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Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

EFS18-55_35-56IS
Review Date: Feb 25, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $180.00 | Rating: 5 

 
Pros: fairly sharp, IS, small & light, price
Cons:
color, contrast, distortion

This is the perfect lens for someone who tends to conflate image quality with sharpness- it really makes you realize how important other characteristics of IQ (contrast, color, and distortion) really are! I bought this looking for a cheap and light travel kit and while I agree that the lens is sharp (competitive with a 17-40mm I owned in center sharpness, especially if stopped down), the colors are poorly rendered, distortion and vignetting on the wide end is very noticeable, and contrast is generally poor. Some of that can be fixed in PP or by stopping down, but I'd rather spend a couple hundred dollars more to cut my processing time in half and so that I wouldn't be restricted to shooting at f/8.

I don't really care much that the lens feels cheap- I spend a lot of time hiking with my lenses, so the weight is actually a plus for me, and while I don't baby my lenses, I also don't abuse them and they seem to hold up fine. The lack of FTM and the flimsy zoom mechanism is par for the course at this price point.

That said, I could still recommend this lens for snapshots, or for a first lens. The IS is a plus for photographing inanimate objects or waterfalls (I can get good results reliably at 1/10 sec), and it produces pretty good images stopped down and in good light (but I'm not sure I've seen a lens that's terrible when stopped down in good light). I do agree with other reviewers who feel like it would be an easy lens to outgrow, particularly concerning the lack of flexibility with the aperture.


 
Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM

1ef200mmf_28_1_1_
Review Date: Feb 25, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $520.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: fast, sharp, contrasty, pleasing bokeh, quick focusing, relatively short and light, great price for a f/2.8 telephoto.
Cons:
not weather-sealed? (not really a concern for me)- and doesn't share filter size with any of my other lenses (not really a fault of the lens)

bought this lens used from B&H almost a year ago and have been repeatedly tried to rationalize getting rid of it in favor of my 70-300mm. It's a little long for portraits and a little short for wildlife (and I don't shoot any sports), but every time I use it I'm just so pleased with the results that I end up keeping it. I've found it's a great hiking//backpacking lens for shooting compressed landscapes. I don't really mind the lack of zoom since I shoot most telephotos on their long end. Might work as a wildlife lens for more environmental-type shots- makes an excellent zoo lens. If you're not expecting to print large, the lens is sharp enough to take heavy cropping (for small print sizes or web-viewing, you can even get good results from 100% crops in good light).
Aesthetically, the lens is sturdy but light, the focus ring is well-damped, and it's shorter than any other lens at it's focal length so it can fit into a holster-type camera bag. Highly recommend for anyone who uses their zooms almost exclusively at the long end and feels weight/size is a consideration for them. Possible alternative to the 7-200mm f/4 zoom if you can find one used.