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Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III

Review Date: Apr 23, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $7,999.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Low Noise, Live View (great for product work)

I upgraded to the 1Ds Mark III from the 1Ds Mark II. The MkII was a fantastic body and the MkIII is just as fantastic and more.

Upgraded menus and controls. Set button and thumb stick like the 5D.

The greatest feature of this camera is the Live View. If you do a lot of product/studio/still life work - live view is a must have. It allows you to setup your shot and see it in real time (like a video camera) and what you see is exactly what you get. One shot and its a keeper.

ISO 3200 is very usable without post processing.

21mp is noticeably greater than 16.7 but I wouldn't pay the $$$ for that alone.

My only complaint is - I wish it had ISO 6400 or 12800.

Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 EX DG HSM

Review Date: Jul 15, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,300.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Outstanding Color, contrast, sharpness. Only 300mm zoom with fixed f/2.8 aperture. Surprisingly sharp.
For 1-series bodies, this lens must be sent back to Sigma and calibrated or you may find yourself with misfocus issues.

Over all this is a great lens for the price (FOR THE PRICE). Performance is Canon L series quality, however the lens required that I send it back to Sigma with my body costing me $250 in shipping/insurance.

If I spend that kind of money on a lens it should work perfectly right out of the box.

Lens is tack sharp 120-200 @ f/2.8.
Lens is less sharp but still very good 250-300mm @ f/2.8.
Sigma 2X and 1.4X TC works very very well.
DOF is about 1 inch at 300mm f/2.8 when focused @ 12' or ~4m.
Bokeh is very good (due to short DOF and 9 aperture blades).
Build quality is outstanding.
Color reproduction is outstanding (very pleasing with skin tones).
Contrast is outstanding.
AF Speed is quick (Not 300mm f/2.8L IS quick but still good), if you are completely out of focus the lens may take a 1/2 second to find your target, but with a little good practice of keeping the lens manually close focused to what you're looking for goes a long way. If the lens is near correct focus, this lens will snap into place very very quickly.
Front element is hypnotically large and impressive for the size of this lens.
Weight - most people think 6lbs is too heavy, however if you try the Canon 400mm f/2.8L lens you're talking 15lbs! I find 6lbs is very hand-holdable for short periods (but a tripod helps).

This lens doesn't work well on a 1-series body straight out of the box, requires calibration.
Once calibrated I still only have a 85% AF success rate. Occasionally this lens will seek the background instead of my target, but if you're careful or AF on high-contrast points you'll be fine.
Canon 2X TC does not work well with this lens.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II

Review Date: Mar 25, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $5,500.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: AF is blazing fast
Image review 10x magnification is poor

Well, even though I didn't own the 5D and the 1Ds Mark II at the same time, I did some comparisons from shots older shots I had from my 5D with recent shots with the 1DsII.

What I determined:

1. Resolution was a bit better for the 1DsII but not significant.
2. At 100%, noise was slightly better for the 5D at 1600 and noticeably better at 3200, however, when reducing the 1Ds down to 5D resolution the noise drops to a similar level and the 1DsII responds to ACR noise reduction slightly better than the 5D. Over all I would say the 5D is better in terms of noise because it just comes out nice, but the 1DsII can be just as nice with a little work.
3. difference in 3fps and 4fps is actually pretty noticeable but 3fps was enough for me, however the 5D can take more shots before filling up the buffer, thats a real bonus for me.
4. Color seems to be much more accurate and consistent with the 1DsII, but you can correct this with a color calibration macro in ACR.
5. The custom features on the 1DsII are outstanding.
6. Spot metering is far superior.
7. AF is mind boggling (but I imagine no better than the 1DII).
8. Dual cards is neat but not a big plus for me.
9. Menu system is far better on the 5D but "safer" on the 1DsII
10. The camera just "feels" much more like a solid piece of equipment (The feel and AF is what caused me to fall in love with the 1-series body over the 5D).
11. I really miss the 5D's little thumb stick to control my AF-point selection.
12. 100% viewfinder coverage in the 1DsII is REALLY nice. No more guessing, what you see is what you get.

One large difference I noticed was that I could expand a raw 1DsII image significantly more than a 5D raw image. This is only useful if you want to print a 1,000" x 1,000" print though.

All in all, I would only recommend the 1DsII over the 5D if you really like a sturdy body and AF and FF are crucial and you need the really high end custom functions that come with a 1-series body.

Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX

Review Date: Feb 14, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $439.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Very portable, easy to use, A:B Ratio lighting, modeling light, durable construction. WAAY more macro friendly than ABR800 (TTL).
Poor mount design, what was canon thinking? Modeling light turns off when you don't want it to sometimes. Kind of front heavy on 100mm.

Very handy device.

Overall fantastic product. I rated it a 9/10, but I would have given it a 11/10 if the mount design was better. It has plenty of power for macro usage, though I would like a few stops more so that I could use it for non-macro purposes such as the intended use of the ABR800. The MR-14EX can still do non-macro shots but you are going to use full power and maybe f/2.8 @ ISO400 or so.

MR-14EX vs ABR800:
As I was reading through the reviews and saw someone mention the Alien Bees Ring Lite (ABR800). It's a great product like all Alien Bees products, but the MR14 is much better suited for macro lighting. The MR14 has TTL and ABR800 does not. You'll love the MR14's TTL when you're trying to catch that BumbleBee on the flower opposed to stuffing your flash meter its face. I own two B800's and LOVE them, but the ABR800 is not as portable (carrying around a vagabond to shoot some flowers is crazy) as the MR14. To the ABR800's advantage, attachment may be bulkier, but at least you can still use a filter (more below).

MR-14EX Mount Design:
The way the light attaches to the lens is very poorly designed. You can't use a lens filter or your lens cap while the ringlight is attached. Many of you may say, bah, I don't use filters, they just degrade the optical quality. Well, what about a warmer or a IR filter for some neat effects, you don't have the option! Same with the lens cap, it's annoying to have to take the light off the front of the lens when you want to set your camera down and put the lens cap back on. The propblem is that the light mounts over the front of the lens leaving zero space for a filter or lens cap. Despite this downfall, the light is still worth its pricetag.

Modeling Light:
The modeling light is very handy when the subject doesn't have enough natural light to focus (common when getting in REAL close, especially with MP-E 65mm macro). The modeling light provides some extra light to help focus, etc. However, it goes out when you half-press the shutter release, which many of us use to focus. You can get by this by switching the focus button or use manual focus. (I prefer manual focus as its typically faster when working so close).

Overall fantastic product. I rated it a 9/10, but I would have given it a 11/10 if the mount design was better.

Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM

Review Date: Jan 10, 2005 Recommend? no | Price paid: $300.00 | Rating: 4 

Pros: Light for a 70-300 zoom... thats it?
Very bad CA.

Only worth it if you can pick it up for less than $100.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Review Date: Jan 10, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $320.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Wide aperture, great bokeh, sharp after f/2, USM, sturdy build
Soft at f/1.4-1.8, focusing ring seems a bit flimsy

I like the lens, but I think I was hoping for more.

I started with an AE-1 Program and the FD 50mm f/1.4 SSC.
I loved that lens and I suppose I was hoping the EF version would perform as well.

Overall great lens. Fantastic bokeh! If you like short DOF, there aren't many lenses with such an aperature for this price.

I have a 1.6x crop on my DSLR which makes this lens appear a little tele for general use but its not bad for portraits.

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8

Review Date: Jan 5, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Small, lightweight, price, good focal length for DSLR 1.3x or 1.6x, 25cm min focus. Non-rotating front allows for perfect hood.
A little soft at f/2.8 (not bad though).

I owned this lens for awhile until I traded it for something worse, now I miss it and plan to get another.

I used this lens quite a bit while I had it. Its a decent walk around lens on a DSLR w/1.6x crop. It comes out a little wider than "normal" but has a minimum focus of 25cm so the reproduction size on the image sensor comes out to about 1/8. Its not a macro lens, but as I said for a walk around lens it does a good job if you want to get up-close on something.

Canon EF 20-35mm f/2.8L

Review Date: Jan 5, 2005 Recommend? no | Price paid: $600.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: Low price for an L-Series lens. Great build quality. Color/Contrast is good.
Very soft at f/2.8, heavy, 50cm minimum focus.

I was very excited about this lens. I picked it up at Keeble & Shuchat in Palo Alto, Ca for $600. I thought it was a great deal at the time. The lens was in such fantastic condition, it was gleaming!

+ The lens feels very good/solid in your hands. I love holding this lens more than anything. Its cold and smooth. Very nice zoom and focus action. You look through the glass and its very nice and bright.
- Sharpness is unacceptable wider than f/4 and only "good" after that, not what you would expect from L-glass. I found the sharpness of this lens comparable to the EF-S 18-55. The 18-55 is decent at f/8 considering the weight and cost, but a +500g lens at $600 should do a lot better.
+ Color and contrast is good.
- Minimum focus is 50cm. Ofcourse you know this when you buy it so you can't be surprised. At such a wide angle sometimes you need/want to get up close to the subject for effect. Can't do it with this lens.

Overall, look somewhere else to fill your wide angle gap. Or come find me, I'll sell you mine! Wink