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Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

ef135mmf_2l_1_
Review Date: Feb 20, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: sharp; contrasty; gorgeous bokeh; built like a tank; produces incredibly gorgeous images; focuses swiftly and accurately; well-priced for so much quality; wholly deserving of its reputation as one of the best lenses Canon has ever made
Cons:
awkward focal length; no stabilization makes it useless for serious low light work; a bit on the heavy side

135L is arguably as close to a perfect lens as there is in the Canon lineup. It handles beautifully, holds up well in tough environments, isn't so large or heavy as to be burdensome, and of course takes drop-dead gorgeous photos that are just dripping with saturation and contrast. It's not an easy focal length to work with, but what it produces is pure magic. For under a thousand dollars, there is no better Canon lens for uncompromising image quality.

 
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

ef10028lmisu_586x225
Review Date: Feb 20, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: sharp; contrasty; nice colors; lovely bokeh; amazing 4-stop IS as advertised; solid build (the plastic is plenty sturdy and reduces weight)
Cons:
a bit long for its weight, so the balance feels a bit odd; a bit pricey

My current favorite lens. It's fun to shoot with, focuses fast enough to pull double duty as a macro/portrait lens, and produces beautiful images. The sharpness isn't quite as striking as, say, the 60/2.8 EF-S or the 135L, but it's still one of the sharpest lenses I've used, and is in fact probably better as a casual portrait lens because of it. Highly recommended!

 
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

ef17-40_4l_1_
Review Date: Jun 21, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $400.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: pleasant color rendition, good contrast with plenty of pop, excellent build, light weight, reasonable distortion, great flare control, fast and accurate AF
Cons:
a bit soft wide open, some light falloff especially on full frame, f4 can be too slow

The 17-40 is my workhorse lens. It took a few shoots for me to get used to framing with its wide-to-normal zoom range, but once I did, it became a real joy to use. It handles wonderfully, and its build inspires a lot of confidence. The edge sharpness can be a bit soft when shooting wide open, but it improves quite nicely when stopped down just a bit, and the center sharpness is excellent even wide open. Color is a bit on the warm side, which I think is actually nice for landscapes and sceneries. One great thing about the 17-40 is that it handles flare very well, even without the hood. The main frustrations w/ the 17-40 are that it's f4 (too slow when it gets dark) and that it stops at 40mm (too short for portraits). The new 17-55 addresses these issues, but at the cost of build, flare, price, and size, so there are some significant tradeoffs to consider. Overall, the 17-40 is a fantastic lens for those looking for a good wide zoom. It's a consistent, reliable lens that you can shoot with in a wide variety of situations and know exactly what you'll be getting.


 
Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM

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Review Date: Jun 20, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 7 

 
Pros: amazingly sharp, fairly accurate color, good contrast, useful focal range, image stabilization
Cons:
serious flare issues, noticeable light falloff (vignetting), average build, sucks in dust, pricy, hood not included

I got this lens hoping to replace my 17-40 as the walkaround lens of choice. On paper, it looked like it would be no contest: one stop faster, IS, and an extra 15mm on the long end. I also wasn't budget-constrained, so the price difference wasn't an issue. However, what I discovered was that things weren't so straightforward. Right off the bat, the 17-55 was significantly heftier, and it didn't handle as smoothly as the 17-40. I missed the internal zooming and weather sealing of the 17-40, because I started noticing a little bit of dust gathering inside the 17-55 after a couple of days of extended use. The 55mm long end (~90mm equiv.) was definitely handy, but it was still pretty short. My neck felt the difference in weight after hours of toting the 17-55 around. And although I can't claim this conclusively, it felt like the AF worked faster but tended to get confused more easily on the 17-55. I once tried focusing both lenses on a perforated metal panel, and it consistently took more tries for the 17-55 to lock on. As for image quality, the 17-55 produced far sharper images, comparable to my primes, and I was quite pleased by the color, contrast, and bokeh it produced. However, there were also numerous flare issues, not only with the sun but also with artificial light sources (e.g., street lights). A hood (not included!) would have helped somewhat with the sun, but not with shooting nighttime photos, when shooting into light bulbs is often unavoidable. Light falloff was also quite prominent at wide apertures. In short, the 17-40 won on build and light handling, while the 17-55 won on functionality and image rendition. The 17-55 produced some truly amazing photos under reasonable conditions, in some cases far exceeding what the 17-40 was capable of producing (e.g., shooting razor-sharp photos at 1/3 sec hand-held). However, I found the 17-40 to be a more reliable performer under trickier situations. Thus, one should consider one's needs and intended usage carefully when choosing between these two lenses. Both are fine choices, and both have their shortcomings. If Canon just improved the flare control a little bit, like they did with the early batch of the 24-105, that would be a huge boost to the 17-55. But even as it stands now, the 17-55 is a fine lens and a reasonable choice for people looking for a high-quality single lens solution.