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  Reviews by: dave chilvers  

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Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED DX VR AF-S

Review Date: Jan 7, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: First of all it covers most focal lengths that you would need as a general walk-a-bout lens.Second, it isn`t as bad as I thought it would be.
Extends quite a lot when on full magnification.

Not sure if the rating is working so O/A 9, Build 8 and Price rating 8.

I purchased a D3100 with the low present prices(around 250) I needed a light carry around camera so as to be able to enjoy a pleasant walk rather than a photographic outing and as we all know if you don`t have a camera with you then the shot of a lifetime comes along. The kit lens was never going to be enough so I invested in this lens as a one lens carry around. Did I expect this combo to equal my FF gear (5D3+ contax lenses +lenses like my 70-200 f4 IS) No, of course not or we would all be using something like this all of the time and saving ourselves a fortune. So, did this lens turn out to be any good? Yes it did and to be quite honest some of the lack of contrast and colour fidelity I`m pretty sure is down to the ageing D3100 rather than the lens. In PS it`s pretty easy to bring things back on par. The lens focuses pretty fast and the hit rate far outweighed the miss rate for sure, maybe not on par with the Canon 70-200 but certainly not far off and again how much is down to the camera body? My wife and I walked the cliff walk that I did last week toting the 5d3 +70-200+1.4 and for sure I returned to the car in much better shape + I needed a second Canon lens to take care of the WA stuff. There are parts of the focal range that are better than others but to be honest in the real world there isn`t that much in it without real pixel peeping. This all in one lens is just a touch of a compromise vs our best lenses but compromise aside the shear joy of an all in one far outweighs everything else. So, will it replace my other gear? of course not, when you are going for a particular subject then ( and can park nearby) you will always choose your best gear. I`m just wondering just how this lens would perform with one of the later cameras with more modern sensors. Will it show up some weakness or possibly enhance the performance? I`ve been around photography for long enough to know that all that glitters is not gold. Take my 24-105 Canon lens, it can be a cracker at times but other times it can miss the point for sure. A bit more care when shooting and some camera raw input and the results a pretty good.
Taken in context and put against other lenses of similar focal length and cost that I have owned or used over the years then this lens could easily be scoring 10.
I just wonder how it would handle 24 million pixels rather than 14?

Canon EOS 7D

Review Date: Jun 9, 2012 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: A very nice camera to use, superb fast drive with very quiet shutter and a decent built in flash.
Noise and a slight painted look to the images.

Like others have said" I really wanted to like this camera" Don`t get me wrong almost everything about it is very good. In fairness I use a couple of 5D2`s and was looking for a light camera that would give my longer lenses a bit more reach so to speak and it did just that. The shutter and mirror return is everything you could want from a DSLR and puts the 5d2 to shame as far as the clonk goes. That was one of the reasons i was interested in the camera because it did have such a nice sweet release that didn`t attract attention. I have to scrutinize my images at 100% to spot them before sending them to a stock agency and although you are told time and time again not to look at 100% if you have to then you have to and the difference between the 7D and 5d2 comes off the screen and slaps you around the face. The few images that I felt good enough to submit needed some sharpening( you are not supposed to use any form of sharpeningBTW) but I had my doubts that they would get through QC without a tweak. For some reason even my Contax and Leica lenses didn`t shine like they do on the 5d2 which was a thing that surprised me really because when used on any other camera I have owned they have always improved the IQ.(and that was tripod, MU and live view)
Noise seemed to crop up in all sorts of places that you wouldn`t have expected it and was a job to get rid of without also affecting the fine detail. I`ve been saying for quite some time now that 21million pixels on FF is at the pinnacle and if I`m right the FF version of this chip would be over 30million pixels, even the new nikon 800 has people complaining about the 100% IQ and really no wonder. No doubt technology will catch up in time. I did a comparison with my old throw in the car 500D and although obviously not in the same league as the 7D in so many ways the actual noise and IQ was just slightly better and a lot easier to manage from noise and sharpness (of course the 7D could shoot at much higher ISO and get better results than the 500D as you went higher)
I`m not going to completely slate the 7D because in many many ways it is an excellent camera and if you can come down from something like the 5D mk1 and 2 and could care less about 100% pixel peeping you will have a very capable and enjoyable camera to use but don`t think things are going to look similar in any way to FF when scrutinized.

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8

Review Date: May 27, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Small, light and inexpensive
None really

I`ve only had the lens for two days, I`ve shot around 300 images on a 5d2. Just of late and getting older I`ve slowed down from using my Contax and Leica lenses in favour of Canon 28 2.8, 35f2, 50 1.8 mk11. I was needing to carry my contax 21 2.8 (old type) for the extra width and saw this lens at the right price with sale or return listed. So, for the cost of return post I decided to give it a try. To say I`m surprised at the lack of distortion and good corner sharpness is an under statement. The colours are better than my Contax out of the camera and it`s such a joy to just put the camera to my eye and shoot. I was getting fed up with trying to see LV in bright sun. I`m not saying for one moment that all round it`s as good as the contax but only at 100% can you see the slight difference in IQ. It`s certainly a keeper and I`ve ordered a proper Canon lens hood as the lens is well worth spending that bit extra on rather than a cheap copy hood. I`ve read a few poor reviews of the lens and am not surprised because we know that all makes turn out good and bad. I`m told that it is prone to flare but I rarely shoot into the sun so that shouldn`t be a bother. I have a contax 25 2.8 that can be good and bad depending on the day and the subject matter but even when good it isn`t far off this cheap Canon. I`m quite happy and will use the lens with confidence and just in case you are wondering!!! I`m quite fussy.

Canon EOS 1Ds

Review Date: Feb 26, 2012 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

Pros: Super large pixels make for really great images, very bright viewfinder and built to last.
Poor lcd, poor write speeds and can be hard to connect to a computer fire the firewire connection.

This a second review of the 1Ds from me. Most of the operating aspects of this camera are a PITA but there is no doubt about the IQ. Going back over my old hard drives just lately saw me selecting images that I had not worked on first time around and the ones that jumped off of the page so to speak were either shot on the 5D mk1 or the 1Ds. says it all really. Don`t get me wrong, the later 1 series cameras and the 5D2 are great cameras in their own right and are in general the cameras of choice for most shoots but when time is not limited and you want to get back to using your skills rather than letting the machine gun do it for you then the 1ds is a superb choice. They are built to last and that viewfinder is to die for. I use a lot of MF lenses and with a split image screen in place focusing is a breeze. It`s just so easy to be herded along with the new cameras as they come out but like most things you don`t realise what you have till you loose it. People have said that you can bang nails in fence posts with the 1 series cameras but I reckon you can bang the posts in the ground as well.
So, basing my score now nearly ten years down the line and having owned all the ds cameras I would definitely jump my score up at least 1 point to 9, IQ alone it really does deserve a 10 but the interface and things like the lcd and buffer holds it back a touch.
The bottom line is! if you fancy a FF camera thats built like a tank and can compete with the best but don`t mind a slower mind set then grab yourself something that`s selling for almost 1/10th it`s original price.

Canon Extender EF 1.4x II

Review Date: Jan 22, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Hardly notice hen it`s in place
None really

Glad I purchased mine a few years ago before the price increases. Having said that I must say that without checking the exif data it`s hard to tell when you have used it or not so even at the latest prices its worth the money IMHO. I`m using it now on my 70-200f4 IS and I couldn`t be more pleased with the results! it`s that good. You`ll be surprised how handy that extra bit of reach can be. I keep it on the lens all the time as I only reach for the 70-200 when I need a decent tele and it`s a breeze to remove it if you need the 70mm end. It`s also good on the 135 but I rarely use that combo.

Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon T*

Review Date: Oct 13, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Simply the best

This is the original version of the lens just for comparison in case any body is thinking of getting the old Contax MM version.

There is absolutely nothing I have ever used to touch this lens at that focal length. I did have a chance to try out the latest upgraded version and they are very close but IMHO I still come down on the side of the old magic. I was lucky and managed to pick up a new lens, still boxed and unused and although I had to pay the premium I will never regret it.

Canon EOS 500D / Rebel T1i DSLR

Review Date: Sep 9, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Plenty of features for the amateur to get to grips with.
None really provided you don`t pitch it against a 5D2.

First of all my ratings are based on cameras of a similar place in the market.
One of the things that has been carried over from other Canon cropped cameras is the silky smooth and quiet shutter/mirror. I`m sure it helps when trying to avoid camera shake. If you can`t afford or don`t want to splash out for a FF Canon camera then this will certainly fit the bill. Very feature rich allowing plenty of room for anyone moving up from bridge type cameras to expand their talents.The movie feature is great fun and would take the place of a dedicated movie camera for most people. The ability to be able to shoot stills and video all in the same package is a big plus. It is a small camera and I have fairly large hands so stuck a battery grip on mine with a hand strap and I find handling to be well good enough. I was very surprised to see just how bright the viewfinder is.
As far as image quality goes it can`t compete with my 5D2 but at a quarter of the price then no surprises there then.I`ve had a 450D and IQ from the 450D is maybe just a touch better with slightly more detail but the positive side of the 500D is that the files sizes without up rezzing are closer to what I need for stock work so it sort of levels the playing field out and the bright finder and superb LCD are the icing on the cake.
I have been using my Canon 10-22 lens with the camera and to be quite honest the IQ is really good and I`m very impressed with the J peg quality out of the camera and find for general shots under normal lighting conditions they are very close to raw images which speeds up processing no end.
So! more than happy to have a small light go anywhere camera that doesn`t break the bank.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Review Date: Jan 16, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: The 5D comes of age
Weather to poor to use it as much as I would like to.

I`m fussy, I`m not going into loads of words here but this is honestly the first DSLR that I have really clicked with. It could easily be my only camera.

Canon Cameras owned


enough said really!

Domke F-3X

Review Date: Sep 7, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: small, light and fits your body

A previous member mentioned about the protection and gave the bag 2. OK it`s not the type of bag you would store in the hold of an aircraft but as a camera bag over your shoulder it is superb. It takes enough gear for the day (you would usually know in advance the type of shooting you will be doing) What I like about it is the fact that it tends to mould itself to your hip shape and stays on your shoulder. I`ve had mine for over ten years and to be quite honest it is still as good as the day I got it and I throw it around and use it everywhere.

If you buy a camera bag to protect your gear 100% (like I have when travelling) then you won`t be happy carrying that bag around all day and that`s where the Domke comes in when you get there). I have a lens in each end pocket and one in the front pocket, my camera goes into the centre mainpocket and when I get where I`m going the camera is either on my neck or shoulder and i use the large centre pocket for lens changing. It also doesn`t shout out" Hello, I`m a camera bag"

I just love the design and size for portability.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III

Review Date: Sep 7, 2008 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

Pros: This is an update

I finally have unleashed the IQ of the 1dsmk3 by getting together a number of Contax manual focus lenses. what a difference.

Canon EOS Rebel XSi (450D)

Review Date: May 30, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: I can`t really fault the camera and not just on cost
Some high quality true WA lenses for the EF-S mount needed.

First of all, I`ve given the camera three 10`s (overall quality, build quality, price rating) They are really on price because you wouldn`t expect the 450D to get the same mark as a 1dsmk3 etc.
Now for IQ, I`ve found with the right top notch lenses it is a step up on the 40D and approaches the IQ of the 1 series cameras. True it`s a much lower res but at the appropriate size prints it holds it`s own. It`s not built as good as cameras like the 40D but it is more than adequate as far as features go, in fact I`d pick it up as my crop chip over other Canon crop chip cameras I own. It is a touch small for large hands so I added a battery grip and a Canon E-1 hand strap. Battery life is well good enough and the write speeds are instant. I`ve found the Af to be just fine so far. Metering again no problems. The viewfinder is the usual small size but what it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in brightness. My 70-200 F4 IS gives image quality very much like on the 1dsmk3(honest) but I`ve found that raw is the way to go(isn`t it always)
My 10-22 works fine on the camera but I think that the chip needs a slightly better lens. I think it`s obvious that Canon are going to keep the 1.6 crop going for some time so a really good WA zoom or prime would not go amiss.(that`s not saying the 10-22 is bad but there is definitely some room for a new higher spec set of lenses. I know this for sure because the 70-200 and my Contax lenses really bring out the IQ of the chip.
You have to look past the entry level build quality and after a few days you could really fall for this camera. Finally, colours out of the camera are important to me and in Lightroom and ACR very few tweaks are required.
Things change so fast now that other makers are starting to play catch up otherwise this might well become a classic.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III

Review Date: Dec 21, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Feels lighter and more ergonomic in your hands.
None so far

I`ve had the 1dsmk1, 1dsmk2 and now the mk3 version. My wife has heard me say this before but this now could actually be the one that sticks with me. Apart from the huge outlay each time, this new model is capable of results that I used to get using 6x7 with drum scans.( not scientifically, but visually)
I think that Canon has made just enough changes to the menu system and layout of functions to make this a worth while upgrade and the increase of resolution puts the icing on the cake. The screen size is now big enough to view the histograms along side the image without the need for reading glasses and although still a fairly low res against some of the latest offerings it does seem to be better out in daylight. The inclusion of the ISO button up by the shutter release is a marked improvement as you can change settings without taking the camera away from your eye. I found it easier to manual focus my Contax 28 and 50mm lenses without any extra aids like split image focus screen. Battery life is just a huge step up from before and being able to tell the camera what to do with regards the CF and SD cards is superb. I`ve put a set of protective clear plastic covers over the lcd and the two other readout panels because the size of the main lcd must make it more prone to damage.Write speeds are well up on par with the mk2 which is good when you consider the size of the files( I shoot raw+ j peg)
No MLU button again (I think Canon are just digging their heels in on this one)
Image Quality wise, after 2000 or so images I am very happy. Maybe some cameras might have less noise or go higher in the ISO range( I don`t know I haven`t compared) but what I do know is that the files can be manipulated more than before without falling apart and the extra headroom for cropping is really nice to have. When you get the exposure right the colours are really good and I`m sure I`m seeing more DR without having the highlight tone turned on. I haven`t tried the high speed focus tracking out(thats not what this cameras is aimed at and I don`t shoot images along those lines) but general AF seems to be right on the button and of course you do have the ability to fine tune your lenses if you need to. Viewfinder is as good as I`ve used over many years of camera use going back 35 years or more.
How does it match up against my 1dsmk2? It`s not a massive jump up and in general feels a lot like the mk2 to handle. IQ is a step up( not massively) but it is better and of course higher pixel count gives you more scope. At the end of the day it should be about taking and getting the image in the bag and both cameras are well capable of superb results but when you put all the upgrades together from the mk3 it is a much nicer bit of kit to use. Is it worth the high price? Well, what can you do? if you want the camera you has to pay the man the money. I`m seeing an improvement in the images I`ve taken with mine, it`s nicer and easier to use so for me I have no regrets what so ever.

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G AF-S DX

Review Date: Jun 19, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Everything really
None so far

The lens arrived today, I shot 100 images just around my house and i`m pleased to say that the images have that real life feel.
Is there any CA or edge softness! don`t know and to be quite honest I`m not to worried because the IQ looks beautiful and at this early stage i think it might just have the edge on the 12-24 (which isn`t surprising when you consider the ultra wide design of the 12-24)Lens size is no problem as it balances just nice with the D200. The close focus is great for flower photography and the 2.8 is a nice bonus for out of focus(bokeh)which is very nice and gentle. AF is super fast and silent. Now it`s on the camera I would say it will do just nicely for a lot of my work. Build quality is very good and I`m glad I didn`t go for the 28-70 and would have lost that wide end. You get the feeling that if you held the lens by the barrel whilst having the D200 attached you could actually bang nails in with them:-)If i had paid for a top pro prime that turns out images like this lens then I would be happy for sure.I like the touch with the lens hood release latch and the hood seems just about right in my view.
It`s not a cheap lens when you compare with others from Nikon that can be had for 1/3rd the price or from independant makers but my initial findings are that you get what you pay for with this lens, not only in the superb build quality but the enjoyment you get from using something nice(and at my age fun is as important as results)I don`t suppose I`ll wear it out in whats left of my shooting days but I`ll do my best:-)

Nikon D200

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

Pros: Just the most ergonomic digital SLR you can handle

OK! I`m not going to rant on for page after page because you just need to handle this baby to fall in love with the handling. Sure, it`s not as noise free as my Canons but the images straight out of the camera are so well colour balanced and real life looking that a touch of noise reduction does the trick(not too much or you lose the film like look to the images)

This will become a classic for years to come, it`s such a joy to use.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor

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

Pros: Light and cheap

A superb portrait lens on the D200, top marks.

Nikon 105mm f/2.8D AF Micro

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

Pros: Just superb 105 VR version.

To shoot with this lens is to love it and with VR on tap it makes the package.


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