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  Reviews by: Jay Taft  

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Canon EOS 1D

Review Date: Feb 22, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $600.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Solid high quality body, fast fps, low price, great IQ.
None yet in my experience.

I had been using a 40D for birds in flight and other wildlife photos. It was pretty good for this purpose, but I wanted to move away from the 1.6x sensor since I sold all my lenses designed specifically for it in favor of ff lenses I could use on my 5D. Never being able to afford a 1d-series, I decided to try the original 1D with prices being so low. Found an excellent copy here on FM with about 5000 clicks and all the accessories for $600. No disappointments so far. The battery life is not a problem for me at this price point.

I took it to Florida last fall for birds and general landscape photography. It performed beautifully and exceeded my expectations. With the 4mp CCD sensor there isn't much extra capacity for cropping, so it is always good to fill the frame. I also usually keep the light up by over-exposing the meter by 1/3 stop. The 1D does a great job, and makes me eager to move up to a newer body in the series, perhaps a MK IIn someday when those prices come down.

The 1D is highly recommended for those who want fast fps, solid construction, and high image quality at a very reasonable price.

Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8L USM

Review Date: Aug 21, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $700.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Image quality, solid construction, wide aperture, used prices. Excellent sharpness and overall image quality at f/2.8.
None so far.

I considered the 24-70 L for a few hundred dollars more than the older 28-70 L. But I already have a 17-40 L and Tokina 12-24 which I plan to keep, so the 24mm focal length is well covered. After reading reviews about the 28-70 L, I posted a WTB here and got a number of responses. Ended up buying one that had been used very little and is in excellent condition.

The image quality is excellent at all apertures I commonly use (up to f/11) and focal lengths. The reviews did not say much about its close focusing characteristics so I tried those first. Even in close focus mode (marked macro on the barrel) it performs very well. The AF is back focusing very slightly at 28mm f/2.8 in close focus, but I focus manually most of the time in "macro" anyway. AF is spot on at f/2.8 at 50mm and 70mm. Focus looks fine at 28mm out of the "macro" range.

Color and contrast are what I expect from an L lens based on the 17-40 L and 70-200 f/4 L IS. Overall, I am very pleased with the 28-70 L. I recommend it highly for those who don't need the extra 4mm on the wide end, or who want to save a few hundred dollars.

Tokina 12-24mm f/4 AT-X 124 AF PRO DX SD

Review Date: Jul 19, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $390.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, quality construction, constant f4 max aperture. Also excellent service.
None so far.

Very solid lens. Feels and performs like my Canon 17-40L. I bought it used here on FM and noticed it was a bit soft at the wide apertures compared to the 17-40. Sent it to Tokina for a tune-up expecting to pay a standard fee because I had no warranty info. Either the problem was very minor, or they recognized it had a manufacturing defect because they returned it quickly at no charge. It is now at least as sharp as the 17-40, and my 17-40 is sharp even at f4 (on a 1.6x crop camera). So I rate the service as excellent.

The lens produces very nice images at all focal lengths. The optics perform very well for a lens in this price range. Mechanically it is very smooth and inspires confidence in its durability. Internal focusing is a plus. I haven't had much trouble with CA as others have mentioned. I do use PTLens with most lenses to correct minor distortions, so any CA that appears would be easy to correct. The clutch mechanism for changing from manual focus to auto focus is different from the usual switch on most lenses but it works fine.

This is a great lens that I cannot imagine being without as long as I own a crop sensor camera.

Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Review Date: Jun 23, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp at f/5.6, light enough to hand-hold, built-in hood, solid construction, fairly quick focus, focus range selector switch.
None really for the quality to price ratio. If I had to identify one characteristic it would be the minimum focus distance which is about 11 feet. But even this is not much of a problem.

The lens is very impressive for the price. After using a 70-200 f/4 L IS for birds in flight, I decided I needed something longer. Because the shutter speed needs to be very short for animals in motion anyway, and the light needs to bright, I thought the 400 f/5.6 could work for my style of photography.

The 400 f/5.6 exceeds my expectations. It also works well for stationary subjects when hand-held or on a tripod. A neoprene camouflage cover set protects the lens when steadying it against trees and rocks. (Bought both the lens and cover set here on FM.)

Highly recommended for day-time situations. Works well with a Canon 1.4x TC, although I find I don't need to use a TC very often.

As the reviewer below suggests, this lens is helps one learn good long lens technique. I become more proficient each time I use this lens, and the images it produces are superb when it is used correctly.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM

Review Date: Mar 9, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Light weight, sharp, excellent image quality, IS, worth the price.

The 70-200 f4 L non-IS was a great lens for me. I sold it a while ago to buy the 70-200 f4 L IS when the price came down a bit at B&H.

The IS version is everything I expected and more based upon the image quality of the non-IS version, and information available on the web. I was able to get 2 stops shutter speed reduction out of the box, and 3 stops with a bit of practice. Haven't made 4 stops yet but I'm working on it.

IS seems quiet compared to some comments I have read. Certainly no noisier than the AF on my non-Canon lenses, which aren't loud at all.

Works beautifully with the old Canon 1.4x TC Mk I -- no problem at 280mm (448mm on the 10D), f5.6, 1/40th second. AF is excellent, too.

Going to Costa Rica in a few weeks where this lens will get a good workout. It's a gem. The performance is worth the price.

Sigma 150mm f2.8 APO Macro DG EX HSM

Review Date: Feb 14, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $480.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very sharp at f2.8 and AF is spot on. Manual focus works well with very fine control, causing some to complain about slow AF. Solid construction and feel. Tripod mount included.
None I have found so far.

After trying close-ups of flowers and mushrooms with the EF 50mm macro and the EF 70-200 f4, I was encouraged with the results. I considerd macros in the 90 to 105mm range, and decided to back off a bit farther from the subject with the 150mm macro.

Although is within the 70-200 focal range, the macro capability and the f2.8 max aperture complement the 70-200 f4 very well. Hand-held at f2.8 in bright light it produces very nice images. Stopped down on tripod it is even more impressive. I have not tried it for portraits yet, but that is on my list.

It does have very fine focus control which means a lot of internal rotation to cover the focus range. This characteristic is actually an advantage for macro, especially with a reversed lens attached to the front for aded magnification. Those who prefer fast AF or MF should skip the 150mm macro and get a non-macro lens such as the EF 200mm f2.8.

The 150mm macro is a great lens at a great price point, and I recommend it without reservation for macro photography.

Canon EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

Review Date: Feb 25, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $200.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Good focal length range, light weight, fast focus, nice image quality, price
Zoom creep, CA can be a problem against an overcast sky

This is a very nice walk-around lens on bright days, and also great for casual photos of family and friends. I bought both the champaign version and the black version here on FM and I have them mounted on two film cameras, mostly for shooting black and white. Both perform equally well. I have also used them both on a 10D with very good results, printing images taken with the champaign version up to 8x12.

Using a Canon 10D I recently compared the black 24-85 to the Tamron 28-75 and found the 24-85 to be a bit less contrasty and to have more CA under the same overcast light. (The Tamron had no detectable CA.) Adjusting the contrast in PS is easy enough. The characteristic zoom creep is annoying but I get used to it.

For $200 or less, the EF 24-85 is an excellent value. It has nice zoom range and produces good quality 8x12 prints with help from one aspherical lens element, earning it a 7 for build quality in spite of the creep.

Tamron 17-35mm f2.8-4 Di LD Aspherical

Review Date: Feb 20, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $350.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Nice images, light, reasonable price.
Haven't found any yet.

Bought this lens used here on FM. Haven't had any focus or image quality issues that others have mentioned. My copy makes fine images on the 10D with prints up to 12 x 18. Equal to or better than the EF 20mm F2.8 and EF 24 F2.8 at widest comparable apertures. Still have the 20 but just sold the 24.

So far I have used it mostly for landscape and plan to try it as a general purpose walk around lens as the weather moderates. The light weight is especially nice. I usually use it stopped down a bit for good depth of field, but tests wide open also produce acceptable images. If necessary I do a bit of sharpening with CS Pro II.

I have not owned wide "L" lenses so I can't compare the Tamron 17-35 to them, and such a comparison may not be fair. Nevertheless, after using the Tamron for a number of months I am not tempted by the EF 17-40 or EF 16-35 due to cost and weight.

I use my own rating system by adding together the numerical ratings on lens from FM and Photography Review (and Photodo for older lenses). Then I divide the sum by the price of the lens new from BH or Adorama. This gives a cost per rating unit. The Tamron 17-35 costs $50 per rating unit, the 17-40 costs $75 per rating unit and the 16-35 costs $160 per rating unit. I can live with this outcome for now.

Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 XR Di Zoom AF

Review Date: Nov 13, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $360.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Excellent optics, wide aperture, light weight, useful focal length range, build quality, customer service.
Quality control on focus.

I bought this lens new after reading about quality control issues with those manufactured in China. I found that mine did have intermittent focus problems. However, when manually focused the images were remarkably sharp. The excellent optics, wide aperture, light weight, and price encouraged me to keep this lens and have the focus problem fixed. It took two trips to the Tamron facility in Commack, NY, to resolve the issues. They were very helpful but the lens was there for almost 3 months total awaiting parts. Now it works beautifully.

I just returned from Costa Rica where the lens performed extremely well under dry and wet conditions. The wide maximum aperture was a key feature both in the rainforest and indoors under ambient light. The focus and image resolution are nearly as good as my Canon primes wide open and equal them stopped down a bit. In wet conditions it is possible to use a round rubber hood, instead of the petal shaped hood, to help keep the front element of the lens dry. On a 1.6x factor DSLR (10D in my case) there is no vignetting at 28mm.

A great lens if you buy one new or already serviced. Hopefully, Tamron will eventually solve the problems at the factory.

Tamron 19-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF

Review Date: Jun 15, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $140.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Compact and light. Produces nice images on a 1.6x DSLR for the price. Build quality good for the price.
None for the price.

Bought used on ebay with 77mm uv filter, caps and hood. Although I had read the reviews here and elsewhere, I was surprised at the nice quality of the images. I compared 100%center crops from the Tamron 19-35 with those from the EF 20mm f/2.8 and 24mm f/2.8.

The primes were slightly sharper and more contrasty than the zoom at f/3.5 to f/4.5. But at f/5 the Tamron was nearly as sharp and had slightly more saturated color than the 20mm prime. At its maximum aperture of f3.5 (19mm) and f/4 (24mm) the Tamron 19-35 was sharper than either prime at f/2.8 max aperture.

This is a very-good-value wide angle zoom for general use, travel, etc. It should be fine for flattering people pictures and subjects that are not inherently super sharp, such as foggy mornings and similar situations.