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

Review Date: Feb 18, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very sharp, great AF, very versatile.
Zoom range cramped at the long end.

Many reviews of this lens seem lukewarm and make criticisms you'd see from the test charts: plenty of distortion on the wide end, not sharp corner-to-corner wide open, etc. Thus I was prepared to be unimpressed when trying this out with my new 5D.

However, peeking at test charts fails to convey what an incredible bit of kit this is in the field. On full frame, the flexibility is awesome - all the way up to perfect portrait length, and out plenty wide enough. Frankly, you don't spot those test chart weaknesses in the field; stopped down to f/8, it's impressively sharp at all focal lengths.

For the price, you're getting awesome optical quality, a 4x zoom range from a wide starting point, rock-solid build quality, and a couple of other things people sometimes forget to mention: very precise AF and a good image stabiliser. On full-frame I can always get sharp shots at 105mm and 1/15th, and usually at 1/8th, which is 2.5-3.5 stops improvement, as advertised.

The only niggle is the zoom ring. It's pretty obvious from using this thing that you're moving around a lot of glass. 24 and 35 are almost right next to each other on the zoom ring, so zooming needs a light touch on the long end.

All in all, my expectations were not that high for this lens, but it's blown me away thus far.

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

Review Date: Aug 25, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Nice and sharp, very little distortion.
CA in the corners (although less than the competition).

This is a splendid lens; very sharp, with very little distortion for something so wide. Colours are lovely, making images essentially indistinguishable from the 17-40mm f/4L I also own.

For me, this is the best available option for ultrawide on a cropped sensor body (I also tried the Sigma 12-24mm, which isn't as wide, didn't seem quite as sharp, and had quite different colours). The only other option is something like the 17-40mm on full frame.

So why would you consider full frame? For me, the biggest difference is build quality. This lens is decent enough, but it's not as tough, and the controls aren't as smooth, as the 17-40mm. It's a bit lighter, but not enough to care about. You also get a little bit more CA in the corners with this lens, although it's not enough to be a big deal for me.

The big advantage this lens has over the 17-40mm on a full frame camera is the lack of distortion at the wide end. The 17-40mm has quite pronounced barrel distortion at 17mm; the 10-22mm has much less at 10mm. Again, you may well not notice this in a landscape.

So, overall, a very, very good lens which would be next to perfect if it as built out of metal.

Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Review Date: Oct 26, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very sharp, light, fast AF.

This is a fantastically sharp lens, even wide open. In fact, I can't tell a difference in sharpness when stopping down, so in practise, I don't bother. Worth remembering that f/5.6 doesn't give an awful lot of depth-of-field at 400mm, though.

The lens has a number of neat touches - in particular, the integral, metal hood, and the tripod ring which you can take off without removing the lens from the camera. AF is very quick - noticeably quicker than my 70-200mm f/2.8L.

Of course, it doesn't have a fast maximum aperture and it doesn't have IS; but on a sunny day, you can handhold it and it's light enough for you to do that all day. Highly recommended.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Review Date: Oct 22, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Very sharp; very fast; lovely L-like contrast and colours.
No ring USM; AF a bit inconsistent in low light. Close focussing distance (0.45m) isn't that good.

Very sharp and very fast. This makes it pretty versatile - very useful with available light indoors, for example.

On the downside, the AF is noisy and slow compared to ring USM types, and can be a little inconsistent in low light (one shot will be back-focussed, the next will be spot on). Be prepared for f/1.4 giving so little depth of field that it's more or less unusable; the lens is quite soft wide open anyway. It quickly sharpens up, though, and by f/2 it's performing very well.

So should you get this rather than the f/1.8? I can't sensibly answer that, as I haven't seen the f/1.8. If it's low light ability you're interested in, it might even be worth considering an L zoom with IS (e.g. the 24-105mm) - I've found my 70-200mm f/2.8 IS L pretty much matches this lens in low light, and has better AF.

It's worth shelling out for the hood, too - as well as avoiding flare, it's a nice protection for the lens when fitted backwards.

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

Review Date: Oct 22, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Very sharp, well-built, relatively inexpensive.
Slightly soft wide open at 40mm.

Like many others, I bought this as a 17-55mm kit lens replacement. It's not sensible to compare the two lenses; this one is streets ahead.

It's perfectly possible to get decent pictures with the kit lens; if you're in bright sunlight, and thus can stop it down a bit, you'll be fine, except at the very wide end where the kit lens is quite soft all the time. I went for this lens to sharpen up that wide end.

I wasn't disappointed. This lens is very sharp, even at f/4, and produces lovely contrasty colours. AF is as fast and precise as you'd expect, and it's very solid (but remember you do need to buy a UV filter to completely seal the front).

On the downside, sharpness drops off wide open at 40mm, but it sharpens up again if you stop it down even just a little. Of course, it'd be great if it was faster, but given the reasonable price you can probably get yourself a fast prime for indoor available light stuff.

Overall - recommended.

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

Review Date: Oct 21, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Incredible sharpness, speed (both aperture and AF), IS

I also own the 50mm f/1.4 and 17-40mm f/4 L, but this is my first IS lens, and also my first in the f/2.8 L series. Before purchase, I was put off by the weight of this beast, as well as the price premium over the f/4. What won me over was the additional low light potential of this lens - one stop of aperture, plus two or three stops of IS.

Having handled the lens in the shop, the weight isn't too much of an issue. I've since spent all day at the zoo shooting with it hand-held, and it wasn't a problem. In fact, my other lenses now feel too light in comparison!

The IS is extremely effective. I can hand-hold at 1/50th at 200mm, and 1/20th at 70mm, on a 1.6x crop. Combined with a decent ISO1600 setting, this means you've got the potential to use this lens indoors without flash. The f/4 certainly doesn't offer that!

Sharpness is exceptional - on a par or possibly better than the 50mm f/1.4. It's slightly softer, but perfectly acceptable, at f/2.8 but sharpens up very quickly as it stops down. AF is very quick and accurate, and the lens is surprisingly usable with an extension tube, giving a much wider range of usable focussing range than the others I own.

This lens is everything I anticipated in terms of the amazing quality and sharpness, but is much more versatile than I expected. Highly recommended.