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Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

ef50mmf_18_1_
Review Date: Jan 20, 2009 Recommend? no | Price paid: $80.00 | Rating: 4 

Pros: Lightweight, very sharp at /5.6 and smaller apertures and it is cheap
Cons:
extremely soft at /1.8 all the way to /4, sent to Canon 3 times for calibration/fixing, bad build quality, bad autofocus and noisy autofocus.

I got this lens new about a year ago after hearing all the great reviews about it and how great the quality of the optics were. I didn't bother to do any tests after receiving the lens and just started to go out and shoot, after coming back there were almost no keepers, every shot at a wide aperture (save for 1) was unbearably soft.

After seeing this I found it a bit harder to want to use the lens, but I tried it off and on for a couple more months before finally getting fed up with it and I sent it off to Canon to calibrate it. I received the lens back shortly thereafter and the manual focus ring was stuck so it went back to Canon again. After receiving it back again the autofocus started to make a very odd sound at both the closest focusing distance and infinity focus. But the lens did work, although after testing it in the field again I came back with soft results at anything below /5.6 (/4 being soft but usable in small prints).

This made me test the lens, and the results of it backed up the results from the field, the lens was soft (/4 being usable but still soft) until /5.6 where it was tack sharp. I don't know about anyone else, but when I buy a fast prime lens I plan to use it at wide apertures and not at /5.6 and smaller. So yet again I sent it back to Canon and I finally got a decently sharp copy but I just decided to sell it for cheap (making sure that the buyer knew the history of the lens) because a lens that costs less than $100 is not worth this much trouble. Maybe I just got an extraordinarily bad copy of it, but personally I'd avoid this lens.


 
Sigma 500mm f4.5 EX Apo HSM

500f4_5EX_lg_1_
Review Date: Jul 16, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Great image quality, not too heavy, good tripod foot with handy grooves for carrying, and a fantastic bargain.
Cons:
/4.5, no IS/OS, autofocus hunts a bit in lower light and it can easily be scratched.

This lens has been a joy to use and so far it has provided many keeper images. I mainly use this lens for birding and wildlife photography and it does the job great. Sharpness is great at the wider apertures (I personally never use stopped down too much, so I can't speak for the quality there) and I would have no problem using this lens at the widest aperture for an entire shoot.

I use this lens on a Canon 40D and with that it gives me an 800mm effective focal length which is great for wildlife. There are a couple relatively minor problems though. The first is that the maximum aperture is /4.5 so it limits use with a teleconverter. Second is that the autofocus hunts a bit in lower light such as when shooting a bird near the center of a tree, and also if there is a lot of foreground interest. The final problem I've run into is that the finish on the lens scratchs pretty easily and is probably going to end up causing me to buy a lens coat for it. (Would be handy for me anyway though) These issues are all pretty minor though and there are workarounds for each of them that don't cause me too much inconvinience. And for the price this lens is a downright bargain for what you get.

Anyways, here are some shots that I've taken with this lens:
http://GKmon-DORU-fanatic.deviantart.com/art/Pretty-bird-91214041
http://GKmon-DORU-fanatic.deviantart.com/art/Cubs-at-play-91288899
http://GKmon-DORU-fanatic.deviantart.com/art/Looking-back-to-you-91836697