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Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L USM

ef14mmf_28l_1_
Review Date: Sep 28, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Excellent build quality, optically very good, quick AF (although not necessary), rectilinear lens works very well on full frame or crop body. Widest rectilinear prime lens available for a full frame Canon EF Mount
Cons:
Can get a bit pricey, front element is exposed as are most such lenses. No ability to use filters (again, common to such lenses)

I was skeptical before I purchased this lens. In addition to the extreme cost, almost all reviews on just about every forum/article indicated that this lens was lacking optically. I decided to go ahead and buy this lens anyway as my other options were the Sigma 14mm f2.8 or the Tamron 14mm f2.8 or the Sigma 12-24 f4.5-5.6. I have owned the Sigma 14mm f2.8 as well as the Sigma 12-24mm. The Sigma lenses are not in the same league as the Canon 14L – they simply are worlds apart.

Contrast is very good and the colors are wonderful. Distortions are well controlled. For indoor shots or for a really wide angle perspective, this is the only lens I would pick.

If you use or have used a 16-35mm or 17-35mm, the extra 2-3mm does add to the wide angle perspective significantly. The 14L is/was sharper than the Canon 16-35L Mk 1 at 16mm and has less distortion while providing the extra perspective.

The lens is sharp at the center/mid-corners wide open at f2.8. However, as most might agree, one seldom shoots extreme wide angle at a large aperture. For depth of field, I use this lens mostly at f5.6-f11.0. This lens hits it’s sweetspot - sharp in the corners as well as at the center at f5.6 - f8.0.

The Sigma 12-24mm has very good distortion control. The converted Zeiss 17-35mm has the best overall image quality. The 14L has a little bit of both and some qualities of it’s own that make it an essential part of any WA kit. Try it out and you will be addicted Smile


 
Tamron 200-500MM F/5-6.3 Di LD (IF)

200500mm
Review Date: Mar 8, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $850.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Light weight - easy to handhold, 500mm focal range, sharp images throughout the zoom range,
Cons:
86mm filters can get expensive, No IS or HSM/USM (but fast enough for birding)

I have previously owned the Sigma 50-500mm EX HSM and more recently the Canon 100-400mm L zoom. Both are excellent lenses – the canon being the better of the lot. I am not even bothering to compare the Tamron or the other two zooms to the Canon 200mm f2.8 L, 300mm F4.0L, 400mm f5.6 L, or the 500mm f4.0L. The primes are in a league of their own with no room for cheaper zooms such as these.

The Sigma 50-500mm was too heavy to carry around and not very easy to handhold. A tripod/monopod was a must with this lens. Images from the Sigma were sharp, but somehow always appeared duller than those from the Canon 100-400L. As far as I could tell, Sigma’s HSM was about as fast as the Canon USM speed. I never bought the Sigma for focal ranges under 200mm and seldom used the 50mm-200mm range. So that ruled out my keeping the Sigma. Plus the HSM motor got noisy after a while.

The Canon 100-400L I owned was a very sharp copy and was the fastest telephoto (AF speed) zoom among the 3 lenses. It was more portable than the Sigma, but was limited to 400mm. The IS and the push pull design were it’s positives to me.

Sigma 50-500mm: 8.6” long x 3.7” dia - 4.1Lbs (1.8 Kg)
Canon 100-400mm : 7.4” long x 3.6” dia – 3.1 lbs (1.4kg)
Tamron 200-500mm: 8.9” long x 3.7” dia – 2.7lbs (1.2Kg)

The good:
· The most important factor was the lower weight of the Tamron and the size – it does extend out to about 19” at the 500mm focal range (yes.. it is a big lens), but it is extremely well balanced on most SLR bodies. I have yet to use a tripod for any of the shots I have made with this lens - high percentage of keepers. I removed the tripod mount collar for hand held shots to lessen the weight even more.
· Images are very sharp at the 500mm zoom end and “wicked” sharp at the 200-350mm focal range with the lens wide open. Images from the Sigma were not as good at the 500mm focal length in comparison to the Tamron. Images taken with Canon L @ 400mm and the Tamron @ 400mm are not easily distinguishable – image quality is more than acceptable on both.
· The contrast is better than the Sigma and as good as the 100-400L.
· Comes with a hood and a tripod mount collar(so do the other two in the comparison)
· Comes with a practical soft case that is easy to carry around using the shoulder compared to the sigma case which is not so easy to tote around
· The finish is very good and this is a sturdy lens
· The lowest priced alternative of the three lenses available in this zoom range. Over $140 lower than the Sigma and $500-$600 less than the Canon.
· Love the Tamron Lens cap styles (similar to nikon) which allow their removal even with the hood on.
· The filter ring attachment is a very good idea. The CP-L filter screws on to the adapter which then screws on to the lens on one side and the hood on the other side. It permits the photographer to adjust a C-Pl filter easily even with the hood on as it provides a bigger rotating ring than the CP-L filter does – a minor convenience.

The Bad (not really all that bad):
· The focus ring (located near the mount) moves as the lens achieves focus – not a big deal as your left hand is at the zoom ring anyways and far enough away from the focus ring. In fact, I have to hold it at the zoom ring to facilitate zooming as well as for the proper balance with the SLR.
· AF speed is quite good to catch small birds in flight, but the lack of an AF limiter sometimes causes the lens to complete a focus turn before it can return to achieve focus for the required subject distance. This can take almost 1 second – which is an eternity when shooting fast moving subjects.
· The Tamron does not have FTM like the 100-400L. Then again, when shooting fast moving subjects, I have seldom used the FTM feature on any canon tele’s as most of my shots need AF anyways.
· Going from the 200mm focal length to the 500mm focal length takes more than a single turn of the zoom ring – takes about 1.5 turns for me to get the in-camera crop just right. I am nitpicking now as I have been spoilt with the push-pull zoom of the Canon 100-400L.
· As with the Sigma 50-500mm, the Tamron uses 86mm filters which start out at $80 (Hoya) (and can go as high as $242 for a circular polarizer). I am using a Heliopan 86mm UV filter on my lens and It works great. The Canon L with it's 77mm filter threads get the advantage here

For the price and portability it offers for a lens in it's class, this lens deserves a 10.

It does not offer a high speed or ultrasonic motor like the Sigma or Canon or Image Stabilization like the L. But the weight, focal range, and price make up for it. If I had to rate only 3 lenses - the Sigma, Canon, and the Tamron, I would rate the canon L at 9.8, the Tamron at 9.6, and the Sigma at 8.5.

I can now say I have a tele zoom lens I am finally contend with…. the 500mm focal range, lighter weight, and the sharp images with a high rate of keepers has made this one of my more used lenses for birding.

Actually who am I kidding… a 200-500mm f4.0, with IS and push pull zoom would be perfect, but until such a lens comes along, I am more than happy with the Tamron 200-500mm f5-6.3 XR Di zoom.
Highly recommend.


 
Sigma 500mm f4.5 EX Apo HSM

500f4_5EX_lg_1_
Review Date: Jan 3, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,600.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Cost Lighter and slightly smaller than the Canon EF 500mm Sigma has a better/longer warranty compared to the Canon Drop in filters (which can get expensive) are included Tripod mount is very practical and usable Excellent hood included Very good construction/finish
Cons:
Sigma tech support/cust service not the most helpful No image stabilization/OS Aperture of f4.5 limits use of only the 1.4x for AF on 1 series bodies

I compared this lens to the Canon version which sells for considerably more and purchased it over the canon for several reasons.

Pro’s:
Cost
Lighter and slightly smaller than the Canon EF 500mm
Sigma has a better/longer warranty compared to the Canon
Drop in filters (which can get expensive) are included
Tripod mount is very practical and usable
Excellent hood included
Very good construction/finish

Con’s (Compared to the Canon version):
No image stabilization
Aperture of f4.5 limits use of only the 1.4x for AF on 1 series bodies

This is one of the sharpest and extremely contrasty lenses I have mounted on my camera. I am picky about resolution on my lenses and don’t care much for lenses that are not tack sharp wide open. This sigma is my benchmark for “sharp” and I end up comparing my Canon Tele’s to this to judge their quality. The bookeh at wide open aperture is amazing/smooth and the AF was quick. I could not tell the difference in AF speed between this lens and any of the Canon “L" primes or zooms I own (400mm f5.6, 300mm f4.0, 300mm f2.8, 100-400L, 35-350L, etc.). The AF speed is the same as the USM lenses. The lens accepts the Canon 1.4x TC and provides full AF (center point) with my 1 series bodies. The pictures taken with the lens and the 1.4x TC combo are perfect with no loss of image quality. HSM is quiet for the most part.

The Sigma case included is okay, but the shoulder strap is not the most comfortable. It can only hold the lens and not the lens+SLR body combo. The hood goes on well and stays on thanks to well designed locking knob/system. The focus ring has good friction and has a good texture for fine tuning.

The lens, much as with the Canon version, is not easy to hand hold and requires a monopod or a tripod.

My only gripe is with Sigma’s tech support/customer service department. If you do not ask for someone specifically who knows about these lenses, you are stuck with a person who could not tell the difference between a lens cap and a lens hood, let alone help you with tech specs. Also, I had to wait almost 8 weeks for Sigma to order me an overpriced ($100) spare hood for the lens (from Japan) – supposedly not a frequently stocked item at Sigma USA.

I purchased this lens brand new for less than half the cost of the canon version and have yet to find a Sigma or Tamron or Tokina or Canon Lens that gives me the “bang for the buck” this lens does. This lens is the older non-DG coated version, but after trying out the newer version a friend recently bought, I could not tell the difference and am still puzzled as to what the “new and improved sigma coating” is supposed to offer for pictures the older lens did not already offer. The other Sigma lens in my arsenal includes the Sigma 300mm f2.8 EX HSM and much like it’s big brother (the 500mm), the 300mm f2.8 is another amazing lens.

The Sigma 500mm f4.5 EX HSM is probably one of the best lenses I have used on the Canon EOS System. For those that wonder if this lens deserves a 10, what does the canon version deserve (a “11” ?) - I give this lens a rating of 10 because it is the best I could find for the $$$ in the price range. You get the price/performance/result with the Sigma, but it lacks the max aperture and IS. With the Canon version, I would give it a 10 as well as it has IS and a max aperture of F4.0, but is overpriced (to me). Both provide amazing results. If you are in the market for a 500mm lens and IS and F4.0 is not the most important factor, I would highly recommend this lens as it is lacking absolutely nothing compared to the Canon version when it comes to amazing picture quality.


 
Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

ef_28-135_35_1_
Review Date: Sep 6, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $449.00 | Rating: 7 

 
Pros: Compact size. Light. Acceptable performance to price ratio. IS. Price
Cons:
2nd generation IS. Poor contrast and sharpness compared to "L" glass.

It is hard to really give this lens any more than a 7 rating.... especially when comparing it to Canon's more expensive and better optics offered with the "L" lenses. As reference, I see Canon’s 35 f1.4 and 300mm f2.8 a 10/near perfect lens as I find it hard to imagine these lenses can be improved upon that much more. My rating for the Canon 70-200 F2.8 L was a 9.

What I saw standing out on this lens after a few months of use:
The lens is made of plastic (not metal like the more expensive L's) but feels sturdy. It’s light weight makes it very portable. Focus (IF) speed is good.

Image Stabilization is a handy feature to have, but not particularly useful on this lens. At a small maximum aperture, the IS really does not help too much with low light. IS may come in handy for daylight handheld shots, but I have not noticed any difference with or without IS.

Filter size is 72mm which can get expensive but is still acceptable compared to the 77mm or larger filters.

The contrast and sharpness is just not there... even stepped down. However, for it's limited use, the lens performance was acceptable. This lens is not in the same ball park as the Canon L's, but then again, you're paying 1/4th the price of similar L-glass.

As I have the Tamron 24-135 SP AD, I compared this lens to the Canon 28-135 IS. Both lenses are approx the same price. After using both for a while, I found myself using the Tamron more for it's amazingly sharp picture quality and slightly more acceptable contrast and the Canon for pictures that needed the quick focus one shot response. Canon USM is much faster to the Tamron's slow AF speed and the Canon lens was more pleasant to handle. NOTE: The Canon 28-135 IS does provide with more neutral colors while the Tamron was warmer.

If you need enlargements and very sharp or high contrast color is important, you might be better off with more expensive “L” glass. I would not recommend this lens for those with 8MP SLR’s such as the 20D or 1D Mk II, but think it’s an excellent combination when used with the Digital Rebel XT or Rebel or the D60. I would not even bother mounting this lens on the 1Ds or 1Ds Mk II.

If you need a lens that's cheap, small and easy to carry around as a walk about lens, and are not too concerned about pixel peeping or very sharp pictures, this lens is about as good as it gets for the price. Prints up to 5x7 can be acceptable with this lens.


 
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8

3029ef_50_18_1_
Review Date: Apr 14, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp images at f2.8 and over, but acceptable sharpness fully open. Old style canon build quality makes a significant difference when compared to the Mk II plastic mount version. Distance scale is useful. Picked it up used for under $100
Cons:
Not USM, but then again, there is the 50mm f1.4 USM for those who want USM.

Have no choice but to give this lens a 10. It makes for an extremely sharp portrait lens and all around general purpose lens.

Also had read somewhere in this forum or other forum discussions that this lens was not very sharp fully open. Not entirely true. It is a sharp lens and people buying this lens now should also realize that they are getting a used copy and a lot of things could have happened to their used copy versus a brand new 50 1.8 Mk 1.
Fully open, this lens yields excellent detail and clarity in situations where flash photography is not allowed. Stopped down things only get better at f2.0, f2.8, f3.5, beyond which it levels out to where I really can't tell the difference between f5.6 or f11 or f16...

Some pictures taken with this lens lack the "eye popping" "awesome picture" feeling, but this could be user error on my part or maybe I am comparing this lens and expecting the same results as canon's "L" lenses. The bookeh is acceptable, but I have not always gotten the smooth velvety look I get from the 70-200 L or the 17-40L or the 135 L. I have to keep reminding myself that this is not an "L" lens and then I am very impressed with the pictures. Then again, it is 1/10th the price of an "L" prime.

Lately I have been trying it out with extension tubes for close up photography and the results are satisfactory. I don't mind the noisy motor, especially since I did not pay the price for a USM lens. If I had a reason to buy another 50mm EF lens, I would still consider getting a good copy of the Mk 1 f1.8 rather than pay twice the price for a USM version.

All said, it is a very good lens for the right price. Given the price of the Mk II is around $90, it would definitely be worthwhile to pay up to $150 for a mint copy of the 50mm f1.8 Mk I.