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  Reviews by: Wil Fry  

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Canon EOS Rebel XT (350D)

Review Date: Nov 19, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $900.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Image quality, ISO performance, perfect entry-level dSLR
small LCD, slow burst rate

The way the price has come down on the XT, it's now a perfect buy -- $500 or less for brand new versions. When I paid $900 for it two years ago, it was worth it.

With few disadvantages, and tons of advantages, this can be the best camera for a first-time SLR user.

Despite the oft-bashed plastic exterior, mine was dropped more than once onto hard surfaces and lived to shoot another day. I had over 40,000 exposures on it before I upgraded and gave this one to my wife. (She's now added about 3,000 more exposures.)

Yes, it could have had a better metering system, I hated that mine was silver (when I bought it, I didn't know there was a choice of black!), and the lens included in the kit wasn't all I'd wished for, but overall owning the XT was a wonderful experience.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM

Review Date: Nov 19, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,109.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Fast AF, Sharp images, great bokeh
Price, Color (off-white)

I shoot mainly sports, and so purchased this lens -- every other Canon sports shooter seemed to have it, or something even more expensive.

For softball and baseball in the daytime, this lens has superb sharpness, but isn't quite long enough. I find myself using the 2x teleconverter relatively often.

For basketball (indoors) and football (night), f/2.8 isn't quite wide enough at the rural schools where I shoot, so I tend to switch over to the 85mm f/1.8.

I didn't need IS, since that's meant to help with hand-shake, not stopping the blur of a moving athlete. In my tests, IS didn't make a any difference at shutter speeds faster than 1/200, which I need for sports anyway.

The main drawback for me was the price, since the f/4 version of this lens was about $400 less. I'm not sure why one stop should be worth that much money. Another drawback is that I have front-focus and back-focus issues in low light with a distant subject (on the 400D).

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

Review Date: Nov 19, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $309.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Fast AF, Extreme sharpness, Low cost, Great bokeh
No hood

This is the sharpest lens I've used on my Canon Rebel XTi. It's regularly produced crisper images than the 50mm f/1.2, and sharper than the 70-200mm f/2.8L.

For portraits, I haven't found anything better. The 85mm f/1.8 gives great "bokeh," focuses quickly and quietly, and the colors and contrasts of each photo are dead-on.

My only complaint is that it doesn't come with a hood, and the one you can buy for it isn't that great (flimsy, ugly). I'm not sure why Canon can't include their hoods like Sigma does.

For just over $300 (brand new), I haven't found anything in this category that's better.

Sigma 18-125mm F3.5-5.6 DC

Review Date: Nov 19, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $375.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Fast AF, Zoom range, Sharpness on long end
Loud AF, softness on wide end

I was surprised to see some of the negative reviews of this lens, but then realized people were comparing it to "L" lenses. It's not an L lens, but it's been extremely useful to me, and gives a lot of bang for the buck.

It's extremely sharp at the long end (rivaling the most expensive zooms around), and not as soft on the wide end as some would have you believe. At the wide end (18-35mm), its level of sharpness would compare to Canon's EF-S 18-55mm "kit lens" which isn't ideal, but still not horrible.

There are days when this lens will stay on my camera all day, mostly due to the excellent zoom range -- 18mm is wide enough for just about anything, while 125mm is long enough for most uses. No changing lenses here.

Focus: It doesn't have USM or Sigma's "HSM" equivalent, but it's about as fast as you can get without those extra motors. I use the lens for basketball shots (with flash), and it focuses quickly and accurately. Yes, it's loud, but that doesn't mean it's slow.

Softness: When using this lens wider than 35mm or so, it's still sharp, but only if your subject is relatively close. Farther away than 10 feet or so, the lens seems to hunt for focus at times, but will take the shot anyway. This accounts for the "softness" at wide angles -- it's actually just the lens being slightly out of focus, in my opinion (because it's really sharp if the subject is up close).

Bokeh: At the long end (80-125mm), this lens can produce great bokeh (out-of-focus circles in the background), depending on subject.