar 17, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $524.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Lightweight & outstanding balance - the lightest 2 pound lens I've ever used! Good AF for a macro lens. Nice build quality. Sharp and F2.8 is very good.
Only goes to F22; a limiting factor for true macro efficianados.

Started with Sigma 180mm; very heavy and awkward, AF was s-l-o-w with lots of hunting, and build quality was so-so. The 180mm had very bad back focus on my 20D, so I returned it and exchanged it for the Sigma 150mm F2.8 EX Macro.

What a difference! The 150 is very compact compared to the 180 and you can easily use it handheld. Pictures are sharp and I had no complaints on a 20D, 1D2 or 1Ds. Very nice lens and an all-around great value.

The HSM AF is okay; very good for a macro, but slow when compared to common lenses like a 28-135 IS. You can easily use this lens for portraits, but don't expect any action shots. The focus range/resolution isn't as fine as the 180mm, so on one side there is far less hunting, on the other side, MF isn't as precise. There is still far more travel in the MF ring compared to your normal lens, but dedicated macros like the 180mm have extremely refined MF rings for very fine focus adjustments.

Bokeh is good - say better than average, but not as nice as something like a 200L F1.8. Color & contrast are fine, but Sigma lenses don't have the "L" saturation. If you really, really like the colors from your 24-70L and 16-35L, the Canon 180mm L might be a better choice (but you'll pay for it!)

The Sigma makes for a nice middle of the road macro. A sharp lens, good build quality and it can pull double duty as a macro or portrait lens. If you are a serious macro photographer and need F40 and a high precision MF ring, consider the Canon 180mm L instead.

This lens did very nicely on a 1D2; never did anything serious with it on the 1Ds. Ultimately sold the lens to finance a 70-300 DO IS. I thought I could pull off basic macro shots with DO - whew, was I wrong! Really missed Sigma 150 EX after that...

B&H is expensive; bought mine from Delta International for $524. Zero problems. This is 3rd lens I've bought from them and their prices are very good compared to B&H. This lens is a good value - includes tripod ring, hood and soft bag, this makes it far cheaper than the Canon 100mm F2.8 Macro.

95%+ of the people who buy this lens will be impressed. Only the most serious macro shooters might feel let down - but they would know that beforehand since this lens has a max aperture of F22. If you're using a 20D/10D, etc., give serious consideration to the Canon 100mm F2.8 Macro; 150mm is pretty long on a 1.6x body if you don't need the extra working distance for things like insects, etc.

Canon EF 35-350mm f/3.5-5.6L USM

Review Date: Jan 22, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $850.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Great range & built like a tank.
Push/pull isn't as smooth as I would like. Weight. It's a slow lens.

I bought this lens used and paid $850 - so my review is based on that price point - not the $1499 retail price. This lens has tremendous range, but it's a big heavy lens. It's weight is the same as the 70-200L F.8 IS, so make sure you're ready for the weight. I use it on a 1DmkII, so it's fine for me. But on a 300D with no grip - no way...

Image quality is quite good - it's a 35-350 10X zoom - so if you expect prime-like sharpness --- you're dreaming. You buy this lens for convenience or because you have no idea what lens you'll need for a day out. Once the lens is stopped down, contrast picks up and so does sharpness. Plan on F8.

Sharpness is definitely better than the 75-300 IS. And the lens certainly has the "L" color - a nice saturation and bokeh is pleasing. Contrast is good once you've stopped it down several steps. It's certainly usable wide-open, but F8 is so much better. If you don't need/want the bokeh, you'll be shooting F8 to F11 in most cases.

The push pull zoom - love it or hate it. I'm not a big fan, but it's not that bad. The tension adjustment is awkward - don't care for that part. You must dismount the lens to add or remove the tripod collar.

I find this lens to be pretty fun. AF is good, not the quickest - probably on par with something like a 28-135 IS. It's a good daylight lens, in lowlight you'll need a tripod. Macro isn't bad either. Like I said in the beginning - this is a 10X zoom, so keep your expectations in check and you'll be happy with the lens. It's a solid performer and good optics considering the extreme focal range.

If I had a 10D/20D, I'd skip this lens because 35mm just isn't wide enough by the time you add 1.6x multiplier. The big deal about this lens is going from 35mm to 350mm in one lens. A 1.6x multipier pretty much kills that benefit unless you want a really, really long lens. I'm going to sell the lens and buy the 28-300L IS. It costs sooo much more than 35-350L, but those extra 7mm at the wide end plus IS make it worth it.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM

Review Date: Jan 19, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,269.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Great handling, lightweight and good balance.

I've used this lens on the 20D and now the 1DmkII. On the 20D I needed it because of the #$%^ 1.6x crop factor. Then the 1DmkII came along and I thought I would sell it. Was I wrong! It's my favorite lens!!!

Image quality is excellent - great contrast, nice saturated colors and sharp. I had a 24-70L and was almost ok with its sharpness at F2.8, then 16-35L showed what it could do at F2.8 --- WOW!

Lots of discussion about the edges & sharpness. Yes, the edge are soft - but is that the lens extremely wide angle view and depth of field. Hard to say. Center sharpness is amazing, corners can be soft but they're are still very good.

What I love most about this lens is its handling. The weight and balance are perfect - excellent for walk around. AF is very, very fast. Build quality, fit and finish, mechanical feel is excellent.

Out of the 10 lenses bought & sold during 2004 (and many of them L and Sigma EX lenses) - this is the first and only keeper of the bunch. You don't see to many of these on the buy/sell board, but 17-40L's are there constantly. Does that tell you something??? Smile

Retail price stinks, but I bought at B&H during their Photo Expo Event sale $1269 less the $150 rebate (Canon triple rebate), so $1119 net. I can't complain at that price point, but the local store wanted $1449 plus tax!!!! I'd never pay that much.

Someday I hope to use this lens on a 1DsmkII Smile