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Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM

ef300mmf_28_1_
Review Date: May 22, 2008 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Image quality, build quality
Cons:
none really in context of the above qualities

I'm going to throw this in here as there's no review page for the older non IS version.

Basically read all the reviews here and ignore the IS stuff. Optically this lens is so good, so free of distortion and CA, that I can shoot this with a 2x TC and still pull sharper images than with my 70-200 f 2.8 L (and that's no bad lens either)

The non IS version of these lenses pop up now and then on ebay and through used camera stores. I had the good fortune to be in a shop when they were selling a large number of them on consignment from a large newspaper who had traded them in on new IS versions.

I tried them all and really optically they were all as good as each other with no issues reliability wise or faults which given these were used for over 5 years constantly shooting sporting and other events shows you that they hold up to abuse very well.

The older non IS version, if you can find it, offers unparalleled optical quality at a price that even a povphotag can justify.

These examples are reduced size images from a 8MP 20D (sorry no 100% crops available at time of writing and not updating my pbase account at the moment but may add more recent shots second half of 2008/early 2009) all taken WITH a 2xTC ie working as a 600mm f/5.6 lens:

http://www.pbase.com/marxz/image/93560484/original

http://www.pbase.com/marxz/image/93560884/original

http://www.pbase.com/marxz/image/93561040/original

if your going to complain about the size and weight then basically your looking at the wrong lens, I have a few other telephoto lenses (Sigma 50-500, Canon 70-200 f/2.8L & 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS etc etc) and I do use these more often than this lens as they are more convenient for casual use, when I want the best telephoto quality I can get I pack a tripod or monopod, the 300 f/2.8 and a 1.4x and 2x TC.



 
Canon EF 17-35mm f/2.8L USM

ef17_35_1_
Review Date: Jan 17, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $450.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Good build quality, fast aperture, used units are available very cheep on eBay
Cons:
not so shape or free of CA as the 16-35mm particularly in corners.... won't win you friends in the "elite L series snobs" crowd

Despite being twice superseded this is still a great lens. The 16-35 (particularly the MkII version) is noticeably sharper and more resistant to CA than this older lens......
HOWEVER... a used 17-35 can be picked up for 1/4 the price (or less) of the street price for the 16-35 MkII. Which give you a lot of bang for your buck.

Most of these faults are lost on a 1.6 crop camera such as my D60 and 20D. When used on my film body, yeh I can see some softness at the corners but I can generally compose and work around it.


Used on a 1.6 crop body this is now my primary walk around lens giving me effective FoV of a 28 to 55 mm zoom.

Pro's have been happily using this lens for years and so while it may not be as awesome as the 16-55mm 2.8 L MkII it is still quality kit and the cheap price on the used market make it a great bargain for us less affluent non pro enthusiast.


 
Canon Speedlite 580EX II

580exii
Review Date: Jan 17, 2008 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

 
Pros:
Cons:

Addendum to previous review.

After much complaining that I did about the wireless flash control interface on the new unit... OK I'm a klutz. just required a lighter more deft touch than I was using, once in master mode a quick "jab" at the wireless flash button is all that's needed to pull up the ratio and group edit functions ranter than a solid press+hold button.




 
Canon Speedlite 580EX II

580exii
Review Date: Jan 5, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: New locking foot design, return of the Sync cable port, much improved battery door, faster recycling, "non slip" body material. oh yeh - and it looks much nicer than earlier models too :)
Cons:
Menu, particularly for wireless multi flash control.

First of all just to clear up a misunderstanding that some other reviewers seem to have regarding the difference between ETTL (I) and ETTL II and claiming that this flash is "not ETTL II compatible": ETTL (I) and ETTL II is purely an "in camera" thing, as such any Canon flash that is ETTL (I) compatible is, ipso facto, ETTL II compatible and Vice Versa.
The flash neither knows nor cares if it's mounted on an ETTL I or II body only that the camera IS or IS NOT ETTL.
Cameras that are ETTL II compatible use communications with compatible lenses to get the focus distance (i.e. the distance to the subject) and then fine tune its flash power calculation based on that, the flash it's self plays no part in that calculation and is simply triggered & cut off according to an ETTL II compatible body's calculation.

Anyway - back to the review - Bought this to replace a failed 550EX, needed a new flash ASAP and could not afford the time to search for and bid on ebay for a used 550EX. Although this means I payed more than double the cost of a used 550EX I'm happy with the money spent and this will now be my primary flash for on camera work except for wireless flash control (see below).

The locking foot design is a long over due "upgrade". I've never felt secure (pun intended) with the old "twist top" locking design, the new lever and lock system is rock solid, in several weeks of use I've not had this slip or slide or become monetarily disconnected like I've had with earlier models.

The metal foot looks like it will make the design more rugged, though understandably some reviewers here and elsewhere have worried about this putting strain on the body causing a broken flash to be unrepairable or more expensive to repair. My guess is the second, I unscrewed and pulled the bottom part off and judging by the design the base (last plastic assembly unit) would probably tear away from the foot assembly if given enough force. Fortunately this should be "field repairable" as it's still part of the low voltage area and judicious use of suitable glue and careful handling (or gaffa tape + flash bracket + off camera cable) should get you through until you can get the base and the foot replaced by a canon workshop. I don't know if this design might put more force on the camera's flash mount but my guess is yes and we might see the camera's flash guide rails getting bent out of shape in a mishap but I can't see it ripping the flash mount off the camera.

The tilt/rotate mechanism is huge improvement over the 550EX- apart from full 360 rotation and single button tilt/rotate it actually, thankfully, needs the release button depressed to drop it in to the "close up" position - on the 550EX it could and did "droop" down making mounting a flash extender (i.e. better beemer) or soft box problematic, as the flash extender would then miss-aim below the subject (using 400mm or longer lens the better beemer would drop and only fill the bottom half of the frame) and a soft box would drop enough to interfere with the autofocus assist light. Thankfully on the 580EX II I've not had that happen at all, it stays solidly locked in the "level" position.

And a thousand thank you's Canon for FINALLY fixing that truly awful battery door, lord only know how many times I slightly knocked the door on one of my 550EX's and had the batteries fly out and on to the ground. OK so I ended up fixing that, first with some gaffa tape and then finally with a velcro patch and tab but that old design should never have been let live past it's first incarnation let alone for the many years that it did survive.

Nice to see the return of the sync port to Canon flashes, just in time for me to start playing with some PocketWizards, OK so I modded my 550's with an external sync but I'm happy to see that i didn't need to burn my warranty by doing it on a brand new flash. Much thanks for that one. (By the way, I've read on some forums saying this is only an "out sync" errr nope works fine for me for triggering the unit)
Also despite Canon claiming that it's only compatible with the "CP" AA powered compact external battery packs... nope, happy to report that it also works absolutely fine using any of my large C Cell powered external "Transistor Pack E"'s


Used on my D60 (ETTL (I)) exposure seems identical to the 550EX - that is to say it seems to over expose by +1/2 to +2/3 so I still need to dial it out with FEC.

On my 20D & 40D (ETTL II) it seems to under expose ever so slightly compared to the 550EX in darker shots, this doesn't phase me as I always thought the 550EX slightly over exposed on my ETTL II bodies and used to have FEC set to - 1/3 now I just leave it at 0 and sometimes push it to +1/3 for shots with darker backgrounds.

My one and only negative is that the wireless multiflash control menu is now too convoluted and difficult to use in the field. I've sat down and spent several hours trying to get it to be second nature and just given up. This is the only time now I use one of my 550EX's on camera as the multiflash master as its interface, while not perfect, is at least quickly and easily accessible.

All in all a solid unit worth the price just for the improved foot, the sync cable and battery door design.




 
Canon EOS D60

D60
Review Date: May 16, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Value for money, build quality, image quality, colour rendering, quite. Great for portrait and landscape (for an ASP sensor camera). Can use a many of the older Sigma EOS lenses without having to rechip the lenses.
Cons:
Slow, slow to start up, slow to focus, slow fps, slow to dump to CF card, only slow ISO's are useable (400 and below), small buffer. only 3 focus points. Uses ETTL-1. Not good for sports/action/kids/pets. Interface a little cludgy if your used to newer models. Will only take 2GB or smaller CF cards

This is a follow up review to one I did close to a year and a half ago when I first purchased my D60. In the mean time I've purchased a 20D and a 400D but still find myself using the D60 more often than I ever expected.

Originally I kept it because I have a number of older Sigma EOS mount lenses that will work on this body with out having to be rechipped.
Sigma will no longer rechip many of these older lenses (apparently can not as they no longer have new chips for them) so they tend to get sold quite cheap on e-bay.

One lens in-particular, the Sigma 14mm f3.2 ultra wide lens is the best wide angle I've ever used and I really can't see my self giving it up.
I've found my self using it mostly for landscape and portrait work as I believe it produces nicer colour saturation straight out of the camera than my 20D.

these examples are pretty much straight out of the camera with only moderate post processing (curves and sharpening)

With the Sigma 14mm 3.2 lens:
http://www.pbase.com/marxz/image/74579034

With a Canon EF 28-70 2.8 L lens:
http://www.pbase.com/marxz/image/74679354

However it's low light/high ISO/ASA handling is atrocious compared to newer EOS's. At 100 to 200 it's every bit as good as my 20D at 400 it's good to acceptable but 800 is only usable in full sunlight for fast shutter speed work

Compare the noise on these images taken at 800 ISO/ASA. Shot a few days apart, the first with the D60 during the day but low light due to heavy overcast and rain the second with a 20D at night... the difference and improvement in noise handling is astounding

D60 at 800 ISO/ASA:
http://www.pbase.com/marxz/gion_matsuri_17july_2006


20D at 800 ISO/ASA:
http://www.pbase.com/marxz/gion_matsuri_28th_july_2006
Even the last picture here shot at 1600 ISO/ASA has less noise than many of the 800ISO/ASA shots from the D60.

I'm going to give it a good solid thumbs up to for its build quality - it may not be a D1 series, or be weather sealed, but it is one tough cookie, it's survived many drops without so much as a dent, a scratch or a misfire, coped with being literally drowned in monsoonal rain (which killed it for 3 days - then it spontaneously resurrected its-self though by which time I'd bought a "new" S/H 20D)

I have to say a good, solidly made, affordable camera for some one entering (or like me re-entering) in to photography.


 
Sigma 50-500mm f4-6.3 EX APO RF HSM

50_500EX_mdl_1_
Review Date: Aug 31, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Zoom range, price, sharpness (up to about 450mm), "impressive" appearance.
Cons:
weight, softness after about 450mm, slooooooow aperture, "intimidating" appearance, finish started flaking off from day one, no IS

Make no mistake - the zoom range on this lens is impressive. Having access to a 100-400 L I can say the "Bigma's" extra 50mm on the short end and 100mm on the long end makes a big difference in some shooting conditions. Shooting street parades/festivals where one shot might be framing the face of a performer 50 meters away and the next shot may be trying do the same at 5 meters means one camera with one lens can cover 95% of your shooting (and, in my case, relegate the spare body to having a 12mm or 22mm prime for those occasional wide shots)

Unfortunately though it's all a case of "swings and roundabouts" as what you gain on zoom range you loose on aperture and sharpness.
f:4 at 50mm is not even close to fast and past 450mm softness creeps in at the, already ready slow, wide open aperture of f:6.3 forcing you to stop down at least 2 or 3 more stops else you'll end up with a soft & hazy shot.

No other lens I've owned screams "I Need IS" more than this one. (Sigma you reading this?). So unless you are shooting full sunlight and/or with 400 ISO or faster this is a tripod only (or at least mono-pod) lens, really at 500mm you need 1/1000s or more to get a good chance of a shake free shot in real world shooting. Street shooting hand held at 500mm and 1/500s I found 60% or more of the shots blurred by lens shake.

Focus speed is OK but experience showed me setting the focus spot to the central spot made it fast enough for 95%+ of shots - though this means you'll need to get the knack of using exposure lock or setting another button for exposure metering as you'll be focusing and recomposing a lot.

Colour is a nice neutral tone but sometimes a little flat. Shooting in RAW will give you more than enough latitude to fix this post pro.

Even without considering the number of elements in the construction flaring is well controlled.

Some distortion at either end of zoom but not overly noticeable in most shots.

At the wide end and wide open it vignettes on my full frame film cameras but not critically so, easily fix post pro. Haven't noticed it on 1.6 crop digital.

It's heavy, it's fine hand held for, say, 10 or 20 minutes at the side line of sports field but it is certainly no "walk around" lens. Honestly my last travel shoot I found my self checking my daily schedule and if it didn't scream "big telephoto needed" I left it at the hotel and, just in case, packed the 70-200L or sometimes even a 70-300 IS (which, by the way is not bad unit)

Minor point- the nice rubberised finish started pealing off from day one, not major flaking, just a small 1 or 2 mm patch here and there. While it was not mollycoddled it certainly wasn't abused Sad

On my old D60 with a usable ISO of only 100 - 400 this lens was a constantly frustrating experience, shoot low ISO risked lens shake or subject movement blur but shoot at a high enough ISO and things got too noisy for use beyond snapshots.
Now days with my 20D, with it's usable maximum of 800 (or even 1600 under the right shooting conditions), it's like buying a new, improved, lens.




 
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

ef50mmf_18_1_
Review Date: Apr 23, 2006 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: image quality, price, weight, fast aperture speed, quick focus
Cons:
build quality, build quality, build quality, 5 blade aperture, build quality, fundamentally faulty construction, build quality.

OK so I used to have the original mark I a much prized item in my bag, totally brill bit of kit. then early this year some nice young lad made off with it and it's probably sitting in a hock shop some where Sad
Scouring eBay and people are paying silly money for the mark I, not quite 50mm 1.4 money sure but more, much much more than a new 50mm 1.8 markII.
So I bit the bullet and went down the local camera shop and bought a new 1.8 mark II

optically a very very nice lens easily the equal of the classic mark I.
not the colour and saturation punch of an L but damn close (but then again Canon don't currently make any 50mm L models so moot point)... looking at pictures you take with this will make you shake your head that something so cheap can produce such sharp punchy images.

But honestly I'll not go on about optics, most reviews touch on that well enough and honestly if optical quality on a budget is your only consideration then
1: this has it (optical quality) by the truck load
2: you'd be hard pressed to justify the marginal speed boost and the 6 blade aperture of the 50mm 1.4 at 3 1/2 times the price.

So...
...lets get to the nitty gritty... the Mark II's build quality totally sucks (sorry if that offends but honestly I'd like to use harsher language, but you might be my maiden aunt reading this). Honestly the only thing I can put it up to is like something you'd get in a Kindersurprise or your Corn Flakes cereal packet

first copy I bought broke less than a week after purchase, taking the polarising filter off the whole front of the lens just came loose, one side sagged out (or, if you tipped it over, sagged in), couldn't focus and just ground it's gears like a angry hornet.... replaced by shop under warranty.

replacement copy fell out of camera bag 3 feet down on to lush grass front assembly unit just popped straight out, all it's plastic "securing" (for want of a better word) clips had snapped.... back to shop "sorry no warranty for you for dropping it"... so I cough up another $100 for a new one less than 2 months after the first.

then next month (weekend just gone) out shooting and I'm changing the lens and it slips... instinct learnt from 15 years of playing school yard cricket kicks in and I catch it less than a foot before it hits the ground.... only to have it snap in hand from the not overly great pressure of the catch... same issue plastic "securing" clips all broke.

Well.... as we say 'round here "bugger that for a joke" I'm off to eBay to look for a Mark I or an old 1.4.


 
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM

70-300_isusm
Review Date: Mar 12, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Very very good optical quality (up till around 250mm) for a consumer grade lens, 3rd gen IS works a treat, light weight.
Cons:
poor build quality, sloooooow aperture wide open, optical quality drops to average around 270-300, price, poor build quality, sometimes a bit flat contrast and colour wise. AF hunts _a_lot_ in low light. - ow yeh and poor build quality

As an earlier review stated - this lens seems like a bit of an enigma.
I meen just where do you place it in the Canon product/consumer mix?

Anyway.

Optically Canon need to pat themselves on the back - this is one serious step up from the old 75-300's (IS or otherwise). Even wide open (not that 4-5.6 is much of a "wide open" to brag about) From 70 to around 250'ish it's almost as sharp as some of their good non L primes and the 70-200 L's at similar apertures. Pity it almost falls apart after 250mm - not totally atrociously but you really would want to fill the frame with the subject - a shot taken at 270-300mm that needed tight croping and enlarging is going to be pretty much beyond P.P. ability to sharpen without introducing noticable intrusive artifacting.

Both colour fringing (high contrast areas) and colour aberration (OoF fringing) are _very_ well controlled for a non L series zoom.

At least on a 1.6 crop body sharpness seems even edge to edge.

Colour can be a bit flat at times though - particularly sunrise and sunset's warm tones tend to be a bit washed out compared to L's.

I haven't witnessed any of the "portrait mode" sharpness problem some other reviewers have stated.

IS works briliantly 'nuf said except that it's the best thing since sliced bread, zoom lenses and affordable D-SLR's.

Build quality is poor though, particularly for the price. Not a lens I'd want to keep attached to the camera else it suffer all the little knocks and blows of everyday use and I purchased a Lowe case for it the same day to protect it in transit.

so were does it fit in my collection given I have a Sigma 50-500 and almost free and easy access 70-200 L and 100-400 IS L lenses?

I found were this lens is perfect has been:
For slipping in to a nook in the camera bag for casual shoots were you don't think you'll need telephoto lens (but suspect, just maybe, you might).

For street photoraphy like festival, parade and candid work where a tripod would be an absolute liability in the crowds.

As a travel telephoto lens - indeed it's probably what the 70-300 IS DO should have been (though should have kept the DO's slightly better build quality)

All up: Good enough optics to produce quality images, light enough not drag you down during that 5 week trek across (insert continent of choice here) and with IS you save another 3+KG by (OW sin of sins to suggest!) being able to leave the tripod at home - but pack it right least it comes to grief and being slow you can pretty much put it way between dusk and dawn.

For Canon, I suspect, they aim this lens fair and square at casual hobbyists and travelers who don't want the inconveniance of lugging around a tripod. (oh yeh and to gadget freeks - like me Wink )



 
Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM

ef100mmf_2usm_1_
Review Date: Feb 21, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Fast, excellent "classic" image quality with neutral colour tint, build quality good for non L lens. Very fast auto focus. Usably sharp at wide open (though watch out for the narrow DoF at f:2).
Cons:
Nothing major really for it's price though a minor issue with the build quality (see below) and it has quite a long minimum focus distance. Some times hunts excessively in low contrast lighting.

I recently purchased this to add a little extra range at the "long end" to my walk about lens (28-70 2.8 L) for travel photography and didn't want to break the bank on a L prime for what I thought would be occasional use.
In the end I find I've been using this far far more often than I though, maybe it's the novelty of the new but maybe not. Certainly I find it's on my camera more often than my even more recent acquisition, a Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS, both for the prime's faster & wider aperture/narrow DoF and its significantly better image quality than that zoom.

Image quality is nothing short of stunning really, OK it's not L glass but even apart from price that does have some very positive advantages.
Colour rendering is less "gold/copper" than I've found my L's to be, more subtle, more neutral, with just a ever so little touch of brassy yellow. Reminds me a lot of the "classic" German lenses we used back in the 70's. I've found I've had to spend less time with colour correction to give a more neutral colour tint.
There is a hint of C/A in OoF area's but is controlled and actually quite pleasant particularly with this lens's nice boke. I've not noticed excesive fringing except in the highest of edge contrast shots when open past 2.8. Use of a 3rd party rubber screw on lens hood controls flare more than adequately.
With a 250D close up lens it makes for a good stand in macro lens for travel use (and comes in at 2/3rds of the weight and size and faster than the 100 2.8 macro)
One and only real gripe is despite the apparent quite high build quality I noticed what looks like dust in between the middle group elements but under the loupe they appear for all the world to be very small shavings of plastic from the manufacturing process that have fallen away from the body and in between the lenses. No noticeable effect on image quality but all too noticeable when the lens is in hand.


 
Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8L USM

ef_28-70_28s_1_
Review Date: Jan 17, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: sharp from wide open
Cons:
ummm none 'cept for a minor grumble about the hood.

This lens is a keeper. and I'm still stunned that the previous owner parted with it for as little as she did.

This was my first L series zoom and the first zoom that I have ever used that can go one on one with high end primes I've used.

Razor sharp from open at all ranges and just gets sharper up to f:11 then slight drop on the way down to 22.

Really, really nice OoF bluring with 5.6 seeming to be its sweetspot for boke certainly the nicest I've seen on any Canon zoom apart from the 70-2002.8 L.

Some distortion is there but extremely difficult to see in real life use, same with the very nominal amount of vingnetting at wide and fully open.

Looks tough enough to last. Not weather sealed but it's gone through days worth of shooting in extremely heavy tropical monsoon rain without anything more than wearing a plastic bag as a "rain coat" and getting a wipe down between downpours. Survived weeks in the Australian outback without sucking in any noticable amount of that "lovely" red dust.

The lens hood (like most canon lens hoods) is a royal pain in the butt - hard to tell by feel or quick glance when it's lined up then you go to spin it on and it drops off... that said the lens hood is very effective and with the lens's reverse zoom mechanics it's a cleaver way to get the maximum effect of the hood all the way through the range rather than being a comprimise for anything other than wide angle.