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Nikon 35mm f/1.4G AF-S NIKKOR

product_01_copy
Review Date: Apr 11, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,800.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: finally a 35/1.4 nikkor with AF (!); sharp wide open; superb from f2.0 onward; nice bokeh
Cons:
prominent CAs/no ED elements; slow focusing; strange-sounding AF {'zoink-ssshhhh'}; expensive

the ability to have an autofocusing 35/1.4 in F-mount is - probably in part due to nikon's long-standing neglect of this focal length - simply provocative for those of us who love the 35mm FOV and razor-thin DOF. in time, sigma et al might jump on this trending focal length - but for now, this is it if you want AF with your fast, sharp, nikon-mount 35mm prime.

to be purely objective, i feel like julie andrews doing pinwheels in a field in salzburg. sans dirndl. this lens offers (mostly) very fine optics. center sharpness matches that of (and the edges surpass those of) my beloved canon 35L. the build is reassuring; the lens is weather-sealed, and i've experienced no problems after taking my D700 + 35/1.4G out in several (freezing) chicago drizzles.

that said, the lens isn't without its shortcomings. (please take into account when reading the following bullets that, having tried and owned only one example of this lens, my observations are more or less specific to the combination of my* 35/1.4G on my* D700. additionally, my main point of reference when judging the 35/1.4G is the only other fast, sharp, professional-grade, autofocusing 35/1.4 that i have used extensively - the 35L.) ...

-- AF is slow. significantly slower than the 35L; but to be fair, significantly faster than the 35/1.4 AI-S Wink
-- AF on my copy isn't as erratic it has been portrayed by some online reviewers, but i do notice that it clearly misses the intended plane of focus more often that i would prefer, and more often than i would honestly attribute to operator error.
-- when autofocusing, the lens makes what i can only describe as a scratchy 'zoink-ssshhhh' sort of noise. though i have been informed by other owners that this is normal for the 35/1.4G, this constellation of somewhat unnerving AF sounds was not present on my AF-S 50/1.4G. fwiw.
-- green/purple fringing is significant. to each his own concerning the extent to which this will be bothersome (and to be fair, all fast wides will exhibit CAs), but i find myself often taking the extra step of converting RAW>TIFF with view nx2 (instead of doing everything with an adobe product), simply because only the nikon software seems to be able to 'handle' it. (did nikon specifically leave out the ED elements because their software could tame the fringing? not being an engineer, i can only guess at why the 24G got ED elements and the 35/1.4G didn't.)
-- for $1800USD, i would like to have seen (again) some ED glass in this lens, as well as a quicker/quieter implementation of AF-S.

that said, as an enthusiast, i'm very satisfied with my 35/1.4's performance, and am thrilled to have a nikon-mount answer to the canon 35L.


 
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor

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Review Date: Jan 21, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $430.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: sharp from 2.8 on; good build quality; weather sealed; nice bokeh; not terribly expensive
Cons:
softish wide open; lower contrast wide open; slowish AF

i'll keep this as short as possible:

positives --the build quality is solid. the weather sealing is also nice to have, especially when using it with a weather sealed body like the D700. it doesn't break the bank. it's sharp from f2.8 onward (which is also a negative, incidentally). it's small and helps keep your rig relatively compact. it's OEM gear.

negatives -- the AF-S is slower than i had hoped; canon's ring USM (though the canon 50/1.4 doesn't have it) is a bit faster. the lens is (just like the canon 50/1.4) soft wide open, with low contrast. for me, f2.0 is the widest that i can shoot with this lens and get acceptably sharp images. 1.4 is only used if critical sharpness isn't necessary.

the main advantages of this lens to me, over the 1.8 version, are the build quality and weather sealing. both the 1.8 and 1.4 versions have to be stopped down to ~f2.8 to get critically sharp images, which is a shame, because the 1.4 costs nearly 4x what the 1.8 does. the AF-S drive is quieter than the 1.8's, but it's not faster (imo).

i'll keep this lens in my kit, but i welcome the day when the manufacturers finally create a 50/1.4 that is actually sharp wide open and has a snappy/accurate AF motor.


 
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

ef50mmf_14usm_1_
Review Date: Aug 11, 2010 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: relatively inexpensive. smaller and less assuming than, say, a larger zoom. great light-gathering capabilities.
Cons:
very soft and low in contrast at f1.4. grindy sort of feel to manual focusing ring. no better image quality than an L zoom.

To cut to the chase: I was disappointed by how this lens performed on my 5D2. This lens might technically allow you to shoot in lower light than with a zoom, but the IQ was for me unacceptable until f2.8 or higher, which partially negates the purpose of buying a fast prime in the first place. Micro AF adjust did very little to clean up the IQ, and I have no reason to believe that I purchased a bum copy.

As it is, the only advantage that I can see to owning this lens for FF body users is its size. It can't keep up with modern high-MP FF sensors. Yes, the price is fairly attractive, but I had just hoped for more in the IQ department.

Build quality was decent, but the focus ring felt a bit like I was grinding little plastic gears (which is probably what you are in effect doing) when I tried to focus manually. This was not reassuring, but not a deal breaker either. For $345, I don't expect 35L/85L/135L fit and finish.

Considering it's poor performance wide open, which is the main purpose for owning an f1.4 lens, and the fact that modern canon zooms are producing comparable or better IQ at f2.8 and above, I am returning this lens after a few days of controlled-environment and real world use.


 
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

ef_24-70_28u_1_
Review Date: Aug 29, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: F2.8 for low light, very fast af, really is built like a tank, nice general zoom range, IQ is near the top end of what general zooms can do, peace of mind that it will work with all of my canon gear and future bodies (as opposed to 3rd party) - don't underestimate that last part
Cons:
price is maybe 150 above what it should be for something that really isn't able to take advantage of the new high-resolution 21MP sensors, heavy piece of kit to lug around (although i'll happily 'suffer' this in the name of photography), it really is a long lens when one considers the hood, hood takes up inordinate amount of space in the bag (nitpicking now)

just bought this lens recently, and have been putting it through its paces. i'll make this brief:

+
very nicely put together.
very useful range. versatile.
very useful max aperture.
very fast af, if at times inconsistent.
can replace the non-L 24mm prime, 28mm prime, 35mm prime, 50mm prime, and nonexistent 70mm prime. (from f2.8 up, that is.)...and all focal lengths in between.

-
in europe, price might be just a tad high for something that is due for an upgrade in the next couple of years.
af sometimes not exactly on the focal plane you want. (from tripod testing with MLU and cable release.)
some might find 70mm a tad short for portraiture, but you know the focal range before you buy, right?

fazit: no lens is perfect. this lens is in my experience sharper than the 24-105, but it lacks IS and the extra reach. it's expensive, and for many, the tamron 28-75 has comparable IQ in a much less pricey package. you have to ask yourself, if the build quality, af speed and future compatability with all canon gear is worth the extra money. if you don't mind shelling out the dough, this is the sharpest general zoom canon makes. for many (especially those that make their living with the 24-70L), it's worth every penny. couple this with a 70-200 2.8L and you're set to take on the photographic world.


 
Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM

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Review Date: Mar 25, 2009 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 6 

Pros: nice build quality, very sharp when it hits focus, not terribly expensive for the potential IQ it might be able to offer, includes a hood, mounts nice and tightly to canon bodies...
Cons:
back focusing AND front focusing, 60% throwaway rate because of inaccurate focusing, strange finish, which could either come off as trendy - or cheap. i am selling this at first chance.

i'll keep this short:

i own the 35L, and know how to shoot a standard focal length at f1.4 -- my copy of this lens is utterly unreliable at focusing, even at f7.

to be fair, it's stunning when it does focus correctly, and the build quality is very reassuring. (the finish is a little... 'hokey,' though.)

unfortunately, because i can't rely on getting the focus i want for any given shot with this lens, and i don't have this problem with any of my other wide primes, and this lens already has a widespread reputation for sample variation, it's going back and will not be replaced.

i'll stick to oem primes from now on. (dear canon: please update the 50 1.4.)

=/


 
Canon EOS 5D Mark II

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Review Date: Jan 17, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,700.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: IQ of the 1DsIII for $2700. modern features. micro af adjustments. high-iso capabilities. micro af adjustments.
Cons:
af not improved over the 5D. sad little cluster of af points at the center of the screen. not weather sealed like the cheaper nikons.

fantastic camera for the price.

canon had to cripple it a bit so as not to take sales away from their 1-series'. fps, build, af-points, af-module, weather sealing, squashy-feeling buttons.

that said, it's astounding that we have such resolution at such a low price.

micro af adjust is a great feature, as is the new menu system.

very much recommended, but not perfect. (9 rating)


 
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

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Review Date: Jan 17, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $350.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: light. sharp. well built. great price. nice FL for portraits.
Cons:
slightly soft at 1.8, but what do you expect for $350?

this is a fine portrait lens. for people who don't need the 1.2 of the 85L (which is most of us), spending 1/6 the price on a nonetheless very sharp prime is a no-brainer.

the build quality is very solid, and the IQ this lens offers even holds up when used on the unforgiving 5DMk2.

not much else to say, besides, if you want a high-quality portrait lens, and the 135L is too long for your purposes, you might want to give this lens a long look.

cheers.


 
Canon Deluxe Backpack 200 EG

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Review Date: Jan 17, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $79.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: lots of room for a simple location shoot or a vacation. lots of extra room for cables, chargers, snickers bars and such. good build quality. relatively low price.
Cons:
no weather sealing or built-in rain poncho. no secondary securing of the front flap so that your gear doesn't fall out in case of a zipper failure.

with this backpack, i can comfortably carry a 40D, 5D2 with 35L attached, 3 extra (short) lenses w/ hoods reversed, and all the accessories (cards, chargers, etc.) that i would need for the bodies.

it seems to be well-made, and it's padded on all sides.

for a simple vacation pack (minus tripod), or for a hiking trip, this is a nice backpack.

i recommend it.


 
Canon EOS 40D

40d
Review Date: Aug 24, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: build quality is nice; ergonomics much better than the drebel series; coupled with a quality lens, the combo lends a good amount of heft to quell a shaky shooting hand (think steadicam); feature-packed; fast continuous shooting great for moving targets; long shutter life almost garantees that an anthusiast will trade up before the camera wears out; IQ from this camera is potentially on par with the 5D -- the DOF however isn't...
Cons:
with 1.4 primes, the camera gets rather confused and doesn't hit the correct focus plane as much as i would want -- i'm not looking for perfection in an 800 body, but a 40% miss rate in tripod tests is discouraging; no micro-AF adjust; the 9-AF points aren't at all useful for vertical shooting; spot metering is 3%, not 1%;

firstly, i am very happy with this camera, AF issues with ultra fast primes aside. for 800, you get quite a bit of camera for your money.

to put this into perspective, i paid 800 for a 350D in 2005. that an enthusiast can get such a well-built, feature-packed, ergonomically-correct camera for the same price a mere three years later, is very encouraging when one considers the future.

it is a prosumer camera, so it's not without its foibles, crippled sections of firmware (micro AF adjust?), and the auto focus points/lock problems. the camera will not be everything to everyone, especially for people who have tried higher end equipment, or like me, own a 5D (or something "better", for lack of more fitting terminology).

this will most likely be my last 1.6 crop body, as full frame prosumer offerings will themselves only become more and more accessible to enthusiasts, and cheaper and cheaper as well. even so, this is the best 1.6 body that i've shot with/owned, and i can imagine that the announced 50D, with it's micro adjust, ISO increase, MP increase, and other improvements will - as has rightly happened with the 40D - become very popular.

cheers.


 
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM

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Review Date: Aug 11, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,080.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: build quality, sharpness from F2.0 on up, bokeh at F1.4
Cons:
price a bit high for an aging lens that is due for an update, soft at F1.4, small amount of play in the focusing ring

this lens is very well built, although it has a slight bit of play in the focusing ring. it is also very sharp, as long as you keep it above F2.0. the bokeh is delicious, but not really much different than a F1.8 lens.

additionally, this is a 12 year old design, is soft at 1.4, and as such should be around $800 for what it offers.

is it worth over 3 times what the 2.0 version is? if you need the build quality, sure. if you're not going into battle with this lens, then the 2.0 would probably fit the bill as well.

will i keep it, though? certainly.


 
Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM

efs60_28macro_usm
Review Date: Nov 12, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: extremely sharp as both a macro and a portrait lens. this is in line with the MTF charts found at canon's website, which show that the 60mm is right up there with the 135L in terms of resolution. build quality is nice (surprisingly heavy for as small as it is).
Cons:
because it's EF-S, it gets much less respect than it deserves. even though the lens is 400 dollars, it doesn't come with a lens hood (which is a necessary piece of kit). come on, canon; include hoods with all but your cheapo lenses. can hunt a bit in low light, but the use of a speedlight AF assist light (or st-e2 unit) takes care of that problem.

this lens is an extremely sharp piece of glass. my macro shots have such astonishing clarity and detail, and the portraits that this lens produces (when shot correctly) always have to be "photoshopped down," because the 60mm will resolve all of the blemishes in a person's skin. for a sharpness comparison, check out the MTF charts for the 60mm 2.8 macro and 135L at:

http://consumer.usa.canon.com/ir/controller?act=ModelDetailAct&fcategoryid=155&modelid=11156

and

http://consumer.usa.canon.com/ir/controller?act=ModelDetailAct&fcategoryid=153&modelid=7312

gear snobs seem to enjoy trashing the EF-S line of lenses - and among other things, claiming that EF-S is a bad investment (while in reality, unless your camera gear is bringing in revenue, NONE of it is an investment...rather just a hobby expense), or that EF-S is going to be phased out in the near future; the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of canon DSLR owners use 1.6 bodies, and will continue to do so until FF can compete pricewise with the 1.6 line. consider these coments in a recent online forum by canon guru bob atkins ( homepage: www.bobatkins.com):

"(1) It will be a long time - 3 years or more - before we see a full frame sensor camera selling for $2000

(2) Canon won't be phasing out the 1.6x sensor in their consumer (Rebel) line anytime in the forseeable future.

(3) There are (and will probably always be) more 1.6x bodies out there than anything else.

So there's absolutely no danger of EF-S lenses (or the demand for EF-S lenses) going away within the next, say, 10 years..."

(more interesting reading on the topic at: http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/digital/canon_questions_eos30d.html)

i opted for this lens over a 50mm 1.4, because it proved to be sharper than the 50, and i got macro as an added bonus. cheers!


 
Canon Speedlite 550EX TTL

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Review Date: Sep 26, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $294.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: strong for a flash. still a better value than a 580ex for non-pros.
Cons:
all canon hotshoe flashes are exorbitantly priced for the performance rendered. you can buy alien bees and a softbox for the same price as a single speedlight.

if you're looking to use canon speedlights for a studio setup, this is a powerful unit, and a better value than the 580ex, if you don't need the faster recycle times (and most hobbyists and enthusiasts don't). the manual settings will prove very useful as your knowledge of flash and wireless setups grows.

as far as build quality goes; i accidentally kicked mine down a brick street during a photo marathon last weekend, and the unit sustained no damage outside of some small scratches. i still don't recommend trying this yourself, as these things are only plastic, mind you.

if you're looking for a 420ex or a 580ex, i would strongly suggest that you get a 550ex instead. the 420ex lacks manual controls and that additional kick of power, and the 580ex is just astronomically priced for the small perks it offers over the 550ex.

happy shooting...
abam


 
Canon Speedlite 420EX TTL

CA420EXU_1_
Review Date: Sep 13, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: i can only speak from my own experience. the 420ex works great in a 550ex/420ex/ST-E2/softboxes setup. with the ability to set FEC in the camera with canon's A digital bodies, and the ST-E2's ability to set ratios, you still get quite a bit of control over your 420ex's output. people sometimes bemoan the lack of manual controls; in complicated lighting situations they might have a point, but pertaining to most users (one and two flash setups) i'd worry more about light forming techniques (placement, ambient light, white balance of all contributing light sources, softboxes/umbrellas/bounce cards) than the shortcomings of the 420ex itself. bounce capabilities are nice, works well with a sto-fen indoors (or gels to throw some color onto a background wall or scene behind the subject.
Cons:
no manual controls for as expensive as it is (at least 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8 power settings would have been neato), although many problems with the 420ex can be overcome now that FEC is included in all of canon's digital cameras (now that the 300d has been retired). this was still a 200+ euro flash (unfortunately i bought it just before the 430ex came out and the 420's price was discounted. at least i could cash in on the 50 euro rebate:)). for 200 euros, you can get alien bees. the canon flash prices are rather high for what you get. i recommend this flash only for those either needing a slave to complement their current flash setup, when a 550ex or 580ex are out of the question, or for the casual shooter that's looking to expand into fill flash.

reliable little slave flash in a wireless canon system. beefy enough for bounce flash indoors (smaller rooms). ok value, but consider the 550ex if you can swing it. (yes, the 580ex is out, but it's price isn't justified for non-professionals. the 550ex is more than enough for advanced enthusiasts).

happy shooting...abam


 
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8

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Review Date: Jun 6, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: very sharp. very fast. very cheap.
Cons:
you'll want to be fairly careful with this lens. some even rattle, which is interesting for something made from plastic.

this is one of canon's sharpest lenses, according to photodo.com. based on my results in the real world, i can believe that.

on my 1.6 crop sensor, the effective focal length is 80mm, which is ideal for sharp, close-quarters portraits.

the build quality is not terribly inspiring, but then again, i am very careful with my gear and generally shoot night scenes; so this is not an issue. for those like me who shoot in semi-controlled environments, the build quality will do just fine. if you are an ice-climber or a photojournalist in monsoon country, you'll probably be better off skipping this lens.

for around 70 bucks at an online store, you can buy into the potential for truly high quality images. the price also means that you can skip buying a protective filter for this lens. without an extra, image-diminishing piece of glass in front of your lens, you'll get the full potential of the 50mm/80mm prime; and if it breaks or eventually gets scratched, just buy another one for a few bucks more than a good filter would have cost!


 
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM

ef70_200_4_1_
Review Date: May 5, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: bang for the buck. this lens does perform. very sharp, and great saturated colors. the short end is nice for portraits, and the long end is wonderful for getting people shots without disturbing the candid nature of the scene.
Cons:
tripod collar is absurdly priced. with F4, you will find yourself mounting this lens on a tripod. the lens is smaller than the IS or 2.8 versions, but it's still large enough to warrant the collar. the tripod collar adds 20 percent to the price of the lens! ...no weather sealing.

doesn't get a 10 because of a couple of issues...

1) the tripod collar. on a 1.6 field of view crop factor sensor, this lens is a little too long (and slow with F4) to get really sharp images if it's anything but sunny outside. thus, a tripod or monopod come into play. the lens is also a little bit too large to hang on a 350D for an extended amount of time if the whole rig is connected to the tri/monopod by the camera body's own tripod socket. thus (for me) the tripod collar becomes important to distribute the weight of the entire setup evenly when mounted to a tri/monopod. the tripod collar, a relatively simple clamp, isn't included with the lens, and is an exorbitant 130 euros (!!!) more. and so this 670 euro lens becomes in effect an 800 euro lens.

2) small nitpick...impossible to take the lens cap off - or put it back on again - without removing the lens hood. this isn't specific to just the 70-200L F4, but it still is something that i had hoped wouldn't continue into the L class of lenses.

if you're from europe and you find yourself on vacation in the USA or the far east, this is the time to buy the 70-200L F4. someone earning euros and spending dollars can get the 70-200L F4 for 430 euros, a 250 euro savings.