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Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM

Review Date: Feb 17, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $3,100.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Incredibly sharp, fast focusing, great OOF rendering (Bokeh)
Larger, heavier, more expensive and does not focus as close as it's little brother, the 300/4 IS.

This may be the sharpest Canon lens I own. The lens is easy to hand-hold yet works very well on a monopod or tripod too. AF is fast and accurate. In short, there is little to dislike about this piece of glass. The use of converters definitely degrades the image somewhat, but the images remain usable, with decent detail.

I am often asked my thoughts on this lens compared to its little brother, the 300/4 IS. Let me get one thing out of the way first... While I believe the 300/4 IS is a superb optic, this lens is even sharper. When I ordered this lens I assumed I'd sell my 300/4 IS if the 2.8 outperformed it -- after all, why keep both since they are the same focal? Well, even though it may not be quite as sharp teh 300/4 is still excellent and it has some distinct advantages over the 2.8 version... Along with lower price, smaller size and lighter weight, the 300/4 also focuses to about half the distance of the 300/2.8. I could use the EF12 tube on the 2.8 and achieve similar close focus distances, but that is not always practical in the field. Also, I do enjoy travel and travel photography. The 300/2.8 is not an ideal travel companion for the obvious size/weight reasons, while the 300/4 tucks away inconspicuously in carry-on or checked luggage for those times a long lens may be needed.

Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro

Review Date: Feb 10, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $190.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, size, weight, price
None, though it is not USM.

For the money, this little macro is tough to beat. In addition to being very sharp, it has the added bennefit of being nearly perfectly rectilinear and flat-field, thus making it excellent for copy work.

A few side notes:
1) With the lifesize converter, this lens becomes an effective 70mm macro lens. I feel it is interesting to note that since the 100 USM macro is an
internal-focus design, its focal length reduces to an effective 70mm when extended to 1:1 -- this is because IF lenses shorten focal length to focus closer rather than move the entire lens group forward (as in the pre-USM 100 Macro).

2) I found that if I mounted my EF12 extension tube on the front of my 1.4xII converter, I could then mount the assembly on this little macro and get to nearly 1:1 magnification. (Probably this is a very similar optical arrangement to the life-size converter Canon offers for this lens.)

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L USM

Review Date: Feb 5, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $900.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Bright, L build quality and standard L-class color and contrast
Price and weight and price again.

I picked this lens up as part of a package and frankly did not expect much from it given other reviews I had read. In fact, for these reasons I had planned to sell it soon after receiving it. HOWEVER/BUT... After playing with it a bit, I find it somewhat alluring to use Smile It gives very nice color rendition and of course has great build-quality, plus it delivers very sharp images from f2.8 up, and even wide open the images are very usable. The rub is I'm not sure it is worth 4x the cost of the 24/2.8... (Actually I am sure it isn't, but there remains something alluring about this piece of glass that I cannot quite put my finger on...) For now it stays in the bag and gets a top rating.

BTW, there was a comment below suggesting it is a slow focuser -- FWIW mine does not seem to suffer this malady and focuses quite rapidly. BUT I have noticed that if the lens has to "hunt", then focus speed seems to slow way down, almost like it is programed to move slowly to find focus. There was another comment about CA and yes, this lens does show some slight CA, but not not really significant IMO.

Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM

Review Date: Dec 14, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Tack sharp everywhere. Beautiful Bokeh.
Price and weight -- and heck, I wish it was an f2.8 and had IS too.

"Wow!" is the best word to describe this optic. It is incredibly sharp, even when the 1.4xII converter is attached, and even when being used as a regular telephoto in the "normal" shooting distances. IMO as a macro, it is even a notch above the excellent 100/2.8 USM macro. (And in fact I sold my 100 macro after getting this lens.) AF speed is sluggish and sometimes finnicky in the macro range needing manual assistance, but I find it to work very well in the normal range and is additionally suprisingly fast.

As for nits, it is a heavy lens and pricey, and I wish it were a true f2.8 lens with IS... but then of course it would weigh and cost even more Wink

Canon EF 135mm f/2.8 with Softfocus

Review Date: Oct 23, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $250.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Exceptionally sharp, compact and lightweight
The SF function is a bit strong for my tastes, long minimum focus distance

Most of this has been eloquently stated already, but I'll add my own two-cents for posterity Smile

The cons. The minimum focus distance of this lens is a relatively distant 1.3 meters...

The mids: For my tastes, the strong #2 setting imparts too much softness at any f-stop. The #1 setting is still a bit strong at f2.8 but is pretty good at f4 -- better than most any traditional soft-effect filter with the exception of the Zeiss Softar. FWIW the f-setting chosen varies the soft effect on this lens and in either setting the effect is essentially not detectable by f5.6. IMO the soft effect I get from a Zeiss Softar 2 on my 135 f2 looks better to me than any of the settings this lens delivers, though this filter alone in 77mm costs about the same price as the Canon 135 SF lens!

The pros. With the SF turned off (setting 0) this lens is incredibly sharp -- probably on par with the 135/2. Really. This surprised me... Thus, for its relatively low cost, you get a great 135 f2.8 that is lightweight and compact AND you get a very good soft-focus lens with setting 1 and f4! The Bokeh at any of the settings below f5.6 is second to none; smooth and creamy as you can get.

Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM

Review Date: Oct 23, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $300.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Sharp, Fast, reasonable cost
not many...

This lens is a surprisingly good lens. IMO it seems slightly sharper than its smaller brother, the 85/1.8. It is a tad soft wide open, but this is not necessarily a bad thing for some subjects like portraiture. It makes a great short telephoto companion the the 50/1.4.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM

Review Date: Jul 10, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $450.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Great optics, compact design, lightweight
No IS and relative to its larger 2.8 IS brother, this lens shows slight vignetting at f4

For a zoom, this is a very good lens! It is compact, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive compared to its f2.8 IS bretheren. Additionally, the lens is sharp from f4 up. At 80mm, the center performance is slightly less than that of the IS lens, but the corner performance is far better than the IS lens. At 135mm, the two lenses are virtually identical in center performance, with the f4 lens delivering better corner performance. At 200mm the f4 edges out the IS lens at both the center and corners, but the advantage is slight. All in all, remarkable performance. The one thing I notice with this lens is some slight vignetting at f4 which is not present in the IS lens. However, this likely won't show up in many images unless you shoot a lot of evenly lit walls at f4 Smile I doubt I'd miss the extra stop much, but wish it had IS.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM

Review Date: Jun 17, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $900.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Fast, Sharp, great "L" build quality
Size and weight, extra cost for one stop over the excellent 35/2

If you like the 35mm focal, and you need f1.4 OR you want the excellent build-quality of an L lens, then you won't be disappointed. My copy generates very sharp images at f2 and f2.8, and from f4 up it is definitely "L-class" glass all the way. Vignetting is quite visible at f1.4 and f2, just detectable at f2.8, and essentially gone by f4 -- which is about the same as I recall my 35/2 doing. Because of this fact combined with the added cost, I have to knock at least one point off its overall rating.

Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8

Review Date: Jun 17, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $825.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Tilt and Shift, very sharp, little distortion
No AF, best to meter before the tilt or shift for accurate exposure

I really like this lens. I have its 90mm and 24mm bretheren, but held off getting this one due to its "boring" normal focal length. BUT after seeing what it can do, I now more fully appreciate it. Being able to crank in a few degrees of tilt to extend DOF to the max is a huge plus in my landscape shots. Cranking in counter-tilt to generate an extremely shallow DOF, thus creating a very unique look is also very cool.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L USM

Review Date: Jun 13, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $850.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Optical performance, fast aperture, and a unique "look" that only f1.2 can deliver
Price, relatively slow focus going near/far, weight

The more I use this lens, the more I like it. I upgraded from the 85/1.8 because I wanted the "look" I got from very shallow DOF. But I ended up being amazed at the optical quality of this lens. It is nothing short of stunning at f5.6, very sharp at f2, and yet you get almost etherial effects at f1.2. All in all, a great piece of glass IF you are willing to put up with its shortcomings. Vignetting is heavy at f1.2, notable at f1.4 and nearly gone by f2, which IMO is nothing short of spectacular for this speed lens. I find my copy to slightly back-focus on my 1Ds body -- I'd say about 1 CM at normal portrait distance -- and this can be problematic when focusing on eyes at f1.4... My fix is to focus on the eye-brow instead. (And yes, focus is that critical at close distance with the wider stops on this lens!)

Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye

Review Date: Apr 7, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $480.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Incredibly sharp, relatively compact, can filter it with gells from the rear
Significant barrel distortion ;)

This lens is surprsingly sharp, and shows essentially no optical flaws such as CA with my 1Ds. It is also a bunch of fun to play around with! While the fisheye effect can get over-played, interestingly if you compose with care you can often generate images that apear almost "normal" with no obvious barrel distortion.

As an aside, I also have played around with correcting the barrel distortion with the "Panotools" plug-in for PS. When done correctly, you end up with what is essentially a FOV equivalent to that from a 12.5mm rectilinear wide angle lens. Very cool!

Canon EF 35mm f/2

Review Date: Apr 1, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $175.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Image quality

For the money, this is a superb lens. No, it's not up to "L" build quality, and no, it does not have USM, but again, you aren't paying for those features either, and you still get great image quality.

Canon EF 17-35mm f/2.8L USM

Review Date: Apr 1, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $800.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: Great range
Not a superb performer

This lens is slightly softer in the center than the 16-35 that replaced it, but IMHO better in the corners than the 16-35. If you have to have a zoom in this range, and you shoot a 1.3x crop factor or FF camera, I think this lens is probably a better all-around choice than the 16-35, especially for the price. (But neither are up to prime standards in the same ranges -- IMHO.)

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM

Review Date: Apr 1, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,250.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: Great range.
>read update<

This lens is sharper in the center than the 17-35 it replaced, but softer in the corners -- at least with my copies of each. So, I would recommend this lens IF you shoot a camera with a 1.6x crop factor, but won't recommend it if you shoot 1.3x or full-frame. This lens also shows more of its other bad characteristics with the fuller frame cameras -- namely some slight CA and barrel distortion.

Update: I recently purchased a second one of these simply for the convenience. This one is significantly superior to my first one. There is obviously sample-to-sample variation with these lenses and that probably explains the variety of responses seen in the several reviews of it here. This copy is quite sharp in the center and remains very good out at the edges -- No, it is not equal to the 35/1.4 L at f2.8, but IMO it is essentially equal to the non-L lenses it replaces and perhaps even sharper in the center than some. I have not compared it directly to the 17-40 -- at least yet Wink I would now rate it a 3.5-4.

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

Review Date: Apr 1, 2003 Recommend? no | Price paid: $1,200.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: Focal range for cost, IS.
Push-pull akward, sucks dust.

I did not like the push-pull ergos on this lens, hence my "not recommended". I know some folks get very good results with theirs, but I found my 70-200 IS with the 2xII converter to be just as sharp wide open, and had the benefit of being 2 stops faster in the 70-200 range, so I sold the 100-400. Perhaps I had a bad copy. FWIW, these are ALWAYS available on eBay if you do a search for "Canon L IS," and furthermore they are often the ONLY "L - IS" glass available there -- This should tell us something...

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

Review Date: Apr 1, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,600.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Sharp, great focus speed for its size, and LOVE the IS!
Heavy, Not quite up to the imaging qualtiy of the primes it replaces

If you need this range of focals you cannot miss with this lens. My copy with the 2xII converter attached outperformed my 100-400 IS over the same ranges, so I sold the 100-400.


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