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Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM

image_copy
Review Date: Dec 16, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $380.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Great range on a crop, Excellent OS, faster than Canon equivelant
Cons:
no FTM, focus problems at 70mm MFD

The "walk around" lens discussion is highly debated, and there are a lot of really great lenses in this focal range - both canon and 3rd party. I've used almost all of them, both constant 2.8, and variable aperture. I decided for me, added focal length was more valuable to me than constant 2.8 aperture. I'll throw a flash on if I need it. That being said, this lens is still basically a stop faster than the Canon equivelant - at least 2/3rds at all focal lengths. OS is great. Canon's IS is probably a bit better, but it's splitting hairs. This lens gives 1:2.7 macro, which is pretty good. Canon's 50mm macro goes to 1:2

The one problem I found with this lens was in the macroish range at 70mm. The AF will lock and give you a pic, but I found them to be super soft. Even stopped down to f/8, those photo's didn't look good. All other ranges were fine, so I focused manually using liveview, and the photos were perfectly sharp. Just a weird thing there. At 4 feet, the lens focuses fine and gives you sharp results. Less than that, it starts to get dodgy. Something to think about if you want this lens to double as a macroish lens.



 
Tokina 35mm f/2.8 AT-X M35 PRO DX

atxm35
Review Date: Feb 11, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $200.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharp! even wide open, macro ability, "normal" lens on crop camera
Cons:
2.8 not fantastic for a prime, buzzy AF

I picked this up sort as a compromise to use on my Canon 40D. I have a 17-40mm f/4 a 70-200mm f/4 and several 50mmish primes, but I really wanted something faster than the f/4 in a walk around range. All my lenses have been Canon except for some older manual focus primes.

My primary use for this lens was going to be indoor-walk around type. I have the 17-40 for outdoor stuff, and 50mm's and the 70-200 for portraits, but I needed something I could put on my camera when I'm inside that would give me decent isolation but be fast enough (the 17-40 isn't). 50mm is too long...so the hunt began.

I tried the EF 28mm 2.8, and while the IQ was decent, the poor quality and the ridiculous sound it makes when focusing (loudest of any lens I've ever used) was a deal breaker. I liked the EF 24mm 2.8 but that was a bit to wide. I settled on the 35mm 2.0 from canon. I started looking used and ran across this lens for 200 bucks. I figured I'd give it a try, giving up half a stop for the ability to shoot macro (I didn't have a macro, and that was next on the list).

I'm impressed. I do a lot of buying and selling lenses and other stuff, and the ability to get close to do detailed product photography was something I was hurting for. This lens totally fills that need. It comes out to a 56mm equivalent on a 1.6 crop, so it fills the "normal" prime range for me. While 2.8 isn't awesome for a prime, it's good enough with the ISO capabilities of newer DSLR cameras. The build quality is great, and the IQ is fantastic.

If you really want to focus on macro photography, get something longer (EF-S 60mm or the 100mm macro). You have to get CLOSE for true macro work with this lens. 1:1 comes in right around the front plane of the lens. You're basically touching whatever you're trying to photograph. If you're a stamp person or something else that doesn't move, this can work fine, or if you really only need something that can get closer then the normal 1:4 or so.

It does tend to underexpose a bit and the auto-focus gives you a low buzzing sound (less then the 50mm 1.8). 2.8 isn't always optimal for indoor photography, but if you can live with that stuff you'll have a super flexible lens that can serve several purposes.

I couldn't be happier with this lens.


 
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM

ef70_200_4_1_
Review Date: Oct 21, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $495.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: SHARP, Great IQ, great colors, great bokeh
Cons:

This is the only lens, outside of the 50mm 1.8 that I won't get rid of. I've had 3 telephoto lenses. 75-300 which I upgraded to the 55-250, which I upgraded to this lens. I'm not saying I'll never swing for the IS version, or upgrade to the 2.8 version, but I will ALWAYS have a version of the 70-200 in my bag. I've had close to 15 different "walk around" lenses and I'm still not super satisfied with what I'm shooting in that range. For this range, Canon doesn't disappoint.

It's sharp wide open and gets a little sharper stopped down (mostly in the corners). Unless you're using it for landscapes (I don't) the corner sharpness isn't as important. I use a monopod (having a "L" lens isn't magic, you still have to do your part) to get the sharpness I'm looking for. Portraits are amazing, colors are fantastic, Bokeh is pleasing, speed outdoors is acceptable, build quality is second to none, USM is quiet...I love everything about this lens!


 
Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

3_5-5
Review Date: Oct 19, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Sharp!!!! even wide open. Great IS. Best of any lens I've used.
Cons:
It's slow for a $700.00 lens. No hood, but the thing that really gets me is the lens creep.

I traded a couple primes for this lens with the thoughts of trying it quickly, but ultimately trading it on for a 17-40mm f/4. The reviews I read gave me pause...because it was getting some pretty darn good ones. My first impressions were that it was pretty ugly...I had the 17-85mm lens, and it was more aesthetically pleasing, but there it is. The zoom ring and the focus ring are silky smooth - way better than the 17-85mm lens, but the real kicker was the IQ. It's just sharp. Canon really focused on the wide end of this lens as the 17-85 was pretty bad at the wide end. The results were very very good. Colors are better on my 70-200mm f/4, but I kinda expect that.

What I didn't expect was the zoom creep, which my 17-85 never did. Unlike some, this one stays put at 15mm and at 85mm, but between 20 and 70, it slides in and out pretty quickly. No setting it at 35 and pointing over your head unless you're holding on. No holding near the ground and pointing up...it's not a slow slide. It takes a fraction of a second for it to go from 20 to 70 and from 70 down to 20. I sent it into Canon and they told me that it was "well within factory settings". When I called them to complain they told me that I could send it in and they would take another look, but couldn't guaranty a fix. For a lens of this price, I'm just not ok with that. If it wasn't for the creep I'd give the build an 8, but as it is...


So take it for what it's worth. If that doesn't bother you, you're in for a treat. For an outdoor walk around lens...it's the best on a crop camera that you can get. The image quality rivals, and in some areas bests the exalted 17-55mm IS. The 2mm on the short end make a HUGE difference in the angle of view you get (equivalent to 24mm on ff).


 
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS

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Review Date: Aug 23, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $200.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Light, great zoom range, fast focus (even though it's non USM) Image quality is excellent for price, uses 58mm filters etc.
Cons:
when compared to the price...nothing's really a negative. Just par for the course.

I picked this lens up after I sold my 75-300. I couldn't be more pleased with the result. I didn't think the 75-300 was too bad of a lens despite the poor reviews. I have a crop camera, so it only uses the center of the shot. Yeah it was soft pretty much at all ranges...but I wasn't using it to capture landscapes. Primarily I used it to take pictures of a single object (animal, bird, person) at long ranges. You don't need the edges sharp when you're purposely blurring them...

Anyway, enough about that lens. This one blows that one away! Image stabilization on a telephoto makes shooting handheld a ton of fun! Despite being super light (feels like a toy) it produces sharp images! Your keeper rate will triple if you're use to a telephoto without IS. The focus is fast and tracks well. I compared this lens to the 70-200 f/4 and the 70-300 IS recently because I was considering upgrading. The "L" lens produced photos that were sharper (I'm a closet pixel peeper). Colors were better too...but I still have more keepers with my far less expensive image stabilized lens. The images from the 70-300 were basically identical. Unless you're able to swing for the 70-200 f/4 with IS, I'd hang onto this one. I wouldn't bother with the 70-300 IS unless you need the extra 50mm or don't want to sell when you upgrade to full frame. When I can upgrade, I will, but as the "L" lens with IS costs 5x more then the one I have...I'll be shooting with it for some time. It's the best value out there for someone looking to add reach to their crop camera.



 
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

ef50mmf_14usm_1_
Review Date: Aug 23, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $275.00 | Rating: 6 

 
Pros: Fast, great bokeh, light
Cons:
inconsistent focus

I picked up a copy of this lens a couple months ago. I was looking to upgrade my 50mm 1.8. I loved the added weight and how it balanced my Canon XS Rebel. I shot a bit with it and took the pictures home and threw them on the computer...none of them were in focus. I'm not new to this and know how to focus. I put my camera in "live view" mode, zoomed in and manually focused. Picture turned out great. I used my center point and tried the auto focus. It missed. I returned the lens thinking I got a bad copy or that it needed some sort of adjustment my camera didn't have and picked up a different one. At first I thought it did better (tested it pretty rigorously before I bought this time) but this one too missed focus more often then it locked on. I kept it for 2 months, trying to see if it was just me and my technique. No luck. The pictures that did focus were pretty amazing. 1.4 lets in an unbelievable amount of light and has a fantastically thin depth of field. I loved some of the pictures I took with it, but missed too many shots for it to be a keeper. I sold it to someone who could micro adjust it (7D) and bought an 85mm 1.8. This lens locks perfectly every time. I picked up another 50mm 1.8 which also locks focus perfectly (although a bit slower).

 
Canon EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM

EF17-85
Review Date: Aug 23, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $225.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Great walk around, spot on focus
Cons:
distortion, bit slow sometimes.

I feel a bit obligated to post a review for this lens as I've seen so many bad ones...they just don't do the lens justice I had the choice between this one and a 28-135 for the right around the same price. Reviews of this lens have been all over the board, but because I needed the wider end (planned to sell the kit) I went for the 17-85.

I've had nothing but good images out of this lens. I haven't had any "L" lenses, but I've owned the 50mm 1.4 and the 100mm 2.8 macro and now own the 50mm 1.8, and the 85mm 1.8...so I know what a sharp image is supposed to look like. When I want an artistic shot, a portrait or something else where I'm trying to blow out the background, I have the primes (and they're amazing). When I just want a lens at a party or gathering, the 17-85mm is the one I grab. I probably over analyze my pictures for sharpness...even though I don't make huge prints (most people do this) and even then this lens doesn't disappoint. You just can't underestimate the benefit of image stabilization. I've seen so many reviews where people say they don't need IS it at this range...my keeper percentage is around 75%. That's indoor, low light with no flash. They're sharp, even wide open. Is there distortion? Yes. Big deal. It's correctable. What isn't correctable is getting blur because your hands are shaking or having your back against the wall and still not fitting everything you want into the frame.

The facts are that even 2.8 indoors isn't enough sometimes. Do the math. At 85mm (which I basically never shoot indoors) I'm at a 5.6 f-stop. My 85mm prime is a 1.8. The 1.8 is 3.33 stops faster. With the 4 stop image stabilization, my 5.6 is acting like a 1.4 (for camera shake only), and yes, it works! All the reviews insist that there are better lenses out there. Well no kidding! If cost wasn't an issue...BUT IT ALWAYS IS! If you're not getting paid to take pictures, then you probably don't have the money to just throw away on your hobby. I know I don't. If you want an improvement in aperture, lens sharpness etc...then you have 3 options. the 24-105 f/4 IS at right around 1000, the 24-70 2.8 at 1200, or the 17-55 2.8 IS at 1000....I hear the 15-85mm is really good too, but that lens is still more then 2x more what you can get this lens for. In my opinion (just that, an opinion), the equivalent lenses in non canon brands (sigma, tamron) aren't worth the small amount you save. From what I've seen, they don't focus as consistently or have the color rendering/contrast of Canon lenses. If you're like 90% of the regular people out there you're looking for the least expensive option available that will give you the quality result you're looking for. This lens is it. Buy it and a 50mm 1.8 for when you really NEED the low light performance. No need to abuse the credit card more than necessary.