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  Reviews by: Richard Bate  

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Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

Review Date: May 3, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Excellent zoom range, IS, USM focusing, good contrast. If you are anywhere between keen amateur to pro I believe that this is the general purpose lens of choice.
Softness towards the corners and extremes of zoom range, F/5.6 towards maximum zoom. Does not come with a lens hood - sometimes this lens flares in bright conditions.

I never paid for this lens directly, but considering the circumstances it was something of a bargain. I was just 16 and had recently upgraded my AE-1 to a second-hand Eos 1000F with a 35-135mm lens. Unfortunately this was stolen while I was on holiday and I awaited a replacement - which was surprisingly a new 28-135mm IS USM and a new Eos 300.

I couldn't believe it - the lens looked all new and fancy compared to the rather agricultural equipment that I had been so used to using, and so started my love affair with the lens I would use most for the next seven years.

I was always very impressed with the results I achieved with this lens on film (mainly due to the zoom range) but it wasn't until I turned digital that I started to appreciate just how good this lens was. Bolted onto my 10D I had in effect a 45-215mm zoom range and this covered just about every situation I would normally come across, with guaranteed results when it came to colour and general image quality.

What really makes this lens so good though is the fact it has image stabilisation added to the fast USM-focusing. And I still can't get over how quiet USM lenses are at focusing even though I have been using them for so long now.

Because this is a zoom lens and because this is also "general purpose" there are drawbacks but these aren't really faults. This lens isn't really great for photographing birds on telegraph masts nor is it going to capture an ant carrying a breadcrumb but a lot of the time you can achieve decent results at just about every point inbetween - plus this lens is sharp enough for a reasonably zealous crop.

As with a lot of zoom lenses, it isn't great towards the edges on a full-frame body and the minimum aperture is a bit slow towards the 135mm end but is nicely balanced by the fact that this lens is portable and will not break the bank.

I do not use this lens as my general purpose lens nowadays as I upgraded to the 24-105mm F/4L IS USM - a lens I am not going to compare the 28-135mm to as they serve different purposes.

If you are serious about photography but lacking experience I genuinely believe that this is *the* lens you should own to learn from. It is especially well-suited to the cropped sensors as any softness from the corners is lost. Combine that with the luxuries of IS and the silky USM and you've got yourself a bargain. Check the internet for prices you can save a fair wad of cash over the high-street prices.

One final point I must make is that I am disappointed that Canon does not bundle this lens with any of its SLRs. When you see that a camera as excellent as the 30D comes in kits with the truly awful 18-55mm lens my heart actually sinks.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

Review Date: Apr 8, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Excellent "general purpose" zoom range, fantastically sharp between 35-85mm, corner sharpness, compatibility with 580EX flashgun (ETTL II covers 24-105mm), contrast, superb image stabilisation, constant aperture, reasonably lightweight and certainly portable, comes with a nice little lens-bag and hood. Seems well-sealed.
I can't criticise this product, but there is vignetting on full-frame DSLRs at F4 at 24mm, noticeable barrel distortion below 30mm and softness above 100mm at F5.6 and below. F4 with IS is probably not as good as F2.8 but we have to get real here - this lens is portable.

I used to shoot on a 10D with a 28-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS USM and when I upgraded to a 5D I was somewhat disappointed with the way the lens performed. The colour rendition remained excellent but you can crop further with more pixels and what I remembered as being sharp was now looking fuzzy. It was also looking very soft towards the edges. Not bad generally but when I needed the detail it wasn't there.

I decided that I would buy my first "L" lens as the 5D is notorious for exposing the limitations of a lot of lenses, especially zooms. (The same could be said of my experiences with the 1D and 1DS cameras).

I had the choice of a 24-70mm F2.8L or this lens and after comparing the sizes (the 24-70mm is big) and taking a few test-shots with both, decided that this lens was marginally better for what I was going to use it for. I made that decision just over six months ago and I think I made the right one.

Outdoors, this lens is a revelation. For town, architechture and landscape photography I rarely use anything else. With the image stabilisation it is possible to take photographs on reasonably dull winter days and if you bump the ISO up (arrogant 5D user - "Noise? What is that?") you can shoot at dusk or even brightly lit streets at night.

It is also possible to do fairly decent medium telephoto and macro work due to the fact that the image can be cropped a lot due to the sharpness.

This lens is not suited for indoor photography without flash, unless shooting in very brightly lit areas or with inanimate subjects. However, it is excellent when used with a 580EX flash at weddings and parties.

In short, this lens is the best compromise for most commonly-encountered situations. For about 35% of my work I'd choose this lens first and foremost, for 25% of it I can get away with using it (and travelling lighter!) - unsurprisingly I have it attached to my 5D more often than not. If you were to purchase this lens I think you'd probably find you did the same thing.