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Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

Review Date: Mar 13, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Build, optics, AF.

This is one lens which I consider having absolutely no negatives. The optics are absolutely superlative, the build is solid and AF is fast and silent (USM motor). It's because of lenses like these that I love photography ! Smile I find this a superb portrait lens on my full frame film cameras, and it also makes a great travel and walk around lens. It's black and discreet as opposed to some of the white L lenses. When I see my chromes on the light box, they never cease to surprise me.

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

Review Date: Mar 13, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: IS really works. Great range. Silent AF and very versatile lens.
Slow max aperture, bulky compared to the 28-105, large filters (72mm), optics could be better. Distortion at the wide and long ends.

This is probably the most versatile focal length range and this is one lens most would carry everywhere. IS really works and it has saved my butt many times, in low light. USM is silent.

However, for many situations I find the f/stops limiting, specially at the long end. f/5.6 is a bit too slow for many things, and this lens needs to be stopped down to f/8 for optimal performance. It's soft wide open. Also the AF is slower than most USM lenses I have (28-105 etc). Also this lens produces quite a bit of barrel distortion at the wide end and pincushions at the long end.

It's a nice lens, but I found myself using it less and less, because I either needed to shoot at faster apertures (f/8 is just too slow if I need to take the shot AND get a sharp image). I got myself a 28-70L and didn't miss the 28-135 much except for the IS in some situations.

Still, it's a good lens and I'd recommend this to anyone - makes a good all round zoom.

Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF

Review Date: Mar 13, 2004 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 6 

Pros: VR really works, good optics, solid build.
Pathetically slow AF, no silent wave motor (AF-S), weak tripod collar, slow max aperture.

First the good points, the construction and optics are excellent. The zooming and manual focus actions are very smooth. Sharpness and color rendition are very very good.

Sadly the AF is pathetically slow since for whatever reason Nikon decided not to use the AF-S motor in this lens. With the D100 it takes 15 minutes to AF from closeup to infinity (well Ok just exaggerating). It's OK as a travel lens but the slow f-stop prevents me from shooting fast paced action and shots where I need shallow DoF, such as those you'd get with an f/2.8 or f/4 lens.Tripod collar is flimsy.

If I were to make a choice today, I'd take a serious look at the 70-200VR and skip this lens altogether.

Nikon 105mm f/2.8D AF Micro

Review Date: Feb 20, 2004 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Great build, good optics, excellent contrast and bokeh.
Needs to go down to f/4 or f/5.6 before I get the best sharpness and contrast.

First let me say that I don't own this lens. Our local photo society organized a photo outing at the gardens - mainly macro, butterflies, etc. I carry a small Canon rig with one body and one lens (100/2.8 macro USM). Saw my partner with his Nikon rig and this 105/2.8 macro lens and the measurbator in me ( ) wanted to play with his setup and see how well it does.

The first thing I noticed about his setup (F100 and this lens) was the lovely contrast and clear image in the viewfinder. Manual focusing was lovely and the image would snap into focus. From my slides, the bokeh is lovely. However when I observed the results at f/2.8-f/4 it was a little less sharp than I expected. f/4-5.6 onwards the lens is superb. Colors and contrast are superb.

Obviously this lens wasn't designed for lots of AF use. AF is slow and hunts a lot specially in low light. On the N90s, AF was poor. The F100 did a lot better. The surprise came when we also tried out the Tamron 90/2.8 macro. This lens beat the Nikkor at f/2.8 and f/4, and contrast and color rendition was as good as the Nikkor at all apertures. I liked the Tamron because I could shoot with it wide open and still get excellent sharpness.

This is a good lens, but Nikon may be able to do a little better at f/2.8 and f/4. I'd normally recommend this lens, but the only reason I say "No" here is that the Tamron 90/2.8 is a superb performer which matches this lens at a far lower price.

Sigma 28-70mm F2.8 EX Aspherical

Review Date: Feb 18, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 6 

Pros: Very solid build. Focuses reasonably fast.
Soft wide open. Flares like crazy. Focusing problems with some EOS bodies.

I was looking at a whole range of 24/28-70's with an f/2.8 aperture when I wanted to upgrade from my slower zoom. This was one of the lenses I tested. It worked fine on my EOS-5 and AF was pretty fast. Build quality is very good and solid. I'm sure it can handle a beating.

I did not buy this lens because of the optics. The lens I tested was soft wide open at all focal lengths. At 70mm I observed that the lens often wouldn't focus on the subject, rather a little ahead or behind it. Pressing the AF/shutter button a couple of times made it lock focus... this was very troubling. This lens flares like crazy even with the hood, and in order to mininize flare I really had to keep any light sources out of the frame. I wasn't satisfied with the performance so didn't buy it.

Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM

Review Date: Feb 17, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $350.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Incredibly fast AF, extremely sharp, excellent colors and contrast, good build.
Can't think of any.

I don't understand how some people could say this is a slow focusing lens. When used on my EOS-3 this lens focuses instantaneously, in almost any situation. You're probably using a Rebel or something like that?

Of course this is not a 135/2L but the optics are superb for the price and there are many used 100/2's floating around which are available cheap. This is one of the best portrait lenses I've used. The lens is very compact and it's a pleasure using this lens as a walk-around street-photog lens. Background blur is very pleasing and portraits come out very well.

Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8L USM

Review Date: Feb 14, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $700.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Superb optics, ultra fast and silent focusing, solid build quality
A bit heavy, flares a bit without the hood.

After the 24-70 came out many people were dumping their 28-70's and I managed to pick one up for cheap, to supplement my 28-135IS for more demanding occasions. After shooting a few rolls with each lens, the difference between them is like night and day. The 28-135 simply doesn't hold a candle to the 28-70L.

Quite often I shoot wide open, and the L lens delivers stunning results. I simply couldn't use the 28-135 wide open, and its already slow max apertures (~= 5.6) required it to go down to f/8 before I could get sharp images. With the 28-70, I can shoot wide open and get fast shutter speeds, which eliminates 3/4th of the occasions where I need IS on the 28-135. The 28-70 is simply that much better. The distortion on the 28-135 is noticeably worse than the 28-70 and I can even see this in the small little viewfinder. After shooting with the two lenses for a few months now I've retired the 28-135 and put it up for sale.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Review Date: Feb 12, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $350.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: Sharp optics, excellent color rendition, decent build.
Barrel distortion, slow AF.

The sharpness and color I get from this lens is excellent. Build is much better than my cheap 50/1.8-II. However when shooting full frame (I shoot film, primarily), my three samples all suffered from serious barrel distortion. With straight lines near the edges the results looked quite ugly. Some other samples I tested (borrowed off a friend) didn't show this much distortion. Weird. I sold mine and re-purchased a 50/1.8-II which has served me well ever since.

Canon EF 35mm f/2

Review Date: Feb 12, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $130.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Superb optics. Corner to corner sharpness. Small, light and compact.
Slightly slow AF.

I got this lens because I needed something between my 24 and 50 primes. I finally ended up using this lens most of the time. The optics are top notch and the f/2.0 speed is very useful. The lens focuses very close. I sometimes shoot at f/2.0 with this lens and the results are very sharp. Color rendition is quite neutral and color saturation is as good as the 50/1.8. The lens feels quite solid, and the metal lens mount and distance scale are welcome.

These days you can find this lens at low prices now that people are switching to "pro" wide Sigma zooms for their DSLR's Smile

Canon Speedlite 380EX

Review Date: Feb 2, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $100.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Decent power and size.
Only tilt, no swivel.

I used this flash when I had an Elan-IIe, but have upgraded to the 550EX and other EOS bodies since then. With the Elan-IIe the flash exposures were correct almost all the time, and it did its job with the EOS-3 as well. However I missed the lack of swivel capabilities and relatively low power. I also couldn't use it as a slave with my 550EX, and am now looking at a 420EX. Still, one can a second hand 380EX cheap these days and at these prices it's well worth the money.

Canon Speedlite 550EX TTL

Review Date: Feb 2, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $350.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Powerful, great for bounce flash.
Size, no auto flash, no PC socket, all plastic.

I upgraded to the 550EX from my ancient 380EX when I bought the EOS-3. It has worked well for me since I bought it. I use NiMH rechargeables, and the flash charge time is very short. I've been using the 550EX now for the past several years and it has lived up to my expectations. Surprisingly, flash exposure with the Elan-7e is a bit better than the EOS-3 specially when there are hot spots in the frame, e.g., a light bulb.

Dislikes: It is big and fat. Just look at the Nikon SB-28 which is an excellent and compact unit. The two button tilt/swivel is cumbersome. There's no auto flash or PC socket. Bummer.

Still, I have no regrets - I only use this flash on my EOS system. My OM system has its own TTL flash and I don't miss the lack of auto-flash much. This is an excellent flash unit and delivers the goods time and again.

Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 EX Aspherical DG DF

Review Date: Feb 2, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 6 

Pros: Solid build quality, good optics.
Huge unweildly filter size (82mm), flare.

I like this lens, but will probably save up for something else. The construction is excellent, and the optics on my sample were very good. Contrary to what another poster has experienced, the lens produced good images at the wide end at f/2.8-f/4 but the images became slightly soft towards 70mm at f/2.8. Its best performance was around the 40-50mm range. If I draw a graph of its focal length (x-axis) and performance wide open (y-axis) it would be a bell shaped curve.
I was pretty unhappy about how badly the lens flared, even with the hood. I had to be very careful in composing my shots and ensure that there were no hot-spots in the frame. This lens is a cheap alternative to OEM 28-70/2.8 zooms, but I'm saving my pennies till I can afford an OEM f/2.8 zoom.

Sigma 15-30mm f3.5-4.5 EX Aspherical DG DF

Review Date: Feb 2, 2004 Recommend? no | Price paid: $300.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: Superb construction and solid feel.
Not so hot optics, weird AF/MF switching mechanism, massive flare.

The first thing that impressed me about this lens was the construction. It's really solid and feels good to hold. I wanted to get a real wide angle zoom and retire my 24/2.8. I bought this used for around US$300 which was a pretty good deal.

The first thing I observed about the optics was the color saturation. It was excellent, probably as good as my primes. However when I did a comparison between this lens, my 24/2.8 and a borrowed 15/2.8 fisheye, the optical quality was obvious. The images were OK in the center but had a sort of "smeared out" look towards the edges. (These were 24x36 slides, not digital). The sharpness was not close to the 15/2.8 and 24/2.8 at any aperture. I finally decided that I couldn't use this lens with my film cameras, and sold it. I'm trying out a 17-40/4L now and will probably buy it soon.

Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX APO IF HSM

Review Date: Feb 2, 2004 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 6 

Pros: Superb construction and finish, decent optics
Flare, not so sharp wide open.

I was thinking of "upgrading" to this lens from my 70-200/4L just for the extra f/2.8 speed. I borrowed this lens and the 70-200/2.8L (old non-IS one) from my friend for a week to try out. I liked the construction of the Sigma and its AF on my EOS-3 but for some reason the AF was quite poor on my Elan-7e while the slower 70-200/4 AF'd much faster on the Elan-7e. Still not a big problem.

However on my testing, the lens produced so-so images from f/2.8 to f/4 and good, sharp images from f/4 onwards. In the end I decided that if I needed to stop down to f/4 or f/5.6 for sharp images, I might as well use my 70-200/4 which is an excellent performed even wide open.

In comparison, the Canon 70-200/2.8 was excellent wide open, and the slides showed a definite difference between the Canon and Sigma lenses, the Canon clearly having the edge. I ended up keeping my trusty old 70-200/4 in the end.

Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX DG Aspherical RF

Review Date: Feb 2, 2004 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 4 

Pros: Large aperture, good construction.
Flare, bulk, huge filter size, stupid AF/MF switching

I was trying out this lens, toying with the idea of replacing my Canon 24/2.8 with this one, for the faster speed and wider angle. In the end I returned this lens to the shop and went back to my Canon.

The lens is a lot bulkier than the Canon 20/2.8 and specially the 24/2.8. However the construction is solid, and feels very good. The way AF/MF switching is done is just plain stupid. It's a good lens in low light but the images were very soft all the way till f/4. Even at smaller apertures the edges and corners looked smeared out, and I wouldn't use this on my EOS-3, rather it'd probably OK for a DSLR with a 1.5 or 1.6 FOV crop. Color saturation was very good, but the sample I used had a weird color shift - slightly yellowish.

In the end I just wasn't comfortable with this lens nor happy with the optics, so I returned it.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

Review Date: Feb 2, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $600.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Absolutely the sharpest lens I have used, great design compared to the older non-USM lens, very fast AF.
None whatsoever.

Optics wise, this is absolutely the best Canon lens in my experience. I dumped my older 100/2.8 non-USM lens to get this, thanks to its pathetically low-powered and insufficient AF motor dying multiple times on me. The optics of this lens are as good as the older non-USM lens, i.e., absolutely top notch. I love this lens because it makes a great portrait and general purpose lens too. For all the people who complain about the slow AF, please use the distance range limiter - I use it all the time, and the AF is really really fast in everyday situations. I use this lens regularly for street shooting. I'm not sure about AF on the D30/D60/10D but on my EOS-3 it is very very fast.

One nitpick - the front element is so close to the edge of the lens and the filter threads that it's very easy to get it scratched. I almost stopped breathing when my circ-pol's threads accidentally scratched the front element when I was removing the filter. Yet, there's no difference in the images and it's still superb.


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