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Canon EF 35mm f/2

ef35mmf2_1_
Review Date: Aug 16, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $225.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: AMAZING optical quality, sharpness, colors, cheap, f/2.0
Cons:
noisy focusing, hunts in low light

This probably the best optical quality lens that I've every used. The sharpness and color rendition are amazing. There's a complete lack of distortion. Maybe I have an exceptionally great copy, but based on reviews, it seems like a general strength of this lens.

The f/2.0 is great. I use it a lot for walk-around shots at night, at museums (where flash is prohibited), and at weddings. I also use it a lot indoors at get-togethers with friends and family.

I think for a beginner, this should be the first lens that you get. On 1.6x crop cameras, it's more natural than the 50 mm. This lens trains your eyes properly without having to worry about the added complexity of zooming.


 
Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4.5 DC MACRO

137_small
Review Date: Aug 16, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $390.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: versatility, zoom range, sharpness, color, build quality, comes with lens hood, absolutely great value
Cons:
slight front focusing, non-constant large aperture, loosening of the zoom ring, manual focus too

I have had this lens for slightly over a year now, and before buying it, I borrowed the lens, as well as a Canon 16-35 f/2.8L, 17-40 f/4L, and a 24-70 f/2.8L from various friends. Obviously the build quality does not compare with the L-lenses, but suprisingly, this Sigma lens can hold its own optically. As with any lens, there are slight limitations (e.g. softness at 17mm wide open), but I have found that my pictures can rival any of those taken with the [MUCH] more expensive L-lenses.

I like to go hiking outdoors and take landscape and close-up nature shots. This lens, with it's wide angle and macro feature, lets me do all that without changing lenses (which is great when it's raining or dusty). Notably, the limitations of the lens does not come into play under 99% of the practical conditions (e.g. 99% of the time, you will not shoot at 17mm wide open). Furthermore, the lens is significantly lighter than the L-lenses, which is good when my hiking bag is already full of other equipment. And the fact that I'm not lugging around a $1000+ lens outdoors in rugged conditions (or around a city) is comforting.

The only annoying problem with the lens is that it front-focuses by about 2-5 mm. It's not a major problem, but it's important to take into account when doing macro at large apertures. As expected, at smaller apertures, or zoomed out, the problem disappears.

You could switch to manual focus, but a problem there is that the manual focus ring isn't fine enough. The degree of rotation is too small, so it's difficult to get fine tuning. But ironically, this allows for fast auto-focusing without the implementation of more expensive systems.

If you're looking for a high-quality, good-valued, all-around lens, look no further. Under most shooting conditions, this lens is amazing.