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Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

ef10028lmisu_586x225
Review Date: Oct 29, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp, best IS I've ever used, great color
Cons:
None, except price

I own the 180mm L macro, the non-IS 100mm macro and now this macro. The reach of the 180 is handy, but in every other respect this lens is better than 180 and old 100. My wife took a photo of an insect that was in poor light, handheld -- while holding one of our dog's leashes in her hand. The photo is beyond stunning: the detail is sharp, the color is great.

I do have to comment on posts like this 5/10 because "IS is not usable with insects in movement" -- er, excuse me? The lens is somehow supposed to track the insects too? People buy lenses thinking they will make them great photographers, my advise is to only buy this (or any expensive) lens when you understand what it will do for you and why.

I too was a little dismayed by the plastic body, but I'm not entirely sure it is bad. My alloy lenses are much heavier, so if the material used for the lens is strong and durable, the lower weight may well be an acceptable trade off. I'm not going to automatically assume it is second rate because it is not alloy -- not in this age of miracles: the airframe of the Airbus 380, for example, has a large amount of plastic. I know I might feel differently if it drops and breaks, but barring destructive testing, I'm going to reserve judgement on this.

But the most impressive thing of all is being able to handhold the lens for macro photos. Yes, you should still use a tripod, but the great thing is you can get away with not in a pinch. This makes the lens perfect for hiking, for exploring nature. The IS is a dream, and (provided you understand it won't track moving insects for you) you will get great shots.

My wife is not a technical user, but under difficult circumstances she produced a photo that is a genuine masterpiece, and has already consistently produced some also great photos, proving it was no fluke.

The 100mm L IS is a no-brainer particularily for a cropped sensor for macro or a full frame sensor for other uses. For a full frame sensor shooting macro, if you are committed to using a tripod, the extra reach of the 180mm may still make it a better choice. Determine this based on your needs and what equipment you are willing to carry.


 
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

ef17-40_4l_1_
Review Date: Aug 3, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Good performance on a full-frame sensor.
Cons:
None, really, for what it is.

Like an earlier reviewer I bought this originally for a cropped frame sensor (40D), and was underwhelmed (decent EFS alternatives in that range were not available at the time). It seemed to overexpose a lot, and didn't seem as sharp as I would have liked.

I've since bought a 5DMII, and now this has become a favorite lens. Initially I thought the photos lacked contrast and were not sharp. I think part of this perception was not having the experience with wide-angle photography that this lens allowed, and when I zoom in on previous photos realize this judgement was not justified.

As I worked with the lens, I began getting consistently sharp photos with good contrast and color. As mentioned some work in Photoshop to get the best results will help, but I think this is true of all lenses not this one in particular.

Patience will pay off with this lens, making it an excellent value.


 
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM

ef70-200lisusm
Review Date: Jun 18, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,200.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp, great color, great AF, perfection
Cons:
Lack of a tripod ring, conspicuous color and shape

I own a number of zooms and primes, and am now on my 5th DSLR. Although I now own zooms that cover more range, primes from wide angle to long telephoto, I keep coming back to this lens for one reason: unmatched quality. I was in the store to get a 70-200mm f 2.8, and when the clerk brought it out I was shocked at the weight. I realized that I wouldn't enjoy carrying it around. There was a Canon event at the time in the store, so I talked with the rep and looked at some photos.

I went for this lens over the 2.8 because I figured I would rarely want to actually shoot at 2.8, and the size would discourage its use for the long city walks and nature hikes I enjoy with my wife. I have never regretted it since. I've compared the f4 with a friends f2.8 and it edges past it in every quality category. The AF tracking is superb. The IS is a life saver.

I've come to the conclusion Canon didn't make my lens. I think it's manufacture has been outsource to aliens. Although its relatively narrow range seems odd for general use, I use it anyway all the time just because of the awesome IQ.

The negatives are there: odd size filter dimension (67mm), no tripod collar (despite IS, tripods are important for serious shots), longish size doesn't quite fit in a standard camera bag, does it *really* need to be white, 70-200 is sort of in-between the most used lengths (for me). Seems pricey.

But one big positive makes these negatives seem minor: its optical quality and performance is unmatched (at least by anything I own or have tested).

I have a 5D Mark II, and if I could only have two lenses it would be the 17-40mm f4, and the 70-200mm f4 IS.


 
Canon EOS 5D Mark II

5DII_1_
Review Date: May 19, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Excellent image quality, good high iso, numerous features
Cons:
Frames per second is lower than I'd like

I've owned a number of digital SLR's, 300D, 400D, 40D & 50D. I've also had a chance to compare the output of this camera with a Nikon D700.

First off, the image quality is outstanding relative to any camera I own. Part of that is the light captured at full-frame. Relative to the 50D the images are sharper and have much less noise for a given ISO.

A friend has a D700, so we compared results. The results from both cameras were excellent, but due to the higher resolution sensor of the 5D MII there was more detail in the 5D. Also, although the D700 on a per pixel basis had better high-iso performance, the cameras were about even for the overall noise on the photo at high-iso -- in other words, the greater resolution itself allows for lower noise.

So the high-iso on an overall picture basis, not a pixel vs. pixel basis, seemed very comparable to a D700, and on a "normal" iso photo the higher resolution produced greater detail. Both cameras have great color.

The 5D MkII is sharper than the 50D on a per-pixel basis. The 50D has a much higher density of pixels and seems to hit the limit of the lens resolution, while 5D is comfortably within that limit. For this reason, and the full frame and better high-iso, it is a much better camera than the 50D.


 
Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM

ef_180_35_1_
Review Date: Apr 5, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,300.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharpness, detail, color -- why you buy a DSLR in the first place
Cons:
Weight, cost, slow AF

At some point I'll post my photos from this lens as words can't describe the exciting quality it delivers. I have the 100mm f2.8 macro, which is a sharp, fun lens and great value. The 180mm macro blows way past that -- the ability to move back from the subject and still frame it well is great, and the results can be spectacular.

The biggest problems with the lens really are in its use: shooting macro close in with f3.5 produces a razor-thin area of focus, so depth of field is often too small to be usable. You must move out to f11 or so, in which case you have less light, a longer exposure and more chance of movement (you or your subject) blurring the shot.

That is a wonderful problem to have. It means you can find exactly what you want. Your limiting factor is your camera and your patience in using a tripod, flash and/or reflector to set up the shot. You get it right, and the lens delivers.

If you are "point-and-shoot", if the words "creamy bokeh" don't get you excited, if you don't really care about ultimate IQ then this lens is too expensive and too much work for you. The rest of you though know what I'm talking about, this lens will blow your mind. If you liked the 100mm, then you will love the 180mm.


 
Canon EOS Rebel (300D)

300D-2
Review Date: Apr 2, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Low cost entry into the Canon world of lenses.
Cons:
6 mp, higher ISO not so great.

I realize this review comes 5 years too late, but I just dug my old Rebel 300D out of a drawer the other day, and began realizing what it did for me. Because of its cost of entry, I resumed an interest in photography and SLR's, and also began paying attention to getting good lenses instead of new cameras.

So this is really an homage to 300D, I know few on this website would consider it now. But it rocked my world, and the world of photography when it came out, by offering a DSLR in an amazing family of lenses that I could afford. Some of the photos I've taken are still among the best I've taken. Now I have the 5D Mark II, so it is a different world again, but the 300D will have a special place in my equipment drawer.

Finally, especially for those uncertain about entering the DSLR world, it is still worth considering this camera. You can pick one up on eBay for $200 - $250. Ultimate IQ is more about lenses than camera anyway. For a low cost you can start exploring the DSLR world, and also put your money into glass, not into bodies -- a wise balance.


 
Canon EOS 50D

50D_1_
Review Date: Jan 8, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,300.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Higher resolution (good for birding), lens focus adjustment and improvements.
Cons:
Disappointed that the high ISO performance is not better. Higher resolution means less photos per memory card.

I have a 40D as well as the old 300D and 400D, and have built up quite a collection of lenses from Canon. At first when I bought this camera I did get a flood of "buyer's remorse", because it just didn't seem a cost-effective upgrade from a 40D, and the IQ didn't blow me away (the way the 40D's did when it came out). But rather than returning it, I decided to give it a shot, and I'm glad I did.

I enjoy taking photos of birds (and other wildlife when possible), as well as photos of hikes, city shots, candids and macro.

For birds (and wildlife) you need two things: 1) a fast shutter speed, and 2) as much telephoto reach as possible. On the first score, the 50D's ISO performance means you can't really push it past the 40D, so the shutter speed is the same. But for 2), the 50% resolution increase does really act (with cropping" like extra telephoto reach.

I've read some about the IQ of the 50D vs. the 40D. Here's my own conclusion after running a lot of tests: pixel for pixel, the 50D is about the same as the 40D, perhaps ever so slightly inferior (negligible really). So pixel for pixel they are about the same, but 50% more pixels means 50% more reach.

Using the 50D is the same as using the 40D with a 1.4 TC -- except that the IQ is much better and the maximum apeture is unimpaired.

Or put it another way: I'm able to get shots with my 400mm that I would need a 600mm on a 40D to get.

I realize I'm going to get grief that that opinion is naive, yet it is based on experimentation. For a birder or wildlife enthusiast, the camera is a must have.

For the other uses, its fine although not as big an upgrade.

In the end I'm happy with the purchase despite the flaws. If Canon ever made improvements to the ISO performance, this camera would be without equal.