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Canon EOS 20D

Review Date: Oct 6, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,100.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Good build quality, new features, new AF System etc etc. Shows a great deal of promise.
None so far except that Canon should not have released them without releasing the necessary extras such as battery grips at the same time. Forcing us to buy the "el cheapo" EF-S 18~55 lens by only having kits does not endear them to us and surely they could have got the right software released from scratch - They must have done some testing?

This camera is all it says it is. I have been using my 10D for well over a year now and the 10D has been a brilliant camera and workhorse par excellence. I now add the 20D to my bag and have the following comments on it.

Granted, the 8mp 20D should be a lot better than 6mp 10D but results using the same L lenses show this to be only slightly better (I have a very good 10D body - compared to some others I have heard of).

In all the time I've had it the 10D has never ever given me any grief. I have dragged it around 13 countries bouncing about in a 4x4. My 20D has locked up a 7 times already which necessitates the battery being removed and the whole thing restarted - the 10D never did this but the latest 20D software - Ver 1.0.5 - has fixed that but it should have been right from the start. The latest software Ver 1.1.0 brings everything up to scratch.

The 20D feels very badly balanced with heavy L lenses without a battery grip. I now have the BG-E2 and what a difference it makes - the camera now has a perfect feel to it. I personally believe that with a bit more weight with the battery grip attached all people with big hands will benefit from this addition. Canon could have made the 20D and the 10D the same size - that way the grips could have been interchangeable.

Of interest to South African buyers:
A very big point to make - as regards extra system components Canon South Africa are lousy and Canon Europe are to blame! As of now it is still impossible to buy the 20D body only! I suppose people loyal to the brand must pay for "cheapo el crappo" 18~55 kit lenses to prove this point. BUT, VERY MUCH TO THE SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICES CREDIT - YOU CAN WALK IN TO THE SERVICE CENTRE HERE AND GET IMMEDIATE AND EXCELLENT HELP. GREAT STUFF.

The camera deserves its top rating. All features claimed work and control is easier than the 10D. I believe the new focusing system is better and start-up time is great. The toggle switch is a big improvement, AF seems faster, the smaller size and less weight will suit many people, low noise is a feature, and I believe basic in camera settings are improved.

Would I buy again - YES, DEFINITELY - rating 4.75/5.

Updated: 21/10/2004, 4/11, 7/11, 11/11, 18/11, 28/11, 5/12, 30/12

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

Review Date: Sep 8, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $800.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Good reports in FM reviews made for buying decision. Very sharp, build quality excellent, internal focusing,
No lens hood or bag provided. That's stingy Canon.

Every bit as good as the reviews say it is. The AF on my copy is quite fast, I expected much slower having read previous reviews so I am satisfied with this.

The build quality seems to be more in line with an "L" instead of standard Canon quality and what shots I have tried have been very sharp. As with any macro lens there is a "getting used to it learning curve" but I am more than satisfied on initial testing. It seems a 10D & 20D "friendly" lens.

Also, very sharp portrait lens. Impressive at all levels.

Canon Speedlite 550EX TTL

Review Date: Aug 22, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $380.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Powerful, easy to use, decently presented, understandable manual - needs a lot of reading.
Some buttons too small for large hands and fingers. Price.

So far so good - I don't need a flash that often but I need one that works well when I do. So far, this unit meets more than my expectations in every respect. The features offered suit my uses and more so I am more than happy with it. I am using it most often with the 28~300L IS USM lens and the height of the flash is great for use with this lens throughout the zoom range. I have noticed negative comment regarding build, size and the battery door - to me the build is good, the size necessary for the lenses I use, and as regards the battery door, let's wait and see.

Being used with a 10D and a 20D when it arrives.

Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM

Review Date: Aug 14, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,500.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: IS, close focusing distance, good AF - fast, 28~300 gives you lots of flexibility, 77mm filters, removable tripod ring, definitely an "L". Came with lens hood, decent bag etc.
Issues - lens hood, AF maybe, repeat maybe, not as good as 100~400 in bad light for some reason. Mad price compared to 100~400 version.

Another good lens for shooting in AFRICA'S GAME PARKS where you are not allowed out of your vehicle.

I am totally sold on Canon IS - I will not buy any tele-lens without it. By having the 28~300L IS USM on my 10D and the 100~400L IS USM with 1.4 x II tele-converter on my 20D I am set up for all my wildlife needs with only 2 lenses and 2 cameras. This is the way to go - no abrasive African dust and dirt gets picked up changing lenses, no bag full of primes weighing a ton to cart about. With the 10/20D's 1.6 factor you have a wildlife set-up of your dreams. 99% of game shots are zoom, not prime lens material. Wild animals do not wait around to pose for you.

Back to the merits of this lens:
1. Mine is sharp except when wide open at 28mm when its far better used with the highest possible f-stop - its good at f8-f11 up. This does not bug me as I would normally only use it from about 40-50mm up.
2. AF is fast although I have had it hunt once or twice in very bad light
3. The push pull is something I definitely LIKE and both my lenses work the same way. Neither of these lenses have a dust problem.
4. IS is really good on this lens
5. The tripod ring can be removed without taking the lens off the camera (unlike the 100~400) - it will also fit the 100~400 at a pinch if needed
6. Excellent build quality all round - really excellent
7. What we all expect from an "L"
8. Protection against the elements provided
9. Close focusing distance throughout zoom range - under 3ft. This is a very big plus

Possible de-merits:
1. The lens hood seems useless for optimum performance at full zoom but only time will tell in this regard. If you have the 100~400 lens as well you can interchange lens hoods.
2. Below 40mm you need to to use higher f-stops to get best results so your brain needs to be engaged.
3. I was worried about "poor light" performance levels and some testing was needed. Update this point: Not a problem now that I have learned to use it to its best.

All in all, a good addition to any wildlife bag alongside the 100~400L IS USM and 1.4x II tele-converter.

There is a learning curve with this lens - the more you experiment with it and get to know it the better the results will be. Its not just a case of point and shoot.

PEOPLE moan about WEIGHT (surely you checked before you bought), PUSH/PULL zoom (I like it), DUST (who has owned one long enough to come out with this BS), and also they say its not as sharp as PRIMES. It may well be as sharp as many primes.


Just remember to switch your vehicle engine OFF - the IS does not like it RUNNING in my 4x4.

This is a special purpose lens and if it suits your needs - buy it. If you are looking for a walkabout lens then it is not for you - just too heavy. By speacial purpose I mean working from 4x4's, helicopters, aircraft and the like. This is when it really shines.

Canon Extender EF 1.4x II

Review Date: Jun 12, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $300.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very good image quality - I am most happy with this. WELL WORTH BUYING.
Expensive item but you get what you pay for.

My review is based on Canon 10D + 100~400L lens. I have not tried it with any other lens.

I am very "anti-extender" so I might be forgiven for trying to find fault any way I can. With my 100~400L IS USM lens it works very well and the IS handles it well at full zoom. AF is automatically disabled with the stated lens so don't expect it - the only negative. It feels as though it belongs with this lens. At time of writing I have only tried it in disgusting light and it has come through this small test like a very good thing.

Kruger Park results - 10D (1.6) + 100~400 + 1.4 X II = a 224~896mm lens which is still hand holdable by strong people - that's dammed good going by any glass. No drop off in image quality was noticed, if there is it's not really noticeable. This is an essential for the wildlife photographer.

It would be a big plus not to lose AF with the 100~400L lens, there must be some way for Canon to address this without user resorting to taping contacts which may cause other serious problems long term.

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

Review Date: May 21, 2004 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 2 

Pros: 28~135 is a very useful range, IS is a big issue with me - I like it very much (when it works well), flexibility, light, controls are convenient.
Very much a plastic offer, feels rather sloppily built at 135, nowhere near L class, no bag or lens hood makes for a bad image from the start. Not even an instruction book in my box. Lens zoom creeps and wobbles about.

Bought sight unseen on the recommendation of my Canon Dealer - HE HAS NOW EATEN HIS WORDS. To get any semi-decent results with a 10D it is essential to use the lens with the camera being in Program as opposed to Auto mode. The AF does not work nearly as well in AUTO mode and unless you take great care the focus will will be out.

I have replaced it with the 28~300L IS USM and what a difference - the 28~300 is very expensive but worth it. I just could not tolerate the lack of sharpness

IS is the only plus but the glass is so bad in the 28~135 why even bother to make it IS and give IS a bad name. BAD IS BAD. IF I COULD RATE IT WORSE I WOULD. UNUSEABLE!!!!!! RATING ZERO.

Don't think I only buy L lenses to be otherwise. The Canon 100mm f2.8 Macro shows that Canon can make non-L lenses of excellent quality. In my opinion this is not one of them.

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

Review Date: May 4, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,500.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: IS, sharpness, flexibility 100~400mm - 160~640mm with a 10D/20D, ease of use. I like the push/pull zoom. Came with lens hood and decent case, tremendous ability in low light conditions - maybe the IS is worth between 1 and 2 f-stops, good feel in the hand, 77mm filter size is convenient. Easy on batteries. Price effective.
No AF with 1.4x II tele-convertor.

I rate it the BEST LENS currently made for photographing wildlife from a car or 4x4 in AFRICA'S GAME PARKS where leaving a vehicle is not permitted.

Incredibly good when hand held even at 640mm equivelent with Canon 10D or 20D. Sharp, clear images with true colour. By changing ISO rating I can use this lens in the very worst of light. I don't believe people who say the push/pull zoom is an issue or that dust is a problem - it might be if you do not look after your gear but assuming you do I don't see any problem. The lens is heavy but does not give a heavy feel when using it - on the contrary it feels lighter than it is and well balanced on a 10D or 20D with extra battery grip. This lens is particularly suited to people who lack a bit of steadiness like myself (injury) or plain old age.

The flexibility required makes using primes under these conditions a no-no unless you have lots of bodies (there is too much dust and you get no time to change lenses when photographing wildlife), not to mention lots of money also.

If I only had one lens this would be it. I cannot recommend it highly enough, GET YOURS NOW before Canon decide the price is too low!!!! Having tested this lens from a vehicle and on foot there is really no need for the tripod mount - mine has been removed permanently and stored away. This lens seems to be an oddity in the L range - very reasonably priced. SUPERB LENS - MY BEST BUY RATING - IT'S SO GOOD IT IS ALMOST UNBELIEVEABLE. It also works very well with my 1.4x II tele-convertor with bird shots with no apparent loss of sharpness.

Took lens to Kruger Park - used on birds and game. I have now decided to use this lens with the 1.4x II converter and this makes it an effective 224~896 lens with a 10D or 20D. A 2nd camera with a 28~300L IS lens (see my review) gives an effective total range from 44-896 on just 2 bodies with 2 lenses which means you never need miss a shot, keeps the dust out of lens changing and you then have the best of everything.

Wildlife does not pose and is difficult at best so this combination should prove ideal. The only improvement I would like would be to have AF with the 1.4x II tele-converter when used with this lens. Canon should change this. There is a way to overcome this by taping contacts, I will not do this.

PEOPLE moan about WEIGHT, and also say its not as sharp as PRIMES but FLEXIBILITY is what is needed for WILDLIFE and GOOD SHARP ZOOMS are the ONLY SOLUTION. Just remember to switch your vehicles engine OFF before you shoot. The IS does not like it RUNNING.

Canon EOS 10D

Review Date: Jan 10, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,400.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Build, features, ease of use, well laid out menu's, controls are functional for big hands also, wide range of accessories, battery pack, remotes, car charges etc. I have had no problems and the fact that I can switch lenses from my EOS30 and back is a plus also. International warranty. Mine gives me the perfect platform for both Canon and Sigma EX lenses I use for Wildlife photography and the low light capability makes shooting at waterholes very easy in low light situations.
I find the viewfinder difficult as I wear glasses. The eyepiece extender - sold as an extra - is "worse than sh---y" - Canon should sort this out.

Go and get yours now!

Revised after 12 months use (07/09/2004):

I am particularly pleased with the cameras performance under all light conditions. Battery life is great, really impressive.

Happiness is a 10D with a 100~400 IS USM L Lens. Add a 1.4 x II Extender for this lens also. Added a 28~300 L IS USM lens to go with it. This camera has now travelled many miles, seen 13 countries and been well used in Africa's dust and heat banging about in a 4x4. It has paid for itself in terms of film saved. It is robust in the extreme, image quality is excellent with Canon "L" lenses and Sigma "EX's" but standard Canon lenses like the 28~135 (really rotten lens) are to be avoided like the plague with this camera - buy the "L's" and "EX's" only - they are worth every penny even though they hurt the bank balance. The in-built flash is a waste of time - buy a decent flash to go with it - 550EX works well for me. The 10D experience has been nothing short of excellent in every respect.

The 10D is now selling at bargain prices - you cannot go wrong by buying them even though they are theoretically obsolete. The quality of prints obtained means you can blow up to 64 x 48cm or even bigger quite comfortably with excellent results.

I was going to buy another 10D but the 20D is available to me next week so I will buy that.

Bought the 20D and the 10D stays no matter what. The 10D is a well proven workhorse of the highest standard, no matter the hype over anything else.

Sigma 50-500mm f4-6.3 EX APO RF HSM

Review Date: Jan 10, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $825.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Used with a Canon 10D and EOS30. Sharp as a razor - magic! This lens gives the flexibility needed for Africa's Game Parks being an 80~800 lens effectively with the EOS10D. Smooth fast AF, well built and rugged. The wide range means fewer lens changes and less dirt and dust floating around. For best results a decent tripod is needed and the Canon Remote RS-80N3 is a must to resolve any camera shake at all. Zoom and Focus rings are smooth, well situated and easy to use. Not too heavy for a lens in this class. With the 10D use manual settings for the best results, don't just point and shoot.
EX Filter price. Tripod is essential so be prepared to carry weight.

Update 1: One thing I have found is that you must use a tripod and the remote cable with the 10D or you will get some camera shake at full zoom.
Update 2: Using it with the 2x EX Extender it only works from about 100mm + and MF only. Use 10D mirror lock and remote also to resolve any shaking.
Update 3: Tested against the Canon 100~400L IS USM on tripods. The Canon and this lens perform equally well as regards sharpness. But you have to use a tripod for best results with this lens. The Canon wins hands down due to IS when not on a tripod.

Make no bones about it - if Sigma can fit IS to this specific lens it will be an all time keeper!!

I am selling it to put towards other gear I need and the only reason is because it is non-IS.

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

Review Date: Jan 10, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $650.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very sharp results with my 10D, little bit bulky and EX Filters from Sigma are expensive, but a very good all round lens. The zoom ring on mine is very slightly tight at the short end but this does not bug me. Lens hood supplied with case, finish and build quality very good. A very useful all round lens which should please everyone.
EX Filter price.

I had read some negative reports but still bought the lens - I'm glad I did!!!! I believe Sigma have got their price right as well as the quality. Very impressed so far. Picture quality & sharpness excellent

1st Update:
I have upgraded it from 4/5 to 5/5 - on the basis of its price and sharpness.
2nd Update:
After 9 months of quite heavy use I can only say it keeps growing on you. Really nice lens with both the 10D and EOS30 Date. This lens is worth every penny and I am of the opinion it should be rated higher than it is.

Comment: I bought it a Sigma EX UV Filter - it cost a s--thouse full of money but well worth it. Beware of crappy UV's which downgrade the lens and sharpness.

Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX APO IF HSM

Review Date: Jan 10, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Fast AF, sharp at f2.8, when used with an EOS10D it is excellent, tripod mount works for me, decent hood supplied and decent case, equivelent to 112~320 with the 10D and ideal for early morning, late evening game photography. Not overly heavy. Build quality excellent and all components work smoothly.
None so far.

This lens is one of the best around in its class - I don't believe its necessary to look further.

I sold mine to get the Canon 28~300L IS USM lens which was more suited to my specific needs and the fact I wanted IS nd more versatility.