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  Reviews by: uz2work  

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Canon EOS 1D Mark III

Review Date: Jul 11, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $4,500.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Best AF, in both servo and one shot, that I've ever used. Fantastic high ISO performance. Improved dynamic range. Beautiful files with need for minimal post work. More user friendly menus and controls

I couldn't be more pleased than I am with the 1DIII. The files are beautiful. Whether it is the result of more pixels or the 14 bit files, there is noticeable improvement in dynamic range, and the need for post-processing is minimal.

In spite of problems reported by others, I find the AF system to be the best I've used and a significant improvement over previous 1-series AF, which I thought were great in their own right. Much of my shooting involves shooting fast moving action. I've shot birds in flight, running mammals, running humans, speeding autos, and jet planes flying at the speed of sound. They've been moving in every possible direction relative to the camera, and I've shot them in hot, humid, sunny conditions, and low light. Regardless of the situation, the 1DIII has performed flawlessly. I've generally preferred, in the past, using a manually selected focus point, and I've had more confidence in my ability to keep the focus point on the subject than I've had in the camera's ability to guess where it should focus. With the 1DIII, however, it does better, by far, in 45 point mode than any other camera I've used. Also, regardless of mode, if contact with the subject and focus are lost, it recovers focus better and more quickly than any camera I've used.

With the 1DIII, it is important to understand that settings and use do not transfer directly from those for previous 1-series bodies, and some settings that worked with, say, a 1DII, won't do well with the 1DIII. I've spent many hours doing controlled testing with various settings on the 1DIII. I've had others test those that seem to do best for my needs, and they concur that they work well. For those interested, I have an explanation of those settings posted on my website.
Also, all of the pictures currently on the "what's new" page of my webiste were taken with the 1DIII.

In addition to image quality and AF capabilities, Canon has done a fantastic job in listening to what photographers want and how photographers wanted to see the 1DII (N) improved. The little touches, controls, menus, etc. make the camera a joy to use. And features such as the LiveView and ability to microadjust for each lens are just a bonus.


Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM

Review Date: May 5, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: image quality, size and weight, performance with 1.4x
price, perhaps

I haven't posted on FM in over a year, but I still maintain contact with many FMers, and I often get emails asking my opinion about various lenses. So, for my fellow long lens users, I thought I'd post a review of the 400DO.

I had thought about buying a 400DO for a couple of years. The mixed reviews, however, had always discouraged me from doing so. Even though I'm a big fan of my 500/4, I was looking for a smaller, lighter long lens to use when the situation warranted it. I had thought of getting a 300/2.8, but I knew that I'd be using it virtually all the time with a 1.4x, and the weight seemed too close to that of the 500 (a little over 2 pounds difference) to make it worth sacrificing 200mm.
So, my plan was to try out a 400DO first. I figured that I'd give it a good workout for a week or so, and, if its image quality or performance didn't hold up in any way, I was prepared to return it and, get a 300/2.8, and live with the extra weight and shorter length of the 300/2.8.

Some of the reviews talk about how the 400DO doesn't do so well, especially in the area of contrast, in less than ideal light. Also, speculation is that more recent copies are better than those from the time when the lens was first introduced. I have no idea whether Canon
"made some things better", but I do know that the 400DO that I bought about 2 months ago has exceeded any expectations that I might have. It doesn't lose a thing, in terms of image quality, to my 500/4. My judgment is that it is every bit as sharp as my 500/4, and, if it isn't, it has to be so close that the difference would be neglible. With regard to performance in less than perfect light, again, it performs just as well as my 500/4. Sharpness, contrast, color, etc. are excellent.

And the lens is a joy to use for hand-held shooting. I've enjoyed using my 100-400 for the flexibility of the zoom and its size. I could never warm up to my 400/5.6 (which I recently sold). Even though it was capable of extremely sharp images, because of the lack of IS, the percentage of shots that got thrown away was just too much for me to accept. While the 400DO weighs a pound or so more than either the 100-400 or the 400/5.6, I think that it actually balances better and feels more comfortable for hand-held shooting than either of the other two lenses. In fact, with its size and weight and with an excellent IS system (even though it is not of the most recent generation), I feel like I'm ending up with sharper hand held shots, even if I need more cropping than with, say my 500, just because it is so easy to hold steady. And, like my 500, the 400DO loses virtually nothing with a 1.4x, except for, of course, the stop of light. I haven't really tried it with a 2x because, when I start to need that much length, that's when the 500 will come out for sure. AF with the lens is quite fast, as long as the limiter switch is set to limit the range. With the limiter switch set to use the full range, AF does slow down quite a bit and there is quite a bit of hunting. With a 1.4x, AF is only marginally slower.

I didn't think that any lens could ever replace my 500/4 as "my favorite lens", but, in just a couple of months of using the 400DO, it has become my favorite lens. If I'm going out and can get by with 400mm, I use the 400DO. If I need a little over 500mm and the light allows me to lose a stop of light, I'll use the 400DO and a 1.4x. Only when I can't afford the loss of a stop or need 700mm or more, have I been using the 500. And, as someone who has used the 500 for tens of thousands of shots and not minded the size and weight, I would not be using the DO now if I felt that it compromised the quality of the images in any way. I might also add that it is proving to be an outstanding lens for use in wildlife shooting from a vehicle. While I've often wrestled with getting my 500 aiming out the window, it is just so much easier with the size and weight of the DO.

And I find that I'm not missing the 100 mm of the 500 much, if any, at all. There may be an occasional time when I can't get a head shot with the 400DO and I could have with the 500, but I found, with the 500, that there were just as many times when I had too much length as there were when I didn't have enough, and, as my shooting has evolved, I've found that I prefer cropping somewhat looser than I once did. While we, as photographers, fall in love with the tightly cropped shots when we get a long lens, for my taste, a shot that is cropped a bit looser and includes a bit more of the environment is more asthetically pleasing. So, 400mm has fit my needs very well.

Again, I have no idea how early copies of this lens perform, but I'd highly recommend a current copy for any looking for a long prime, but especially for those looking for one that is smaller, lighter, and more portable, without sacrificing image quality or a relatively wide aperture. The only downside, to me, of the 400DO is the price. However, when I think about it, if I could buy a 500mm lens that performs as well as the 500/4, but that weighed 2 pounds less, I'd be willing to pay a $1500-2000 premium for that size and weight savings. That's what I figure the premium is for the 400DO over what a 400/4 with traditional design would likely cost.

If anyone has any questions or would like samples of shots from the 400DO, you can email me through the link in my website.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM

Review Date: Jan 5, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,600.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: outstanding image quality, 2.8 aperture, IS
relatively large size and weight

The 70-200/2.8 is, to me, about as good as a zoom can get.
The image quality that I get from the lens is not that much different than what I get from my 200/2.8 prime. Having IS makes the lens, in many situations, more usable than the prime. The only drawback to the lens is that it is, for a lens of this length, large and heavy.

Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM

Review Date: Jan 5, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $660.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: relatively compact size, very nice image quality
see below

I find the 200/2.8 to be a very capable lens that produces outstanding images. However 200mm is starting to get into the length where I'd like to see IS on a lens. While the image quality is outstanding, I find that, in most situations, the edge in image quality over that of my 70-200/2.8 IS isn't all that great. Thus, unless travelling light is a priority, I often choose to use the zoom first because of both the zooms range and also because the zoom has IS. If the 200/2.8 had IS or if it was a stop faster, I'd probably be using it more.

Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

Review Date: Jan 5, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $890.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: sharp image quality, f2, does wonderful things to blurred backgrounds

While this focal length is not one that I do a lot of shooting at, I find myself looking for opportunities to use this length just because I find the image quality from the lens to be so pleasing.

Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Review Date: Jan 5, 2006 Recommend? no | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 3 

Pros: Capable of very sharp images, small and light weight for a long lens, ability to focus fast.
lack of IS, slow 5.6 maximum aperture.

While the 400/5.6 is potentially capable of very sharp images (just a notch below some of the big ticket long glass, such as the 300/2.8 and 500/4), that potential may not always be realized in real world shooting, depending on the type of shooting one does. For birds in flight with great light, you can't, for $1100, do any better. However, if your shooting style calls for a lot of hand held shooting in less than great light, the lack of IS on this lens severly restricts its use. As I wildlife shooter whose best shot opportunities come right after sunrise or before sunset when the light is not the strongest and whose shooting is mostly hand held, I find the lens to be virtually useless without IS. While I've gotten nice shots with the lens, I haven't gotten any shots that would not have been just as good with one of my other long lenses with IS, and I know that I've missed many great shot opportunities because I didn't have the light to get the shutter speeds that I needed to use the lens without IS.
While I'm sure that it is a great lens for shooting in great light or for someone who always uses a tripod, it is the only lens that I own that I would not buy again if I had it to do over again.

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM

Review Date: Jan 5, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $5,500.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: As sharp as it gets. Loses virtually nothing with a 1.4x, even wide open. Is the longest Canon lens that can still be hand held in many shooting situations.
None other than price, but that's unavoidable in quality long glass.

I can't imagine a better lens for wildlife shooting. The image quality is as good as it gets, and it takes a 1.4x wide open with virtually no loss in image quality. If you can afford to spend the money, you can't do any better.

Canon EOS 10D

Review Date: Mar 13, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,430.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: quality of images, 1.6 crop factor for users of long lenses, ease of use, ability to use Canon IS lenses, relatively low price, good performance at higher ISO, rugged construction
1.6 crop factor for wide angle shooters, 1.1 USB (neither of which really affects my use of the camera)

I have had my 10 D for about 4 months and taken over 10,000 pictures
with it. I could not be more pleased with my choice. While some may
nit pick about some of the characteristics of the camera, they must remember that they are talking about a $1500 camera and not a
$4500 or $7000 camera. If Canon put all of the features they could into
the 10D, I don't think that they would be selling many 1Ds and 1DII model cameras.
The quality of the images that my camera produces are outstanding.
Some have complained that the camera doesn't have the most advanced auto focus system. Perhaps I just got a good one, but mine
focuses precisely and does not have any of the front or back focusing
problems that others have complained about. Also, since the kind of
shooting I do leads me to virtually always use the center focusing point,
the 7 point focusing system does not bother me.
For nature photographers who shoot with long lenses, the camera is
ideal. It makes my 100-400L lens into a 640mm lens and my
500L f4, into an 800mm lens. It sure is nice to be able to buy a "640"
mm lens for the price of a 400. It is equally nice to be able to carry
around a "640" mm lens at the size and weight of a 400. Even though
the 500 is big and bulky, it is manageable and gives me an "800"
mm lens that I can actually, for short periods, carry around and hand
hold. The crop factor also makes it nice to be able to have an f4 lens
that can be carried around and can reach 800mm.
The camera is also quite rugged. A couple of months ago, when I was
trying to take a picture of a bald eagle from close up, I had to maneuver
to get the light behind me. In doing so, I slipped on some ice and
fell quite forcefully to the ground. I landed squarely on the camera
and my 100-400L lens. I was anticipating having to send one or both
of the camera and lens in for service. Both servived without the
slightest damage.
The 10D also performs well at higher ISO. It does so well at ISO 400
that I rarely shoot below that level. In poor light, ISO 800 will still
give decent results. I have not really used the ISO 1600 or 3200
settings much so I can't comment on their performance.
Recently, I have considered moving up to the 1DII, but, while I have
not made a final decision, I'm not sure that, for the kind of shooting I do,
it would be a better camera for me. While it would be nice to have a
burst rate of 8 1/2 frames per second and a buffer of 40 frames, 3
frames per second usually meets my needs, and I've only exhausted
the buffer a couple of times. Especially, if you shoot in jpegs, by the
time you've shot a burst of 9 pictures, a couple have been recorded.
Thus, the effective buffer is more than 9 frames. Additionally, for
those who shoot nature photography, the challenge is to fill up the
frame with the subject. Even with a 500mm lens and a 1.6 crop factor,
I'm often cropping pictures. If I were to get the 1DII, because of its
1.3 crop factor, if a 1DII picture were cropped to the identical field of
view as a 10D picture, it would only have 5.4 million pixels left. Thus,
the 10D allows for more room to crop with its 6.3 million pixels.
Obviously, if I were doing a lot of wide angle shooting, my feelings about
the crop factor would be different.
In short, for $1500 or anything close to it, there is no other camera
that comes close to the 10D.

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

Review Date: Mar 3, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,300.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: relatively small compared to most Canon prime lenses, relatively inexpensive compared to other L lenses IS
none noted

It seems that people either love or hate this lens. I do nature photography, especially birds. I have a 500mm f4 IS, also, While that
lens gives great results, it is not exactly what I would call a "walking
around" lens. With my 100-400, I can handle it and hand hold it all
day long. I have manueverability, and I have the flexibility, if I need to
to shorten the lens. It has been the perfect lens for capturing eagles in flight at less than about 300 feet. Perhaps I just got a good one, but
I have found that my autofocus is relatively fast and razor sharp. The
autofocus does an excellent job of following a moving object. When I've taken bursts of 7or 8 pictures of the same bird, I've often gotten
6-8 razor sharp images. I find that I use the 500 mm only when I absolutely need the extra length and when I can use a tripod. With the
100-400, also, if I need just a bit more length, I've found that, by taping the contacts, I can use a 1.4x converter and still get the autofocus to
work quite well. On my lens, the IS works flawlessly. I would not consider using a lens of this size without the IS. It is the lens that is on my camera more than any
other, and I highly recommend it.