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Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

85II
Review Date: Jan 3, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,590.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: IQ/sharpness at f/1.2, snap-on lens hood, and great bokeh. f/1.2 is a wonderful feature.
Cons:
Heavy, relatively slow focusing, high price (but not unexpected), electronic focusing.

f/1.2 is a lot of fun. You almost never have to worry about cluttered backgrounds, as everything turns into a nice blur of colors. You really can focus on an eye and get the eyelashes out of focus (although I can tell that I'll have to practice quite a bit to really learn how to use this lens well).

Another plus is that at f/1.2 you can take photos indoors at ISO 100-200 without flash. It's quite liberating!

At f/1.2 it's not as sharp as the 135mm f/2L I tried a while back, but this is completely expected, as 85mm is wider, and f/2 is nothing like f/1.2. I find it amazing that it is so sharp at f/1.2. It has none of that halation that the 50mm f/1.4 has, but it does have a bit of purple fringing that creeps in, although that's not an issue when taking low-contrast images like portraits.

One minor annoyance is having the electronic focus. It lags a bit behind your manual movement of the focus ring, and you also have to manually focus to infinity to retract the lens before putting it away. The focus being slow does make taking shots of moving objects or babies difficult, especially when you're trying to frame with a narrow DOF. I miss the focus speed of the 135mm f/2L, but you just can't get images similar to those from this lens without f/1.2.

I use this on a 20D, and it does feel pretty heavy. But it does make me want a FF camera, as that would allow for even narrower DOF for the same framing.

Although it has its drawbacks, its IQ and the total artistic freedom it allows for has made it my new favorite lens.


 
Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM

l217_efs1755
Review Date: Jun 27, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,179.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharpness, convenience of zoom (especially for 1.6 crop cameras), weight (compared to full frame equivalent), IS, near lack of CA
Cons:
Bokeh is a little distracting, color is not 100% vibrant, and it doesn't come with hood

This is the lens I've been waiting for. An f2.8 maximum aperture zoom with a good focal length range for a walk around. It's significantly lighter and smaller than the full-frame equivalent lens (24-70mm f2.8L), and as the latest generation IS, which works very well.

It's amazingly sharp. Mine is sharper from literally corner to corner at 55mm than my 50mm f1.4 prime, and is sharper from corner to corner at 17mm than the 17-40 f4L that I upgraded from.

People mention build isn't like L quality, which is true, but I find that it's good enough. I'm not a pro who needs ruggedness, so image quality comes first for me.

Drawbacks are that I occasionally get surprised by some ghosting or flaring, even with the lens hood. For such an expensive lens, Canon should really include the lens hood. Paying for it isn't what irked me, but it was a pain to find its hood (often out of stock and listed as "special order") and pay shipping (since I bought it from a different store).

Although I'm really happy with this purchase, there are some "image quality" issues that I'm sensing (hard to describe) from the pictures I take. There's a subtle rusty look to the colors and the bokeh isn't as pleasing when I compare it to the pictures I take with my EF-S 60mm macro.

Despite its shortcomings, I feel that this is still the ultimate walk-around lens for 1.6 crop cameras.