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Canon EOS 40D

Review Date: Apr 17, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: The 40D has all the useful features needed for almost any photo situation. The handling and shooting performance are nice upgrades from the 20D.
The sensor is not a step up from 20D/30D. Auto ISO is not very versatile. Again, there is a direct print button but no programmable button for mirror lock up or other useful functions?

The 40D was to be a considerable upgrade from my 20D, or so I thought. A new model with a new sensor and most of the features missing from the 20D that everyone wanted. How could it not be better outright? Well it is and isn't.

I will cover the ergonomics, features and shooting performance first. This is where the 40D shines.

1. Liveview is useful for more than just astrophotography. I actually has a paying job within a week of getting the 40D where liveview made a difference. Event photography where one is forced to hold the camera overhead to get crowd shots is so much easier with this.

2. The 40D is faster to respond and get the shot from button press. It is much easier to get a bird in frame as it leaps from a branch. Blackout time between shots is much shorter allowing easier tracking of fast moving objects. 6.5 FPS is nice, but its advantage against 5 FPS of the 20D is not as significant as the response times and blackout times.

3. The viewfinder is brighter and larger.

4. Having your most used settings available in a quick access menu is very helpful when you need to change things on the fly during changing conditions.

5. Finally, ISO in the viewfinder and easily changeable on the fly!

6. I have rather large hands, so the larger grip and finger indent. is a nice comfort item for me over the 20D/30D.

7. A nice large LCD screen with RGB and luminance histograms is a very nice feature. What isn't so nice? The resolution of the LCD is a bit too low. The background of the histograms makes them hard to decipher in bright outdoor light.

8. The mirror moves faster as mentioned before for lower blackout times, but it is also a bit quieter. I have held on to my 300D for situations where camera noise would be intrusive and the 40D is almost quiet enough now for most sensitive situations.

9. Why oh why does Canon ignore all the cries about the wasted space on the camera for a direct print button? Why do they ignore the suggestion to make this button customizable?

10. Spot (semi) metering is a much welcomed addition over the 20D.

11. Highlight priority is quite useful for helping to keep that white bird from blowing out when you are not watching exposures as closely as you should be.

12. The biggest thing this camera does for a sports/wildlife photographer in my opinion is the large 17 image RAW buffer. It is very helpful when trying to get the best shot from an action sequence. I rarely bump into this limit.

14. It is very well built, but I wish it was fully weather sealed.

!5. The sensor cleaning seems effective. Where I had to clean my 20D senor regularly, the 40D has only needed a dust off a couple of times over the past few months for a couple of dust bugs that wouldn't go away on their own.

There are many other fine points about this camera that could be mentioned but they are in line with most of the other offerings in this level of gear.

Now for the contentious part as far as I am concerned, the image quality. There is nothing wrong with it, it's just that it culd have been better. Canon had to decide to increase the almighty megapixel count for marketing drones, or go for better image quality. Megapixels won.

Like I said, the image quality isn't bad. It's actually quite good and on par with the 20D/30D. I subjectively feel the IQ is a tiny bit less but I can't provide hard data to prove it, so lets say the 40D is as good as the 20D/30D. What the 40D has is more pixels, an approximate 12% increase. That's good if it means better images, but as I just said it doesn't mean that much.

What Canon should have done is applied the advances in sensor technology to the 8 megapixel sensor. Seeing as Canon had to drop the real sensitivity of the 40D 1/3 stop from the 20D, and added better lenses to get there, they could have applied the better lenses to the 20D sensor and gave us true 3200 ISO and maybe more. Lower light capability and faster shutter speeds wins over 12% more pixels in my opinion.

In closing, the 40D is a very capable camera that would meet the needs of most critical people. It isn't a 1D series performer, it's much better than any of the Rebel series for serious shooters, and its a good value. What I think it falls flat on is the sensor and it not being a real upgrade from the 20D/30D series. I don't look at my 40D images and go "Wow! These 40D images are better than my old 20D." Instead I find myself saying "Hmmm, nice features, but where are the better images?"

If you have a 20D, its most likely worth upgrading, but not for images quality. If you have a 30D, the only compelling reason I can see to upgrade is the sensor cleaning and liveview.

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

Review Date: Apr 6, 2005 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 6 

Pros: Nice price for a 2.8 with all the accessories
Bad quality control, poor performance on two samples

I decided I needed a fast 70-200 and after considering the reviews here and elsewhere I decided to give it a try.

I was not going to leave the store without testing it a little first. A fresh one out of the box was handed to me and I focused on one wall of the store. No matter what I tried, it would show as focused, but the images were only in focus for the right third of the frame. Never was the left two thirds in focus. The store clerk repeated the test and the results.

Out came a second fresh one and it seemed to focus properly. I took this one home and did some astro-photography with it. All the stars were tear drop shaped across the field and it mattered not what F stop I used. So I printed out a test target and did some testing. F2.8 was horrible with blur and CA all over. F4 was immediately sharper but still with CA. F5.6 still the same. Back to the store I went.

We tested in the store with the same target in a shoot-out with a 70-200 F2.8 Canon. The Canon at F2.8 blew away the Sigma at F5.6. I left with the Canon and left the Sigma behind.

Based on all the positive reviews on this lens I wonder if that store had a bad batch or something, but I cannot recommend this lens. I have noticed similar bad experiences scattered around in reviews so perhaps Sigma has some problems controlling quality on this one.

Sigma 80-400mm F4.5-5.6 EX OS APO

Review Date: Apr 6, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Great price to performance ratio, pretty sharp all round, OS is very effective, versatile.
Heavy, stiff zoom, slow optically, really slow AF on 300D Apparently not compatible with Digital Rebel/300D

I was searching for my "everyhting" lens and this fit the bill almost all way round. I found it to be sharp and has all the range and reach most people could want. But....

It would not work correctly on my Digital Rebel. I got the OS to track properly maybe 10 times over a week. When it did kick in proplerly I was able to do a 1/15 second exposure at 400mm handheld and it was razor sharp!

So what was the problem? It would seem that the Digital Rebel's circuitry can't supply enough current to reliably power this beast. Another symptom of this is sometimes very slow shutter response. I went back to the camera shop and switching the lens to a 20D made it perform 100%.

So I would reccommend this lens as a great all round and quality lens, but not for the Digital Rebel.