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Canon EOS 7D

canon_eos_7_d
Review Date: Nov 1, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,690.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Body, Handling, AF system, picture quality considering the pixel density,
Cons:
APS-C, diffraction ceiling due to pixel density

After a few weeks and a few thousand shots with the 7D, I have complicated feelings about the 7D... perhaps I need to see a therapist. The body is and has everything I could ask for, and has all of what I see as weaknesses in my 5DII: excellent build, better button layout, especially for live-view and video implementation, strong and accurate AF with an AI Servo mode I trust on 17 of the 19 points (the right and left most points aren't quite as good as the rest, I assume because of how close they are to the edge). The image quality is essentially very good, especially considering 18mpx. I'm surprised at how well the files hold up at high ISO, with good contrast and decent noise. My complicated feelings come from the fact that, really, this camera still has too many pixels for its sensor size. Yeah, 18 is great for cropping, but unnecessary for my printing purposes, and I suspect this is true for most people who will buy this camera. The problem with this high pixel density is the diffraction limit for this camera is around f/7.1, which limits its usefulness as a landscape camera, though it certainly is great for sports. 5DII images are sharper, cleaner, prettier to my eye. I realize every camera is a trade-off, but oh what I would give for the 7D features/body with a 5DII (or even 5D original) sensor. Still, I have to give the 7D a big thumbs up for those looking for an APS-C camera. Its great.

 
Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM

sigma50-14jpg
Review Date: May 18, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp wide open, very sharp f/2 and on. Gorgeous bokeh and fine transitions from focus to out-of-focus. Focus is quick and accurate on my copy at all distances.
Cons:
It's pretty big (but balances nicely on a 5D).

It's pretty much all been said in previous reviews, and its a shame that some people have had trouble with focusing, but a good copy of this lens is a treasure. I love it. I'm not comparing it just with L glass, of which I've used plenty, but also to some of the Leica glass I use on my M8. Set aside minor issues of build-quality, MTF charts, focusing accuracy, whatever: images from this lens are beautiful.

 
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM

70-300_isusm
Review Date: Feb 15, 2006 Recommend? no | Price paid: $650.00 | Rating: 4 

 
Pros: IS is excellent, lightweight, relatively sharp horizontal (as reported)...
Cons:
...but, also as reported, blurry edges when shooting in portrait.

I really want to like this lens, and I do when holding it landscape, but as many are reporting, my copy is bad on the vertical portraits at the top and bottom of the frame...it's really noticeable between 150-300. I've still got a couple of days to return this copy to the store and try to find a better one, but unless and until I do, I can't imagine keeping it. I hope Canon addresses this, because the range w/IS is so great, and it does work nicely when held horizontally/landscape = sharp pictures, though a bit softer at the long end.

 
Tamron 200-500MM F/5-6.3 Di LD (IF)

200500mm
Review Date: Apr 17, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $850.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Lightweight, solid build, accurate AF, hood, sharp at f/8 and smaller
Cons:
Bit soft wide, minor CA at 450+, Bokah fair IMO

For my 20D, I debated long and hard between this lens, the EF 100-400 IS, and the EF 400 5.6. In the end I decided based on the Tamron's lightness and range: 200-500 best fit my needs. I've been happy with it's quick and accurate AF, though it struggles a bit in backlighting (i.e.: ducks on bright, backlit waters), and it's not quite quick enough for, say, Hummingbirds, but that's a tall order for any AF system. The biggest and best surprise for me is that the AF still works quite well with a Tamron 1.4x TC, giving me autofocus at 700mm and f/9 (which is not supposed to work on a 20D). The lens is light and easy to handle, I can take sharp handheld shots at 500mm no problem, even as slow as 1/320s when I've stayed off coffee. Not as slow as the shutter speeds you could get with 100-400IS perhaps, but it's also a much easier lens to hold in the first place.

One thing I don't like is that the focus ring needs to be avoided while spinning on AF, but it's placed right where I habitually put my left hand, so I'm having to retrain myself a bit.

The pictures are bright & sharp at all f-stops except wide open (6.3 at 500mm) and even that cleans up nicely with a little USM. There is a little CA when pixel peeping for 450+mm shots, but it's minor.

This lens is fun to use, has nice contrast and sharpness, produces lots of "keepers," and is easy to carry: it'll make it into my bag a lot, which is the most important characteristic for me. Excellent lens for the price.

Some examples:
http://www.pbase.com/cdgerston/tamron_200500_images