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  Reviews by: Majikthize  

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Canon EOS 40D

Review Date: Dec 3, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,050.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Resolution, High ISO Noise Reduction, Highlight Tone Priority, frame rate, large viewfinder
Grainy LCD, poor rear button placement, AF point placement

The 40D is a fantastic bargain and a good all-around camera. I recently bought one to replace my aging 10D and 1D and to complement my still-excellent 1Ds. Having done some RAW comparison tests, I'm impressed to find that image quality is on par with my 1Ds. Noise and color in shadow areas are much better, and sharpness seems ever so slightly better, but well-lit areas of smooth tone are slightly grainier. Overall, I'd call the two cameras about even in terms of IQ below ISO 400, with a clear advantage to the 40D at ISO 800 and above and with very-low-light long exposures.

Particularly nice are the new High ISO Noise Reduction and Highlight Tone Priority custom functions. The former makes a subtle but useful improvement in shadow noise, and the latter recovers at least a stop of highlight detail without changing overall exposure. In my testing, HTP recovered detail that otherwise could not be recovered using conventional tools in RAW processing. There are slight penalties to be paid for these functions (smaller buffer and limited ISO range), but they significantly improve image quality under difficult lighting/contrast conditions.

I also love the new AF-on button, as I prefer to engage AF separately from the shutter button. And, being able to switch instantly between center-point-only and multi-point AF just by tapping the joy button or AF-point button is great.

Overall, this is a much more usable and responsive camera than the 10D, and IQ is impressive. The main weakness is the diamond-shaped layout of the AF points - no AF points at the intersections of thirds. I have high hopes for a revised 5D with a wider-area AF system.

Metz mecablitz 70 MZ-5

Review Date: Apr 6, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Lots of power, very reliable, built-in fan and circuitry prevent overheating, accurate exposure, fast recycle.
Big and heavy. No TTL with Nikon/Canon DSLRs.

This review is for the 50MZ-5, which predeceded the 70MZ-5 and is almost identical to it except for the interface on the control module.

The 50MZ-5 is utterly reliable, offers about 1-2 stops more power than the best hotshoe flashes, recycles quickly, and produces excellent exposures in "auto" mode. The power allows me to use a Stofen Omnibounce AND bounce walls and ceilings in large spaces. Standing 20' away in a large room with a 30' ceiling, I lit a speaker at a podium by bouncing the 50 off the wall 20' behind me. That's 20' to the back wall, then bounce, then 40' to the speaker. That kind of power lets me create nice, soft light in all but the most cavernous event halls - I hate direct flash.

Used with a P50 power pack, the 50/70 recycles at full power in 4 seconds. At 1/4 power - roughly full power for a hotshoe flash - recycle is just 1 second. Mighty handy when I've got just 15 seconds to photograph a bride and groom motoring down the aisle.

I've got three 50MZ-5s, three P50s, and two 54MZ-3s - most bought used at a total cost of about $1,500 - and I wouldn't trade 'em for anything. Wireless sync is not entirely reliable, but it does allow me to use the third 50 on a stand to add directional light or bounce a wall or ceiling to fill large spaces. Precise manual control of output in 1/3 stops down to 1/256 power gives me a complete studio, along with two bodies, three lenses, stands, umbrellas, and a tripod in one LowePro Pro Roller 3.

Though I cannot afford the rather expensive new 76MZ-5 or P76 NiMH power pack, my thanks go out to Metz for making these things at all. I can't imagine doing event work without them.

Metz Metz 54 MZ-3 / MZ-4

Review Date: Apr 6, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 


Excellent functionality, accurate exposures. Makes a great partner with a 50MZ-5 or 70MZ-5, as it can trigger and control them wirelessly. Also, it works with the same P50 power pack. Build quality is a bit spotty, though. I've got two, and both have loose connections in the battery compartment, which causes them to lose power occasionally when I turn the camera to portrait orientation. A little jiggling brings 'em back to life. Most of the time, I use them with P50s, so this is not much of an issue for me. One other thing: putting a Stofen Omnibounce on it causes the 54 to overexpose by about 2 stops when using eTTL. I guess the Omnibounce reduces the brightness of the eTTL preflash by two stops, causing the camera to boost flash output. I use the 54 in auto mode 95% of the time, and when I really need eTTL - outdoors - I remove the Omnibounce and switch to HSS.

On its own, the 54 is a good flash. As part of a system with a 50/70MZ-5 and P50, it's terrific. I've got two 54s, three 50s, and three P50s, and I wouldn't trade 'em for anything. The 50s really make my event work stand out from the competition. The third 50 goes on a stand for side/backlighting or for bouncing on a ceiling or wall to light large areas of a room.

Canon EOS 1Ds

Review Date: Apr 26, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $3,000.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: High resolution, high per-pixel sharpness, film-like noise quality, excellent 45-point AF, bullet-proof construction. Did I say high resolution?
Weight, modest battery life, slow image review & write times, minimal onscreen image zoom, no orientation sensor, small preview images embedded in RAW files.

Traded $3,000 worth of medium-format gear for a demo unit one year ago. Like the 1D I purchased used for $1,200 in November, this is an oldie but goodie that will serve me well for many years. I use it for landscapes and portraits. If I need speed, I grab the 1D. If I want a lightweight camera for casual use on the road, I grab my 10D. But, when I want the ultimate image quality, which is most of the time, the 1Ds does not disappoint. In terms of resolution, this is really not far behind the Mark II at all, as the latter actually outresolves most of the lenses used on it. The 1Ds gives you just about everything a good L zoom can deliver. Color of RAW files processed in Adobe Camera RAW is excellent. Noise looks more like film grain than that from newer cameras. To me, it's a classic film look that doesn't scream "digital". And, prints can be huge if the glass and technique are good. Also, AF is better than on any "prosumer" body, and the FF viewfinder is a joy.

Image review is slow, onscreen zooming is awkward and limited, batteries last "only" about 500 shots, the thing weighs a ton, and noise becomes problematic above ISO 640.

So what? I shot 35mm transparency film in manual-focus bodies for 20 years. Compared to that, the 1Ds' limitations are minor trifles. This things delivers the good like nothing short of the $8,000 Mark II. At $3,000 in good condition, it's a steal even today.

Perfection it ain't. This isn't for the hobbyist who expects a camera to magically improve bad technique and composition and cure insecurity disorders. For experienced photogs who master their tools, though, this is a sheer joy, a real workhorse that reliably delivers top-notch goods with no nasty gotchas.

Canon EOS 1D

Review Date: Nov 30, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: 45-point AF, 8 frames per second, film-like noise quality, lots of shots per card at just 3.5MB per RAW file, large and bright viewfinder facilitates manual focusing, 1.3x crop factor is just right for me.
.TIF (RAW) files' small preview, higher noise than 20D/1DII/1DsII, erroneous reporting (50% under) of capacity for CF cards over 1GB, heavy batteries, slow write/review speed.

A superb picture maker at a bargain basement price. I can't believe these things are going for under $1,500 on eBay - an absolute steal. Getting mine used on eBay for $1,200 was like getting a 10-year-old Porsche with low miles and worn upholstry for less than a Kia. At about the same price as a new 20D, the 1D's 45-point AF, large and excellent viewfinder, bullet-proof construction and 8fps speed made it absolutely no contest for me. I have a 10D for casual use and event work and a 1Ds for commercial, landscape and fine-art use. The 1D will be my candids camera, particularly at weddings, because 8fps and superb AF will help me nail shots of brides in motion and prints don't have to be huge.

After reading reviews, I was a bit hesitant about the relatively low resolution (4MP) and high noise at ISO 800 and above. I needn't have worried. Detail and sharpness are superb in prints up to 10x15. And, noise at ISO 800 seems no worse than with my 10D, provided exposure is not under. I have not yet seen banding in shadow areas. Like the 1Ds, noise is more film-like, more like grain, than with some newer cameras. Though the noise level is higher, I find it less objectionable than the low-but-blotchy noise of newer models. I always shoot RAW, and light application of Adobe Camera RAW's noise-reduction tools cleans up the images nicely.

For wedding and event work, as well as sports, and at <$1,500, this camera is a no-brainer. The 20D is a good all-around camera, but the 1D is a real professional tool perfectly suited to events and action. Getting twice as many shots per card is very tasty icing on the cake.

Sigma 28-70mm f2.8-4 High Speed Zoom

Review Date: Jun 7, 2005 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

Pros: as above
as above plus very poor flare control

Since my first review, I have discovered this lens' second Achille's heel - in addition to noticeable barrel distortion, it also suffers from terrible flare when shooting into the sun. Definitely the worst lens I've ever seen in this respect. Really unusable when shooting toward the sun in early morning or late afternoon.

I still think this lens is a bargain, and I use it for general event and landscape work. But, I change lenses if the sun's going to be anywhere inside the frame or shining on the front element.

Sigma 28-70mm f2.8-4 High Speed Zoom

Review Date: Mar 3, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $60.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Super-cheap, decent sharpness, large aperture, light weight, smooth zooming, reliable AF, hood included.
Noticeable barrel distortion at all focal lengths, somewhat low contrast, plastic lensmount.

Bought this as a disposable/backup lens, and fully expected it to be a lemon, as more expensive Sigma lenses I've owned have had major focus & sharpness issues. Was pleasantly surprised to find this is actually a very usable lens. Sharpness is decent on my Canon 1Ds even at the edges of the frame (!). AF is fairly quick, and, more importantly, it's pretty sure and accurate - not prone to hunting or front- or back-focus. Contrast is somewhat low compared to my Canon L-series lenses, but fixable in Photoshop. The most glaring weakness is the barrel distortion at all focal lengths. It's not obnoxious in candid and landscape shots, but definitely limits the lens' usefulness for architectural photos. The zoom ring is a little stiff but turns smoothly, unlike a couple of other Sigmas I had that were quite sticky. The wide aperture makes for a reasonably bright viewfinder. This must be the best lens you can buy new for under $100. Street price is around $100, but new ones with warranty are regularly going on Ebay for $50-60. A good lens, not a great lens, but definitely a great bargain.