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Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

ef85mmf_18usm_1_
Review Date: Feb 13, 2013 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

 
Pros: Very sharp, good value
Cons:
It's not f/1.2 - joke - seriously if you need razor thin depth of field and are deft enough to know how to do it right, you're probably not reading this post. Doesn't focus that fast

(Update from my earlier review )
http://www.fredmiranda.com/reviews/showuser.php?&username=nycandre

Bokeh/ OOF rendering is not butter smooth as on a Zeiss, say, but is perfectly acceptable

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/sets/72157605832186483/with/8469278166/


Shot daylight handheld - shot w/20D ISO 200 1/750 f/4
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/2603470465/
A very sharp image, see the accompanying enlargement

Also very hard to beat for indoor shots in low light

The Kiss - shot w/EOS 5D at ISO 1600 1/50 f/2.8 w/85mm F/1.8
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/5389132199/

Guitar players jamming - Shot w/20D ISO 1600 1/6 F/2.8
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/2339558065/


 
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

ef100_400l_1_
Review Date: Apr 19, 2011 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

 
Pros: Very sharp, and not outrageously expensive Built like a tank
Cons:
Potentially - dust getting in because of the push pull system.. Heavy.. like a tank

(updated) Recently saw that it had been evaluated at photozone.de. Conclusion: boringly .. good. Wide open. Have to agree, it is not going to overtake a fixed focal tele in resolution etc. But it is durn good in any conditions where 4.5 - 5.6 isn't a handicap.

Recently used it for near close ups at the short end (100mm). Will let the image speak for itself. This is a 3/4 crop from the original, shot handheld with a 5D Mark I at 1/200 F5.6 ISO 1600

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/5634034954/

Speaking of sharpness - another sample, about a 1/4 crop, flowering magnolia - shot with a 5D Mark I at 400mm 1/400 F5.6 ISO 1000

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/3452707338/


 
Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX APO IF HSM

05_03_1_
Review Date: Feb 3, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $900.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Not as expensive as Canon's L but every bit just as good IQ in my experience Built like a tank
Cons:
Doesnt focus as fast and has no IS version compared to the more costly Canon L versions. But definitely much better than Canon's F4 baby L version. Now that the NEW IS version is out and at a $1400 after its recent price reduction, the new version should be a no-brainer.

(this is a re-post from the HSM version where I had posted it originally by mistake - indeed the new version, although it focuses closer seems to be less performing for some strange reason)

As mentioned above, the best you can get compared to the best Canon L (well, I don't know about the Nikon lenses).
Even with the older model (not as much macro as the latest) you get really decent shots.

Here are some interesting ones, tnis one because I was able to blend bokeh and movement blur

Barbara in Red
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2361/1576574223_14c4825af7_m.jpg
Larger at http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/1576574223/

Tulipi-ferous - "Racing the wind "
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3384/3477664358_b6c02f7eb9_m.jpg
Larger at http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/3477664358/

and this one because even without a really fast AF it did quite well

Hawk landing - Ferruginous hawk - Sonora Desert AZ
http://farm1.static.flickr.com/68/186155475_1646cfbd4f_m.jpg
Larger at http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/186155475/


 
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

ef85mmf_18usm_1_
Review Date: Jan 26, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Inexpensive - high image quality - very sharp ..
Cons:
Doesn't focus that fast

Shot daylight handheld - shot w/20D ISO 200 1/750 f/4
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/2603470465/
A very sharp image, see the accompanying enlargement

Also very hard to beat for indoor shots in low light

The Kiss - shot w/EOS 5D at ISO 1600 1/50 f/2.8 w/85mm F/1.8
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/5389132199/

Guitar players jamming - Shot w/20D ISO 1600 1/6 F/2.8
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/2339558065/



 
Canon EOS 5D

5d_586x225_2_
Review Date: Jan 26, 2011 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

 
Pros: Very high quality imaging sensor - Full frame - now (2011) at a bargain price too - about $1,000 used - lightweight
Cons:

Have upgraded since to a D700, but am keeping this little gem of a camera. Paired with lightweight lenses this is an unbeatable camera to have around all the time. Still one of the top cameras for low light conditions by a good margin

The Kiss - shot at ISO 1600 1/50 f/2.8 w/85mm F/1.8
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/5389132199/

Times Square at night ISO 1600 1/25 F/4 w/17-40L
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/3904711491/

At Colette's -from behind - ISO 1250 1/30 F/4 w/17-40L
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/3931456250/

Celtic Kung Fu master - ISO 1250 1/125 F/2.8 32mm w/ 24-70L
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/3534327395/


 
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED NIKKOR AF-S

224-70
Review Date: Jan 10, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Super sharp, focuses fast and accurately in all conditions
Cons:
Heavy, big and expensive - but you knew that Doesn't focus that close in macro mode - can't have it all ..

Just a fantastic lens all around. I don't regret the high price.
But I may get a second, maybe less performing zoom just so it isn't so heavy and noticeable. Or wait for that Fuji X100.

Then again, you can't beat its oomph and versatility, especially combined with the D700.

Example, shot on the spur of the moment in low light with moving elements, so had to rely blind on the autofocus - and it delivered.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/5345540426/
Shot at 1/125 f/2.8 ISO 3200 66mm


 
Nikon D700

D700
Review Date: Jan 10, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,200.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Best low light capability by far over next best, at its price point (best are D3 and D3s at much higher prices) Too many great features to list, but mostly very photographer-centric touches. For example no need to wade through menus to format a card, just push a safe combination of buttons. And very well designed flash system.
Cons:
Heavy. And loud clicks - not discreet at all! Expensive, even after being a couple years out.

Has a very solid and precise feel. So many great features.. it would take a while to really master them all.

The manual isn't bad but could be more user friendly. Fortunately there are a few good 3rd party manuals around. I recommend ByThom's book, well worth it to figure out a good set of defaults and to understand the various trade offs. Though it could be used in P&S mode ;D

The autofocus is fast and accurate (with the 24-70), the liveview is great for still images and manual lenses. There are plenty of reviews around to extol its virtues. But few to compare it to other competing models. Wariness of losing advertising revenues by being critical of others or getting into brand loyalty issues.

I own and use cams of different manufacturers, and for the price this cam is the best, period. For brervity, let me refer to my one page blog of sort on camera tech, follow up from my comments published in the New York Times http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/4050967137/

Oh did I mention it just takes great photos, especially in low light? This kind of shot would not be possible with lower performing high ISO cameras. Handheld, both subject and myself moving:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/5345540426/
Exif: ISO 3200 1/125 f/2.8 66mm Nikkor 24-70mm


 
Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX DG Aspherical RF

20_f1_8_1_
Review Date: Sep 22, 2010 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

 
Pros: Affordable, great quality glass and great quality images, large aperture, focuses well, not so heavy or obtrusive
Cons:
Not all that sharp in the corners, not so great bokeh wide open, does flare

A little gem of a lens. Most reviews do pan it, and I noticed that none of the pros highlighted in Sigma's own gallery have any shot with it. They seem to like the 10-20 and 70-200. Maybe they suffer from the 'sharpness syndrome' malady. As for me, I find that it is sharp enough in the centre, does have issues with bokeh wide open, and flare in extreme situations - but then it focuses fast enough on my D700, is maneuverable and not that heavy, and most important gets the shot.

Pretty lady in red an black, street shot
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/5014622844/
Exif: 1/1250 f/5.6 ISO 800
This is about 1/2 crop from the original; more detail, unsharpened
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/5016183451/
I's say this is plenty sharp.

Great for macros. But really busy bokeh, at least when shot at f2/0, an extreme case - Note the flower is very close, maybe a few inches - its diameter is about the size of two quarters
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/5016914598/
Exif: f/2.0 1/2500 ISO 800

It does flare when shot right into the sun - Notice the cool small green sphere, totally an artifact of the lens. You probably won't get that with a Zeiss. Then again I sort of like that imperfect personality
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/5016270909/
Exif: 1/640 f/5.6 ISO 800

Getting back to basics - it gets the shot !
Impromptu grab shot, barely had time to shoot from the hip, letting the autofocus work its thing. I'd say it did a great job - getting the shot is what it's all about in the end. And I 'd say it is plenty sharp enough.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/5016863534/
Exif: 1/125 f/5.6 ISO 800


 
Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX DG Aspherical RF

20_f1_8_1_
Review Date: Sep 21, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $300.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Bright, sharp, focuses well, does the job
Cons:
bokeh wide open is busy some flare in certain cases tho not sure how it stacks up against other lenses (like Canon/ Nikon/ Zeiss )

I don't get the negative reviews. Started shooting it and it is very sharp at least in the center area even wide open.
Rarely bothers me since I don't usually care for the borders being sharp anyway, but I can see how it could bother landscape photographers.

Pretty lady in red and black - street shot, minimal postprocessing.
D700 1/1250 f/5.6 ISO 800

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/5014622844/


 
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

ef17-40_4l_1_
Review Date: Jun 28, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Good value for the money - lightweight - very sharp, at least in the center - great zoom coverage
Cons:
not that bright, soft in the corners - rather large

Remarkably sharp in the center, which means you are better off shooting with cropping in mind if your subject will be off center.
My impressions were corroborated by the excellent review at the-luminous-landscape site: there the authors compare it to the uber professional 16-35 2.8L. And, turns out that aside from not doing the 2.8 thing, the 17-40 and the 16-35 have areas where one is better than the other, but otherwise are really close.

As far as bokeh is concerned, you actually can get some, albeit not as easily as with the 2.8. And its quality is just excellent, not too surprising, since it's at f4.00

Here is a shot demonstrating the center sharpness .. the tiff file, which is about 60 megs shows incredible details, more like a macro, and even the off center resolution is very reasonably sharp.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/4743987277/

This other shot shows the quality of the bokeh much better, also its handling of off center areas, which doesnt detract from a great image
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/4076691149/

And, yes it does great for beautiful leggy ladies ..
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/4025442567/


 
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

ef_24-70_28u_1_
Review Date: Jun 23, 2010 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

 
Pros: Very very sharp and versatile - very fine bokeh - and built like a tank
Cons:
Heavy and expensive, no IS and I'd so much like larger aperture - even at the expense of reduced focal range.

Built like a tank: I did drop it once, with the cam attached .. the UV filter broke (probably took the brunt of the impact/ energy) but everything else was fine.

Bokeh and resistance to flare is exceptional: here is a shot taken practically against the sun, at the long end (70mm) f/2.8 ISO 400, practically no post processing/ corrections
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/4720515983/

Regarding resolution, I think it probably outresolves the 5D's sensor. Here is a shot of a large mural map, maybe 20 feet wide, with an enlargement of a small area, maybe 1/50th of it -and the words are *still* legible
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/4636230028/
To be fair, I did apply the best post processing I could on that part.

It does focus fast, so would be great for street photog were it not for its being so huge. There, the bodyguard had spotted me a mile away, before I came into range of his master. But this was 5th avenue in NYC, in broad daylight - I don't look like a suicidal type, so nothing untoward happened and I got my shot
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/4636231880/


 
Canon EOS 5D

5d_586x225_2_
Review Date: Jun 22, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,500.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Not expensive at all nowadays! Great image quality, full frame takes full advantage of all lenses. Great high ISO performance, still a notch above the rest. Well, at this price, can't complain really.
Cons:
High ISO performance lags * A LOT* behind the latest Nikon D700, never mind the D3s.. and the 5D Mark II, well not so far behind that I don't mind waiting for the next Canon real step improvement in high ISO perfomrance. Focusing is so so with few tracking spots - and sensor dust cleaning is a real pain to do.

There are many things I'd wish the 5D would do. But it was produced a few years ago, so have to accept its limitations.

Coupled with great lenses it produces superb images. Even its own jpeg processor is excellent.

Best camera at its price level, a classic certainly - about $1,100 used/ refurb nowadays.

Images .. well you be the judge:

Outdoor, shot straight into the sun. Minimal post processing, actually used the small JPG, excellent rendition, not much to add - shot at 2.8 70mm with the 24-70L
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/4720515983/

Nice bokeh, with indoor daylight, shot handheld @ ASA 800
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/4684025954

Shot with the 100-400L - this is an enlargment, about 1/4 of the picture - the 5D resolves the 100-400 just rigth
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/4525240397/

Now for the pixel peekers .. shot with the 24-70 handheld, this shows how much it resolves.. the original is about 16 feet high
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/4636229292/





 
Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*

85mm
Review Date: Apr 25, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Feels (and v probably is) very well built, manual focus is smooth and accurate
Cons:
No A/F on the Canon (or any line)

I will leave the technical evaluations to other reviewers who have tested and commented on it extensively. My comment here is on the actual manual focusing: it is actually remarkably easy, doable and fast enough even in an indoor location with average lighting.

As expected the DOF is razor thin, and the bokeh is sweet -see this shot, with a 5D, 800ASA 1/400 sec F1.8. The eyelashes are spot on - well, some of them

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/3820793090/


 
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

ef_24-70_28u_1_
Review Date: Apr 17, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,250.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: sharp at all apertures - focuses fast
Cons:
large, heavy and very expensive

I bought this lens after reading all the relevant reviews mentioning this as the goto lens for all occasions.
It does deliver as promised, but definitely does NOT look unobtrusive - and it is heavy. All this was mentioned in the reviews, so no surprises.
I had meant to test compare the Tamron, Tokina and Sigma alternatives which are a LOT less expensive, about a third of the cost of that 24-70L but never got around to it so just went for that L glass. Figuring it would keep its value and I could always resell it.

I did try the 28-135 IS and the 24-85 - both were defnitely a notch below the 24-70 - either i was able to focus better and/or the glass is sharper /more contrasty.

Recent shot of a friendly woman (stranger to me) in the subway - definitely the 2.8 aperture helped, as well as letting me quickly change to wider focusing length, which made the shot - well, her patterned short skirt and tattoos made it ;-)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/4521832430/


 
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

ef100_400l_1_
Review Date: Apr 16, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Very sharp, and not outrageously expensive Built like a tank
Cons:
Potentially - dust getting in because of the push pull system.. Heavy.. like a tank

My lens specimen is an older one, gotten from a collector. I may have been lucky or the older models were better made - in any case it focuses well enough with my 20D and my 5D. Not as fast as the 24-70 which is the only reference point I have.

I havent done systematic tests, but this lens is *very* sharp even fully open. I do get sharper photos with smaller apertures but it seems that it is more because of the wider hyperfocal range than anything else. In other words wide open it is very sharp, *but* only if the focusing is right on the nose.

It didn't really fully register in my mind how incredibly thin the depth of field is (for telephotos) until I looked up close.
But that can be put to good use too, like in this recent 5D shot

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/4525240397/

In this one (20D) I wished I'd closed down the aperture a bit more to get more of the first player sharp - or just the ball ..
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/569825782/


 
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO MACRO HSM

145_small_1_
Review Date: Apr 26, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Not as expensive as Canon's L but every bit just as good IQ in my experience Built like a tank
Cons:
Doesnt focus as fast and has no IS version compared to the more costly Canon L versions. But definitely much better than Canon's F4 baby L version.

As mentioned above, the best you can get compared to the best Canon L (well, I don't know about the Nikon lenses).
Even with the older model (not as much macro as the latest) you get really decent shots.

Here are some interesting ones, tnis one because I was able to blend bokeh and movement blur

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3384/3477664358_b6c02f7eb9_m.jpg
Larger at http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/3477664358/

and this one because even without a really fast AF it did quite well

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/68/186155475_1646cfbd4f_m.jpg
Larger at http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/186155475/


 

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