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  Reviews by: Steven Myatt  

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Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM

Review Date: Mar 3, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $460.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp wide open. Low vignetting. Low Flaring.
Huge size. Pricey. Bug-eyed onlookers.

After reading other reviews, I was expecting focusing problems on my Canon 40D. Wrong. One of the first pictures I took was the tip of a fence post at 3Ft (f1.4). Razor-sharp. In fact, I took this lens up to State College PA for the weekend and every single shot focused smack-on. 100% keeper rate. So much for focus problems.
I took night shots at f1.4 to test sharpness and low-light focus capabilities. Wow. Focus was again perfect and no other f1.4 lens I've ever had yielded better corner-to-corner sharpness.
During the day, I took pictures with the sun just out of the frame and the results were excellent. Lens hood? Who needs it?
I carefully looked at every picture I took over the weekend and each one was exceptional. Contrast, color, sharpness were all outstanding. In short, this is the kind of lens you want to leave on your camera all the time. The only drawback is that it's a prime lens so you sometimes have to do some moving to get the shot. The results are always worth it.
Some of the reviews here say their Nikon 50 beat out this lens in sharpness. Others say that it won't focus. They could be 100% correct. My copy of this lens didn't show these problems. My copy DESTROYS every 50mm lens I've ever used (Mamiya, Pentax, Canon) in sharpness (especially in the money-area of f1.4 to f2.8). My copy focuses perfectly every time... even when I whip the camera up and fire off a shot.
Because of the differences in reviews, the thought occurs to me that the initial offerings of this lens might have had quality control issues. I wonder if people who are now buying this lens are having experiences like mine. Time will tell.
Anyway, if you can put up with the size, the gaping stares of other people, and the price, this is a lens I highly recommend. If you buy the lens after this review is posted and you have "issues", I'm sure everyone would love to hear about it since it could answer questions about quality control vs. new product growing pains. For me though, this lens has NO "issues" and was worth every penny.

Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM

Review Date: Apr 5, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $360.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Lightweight. Small size. Excellent sharpness. Fast focus. Great in low light. Cost.
Purple fringing wide open on bright subjects.

I needed a lens to capture school events indoors. This lens is perfect for that mission. The first thing I did with this lens was test it out. Others have mentioned purple-fringing as a major problem with this lens. In the test shots I made, I did see a purple fringe around bright items (like snow piles on a dark driveway) at large aperture settings. As the lens is stopped down, the fringing disappears. By f5.6 it was gone. At this point, I'm seeing a razor-sharp, high-contrast, color-perfect, image. Wow.

In indoor situations (which is what this lens was bought for), purple fringing is not a problem. Outside, I stop the lens down a bit to get stunning images. This lens accomplishes its mission in spectacular fashion... and the cost was very reasonable. All in all, this is a hard lens to beat for the money.

Canon EOS 30D

Review Date: Dec 1, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Solid build, outstanding low-noise sensor, wide range of lenses available.
No anti-dust system. Some controls not-so-smart (care to print from the camera, anyone?).

It came down to the 30D or the Nikon D200. It was a no-brainer. Besides regular photography I needed a camera to hook up to my 12.5" telescope. Canon has the best low-noise sensors out there. Nikon wasn't going to cut it. I ordered the 30D.

I was up at Yosemite about 4 months ago and a person asked me to take a family picture for him using his Canon 350D. What a revelation! It felt like a plastic toy compared to the 30D. I felt a wave of satisfaction over my purchase.

I've had this camera about 8 months now and I haven't had any problems. I've done weddings, big-time travel photography, and astrophotography and the camera performs flawlessly. This camera is fast, the battery usage is low, and the pictures are awesome.

.... but there IS a fly in the ointment. No matter how careful you are, dust WILL land on the sensor and you WILL start to see dust bunnies in your picture. This is the single drawback to the camera. Fortunately, there is something you can do about it. After reading up on this problem on the internet, I found the best solution was to buy a Giottos Rocket Air Blower (large size) and use that to blast the dust off the sensor. Notice I said "blast." This is because the Rocket Blower sends out a stream of air that rivals what you get with "air in a can" products. The advantages are: you're not using a propellent that will freeze the chip when it hits it (the Rocket's air stream is room temperature), you're not using foreign chemicals of any kind in the air stream, you don't have to buy refills, and those dust bunnies are annihilated. Cost? ~10 bucks... and darn well worth it. Every now and then I give my 30D a few blasts from the rocket and the sensor stays squeeky-clean.

Tokina 19-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF 193

Review Date: Nov 29, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $124.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Price. Sharpness. Rugged construction.
Limited zoom range.

I already had a Sigma 24-70 EX DG but I wanted something a little wider. I saw this Tokina and figured for the money I couldn't go wrong. I was correct.
The first thing I did was test this lens against the Sigma (an extremely sharp lens). Very interesting results. Wide open, the image (at any focal length setting) is already sharp enough to use for most situations and it matched up well with the Sigma at the same f ratio. At f5.6 and f8, the image got very sharp and stayed that way till f11. At f16, diffraction effects started cutting in to the quality of the image and things started to soften up. At f22 it started turning VERY soft. One thing that's a little odd about this lens: the edge holds the same sharpness level as the center of the image (well, pretty darn close) at all f-stops. If the image gets soft, it's a uniform softness across the entire length. If the image is sharp (like at f5.6), it's the same degree of sharpness at the center as well as the edge. I like it.
Wide open, I could just barely spot purple-fringing with the lens wide-open (and the image expanded so you could look at individual pixels). At f5.6 and above this went away totally.
Focus speed is excellent on this lens and I've never had it hunt around.
So why is this puppy so cheaply priced? The plastic body is probably the answer. Still, it feels pretty good when mounted on my 30D and I've seen this lens take some abuse (like being dropped to a concrete floor) without being harmed.
All in all, this lens just can't be beat for the price. If only it had a wider zoom range....

Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 EX Aspherical DG DF

Review Date: Nov 29, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $389.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very sharp lens. Outstanding price. Excellent build.
Size & weight. Front focusing is a common problem with this lens.

I've read other reviews that complained about the "softness" of the lens wide-open. I've also seen reviews that identified performance at the 70mm setting as being "sub-standard." I've had the lens for about 8 months and I've never experienced these problems. So, to find out "what's what", I tested the lens against the Canon 50mm 1.8 II on a nice sunny day using my Canon 30D.
At f1.8 the Canon was terrible... no surprise. At f2.8 it sharpened up a bit... but was still inferior to the Sigma (at 50mm) wide open. At f4 the Sigma was still better and the image was becoming VERY sharp for both lenses. At f5.6 and beyond, it was hard to tell them apart. It appeared that both lenses were pushing the resolving limit of the 30D sensor.
I then checked out the performance at 24mm & 70mm. I didn't see much difference from the 50mm performance. At f2.8 the image was nice. At f5.6 to f11, the image was stunning.
This lens has great contrast & color and I've never seen signs of vignetting at any aperature. Focus speed is good and it never seems to hunt... even in low light. CAs are well controlled also. Others may not be pleased with their copy of the lens, but I'm totally satisfied.
The only problem I've had with this lens is the "front-focusing" issue. The first thing I did when I got the lens was test the focusing accurracy. Yep, my copy was focusing in front of the target. I sent the lens back to Sigma for calibration and I'm happy to say it came back in about a week AND it was fixed correctly. I think Sigma knows about this problem and knew exactly what to do to fix it.
Bottom line: For the money, this lens is VERY hard to beat. The optics are supurb (on my copy) and the build quality is very nice. The biggest problem I have with this lens is just that: it's big and it seems to draw attention when I walk around with it. Oh well, I can live with it.