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  Reviews by: MarkSaperstein  

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Acratech ballhead

57ballhead_1_
Review Date: Jan 22, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $250.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Light and strong.
Cons:
Rated to support 25 lbs., but does not handle heavy gear well.

The main selling point of the Acratech Ultimate is its combination of sturdy build and light weight. I experienced problems when using heavier gear (Canon 1D and 300/4 IS for example). Although rated to hold 25 lbs, I found it difficult to lock the head in the spot I wanted it with this combo. I'll admit to being picky about this, but when using longer lenses a little movement makes a big difference with composition. Despite this quibble, I think this is a great product, and I would recommend it, especially for hiking and travel when those extra ounces matter.

 
Tamron 180mm f/3.5 Di LD IF Macro Autofocus SP AF

19043180mm_1_
Review Date: Jan 20, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $550.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Very good build quality. Excellent optics. Ability to rotate polarizer filter with the hood attached. Price.
Cons:
None so far.

I have had two copies of the Canon 180 macro, and recently acquired the Tamron. I sold my first Canon because I didn't think it was as sharp as I was lead to believe. When the second copy performed the same as the first, I decided to try the Tamron. The Tamron is a bit sharper than the Canon, even stopped down. Color and contrast are basically the same (both excellent). The bokeh in the Canon 180 is just slightly smoother than the Tamron (maybe there is an extra aperture blade or two?), but it is still very pleasing with the Tamron. Autofocus is slow, but accurate (same with the Canon). Build quality is quite good. The lens feels solid (though not as solid as the Canon). The clincher for me is the new Filter Effect Control (FEC) ring. This allows you to rotate a polarizer filter while the hood is attached. Last but not least, the street price is about 1/2 of the Canon price. I highly recommend the Tamron 180 macro.

 
Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX DG Aspherical RF

20_f1_8_1_
Review Date: Dec 27, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $365.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: very little distortion
Cons:
very soft wide-open

The Sigma 20mm is a much better performer than the Canon 20mm at all equivalent apertures. It is rather soft until about f/2.8, but quite sharp when stopped-down. Build quality is also quite good.

 
Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX Diagonal Fisheye

15mm_Lg_1_
Review Date: Dec 27, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $330.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: very solid build, very solid optics
Cons:
at this price, none

The Sigma 15mm fisheye is a terrific lens. It is sharper than the Canon fisheye at most apertures (except f/2.8), and controls CA better than the Canon.

 
Canon EF 20-35mm f/2.8L

ef20_35mm
Review Date: Dec 8, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $550.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Excellent build quality, very good optics
Cons:
Long minimum focus, corners very soft on full frame, no USM

This lens is certainly better than the non-L consumer zooms, but the newer wide angle L zooms are better overall. Resolution at f/2.8 is OK, but you need to stop down to about f/5.6 for really sharp images. Performance in the corners with a full frame camera is not so good. This is one area where the newer L zooms are much improved. The non-USM autofocus is pretty snappy.

 
Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM

ef20mmf_28usm_1_
Review Date: Jun 2, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $300.00 | Rating: 6 

 
Pros: A decent wide angle lens if you can keep it at f/8.
Cons:
Poor optics wide open.

If you don't need f/2.8 at this focal length, save your money for a 17-40 f/4.

 
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8

3029ef_50_18_1_
Review Date: Jun 2, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $125.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Metal mount and distance scale. Great image quality.
Cons:
Noisy autofocus.

This review is for the older version of the 50mm f/1.8 with the metal mount. Several other reviewers seem to have mistaken this thread for the newer Mk II plastic version of this lens. I have used two copies of this lens. I have also used a Mk II version, and I now have the 50mm f/1.4. My experience is that the metal mount version is slightly better than the Mk II, and the f/1.4 is better than both of the f/1.8s. In this price range, there is not much to complain about. This lens is sharper than any consumer zoom at 50mm.

 
Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L

ts243_1_
Review Date: Jun 2, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $900.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Creative possibilities with the tilt and shift movements.
Cons:
Need to stop down to f/8 for best resolution.

Jack Flesher's review below is on target. If the performance wide open were just a bit better I would give this lens a 5/5. I wish I could think of ways to use it more often! If you have a small viewfinder (like the 10D), the Angle Finder C will help with manual focus.

 
Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8

tse90_1_
Review Date: Jun 2, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $880.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Creative opportunities abound!
Cons:
Manual focus with a small viewfinder can be tough.

Excellent optics. Noticeably sharper than the 24mm TS-E. Great for macro work and panoramas. Manual focus is a challenge with a small viewfinder (such as the 10D has), but an Angle Finder C can help.

You can also use the 1.4x and 2x teleconverters with this TS-E lenses. I found that the 90+2x looks just as sharp as the 180 macro.


 
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

ef_100_28_1_
Review Date: Jun 2, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $450.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Wonderful macro and medium telephoto lens.
Cons:
Poor tripod collar design.

This is an "L" category lens without the "L" price tag. I have no complaints about the performance of this lens. It is excellent. The tripod collar design is a bit awkward, but it works. However, if your camera has a grip, you may not be able to rotate from landscape to portrait because the collar sits so far back on the lens. If you already have the Mount Ring B (180 macro, 70-200 IS, 300/4 IS), you can order the plastic mount ring adapter directly from Canon for under $30.

 
Canon EF 35mm f/2

ef35mmf2_1_
Review Date: Jun 2, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $180.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Great image quality. Small and light. Inexpensive.
Cons:
Image quality drops off at the edges with film/full-frame sensor.

For the price, this is a great lens, especially on a small sensor (D60, 10D). When using film or full-frame sensor, the quality at the edges does not hold up so well. I used it as my normal lens on the 10D. Image quality is not like the "L" lenses, but it's not far behind.