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Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro

Review Date: Feb 2, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $250.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: The contrast, color rendition and sharpness are all on an exquisitely high level in this lens. The "old"design makes it possible to actually focus to infinity when using manual focus, something which is a lottery with USM lenses.

This build quality of this lens is very good, and way better than the 50mm 1.8 which cannot be recommended because of its plastic mount. Its build is also better than that of the 50mm 1.4 USM because the latter does not have proper USM, but Micro USM which uses small gears that wear out and is prone to breakage if subject to falls and blows. In contrast, the AFD (Arc Form Drive) motor of the 50mm 2.5 is more durable, and the mount is of sturdy metal.

I feel that the Canon EF 50mm 2.5 Compact Macro is underestimated. Apart from the 50/1.2 L which I have not tried at the time of this writing it is simply Canon's best 50 mm lens, and it may well be superior to the 1.2 version for all I know. After all it is optimized for flatness of field and high sharpness, even if it lacks the extreme speed of 1.2.

Its optical performance, which is first rate, makes the 50/2.5 Compact Macro a brilliant choice for the photography of artwork like paintings, drawings, sculpture and everything you can imagine. I use it to take pictures of Sonja Bunes' art, and I simply feel happiness when she tells me how other artists marvel at the quality with which the images of her art is presented.

Of course it is also a top-notch lens for various forms of nature photography, both macro and other types of photo.

Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM

Review Date: Jan 28, 2008 Recommend? | Price paid: $650.00

Pros: Extraordinary, almost outerworldly definition of detail. Well balanced. Fast aufofocus even with the 1.4x Extender.
Lack of water sealing, but that is the only "negative" side of this supremely competent tool.

I have now used my beloved EF 200mm 2.8 II for some more months, and I can only reiterate that I have difficulty understanding why this lens is constantly underrated. It is said that it is less sharp than the EF 135/2.0. It is not - I own them both and the 200 picks up a tiny little hair more detail and tolerate the Extender with less loss of quality than the 135. Apart from that I fully agree that both the 135/2.0 and 200/2.8 II are stellar performers that leave little if anything to be desired with respect to optical performance. Their one fault is absence of sealing against water and dust.

By the way, IS is not missed, at least not by this photographer. Lens speed is vastly more important than image stabilization, and this lens has better transmission of light than the 70-200 2.8-zooms due to its having less glass elements - even if the 70-200 2.8's boast the same max aperture.

The EF 200/2.8 II is suitable for outdoor portraits, any kind of action, domestic animals, as well as landscapes when you want to isolate detail and compress the scene. Actually your own imagination is the limit for this truly outstanding lens.

Highly recommended.

Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

Review Date: Sep 26, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $950.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Exquisite color rendition, outstanding contrast and fine sharpness.
No water sealing.

This lens is not quite as sharp as my 200/2.8 or 300/2.8, but it is very close behind. Although it is not as laserbeam-sharp at 2.8 as the 200mm 2.8 II which is outerwordly in that respect, it is still sharper at its 2.8 than the 70-200 2.8 L-zooms at that aperture. So, we are talking about the highest levels here. It is no small feat to beat the 70-200, arguably Canon's best zoom.

Where I have found that this lens shines most of all, is in the color rendition and out-of-focus departments. The faithfulness of color, the fine contrast and the creamy out-of-focus areas are the main characteristics of the 135mm 2.0. It is a premium choice for an indoor portrait lens, also on a "1.6x crop" body. I seldom if ever use 50mm lenses for portaits, and prefer telephotos up to an including 300mm.

Other natural applications are various types of indoor action and sports, where its fast 2.0 aperture is put to good use. Needless to say, it is equally suited to countless situations outdoors, where its aperture enables it to assist the photographer in taking picures in light conditions where even the 70-200 2.8 gives up. In every situation, the 135/2.0 shows its quality of color.

Some may say that this lens should have had IS. But I differ from many photographers in not being particularly impressed with image stabilization. I own two IS lenses, but they have just reinforced my belief that lens speed is incomparably more important than IS. With the 135mm 2.0, you are given the opportunity to fully learn the significance of a fast lens. The fact that it shows performs very well wide open only underlines that.

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM

Review Date: Sep 24, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $4,000.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: The build quality and the optical performance are both extraordinary. The contrast, color and quality of detail delivered by this lens must be seen to be appreciated, because you may never before have seen anything like it from a photographic lens.
None. I might mention its premium price, but the price has to be viewed against the long-term satisfaction of having a durable, dependable tool of the highest quality.

I also own the 300mm 4.0 IS, which is a good albeit not optically outstanding lens. After having acquired the 300mm 2.8 L IS USM, I have become even more aware of the differences in optics. This is the lens I had dreamed wistfully about for more than four years prior to the purchase, and I can honestly say that the decision to buy it has proven to be a correct one. Still, I feel that the 4.0 version was a good stepping stone, since I am an amateur and naturally cannot afford to buy all the best tools at once.

The other high grade ("L") Canon longer telephoto lenses I own are the 135mm 2.0 L and the 200mm 2.8 II L. In many ways the 300 2.8 is in a class of its own because of its combination of long focal length and exceedingly high performance. I would say that the rendition of fine detail from my 200 2.8 and my 300 2.8 are on basically the same level, with the 135 2.0 just an impercebtibly tiny bit behind. On the other hand, the rendition of color may have a tad more sting in the 135 2.0 and the 300 2.8, but these differences are so small as to be likely offset by other factors. The 300 4.0 IS, decent as it is, trails behind these three.

I recommend the 300/4.0 IS for the serious beginner (in general L-lenses are serious), and the 300 2.8 is for those pros or amateurs who are dedicated and truly know what they want and want the very best. The price is stiff, but I would never discourage anyone from making the investment. Just be prepared to save in order to realize your dream!

A factor that mitigates its high price, is the fact that the 300/2.8 L IS USM can easily take a 1.4x teleconverter without losing much quality. Thus, for the rather small addition of a TC you can effectively have a high-grade 420mm 4.0 IS. That also needs to be taken into consideration if you are deciding whether this very fine lens is for you. This lens cannot create great pictures for you, but it is eminently qualified to help you create them.

Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM

Review Date: Aug 7, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $700.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Ultra high sharpness and contrast, a very good color rendition.
No water sealing. Apart from that, none.

In my opinion, the Canon EF 200mm 2.8 L II is an underestimated lens.

In spite of its lower price, it is more capable than either of the 70-200 zooms. Not by much, but there is a subtle difference at 2.8. The versatility of zooms is much touted, but a photographer who knows how to position him- or herself in relation to his or her subjects is most often well served by a high-grade prime lens. I do a lot of sports photography for my running club, and only in the relatively few situations when I cannot move to position myself towards my subjects do I miss a zoom.

I have found that this lens is uniformly sharp from 2.8, and that there is very little improvement if you stop down. This means that the lens is eminently hand holdable - no need for IS, which is in my view overestimated. Lens speed is far more important than IS, and this lens has what it takes to perform in available light situations.

My results indicate that the 200/2.8 L II to be a bit sharper than the 135/2.0 L at similar apertures, while the 135 has a tad better contrast. On balance I would say they are equal, and I am happy to own both of them. The 200 truly shines when used for sports and other action photography as well as for long-range portraits outdoors, whereas the 135 is brilliant indoors. It also takes a teleconverter well, when combined with a 1.4x Extender it loses little quality - which is also the case with the 135 2.0 and the 300 2.8.

Alone, this lens is ultra high grade, and the 200/2.8 L II deserves to be appreciated by photographers who seek the best. A last argument in favor of this lens is of course that a high-grade prime is less expensive than a high-grade zoom. High quality tools are an investment worth making, but it is always pleasant when one can get the best for a good price.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

Review Date: Nov 22, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: High build quality and a similarly high picture quality. Outstanding autofocus speed.
None in particular

I bought the 24-70 2.8 L in November 2004, for use on my EOS 10D and 1D II cameras. The lens performs flawlessly, and I am particularly impressed with the fast and reliable autofocus.

I can see that the 50mm 1.4 which I also have is slightly sharper, but nothing dramatic, and it is at least equal to my EF 20mm 2.8 USM and 28mm 2.8 in optical quality. Further use will reveal precisely how good it is, but I write this because it is already beyond doubt that the 24-70 2.8 L is good enough to be an alternative to the prime lenses within its range. Its quality is considerably above an overrated lens like the 28-135 3.5-5.6 IS, which I cannot recommend if you want the sharpest possible pictures, since it lags far behind the 24-70 L as well as Canon's very good and affordable primes. The 24-70 is very capable, so I can recommend it without hesitation.

Why would one choose this zoom instead of affordable primes? Well, it is good enough to meet high requirements, it is mechanically superior, and if one can save patiently to afford this one lens the purchase will not be more expensive than three to four good primes. The choice is yours, but I have been impressed with this one. I am happy with the purchase.

Canon EF 35-350mm f/3.5-5.6L USM

Review Date: Nov 22, 2004 Recommend? no | Price paid: $1,700.00 | Rating: 4 

Pros: Large zoom range and versatility for reportage work, solid build.
Less than stellar image quality, slow.

Unfortunately I cannot recommend this product.

I tested it in February 2004 during a trip to the Swedish Kolmaarden Zoo, and while one can see the versatility in a zoom, it is very clear that if one wants high quality pictures the 35-350 is not the answer. My 300mm 4.0 IS proved considerably sharper. This lens is useful for reporters who take pictures for newspapers, provided a fast lens is not required, but for those who want the ultimate in image quality it is not.

Often it is argued that with new digital SLR's fast lenses are less important. That view is mistaken. With a fast lens one has much more freedom, and slow lenses will offset the advantages of digital by requiring one to set high ISO and still not get very fast shutter speeds. With faster lenses one dan crank up the ISO and then get speed.

But the main problem with the EF 35-350mm 3.5-5.6 L USM zoom is the consistent lack of sharpness of detail. At all focal lengths it lags significantly behind good primes, and for the quality conscious nature photographer it is advisable to look elsewhere. I recommend the 300mm 4.0 IS instead, or of course the 300 2.8 IS if you can accept the price and the bulk.

Canon EOS 1D Mark II

Review Date: Oct 4, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $4,000.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Extraordinary build quality, long battery life which is Ni-MH instead of the rapidly aging Lithium-Ion batteries, high image quality.
Difficult to learn, but that cannot be held against the camera!

Most people seem to be under the impression that Lithium-Ion is "better" than Ni-MH, whereas the opposite is true. Lithium-Ion has a lower self-discharge, but that is about the only advantage because Canon's Ni-MH holds up well to cold. The really serious drawback with Lithium-Ion is that these batteries age rapidly whether or not they are used, so you cannot store batteries for many years. Put some Lithium-Ions in a drawer, and in three years they are basically aged and nearly useless. Ni-MH batteries are capable of being stored for ten years of more. That means, if you have a camera which uses Ni-MH batteries you can store up a number of such batteries and be assured that you have a usable camera for many years. With a camera that uses a Lithium-Ion battery the effective life span of that camera will be equal to the period when the proprietary battery is still produced plus the time it takes before the remaining population of already existing batteries is dead.

Such is the case for cameras using Ni-MH batteries too, but the point here is that in the latter case we are talking about a much longer time. Apart from this reasoning around max life span, the possibility of storing spare batteries for many years is a definite advantage, which you do not have if your camera uses a Lithium-Ion battery.

In my opinion, Ni-MH is much preferred, and more people should be aware of the abovementioned factor.