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Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM

ef500mmf_4_1_
Review Date: Dec 8, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $5,200.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: ability to be handheld, works well with a gimbal style head, portability is excellent.
Cons:
none.

If you are interesting in birding or similar wildlife subjects, there is no better lens then that 500/F4 IS. While there is the longer 600mm/F4, this lens is able to be handheld regularly while having the portability and ease of use that no other lens in this class offers.

The build quality and construction are first rate and can handling the most demanding of environments.

It performance is excellent with both the 1.4 and 2X converters, and I've even used them both stacked on several occasions.

My only regret was not getting one sooner.


 
Tamron 28-75MM F/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical (IF)

2875mm
Review Date: Dec 11, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $275.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Sharpness on par or better that competing lenses, price is excellent
Cons:
AF speed, warm color, build

One of the benefits of any 2.8 lens should be it's ability to work in a low light situation, however the 28-75 XR Di suffers from less than ideal AF speed. Outdoors this lens shines and can run circles around it's competitors, particularly if you are shooting portraits or weddings. However if you are planning on a lot of indoor shooting, you might think twice as it can be a bit difficult.

One of the other benefits of 2.8 should be the bokeh. This is one this leses crowning moments, having some nice BG blur, while being able to retain some nice crisp edges on the areas in focus, in the DOF. Sharpness on my copy was on par with both the 28-70 and 24-70L lenses.

Although the build quality is far from "L", it is decently manufactured, but it still remains to be seen how this may affect the long term investment aspect of this lens. At less than 1/2 or 1/3 the price of a Canon L lens, this lens really represents an excellent value, specifically if your on a budget.

If you are starting out and don't have a large budget, get the Tamron, however if you are a seasoned pro looking for a long term solution, get either of the Canon 2.8 L's.


 
Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8L USM

ef_28-70_28s_1_
Review Date: Oct 21, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $725.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Canon L optics, 77mm filter ring, fast auto-focus
Cons:
not weather-sealed.

The 28-70, which is the predecessor to the 24-70L is an excellent piece of glass that will give you outstanding images consistently. Since it is one generation older than the current 24-70L lens, it can usually be had for about 25% less than a comparable 24-70.

Many will say this is sharper than the 24-70, however I have found my 24-70 was consistently sharper at all apertures and focal lengths. I think the "bad copy"(24-70) excuse may get used a bit too frequently when these "optically superior"(28-70) lenses come up for sale. I am a firm believer that you need to learn your equipment and see where it's best and also remember technique is also important.

I think you can't go wrong with either one, or even for that matter the older 28-80/2.8-4L that still floats around the market every now and again.

About the only thing I didn't like was the lack of weather sealing, but was addressed in the 24-70 edition of glass. It's a few ounces lighter, but you'll barely be able to tell the difference in weight once it's on a body. Had I not gotten an irresistable deal on the 24-70, I'd probably still be happily owning this lens.


 
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

ef100_400l_1_
Review Date: Feb 23, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,250.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Affordable way to get to 400mm, push pull design, wonderful bokeh, fast focusing, IS
Cons:
push pull design, 5.6 aperture wide open at 400mm, no weather sealing (obviously with the push-pull design)

One word sums this lens up: Practice.

If you pick up this lens expecting to get sharp images at 400mm straight out of the box, don't bother, and pick up the 400/5.6L.

However, if you are patient and willing to understand the lens, and practice with it, you won't be disappointed. The flexibility it offers as a zoom can actually help you to become a better wildlife and/or bird photographer.

I've had some very good shots and some very bad shots with this lens. Ideally you need good lighting for this lens to really shine, but even in less than ideal light you may be capable of pulling off some good shots. I will forwarn though, that this lens really is not fast enough for flight action in less than ideal light.

The push-pull design is a double edged sword as it's prone to dust attraction (After using this lens on 4 outings, I can even see dust spots on the sensor at F8, which is not normal). However, the push-pull design allows you to help track birds in flight better, especially if you are new to aviary photography. I may be right or wrong in my method, but if I lose track of a bird, simply zoom out, recompose, focus, and then zoom back in. Whereas it might be easier for some to use a focusing ring, the push-pull design is something I have gotten used to and now like.

The only real negative thing, is it leaves you wanting more length, which can get quite pricey.


 
Gitzo G1228 Mountaineer Reporter Mk2 Carbon Fiber

G1228G_1_
Review Date: Jan 20, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $450.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: 4 section tripod Carbon Fiber build lightweight
Cons:
leglocks (but not nearly as frustating as many users may make them out to be).

Overall this is a great tripod that is an excellent travel tripod and collapses down to a short height that can be packed on the back of a camera bag or even thrown in a small suitcase.

The leglocks are a minor nuisance, that will not frustrate you nearly as much, once you practice and use them.

One of my bigger complaints is cost. Although well made, it's still a tripod that is quite pricey, even with it's excellent build quality. Gitzo would probably sell twice as many of these if they were priced at about 375-400, here in the U.S. With the price closer to 450, it make consumers question and search for a cheaper tripod under the $400 price point.


 
Acratech ballhead

57ballhead_1_
Review Date: Jan 19, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $225.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Lightweight, strong, well built
Cons:
none.

Do you want light? This is it. Can't get any lighter or tougher. Superb build quality from a manufacturer that cares more about quality than quantity. Mates perfect to a Gitzo CF tripod for the perfect hiking solution.

My only complaint was the difficulty in changing the quick release clamp/plate. Acratech uses blue Loc-Tite on the threads and it needs to be heated to loosen up the QR plate, which isn't documented on their paperwork I had. If you are perfectly happy with the factory clamp, then it's the perfect solution. If not, then you might as well buy the version without the clamp.


 
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

ef17-40_4l_1_
Review Date: Nov 14, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $650.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: • Although not superwide, quite sufficient for landscape work. • Great sharpness, color and contrast. • L 77mm ring size. • Good price. • Best walkaround lens for landscapes on a 1.6 crop factor body. • Very good quality control. • Solid build.
Cons:
• Lack of a 2.8 aperture.

99 times out of 100, you will probably get a sharp copy of this lens. For a walkaround lens on a 1.6 crop factor body, it can't be beat. Yes, there are more affordable alteratives from Sigma and Tamron, but all too often you have to worry about QC issues. If you value your time and just want to start off with a sharp lens, just do yourself a favor and pick this up.

After picking this up, I don't think I took this lens off for three weeks. Although it's not a 2.8 lens, with the high ISO performance of the 20D, this makes a perfect companion. It's also roughly half the price of the 16-35/2.8 lens.


 
Bogen/Manfrotto 3021 Tripod Legs

product_83
Review Date: Nov 1, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $146.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Solid build quality, excellent tripod. Great for studio work.
Cons:
Weight, length, not suitable for hiking or climbing.

While some may say the extra 2 pounds this may add to a CF tripod is not much, it's still 2 more pounds. If you are after a tripod to ease your hiking, or mountain climbing, this is not the one for you. However, if you only moderatly use a tripod, and will use it mainly for studio and location work, then this is a great set of legs.

I had bought one at the recommendation of a few people, and it was a great set for while I had it. However after going on several hikes over the course of the summer, I knew this tripod was not designed with hiking in mind. So, I've sold it and am now in search of a set of CF legs, that are more compact and a little lighter.


 
Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 XR Di Zoom AF

28-75mm
Review Date: Sep 21, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $280.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: F2.8. Excellent range. Nice bokeh, incredible value for the price, lightweight, great walkaround lens
Cons:
Not super fast AF, colors aren't as vivid as an L, build quality

I owned this lens for about two months. I got an excellent deal on it on ebay. I gambled and got a sharp copy. Be careful as Tamron's warranty is not transferable and if you need your adjusted, it will cost.

All in all, I found the lens a pleasure to work with. Great pairing for my 17-40L. The build quality is average and since it's not metal, it's fairly light. Zoom creep is not a big deal with the zoom lock switch that is on it. the auto-focus isn't the fastest, but I don't know too many people shooting sports with this focal range.

I recently sold this lens on the B&S of this forum for the same price I paid, as I am moving up to L glass. However, part of me is regretting the sale as this truly is an astounding value for the price.


 
Sigma 12-24mm f4.5-5.6 EX DG Aspherical HSM

l3a_copy
Review Date: Sep 19, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $650.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Wide angle that will work with 1.6, 1.3 and FF bodies; Excellent Sigma glass
Cons:
Gel filters; 82mm filter size; big; sharpness on some copies; Distortion when not parrallel to the ground (as with any WA).

All in all an excellent lens if you need a real wide angle on a full frame, or just a wide lens on the 1.6 crop factor bodies. However, if you don't fully need that 12mm, the 17-40 4L is a much better and more consistent lens for the money.

 
Canon EF 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM

ef100_300f45_56_1_
Review Date: Jun 21, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $155.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Excellent focus speed. Relatively lightweight.
Cons:
Quality drops off at about 240mm, but still acceptable image quality at 300.

After reviewing this lens and the Sigma 70-300 APO Super II macro lens, I was actually sold on the Sigma lens. While looking for a bargain on the Sigma I came across this copy on ebay and was able to get the lens for a relatively good price.

My expectations were not set too high with it, as I saw mostly positive reviews but nothing on the level of outstanding. Well, after shooting with this for a few days, I can positively say this was a fantastic purchase. The lightning quick focusing of it was well worth the asking price alone.

Quality seemed to drop of a little above 240mm but I still was able to capture relatively good images at 300. Some sample shots can be seen at http://www.pbase.com/eeprete/bee . These may help you to make a better judgement call as far as your own expectations.

If you had to choose between this and the Sigma, I would suggest this used over the Sigma new, but if you can't find a used copy, the 279 pricetag may be a tad high.