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Canon EOS 1D Mark III

Review Date: Jul 24, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $3,200.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Build Quality, Speed and Price
Only have Manual Focus mode for Live View

I really thought long and hard on this purchase but when I was offered a brand new with serial no “57xxx” (firmware 1.2.3 installed) at refurbished prices, I just had to go for it.

This is an impeccably crafted piece of hardware that surprisingly feels lighter than it looks. For me, this DSLR is very intuitive (I have used both Canon and Nikon) and there is a good selection of custom functions to tailor for the shooting requirement.

First thing I tested was AI Servo and although I would not say that I have tested it rigorously, it’s so far, so good. No horror stories about AI Servo hunting on static objects here. The 19 selectable AF points are very logically located and it allows me to focus and frame subjects slightly off to the left or right, higher or lower. Also, I generally prefer to use the cross sensor as the focus point in AI Servo and have 19 of them all selectable is simply great. Speed is it greatest Asset and if this is what you need, this is the DSLR for you.

Image Quality for me is just slightly better to the EOS 40D but that is really good enough for most applications. Yet to begin with, the EOS 40D Image Quality is probably the best in its class. For my workflow, having the ability to write JPEG and RAW on 2 separate cards separately is really useful.

Overall, I am very please I made the decision to take the risk and I must really thank all the forums for blowing up on the AF issue and massive speculation on the “5D MkII”. I do think it’s hurting some Canon sales or otherwise, I don’t think some retailers will let go a new 1 series for US$3,200. (Only $300 more than a EOS 5D when it first launched). Unfortunately, with limited finances, I had to bypass a brand new EOS 5D that was also going for US$1,400.

Some lament that Canon users are having a hard time. I think otherwise I have never gotten so much “bang for bucks” for my camera gear.

Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 ED-IF AF-S

Review Date: Jul 23, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,300.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Construction, Optics and AF-S
AF-S is generally noisier than Canon equivalent USM and Price

Optically, a very good professional lens. Sharp and with good contrast. Barrel distortion at 28mm was in its class and generally acceptable.

Construction side, felt much better than the AF 35-70/2.8D and I generally used it with either my Nikon D1 or F5.

Focuses very fast, espeically if you came from the mechanical link AF 35-70/2.8D. However, somewhat still noisier that Canon's EF 28-70 f2.8L. Most folks don't realise it but first generation AF-S lenses just were not as quiet as Canon's USM or I guess it's just me.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM

Review Date: Jul 23, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,050.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Build Quality, Compact, Fast AF, Sharp, Good Contrast, 2-mode IS (4 stops)
A bit expensive as compared to the non-IS version

One of my favourite zoom L lens at this moment. Sharp, Good Contrast, Fast AF, 2 mode IS and good build quality. Makes you feel that you have spend every dollar well but the pocket still hurts.

If there was a bad side to it, I don't really like the humming sound of the IS. Some call it assuring, I call it annoying. Anyhow, humming does not neccessarily means its working.

Looking through the viewfinder is a far better means to confirm that the IS is working. To do this, switch the IS off, point your AF spot on a specific spot on the image and then turn it On again. The IS locks on and you can see the small erratic movements of camera shake slowing down.

Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF

Review Date: Jul 23, 2008 Recommend? no | Price paid: $1,400.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: VR, Focal Length and Compactness (For a long telephoto Zoom)
Very Noisy and Slow AF

I believe this was one of the first Nikon VR lenses and one of the reasons, I switch to Canon a few years later.

It has got the focal length, design and VR spot on but someone forgot to put in a SWM. In this respect, a total let down. Probably one of the noisiest Nikkor AF-D lenses ever and I have used quite a fair bit of them, including AF-S and yes, AF-I lenses as well. Optically, at least it was within its class.

For me, the Canon EF100-400 f4.5-5.6 IS USM is a head and a shoulder above it. Fortunately, for Nikon users, there are good alternatives now like the AF-S 70-300 VR and the AF-S 200-400 VR.

With Nikon's revival of late, let's hope we finally see a AF-S version of it.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Review Date: Jul 23, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $299.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Fantastic Image Quality and Bokeh for its Price.
Could be of better build

I own 3 L Zoom lenses including the highly rated EF 70-200 f/4 L IS USM but this lens, in sharpness, contrast and bokeh, is awesome for the money I paid for, It is simply GREAT VALUE.

I use it mainly on my EOS 40D and with the 1.6x crop, it just gives you the ideal potrait focal length of 80mm for FF with a f/1.4 aperture. Needless to say, a fast prime is a joy to use indoors.

Micromotor USM is a only noisy if you are use to the soft whispers of a Ring Type USM. Compared with the Nikkor AF50 f1.4D which I used many years ago on Nikon D1 and film base FM2 to F5 series, the focusing sound is a bit more tolerable but both lenses are just as fast.

Canon could definitely improve its build quality. Need not be a AF 50/1.2L but at least like the EF-S 17-85 f4.5-5.6 or EF-S 17-55 f2.8.

This lens just reminded how good in quality and value primes can be.

Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM

Review Date: Jul 23, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $530.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Excellent Construction and HSM
CA and f-stop

Bought it to pair up with my EF24-105 f4L IS USM on my EOS 40D. So the comments below are with EOS 40D.

Love the EX finishing and HSM but totally turn off by the CA. I have seen worse cases on similar Sigma lenses and generally, mine is not that bad but it still gets me. I probably had an average copy.

In most applications, f4-5.6 is generally okay but if you are doing low light, please make sure to bring a tripod or be ready to crank up the ISO. Alternatively look for a fast wide angle prime or zoom. The later is now a viable cost alternative with the Tokina ATX-116.

Sharpness is not as good as Canon L lens but generally acceptable. Barrel Distortion, considering that its a wide angle zoom, is well-controlled.

Sold mine after six months and currently, moving to the 1D MkIII.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

Review Date: Jul 23, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $900.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Good Focal Length, Ergonomics, IS, Fast AF and Build Quality
A bit Flare prone.

This is my second EF24-105 f/4L IS USM. Sold the first one and almost regretted it straight away. So I bought a refurbished from Adorama.

Comments below are base on pairing with EOS 40D.

Focal Length is ideal for Portrait shots. Loose the wide angle but gain the telephoto. Very ideal pairing with a wide angle zoom like Canon's EF10-22 or Sigma's 10-20 allowing 16-168mm coverage on FF.

Overall, I am happy with the sharpness from f4-11 and it's colour and contrast is generally good too. Real annoyance is the flaring. Both my copies had it and problem compounded by an inadequte lens hood.

IS, in practice, does allows at least 3 stops difference and IS noise level is also barely audible unless you stick your ear next to it.

Construction is generally quite good and for me the ergonomics is excellent. When you wrap your hands around and, it just feels right and the zoom and AF rings are smooth and at your finger tips.

AF is fast and whisper quiet. Coming from mechanical link Nikkor AF lenses and early generation AF-S lenses like the 28-70, 300, 400, 500, 600....the BIG jump in speed and audio perception makes using Ring Type USM L lenses a pleasure..

Canon EOS 40D

Review Date: Jul 23, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,300.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Extremely Good Balance of Ergonomics, Build Quality Speed and Image Quality. Huge Canon Lens line-up and Accessories support.
Price....Paid too much as I bought it a year ago.

Got myself back into digital photography after a 5-6 years break and this was my first DSLR since the Nikon D1. Got a 24-105 f4L IS USM and Sigma 10-20 lens to go with it.

Considering that it's only a prosumer grade DSLR, the standout for me is its speed and responsiveness. Fast start-up, minimal shutter and viewfinder lag, a very competent AF and 6.5fps burst rate. On paper, although its 9 point AF seems not a big wow factor but in practice, it is brilliant. The cross sensors, the overall area coverage in diamond shape and lower EV sensitivity is a great combination. I subsequently owned a 30D as a backup and the real difference is in indoor shooting. 30D will hunt a bit while 40D is much faster locking on.

Image Quality is also pretty good and I usually use it up to ISO 1600. Performance of ISO 3200 is generally useable but not consistent depeding on lighting situation. Usually have to make sure I use RAW at ISO 3200 so that there's more latitude for post processing.

BG-E2N which I got subsequently is a bad fit for the 40D. Works better with the 30D. It does not give me the feeling of a solid tight fit and I think its because the bit of extra weight gain as compared to the 30D.