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Canon EOS 5D Mark II

5DII_1_
Review Date: May 15, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,699.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Solid high ISO performance, Excellent menu system, Great viewfinder, Great battery performance, Wonderful image quality
Cons:
Expensive accessories, Average autofocus performance

I waited long enough to take advantage of a full frame sensor and this camera does not disappoint me in regards to excellent image quality and wonderful high ISO performance. I was lucky enough to receive mine in time for vacation a last week and took it along with my 1D MKIII to Hawaii. I shot over 1500 images with this camera and my opinion is that the camera is worth the purchase cost but could be better in a few departments. First, I do not find that the auto focus system even compares to my MKIII in lower light or for that matter in bright sun. One thing that I noticed was that the camera would at times have a difficult time obtaining focus on quite a few landscape shots with lots of sky and ocean in the scene. The MKIII on the other hand would nail focus instantly. Don't get me wrong, I never really expected better focus performance than the MKIII but feel that even my 40D does a better job and locks focus quicker. I mainly use center point only when I am shooting static subjects or landscapes and don't bother with servo mode unless my subject is going to be moving around. I will say when it does lock focus it is on the money however!

Now that I have my negative comments out of the way let my tell you about the more positive side of this camera. The image quality rocks. All of the files from this camera truely impress me beyond belief. Even ISO 3200 shots on the street in the evening come out clean and accurate without the need for noise reduction software. When I first received this camera I took some shots and compared it to my MKIII in regards to colors, contrast, sharpness, and noise. The 5DII files appeared to look better to me straight out of the camera. After using it for two weeks I will admit that I have managed to get my MKIII files to look more closely like the 5DII files by tweaking the settings for saturation and sharpness. I still feel the 5DII files are slightly cleaner than the MKIII files as far as noise is comcerned and much better than my 40D files. Canon also stepped up and added a real LCD that you can actually see outdoors in sunlight compared to the earlier offerings in the past. I can finally check my photos for sharpness, something I could never really do before while in the field. Battery performance seems to be improved however the new battery does not seem to charge as fast as the older BP511's did. I bought a grip and extra battery before I left on vacation however I found that it really was not necessary as far as battery power was concerned. It does however aid in handling since I find putting big glass on anything short of a 1 series body to be unbalanced and uncomfrotable to hold for extended times without the grip. Speaking of grips and batteries. I do feel that the current pricing is a little high for what you are buying but then again that is just my opinion. One thing I would like to see Canon do is redesign the grip so it could be less bulky. I am sure there is a way they could design it so the batteries could load sideways instead of straight in fron the back.

The file size is huge! Even so, I find that file transfer performance from the camera to the computer to be pretty fast. Canon's menu system hasn't really changed from the 40D or MKIII and I am satisfied with the design and function. I find using the menu easy to navigate and control. I have tried the HD video feature of the camera and it is ok but I would not use it over the current HD video camera I currently own. I think it would be handy for a reporter or someone that wants to shoot a quick clip but it's not going to be something you would want to record a family vacation with!

In conclusion, I feel the 5DII is a worthy camera for the cost. Image quality is excellent and that is all that really matters to me. Sure the auto focus system could use some improvement but Canon is going to have to get off of their high horse and for once follow Nikons lead and adopt their pro series auto focus system in their other bodies for us to really see a big improvement, but I really don't see them doing anytime soon.


 
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

ef_24-70_28u_1_
Review Date: Dec 23, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,024.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Robust build quality, Weather sealing, Quiet and fast autofocus, F/2.8 aperture, Super sharp even wide open. Did I mention super sharp?
Cons:
Slightly heavy but quality glass is going to be this way!

When I first decided I had an interest in this lens I tried one at my local retail camera shop. Honestly the sharpness was no better that my EF 28-105 USM II. Sure the contrast and colors were better but wide open it was a disappointment. I tried a second copy a few weeks later with the same result. I ended up buying the Sigma 24-70 EX DG Macro and used it for a few months before selling it. It was pretty sharp wide open but the autofocus was noisy and the manual focus override annoyed me. For some time I have considered buying the 24-105 L IS but in the end I just wanted the F/2.8 aperture because I prefer faster glass over IS for my shooting style. Finally I broke down and purchased one from B&H because I figured I would give it another chance. Plenty of people I know own this lens and love it and I figured if I did get another soft copy I would return it to Canon for calibration. As luck would have it I did receive a sharp copy. In fact this lens is as sharp wide open at all focal lengths as my 70-200 F/2.8L IS!

I am so happy I bought this lens. On my 1.3x Mark II N this lens is great. It is wide enough for a walk around lens and the photo quality far exceeds my expectations. The color and contrast just blows me away. I have shot indoors as well as outside and all of the photos so far are sharp as a razor. This lens has yet to miss focus and even indoors without flash I have yet to see it hunt for focus! Outdoors stopped down it gets even sharper! At F/5.6 it is amazing. Sure is has some weight to it especially attached to my 1 series body but I can handle it. I am really looking forward to vacation next week because this lens is going to be attached to one body at all times. It is that good! The other nice thing is the zoom. I love the fact that the lens gets shorter with the increase in focal length. With the hood attached the lens never appears to change size with focal length unlike the Sigma. Finally the autofocus has to be praised. It is the most quiet lens I own. It is so quiet that had I not seen the image pop in to focus I would not have known it was working at all. Thumbs up to Canon on this one! I rated this a 10 across the board. I got a great deal when I purchased mine but I would have gladly paid more had I known it would be this good.


 
Canon Extender EF 2x II

Extender_2x2_1_
Review Date: Dec 10, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $290.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Excellent results with prime lenses. Sharp as a tack and maintains great color and contrast. Build quality is first class.
Cons:
I waited too long before actually buying one!

I bought this teleconverter with the fear that I was going to be disappointed with the results I would get because I read alot of reviews that said it was soft and not worth the money. I already own the EF 1.4X II and could not be happier with the quality of photos I have taken using it. I will agree with others that these are not designed to be used with zoom lenses and should only be used with fast primes but I think this teleconverter is getting a bad reputation because people that own it are either using it with zooms, poor long lens technique, or cropping the image and trying to enlarge even more! I do not plan to use it with my zoom lenses and bought it mainly for the times when I need a little extra reach with my EF 500 F/4L IS. With enough light and stopping it down one extra stop I have taken images that are amazing in detail and sharpness. I have noticed that the autofocus has slowed slightly when I use it and have had the lens hunt from time to time but setting the focus limit pretty much took care of any issues I had. Let me stress once again that if you own a zoom and expect this to be the answer to focal length, you are probably going to be disappointed. But if you own a fast prime, stable working platform, and practice you long lens technique, it will be a welcome addition to your lens collection.

 
Canon EOS 1D Mark II N

1d_mkii_n
Review Date: Mar 19, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $3,995.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Superior AF system, 8.5 FPS puts everything else to shame, Excellent battery life, Out of camera JPEGS look wonderful, Weather sealed, Personal functions as well as a host of custom functions to further personalize to your taste, Dual memory cards, Rock Solid Build!
Cons:
Heavy with big glass attached, Display still hard to see in bright sunlight, Expensive, but I guess you get what you pay for!

With the right tools you can accomplish anything. That is now my opinion of the 1DMkIIn! I have shot 35mm for years and made the switch to digital when Canon introduced the D30. Since that time I have owned several other Canon digital SLR's but nothing even comes close to this camera in terms of function and quality. This camera was built with the action photographer in mind. From the highly accurate AF system to the weather sealed exterior, there is little not to like about this camera!

I enjoy shooting wildlife, especially birds in flight and I will tell you right now that I have held nothing else that compares to this camera in terms of AF speed and accuracy. My first weekend out on the lake captured 137 images of birds in flight with one out of focus, and that was my fault! Also at 8.5 FPS you will have a really hard time missing that action shot such as a duck first touching down on the water or an eagle making the catch! It really is that fast.

Owners who wish to personalize this camera to their taste will appreciate the host of custom functions as well as the personal functions. Camera settings can even be saved to the memory card and transferred to another 1DMk2n in the event you wished to clone two cameras to the same settings.

Another thing I noticed is that the auto white balance seems to be more accurate in the 1D versus the 20D which I still own. Even though I shoot RAW most of the time and use an ExpoDisc for setting custom white balance, I find that the 1D appears to more closely capture whites than the 20D. Also images produced by the 1D appear sharper and more vivid that the images I get from the 20D. This saves me alot of editing time so I have more time to shoot.

As for features, the 2.5" LCD display is a plus although it still has issues when viewing outdoors in bright sunlight. The controls for most camera settings are nicely located and easy to use without having to take your eye away from the viewfinder. The dual memory card feature is nice and allows you to write RAW and JPEG to seperate cards at once or if you wish, once you fill one card you can switch to the other. There is also a backup feature which will write the images to both cards at once which could come in handy when shooting an event and you want to know that you will not lose an image due to card failure! The battery life will also amaze you! Depending on how often you navigate the menu's and use the LCD display, 1200 shots will probably be the minimum amount you will take with this camera. The camera also includes an AC adapter which will allow you to use the camera indoors or to attach to your computer without wasting your battery. I think Canon should include that will all of their cameras!

This camera is expensive and I realize that most amatuers feel that they can not justify the purchase, but once you pick this camera up and use it, you will never want to put it back down. It is that good! It is heavy, especially when attached to a large "L" lense, but most would find that the tradeoff in speed and accuracy would probably make you forget about the weight. I would highly recommend this camera to anyone that has the resources to afford it or the desire to learn to use it to their advantage. Like I said before, once you pick it up and use it, you will NEVER want to put it back down again.


 
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

ef_100_28_1_
Review Date: Jan 31, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $575.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp Beautiful Images, Solid and Well Built
Cons:
Lens Hood and Case Are Options

This is my new favorite lens without question! Images taken with this lens amaze me. The pictures are sharp with beautiful color and contrast. Built quality is good, maybe not "L" standards, but good none the less. Picture quality is on par with both of my "L" lenses! The autofocus is fast and very accurate but as others have said it does hunt a bit in lower light.

My only complaints with this lens is the fact that a lens hood is an option! At $600 retail Canon should include a lens hood and a soft case! Also thank god a tripod ring is not necessary because that would set you back another $135 which is insane!

Overall, I love this lens! I only wish Canon would include a hood and case instead of selling them as options.


 
Canon EOS 20D

20d
Review Date: Jan 23, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,199.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Almost Instant Start Up. Fast Write and Read Times, Solid Feel Just Like My Old 10D. Better Auto Focus. Better Noise Reduction.
Cons:
Slightly Smaller Grip Than The 10D.

I purchased this camera to upgrade from the 10D that I have been using for over two years. One of the reasons I upgraded was due to the rebate offer from Canon saving me $300. This camera is better in every way coming from the 10D. Overall image quality is not that noticable compared to the 6mp 10D but noise reduction is far improved at higher ISO's. Start up speed is almost instant which is one of the things that annoyed me with the 10D. Review time is just as fast on the rear LCD where the 10D would be blurry for a few seconds before you could actually view the image. The USB 2.0 feature is nice when I want to download images to another computer and keeps me from dragging my card reader around with me.

Auto focus is improved from the 10D as well. Although not a night and day improvement, it does seem to track subjects better than the 10D when in AI Servo mode.

The only thing I see that I liked better about the 10D was the grip. I have large hands and the 20D grip is smaller than the 10D but after adding the battery grip I have gotten over this issue and it is no longer a problem.



 
Tamron 200-500MM F/5-6.3 Di LD (IF)

200500mm
Review Date: Jan 22, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $879.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Lightweight. Includes Nice Case, Shade, and Tripod Ring. Warranty!
Cons:
Autofocus Hunts In Low Light. A Little Soft at 500mm Wide Open

In my hunt for telephoto range I decided on this lens over the Sigma for two reasons. It is lightweight and easy to hold! Tamron has one of the best warranties in the industry! I have seen photos from both lenses and for the money the Tamron is a really sweet lens. Handheld shots are easy as long as you keep the ISO and shutter speed up to prevent shake. The autofocus is pretty fast for a non-HSM lens and equally as quiet in the field. The only issue I have seen with focus is in lower light such as late afternoon when the sun is going down it tends to hunt. This is not really a problem and you can easily switch to manual focus and get the shot if it is a problem. As far as image quality is concerned, most of my images are sharp and clean at all focal lengths. It does appear to be slightly soft above 450mm but a little sharpening in Photoshop will usually fix things up. The color accuracy really amazes me considering the low price you pay for this lens. I have taken duck photos with this lens and color and saturation are pretty close to both of my L lenses. The construction of this lens seems to be pretty good overall. The barrel is made from plastic which at first worried me but it does have a metal lens mount. The shade is huge and attaches easily to the front. One thing that Tamron has done is add a rotating filter ring assembly to the front of the lens in order to mount a circular polarizer filter. Simply turning the ring allows you to adjust the filter without worrying about removing the shade. Tamron includes a zippered case that is actually made from wetsuit type material and provides excellent protection when not in use. A removable carrying strap is also included. Some have commented about the focus ring. In autofocus mode it actually turns when in use. This has not been an issue for me since I usually hold the zoom ring when shooting. For the money this is a good lens. It's advantages are it's weight in the field, sharpness, and color accuracy as well as the included 6 year warranty. I considered selling this lens, only because I have the 100-400L which covers pretty close to the same focal range but then again I may just wait until I have a few primes before giving it up. Anyone considering an inexpensive telephoto lens should give this lens careful consideration.

 
Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 EX Aspherical DG DF

24_70EX_med_1_
Review Date: Dec 22, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $365.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Solid Feel, Attractive Finish, Good Contrast and Colors, A real bargain considering the cost!
Cons:
Auto focus is noisy! Auto manual focus push pull ring. Big expensive filter option at 82mm!

I considered this lens purchase for a long time! After reading all of the reviews I decided that for the money it should be worth a try. I am very glad that I decided to risk it and make the purchase. For starters, the build quality is excellent when you take in to account what this lens cost and what it is capable of doing. It feels really solid in your hand and honestly looks pretty good as well. My copy of this lens has excellent optics, sharp and clear. The auto focus is not as fast as my Canon lenses, but then again for the cost who am I to complain? I did test a Canon 24-70 F/2.8L prior to making this purchase since I love my Canon 70-200 F/2.8L IS. It was impressive and had lightning fast auto focus, good color and saturation, but honestly I felt that the images were slightly on the soft side. I tested two copies and I am sorry to say I left the store a little disappointed because I really wanted the lens. After reading about the Sigma, I figured it was worth a try. I am no longer looking back and quite happy with the results I am seeing. The only negatives I have about this lens is the auto focus noise and speed. It reminds me of my cheap Minolta 35MM that I had in the early 90's. Not that it has affected the results of my photos, but I would easily spend $75-$100 more for the same lens with a quieter and faster auto focus motor. The other thing that I find amusing is the fact that you have to activate two switches to go to manual focus. If you wanted to have the push/pull ring, then Sigma should have left the AF/MF switch off and worked it in to the ring assembly instead. Again, this in no way affects the quality of your photos so I can't bash them for their decision, just offer a suggestion for future models. As for photo quality, impressive to say the least. It is slightly soft at F2.8, but not as soft as the Canon I tested. At F4 and above it is great! I did have to decrease the color and contrast settings in my camera back to their default settings while using the Sigma lens versus the Canon. For my indoor test, I found that the lens focused accurate and sharp with no need for a flash. Photos of newspaper text were also sharp and clear, almost as sharp as the 70-200 F2.8L IS, but note that I say almost! All in all, I feel that for the asking price, this is a bargain lens. Anyone considering it should at least try it and decide for themselves.