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Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM

ef_35_14_1_
Review Date: Jul 12, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $950.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: 100% usability at f/1.4 just opens up a whole new world of possibilities
Cons:
it's too bad physics won't allow this lens to be smaller. an L should be weather-sealed, but it doesn't really matter cause my 5d isn't weather-sealed either.

first off, in the interest of full disclosure, i'll state that i'm a prime shooter. that said, shortly after purchasing this lens, i sold my other lenses (24-70L, 28/1.8, 50/1.4). that was over 6 months ago, and the 35L is still the only lens i own. paired with my 5d, the 35 allows me to capture whatever i see, exactly as i see it, in ANY situation; the combination of 35mm, f/1.4, and (5d's) iso 3200 allow for shooting in the darkest of situations, as i can comfortably handhold at 1/30th, and- if i'm careful- 1/10th, although subject motion can make that a moot point. although you won't be able to make the background disappear like you can with a telephoto unless you're subject is close to you (because of the 35mm focal length), it's plenty easy to blur everything but your subject- which is reliably sharp with this lens.
i've owned every L 2.8 zoom and every USM non-L prime, and nothing compares to the 35L. when i get a longer lens in the near-future, it'll either be an 85L or 135L; i've just grown too accustomed to (and spoiled by!) L prime IQ.


 
Sigma 100-300mm f4 EX IF HSM APO

100-300if_1_
Review Date: Jul 21, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $700.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: solid build, HSM, great handling, excellent iq
Cons:
"backwards" zoom ring, lens cap never stays on, 82mm filters

I had the 70-200 f/4 L, but I wanted something with a bit more reach. So I upsized to the Sigma, and I have not regretted it one bit.
I figured that the AF speed would take a hit, as the L was lightning fast. But after a couple months of use, I am still surprised at how fast the AF is on this lens- it keeps up with the 1D's AI Servo quite well. It's also deadly accurate- I've had no problems on either my old 20D or now with my 1D. Focus is spot-on, even at 300mm, f/4, and focused ten feet away.
Same thing goes for the image quality. I'll admit I'm not a pixel-peeper, but images look fantastic, even wide-open at both ends- good colors, contrast, sharpness, saturation, etc.
I don't find the lens extremely big or heavy, although I probably don't view things like that the way most people do because I'm 6'8" and in good shape. Although my shoulder can get a little sore after carrying this thing in my Domke bag all day, I have shot with this lens on my 1D for several hours straight on numerous occasions and really don't find it bad at all. The lens is very well built and balances very well with the camera (it helps if you have a grip if not using a 1-series body). The only way I think the build could be improved is if it had weather-sealing, which is obviously out of the question for a Sigma lens (unfortunately). And maybe I'm just used to it now, but I really don't think of the lens as being huge (although the hood adds a lot of length).
I do wish that Sigma lenses didn't zoom "backwards," but it didn't take me all that long to get used to it. The lens cap doesn't do a good job of staying on, but I don't use lens caps very often so that doesn't bother me too much. I wish this lens had a 77mm filter size, but other than that I don't have any complaints.
FYI/FWIW, I bought this lens used here on FM (non-DG). Of the four Sigma lenses I've owned, three were bought used and all were excellent. The one I bought new couldn't AF properly. I'm not one of those people who stays away from Sigma at all costs, but I certainly don't mind letting others play the Sigma QC game for me.


 
Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX DG Aspherical RF

20_f1_8_1_
Review Date: Apr 28, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $300.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: f/1.8, great iq (w/ a good copy), f/1.8, extremely close mfd, f/1.8
Cons:
lousy af/mf switch, size, terrible af/mf switch, weight, stupid af/mf switch, 82mm filters, awful af/mf switch

First off, I'll admit that mine was an excellent copy.

Now, think about what this lens is- super wide-angle, works on full-frame, and very fast. So it's hard to complain about this lens when there is NOTHING else like it. While I didn't care for the size of this lens compared to my other primes, I understand why it is as big as it is.
The image quality is outstanding; I used it wide open indoors and in low-light all the time. And stopped down, it's even better. Shooting at 20mm (32mm on my 20D) at f/1.8 with a MFD of about seven inches gives this lens another capability that's difficult to find anywhere else.
Build quality was top-notch, what you'd expect from the Sigma EX line. I do wish the front element wasn't so big, because it really looks like there is meaningless space around the outer edges of the glass, and 82mm filters are really expensive.
The only real problem I had with this lens (other than that it wasn't wide enough for me) was the stupid stupid STUPID AF/MF switch. Sigma makes you flip a switch, then slide the focus ring in order to change between modes. It may not sound like a lot, but surprisingly I couldn't get used to it. I'd always forget which mode I was in, and if I was in MF trying to switch to AF I'd have to look in two different places to see what my problem was. Plus, the focus ring is so damn big that it's impossible to pick up the lens without switching its position. Why Sigma couldn't put HSM on this lens, or at least a more simple AF/MF switch, is totally beyond me (and, from what I gather, most people that have used this lens).
That said, this lens does a superb job of what it is designed to do, and if it had HSM, i wouldn't hesitate to give it a perfect 10 rating.


 
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

ef50mmf_14usm_1_
Review Date: Apr 28, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $300.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: iq, f/1.4, size, value
Cons:
not ring usm

Image quality is what you'd expect from Canon's best "normal" lens. Colors look like L glass, images are sharp, just the right amount of contrast.
f/1.4 is nice and fast. AF speed is pretty good, although not quite up to snuff as lenses with Ring USM (we're talking fractions of a second here, though).
If you don't shoot with the 50mm focal length all that often and/or money is tight, I'm not sure I'd recommend this lens over the cheaper 1.8 versions. But if you do, or if you want 2/3 stop faster, far better build, faster and MUCH quieter AF, and slightly better images, go for it. It's hard to make a bad 50mm lens these days.


 
Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM

ef28mmf_18usm_1_
Review Date: Apr 28, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $330.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: size, build, usm, compliments 50/1.4 and 85/1.8 & 100/2 very well, fantastic "normal" prime for a 1.6 crop, good colors and contrast
Cons:
iq not as good as the other canon usm non-L primes, but it's MUCH better than a lot of the bashers of this lens give it credit for

Looking for a "normal" prime, I initially bought a Sigma 30/1.4, but (surprise) it had AF issues, before AND after calibration. So I bought the Canon 28/1.8, and it's fantastic. It feels great on a 20d, and it's built well- very similar to the class of USM non-L primes (20/2.8, 50/1.4, 85/1.8, 100/2).
AF speed is what you'd expect from USM- fast and silent. And, most importantly, accurate. It's not the sharpest lens wide open, but it is definitely more than usable. It's an excellent walk-around lens during the day when used between f/2.8-11, and I don't at all hesitate to use it wide-open when the light gets low or when I'm indoors.
I suppose if I had to find a negative aspect of this lens, it would be the price. You can find great deals on this lens here on FM, but new I wish it was more evenly priced with the 50/1.4 and 85/1.8.

This lens has a lot of bad reviews out there, and if you like to take a picture of a cat sitting in front of a brick wall 50 feet away with the lens wide-open and then blow up the image to an A2 sized print, then this lens probably isn't for you. But if you actually enjoy taking real-world pictures, then I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.


 
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM

ef70_200_4_1_
Review Date: Mar 12, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $500.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: build, af speed, amazing color and sharpness, surprisingly lightweight
Cons:
none

i purchased this lens on FM a couple of months ago, and it is quite simply stunning. the build is superb and the af is lightning fast. in my opinion, this lens looks heavier than it is- this doesn't necessarily mean that it's lightweight, but it's much easier to hold and carry than i imagined it to be. i've been able to get sharp shots at 200mm, f/4, 1/40 on my 20d!
i'd say it's the best value in the L lineup, but i don't shoot tele enough to like it more than my 17-40.
of course it's not f/2.8, but that keeps the price/weight down, so i can't fault it for that. if i shot indoors a lot then i'd rather have the 2.8 IS, but i only really use this lens outdoors during the daytime, so the "slow" speed hasn't been a problem.

it looks good, it feels great, and it produces absolutely amazing color & sharpness. i love this lens!


 
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

ef17-40_4l_1_
Review Date: Mar 12, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $650.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: color, sharpness, build, usm
Cons:
lens hood, f/4, has infected me with L fever

unless i need the speed of a prime, this is my main lens on my 20d. colors are superb, it's sharp wide open, the af fast and accurate EVEN in low-light. as one of the most affordable L's, i find this lens an amazing value. the build quality is so amazing (this was my first L) that it makes my 20d feel sort of cheap Smile
i don't mind the "lack" of range as much as most because most of what i shoot is wide-angle anyways.
of course it's f/4, but considering that the price nearly double to get to f/2.8, it's a more-than-fair tradeoff.
the only thing that i don't like about this lens is the included hood. since canon knows most people currently buying this lens use it on a 1.6 crop, where the hood is basically useless, it'd be nice to have the option to get an alternative hood that is not so large (and thus difficult to put in a bag).

bottom line is that since i purchased this lens a couple of months ago, i am yet to be disappointed.


 
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

ef50mmf_18_1_
Review Date: Feb 26, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $80.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: sharp, small, light, CHEAP!
Cons:
af can be slow at times, especially in low-light; cheap build quality- but neither of these matter considering what you pay for this lens.

unless you already own a bunch of primes, or the 50 1.4 (at 3-4 times the price), this lens should be a no-brainer addition for anybody. it's price makes it extremely affordable to basically anybody that can afford a camera. it is as sharp as my L zooms, which is saying a lot. it's so small and light that you can just put it in your pocket. build quality leaves a lot to be desired, but at this price who really cares?
the only complaint i have about this lens is the af sometimes lags compared to lenses with usm, but considering what this lens costs, i could care less.