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Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

Review Date: Jun 19, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $170.00 | Rating: 4 

Pros: sharp, cheap, light
colors slightly off, contrast OK but not great, slightly overexposes, my copy backfocuses

This lens is a way better than the old 18-55. It is very sharp at 18 mm an up and loses some sharpness close to 55 mm. It is cheaply build but that can be expected for the price. I run some tests again the 17-55; and in good light, it is very close but not as good – the colors of the 17-55 are warmer and more pleasant, better contrast , and, of course, there is 1 to 2 stop advantage. Also, the 18-55 tends to overexpose slightly and does not have very good definition in the highlights. The AF accuracy is OK for this class but not as good as with more expensive lenses.

My copy severely back focuses close to 55 mm that cannot be even masked by the relatively small aperture there: f/5.6. I noticed it too late to return the lens and I am not using it anymore. Based on that, I give it only 4 stars. I cannot rate a lens based on other people experience, and my copy deserves only that. I good copy of that lens would be a great value and I would recommend it to anybody on a budget. Do not mistake it for a substitute for the 17-55 even at the same f-stops however – it is not.

Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM

Review Date: Apr 19, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,030.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: color, contrast, sharpness, fast, stabilized, well build
Strong vignetting at f/2.8, big, heavy, expensive, no hood, zoom ring not smooth

I have had this lens for about two months and used it on a recent vacation trip. I also own the 18-55 IS, the 70-200 f/4 IS, the EF-S 60, and the 10-22; I owned and have sold a few other ones. I was a bit hesitant to get this lens based on a limited past experience but I finally decided to do it. This lens exceeded all my expectations. The color is outstanding, similar to that of the 10-22 and much better than the 18-55IS. Probably the 70-200 is a bit warmer. Local contrast is great, too. Amazing sharpness, that cannot be just described by numbers. My camera meters better with that lens than with the 18-55IS, the highlights are better defined. AF is more accurate, too. No dust so far (knock on wood) but I screwed a B+W filer on it the moment I took it out of the box and never took it off. CA is so well controlled that I do not bother correcting it.

This lens has a very solid build, made of high quality plastic material (why would plastic bother anybody?) but not very polished. I did not notice glare issues and I did test it with the sun almost in the frame. I use a hood though most of the time.

Cons: It vignettes a lot at f/2.8. Not something surprising for fast zooms, but the Tamron vignettes less. Of course, this can be corrected with little penalty. The zoom ring is not moving smoothly, kinda gets stuck in the middle of the range. I expected the IS to be more effective, maybe spoiled by my 70-200 – a few quick experiments showed that the 18-55 IS stabilizes a bit better. Still, there are 2-3 stops gain at 55 mm, that is good enough. Big, and heavy. Noticeable distortions at both end but expected for a normal range zoom, better than the kit. Overpriced.

This lens simply has no alternative. For the price, it should come with a hood and better finish but once you see the photos, you forget about that. The combination of a constant f/2.8 and an IS is unique and a blessing for low light photography.

10 stars for IQ, AF, and features (IS), 9 for build (the zoom ring), and 8 for price (but again, there is no alternative).

Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM

Review Date: Jan 8, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very sharp, good color, accurate AF
some expected vignetting at f/2.8, some CA

This lens is insanely sharp, even at f/2.8 (both at close distance and when taking portraits, for example). The first time I tested it, I could not believe my eyes – what, wasn’t the AA filter supposed to blur a bit even the sharpest image? The bokeh is creamy, much better than what I can get with my 70-200 f/4 IS. The photos that I take are stunning most of the time. The AF is quite accurate. Since it has internal focusing, the front element does not move.

I tested it against the 70-200 f/4 IS, the 50 f/1.8, and the 18-55 IS (the latter – just to evaluate how dimmer the EF-S 60 is compared to other lenses). The colors that I get from the macro lens are definitely better than those coming from 50 f/1.8; actually I was surprised to see how different they were. The L zoom has slightly warmer and more pleasant colors. The macro lens also shows excellent micro-contrast.
On the negative side: there is some CA, not much, that requires negative to positive correction in LR, depending on how close to the subject the lens is. It vignets noticeably at f/2.8, but that is to be expected. What surprised me a bit is that at f/2.8, this lens is dimmer than the 50 f/1.8 @ f/2.8 by 1/3 to 1/2 stop. It is also slightly dimmer than the 18-55 IS at f/5.6. Now, in real macro mode, the reported f/2.8 is not the real aperture, but I was surprised to see that effect at shooting distances 2-3 m. Anyway, this does not bother me.

I was torn between this lens and the 100 macro. This lens won me by being more portable. Also, 100 mm without IS would be of limited use without a tripod. For my intended use, the EF-S 60 seemed a better choice, an a crop camera, of course.

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

Review Date: Mar 14, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,045.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: sharp, great IQ and contrast, "clean" images, very useful IS
some dust inside the first copy I got

I got this lens for Christmas. The first copy was sharp but it had some dust inside. I was alarmed mostly by a larger than usual dust spec on one of the inner glass elements. There were visible “normal” dust particles on the black rings inside, as well. Then I expected my consumer zoom 28-105 USM II, which is my workhorse for the last 3 years, and found about the same amount of dust inside! To be fair, the 70-200 has much larger glass elements inside. I was not so much concerned about the dust already there; I was more afraid that the sealing is not working. The lens went back to B&H, they made this a painless experience. The second copy is as good as the first one, and clean.

What has been said about this lens is true. It is extremely sharp, with great IQ. The DOF is much smaller (because of its range) than the lenses I have been using so far. This lens made quite clear that my Rebel XT front-focuses, something that I suspected so far but never bothered me much. So the XT was shipped twice to Canon, and now focuses well (if you have to do that, insist on the Irvine repair center). It is very easy to blame the softness of your photos on the lens, while the reason might be improper focusing of your camera. If you use tripod, the mirror lockup makes a noticeable difference; more so in portrait mode; at least with a cheap tripod. At f/4, this lens is unbelievably sharp, indeed; with small DOF, as expected. I tried it with the 1.4 extender, still sharp. Take a look:

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/171/421582726_434fb41642_o.jpg (at f/4, 1/100, 111 mm, IS)

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/135/421582720_fd7c59977b_o.jpg (at f/4, 1/200, 200 mm, IS)

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/178/421582711_d9474570e0_o.jpg (f/6.3, 1/320, 223 mm, IS, 1.4X)

The 4 stop claim might be true. On my 1.6 crop factor camera, I take sharp pictures at 1/15 sec, 200 mm with success rate 50-60%. I had success even at 1/7 sec! At 1/30 – 1/40 sec, 200 mm, my photos are sharp about 75-80% of the time. I cannot understand how the light noise of the IS can be a problem. To me, it is a useful feedback – it tells me when the IS is active and when not. I would highly recommend the IS version – at least half of my photos would have been impossible without it.

For some strange reason, the noise of the XT at ISO 800 is much less visible with this lens than with the cheaper non L lenses I own. See the first photo above, taken at ISO 800, no noise reduction applied. I could never get such clean shadows with the 28-105 USM II in low light at ISO 800, for example. The photos taken with the 70-200 need much less post-processing than before; very often none. I borrowed the 24-105 f/4L for a few days before I bough this one. Even though it is a nice lens, the 70-200 takes more enjoyable images in the overlapping range. It is not the sharpness only – there is more contrast, they are “cleaner”, less CA, if any. The 24-105 is still a very good lens though.

It is pricy but it is worth any penny. I am taking one point off only because my first copy had dust inside.