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Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

85II
Review Date: Jun 25, 2006 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

 
Pros:
Cons:

This lens is quite excellent. I have been using it for a few months now (got the second one that came to Adorama, much to the drool of the other folks there), and it is a very impressive lens, as many have described previously.

On the 5d, it is just spectacular as a portrait lens, very reminiscient of the Leica 75f1.4 on the M in tonality, contrast, and in the type of composition it inspires. Despite its focal length, it is an incredibly intimate lens, since you can essentially shoot portraits in in near darkness.

On the Mk2N, is becomes an amazing event lens. Combined with the speed and the excellent AI focusing system of the Mk2N, the lens allows for low ISO, high shutter speed shooting in waning light, when the 70-200 would have been put away already. The excellent noise reduction of the Mk2N and the 5d allows for significant cropping, making this lens more useful than a slower zoom in low light.

On the down side, it is very heavy, making it a pretty serious addition to carry around, and the movement of the focusing ring in and out of the lens barrel means that great care must be taken with it. But, this lens can be the sole replacement for the 70-200 on a trip, which is no small feat.

Combined with the 24f1.4, you have an amazing indoor kit for very intimate wide angle and portrait photography. Combined with the 28f1.8 or 35f1.4, you have an amazing travel kit that basically lets you shoot 24 hours a day. Combined with the 16-35, you have a very versatile travel or event kit as well.

I find that I use this lens more than the 135L. There are several reasons (none of which are related to the quality of the 135, which is also impressive). But here are my considerations: with the 135 on the 5d, I typically am bound by 125 shutter speed/f2 combo. If you put that lens onto the Mk2 or 20D, the shutter speed has to go up, further limiting the low light utility. If, on the other hand, I put the 85 on the 5d, I get 90 shutter at f1.2, which gives me 2.5 extra stops. It's a no-brainer for me in terms of versatility.
And, I can move the 85 to the Mk2 or 20d to get a longer reach, still gaining two stops. Not bad.

If you like the rangefinder style of shooting, where you essentially don't shoot much past 90, and you don't mind composing within the confines of a prime, or if you need a high speed lens for indoor events/sports, this lens is really spectacular.


 
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

85II
Review Date: Jun 25, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,000.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp, great bokeh, lowlight capabilities, excellent color rendition
Cons:
Expensive and heavy

This lens is quite excellent. I have been using it for a few months now (got the second one that came to Adorama, much to the drool of the other folks there), and it is a very impressive lens, as many have described previously.

On the 5d, it is just spectacular as a portrait lens, very reminiscient of the Leica 75f1.4 on the M in tonality, contrast, and in the type of composition it inspires. Despite its focal length, it is an incredibly intimate lens, since you can essentially shoot portraits in in near darkness.

On the Mk2N, is becomes an amazing event lens. Combined with the speed and the excellent AI focusing system of the Mk2N, the lens allows for low ISO, high shutter speed shooting in waning light, when the 70-200 would have been put away already. The excellent noise reduction of the Mk2N and the 5d allows for significant cropping, making this lens more useful than a slower zoom in low light.

On the down side, it is very heavy, making it a pretty serious addition to carry around, and the movement of the focusing ring in and out of the lens barrel means that great care must be taken with it. But, this lens can be the sole replacement for the 70-200 on a trip, which is no small feat.

Combined with the 24f1.4, you have an amazing indoor kit for very intimate wide angle and portrait photography. Combined with the 28f1.8 or 35f1.4, you have an amazing travel kit that basically lets you shoot 24 hours a day. Combined with the 16-35, you have a very versatile travel or event kit as well.

I find that I use this lens more than the 135L. There are several reasons (none of which are related to the quality of the 135, which is also impressive). But here are my considerations: with the 135 on the 5d, I typically am bound by 125 shutter speed/f2 combo. If you put that lens onto the Mk2 or 20D, the shutter speed has to go up, further limiting the low light utility. If, on the other hand, I put the 85 on the 5d, I get 90 shutter at f1.2, which gives me 2.5 extra stops. It's a no-brainer for me in terms of versatility.
And, I can move the 85 to the Mk2 or 20d to get a longer reach, still gaining two stops. Not bad.

If you like the rangefinder style of shooting, where you essentially don't shoot much past 90, and you don't mind composing within the confines of a prime, or if you need a high speed lens for indoor events/sports, this lens is really spectacular.


 
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

EF10-22
Review Date: Mar 7, 2006 Recommend? | Price paid: $680.00

 
Pros: ultrawide angle on 20d. Sufficiently sharp
Cons:
Strange and harsh OOF areas, photos look "digital"

So, after hemming and hawing for a year, waiting for the 30d to come out (would it be 1.6?), I decided to get this lens for my 20d, intending to use it in situations where the area was too high risk for me to bring my 5d with 16-35. I had read countless reviews and had pretty high hopes.

The lens is satisfactorily sharp--not as sharp as an L, but sharp enough for non-pro use, and certainly sharp enough for most people. The sharpness, I thought, was adequate for me for the high risk situations I intended for the lens.

The reason I returned this lens after 4 hours of shooting with it is because of three strange features that haven't been commented on in reviews as far as I can tell.

The first is a very "digital" quality to the photos. I am not sure how to put this. If you take a photo on a Canon digital point and shoot, like the sd500, you see a slightly "digified" quality in all the photos. Perhaps this is a product of the mild loss of tonal separation in this lens, maybe it is a product of a somewhat different glass configuration in these ef-s lenses...I am not sure. If you want an example, I refer you to the Canon EF Lens Work III book. Look at all the photos taken on "regular" canon glass, and then look at their sample photo from the ef-s lens they have in there (i think it is the 17-55). You will see exactly what I am talking about. Now, I am not saying that this is a problem as some people might prefer their photos to look this way; however, it made this lens absolutely unacceptable to me as a lens for anything more than what I would typically photograph with a point and shoot.

The next weird thing had to do with the rendition of the OOF areas of the photograph, and which might be best described as a somewhat strange sense of color-bleeding. Although color fringing is well-controlled across the field, when the OOF areas are examined, one gets a sense that they are not only OOF but smeared. This creates a harsh and competing bokeh that detracts from the attention directed towards the subject in my opinion. If you use this lens primarily for large depth of field landscape work, you might not notice it, but if you do any limited DOF work at all, you will see it. And to be honest, I noticed it in the larger DOF test shots I took as well. At smaller print or screen sizes, this doesn't jump out, but it does add a feeling of tension that would not otherwise be present. To me, an unacceptable artifact.

The last thing is just as subtle and hard for me to explain. There is a strange threshold in the edge definition of this lens. What do I mean? Well, if you sharpen as much as you might typically sharpen with the 20d for any L series lens, the lines become jagged, as if over sharpened. If you reduce the amount of sharpening, then the edges look much softer than that of the 16-35 L. It was very difficult to find a happy medium, where the edges looked sufficiently sharp, but not jagged and oversharpened.

So, I decided to return this lens. Not sure an acceptable alternative exists...might be better off throwing a bessa r2a in the bag with the voigtlander 15 on it (is this blasphemy?) and actually shooting film in those instances. Or carrying a little film Elan or something to switch the 16-35 onto (which is what I used to do).

So, why did I click "yes" on recommending this lens? Well, because it could work for many people in many circumstances. I am totally spoiled by L glass and Leica M glass, and I have very high expectations for where I drop close to $700. Keep in mind that the 17-40 L (which is sharper and without these weird artifacts) costs less than this lens, as does the 70-200 f4 L. Alternatively, for $300 more, you can have the 35 f1.4 L. And as a topper, the 135 f2 L, which is absolutely one of the best lenses in the Canon stable, costs $100 more than this lens. Any of these is money better spent in my opinion. BUT (and it's a pretty big but), there aren't many options in the ultra wide-angle category for the 20d, and this lens is probably among the best of them.

My recommendation is that you either take your 20d to the store with you and try it out, bring home the images on your card, study them, and then decide whether to buy. Or, buy it from a place that has a no-questions-asked return policy, and then you can try out the lens extensively.

In the end, I have no doubt that many a photographer can make excellent images with this lens. It just not right for me.


 
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

EF10-22
Review Date: Mar 7, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $680.00 | Rating: 3 

 
Pros: sharp. 16-35 on 20d.
Cons:
strange quality of OOF areas, explained below. looks "digital"

So, after hemming and hawing for a year, waiting for the 30d to come out (would it be 1.6?), I decided to get this lens for my 20d, intending to use it in situations where the area was too high risk for me to bring my 5d with 16-35. I had read countless reviews and had pretty high hopes.

The lens is satisfactorily sharp--not as sharp as an L, but sharp enough for non-pro use, and certainly sharp enough for most people. The sharpness, I thought, was adequate for me for the high risk situations I intended for the lens.

The reason I returned this lens after 4 hours of shooting with it is because of three strange features that haven't been commented on in reviews as far as I can tell.

The first is a very "digital" quality to the photos. I am not sure how to put this. If you take a photo on a Canon digital point and shoot, like the sd500, you see a slightly "digified" quality in all the photos. Perhaps this is a product of the mild loss of tonal separation in this lens, maybe it is a product of a somewhat different glass configuration in these ef-s lenses...I am not sure. If you want an example, I refer you to the Canon EF Lens Work III book. Look at all the photos taken on "regular" canon glass, and then look at their sample photo from the ef-s lens they have in there (i think it is the 17-55). You will see exactly what I am talking about. Now, I am not saying that this is a problem as some people might prefer their photos to look this way; however, it made this lens absolutely unacceptable to me as a lens for anything more than what I would typically photograph with a point and shoot.

The next weird thing had to do with the rendition of the OOF areas of the photograph, and which might be best described as a somewhat strange sense of color-bleeding. Although color fringing is well-controlled across the field, when the OOF areas are examined, one gets a sense that they are not only OOF but smeared. This creates a harsh and competing bokeh that detracts from the attention directed towards the subject in my opinion. If you use this lens primarily for large depth of field landscape work, you might not notice it, but if you do any limited DOF work at all, you will see it. And to be honest, I noticed it in the larger DOF test shots I took as well. At smaller print or screen sizes, this doesn't jump out, but it does add a feeling of tension that would not otherwise be present. To me, an unacceptable artifact.

The last thing is just as subtle and hard for me to explain. There is a strange threshold in the edge definition of this lens. What do I mean? Well, if you sharpen as much as you might typically sharpen with the 20d for any L series lens, the lines become jagged, as if over sharpened. If you reduce the amount of sharpening, then the edges look much softer than that of the 16-35 L. It was very difficult to find a happy medium, where the edges looked sufficiently sharp, but not jagged and oversharpened.

So, I decided to return this lens. Not sure an acceptable alternative exists...might be better off throwing a bessa r2a in the bag with the voigtlander 15 on it (is this blasphemy?) and actually shooting film in those instances. Or carrying a little film Elan or something to switch the 16-35 onto (which is what I used to do).

So, why did I click "yes" on recommending this lens? Well, because it could work for many people in many circumstances. I am totally spoiled by L glass and Leica M glass, and I have very high expectations for where I drop close to $700. Keep in mind that the 17-40 L (which is sharper and without these weird artifacts) costs less than this lens, as does the 70-200 f4 L. Alternatively, for $300 more, you can have the 35 f1.4 L. And as a topper, the 135 f2 L, which is absolutely one of the best lenses in the Canon stable, costs $100 more than this lens. Any of these is money better spent in my opinion. BUT (and it's a pretty big but), there aren't many options in the ultra wide-angle category for the 20d, and this lens is probably among the best of them.

My recommendation is that you either take your 20d to the store with you and try it out, bring home the images on your card, study them, and then decide whether to buy. Or, buy it from a place that has a no-questions-asked return policy, and then you can try out the lens extensively.

In the end, I have no doubt that many a photographer can make excellent images with this lens. It just not right for me.


 
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

24-105lisusm
Review Date: Feb 9, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Excellent focal length. Much lighter and more managable than my 24-70 L. If you get a good one, it is a great lens.
Cons:
Apparent QC issues with this lens--ie. vignetting and softeness, so take care in purchasing.

I know that QC has left something to be desired for this lense, apparently; however, that being said, I have purchased what appears to be a superior copy of this lens. No vignetting problem, no softness problem. I have been shooting on it for a month now, and it has been spectacular. My recommendation is to test this lens in the store so that you can acquire a good one. I have had nothing but good experiences with this lens shooting in a variety of conditions, from the volcanoes of hawaii from both the ground and helicopter to the kids birthday party I did last week.