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  Reviews by: Kari Post  

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Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

ef17-40_4l_1_
Review Date: Sep 10, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: price, weight, size, overall image quality especially when used stopped down for landscapes, non-rounded diaphragm
Cons:
some distortion and vignetting, lack of sharpness in corners

I use this lens on my 1.3x crop factor 1D Mark II N and I'm very happy with the results. I use this lens primarily for landscapes, so usually in the f/11-f/18 range and throughout all its focal lengths. Before I switched to Canon at the beginning of 2007, I had been strictly a Nikon photographer and was using a D200 and 17-35mm f/2.8 Nikkor for landscapes and wide angle nature photography.

I've heard all over that the image quality of Canon's wide angle lens lineup is inferior to what Nikon has to offer, but I don't think the generalization is entirely fair. Nikon's 17-35 is regarded as the best wide angle zoom ever made, but in practical application as a landscape lens, I haven't found any situation where it drastically outperformed the Canon 17-40.

The 17-40 suffers from obvious barrel distortion when used at 17mm, but the distortion lessens greatly when zoomed out only a millimeter or two more. This effect is noticeable when shooting straight horizons, so it order to have a normal unbowed horizon, I usually zoom to about 20mm to be safe when shooting beach scenes. There is some vignetting at the wider settings, but nothing I have not noticed with any other wide angle zoom. I haven't had many problems with CA, although some minor CA not visible unless you interpolate upward or zoom past 100% can appear in very high contrast areas. When used wide open, the corners of an image are not as sharp as the center, which is typical for this type of lens and easily fixed by stopping down. In fact, most of the problems associated with this lens virtually disappear when used in the mid-zoom range at intermediate apertures.

I hit this lens hard when I slipped while crossing a creek and it still is sharp, fast, and accurate, so I can vouch for its durability.

My boyfriend's copy of this lens has one soft corner that is still softer than the others when stopped down. I'm not sure if he has a bad copy or somehow damaged his lens at one point.

In comparison to the 17-35 f/2.8 Nikkor, I like this lens better. The 17-40 Canon does not have rounded diaphragm blades, so when stopped down to f/18-22 you can create sunbursts and starbursts. The 17-35 Nikkor has rounded blades so sunbursts cannot be accomplished with it. This lens also has 5mm more zoom on the long end and costs less than half what the Nikon does. Of course the Nikkor opens up to f/2.8, but for landscape photography this isn't necessary and the lenses are used stopped down anyway.

I really like this lens and think its a great deal at around $600, especially for anyone who needs a wide-angle zoom with AF capability, but doesn't focus strictly on wide angle photography. For serious architectural photographers, it may be worth it to spend a thousand dollars or more on a good wide-angle lens, but for most people who do weddings, journalism, nature, or even some landscapes (depending on your camera and specific subject matter) the 17-40 is more than an adequate performer.


 
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM

ef70-200_28lisu_1_
Review Date: Sep 10, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Very sharp, good AF speed, accurate focusing, IS, AF with 1.4x and 2x extenders, included tripod collar
Cons:
I've noticed some C/A in high contrast areas

I owned this lens for about six months before switching to the 70-200mm f/4 IS. Previously, I owned the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens for comparison.

This is a top notch lens. The lens is quite sharp, performing exceptionally well for a zoom, and does well even with converters added, although the AF hunts considerably more with the 2x and focus acquisition is slower. When used on a tripod with the IS off this lens is one of the sharpest I've seen, zoom or prime.

This lens is just as good as, or better than, the Nikon version in all regards, including AF speed and accuracy and overall image quality.

I really enjoyed this lens, but have traded it for the f/4 version for lighter weight when backpacking.


 
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM

ef300mmf_28_1_
Review Date: Sep 10, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Super sharp, fast focusing, accurate AF, IS, excellent image quality
Cons:
none

This is a fantastic lens. The optics are excellent. Images are crisp, sharp, and detailed. The AF is fast and accurate and the IS works like a dream. I've used this lens with and without both the 1.4x and 2x converters on a 1D Mark II N body with amazing results. I've even got critically sharp shots when stacking both converters with this lens. I use this lens for wildlife photography, including birds in flight, and it performs flawlessly. I normally write more in depth reviews, but this lens leaves nothing to complain about and its performance just amazing. I've owned many lenses, including those from Nikon, Canon, Tamron, and Sigma, and this is my absolute favorite.

 
Sigma 50-500mm f4-6.3 EX APO RF HSM

50_500EX_mdl_1_
Review Date: Feb 12, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $600.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Excellent range, very good sharpness, compact and relatively lightweight for what it does, good colors and contrast, no CA fringing even in high contrast scenes
Cons:
Slow apeture, light falloff, zoom/focus creep, not as smooth as some lenses I own, lens hood is difficult to use and front cap has side snaps so hood must be removed to use, limited availability of 82mm coarse filters

I've had this lens for a little over a month now and have used it in a variety of applications. My first impression was that I loved it. This lens is very sharp and the range you get is incredible. 500mm (750mm 35mm equivalent) looks awesome and when coupled with my 2x TC the telephoto reach of this lens was like nothing I ever before experienced. Some quick tests around the house (actually outside the house, this lens is way too slow for indoor use) revealed the excellent image quality I was looking for and I was pretty psyched.

Upon more practical field use I quickly came to realize the limitations of this lens. The widest f-stop being f/4 (up to f/6.3 at longer range) is definately a limitation in handholding this lens. I'm not saying it can't be done, but to get good results with this lens you must either pump up your ISO or use extra support, whether leaning on a railing or mounting on a tripod. I have gotten good results at 500mm handholding at ISO 200, but I feel that they would have been better had I made either of the two previously mentioned adjustments. At the shorter lengths you can get away with holdholding pretty well if you have a little muscular strength and endurance. I wouldn't consider this lens incredibly heavy or bulky for all it does, but it is certainly going to be a lot heavier and larger than lenses that most people are used to and you will get tired holding this thing up for more than a short period of time. The zoom and focus will creep if you are not shooting horizontal, so you have to be aware of this when shooting at an angle. There is noticeable light falloff when using the longer range on this lens, although the light becomes more even at shorter focal lengths. I only really was bothered by the falloff when shooting sky or snow shots, so it isn't horrible and pretty acceptable for a 50-500mm zoom. The zoom and focus are acceptable, but not as smooth as my Nikons and can be slow in cold weather or low light.

To be nitpicky, I find the lens hood very difficult to remove and reverse or vice versa. Rotating the hood onto or off of the lens feels very tight. The supplied lens cap also has side releases, so you cannot take off the cap with the hood on, which is a major annoyance in my book. You could of course buy a 82mm cap with a center release, but it would be nice if this was included. This lens requires 82mm coarse filters, which are not very readily available. I have 82C UV and CP filters from Tiffen, but if you want ND, special effects, or colored filters I doubt you will be able to find them.

All this being said, I would still recommend this lens. The 50-500mm range will meet most applications and is very versitile providing you have lots of light. This is great for times when you want to photograph a large object and then zoom in on details (such as a sculpture). This lens is probably the second sharpest in my collection (being beat out by the 70-200VR which has impecable sharpness), and when stabilized correctly the sharpness is excellent and looks great to even the critical eye. Contrast and color are good, and this lens exhibits no visible CA fringing when used with my D70 (even backlight shots of tree branches against the sun). I should mention that I have the EX version, not the DG version which has an extra coating to eliminate glare and CA even further when used with a digital camera. For the price (a brand new DG version retails for under $1000) this lens cannot be beat. I bought mine used (barely) with a 2x Kenko MC7 TC and 2 Tiffen filters for $600 plus shipping. For someone just getting into wildlife photography (or another field where super-telephoto lengths are needed) this lens will give you tons of reach at a fraction of the cost of a telephoto prime. This lens has many unique strengths and I would highly recommend this lens to anyone as long as they realize its limitations.


 
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR

2139NAS_180
Review Date: Sep 25, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,500.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: great image quality, good shots in low light thanks to VR, beautiful bokeh, sharp, good colors
Cons:
size, price

I am absolutely amazed by this lens. The colors and sharpness are by far the best of the lenses I have, and I've found myself carrying this huge (at least by comparison to the rest of my lenses) lens around a lot more than I thought I would. Focus is usually spot on and very sharp, and AF-S is a dream - this lens is quite fast and very quiet. VR works well and I can definately see a difference when shooting in low light or at ridiculously slow shutter speeds. I haven't tried using the "active VR mode" used for shooting from a moving vehicle nor have I done a lot of work with it mounted on a tripod, so I don't feel I should comment on its tripod collar or active VR mode. This lens is much bigger and heavier than the others I own, but for the most part I haven't found is so much so that I can't handhold for an entire football game or so. I'm not sure I'd be super excited to carry this lens hiking with me, but it does take excellent photos that make it well worth the extra weight and bulk. The bokeh is great and OOF elements look really nice in photos. I think the color of this lens is the best in my lineup. I've used this lens for mostly sports and some animal and people portraits, and I love it. I can't wait to use it more.

 
Tamron 90MM F/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 SP AF

lens_1_
Review Date: Apr 3, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $470.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Very sharp, fast AF for a macro lens, easy to switch from AF to manual, very smooth focusing, recessed front element prevents damage to lens, good color, beautiful bokeh, limiter switch convient for AF, digitally integrated to reduce problems in D-SLRs but still compatible with 35mm SLRs, little or no fringing and minimal flare, comes with lens shade and soft case
Cons:
drops to 5.6 at extreme close focusing

I just got this lens and I love it. Images are super sharp. The AF focus is faster than most macros, so its easier to double this lens as a prime for regular use. The 90mm (135mm equivalent on a Nikon model) is good for portraits (105mm Nikkor and Sigma are 157.5mm equivalents make a little too much compression for portraits on digital cameras). The lens is designed so you push the focus ring to switch from manual to AF which is very convient and much easier to use than the switch on the camera body. Focusing is very smooth and images "pop" into focus. Out of focus elements are very smooth and rounded. Color reproduction is good. It is a very good looking lens with gold and blue writing. The digital integration works very well. I shot some images through tree branches into the sun on a hazy day without the lens shade and found no purple or green fringing on my photos. There was also very very little flare.

The one thing I don't like about this lens is that it loses f-stops when focused close in extreme macro. At 1:1 ratio the lens is only a f/5.6! While this generally isn't too much of a problem because DOF is paper thin at 1:1 so you generally want to aim for a larger f-stop (f/8 and up), it may be a pain when shooting in low light. At distances greater than a foot or two you have full f/2.8 speed to the lens.

Overall this is a great lens with many positive attributes and I highly recommend it. I wish I could directly compare it with the 105mm Nikkor and 105mm Sigma, but I really don't think they could outclass this lens in any way except for maybe the loss of apeture at extreme macro and that the tad bit extra length they give might help with insect shots. I chose this lens based on images I saw taken with it and the fact that it is digitally integrated (but I liked the fact that it could double for portraits and had fast AF, since I shoot a lot of sports, as well).


 
Nikon D70s

D70
Review Date: Jan 10, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $800.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: price, build, not a lot of noise even at ISO 1600, dual knobs allow you to quickly adjust exposure, good battery life, fast, EXIF data, versatility, focus lock, purchase included battery, charger, software, and other extras
Cons:
white balance was a little tricky to use, no self timer button (you have to go through the menu), lowest ISO is 200

I've had my D70 for two months now and I use it all the time. The digital D-SLR gives me the freedom to shoot anything and everything (no rationing 35mm film for me anymore). I bought mine from B&H for $800 (body only) -- it was either a demo model or refurbished but its as good as new, and costs $100-$200 less than a non "previously loved" model. It came with the battery and battery charger as well as some good software. I absolutely love this camera. It is fast (no shutter delay, no write delay), just as fast as my 35mm SLR, which is super important when shooting sports. I shoot at 1600 ISO a lot because I'm stuck doing action indoors, and the images are very nice and smooth -- sure there is noise but not nearly as bad as you would expect. I would say that 1600 ISO on the D70 is much better than 400 ISO on many point and shoot models I have seen. The slowest film equivalent on the D70 is 200 ISO which is kind of a bummer, 50 or 100 would have been nice. However, with the smoothness of 1600 ISO being what it is I wouldn't be suprised if 200 ISO looked smoother than its 200 rating. The controls are nice and the menu is pretty easy to use. It is pretty similar to my N65 in those respects. I haven't even fiddled with all of the options on this camera. I will say that manually setting white balance is kinda tricky, I usually have to attempt it more than once to get a reading because I somehow screw it up, but once I get a good reading it really does enhance the pictures. I haven't even tried the self timer yet, to get to it you have to dance through the control panel, something I really don't like after getting used to pressing 2 buttons on my N65. I just bought the ML-L3 remote for $18 and I'm going to use that. AF is usually pretty good, although predictive AF tracking doesn't seem as accurate as my N65. However I have only used this guy for indoor sports so far (in poorly lit gyms), something I barely bothered with on my N65 so I think that the D70 might be much better outside or in better light. I have noticed improvement when I shoot at facilities with better light so thats probably my problem. I love the EXIF data recorded by my D70 (most digital cameras have this, so don't think the D70 is special, but it is a nice change from 35mm). However the recorded focal length doesn't account for the 1.5x increase (so my shot taken with a 50mm lens reads as 50mm even though its 35mm equivalent is 75mm). The 1.5x itself can be an advantage or disadvantage; I love it since extra length is usually a blessing for sports and wildlife photography. Many landscape and architectural photographers probably won't like it so much. Image quality is okay, with better color and constrast than many digital cameras (here I'm talking point-and-shoots, I don't have the luxury to compare to other D-SLRs). Overall the D70 is an excellent camera that I would highly recommend. You really can't go wrong for the buck. (For a while B&H was offering a brand new D70 kit for $1200-$1300; however with the rebate their D100 kit costed the same, so if you need are new to D-SLR photography and want to buy a complete package with lens and stuff, consider the D100 as well for the same money. I have never tried one, but it is the upgrade to the D70 so you might as well look at the reviews and maybe get more for your money. I'm not sure if the offer is still available, but check it out at www.bhphoto.com)

Suggested Tips: Buy a large capacity fast memory card. I have the 1 GB Lexar 80x WA compact flash card. It cost me only $20 more than the 4x write speed Lexar, but it is as fast as film. I can take "burst" shots in the largest size (6MP jpeg basic -- haven't tried it in fine yet) without waiting for them to be recorded at all. The 1GB card lets me take over 500 pictures in 6MP basic mode (about 250 in fine), so you really get a lot from the card. It's an excellent value and worthwhile investment. If you shoot sports, you cannot be without a high speed card.

If you can afford it get an extra battery too. I haven't done so yet, and the battery life on this camera seems pretty good, but it really sucks when it just stops working in the middle of a game.


 
Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor

1906NCP_180
Review Date: Jan 10, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $90.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp, fast, inexpensive, lightweight
Cons:
None that I can think of

I bought this lens as a fast lens for shooting indoors in low light situations. I've found it to be a very compact and superb optical piece. Since I shoot mostly sports and wildlife, I rarely have a use for a 50mm lens (even with the 1.5x factor on my Nikon D70), but there are times that I need something fast for low light conditions and this is the only lens that will do. I've used it to shoot sports with ambient light in very poorly lit gyms that without this piece, I would have been unable to shoot in, even at 1600 ISO.

It is well worth the money, at less than $100, this lens is a great optical piece that is just good to have. I don't think spending several times the cost of this lens on the f/1.4 version is really going to be of an advantage to anyone. I would really love to have an 85mm f/1.8, but this guy works for me for now. I would strongly recommend this lens -- with its sharpness, light weight, speed, and durability being of Nikon quality and engineering, you really can't go wrong at under $100 for this piece. Even if it just sits in your camera bag unused most of the time, like mine, it is so small and light you won't even know its there until you need it as a lifesaver in a situation where nothing else works.