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Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

Review Date: Aug 9, 2011 Recommend? no | Price paid: $1,600.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Sharpness at wide apertures; outstanding bokeh; build quality.
Very slow AF performance; focus by wire; poor ergonomics and handling.

A little background on my shooting style -- I use this lens for portraiture. I also own the 35/1.4L, 50/1.2L and 135/2L. I prefer primes and shoot at the widest aperture possible. I shoot with the 5D2.

I find the 85/1.2L II to be an over-rated lens here in the reviews forum, not only because of the significant "cons" of this lens, but also becasue the Canon EF 85/1.8 is such a higher performer and a much, much better value.

I shoot a lot of children, and many of them are in motion. I also shoot weddings in low light. This lens goes crazy trying to keep up due to the very slow AF. My keeper rate with this lens in such shooting circumstances is very low and I am always concerned about whether I got the shot or not. There is very little time for constantly checking the LCD for critical focus with the type of shooting I do. Yes, when I get the focus right, there are outstanding results. Sharpness is excellent even wide open, but to be honest, sharpness is not my priority with this lens. I never had a client that was impressed by seeing their skin pores. The bokeh is some of the best going at this focal length.

The bulky, heavy and awkward shape of this lens results in poor handling characteristics, which has also caused me to miss some shots.

When you own this lens there is always the elephant in the room -- the Canon 85/1.8 -- which I sold and sometimes regret doing so. It focuses very quickly, is very sharp, and handles like a dream. The bokeh is not up to the 85/1.2L's standard, but it creates its own satisfying bokeh. Given the enormous price difference, I spend a lot of time justifying the 85/1.2L II, and often can't quite get there.

Although I have been shooting with this lens for three years, I've never really bonded with it, and honestly, I am starting to entertain the idea of selling it.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

Review Date: Jun 5, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,500.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: High build quality, sharp, lovely bokeh, excellent color rendition -- I love the way it draws.
Some CA at widest apertures. To be expected at this speed. Nothing worth worrying about.

Fortunately for me, I didn't listen much to the critics of the uberfast 50/1.2 L and bought one for myself soon after they hit the market. I realized, as I should think others would, that this is a nearly no-risk investment. Buy it new and simply return if not satisfactory. Buy it used, and you'll sell it for very close to what you paid for it (and somtimes more).

I also own the Canon 85/1.2 II L and the Canon 135/2 L. The 50/1.2 L ranks amongst my favorite primes across all my camera systems, including Leica M, Leica R and Contax Zeiss.

The build quality is superb. It instills confidence when shooting.

I have had about a 98% success rate at AF accuracy on both my 5D and 40D, even shooting wide open. I have not experienced focus shift issues. Autofocus speed is relatively fast, much better than the 85/1.2 II.

I have always enjoyed the 50mm focal length over my 30 years of photography. On the 40D, it has an EFL of 65mm, which is also nice for portraiture or isolating subjects.

The 50/1.2 is light enough for me to carry as a walk-around lens. The 85/1.2 II and the 135/2 are a much bigger effort to lug about.

If you are finding yourself undecided on whether to go with the 50/1.2, be done with the overanalysis paralaysis, grab one and start shooting.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

Review Date: Apr 29, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,150.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Optical performance Robust build Useful focal length range
Heavy and bulky Questionable lens hood design Too expensive

I use this lens on both my 10Ds and my EOS 3.

I have no real complaints about the lens' optical performance -- it is excellent if you know what to look for. Contrast, color and bokeh are wonderful. The build quality appears robust, but the lens hood is rather loose once mounted, and flimsy in general.

What tends to bother me about the 24-70 is that I bought it to replace my 28-135 IS, which I have used extensively as a walk-about lens, and in wedding photography. I was expecting there to be a huge difference in performance, given the 28-135 IS is about a $450 offering. It won't be replacing the 28-135; in fact, it makes me appreciate the 28-135 even more.

The 24-70 is really, really heavy. You want to use it as a walk-about due to its optical performance, but your neck and shoulders will really object to any such idea. Same at weddings -- it wears me out.

It also lacks IS, which I have become spoiled to. I sure wish Canon offered an IS version of the 24-70. Then again, I assume that would mean additional bulk and weight!

Optically, I can't say that my wedding customers see any difference up to 8 x 10s between the 24-70 and 28-135. At least, the difference doesn't really pop. I see that Monte Zucker now uses the 28-135 for his bridal portraits. Interesting.

Further, I do not find the sharpness matches my primes at equivalent focal lengths and aperture settings. Not a huge difference, but there to see for the discerning eye.

For my next wedding I plan on going back to the 28-135 to see if I can justify the extra strain and lack of IS. I get several more blurred images when using the 24-70 due to camera shake. I'd hate to go back to tripods.

Overall, I'm not sure this lens is worth the expense. I might stick with the 28-135, and use primes at my favorite focal length -- they're faster and sharper.

Canon EOS 10D

Review Date: Sep 12, 2003 Recommend? no | Price paid: $1,500.00 | Rating: 2 

Pros: Good noise control in higher ISO ratings, relatively decent build, good AWB.
Unacceptable AF issues, slow writing images to CF cards (does not support CF write accleration technology), sluggish fps, LCD nearly useless in sunlight (my digital point-and-shoot LCD is much better), images on the soft side and require extensive Photoshop manipulation, slow USB 1.1 camera connection

I review the 10D as the owner of two of them, and not so by choice. My first 10D had a serial number beginning with 04xxx, my second began with 06xxx. The purchase of the latter was made necessary by the legendary 10D AF issues. Unfortunately, even this desperate measure failed to help.

My first 10D consistently front-focused. I sent it back to Canon with sample images, and they agreed it needed adjusting. In the interim, I purchased another 10D, thinking perhaps Canon had gotten it right over time. Silly me.

The first 10D came back from the factory focusing correctly. Much to my surprise, they actually fixed it. The second 10D had back-focusing issues, and I immediately returned it for a refund. But the story does not end happily ...

Only two months later, the first 10D returned to its front-focusing behavior. Well, I had read many others post here and elsewhere with the same experience.

This issue alone qualifies the 10D for my "poor" rating and is responsible also for my not being able to recommend the camera to anybody. This camera has cost me more images, angst and frustation than any other I have purchased over the past 30 years.

Without hesitation, I urge you to avoid the 10D.

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

Review Date: Jul 12, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Useful focal length range (in the film world), IS gives sharper images at slower shutter speeds, good build quality.
Zoom creep, barrel extends when zooming.

If I were allowed one and only one lens, this would be it.

Close to an L lens in sharpness, the optical perfomance has left me very satisifed. Contrast is excellent. CA is acceptably controlled, and there is no obvious barrel distortion. I rarely have a flare problem, and I don't even own the hood for it.

I love IS, because I hate tripods. It works amazingly well. I own three IS lenses. My field estimate is that I gain 2 stops in terms of hand holdability. So my Velvia suddenly becomes the equivalent of a 200 speed film!

For the film world, the 28-135 focal length range is extremely useful. This lens spends a lot of time mounted to my cameras and makes for a great "walk around" lens. However, in the digital 1.6x world, the lens takes on a lot less useful personality. You'll really miss the wide end. The lens produces great images in both the film and digital worlds.

Recommended without reservation.

Sigma 105mm f2.8 EX Macro 1:1 Lens

Review Date: Jun 21, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very sharp, good contrast, good build quality, good handling in the field, comes with nice lens hood and lens bag.

I have used this lens on my 10D but not my EOS 3 as of yet. This is one great lens for the dSLRs. On the 1.6x bodies, you have a 168mm f/2.8 macro lens, which is a blast to use. I mostly use manual focus but find the AF also works well. I have used it with extension tubes and a 1.4x telextender with outstanding results. It gives you plenty of working space from the subject. I'll let some images I took with it tell the rest of the story:

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

Review Date: Jun 18, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $799.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Sharp, contrasty, excellent build quality, smooth zooming action, fast AF.
Biggest lens hood ever made?

Finally found the perfect match for my 10D, my wallet, and my photographic style. I've gotten great results even at 40mm at f/8. All the build quality I expect of an L lens. I rate this a "must have" for the dSLR crowd.

Update: I have now shot a roll of film on my EOS 3 and can remark on how this lens performs in the good ol' film world. It's sharpness was even more apparent, the contrast very good, flare control very good, no discernable barrel distortion, but I did have some CA issues on some images. I was using Agfa's new super-saturated film, Ultra 100, so this may have exaggerated the CA. In images with tree limbs against hazy sky you can see the usual blue shift in and around the limbs, even when stopped down to f/11. CA is the only question mark to this lens, and the reason I am downgrading its rating from 5 to 4.

I have repeatedly produced very nice images at 40mm, both wide open and stopped down. I have not experienced criticisms I read elsewhere that challenge its performance at the long end.

As for handling, due to the immense lens hood, I can actually reach in and rotate a polarizing filter with the hood attached. I got no vignetting, even at 17mm, with a regular sized polarizing filter (much to my surprise). This remains a great lens to mount onto your favorite Canon body, whether there's film in the back, or a sensor.

Sigma 28-70mm f2.8 EX Aspherical DF

Review Date: Jun 7, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $255.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Fast and sharp, images quite good even wide open. Stop down just a little and they'll be tack sharp. Good build quality. Lens hood and nice case included.
AF a tad noisy and sluggish. Not a major issue.

I have used this lens on both my Canon EOS 3 in the film world, and my 10D in the digital. I am very satisfied with it on both those bodies, although the focal length range somewhat favors the film world. I am able to get very usable images when shooting at f/2.8. There is good control of flaring and CA. Bokeh is above average, to my tastes. As is typical of the Sigma EX lens family, build is quite good, but AF leaves room for improvement, in that it tends to be noisier and slower than the Canon counterparts. I do not find it to be an issue, those who for whatever reason demand instant and silent AF may be disappointed. In the field, the lens handles nicely, and it's easy to focus manually.

Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX DG Aspherical RF

Review Date: Jun 5, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $280.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Fast aperture, good sharpness and contrast by f/2.8, close focusing, good control of CA, barrel distortion and flare, nice lens case and hood included.
82mm filters, soft at maximum aperture, rather large.

I have used this lens on both my Canon EOS 3 and my Canon EOS 10D. It has created some remarkable images in both the film and digital worlds. The close focusing is a bonus that allows for some expressive images. I find build quality to be very good, and manual focusing quite easy.

However, I have not had acceptably sharp results when used at maximum aperture. By f/2.8 sharpness is satisfactory in both film and digital.

I find the lens suitable for travel photography, nature and landscapes. I would recommend the lens.