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Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

ef50mmf_18_1_
Review Date: Oct 6, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $75.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: f/1.8, sharp, lightweight, super cheap, close focusing distance
Cons:
build quality

It's hard to say anything bad about this lens. Though far from perfect, all minor gripes I have with it go out the window when you consider the price. It's one of those "why not?" purchases that just exceeds all expectations.

Yeah, it's made of plastic. It looks and feels cheap (it is!) Sometimes the focus hunts a little. It's a little soft at f/1.8. But man, is it ever a great deal, and I've made a lot of great pictures with it. On my 40D, it's a decent portrait lens.

This was the first lens I bought for my digital Rebel, other than the old 18-55mm kit lens. And it was a good 6 months before I took it off regularly. It's small and light, great to walk around with all day. And it's small enough to throw in my cargo shorts if I'm packing a zoom lens instead.

Sure, I'd like the older version with the metal mount, but good luck finding one of those for a decent price - just get this one for $75 instead. It will exceed your expectations as it did mine.

But be warned, this is a "gateway" lens - you'll start wanting more primes, the faster the better.


 
Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

ef_28-135_35_1_
Review Date: Oct 6, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: IS, 135mm at the long end, fast & silent USM focusing, manual focus override
Cons:
IS doesn't work on a tripod or while panning

Like a lot of people, I came to know this lens because it was included as part of a kit. It was my first lens with USM...and I'll never go back.

Focus is instantaneous. The IS really does work for photographing fairly still subjects. And I love the ring USM for being able to focus manually without fumbling for the AF/MF switch.

This is an old lens, so it's not really wide at all on an APS-C camera. It puzzles me that it's included with kits for the 40D, actually, because the "wide" end looks like 45mm on that camera. But this lens really shines at 28mm, even if the field of view is decidedly "normal."

Build quality is pretty solid, certainly a jump up from the non-USM zooms. There's a little play in the barrel when the lens is racked all the way out, but not unexpectedly so. And despite its dust-pump design, my sensor is clean - after more than 5,000 exposures with this lens.

I have no idea why some folks claim this lens is soft - it's not. Wide open it's softer than stopped down, like every other lens ever made. But soft? No way. Optically, I find this lens to be a winner.

A great walk-around lens, and one that I'll keep in my arsenal when I step up to a full-frame camera body.


 
Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 XR Di Zoom AF

28-75mm
Review Date: Oct 6, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: small, f/2.8, sharp
Cons:
buzzy autofocus

I've tested this lens and its spawn, the 17-50mm f/2.8. This is an older design meant for film cameras; my camera body has an APS-C sized sensor. So to my eyes, it looks like 45-120mm. Of course, unlike the 17-50, this one will work on "full frame" digital camera bodies.

On a crop-sensor camera, the focal length is nothing special...at the wide end. But an equivalent 120mm at f/2.8 at the telephoto end, that's pretty cool. The shallow depth of field combined with a mild telephoto focal length is fun to have.

I found it to be fairly sharp wide open, probably due to using a smaller-sensor camera with a full-frame design. And really, at this price point, lenses like this aren't going to ace sharpness tests in the corners wide open.

Landscapes I shot at f/8 were extremely sharp. In fact, from f/4 onward I found this lens to be much sharper than expected. Not that sharpness equals good pictures in all cases, of course.

It's built well, though not cumbersome. If you have a film camera or a full-frame digital camera, this would be a great walk-around lens. And at f/2.8, you'll get some pictures indoors you'd never get with slower consumer zooms.

So I gotta hand it to Tamron, this is a pretty good lens, especially for what it costs.


 
Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical [IF]

1750diII
Review Date: Oct 6, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: good zoom range, good image quality, hood included, f/2.8, accurate focus, pinch cap
Cons:
noisy focus motor, 67mm filter size, zoom twists opposite of Canon zooms, rear cap only screws on in one position

This is a good crop-sensor alternative to more fragile kit lenses. Of course, its best feature is that it opens up to f/2.8 across the zoom range. That fact alone would make me take a hard look at it.

It works well mechanically; focus is accurate and on par with non-USM Canon lenses speedwise. As many others have noted, it is rather noisy when hunting for focus, though not nearly loud enough to disturb a wedding ceremony or a recital.

It's sharp enough wide open, and very sharp stopped down. Some barrel distortion is present at 17mm. 67mm filter size is a small nuisance, just means you probably don't have any extra filters lying around that'll fit.

f/2.8 is a great feature, especially at the 50mm end. You'll get shots with this lens you can't get with slower f/3.5-5.6 models.

Overall, I'd recommend it to someone with a crop-sensor camera who was looking for a good walk-around zoom lens that opens up to f/2.8.