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Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM

Review Date: Dec 29, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $4,340.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: So sharp, it almost makes your eyes bleed...and wide open at that; retains its sharpness with 1.4xII extender and still good with the 2xII extender.
Price (unavoidable, I guess) and that ridiculous leather lens "cap"

We've got the 500 F4 IS, so I have experience with big Canon lenses. While the 500 delivers what one expects, the 300 is just plain remarkable. When it arrived, I did some quick test shots in the house. Shot the box from a big toy we bought for a grandson. Step 3 50's diner. Big box with color pictures and text on the side. Took the first shots with the 5D2 on a tripod and using the 2 second timer in lieu of cable release. Shot at 2.8, 4, 5.6, and 8.

When I looked at the first image at 100% in DPP, my reaction was that something is wrong with the lens. Edge of the text and pictures on the box looked to have a fuzzy dot pattern. I looked at the box again, and it looked OK. But then I looked with a light and magnifying glass, and there it was--the same dots and fuzz I saw in the digital image. Yes, the lens saw better than I did, and even so at F2.8. Wide open. Only a little sharper at F4 and F5.6, then a slight deterioration at F8.

I continued the test shots at ISO 100, 200, and 400, and with the Canon 1.4xII and 2xII, also at the alternate ISO's. The only image flaws I found were camera shake with the extenders and resulting slow shutter speeds. The higher ISO took care of that. With the extenders, I found that stopping down one full stop improved the image sharpness, although both extenders produced some CA. Repeating the same tests with a crop camera yielded pretty much the same, although the crop eliminated a lot of the CA.

Christmas day with a big family gathering, I mostly used a normal zoom, but from time to time I switched to the 300 for some random closeup face shots--when I could get far enough from the subject for focus, that is. Again, great sharp eyelashes and eyes. Of course the narrow depth of field at F2.8 left noses and ears out of focus.

Compared to the 500 F4, this is a lightweight. Heavier than the 70-200 F2.8IS, but w-a-a-y sharper. Very nice bokeh, too. Still, it's a lot of money for a hobby, even a shared hobby.

Canon EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM

Review Date: Jun 5, 2006 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 4 

Pros: Only IS lens available in the zoom range
Excessive CA, barrel and pincushion distortion

Conclusion: Excessive CA, barrel/pincushion distortion, and unknown future for EFS lenses, add up to a "Don't do it" recommendation on the EFS17-85mm IS lens.

I've had this lens for over a year and a half now, and I've become more critical as the novelty has worn off and its deficiencies have become more obvious. Nikon's new 18-200VR lens makes this one seem even less impressive.

Biggest gripe: Green/purple fringes with even moderate contrast in the image. Impossible to ignore with subjects like mountains, buildings, or trees against the sky, especially a gray or white sky! I wish I could get back that portion of my life I have spent fixing CA in images with this lens. Photoshop CS2 and Paint Shop Pro X both try, but they fail to eliminate those colored fringes.

I recently downloaded a trial of DXO Pro as a last desperate effort to make this a useful lens. My 30 image trial limit ran out before I could fully test the 20D/17-85 combo, but it appears that DXO Pro works pretty well on CA at 85mm but not at 17mm. I only tested the CA/purple fringing fix extensively, as the noise, sharpening, and lighting fixes in DXO Pro seemed more detrimental than helpful--but again, 30 images is an inadequate test. Still, if DXO Pro had worked on CA at both ends of the 17-85, it would have been worth the $150.

The good: Besides the 20D, I also have a Rebel XT, and the 17-85 is the best auto-focusing lens I have with this camera. The RXT AF is terrible with fast lenses (35mm F2, 50mm F1.8), but it seems to like the F4-F5.6 max apertures of the 17-85. I was once pointed to a study that explained that phenomenon--but it was written in German, so I got fairly little out of it.

Finally, since the introduction of the 5D and the 30D, I have my doubts about Canon's long term plans for the 1.6 crop factor sensor. The 5D says to me that Canon has excess CMOS manufacturing capacity. That Canon did not design the 30D with more pixels (a la Nikon D200) suggests to me that Canon may be done with development of the 1.6 sensor and concentrating on FF from now on. That will make EFS lenses short term investments.

Canon Deluxe Backpack 200 EG

Review Date: Jun 28, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $50.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Compact, lightweight, lots of pockets, outstanding value
I wish there were a slightly larger version

I've had this bag since October 2003. My only complaint is that when I needed a larger bag, there was no comparable value to be found. This bag is such a great value, I am surprised to see the Canon name on it.

Canon used fairly modest padding in this bag, and that's OK, because I don't throw my equipment around. The problem came when I need a larger bag. Most larger bags were much larger on the outside but only a bit larger on the inside. I found that with most larger packs, I would have 50% more bulk (and three to four times the cost!!!) for 20% more space, due primarily to the massive padding in most other backpacks.

For those concerned about the Canon logo on the back, I found that the mesh pouch on the outside will just hold a folded 36" reflecter in its pouch, and the pouch comes up just high enough to hide the logo.

For the Canon Digital Rebel XT to be a comparable value, it would sell for $399!