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Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Review Date: Aug 31, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $250.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Incredible bokeh, fantastic colour, excellent contrast.
Purple fringing like you wouldn't believe, not very sharp until about 2.0

I got this lens to replace my 50mm F/1.8 mkII as I really didn't like the bokeh of the 1.8 very much. Its pentagonal highlight shape and strong edges created a somewhat displeasing background blur. The colour from this lens is superb, with rich, lifelike colours and a nice, sharp contrast.

I LOVE the extra bit of light I get from 1.8 to 1.4, and the lens seems reasonably as sharp as my 1.8 (although the 1.8 was perhaps sharper at 1.8 than the 1.4 is at 1.8).

The big problem I have with this lens that I did NOT have with the 1.8, however, is the purple fringing. Against a light background, the fringing is so bad as to make a shot unusable unless stopped down to about F/4 to minimise it. In comparison, the 1.8 had almost NO purple fringing at all (perhaps because it had fewer elements to break up the light).

If the 1.2L fares better, it will be worth the price to upgrade. For now, I have to ensure that my backgrounds aren't too bright when I use this lens, or I have to resolve to make the photo monochromatic.

Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 EX Aspherical DG DF

Review Date: May 23, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $390.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Super-sharp, excellend bokeh, solid build, macro focus (in the newer DG model), price
82mm filters

I wasn't honestly expecting much when I purchased this lens. I wanted an inexpensive 24-70 2.8L equivalent, and the reviews I'd seen on this and the tests showed that it was at least as sharp if not sharper. I was more than pleasantly surprised.

At 24mm, it's soft wide open, but is very sharp by F/4. Starting about 35mm and up, it's very sharp wide open. The colour is incredible, and the contrast is excellent. Macro focus is very handy, and the bokeh is excellent, making this a wonderful portrait lens as well as an excellent lens for indoor shoots.

82mm filters can be a bit of a pain, but if you look around, you can find used ones rather inexpensively priced, so I've managed to stock up on the basics (SMC UV, IR(67mm with step-down), and CPL) for less than $100 in outlay.

I still don't see why people have issues with the Sigma manual focus clutch. It's neither difficult to get used to nor really ambiguous, but I've heard this complaint with every Sigma lens I've seen.

The focus motor isn't too quiet, but I'd hardly rank it as loud. The shutter on my 20D is a far louder noise. It is NOT the fastest focus, however, but it seems fast enough for the sorts of things one's using a 24-70 (i.e. not birds in flight at great distances).

For the price, it simply can't be beaten, and having used both this and a Canon 24-70 2.8L, I can honestly say I'd choose this lens for quality. The Canon focuses a little faster, but not considerably, and certainly not enough to warrant an extra $800 in added price.

Sigma 28mm f1.8 EX DG Aspherical Macro

Review Date: Jul 15, 2005 Recommend? no | Price paid: $289.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: Sharp (when in focus) wide open, nice construction, good colour, macro focus.
Focus issues, a bit heavy for a 28, 77mm filters

I fell in love with this lens and its brethren, the 24mm F/1.8 EX DG Macro, and the 20mm F/1.8 EX DG Macro because of their reputed sharpness, my overall love of my other Sigma lenses, and the handy, macro focus capability of these lenses (allowing for some fun, wide(r)-angle, low-light shots).

I ended up buying four of them... one after the other. Not a single one would auto-focus correctly on my Canon Digital Rebel, my Canon 20D, a 10D I borrowed, or another 20D I borrowed. Eventually, I simply gave up and tried one of the 24mm ones, and then one of the 20mm ones -- all with the exact same design and only differing in their lens elements. No luck. I sent them back to Sigma who told me that the lens was just fine on their cameras, but did indeed agree that, given the sample images I sent them, didn't work on my cameras. They claimed that this was an error with the cameras I tried, although I've never had another lens do this (and trust me, I own a LOT of lenses) -- either Canon OR Sigma.

Reading similar problems online, I suspect this is an overall design flaw more than simply a quality control issue. Some of them work like a charm, but I'm wondering if they are the exceptions and not the rule.

Manually-focused, this lens works perfectly, and the images it created were indeed sharp and wonderful. If only they'd fix the auto-focus portion of it, this lens would get a 10 from me.