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  Reviews by: Peter Duffield  

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Lowepro Toploader 70 AW

Review Date: Feb 21, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Well made, offers great protection from bangs and bad weather. Chest harness offers extra versatility.
The internal dividers could be stronger. Mine is an older version so the interior is nylon, maybe the newer ones are softer for digital bodies.

My toploader is one of the earlier versions that doesn't have the sliplock attachments. I've used it under many different conditions including -30 canadian winters (i put one of those disposable hand warmer pouches in the bottom, it keeps camera and batteries useable). It will accomodate a full size body with my 70-200mm attached but if you use a WA theres just enough room for a small zoom or prime as well.
I've found the chest harness to be very useful. It feels a bit odd and bulky hanging in front but if you leave the bottom strap off one side you can angle it more to one side which seems comfier. An added benefit is that with the harness cinched tighter it makes a good stable elbow platform to steady your long lens. Hardware and zippers have all stood up well.
Highly recommended

Canon EOS Rebel XTi (400D)

Review Date: Feb 13, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Ease of use...large clear LCD with large clear font. Most used shooting functions very accessible, just a really good camera i feel.
A true spotmeter would have been really nice.

Moved up to this camera after happily using the original 300d for almost two years. I'd shied away from the 350 because of the size and had my heart set on a 30d, had in fact decided to buy one until i compared the 400d and the 30d side by side at the camera shop. What grabbed me right away about the 400d was that big white LCD. I need reading glasses and had a hard time seeing the menus on my first rebel but the screen on the 400d just blew away the one on the 30d. Not only that, most of the useful shooting functions are right under your fingertips and VERY visible in that same screen. I especially like the one touch access to "picture styles" from the "set" button.
So far i've found picture quality to be excellent, i have no complaints about noise at any ISO, focussing is great too. A word or two about the underexposure complaint in many of the reviews....It took me some time to realise that my original rebel underexposed by about a third of a stop in many situations, this camera does seem to be similar (i've seen many theories why). I now keep exposure compensation set at + one third and in backlit or bright snow scenes often go up between one and two stops. The trick is to know your equipment and compensate accordingly.
The other major complaint seems to be the grip size, as mentioned above i'd found the 350d grip too small when i'd picked it up in the stores but now having used the similar sized 400d i'm just used to it and in fact my 300d already seems big and clunky, i'll appreciate the smaller size out on the hiking trails too.
My lenses are the tamron 17-50 2.8, canon 28-105 and canon 70-200 f4, so i avoided the kit lens this time and went body only. My advice to the many people trying to decide between the 400d and the 30d is to buy the 400d and use the money saved towards a good lens which will allow you to take advantage of the potential this camera offers.
About the only beef i have is that it would have been soooo easy for Canon to replace that pretty useless partial metering with a true spotmeter but then i guess you can't make a good thing TOO good.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM

Review Date: Feb 13, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Excellent optical quality and bokeh, light weight. Reasonable price for "L" lens
None so far

Very good lens. I originally bought the EFS 55-200 which was a big mistake, the difference between the two is unbelievable. Even at 100% crops detail on the 70-200 is amazing and the relatively large aperture along with the low noise at high ISO of Canon cameras makes it very useable even in fairly low light.
One question i have....the reviews i read before i bought mine last fall seemed to indicate this was a metal barrelled lens...i'm pretty sure that mine is plastic. I know the price dropped on these, is that because canon switched to plastic? Anyone know? If they have it doesn't seem to have affected the performance at all, perhaps the durability though.