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  Reviews by: ryan aguas  

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Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Review Date: Jul 14, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $3,400.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: All I ever wanted my 5Dc upgrade should be
none about the camera itself - just for the high introductory price of $3500

I waited for this camera for 6 years, and finally the "real" upgrade to the 5D classic is here. For years, I loved using my 5Dc because it gave me the 35mm perspective that the APSC cameras cannot provide. I skipped the 5DmkII upgrade as it did not address the main weakness of the 5D classsic which was the sluggish AF.
When the 5D mark3 specs was announced, I knew right away that I need this camera. When it came out last March, I was able to purchase a copy right away. It indeed fulfilled the gap that I had been missing from my 5D for all these years. The 5Dmk3's AF was not only fast, but it was also very accurate (even the off-center Af points) and it does not hunt in low light. With this added feature alone I would have been vey satisfied with this camera...but then, there's more -- amazing high ISO, 22mp, Full-HD movie, high quality LCD, Live view, etc., the list goes on...

Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM

Review Date: Jul 14, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $960.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Very Sharp starting @ f1.4, solid build and feel, fast and accurate AF
front element can get scratched easily, colors are not as good as the Canon L

I bought this lens to replace my Canon 85 1.2L which I sold last year to a friend who insisted on buying it. The Canon 85L was optically spectacular, but I find it too bulky, cumbersome and too slow for everyday use. And also it feels somewhat fragile because of the exposed rear element.
I read a lot of good reviews about the Sigma 85 1.4 and decided to give it a try. I used it with my 5Dmk3 and here are a few observations and comparisons vs the Canon 85L:

1. The lens is very sharp wide open, optically it is as good as the Canon 85L at the same apertures.
2. The colors are slightly muted and warmer compared to the images from the 85L.
3. The build feels solid and does not have an exposed rear element
4. The AF is accurate and I did not experience any compatibility issues with my 5Dmk3.
5. It focuses faster than the 85L
6. It is cheaper (cost $1200 less than the 85L)
7. The bokeh is comparable to the 85L (although IMHO the Canon is slightly better)

I would have rated this lens 10 if not for one major glitch I encountered with it during field use: the front element of the lens can get scratched easily (I don't use protective filters as they can degrade image quality). It happend one day when I was changing lenses, I was in a hurry so I just put the lens in my bag without a lens cap - unfortunately it hit the bottom part of my 580EXII flash - the metal part brushed against the front glass of the lens causing a very small scratch that I cannot remove. I have have had a similar scenario with my other L lenses and did not have the front element scratched so easily (I guess canon L-series glass are also more durable).

Nonetheless, even with the tiny scratch in the front, the performance of the lens was not affected and it is still very sharp. The lens is a good value for its price and performance.
But then, should anyone consider buying this lens, they just have to be careful with the front element (or just use a protective filter).

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8

Review Date: Dec 13, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $120.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Quick AF, sharp, cheap, decent build
not so contrasty, noisy motor

I bought mine used for $120 and got myself a treat with another 'value lens' from canon. IMHO this is the best walkaround lens for street photography on a 1.6 crop SLR.
It is small, light, and very unobstrusive yet the pictures that you'll get are of good quality. the small profile of this lens makes it useful for documenting events, parties, street life & everyday activities without being typecasted as a pro. Its cheap price enables you to use it sparingly on any place or situation without worries of being mugged, stolen or damaged--it's more easily replaceable than an L prime. And the results? They're quite good & usable and sometimes even stunning.
On the build quality department, I would atest that this is one tough lens. One time, I was shooting a gig in a bar in manila, I accidentally dropped this lens from the height of five feet on a concrete floor. Fortunately, it hit the floor by the corner of the barrel at the mount end so the glass didn't break. It ended up having a dent on the lens mount. I tried it back on my 20d, it was a tight fit though, but voila, it still worked -- AF is still ok, images still sharp as before, and no unusual sounds or clicks from inside. Its performance is still good that even with the dent, I was still able to sell it when I sold my 20d.


Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

Review Date: Dec 11, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,100.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: the best 35mm portrait lens available to date
just a regular lens if used for other applications. astronomically overpriced

This lens is purely a specialist portrait lens. For those who want to bring out the wow in every portrait, for those who want something that's extraordinary, and for those who want to shoot studio-like quality portraits in any lighting situation, this is the ultimate, must have lens.

This lens is for those who want very high standards and complete control in portrait photography. It's not easy to handle it but in the hands of a good photographer, the results could be very stunning.

It's very expensive, but then the price barrier maintains its legendary status as an object of desire to be coveted and afforded only by those who really have the passion for good portraiture.

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

Review Date: Dec 11, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,650.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp at f/2.8--excellent at f/4, IS works well, weather & dust protection, nice colors & bokeh, quick AF
big and very heavy

This lens is a versatile combination of large 2.8 aperture and IS on a telephoto L series zoom. The results are really nice and usable starting at the maximum aperture even on lowlight, handheld situations.
While it is true that this lens is heavy, the IS saves you the bulk and weight of carrying a tripod along, therefore making it more practical and less cumbersome to bring along.

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

Review Date: Dec 9, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $650.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: sharp, good contrast, lightweight ultrawide, cheap, minimal distortion, flare resitant
corners are soft on FF, no IS

I completely disagree with those people who complain about this lens' distortion or soft corner problems. I use it on my 5D and i get very good results. To date, I think this is Canon's best ultrawide angle L-series lens available. At one point, I have owned both the 17-40 and 16-35, after comparing them side by side on a FF camera (5D), I decided to sell the latter. I would go as far as considering the 17-40 better than the 16-35 for the following reasons:

1. Same IQ at similar apertures, with the 17-40 getting better starting at f/11
2. Both lenses have soft corners especially on a FF, but as I have observed, the 16-35 has a larger soft area and it doesn't improve much even at f/8 or 11. As for the 17-40, soft corners are only obvious at apertures below f/8.
3. the 16-35 is very soft at f/2.8 therefore it's useless at that aperture and doesn't justify the extra cost
4. Images from the 17-40 has a bit more contrast and has outstanding flare control
5. the 17-40 is lighter and cheaper (less than half the price I paid for the 16-35)
6. the difference between 17mm and 16mm is negligible, just one step back.
7. the 17-40 has less barrel distortion (in fact it is quite impressive considering that this is an ultrawide angle lens), on the otherhand, barrel distortion on the 16-35 makes it look like a semi-fisheye at 16mm when used for shooting subjects closer than 4 feet
8. the 17-40 is a newer design more suited for digital cameras with more advanced special coatings

With this reasons, I conclude that with the 17-40 you'll get a better deal in terms of image quality and performance for half the price of the 16-35.

Personally, I haven't compared this lens with the 14mm prime, but I have seen several reviews here in FM saying that the 16-35 is better than the 14mm(in fact this is one of the lowest rated L lens)...From this premise, we could also conclude that the 17-40 is better than the 14mm prime.

I rated this lens only at 8 because I believe Canon's wide angle lenses, in general, are still not at par with their telephoto line. There is still some issues for improvement like giving it less distortion, sharper edges, and Image Stabilizer.

Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

Review Date: Dec 7, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $800.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: simply stunning

I wish all canon L lenses will be as good as this one. This lens is the best canon lens, hands down.
Excellent Value for money-- for $800, you'll get the best 35mm SLR lens with IQ at par or even better than its astronomically priced siblings 400 2.8 LIS or 300 2.8 LIS. Nikon or any other 35 mm SLR lens manufacturer doesn't even come close.
Sharp all through out from f 2.0 -- no compromises on IQ and excellent bokeh for portraits or even full length shots.
Quick and Accurate AF -- with this lens, all my shots are 100% on focus thereby making also my most reliable lens.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Review Date: Dec 7, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $330.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: sharp starting at f2.8, light and sturdy built, stealthy and unobstrusive
f1.4 is useless, contrast is "so-so", micro-USM is not as fast nor as accurate as ring-type usm

This is the only non-L canon lens i own, and i'm selling it. I'm not satisfied with this lens for the following reasons:

1. the lens is advertised as f/1.4 when in fact, it is only usable (professionally) starting at f/2.8...At 1.4 the image is very soft even at the center, most apparent when used on subjects beyond 4 feet distance.
2. the af is very inaccurate and quite sluggish compared to my 17-40 f4 or 24-105 f4 zoom lenses
3. no weather sealing
4. hood is sold separately
5. IQ is not at par with canon L series prime lenses. (no wonder it doesn't have a red ring around it)

I'm planning to upgrade to the 50 for my experience with L-series prime lenses, there are no compromises on image quality even when used at full aperture. I currently own the 35 1.4 L, 85 1.2 L-II, and the 135 2.0 L -- three of the most highly regarded canon L series prime lenses.

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

Review Date: Dec 7, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: very sharp starting at f4, excellent colors and contrast, good focal length range, bokeh is very pleasing, light yet well built, image stabilizer, quick AF
prone to flare - creates unusual light halos, hood is not very effective extending front barrel with plastic material, severe barrel distortion, light fall-off on edges w FF camera

I find this lens very useful, specially for weddings and social events coverage because of the focal length range and IS capability.

Although many consider this as a GP standard lens, I think it is not suited for any other purposes other than weddings and social events for the following reasons:
1. severe barrel distortion and light fall-off makes it unsuitable for landscape and travel photography
2. unusual halos and light spots appear when used for night photography or when taking pictures with bright light sources in the frame such as sunsets and streetlamps(I'm using it with a 5D)
3. using the IS on while on tripod causes image blur ( i think the tripod-sensing IS thing isn't working)
4. weather sealing is dubious since the front element extends during zooming (i don't want to risk it)
5. quite softish at 105 (but still ok)
6. F/4 is not enough for action-stopping indoor shots, although IS is useful, subject motion blur is a problem

Having said the above reasons, I conclude that this lens is more of a specialist zoom lens designed for the purposes of shooting handheld photos of events. If you are doing social photography as a business or a photojournalist, this lens is a must-have. Otherwise you might be disappointed when used for other purposes. Results are good, sharp, and tacky --typical of L series lenses but then, Canon's attempt to make the package light and affordable has caused some major drawbacks in its performance. I'm waiting for an improved version of this lens. A wide angle L-series f/2.8 zoom with IS would be a nice replacement, for a start...