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Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II

Review Date: Dec 21, 2005 Recommend? | Price paid: $7,200.00

Pros: Deatils from 16MB, Build quality.

1. Is it bulky ?
Having heard so many times how bulky and heavy 1D-series are, I was really worried about it. This was actually the most negative factor for the decision. But when pulling it out of the box, I was quite surprised that it is rather compact. It is taller than D30 due to the Grip. That is pretty much it. That said, shooting around for an hour with 300/4+1.4x, I felt the real pain on my left wrist. The weight matters for long use. I'm reluctant to just let it hang on my neck without the left hand supporting the lens.
It is pleasant to see that some D30 design look is still maintained. ( Look at the shutter button area ).

I have rather small hands. It fits in my hands.

2. Lens focal length
I feel as if I got a new set of lenses. Every lens is a new lens indeed. This is kind of a bonus as you won't feel the itch for new lens for a while. Even 50/1.4 seems to be wide. 24mm is seriously wide. I am not sure if I need any wider. I can understand why folks want 500mm or 600mm lenses. The barrel and pincushion distortions are much more visible at the edges, if the lens has it. And the Zeiss 28/2.8 still does well on FF.

3. Usability
The most striking difference from D30 is the Responsiveness. Everything is very fast - Turn-on, Review, AF, etc. It is always ready to fire. Well then, I got used to the speed quickly. It feels natural now. The viewfinder looks indeed clean and wide. Manual focus is easier with the brighter VF. I also appreciate the extra design cares gone into the details like door locks, tight seals, Firewire connector harness etc. I don't like the cheapy neck strap or missing hand-strap ( extra to buy ). The menu and buttons are both good and bad. It seems that every operation needs two or 3 fingers. I know it's an accident-proof design. But I fee it's too much.

4. 45points AF and Exposure
Probably all new DLSRs have better AF than D30. Thus, I am not a good reference point. All that I can say is that it's fast and accurate. The AI-servo actually works. I was walking back and force inside the house aiming various points to test the servo. My wife thought I was getting insane. The servo tracks well. I went out to Bayland and shot everything moving and flying - ducks, airplanes, seagulls. The tracking was only limited by my skill to keep the subject within the focus area in the frame. The Evaluative exposure calculation is more accurate than D30. With D30, I almost always get a portion of highlight blown. So, I set it -1 EV all the time. 1Ds2 controls the highlight better.

5. File size
The 16MB files are no fun to deal with. I really like 3 MB files from D30. I didn't want to spend big $$$ on the faster CF cards. So I went for Hitachi 6GB Microdrive. My old IBM 1GB MD is still working fine. So, I have some trusts on the MD technology. And this seems to be OK. The camera has large buffer to store about 10 RAW files. Except when I fill the buffer with the multi-shot mode, the CF card speed doesn't affect the one-shot type shooting.

6. Image Details
The power of the 16MB files are in the details. And the details were surprising. The Shot below was taken with 50/1.4 with flash. The bottom one is the 1-1 crop of the top-left corner of the pillow. See what's captured in the yellow circle. However, do I ever need this much of the detail ? How many extreme large prints am I going to make when the 16x24 prints from D30 on the wall still looks very nice ? I don't have an answer. Wink

7. High ISO
High ISO performance to me is OK. Maybe I expected too much. It is not something phenomenal. With D30, I can go up to ISO 400. And I have to live with some noise. With 1Ds-2, I would comfortably go up to 800 without worrying too much about noise. But I wouldn't go above it. The shot below is taken @ ISO 3200 with 100/2 @ f/8. No noise reduction or sharpening is applied. When reduced to a web size, especially with so many pixels, you won't see the noise Wink But the 1:1 crop shows quite a bit of noise.

8. ETTL-2
I can confirm that ETTL-2 works more reliably than the old ETTL. I do not have the new 580EX. But 550EX had no problem doing ETTL-2. Finally I can avoid the situation where an aunt's P&S does better flash than DSLR Wink

9. Weather Seal
I went out, when it was raining. It wasn't a shower but I got some drops on the camera. I actually let it. I don't care any more, right ? Wink The lens front glass is still exposed although the hood protects it. So, don't aim something upwardly on the sky ( I actually did LOL ). I feel that I need a raincoat and a hat before a camera need weather seals.

10. Battery
It's heavy and large. I cannot tell how long it lasts yet. After the first charge, I took about 300 shots. The indicator still shows full. I'll report back when it's done.

11. Is it worth the money ?
Wink No, it is not. That should be one line answer. But then, life often requires more than one line.

Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM

Review Date: Mar 30, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,190.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Quality, working distance
Minimum f is 32 ( want 64 )

I like Macro photography. So, this had been one of my dream lens. Since I got it, I very rarely unmount this lens. You can get 1:1 with other macro lens with shorter focal length. But very often I appreciate the narrower viewing angle to help me to select the background easily. Longer working distance is another advantage. The tripod collar is nice, especially because I can share it with 70-200/2.8. BTW, you cannot hand-hold this with available lights in Macro situation. You need very good support - tripod, ball head. I have Kirk BH-3. And it slips in certain range of angles.