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Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM

Review Date: Dec 2, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,100.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: 12X zoom factor, 3-stop IS, Push-Pull zoom (contrary to other reports), Ultra-fast focusing, excellent bokeh, build quality.
Doesn't appeal to "lens snobs"

This is the mother of all lenses for shooting out of a helicopter. I was tired of switching lenses/bodies in flight - a helicopter with the door off isn't the best place for those types of maneuvers.

Rarely have I used anything (camera or not) as nice as the combo of this lens and the 1Dmk2.

Canon's monster L zoom, this 28-300 beast, is my new favorite lens. Previously only my video camera offered IS and 12X zoom. It may not be as sharp as Canon's short-range L zooms, or any of their primes, but it really doesn't have to be. Any number of factors would equally degrade a shot taken with a less flexible lens. With this sucker and a 4GB CF card in my 1Dmk2 I can shoot away, the camera becomes transparent (if not weightless).

Let's talk about the two most controversial issues relating to this lens: Push-Pull zoom, and overall sharpness-

Push-Pull Zooming: Looking at the context this lens will be used in, push-pull makes more sense than a ring. The reason is that manual focus overide (or simply manual focusing) is easy to achieve while zooming for composition. With practice, its possible to frame and focus much faster with this lens...

Overall Sharpness: I have a simple theory on this...the 28-300 was designed/optimized for the 1Dmk2. To my eye it's the sharpest zoom lens I've used, an I owned both the 70-200/4L and the 70-200/2.8L IS - this lens gives me sharp focus and creamy bokeh in a way that reminds me of the 70-200/4L - but the bokeh is even nicer.

The 28-300 shows little (or no) chromatic abberation at any aperture or focal least my copy seems better in this regard than almost any lens I've ever used save for normal & telephoto primes.

One minus is significant barrel distortion at 28mm...but not worse than other high-end zooms. I'm anxiously awaiting a DXO profile for this lens.

It is really worth noting how well this lens works on the 1Dmk2 - the camera produces truly, fully sharp photos with it. I've owned & used a number of other nice lenses, and this one holds its own, even against the 70-200/4L and the 70-200/2.8L IS

In summary, if you shoot from the air, this lens is a must-have. On the ground it may not seem as appealing, and for most non-pros it is likely too expensive and makes too many compromises... but I love it. Bravo Canon.

Nikon 28mm f/2.8D AF Nikkor

Review Date: Mar 2, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $309.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Excellent sharpness, color rendition, contrast. Low chromatic abberation, low distortion, low price.

A wonderful lens at a great price, this 28mm is a reminder of how a prime should really perform. As an f/2.8 it seems fast when all you are used to are zooms. Small light and economical, on an APS sensor DSLR it is also aritfact free.

Fuji FinePix S2 Pro

Review Date: Jan 11, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,950.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Incredible resolution - beyond any 6-megapixel competitor. Extremely good value. Larger buffer than D100. Takes AA batteries. Extremely accurate color. Low noise. Comes with RAW software (USA model)
Not a 'tough' camera. Large RAW Files, Slow write speed in RAW

The Fuji S2 replaces my D1x. I won't miss that behemoth. After a couple of days of timkering I'm getting images that simply blow by mind. I can't believe this camera has been around for two years & it took me this long to get one.

Simply put, this is the camera that can give a Canon 1Ds a run for its pixels. I tried a Kodak 14n (briefly) and it was a joke. This camera is no joke.

There is only one requirement to compete with the 1Ds, that is the S2 requires one to shoot in RAW format, and to use Fuji's RAW converter. Do that & 12 megapixel RAW files come out as sharp as can be. They don't even need additional sharpening. Much debate has gone on about the Super CCD, now forgotten in a frenzy over CMOS technology. Well frankly I think it is just super.

I sort of wish there was a true 'pro' level camera from Fuji with a super-ccd in it. The N80 body is just a cheap camera body & shouldn't be used as the basis for any camera (that's part of the Kodak 14n joke). Still I'd rather have two S2 bodies than one D1x, or three S2 bodies than one 1Ds. Three lenses, three bodies...that's convenience. There is no compromise with this camera when it comes to pixels.

For what it is worth the Fuji does an outstanding job with long exposures. I tried out a 6 megapixel Canon, their CMOS sensor is extraordinary when it comes to low-light images, but the Fuji is 95% as good even at that. No joke.

Kodak DCS Pro 14n

Review Date: Jan 2, 2004 Recommend? no | Price paid: $4,000.00 | Rating: 4 

Pros: High resolution, full-frame sensor, ERI JPEG (some RAW functionality in JPEG files), ISO setting as low as ISO 6, In-camera eyedropper for click-white-balance, Two f/stops of highlight recovery! viewfinder grid, lightweight, upgradeable firmware. In-Camera deleted file recovery! Medium-format sharpness when the photos are good. 18 frame buffer for 14 megapixel RAW images.
No long exposures. Not compatible with all lenses. Bad ergonomics (fat grip) & viewfinder is recessed. Magenta Cast & fringing. Very noisy. Slow JPEG write speeds. Slow start-up. Short battery life. Soviet-style engineering, ergonomics, aesthtics.

No wonder Kodak is bleeding money. This camera is a disaster. It only works in bright sun or with studio flash, and even then it has problems.

Easy to fall in love with at first, but it's just a one-night stand in the end because this camera is rotten on the inside. The sensor just doesn't work properly. In two days I ran into every problem described in all of the reviews of this camera that are on the internet.

The camera takes an eternity to start up, and then sucks juice from batteries as long as it is on.

For starters everything you shoot has a pink cast. This is because magenta spills all over the place. Magenta forms a halo around any high-contrast edge. I think the cause is the sensor itself, which is magenta colored. Any light source in the frame creates magenta halos.It must be reflecting light all over the inside of the camera.

The 14n doesn't work properly with the majority of Nikon lenses (the lens optimisation feature, which doesn't exist on any other camera, is BS). Most users have relegated themselves to the 28-80mm f/2.8, a nice lens for sure, but expensive and limiting. Noise is intolerable in almost any shot except in broad daylight and under studio strobes. At least the pinkish cast looks good in portraiture.

Photo desk is a joke. Kodak is still using film analogies in their contrast curves & color response. IMHO that is wrong, film is a different animal altogether.

ERI JPEG was supposed to be the big deal with this camera. In practice ERI JPEGs are not as flexible as they should be. Correcting white balance leaves artifacts, highlight recovery works, but it you're going to fiddle with a file its better to use RAW. On the subject of JPEG, it must be the only camera ever which processes JPEGs slower than RAW files.

And now for the real problem. No anti-alias filter. If it had an AA filter the 14n wouldn't score all that highly on resolution tests. As is is, the camera produces fantastic B&W shots, but for color it is much, much worse. Aliasing shows up everywhere. It shows up in grass, in vinyl siding, in window screens, in hair, in fabrics, etc. Kodak's software anti-aliasing doesn't help much. Kodak's noise reduction is terrible, the sharpening algorythm is inferior to Photoshop unsharp masking.

When I spend that kind of money on a tool I expect it to work, not to be a work-in-progress. Still I don't care how many firmware upgrades Kodak comes out with this camera will never work properly because it is fundamentally flawed.

To their credit B&H photo took the camera back with no complaints.

Verdict: Don't make my mistake, just stay away from this camera.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor

Review Date: Oct 22, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $99.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Fast, low cost, super sharp, fast focus, good contrast & color rendition, no chromatic abberation, resists flare & ghosting.
Plastic barrel

The best deal, performance-wise, on any lens out there. Fanstastic prime, fantastic price.

Sigma 8mm f4 EX Circular Fisheye

Review Date: May 4, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $450.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Compact and inexpensive for a 8mm fisheye. Almost no lens flare.
Some chromatic abberation, vignetting. Very poor focus mechanism.

There are few options out there for 8mm fisheyes. The Sigma stood out for its availability and compact size. I am pleasantly surprised by the performance of this lens. It is probably a good idea to use manual focus with this lens. The main positive is that unlike other fisheyes the front element is almost flat which greatly reduces lens flare. For the relatively low price this lens performs quite well.

Nikon D1X

Review Date: Mar 30, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $5,000.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Speed, Reliability, Quality
Limited low-light capabilities

My D1X is 18 months old now, and I've shot over 50,000 frames with it. This is a camera that ages like fine wine.

The all-around speed of the camera (boot up, Firewire transfer, CF card writing, focusing, shutter lag, playback) is world class. The build quality is excellent.

What makes this camera special, the reason the wine analogy holds, is the way Nikon has extended its utility over its lifetime. The Buffer RAM upgrade is especially notable, increasing JPEG capacity to 21 shots at 3fps, and RAW capacity to 14 shots. The upgrade also activates WA capability, increasing CF card write speed to over 2500kbps on WA enabled cards.

The D1X is compatible with Nikon Capture, Capture One, Adobe Camera RAW, Bibble, Qimage & other RAW image processors.

The addition of D1x support to Capture One is significant, output is exceptionally noise free and sharp.

Nikon Capture Editor enables several nice features, even though its color rendition is not as good as Capture One or Adobe Camera RAW. Nikon Capture Editor allows automatic compensation for vignetting, it allows complete tethered control of the camera, and it allows non-destructive editing of RAW files, allowing one to save new settings within the original file.

Nikon Capture Control, which allows tethered shooting, is fantastically fast. The speed with which the camera processes files and sends them through the firewire link really shows how CF card technology is far behind the camera's capabilities.

The D1X is notable for its unusual approach in its CCD design. The native resolution of 1324 X 4024 allows rendering of images at 2616x4016 pixels. In marketing lingo the D1X is a 10.5MP (effective) resolution camera. The difference is that on the horizontal axis the resolution really is there...4016 pixels. The catch is that certain types of images can really take advantage of this, but not all images. Human vision is biased towards a horizontal viewpoint (no surprise there), so landscape orientation photos from the D1X are actually perceived as being sharper than portrait orientation images.

The way things are today:

The introduction of Canons latest DSLRs have diminished the allure of the D1X for low-light photography. For exposures over 1 second the new Canon offerings have an unrivaled signal to noise ratio. The 10D is a price leader and the 1Ds is a performance leader. The Kodak 14n has more pixels than any other DSLR camera for those shooting strobes, or in broad daylight. On the other hand the D1X has proved to be an incredibly reliable camera, and its overall speed and build quality make it an exceptional value for its current retail price ($4000). It is not compromised by is a well-balanced, versatile system. If you don't shoot at night, and you want a tough, fast camera capable of producing 12"x18" prints and shooting at 3fps for 14 frames in RAW mode, a camera that can really take alot of abuse...the D1x is still a compelling choice.