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Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar T*

50macro
Review Date: Nov 16, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Zeiss color and contrast.
Cons:
Warning: may lead to a Zeiss habit.

I finally found a 50 that I really like!

I used the Canon 50 1.4 for a while, then the Canon 50 1.2. Both lenses produce excellent photos, but neither clicked with me like some other Canon lenses.

I took a chance and went for the Zeiss. Glad I did.

The lens is super versatile. Landscape, macro, street, portrait. Anything you would use a 50 for, this lens is up to the task.

I'm really enjoying MF as well. No need to worry about focus points, or focusing and re-framing. Just use your eye and hand to focus on whatever part of the frame you prefer.

Or use AF confirm. In this case, the only difference is your hand is replacing the AF motor. Probably saves battery life. I've started using MF on my AF lenses since owning a Zeiss. Sometimes it's the best focus method, so a good skill to have.

Lastly, the detail this lens picks up is stunning.

Here is my set of 50MP photos:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/craig_coonrad/sets/72157628673746143/


 
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM

EF24_14LII
Review Date: Nov 16, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Versatile lens. Excellent for low light. Good results wide open, outstanding landscape lens stopped down. Weather sealed. At home on a crop sensor or full frame.
Cons:
Had some AF issues with 7D at first. I went through 3 copies of the lens. I was about to give up on it, when I tried a 7D "hard boot." Pull both batteries and leave it with power switch "on" for several hours. That fixed it.

This is a phenomenal lens. The pictures that come from this lens are a pleasure to look at. Very usable at f1.4, really shines at f2.0.

Stopped down to landscape apertures. The lens is superb.

Have to say this one of my favorite Canon lenses...and I've tried a bunch of them.

A few of my favorites from this lens:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/craig_coonrad/6003782253/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/craig_coonrad/8191655567/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/craig_coonrad/8191634997/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/craig_coonrad/6225298837/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/craig_coonrad/6225297343/


 
Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM

ef_180_35_1_
Review Date: Nov 16, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,239.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Crisp, detailed images from corner to corner and across the frame. Can be used as a weapon for self-defense, or to hammer nails around the house. Black.
Cons:
Exposes the deficiencies of your other lenses.

Before purchasing this lens, I spelunked deep in to the darkest and remotest corner of the Interwebs. Gathering user data and information on this lens. After the spreadsheets were analyzed and the numbers crunched. The distributed super-computer cluster (DSSC) I employ for lens evaluation printed out a small piece of ticker tape that read "Purchase Reccommended." It was a go!

During the data collection phase however, some trends were observed.
Opinions. Consensus data that had developed around this lens. For instance. 'AF is very slow.' 'It's very heavy, must be used with a tripod.' 'Not a lens for sports, birds in flight...fast moving objects.'
I would like to address each of these topics.

-- AF is very slow

This lens is marketed as a 'macro' lens, yet it could easily be marketed as a '180mm telephoto lens (with 1:1 magnification)'. The important thing to remember with this lens is the focusing distance it must travel from macro world to the real world.
For instance, you're focused in on the left eyelid of a baby mosquito, and suddenly a bull elk with a huge rack comes walking out of the forest at 50 yards. You swing the camera towards the elk, with the shutter pushed down halfway to engage AF (now is a good time to have a smoke, or see what you brought for lunch). The AF will be quite slow, naturally.
Computers can't do everything for us folks. At times like these you actually have to do something (sorry), and grab the lens and move the focus in range of the elk. Once you're "in range" of subject, whether small or large, near or far. You will find the AF to be quite effective.
The 300 f/2.8 is notorious for it's AF abilities, but it also has a magnification of 1:7.7. If it was 1:1, it would, like the 180 have that much more distance to travel to get things right. It would probably still be fast as all heck, but you get the point (I hope). So move the focus with your hand (sorry again) for large changes in focusing distance, and you will increase the versatility of this lens by some exponential factor that could only be calculated by the DSSC.

-- This lens must be used on a tripod

There's some timeless wisdom to that statement. Every lens, can, or could, or could have at one time benefited from the use of a tripod (and mirror-lock, and remote release). The wisdom of the ages applies to the 180 macro as well. There's times though, when you need to be hand holding the sucka.
Hand holding the 180 is not only easy, it's fun! It should be encouraged.
The lens is quick on the draw. It's a minimalist design. There's an AF/MF switch, focus limiter switch and focus ring. No bells and whistles. Look
at the side of a 300 2.8, it looks the control center at NASA (don't get me wrong, I want one too).
Was it not Thoreau who said:

Simplicity. I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.

Would Thoreau have used the 180 macro?

180 macro hand held
http://www.pbase.com/coonrad/image/87174094
http://www.pbase.com/coonrad/image/87174093

-- Not a lens for sports, or BIF...or...or...

(see section on AF)

Move the focus in to range if you have to, and use this lens for whatever action oriented pursuits you desire. Some commonly used lenses for sports and BIF are the 300 f/4.0, the 400 f/5.6, the 100-400, the 500 f/4.0. This lens has wider max. aperture than all the above. If the FL can accommodate your needs, and you can actually manipulate the focus ring with your own hand (I know, sorry). Then you have once again increased the versatility of this lens by some exponential factor that would require a Ph.D in mathematics to calculate.
When you turn on Monday Night Football, are you going to see the sidelines full of 180 macros? Maybe (ok you won't), but don't let the "Macro lens" moniker discourage you from the fact that you have one of the nicest telephoto lenses ever designed by Canon (with 1:1 magnification).

180 macro birds in flight:
http://www.pbase.com/coonrad/image/87174898
http://www.pbase.com/coonrad/image/87174929

As for image quality and build quality.
I haven't used other notoriously sharp lenses like the 200 f/1.8, or the 300 f/2.8. I do know that this is the sharpest lens I own, and is within the top tier (the MTF charts appear to bare this out as well).
Color, contrast and background blur meet all my expectations of how an "L" grade lens should perform.
I was very impressed with the build quality with this lens. I wanted to test it though. So I was able to gain access to the rooftop of a 4 story apartment building, where I proceeded to drop the lens from 48 feet on to a concrete sidewalk...hehe...really, it's built very well.