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Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

Review Date: Jun 16, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 


Like many others, I considered the 300/4 IS, 400/5.6, and 100-400. The 300/4 IS was very tempting, but knew I wanted the extra reach of 400mm. I tried a friendís 400/5.6, and was very impressed with the image quality and AF speed. On the other hand, I didnít like the physical length of the lens. I also thought I might want the flexibility of a zoom for landscapes. I hesitated about the 100-400 for some time, especially after reading reports of the 100-400 not performing well at 400mm. But, I had also seen some very impressive images so about one year ago, I decided to take a chance on the 100-400. As I explain below, I have not been disappointed.

First, some minor things I donít like about the 100-400. The lens is heavy, unless you are used to carrying larger f/2.8 zooms and longer telephotos. I prefer to use small, unobtrusive lenses, but if I need the reach I have to deal with a larger lens. Since I usually use a tripod, I keep the tripod mount attached all the time, so this adds weight. The push-pull zoom takes some getting used to, and while I appreciate the zoom lock, Iím not particularly fond of how it operates. Finally, the lens does become quite long when racked out to 400mm, but again, those used to larger telephoto lenses probably wonít mind.

These points aside, I have found the 100-400 to be a very sharp lens, with great color and contrast. The build quality is very high. While heavy compared to my other lenses, the lens is surprisingly compact when set to 100mm. Performance is very good wide open throughout the zoom range, but I usually try to stop down a bit. The range on a 1.6X DSLR is phenomenal. I wanted a longer lens for landscapes and daylight sporting events and this is a great option. I tried non-IS and IS versions of the 70-200/4, but I found 200mm too short, even on a 1.6x DSLR. For sporting events, the lens handles very well on a monopod. For landscapes, Iíd use a sturdy tripod to maximize image quality, but itís nice to flip on IS and handhold if a tripod isnít available. The massive telephoto zoom range is very convenient in the field.

Here are some examples:





And one example from a daylight sporting event, at 400mm:


Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM

Review Date: Aug 10, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 


I begin this review of the 70-200/4 IS by admitting that I didnít use my 70-200/4L (non-IS) very often on my 1.6x DSLR. While I was impressed with the optical performance of the zoom, I typically found myself at 200mm and wanting a bit more speed. So unless I knew I was going to need the 200mm reach, I wasnít reaching for the zoom. I sold the 70-200/4 and purchased a 200/2.8L. For most purposes, I was content with the 200L prime Ė a great lens if you need the 200mm focal length. But, I wasnít completely satisfied.

Landscape photography is one key area where I missed the flexibility of the zoom. While I often use the 200L in the field, I found myself wishing for the ability to zoom out to a wider focal length. I purchased a 28-135 IS and while this lens was plenty sharp when stopped down, I was often using it between 70-135mm and it was not as sharp as my primes, or perhaps more telling, the 70-200/4L I used to own. I started to think more seriously about purchasing another 70-200L. Canon currently offers plenty of options.

The f/2.8 versions of the 70-200 are too large and heavy for my purposes. Simply put, I donít like carrying large lenses. Plus, I already have the 200L, along with some other shorter and faster prime telephoto lenses; an f/4 zoom suits my needs perfectly. I originally planned to re-purchase the non-IS version of the 70-200/4. But, reviews of the f/4 IS caught my attention, and I realized that this lens was something I should consider more seriously. I sold my 28-135 and purchased the 70-200/4 IS.

My initial impressions of the lens have been quite favorable. Not surprisingly, the lens handles much like the non-IS f/4 version. The optical performance appears to be very similar as well Ė this is a sharp zoom. Since I donít own the non-IS version, I cannot do a side-by-side test; I have, however, tested the IS f/4 against my 200L prime. My 200L is perhaps a bit sharper at comparable apertures, but any modest differences would not likely be seen in prints, and other variables like lighting, composition, subject movement, etc. are much more likely to produce discernable differences in real-world (non-test) situations. I was somewhat surprised to note, as others have reported, that when used on a 30D, the center performance of the f/4 IS does not improve when stopped down; the lens is as sharp at f/8 as it is at f/4. Iím intrigued to know if stopping the lens down would improve performance on a full-frame DSLR.

To date, I havenít had the opportunity to use the IS on this lens extensively, however my initial explorations suggest that I gain a 2-3-stop improvement. That said, I am fairly critical about sharpness, and I note that my best photographs still come when the camera is mounted on a tripod. I recently purchased the optional tripod mount because I expect to use this lens on a tripod quite a bit. Although the tripod mount is well constructed and works well, it is kind of pricey for what you get. Nevertheless, I highly recommend the tripod mount if you plan to use the lens on a tripod. Does this mean that the extra cost of the IS wasnít worth it in my case? Perhaps, but I do anticipate using this lens hand-held, and my experiments suggest that IS certainly can help still an unsteady hand.

I have seen reports that the 70-200/4 IS cannot produce sharp images at the minimum focus distance and 200mm. I only have experience with my lens, but my forays into the garden with the zoom suggest accurate focus. Perhaps most importantly for my landscape and event photography, the lens performs quite well when focused on far away objects.

Here are a few examples of images (on a 30D):




In sum, I highly recommend the 70-200/4 IS. If you find the price a bit steep, I wouldnít hesitate to get the f/4 non-IS (and carry a sturdy tripod if you often encounter low light).

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

Review Date: Feb 11, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 


When I first purchased my 10D several years ago, I realized that I would eventually want a lens that could provide me with something in the 28mm range on a full frame camera. I thought about the 16-35/2.8, but it didnít make sense for me to pay over twice the amount of the 17-40 for what essentially amounts to the ability to use a lens at f/2.8. Donít get me wrong: I appreciate fast lenses. Indeed, I own several fast primes, and they see a lot of use, especially in low-light, non-flash applications and for selective focus. But, I recognized that in most situations, Iíd be using the wide angle lens on a tripod and stopping down, and for snapshots Iím not opposed to using bounced flash. Thus, the 17-40/4 L was my choice.

The 17-40 L is very well built, fitting of its L-designation, and is capable of producing very sharp images. The fast, quiet USM is certainly appreciated. I did purchase the hood designated for the 24/1.4L to use with the 17-40 on my 10D. I think itís certainly a much better choice than the hood that is included with the lens, at least for the 1.6x DSLR crowd.

If the number of reviews on FM is indicative of anything, the 17-40 is probably one of the most popular lenses in the Canon line. At 17mm, the lens covers a reasonably wide 27mm range on a 1.6x DSLR. I rarely used lenses wider than 28mm when shooting film, so I donít miss too much on the wide end with this lens. I do, however, sometimes take photographs for my realtor relatives and for this purpose, I must admit that the 17-40 doesnít cut it for wide indoor shots. Alas, I must reach for a wider lens (in my case with the 10D, the Sigma 10-20). But, I have used the 17-40 exclusively for a project focused on outdoor architecture and it performed very well. Generally speaking, the 17-40 sees much more use than the wider zoom for most of my applications.

The 17-40L has been my primary travel lens for several years. I do not find the f/4 too limiting with the great high ISO performance of Canon DSLRs. After owning the lens for a while, I'm a bit surprised to note that it has performed quite well for me as an indoor event lens, especially with bounced flash from a 420EX. That said, the performance of this lens really shines outdoors, in particular for wide open spaces where I want to emphasize the sky or the scope of the land:


I also find uses for the lens indoors without flash, usually with a tripod:


I use aperture priority quite a lot, so I like the constant f/4 across the zoom range. In experience, the 17-40 is a bit sharper on the wide end. Stopping down certainly improves sharpness (not a surprise), but Iím certainly not afraid to use it at f/4.

Overall, I am very pleased with my 17-40L.

Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM

Review Date: Feb 10, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 


As others have noted, Canon has a reputation for producing high-quality telephoto lenses and the 200/2.8L (mk II) doesnít disappoint. The 200/2.8L is very sharp, even wide open. On my 10D, the lens produces images with wonderful color, great contrast, and creamy bokeh; if you have the room, this makes for an outstanding portrait lens. I typically use the lens for outdoor portraits, outdoor sports where I have access to the sidelines, and landscape applications where I frequently like to isolate patterns. The lens works splendidly for outdoor action, even under cloudy or twilight conditions.

Here are a few of my favorites:



I very much like this lens on a 1.6x DSLR when I need some extra reach. The purchase of something like a 300/2.8 doesnít make financial sense for me, nor would I want to carry one of the longer telephotos for any significant time or distance. The 200/2.8 on my 10D makes for a fine compromise. I consistently find that the 200/2.8 is on the camera when some of my best photographs are printed. That said, I do find myself using the 135/2 a bit more frequently than the 200/2.8, but if I was using a full-frame DSLR, I think the 200/2.8 would see even more use. In short, the 200/2.8 is capable of producing stunning, professional-grade images.

The 200/2.8 is built very solidly and the AF snaps into focus with little hesitation. While this isnít a small lens, especially with the hood attached, the lens is fairly compact relative to 70-200/2.8 telephoto zooms. Also, the price of the 200/2.8 is much less than the Canon 70-200/2.8 zooms. I probably will eventually pick up the optional tripod mount for the 200, primarily because this makes changes in horizontal to vertical (and vice versa) orientation easier.

I have owned a 70-200/4L and while this zoom is capable of producing very sharp images, it had several shortcomings for my uses. First, the zoom was a bit too long, even unattached to the camera, to fit in my favorite small camera bag. Second, I typically found myself at the long end of the zoom and it was at 200mm that I often wished for the ability to open up to f/2.8 as this better allows action-stopping shutter speeds. Finally, I found the white color of the zoom to be a bit too conspicuous for my taste. Therefore, I sold the 70-200/4 and purchased the 200/2.8. I havenít regretted this decision for a second.

If you need a 200mm lens and don't want to carry or pay for a 70-200 zoom, this L lens won't disappoint.

Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

Review Date: Dec 1, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 


Mixed reviews on this site had me a bit worried about the 28-135 IS lens. Despite the reviews, I remained very attracted by the range of the 28-135 on the 1.6x 10D; a 45-216mm lens encompasses my most used focal lengths for landscape photography, as well as most of my family snapshots that result in prints no larger than 8x10 inches. I have been relying on single focal length, prime lenses, or the 17-40/4 L to fill this range. Yet, even with the 1.6x, the 17-40 zoom just wasnít long enough for most of my uses. The 17-40 zoom wasnít very useful for family snapshots as I donít typically like using focal lengths under 40mm for this type of photography. The primes are relatively small and lightweight, and are, of course, capable of producing very high quality images. But, for landscape photography Iím typically stopping down to f/8 and changing prime lenses in the field is hardly convenient.

So, I finally went for the 28-135. Letís get the negatives out of the way first. The lens is not up to L-build quality. The zooming barrel of the lens wobbles and its design does appear to be prone to sucking in dust. The lens isnít as sharp as my prime lenses, and the color and contrast are lacking in comparison to L-series lenses. The manual focus ring is very small, but I would not use manual focus very often with this zoom. I donít like paying extra for the hood, but alas, this is standard Canon practice with non-L lenses.

Now I can address the positives. The lens isnít too large for a zoom with this range Ė very similar in size to the 17-40. The lens is sharper than I expected, given user reports. Maybe I just got lucky? Of course, when used wide open, this lens isnít as sharp as a Canon prime, but who would expect this type of performance in a zoom? Even wide open, the lens is more than sharp enough to make small to medium-sized prints and produce images for the web display. The range of the lens is considerable, and it covers my most frequently used focal lengths. Image stabilization is the real deal, although itís no substitute for a tripod. I almost always use a tripod for landscapes, but this lens makes for a great travel lens. For instance, I didnít have my tripod with me when I shot this image at sunset, at 135mm:


In sum, I think the 28-135 is a very good deal and I look forward to using it more extensively in landscape applications. If I lost this one, I wouldnít hesitate to get another; my total expense for two 28-135 zooms would still be well under the cost of a new 24-105/L.

Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

Review Date: Oct 18, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 


I have a taste for fast short telephoto lenses because I like using selective focus creatively with portraits and general photography. I very much enjoy using lenses in the 85-200mm range. These lenses are typically reasonably sized and priced, at least relative to some of longer telephoto primes and lenses like the popular, but large and expensive, 70-200/2.8L zooms.

Iíve had my eye on the 135/2L since coming to the Canon EOS system about two years ago, and I finally purchased one. The lens makes for a great outdoor portrait lens. I also enjoy taking it into the garden for images of larger flowers; hereís an example:


When discussing image quality, I must first mention the performance of the 135/2 wide open. One simple word will suffice: Stunning. Indeed, the 135/2 is sharper at f/2 than most of my other lenses stopped down. The lens produces images with great color and contrast. The bokeh is soft and painting-like, and again, I certainly will never hesitate to use the lens at f/2. The difference between f/2 and f/2.8 can be substantial, especially when it comes to stopping the movement of a subject. The auto focus is USM-silent, precise, and very quick. The build quality is excellent, typical of L-series lenses. The length of the lens is relatively short (when the hood is removed) so it fits nicely in my smaller camera bags. The lens is a bit heavy for its length, but it still balances wonderfully on my 10D.

I have often suspiciously read reports from users claiming that certain lenses require little to no post-processing, sharpening, etc. After using the 135/2, I no longer doubt such claims. Images come out of the camera very sharp, with little to no post-processing required.

Reading through the many reviews of the 135/2, the only significant ďcomplaintĒ relates to the focal length, especially on a 1.6x DSLR. When shooting 35mm film, I used to like a 200mm focal length, sometimes with a bit of cropping for prints. The 135 on a 1.6x DSLR looks a lot like a super-fast 200mm prime on a full frame, for a lot less money than what something like a 200/1.8L + 5D currently demands. If you donít need a short telephoto prime lens, donít consider the 135/2. For those photographers using a 1.6x DSLR, if you need a fast, high-quality lens in the 200mm range and live without the convenience of a zoom, the 135/2 is darn near perfect.

To conclude, when you see a lens with many positive reviews on FM, like the 135/2, itís probably hard to go wrong. Of course, you might think that all these reviews are simply hype, but then youíd be missing out on one terrific lens. Read the numerous reviews carefully and youíll easily recognize the general consensus. Simply put, the performance of the 135/2 is outstanding.