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  Reviews by: rbart  

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Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Review Date: Feb 19, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, Light Weight (relatively), Image Stabilization, Close focus.
Image Stabilization makes a clacking noise when engaging. Had a problem with manual focus ring slipping.

This one of my favorite wildlife lenses. I started with the Bigma 50-500mm. I was really happy with the Image Quality and flexibility of the Bigma, but I began to realize that I was losing a lot of shots because of its slowness (aperture and focus speed). I decided that I should try something with IS. This brought me to either the 100-400mm or the 300mm f4. My wife loves the Bigma said that she did not want to lose the zoom range and rotating zoom to the 100-400. It didn't make sense to me to keep the Bigma and get the 100-400 too, so I bought the 300mm f4 IS. I don't regret my decision at all. I would say the 300 is a lot sharper than the Bigma. It's a lot lighter and lot faster too. With a 1.4x teleconverter, I still get great quality at 420mm f5.6. On top of that, you get IS and close focus cababilities. I pretty much never use my Bigma any more. However, I did also get a 500mm f4 IS. I still probably use the 300mm more than the 500mm because it's so easy to carry around.

I did have a problem with the 300mm. The manual focusing began to slip during precision focusing. Canon's support was pretty poor. I sent it to Illinois to be repaired (under Canon instructions) and they shipped it off to California to be repaired. After a few weeks without status, I called the IL shop and they told me they didn't know where it was. After a couple days, I was notified that it was in CA. After a week or so in California, they sent it back to me and said they couldn't find a problem. That left me about a month without my lens and it still had a problem. I ended up shipping it off to NY hoping that they had a clue. I finally got it back with a functional manual focus. It almost seems to be slightly less sharp though. It could have just been me shaking from the excitement of having it back.

Although I mostly use this lens for birding, I've found that it makes a great portrait lens if you have the space to work with.

Here is a sample of a horse portrait with the 300mm:

Here is a sample bird shot through the window of my house:

Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM

Review Date: Jun 6, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $455.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Super wide, sturdy build, hood and case, quiet HSM motor, cheaper than canon, pretty sharp even wide open
Sometimes Soft Right side

I felt that the standard wide angle APS-C 18mm just wasn't wide enough for me indoors or at my favorite local water falls (Pattison State Park, WI). I opted for a cheap alternative and bought a MC Zenitar 16mm f2.8 fisheye. Although the Zenitar was quite sharp when stopped down a little, I felt limited by the manual focus and aperture and I couldn't use front filters. The zenitar also overexposed when it was wide open and it would under expose when stopped down past f8 and I never seemed to get a handle on how much exposure correction I needed. I decided that I should consider either the canon 10-22mm or the sigma 10-20mm. After much consideration, I couldn't bring myself to paying $200 more for the canon and still not get a hood. The sigma also provides a better build and a carrying case. I've taken about 300 shots with my new sigma. Out of those, I've found about 10 with a soft right hand side. I haven't discovered a pattern to it. I don't know if there is a loose element that shifts if you lean to one direction or what. Here is a sample shot taken with this lens and two stacked ND Cokin filters: (Amnicon Falls, WI) -