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Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Review Date: Mar 27, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Full frame, image quality, feels very solid, good response, video function
banding at higher ISO settings, the CF card compartment is a little flimsy, missing capable auto ISO function and a better bracketing function

Well, what can I say that you haven't already read? Probably nothing :D

I've had this camera body now for five months and I really love it! Image quality is excellent. I never had a "better" camera body to compare it to (I had a 350D and a 40D before and I've been using a 1D mark IIn), but I'd say that if you don't get decent shots with this camera it's time to question your abilities as a photographer... The photos the camera delivers are filled with detail, colors and tones are great, as well as dynamic range!

The camera feels very solid and "valuable" - except for the CF card compartment (I really have NO idea what the heck they were thinking when they designed that). Handling is very good. One thing I love about Canon is the thumb wheel, very nice!

In terms of sensitivity, this is a huge step coming from a 350D/40D (as I did). It's hard to find noise up to ISO1600. I've recently had a quite underexposed ISO 800 shot in a very dark environment, which I processed a LOT and the result is just fantastic! Is exposed correctly ISO3200 is very good, dynamic range starts to decrease at this point but with correct exposure it's no big deal. Even ISO6400 gives very good results if exposed correctly. What blew me away is the amount of detail that can be found even in ISO6400 shots! One of my very first shots was of a cat at ISO6400 and the final images shows a very high image quality with low noise and fantastic detail rendering all the way (you can count single hair if you'd want to)! I also found that the noise that the 5D mark II exhibits can be removed quite well (I use Noise Ninja).
What bothers me sometimes is the banding and pattern noise that starts to creep up on you from around ISO6400, making any higher ISO setting hard to use (but it depends on the motive as banding will be mostly visible in the low darks).

One feature I also love about this camera is the video feature. The results are simply stunning, especially with good lenses. Just search the internet for sample videos, there is some VERY impressive material to be found!

There has been some debate about the AF of the camera. I found the AF to be very accurate, very fast, and reliable. Then again, my way of shooting only makes use of the AF point in the middle. But that has never let me down!

Overall, this is a fantastic camera (for still and for video actually) and I highly recommend it for any ambitious photographer.

Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8

Review Date: Mar 27, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: "instant" creativity, high optical quality, high build quality (very nice focus ring), pleasing bokeh, hood and bag included (although I really feel that a hood should come with any lens)
soft at extreme corners (= if fully tilted and shifted at the same time) unless stopped down by 2 or 3 stops

Now that I finally got this lens I realize how much I missed out by not having a T/S lens before! Especially the ability of placing the focal plane (nearly) anywhere in space is absolutely amazing and takes photography to a new creative level.

Very often, I find myself simply observing how familiar parts of a city or some landscape appear "tilted" - just a pleasure! Also this lens holds great potential for portrait work, anything really! Given the great creative potential of T/S lenses I am actually surprised they are used so rarely...

The optical quality of the TS-E 45mm is very good. The lens is very sharp (even on the 5DmkII) and delivers good contrast and colors even wide open. What I really like is how this lens renders out of focus areas. I find the bokeh very pleasant (better than my EF 50mm f/1.4), especially highlights (check the link at the bottom for image samples)! Image quality stays at a very high level even fully tilted. When fully shifted and fully tilted at the same time things can get a little ugly wide open. But the situation quickly improves when stopping down.

The build quality is excellent. The lens is quite heavy and sturdy (I was surprised how heavy and big it actually is, comparable to 24L and 35L). I read about some people complaining that the knobs that fix the tilt and shift positions are too small. They are small but I think they are just fine. Focusing is very smooth and accurate thanks to the large focus ring.

In conclusion, I highly recommend any ambitious photographer to have a look at T/S lenses! I chose the 45mm version because it is a very good all-rounder (90mm is definitely too long for me and 17mm and 24mm are too wide and DOF effects are less pronounced) and I am very pleased with the lens!

One last note: I am using a Zacuto Z-Finder (an LCD screen loupe with 3x magnification) and it is a BIG help for using such lenses. I would highly recommend using T/S lenses on cameras with live view features as it makes things a LOT easier!

Lastly, have a look at some photos I took with the TS-E 45mm:

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM

Review Date: Dec 12, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: image quality, sharp wide open, low CA, excellent build quality, pleasing bokeh
it costs a lot of money and it is not exactly light weight

This lens is incredible! The image quality is excellent, it delivers high contrast and nice colors and it is sharp wide open. The middle of the frame at f/1.4 is very good even on the 21MP 5D Mark II (very sharp with a little sharpening applied) and even the corners are still very usable, they are a little soft at f/1.4 but nothing to worry about. The lens does show quite some vignetting wide open. Personally, I am not bothered about that at all, I even accept it as a positive aspect for my uses! CAs are very well contained even wide open. Also, the bokeh is surprisingly pleasant!

The build quality and construction are excellent, it feels very solid.

I do not want to comment on AF yet because I only used the lens for some hours now - there were absolutely no problems, however, it was always spot on so far!

Bottom line: this is an excellent lens for low light and "wide-angle bokeh" applications with an excellent image quality!

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Review Date: Dec 12, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: image quality from f/2 upwards (extremely sharp stopped down), very fast with f/1.4, build quality
the bokeh can be a little distracting at times, not totally convincing below f/2 (still very usable though), some CAs wide open (but nothing to really worry about)

This is a nice lens, especially on a full frame body. I love the option of using f/1.4 (especially with conjunction of the video mode of the 5D Mark II), gives you the possibility of shooting in really low light! The build quality is good and the AF is accurate. I did encounter weird problems on the 40D though were the lens often wouldn't focus accurately on infinity even in bright sunlight. No problems like that now on the 5D Mark II, though.

The lens is extremely sharp stopped down (from around f/4 onwards) and it is still quite usable below f/2 but it gets a little soft at those apertures. The only real downside can be the bokeh which at times is a little distracting, but it really depends on the situation and mostly it is okay!

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

Review Date: Dec 12, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: image quality (very good even wide open), nice bokeh, good construction and feel, fast AF, price, USM
some CAs wide open (was worse on the 40D, on the 5D Mark II it is not really an issue)

This is a fantastic lens. I really liked it on my 40D and I absolutely love it on the 5D Mark II. On the crop sensor it showed quite a bit of CAs up to around f/2.8 but on the fullframe it is not an issue. The EF 85 f/1.8 USM has an excellent image quality and a pleasant bokeh - which makes it a great portrait lens! It is quite sharp even wide open and the AF is fast and accurate.

I have never used the 85mm f/1.2L lenses (and I bet they are very good) but if f/1.8 is enough I bet you will be very happy with this lens! Especially for the relatively low price it is actually a no-brainer, get it if you have a Canon body!