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Sigma 50-500mm f4-6.3 EX APO RF HSM

50_500EX_mdl_1_
Review Date: Jul 21, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $920.00 | Rating: 6 

 
Pros: Range, mount/handle, price.
Cons:
Focal length > 400mm, finish, filter size, lack of IS/OS.

I really wanted to like this lens.

Took delivery before a trip to the Pac NW for a tour of WA's national parks. I left some of my normal travel kit unused, including the consumer-based Canon 70-300IS.

To make a long story short, in plenty of light - using f-stops between 7 and 13 - I was unable to get anything better than "barely acceptable" in terms of contrast, sharpness, and clarity between 400mm and 500mm. I've shot for a long time - especially travel photography and I couldn't justify keeping the lens with nearly 20% of its advertised range.

I realize that, by and large, Sigma products are viable - and in some cases, remarkable - alternatives to legacy manufacturers' kit (I've had both good and bad experiences in the past). And to add insult to injury, did I caution that careful treatment (no hits or bumps) *still* resulted in several surfaces "losing" their EX Series finish? I still don't have a clue how that happened - from some truly strange areas, too...

Caveat emptor...


 
Sigma 30mm F1.4 EX DC HSM

113_small
Review Date: Jul 4, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $339.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Resolution; light gathering; focus speed; focus accuracy; build; and, compactness.
Cons:
n/a

For the price, this lens can't be beaten. It offers a normal field of view for my pair of 30Ds. My copy *did* require a calibration (this is why it received a score of nine, and not a 10), but now it's sharp at 1.4, better at 1.6, and gorgeous from 1.8 and up. That said, I most often shoot in the range of 1.4 - 1.8.

Focus speed is great; accuracy is (nearly always) spot-on.

Handsome build quality.

It's a de-facto member of my trio of fun for trips/vacanzas (others are Canon's 10-22, and 70-300).


 
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM

ef70-200_28lisu_1_
Review Date: Jun 19, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,415.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Aperture, bokeh, build, value, useful hood.
Cons:

It's all been said, so I'm not going to repeat, ad infinitum. Simply put: I bought this lens for mid-field reach at weddings and corporate events, as well as for portraits. If need be, I shoot it wide open at ISO 1600 on a 30D and am consistently overjoyed with the results.

 
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

EF10-22
Review Date: Oct 26, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $629.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: FOV, color, contrast, distortion
Cons:
Build quality

Many have written about this lens, so I will not copy-and-paste their accolades. Rather, I'll tell you a story that encompasses the lens' pros and cons, and how I justify my rating (for a 30D).

I recently took this lens, a Sigma 30mm, and Canon's 70-300 (my travel kit) to Roma, Pompeii, and Milano. Specifically, in Pompeii, this was the only lens I used. The low levels of fundamental distortion between 10-12mm make the lens shine when capturing the gorgeous nature of the city's ruins combined with a deep blue, cloud pocked sky. Colors of the ruins turned out nearly spot on, and contrast was handled admirably in more cases than I'd have predicted. The level of detail - especially in near-field objects when close focusing - is spectacular. And far field detail is grand, as well, especially with a little USM in post processing. I often observed countless folks constantly adjusting footing to incorporate their selected compositions within the boundaries of either the kit lens, 17-55, or 24-70 (my normal wedding shooter). Although I moved about for composition, I only once or twice found that I needed *a tad more* FOV than 10mm (and for that, we'd be rapidly entering the hyperspecialized 8mm category, no?). (This was in a few of the very small rooms, opened for fresco viewing, where backing up wasn't an option.) And while the lens rejects flare better than any other lens I own/use, I found that purchasing the hood all but elminated it: inclusive of several harsh lighting settings, not one of the shots on the trip revealed flare of any kind...Of course, another added bonus of using the 30D + 10-22 combination is that the short focal length allows for very slow shutter speeds to be used with a high ISO in order to capture photos that would have otherwise been lost (1/3sec, 1/2sec+).

The only let down during the trip and, indeed, during the Pompeii jaunt, was the lens' unsealed nature. For those of you who have visited this city (innundated in 79CE by, and then preserved under, ash and tephra until the 1800s), you know that it's an incredibly dusty spot. Several times, I feared the need to hide the camera due to blowing dirt and sand. And while there is no damage (no grittiness or sluggishness in focusing or zooming), I do believe that weather sealing would have allayed my concerns about the lens' integrity...


 
Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM

ef100mmf_2usm_1_
Review Date: Sep 10, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $394.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharpness, bokeh, value, size, focus.
Cons:

I love this lens. I'd previously tried a friend's and was quite impressed with the sharpness from f2.2/2.5 onward, and the bokeh around f2.8/3.2. Upon purchasing the lens, I was overjoyed to discover both better sharpness (impressive wide open and just great by 2.2/2.5 in most circumstances) and smoother bokeh. I've also done some comparing of my lens with an 85mm f/1.8 that I used to own and I'm quite a bit more impressed with the CA performance at wide apertures with the 100mm than with the 85mm: at f/2, CA is present in high contrast situations, but not nearly as bad as with my 85mm; by f/2.5-2.8, the CA is already greatly reduced; and, by f/3.2-4, it's nearly absent. For a non-L, the contrast and color are great, as well. For the cost, size, and capability, I have yet to use a more impressive prime!

 
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

ef_24-70_28u_1_
Review Date: May 24, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Reliable AF; beautiful bokeh; solidity; high contrast; low CA.
Cons:
Extension while zooming wide is further than I'd have expected, but not really a "negative"! :)

Debated between this lens and (surprise!) the 24-105.

The 24-70mm just felt "right" to me, despite the gain of IS (but loss of f/2.8) on the 24-105.

Superb contrast and low CA across the range (low aberrations/distortions otherwise).

Beautiful "available light" portrait lens.

Reasonable sharpness in low light (f/2.8); grand image quality at f/4, and outstanding imagery at f/8. Most of what I've shot with this lens has been between f/2.8 and f/3.5: I am very pleased.

Two recent shots with it included graduation coverage and a father+two daughters portrait session last weekend: I was quite proud of the 24-70's renderings!


 
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

ef50mmf_18_1_
Review Date: Apr 6, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $79.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Low mass, wide aperture, high sharpness, low price, acceptable bokeh for a 5-blade.
Cons:
Color saturation, contrast, and build could be better, but still fine considering price point!

Bought this lens for as a stop-gap for candid portraiture from a local retailer after returning a seriously defective 85mm f/1.8 (and deciding whether or not to replace with a 100mm macro).

I have been impressed with the low light capabilities of the lens, as well as its color rendition and DOF. I'm also impressed by the low close focusing limit!

The lens has thus far seen a good deal of near landscape (cherry blossoms were out in DC!), candid, food, and night photography. I'm as impressed as I'd hoped I would be.


 
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

ef85mmf_18usm_1_
Review Date: Mar 30, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $372.00 | Rating: 2 

 
Pros: Wide aperture, creamy bokeh, reasonable mass, nice contrast, great AF speed (but confirmations were often wrong: see below).
Cons:
More-than moderate CA, poor focusing from f1.8-f8, distortion in upper frame portion, regardless of orientation, gravelly focus ring.

Following years of shooting film Minolta, I made the switch to Canon for many reasons, including system size, capability, and compatibility. Unfortunately, I had a response quite dissimilar from that of the previous poster (who took only this lens on an international trip).

Due to a delivery problem out of my hands, the 85mm arrived two weeks late - only a day before a two week trip to China. Although this was not the only lens I planned to take, it was the only optic that, on a 1.6 crop, gave me any tele reach. With little time to test, I checked the casing and visible glass surfaces, fired a few frames, packaged it in the Lowepro, and was ready to go. I reviewed the frames I shot in relatively low light...They were fair, considering my flash gear and tripod were already stowed. Most blur I blamed on shutter speed, less on wide open performance.

After the first frames in China (Chengdu, Chongching, and Beijing), though, I had an idea that something might be wrong with the focus or element group. Whether mounted on a tripod or handheld, I couldn't seem to achieve the sharp focus about which I'd read, and experienced, prior to purchase. Focus was sometimes off in front, sometimes behind. Several times, with only the center point selected (which I used for nearly all shots) I found that nothing was in focus. I blamed the little LCD on Rebel XT for not being crisp enough, at first, but realized that other lenses, including a few I tried at camera stores there-once paranoia set in-(the EF-S 10-22 and the Sigma 70-200 f/2.8) *did* look more than crisp on the LCD - and ultimately proved fine when reviewed at home. Furthermore, heavily ramping up the shutter speed to over 1/500 second, when possible - and when it didn't take me below f/2.2 - didn't seem to reduce the blur.

To make a long story short, I ultimately shot about 600 frames with the lens, fewer than 50 of which were in focus enough to be workable (composition and subject notwithstanding). Although these few were relatively sharp, none were even what I'd describe as "sharp", even at narrow apertures. Further, there was a high degree of blurring in the top of many frames, whether horizontally or vertically oriented (yes, even handholding vertically in the manner opposite the way most of us normally shoot). This leads me to believe that, along with a focus ring that ratchets a good deal, I purchased a lens with either element alignment problems or damaged (flexible??) inner guides or barrel.

In any case, I was let down by Canon and am quite disappointed with this purchase (which, even after the trip, is graciously being accepted as a full return from the merchant at which I purchased it).

*Some of you might question why I am recommending the lens as opposed to taking out my displeasure on Canon. Although I do not absolve Canon of making a putrid copy which I ultimately bought, I do grant that I represent the minority in terms of overall model quality. Will I buy another? Likely not. Should you purchase? Unless my experience is the clarion call suggesting a quirk in this model's manufacturing, the probability is that you won't need to share my ire!