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Sigma 30mm F1.4 EX DC HSM

Review Date: May 25, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $385.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sharp, f/1.4, 50mm FOV on 1.6x cameras
62mm filter thread, a little heavy, HSM not as fast as USM

From the reviews I read (here and elsewhere), this seem liked a better option than the Canon 28mm/1.4 to have a true "normal" FOV on a 1.6x crop camera... that is, IF I could find one without focus issues.

I really wanted to try the lens before I bought it so I was planning on buying it at my local camera shop. But I found a deal and bought this lens from a FM member on the Buy/Sell forum. He had sent it to Sigma for calibration with his Rebel XSI. Well, it seems to be calibrated quite well for my XSI, because the AF is spot on! It is fast (and quiet), but not as fast as Canon USMs I own. Still, it is a 30mm lens, so it doesn't have all that far to travel... no big deal.

Focusing is much better than my 50mm/1.8 II, which is where I am coming from. It has rarely hunted for me, if at all, in the brief time I've used it. The IQ is very good. Color and contrast are good. A little bit of PP brings things out nicely. It is very sharp, IMO, in the center even at f/1.4, losing only a little bit as you hit the corners. I don't seem to have to stop down much to really bring out the sharpness... maybe f/4... certainly by f/5.6. There is a tad bit of distortion on the corners, but nothing I can't live with.

It is on the heavy side, but it makes up for it in what seems to be a sturdy build, metal mount and additional features such as a usable focus ring and distance window (and remember I'm coming from a 50mm/1.8 II). You get a case and lens hood with it, which is nice too. The 62mm thread is kind of annoying. It is just another set of filters to buy. It seems like this lens could have been designed for 58mm to keep in line with Canon's other compact offerings.

I highly recommend this lens. I use my XSI as a compact and lightweight carry-around, and this lens gives me the FOV I've wanted that the 50mms just don't give you. I suspect I will keep this set-up for quite a few years as it just fills the need of not wanting to cart around my 5D, but not wanting to be stuck with the limitations of a P&S.

Samples from this lens on my XSI here:

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

Review Date: Feb 15, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $339.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Solid; nicely balanced on my 30D; Sharp stopped down a bit; Beautiful bokeh
Low light focusing; Minimum focus distance, at least initially

I bought this lens used a few months ago. I've used it off and on and I was initially not thrilled with it, but not hugely hating it either. As I've used it more and more, I started liking it more and more. I would not sell the lens. It is a nice focal length, especially on a crop camera, like my 30D.

My copy does not seem to have the chromatic aberrations (CA) at wider apertures that others have complained of. On the other hand, unlike others, my copy doesn't seem to be very sharp at 1.8, but by f/2.5 - 2.8 it is very nice. I don't shoot often at 1.8, so no big deal. My copy also seems to hunt in low light, especially below f/4... maybe it needs a calibration and that is why it was put on consignment at my local shop.

It took some time to get used to the longer minimum focal distance. It is a portrait lens, but coming from the 50mm/1.8, it was initially a bit of a turn off. Once I got used to it, however, the lens really began to grow on me.

It has a nice weight to it... feels very balanced on my 30D. Overall, I like it more and more every day and am looking forward to using it this spring when the flowers start blooming.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

Review Date: Feb 9, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $99.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Inexpensive; very good IQ
Build quality; No USM; front element focusing

I've taken a lot of great pictures with this lens, so it has more than paid for itself in terms of "photographic" satisfaction. If you are an amateur and want to get away from your kit lens, this lens is the place to start IMO. Yes, it is plasticky and cheaply built. Yes, it has a front focusing element. Yes, it has a non-USM motor. Yes, it hunts in low light and wide open sometimes. BUT, in 8 out of 10 shooting situations, it'll work and you'll get a great shot.

Maybe the Canon or Sigma f/1.4s are better... I don't know. I've never used them. Unless you are a pro or very serious about IQ, I don't know if they are 3 - 5 times better. If you can afford them... by all means get one of them. But you will get nice photos with this lens that I doubt you will say "Gee I wish I had a f/1.4 when I took that photo!".

If you break it, so what? Buy another... though in the year and half I have owned mine, I have dropped it at least twice and it still works fine. If you ever think you absolutely NEED the extra 2/3 stops, then upgrade, and sell this lens... or keep it as a back-up.

Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM

Review Date: Nov 1, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $709.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: IQ, build, weight, most inexpensive L glass
Limited use focal length, no tripod collar included, cheaply constructed lens hood - all minor stuff

I've been using this lens for about a month and I think it must be a marketing ploy by Canon to get people sucked into "L" glass. It is the most inexpensive way into L glass, but not an often used focal length (for most people). Still, I'm sucked in! The image quality is first rate... quite unbelievable compared to my 28-135mm and my 50mm/1.8 II (and I like both of these lenses very much). I do very little color adjusting in post with this lens. It is super sharp... for me, even at f/2.8... and the bokeh... just other worldly!!! So, I'm hooked... next on the list is a 135mm/2, which is probably my favorite focal length, but for right now, just a bit much for me to swallow price-wise... so I'll just be taking several steps back with the 200mm/2.8 on my 30D! Smile