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Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

ef50mmf_14usm_1_
Review Date: Dec 18, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Very sharp @ f/1.8. Fast and silent focusing. Cheap filters.
Cons:
f/1.6 and below has some serious softness in the corners.

I've been shooting with this lens for about a month now and I'm really enjoying its results. It doesn't draw much attention and is great in low light conditions. It's great being able to shoot at ISO400 f/1.8 instead of ISO800 f/2.8.

I highly recommend doing a focus test with this lens if you choose to buy it. My copy fortunately did not have front/back focus issues; I was able to confirm this easily with a printable focus chart that I found online (http://www.focustestchart.com/chart.

On my crop body, it's a great lens for tight portraits, when I (eventually) get a Full Frame body, it'll be an even better walk-around lens.


 
Canon EOS 20D

20d
Review Date: Nov 16, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $550.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Tough build, battery life is excellent, thumb wheel is appreciated, larger buffer than my old camera, 5fps, 1/8000s max shutter speed, fast startup time, great if you have a kid!
Cons:
Viewfinder isn't large enough for manual focusing,

I sprung for the 20D because the used market is saturated with them right now; this has driven down prices considerably. Prior to this I was using the original Digital Rebel and was really feeling its limitations. I'm going to give a slightly different take on the 20D from a parent's perspective.

Here's my parental reasons for getting this body:

Frame Rate: 5fps (vs. 2.5 from the 300d) will help ensure that you get your kid in the frame as he/she plays.

Battery life: This thing shoots forever, I remember constantly having to eyeball the battery meter on my 300D, it's simply not the case with the 20D. Spend all day at Disneyland with your kid, you won't run out of batteries.

Thumb Wheel: A bit quicker to change settings vs. the cross-type buttons on the Rebel.

Buffer: Nothing like watching great moments go by while your buffer is clearing. With the 20D I miss less shots of my kid because it gives me 6 raw shots vs. 4 with the 300D.

Startup Time: I know some of you can relate to this one. If you ever had an original Rebel, the startup time was 3 seconds! I had to constantly half-press the shutter to keep the camera from turning off automatically. I swear that my kid would wait for my camera to auto-shut off before she did anything interesting. The 20D's startup time is almost instantaneous so I don't have to half-press the shutter like I have a nervous tic.

Shutter Speed: Okay, this isn't really a kid-related reason. But I really appreciate having the 1/8000s max shutter speed of the 20D vs. 1/4000s; this is especially true if you're shooting in bright locations (like Lake Mojave).


 
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

ef17-40_4l_1_
Review Date: Oct 30, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $450.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: My copy is super-sharp at all focal lengths. Nice contrasty images.
Cons:
None. People who complain that it's not f/2.8 should get the 16-35 or the 17-55.

I bought this lens for a trip to China that I recently took. Along with this lens I also packed a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. The 70-200mm stayed in my bag almost the entire time! The 17-40 had the perfect focal range on my crop body (20d) and I never felt like it was too short.

For street photography, f/2.8 is too narrow of a depth of field so f/4.0 isn't really a handicap. Also, anything longer than the 40mm on this lens makes me feel too much like a paparazzi for this type of photography (another reason why my big-white lens stayed in its bag most of the time).

For night photography (in the city), I set my camera to Manual mode f/4.0, 1/30th and 800/1600iso. I rarely encountered a situation where there was not enough available light to get the shot (probably because the streets/markets were fairly well lit in China).

For the price and the features, this lens is hard to beat.