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Canon EOS Rebel XSi (450D)

Review Date: Aug 4, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $749.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Improved menu and button layout. Spectacular sensor. Live view that works well.
Metering is a bit schizo in challenging scenarios.

I've owned a lot of APS-C based cameras. The 20D was my first and it was superb. I owned an XT and then an XTI and both were ho-hum and nothing to really love. I then had a 40D which was a lot better but after I used it for a while I didn't like the quality of the landscape pictures and bought a 5D instead. I then missed having a light APS-C camera available and debated buying the XSi in lieu of another 40D.

I'm glad I got the XSi. Some cameras in a line are just special, this is the really special camera of the Rebel series. I don't know what they did but they created a sensor that's better than expected. It seems like the kind of sensor that should be in the xxD line of cameras. It's good. It's very good. If Canon creates a 50D and put this sensor in that camera it will be an amazing machine too.

The AF is good. It's not 1-Series good but it works pretty well. I haven't had any problems with it.

High ISO shots are good and they clean up well. No problems here. The dedicated ISO button is VERY welcome.

The 14-bit A/D converter is a big plus. What you get here are RAW files that you can really tweak a lot futher in a RAW converter than 12-bit files. Say you underexposed a shot a bit and need to bring it back to normal exposure, well with 14-bit you're going to get a better end result with more details in the shadows being preserved and smoother tonalities.

Live view works well on this camera. It can focus without moving the mirror out of the way first. It really does work well. Live view would be perfect with an articulating LCD but I'm not sure I want to see that on a Rebel though as it kind of smacks of cheesiness.

The metering seems a little nervous. I tend to overexpose in situations I wouldn't with my 1-Series. But hey, it's not a 1 series so I'm not deducting points. It tends to do this only in situations where it is expected anyway; situations that are hard for any metering system such as the whites in a scene that also has a lot of shadows and dark colors. Still, the metering is as good or better than what I noticed with the 40D.

Handling and build is where people tend to throw down with this camera. It's intended to be small and light so if that is bad for your hands that's not a negative against the camera but just a personal opinion. That aside, the feel of this camera is quite good and yes my hands do get a bit fatigued if I use it for long periods but that's a minor issue. I like that it's small and light. It's unobstrusive and I feel like I can be very candid and unnoticed with a very powerful camera.

The battery is pretty long-lasting too. I haven't actually been able to exhaust it in just one day yet.

I haven't used it with any EF-S lenses but I have used with a few L lenses. It worked stunningly well with my 200mm f/2L.

It's been reliable. It hasn't had any errors, no lost pictures, no weirdness of any kind.

I've heard some negative comments about the shutter sound. I'll admit the shutter sound is odd. It's hard to describe and doesn't sound like any other shutter I've ever heard. It's a bit tinny sounding, almost like a metallic sound. But it's not loud and it's not annoying (to me) and who really cares beyond that, right?

Canon EOS Rebel XTi (400D)

Review Date: Sep 19, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $765.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Small, lightweight, inexpensive, works with all Canon lenses
No spot metering

I happen to love the fact that the XTi is small and light and just barely big enough to hold in my hand. That was actually a selling point for me. When I travel with family, friends or just want to be free of major encumbrances I don't want something large and heavy or that garners the attention of thieves. In the past I have taken my 1DS2 with 24-105 lens (and others) everywhere I go, even on mundane family events. It digs into my shoulders, hits small children in the head and bangs against doorways, and one time I sat at a small table to eat with my wife and the camera/lens took up half the table top. All just so I can catch pictures of my wife and kids as it's the only camera I own - until now that is.

I decided I needed something small and light too and opted to just get a P&S camera and bought the Canon G9. I used that G9 for one day and took it back. Nice camera but I remembered all the things I hate about P&S cameras after using the G9: Too much higher ISO noise (even at ISO 100 there's noise galore in the shadows and noise is visible everywhere at iso 400 and the NR smudges details), shutter lag in low light, being stuck with the built-in lens (even though the G9 has an aspherical element) and I just never really know how to hold a P&S comfortably. I just couldn't grow to love that G9 although the G9 was the best P&S camera I have seen or used before. For $499 I got to thinking I could have another DSLR for the same price. The Nikon D40 sells for $499 too and I looked at that first. I actually got the XTi instead (it's the same size as the D40) mainly because I have Canon L lenses I can use with it

The gap between high-end point and shoot cameras and low end DSLRs is small, something like $100-$200 now and many of these low-end DSLR cameras are quite small. The XTi with kit lens is only marginally larger than the S5 IS and a lot better camera, as one example.

The only weakness I can point out with the XTi (keeping my frame of reference within the class of cameras where it belongs) is the kit lens. That kit lens is only any good at 18mm f/8. Any other setting is just so darn soft. I don't think people that are new to DSLRs would notice it as much as I do because I'm used to L lenses - it's hard to look at photos taken with that 18-55mm lens. A much better kit would include the 28-135 IS lens or the 17-85mm IS lens. I can understand Canon not doing this because it would drive the price up a lot. If you are reading this and trying to decide on what to buy, and you can spend another $200, get the 17-85mm IS kit instead because if you're buying a DSLR or thinking about it, it means you probably want better results than a P&S and the XTi is crippled with that 18-55 lens on it. It doesn't really shine until you put something of quality on it.

The metering works fine most of the time. My outdoors shots tend to need a +1/3 stop of compensation more than I'm used to having to do on the 1DS2. Focus is fast and accurate. I'm used to the menu now and find it easy to use. Get the black camera instead of the silver camera because it looks far nicer. High ISO noise levels are nice and low; very easy to deal with. This camera puts out quality pictures far above what you should fairly expect from a camera this inexpensive. It is lightweight and built with plastic mainly (I'm not complaining, I wanted lightweight). It doesn't feel like a camera that would hold up well to being dropped a lot or banged into doorways too often. I like the built-in flash - there are times when I just don't want to lug around my 580EX so it's darn handy to have that little snippet of a flash in a pinch.

Great camera. Perfect camera for people jumping from P&S. Also perfect for us DSLR diehards that need something small and light for less serious shooting.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM

Review Date: Sep 1, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,699.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp IQ and quality of image
None at all

Sometimes a design is so well done and everything works out just right in every respect. That described the 70-200 f/2.8L IS.

This is the first lens I bought when I got back into photography. There's only one thing I do not like about this lens, it's friggin costly.

My best photos come from this lens. I've got more keepers from this piece of optical perfection and any other lens at any other time. It doesn't matter which body I put it on: Rebel XT, 20D, 5D or 1DS, it's happy and makes every body give its best results.

I love the two IS stages it has and the IS is so quiet on mine that sometimes I get scared and think it's broken. If I had to get rid of all lenses but one, this is the one I'd keep to the last.

People always stare at me when I use this lens though. It stands out in a crowd. I don't think you'd want to walk around Disneyland with it either because you'll end up knocking little kids unconcious with it as it swings from your hip. It would also give you a pinched nerve in your neck after hours of lugging it around.

I use this lens for landscape and portrait work. I have never felt the need for the 85 f/1.2L because the portraits I take with this lens are perfect (assuming I do my part correctly of course). This lens is also forgiving. I took a series of portraits once out in the field in light just too dim even for this lens, and the AWB wasn't calculating the Kelvin temp right so I got dim, orange pictures. I was able to correct those pictures to results far better than I had reason to hope for because this lens has such incredible resolving power that all the data was there to be extracted and corrected. The fact that I was using a 1 series camera didn't hurt either, but without a good lens even a 1 series body won't give you good pictures. With this lens I feel that even if I screw something up I'm going to get a result I can work with regardless.

The price is heart-stopping though, even used these lenses got for $1500. Someone on Ebay got $700 for a broken NON-IS version of this lens. I mean the guy must have dropped it into a wood chipper and still got nearly half of retail for it!

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

Review Date: Sep 1, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Great, useful range, very sharp.

Anyone rating this lens a 6, or a 4 has a bad copy. My copy of this lens is very fine when it comes to being sharp and having the right kind of contrast. It's not a 10. This lens is a 9 and here's why:

It's built very well and has IS that works wonders. It's almost long enough where IS mode #2 would be nice to have too, but alas it only has IS mode #1.

It's sharp even at f/4. It's sharper at 5.6 and 8, but that's just physics anyway - it's a rare lens indeed that isn't shaper stopped down a stop or two.

On my 5D it's well balanced, and the range is fantastic. It covers whatever you need from moderate wide-angle to short telescopic without a lot of weight pulling on your neck and shoulder. It comes with a hood too which doesn't get in the way.

The AF is fast and true. I pointed it at a white brick wall and it had some trouble finding its focus but with just a tad bit more contrast to work with this lens snaps right into focus quickly. This lens seems like it was built with the 1DS and 5D in mind. Probably the 5D even more so for those who need something excellent to walk around with for long periods.

This lens vignets on you. Even at an aperature of 7.1 I still got some vignetting on my 1DSMKII. This problem is mostly an issue at 24-35mm from what I've seen so far. If I had to choose one problem on a lens though, I'd choose vignetting over lack of sharpness and CA anyday because vignetting is so easy to fix in Adobe raw converter.

I'm nervous about the lens telescoping out instead of having an internal focus. I worry about dust getting sucked in (I had a 17-55 f/2.8 IS that was very bad in this regard). So far though after about eight sessions outside I haven't seen any dust at all. It must be well sealed.

Forget the negatives I've outlined if you are thinking about buying this lens. This lens is worth the money. Just buy it from a reputable store or online merchant ( is exceptionally reliable) so that you can return it if you get a soft copy. It has such a remarkably good build, IQ and focal range that you really can't go wrong with this lens. A friend of mine has this lens too and never takes this lens off his camera. I think it's been on there so long he's forgotten that he still owns other lenses.

Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM

Review Date: Sep 1, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Very sharp lens, f/2.8
Big dust vacuum

This is a lens is a bit of a dichotomy. On one hand it is probably the sharpest non-L lens you will find in the Canon line. If you have a 20D, 30D or Rebel you cannot find better than this lens. This lens easily ranks right in line with the 24-105 f/4L IS and even has less vignetting. This lens is truly a joy to use. It's a totally luggable lens as far as weight, and you get low-light capabilities. This is really a 27-88mm lens on all cameras it will actually fit onto and that's a pretty good and useful range. It has color and contrast nearly equal to that of L lenses, so close in some cases you'd never be able to tell the difference.

I returned this lens though. As much as I loved it, I refused to continue owning a lens that sucked up so much dust. I used this lens on less than ten occasions and never in very dusty circumstances. Yet it managed to get a noticeable amount of dust inside the lens where I could not get to it to clean. Keeping this lens would have meant monthly trips to Canon for cleaning - obviously unacceptable no matter what else one likes about a lens.

Therefore my summary is that Canon (I love Canon, so for me to give a negative review, it means there's definitely something to worry about) needs to re-engineer this lens. My feedback to Canon is as follows:

Re-engineer this and fix this leakage problem. It lets in dust worse than any of the cheapy Canon lenses I owned in the past *ever* did. Unacceptable.

I still want a 24-70, or 24-90ish lens at f/2.8 and IS. Right now the best I can hope for is the 24-70 or 28-70 L lenses, but no IS! Sometimes a tripod just cannot be used and at 50-70mm, IS definitely makes a difference.

Ah well, every other lens I have is peachy. Even the 100-400 L lens that some people refer to as a vacuum doesn't even come close to sucking up as much dust as the 17-55mm lens does. Maybe my copy was bad, but I'm not so sure because I've heard others complain about this problem too. I've used the 100-400 on dusty baseball fields and I still don't have a single speck of dust in that particular lens.

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

Review Date: Jul 20, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,350.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Great for sports. I love this lens for action photography.
It's not prime-sharp, but what zoom really is? Why is the focus ring so close to the traction ring? That messes me up if I'm not careful.

I think this lens really hits the spot for action photography. In low-light the AF can be a tad slow for action shots but the focal lengths are ideal I use it a lot for my daughter's baseball games. I can catch a shot of an outfielder grabbing a pop-fly and still zoom out to capture the pitcher in mid-pitch. I've stopped many baseballs in flight right over the plate with this lens. In decent light I love how the pictures turn out, really eye-popping. I've had a few here and there that came out blurry, but I'm not blaming that on the lens itself but more the mechanics, I probably just flubbed the focus (easy to do since it's so damn close to where you hands want to naturally go when you grab the lens while shooting.

People poo-poo the push-pull zoom of this lens. I got used to it in about 5 shots folks and I'm kind of a klutz by nature. If I can use this lens without any major difficulty and get used to it, you can too. I suppose there are some people who are so set in their ways they won't get used to it and if that is your nature, well you might want to look elsewhere. The other 99.99% of you will find the push-pull zoom natural feeling after just a few shots. Does it suck up dust? Yeah, probably. Just send it back to Canon if it gets too dusty inside. If you can afford the lens, you can afford to have Canon clean it when it's dirty. All lenses are built with some compromises so you just need to understand what those compromises are with this lens.

This lens is about the same size as the 70-200 f/2.8L IS lens. It's a tad fatter. Almost exactly the same weight. If you can deal with the 70-200 f/2.8L you won't have any trouble with the size and weight of this guy. Put a 1.4x or 2x extender on this lens and wow, you've got a 560mm or 800mm zoom on a full-frame body and up to 1280mm on a 20D or 30D I don't know how the pictures would look because I haven't tried it yet. I imagine you're going to give up some quality with the 2x extender though as that much extra magnification has got to cause degradation.

The IS on this lens works great. This lens just seems to have all the right stuff for action work. If you're a bird watcher I think it's good enough for that too if you don't have a 400mm or bigger prime and most of us don't. I'm just really glad I bought this lens and I can't speak highly enough about how good it is for sports.

My one real gripe about this lens is the layout of the rings. it has three of them and in order from the outer part of the lens to the inner part they are as follows: Ring one does nothing, it's just there for you to grab onto. Ring two is the focusing ring. Ring three controls the smoothness of the push-pull. So I find myself constantly grabbing the focus ring instead of the outer ring where Canon intended me to grab to steady the lens. Every time I want to adjust the smoothness of the push-pull it turns the focus ring and I have to hold the focus ring and turn the smoothness ring seperately. It's just kind of klunky. I have trained myself to steady the thing by holding onto the tripod collar plate isntead of trying to grab the lens itself.

When you attach the hood this lens really sticks out there a ways. I turned around at a recent baseball game and gave my 5 year old son a good whack on the noggin with it. These lenses are long enough without the hood that you should put the hood on it. The reason why is to protect that big piece of front glass. I'm always bumping into things and the hood is where you want it to hit, not on that precious glass.

I think the price is really fair for what you get. At around $1350 new you get a very versatile lens that is better than all consumer lenses in this range that I've seen over the years for DSLRs and easily deserves its designation as an L lens.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II

Review Date: Jul 19, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Stunningly beautiful photographs
Price - I'm constantly, and deathly afraid that it will be stolen from me.

I hardly know where to start, so let me start with a summary: This camera takes the most stunning pictures imagineable. You cannot do better unless you spring for a 30+ megapixel camera for $30,000 (or more).

We're talking almost 17 megapixels and no matter what others say, that does matter. That pixel depth is going to help in a multitude of ways. Even if you're going to dilute it down to 72 dpi, the pictures are still going to be better than a 8 megapixel camera will produce because the re-sampling algorythm will have more data to use to begin with so you will have a truer image left over even after massive re-sampling.

You can create a 12x18 print with this camera at nearly 300 dpi. That's quality. I've done a lot of prints from this camera and the only times I've been disappointed is when I did something dorky - the camera never fails to do well.

There's something immensely satisfying about being a photographer and having the privilege of owning this camera. It is a privilege too because you're going to shell out a lot of money for this camera and you're going worry that some day a better one will come out and your investment will be halfed, and over time whittled to a fraction of what you paid.

I had the 20D for a while and wanted to move up. I struggled with the decision to buy either this camera or the 5d. Both are full-frame; but in the end, I felt that for landscape photography, which is my what I like best, I needed the extra pixel density. That's not the only reason if I'm being totally honest. I am one of those people who has to have the best I can get, even if I don't really need it. In this case I did need it, or I convinced myself I did - either way I cannot really tell the difference because I've probably fooled myself into thinking I needed the extra megapixels just to satisfy that itch in my brain that makes me do some of the more outlandish things I do (like buying $7,000 cameras). That's how I know I must really be an artist, I'm not completely sane.

People comlain that this camera is heavy. So what. If you need 16.7 megapixels then you're going to have to expect that will come in a slightly larger package than 8 megapixels. You're not going to walk around the street taking candids with this, are you? Well maybe you're an artist and loopy just like me so maybe you will use it for street photography. Really though, for that, a 20D or 30D is much better probably, unless you want those candids to pop off the paper like only a picture taken by a 1ds Mark II can. I do notice the weight, but I'm zen about it - it is what it is and there's just no need to complain and no one is going to take you seriously bitching about a camera that cost more than most very good Jet Skis. I will tell you that this camera weighs more than a 20d, 30d or a 5d and leave it at that.

The files it creates are large. Don't buy this camera unless you have a good computer to process the files with. If you have to have the camera and have a crappy computer, at least make sure your spouse or your kids have a good computer you can borrow. Otherwise you'd better save another $1500 so you can buy a Pentium D with 2 gigs of ram.

All of the technical data that people tell you about this camera is true. The colors are spot on, and the images are maleable within Photoshop to the Nth degree. The camera doesn't leak, everything works very well 98% of the time. The buttons are really hard to get used to so when you buy this camera you should practice a lot first by shooting candids of your wife and kids until they boot you from the house. Really, you're actually going to have to practice for awhile before you will remember how to manipulate the buttons on this thing. After you do, you're good to go and you will almost never accidently set the aperature to 2.8 for that landscape shot or 32 for that picture of the flower you want with the nice bokeh. It has a button positioned perfectly for those portrait oriented shots too, this is something I really appreciate.

I think you should never use the jpeg feature of this camera and only output RAW files though. I think you give up too much just putting the camera into sRGB or aRGB and allowing the camera to process the JPEG. I *always* output to RAW and set the white-balance, adjust exposure and curves outside of the camera. I'm sure if you're reading this though and thinking of buying this camera you don't need this drivel from me so let's move on.

Every now and then a company creates a product that is truly special. The Canon 1ds Mark II is that camera that reigns above all others right now within the realm it is designed for. This camera will give you higher quality results than you can get from 35mm film. I've owned a lot of film cameras (most of them Canons, Minoltas and Olympus camera bodies) and none of them can, or could touch this piece of nirvana. There are medium format cameras that come close (they are sharper, but with more grain) and large format cameras that still produce better pictures, particularly for mega-sized prints (even then, not always) but for an all-in-one camera that is as portable as this one, as easy to use (well relatively so, you'd better know something about photography) this camera still reigns supreme. Poke around and read reviews from other sites, you will have a very hard time finding anyone with a negative word to say about this camera. Despite it's cost, I have never once regretted buying this camera.

Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

Review Date: Jul 19, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $650.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Produces a very unique look to the pictures. Differnt from the 16-35 f/2.8L lens
EF-S mount won't work on my 1ds mkII

I owned this lens when I owned the 20D camera. I had to sell the lens when I sold the camera not long ago in favor of the 1ds mark II camera. For the mark II I bought the 16-35mm f/2.8L lens. In many ways I still prefer what I got from the 10-22 EF-S lens and I'd like to own both, but alas the 10-22 won't fit on the 1ds camera.

If you own the 20D, Rebel XT or 30D, you should get this lens if you need wide angle and not worry about it. The quality of the pictures it produces is very good. I've read reviews where people are complaining about softness wide-open with this lens, that's true to a minor degree, but I'd have to say it's true of most wide-angle lenses so there's no need to pick on the 10-22mm specifically about it. Sometimes you want images a little soft anyway. Not all subject matter displays well tack-sharp - it's about your artistic purpose for each shot. If you need a razor sharp image, don't grab in your bag for any WA lens, use the 85mm f/1.2L or the 135mm f/2L. Or even the 50mm f/1.4.

I own the 16-35mm f/2.8L now and at first I had difficulty getting decent shots with that lens whereas I got shots I liked with the 10-22 right away. Me and my 16-35mm get along fine now that I've learned how to use it though. The thing I really miss about the 10-22mm is that there was just something special about the pictures I got from it. I can't really put my finger on it, there was just something about that lens. The 16-35mm will get you shots that look close to what you get with other Canon L lenses. The 10-22mm shots aren't the same, they kind of stand out as different looking from the rest. I took a lot of shots of the Pacific ocean with the 10-22mm lens and it really did a fabulous job with the blue colors. Some of my best sessions of the ocean were with that lens. If I buy a backup lens it will probably be a 30d and I'll re-purchase the 10-22mm lens.

For a non-L lens, it isn't cheap. It's surprisingly expensive for glass without the L in the title. I have bought L lenses that cost less (the 70-200 f/4L for example).

My usual caveat applies here: My experience may not be the same as other reviewers and you should read all reviews and get an average "feel" for the lens from those reviews.