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Canon EOS 7D

canon_eos_7_d
Review Date: May 30, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,400.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Very fast and accurate focussing, good resolution, the increased resolution allows more cropping, fast frame rate, excellent video quality.
Cons:
Lots of noise in any shot taken over ISO 640. Shots with ISO 1600 or more are nearly unusable. Lots of noise even at lower ISOs in any image with a lot of water or sky in it.

All in all, I find this camera to be a very useful and versatile instrument and I do not feel poorly equipped when it is my only camera. However, it does have a weakness that irks me: very high digital noise at high ISOs. If Canon could solve this problem, this camera would be near perfect. As it is, I don't feel comfortable going over ISO 800 in this camera, which limits its versatility.

 
Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS USM

ef600mmf_4_1_
Review Date: May 30, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $6,000.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Amazing reach, particularly with a teleconverter. Very sharp, good color and contrast, built like a tank.
Cons:
Heavy, cumbersome and awkward. Difficult to use without a carbon fiber tripod and gimbal head. Very expensive.

I bought this lens for my annual spring journey to Yellowstone National Park. I usually either buy or rent a 500mm f4, but I got a good deal on a used 600mm so I decided to give it a shot. On the plus side---and it's a pretty big plus side---using the 600mm in conjunction with a 1.4X TC gave me incredible reach and really brought the animals in close. The lens was also very sharp and focussed quickly and accurately, especially when used without the TC.
The downside: the weight and size. I was used to the 500, which I could handhold for a while and use easily when mounted on a monopod. The 600 was much heavier and it seemed to be less well balanced. It was very difficult to use without a full tripod and gimbal, which limited its versatility. And it was a pain to haul in and out of a vehicle.
All in all, I would rather have had a 500mm, but the 600mm is a heck of a lens and I enjoyed the extra reach it gave me. I got images I would never have captured otherwiise.


 
Canon EOS 1D Mark III

1DmkIII
Review Date: Feb 27, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,500.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Focus speed and accuracy, durability, burst rate, image quality, high ISO performance, versatility.
Cons:
LCD is useless in bright light.

I bought the MKIII with a bit of trepidation, give the reputation it had for focus problems, but after using it for over a year, I have had not one focus problem with it. It is definitely the best body I have used in every aspect. Its high ISO performance is as good as that of my 5D, which was excellent. Its IQ is tops and its focus speed is blazing fast.
Incredible camera.


 
Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM

ef400_4dois_1_
Review Date: May 31, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $3,500.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Incredibly light and easy to handle. Fairly nice IQ and contrast without a TC.
Cons:
Doesn't take TCs well...slow focussing, and low contrast even with the 1.4X TC.

I got a great deal on this lens and I wanted badly to love it, but it just didn't do enough for me. The main reason I wanted it was that it was f4 and thus could take a TC without losing AF, but in the end it didn't take TCs well enough to make it worthwhile to use it over the much cheaper 100-400.

 
Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM

ef500mmf_4_1_
Review Date: Dec 24, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $5,000.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: It's very sharp...nearly as sharp as my 300 2.8L IS...and very fast-focussing. It takes a 1.4X TC very well with no degradation in IQ and very little loss of focus speed. Not brutally heavy...I can use it well with a monopod after a bit of practice if I keep the shutter speed up.
Cons:
Mucho dinero. Mucho mucho mucho mucho dinero. Ouch.

It's my dream wildlife lens and it hasn't let me down. I bless the circumstances that made it possible for me to buy it as it has allowed me to get some shots I never would have been able to get before. It's not light, but it's light enough that I have been able to carry it over my shoulder on a monopod for over 3 miles of hiking. It works a 1.4x teleconverter like it was made for it, nearly as well as my 300 2.8L IS used one.
It's a very expensive lens, but you can feel the value of it every time you pick it up.


 
Canon EOS 40D

40d
Review Date: Aug 3, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,200.00 | Rating: 7 

 
Pros: AF speed and accuracy, frame rate, image quality.
Cons:
Lots of noise at high ISOs (much more shadow noise than the 5D I used to own). Long exposure noise reduction setting is useless.

I went with the 40D after using the 5D for a couple years because I wanted the crop factor and faster frame rate for wildlife/bird shooting. I have mixed feelings about the camera because while on the negative side it has much worse shadow noise at high ISOs than the 5D had, it also has very accurate and fast autofocus. If this camera had better high ISO performance and better weather sealing, it would be just about perfect for me.

 
Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4.5 DC MACRO

137_small
Review Date: Jun 8, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $325.00 | Rating: 7 

 
Pros: Price, range, macro feature.
Cons:
Not fast-focussing, soft images at the extremes either wide-open or stopped down past the sweet spot.

I've had this lens for a few months now and it's a good walkaround lens for snapshots or casual portraits. It's not a great lens for landscapes as its sweet spot is towards the f8 range rather than the f16 I prefer, and it's also quite soft when used wide open, particularly in conjunction with its Macro feature.
Still, it's a good, cheap walkaround lens as long as you don't ask too much of it.


 
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM

ef300mmf_28_1_
Review Date: Mar 22, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $3,750.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Incredible sharpness, relatively light weight, IS, works great with TCs, lightning fast autofocus.
Cons:
Price.

This lens is just a gem. Nothing I've ever owned or used comes close to it in terms of focus speed and it is incredibly versatile as it performs better than any other lens with teleconverters. Great for sports, with TCs it's also an excellent wildlife lens and even a birding lens for larger birds.

 
Canon EF 28-105 F/3.5-4.5 II USM

ef_28-105_35
Review Date: Jun 14, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $200.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Light and handy, inexpensive, useful focal length, sharp enough with good contrast.
Cons:
Not as sharp as an L, not as wide at the wide end as I'd like with a 1.6X crop.

I bought this lens as an all-around walkaround for my 10D after I replaced my Digital Rebel with it. It's a very nice lens for the money, and produced many nice images for me. Not quite as sharp as I would prefer, nor as wide at the wide end as I would have liked with a crop camera, but a very handy, useful lens nonetheless.
My wife still uses it on her film SLR.


 
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM

ef70_200_28_1_
Review Date: May 31, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $900.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Ultra sharp, clear, great color and contrast. Very fast focussing, great aperature.
Cons:
Heavy.

Just a very very nice lens. I wish I had more use for it with my photographic style, as I would still have it.

 
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

ef17-40_4l_1_
Review Date: May 31, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $575.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Compact, sharp, great colors, little distortion, good corners even on full frame 5D, great price.
Cons:
A bit slow at f4.

When I bought the 5D, I picked up a 17-40 to replace my 10-22 I'd used on my 20D. I fully intended to save up for a 16-35 at some point but in the interim I've discovered that the 17-40 is an excellent performer on the full frame camera. It's a bit slow at f4, but 17mm is so wide on a full frame camera, that I mostly use the lens for wide landscapes and don't need a faster lens. For the money, this is a can't-miss lens.

 
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

ef100_400l_1_
Review Date: May 29, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,150.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Versatile, compact, fairly light.
Cons:
Push-pull zoom is awkward, friction ring is balky, lens isn't as sharp as I'd like at 400.

I bought this lens as a replacement for my 400 f5.6L prime, because I felt I needed the versatility of the zoom, and because the 100-400 was compact enough to carry with me while hiking. Many times, however, I have wished I had the prime back. The 100-400 is just not as sharp at 400 as the prime and the IS doesn't make up for it IMHO. I don't find the IS that useful for wildlife shots, actually, as while the IS can allow you to hand-hold at slower shutter speeds, it can't make the animals hold still while you're doing it.
Still, if I had gone directly to this lens from the Sigma 50-500 rather than stopping at the superb Canon 400 5.6 prime along the way, I would be crazy about it. It's light, versatile and reasonably sharp and very compact for a 400mm.


 
Sigma 50-500mm f4-6.3 EX APO RF HSM

50_500EX_mdl_1_
Review Date: May 28, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $750.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Price. Reach. Build quality.
Cons:
Too heavy for hand-holding in all but the brightest conditions. Hunts quite a bit in anything but bright light and hunts a lot when shooting against a "busy" backdrop. Very slow. Front heavy when extended.

I owned this lens for a year and while I came to appreciate it, it was something of a relief when I finally sold it for something lighter (a Canon 400mm f5.6L). I loved the fact that this lens gave you the reach of a 500mm at a bargain price, but for me it was simply unusable without at least a monopod and better still a tripod. It wasn't just that it was heavy, it was also very very front-heavy when extended, which made it even more difficult to hand-hold. I don't think I ever got one decent shot from this lens that wasn't at least resting against a support or else on a monpod or tripod.
That wouldn't have been so bad if the lens were faster at the long end, but f6.3 was just too slow for most wildlife shooting conditions since, like most lenses, you had to stop it down a couple stops to get a really sharp image.
That said, it's not a bad lens, especially for the money. But my advice to someone in the market for a wildlife lens for around $900 would be to pick up a used 400 f5.6L instead.


 
Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 EX DG HSM

120_300_1_
Review Date: May 27, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,834.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharpness, quickness and accuracy of focus, image quality, price, weight.
Cons:
Funky leather lens hood, no cap, tripod mount is a bit on the awkward side.

I needed a good wildlife lens and couldn't afford to spring for a 500mm f4 or f4.5, so I compromised and bought the 120-300 f2.8 and a Sigma 2x teleconverter, looking to get 600mm at f5.6 or even 840mm at f8 in a pinch by stacking my Tamron 1.4X TC with the 2X. I figured I would lose a bit of IQ with the TC, but I would have to live with it until I won the lottery.
Well, the IQ of this lens is just INCREDIBLE. The Sigma 2X TC lives on this lens now and whenever I set up my tripod for bird shots, this is the lens that mounts it. It's incredibly versatile, giving me the option of a superfast 300mm f2.8 for low light and sports, a 420mm f4 for medium-distance wildlife and sports in good light with the 1.4X TC, and a 600mm f5.6 with the 2X TC for long distance shots.
I like the lens so much I wound up selling my Canon 70-200 f2.8L since I realized I just wasn't using it anymore.
If the Sigma weren't nearly 6lbs and thus a bit too much to hand-hold, I would have sold my 100-400L also, but I am keeping it for hiking and hand-holding.
I've also come to appreciate the versatility of having a zoom. There've been times when I am taking a picture of a waterbird and it flies closer to me, and I have to adjust the zoom to bring it back to a good composition, something I wouldn't be able to do with a prime.
The only things I dislike about this lens are the tripod collar (mine is the non-DG and came with the old style collar, which I might wind up replacing eventually with the new style) and the stupid leather lens hood that came with the lens in lieu of a cap. I ditched the hood and bought a Mamiya 105mm locking lens cap for $10 on ebay that fits perfectly.
This is just one heck of a lens for the money. I recommend it highly.


 
Canon EOS 5D

5d_586x225_2_
Review Date: Oct 29, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $3,299.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Build quality is excellent. Low noise at higher ISO settings. Excellent dynamic range. Full frame in a reasonably priced, lightweight, carryable camera. LCD screen is HUGE...much more usable than the 20D. Great battery life. AF is excellent.
Cons:
No A-DEP setting! (It was my favorite.) Slow frame-rate.

Awesome camera. Full-frame is a revelation: lenses I hardly ever used on the 1.6x crop camera are now my mainstays. I will be hanging on to this camera for quite some time.

 
Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

ef400mmf_56_1_
Review Date: Aug 10, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $850.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp as a razor, great color rendition, light enough to use handheld.
Cons:
A bit slow, but if you want a 400mm f4 you gotta pay a heck of a lot more for it.

This is the red-headed stepchild of long L lenses...people overlook it for the 100-400L. I almost did...but I found a hellaciously good deal on a barely-used 400 f5.6L and man, what a lens this is. Just tack sharp, as sharp as any lens I've used, with awesome colors and good contrast. I am amazed at how good this lens is for the price.

 

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