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Sigma 300mm f2.8 EX APO HSM

Review Date: Sep 17, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,300.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Good sharpness (my sample peaked at f/4), moderate contrast, fairly fast focus, works well with 1.4x TC, kit includes polarizer, relatively compact and light
Build quality issues- screws popped out of lens hood securing mechanism. No focus limiter. No way to disengage focus ring. Tripod mount rotator sticks easily.

Aside from the handling and build quality issues, I thoroughly enjoyed this lens, and almost miss selling it (the jury is still out on the Nikon 300/2.8 ED AF I just got). Compatibility with the 1.4x Sigma TC was excellent, and focus tracking worked beautifully on a D2H.

The little screws holding the locking screw for the hood on popped out and stripped the threads. I replaced them with sturdier screws, not a big deal.

The handling on this lens wasn't ideal. The huge focus ring is impossible to disengage, and is very sensitive. I found myself occasionally bumping into it and disengaging the HSM focus. The lack of a focus limiter was also a concern, but I never had any major issues shooting baseball or lacrosse.

Sigma 15-30mm f3.5-4.5 EX Aspherical DG DF

Review Date: Feb 20, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $320.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: focal length, full frame, round front element, no rear filter slot
slow aperture, slow AF, flare, soft

It does the job a cheap wide-angle zoom is supposed to do. The one lens in my kit I really look forward to replacing with something better.

For the money, there's not much else out there that can compete. Even in the $1000 range, the Nikon 17-35/2.8 isn't as wide. Still, flare resistance and sharpness are the name of the game here, and the Sigma simply can't compete with pro-quality glass that costs several times as much.

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR

Review Date: Feb 20, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,250.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, fast AF, build quality, semi-quick release tripod foot, relatively thin barrel, hood easy to put on and remove
annoyingly tight zoom ring (same thing on friend's copy, so it's not just me), flare

Cheaper than the Canon equivalent I used to own. Seems to handle better too. I definitely appreciate the tripod mount design, since it's like having a quick-release plate on every tripod/monopod you own. The barrel is thin and easy to grasp, I just don't know why they had to make the zoom ring so tight.

Also, the hood design is great, and requires less effort to mount than the Canon version.

Comparing this lens to the older 80-200/2.8D ED AF, I see flare more often. Still, it focuses faster, has VR, sports a nicer hood design, and handles better.

Probably the one lens type I couldn't do without (this is my fourth pro lens in the 70/80-200 range). For everything from sports to studio headshots, it's in my bag.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM

Review Date: Oct 31, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,020.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: sharpness, contrast, build quality
Honestly, I can't complain. This is everything a 70-200/2.8 should be.

This is my second copy of this lens. I bought my first used, and the focus linkage eventually self-destructed. I got the second copy for $1020 after the Canon triple rebates.

It's the perfect short tele for sports. I didn't need IS, so why pay for it? It's sharp, contrasty, and works well with teleconvertors. It's also good for shooting lectures, concerts, anything with a stage.

There are no optical or ergonomic complaints that I have, after shooting thousands of shots on my copies. Everyone should have one, it's that good.

Canon EF 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM

Review Date: Oct 8, 2004 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 2 

Pros: lightweight, fast focus
total lack of sharpness, unsurprisingly cheap build quality, MF ring too small/in a weird place

I borrowed this from an acquaintance to use while my 70-200/2.8L is being repaired. I'm not making this a direct comparison, since that would be like comparing splendid apples to rotten oranges.

This lens has the worst rating of any Canon lens tested by Photodo. I could have told you this after looking at my soccers shots. Simply terrible. I've used Nikon's 70-300/4-5.6G, which has a lower MSRP of $179.99, and that's much sharper. I cannot stress enough how poor the image quality is here. Maybe it's good enough for 4x6" snapshots, but looking at 50% or 100% crops off my 1D, they're terrible.

The build quality is pretty cheap, but that's to be expected of most consumer-grade tele zooms. I'm counting the days until my 70-200/2.8L is back. I don't even miss the fast aperture as much as having acceptable photos for newsprint.

Nikon D70s

Review Date: Aug 7, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $999.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: flexible, great continuous shooting mode, instant-on, fast CF interface, good battery life, decent high-ISO performance
doesn't meter with older MF lenses, no vertical grip, AF performance could be better, minimum ISO of 200

(this review is directed at the body-only setup, no cheap zooms for me)

I'm a low-budget photojournalist, and the D70 serves me pretty well. The build quality is good enough to stand up to my everyday shooting requirements, the instant-on feature is priceless, and the continuous shooting mode and buffer depth can help.

That being said, I do have some complaints. The viewfinder is, naturally, cramped (though no worse than a DRebel), the AF performance seems merely average, and I have to use a handheld meter to get any usable shots out of my old manual-focus lenses.

I would also kill for a portrait grip, and some sort of dust filter on the CCD (like the one used by Olympus in the E-1) would be nice.

All in all, a great buy, better than the DRebel. I haven't had any major problems with moiré in 6,000 actuations. Compared to the DRebel, for $100 more, you get continuous servo AF, flash exposure compensation, instant-on, and a better continuous shooting/buffering system. It was worth it to me, I can't afford to have a camera slow me down.

Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 EX Aspherical DG DF

Review Date: Aug 2, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $250.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: range and fast aperture, build quality, great MF feel, reasonably fast/accurate focus on D70, reasonably priced
too soft below f/5.6-8, MF/AF switching mechanism seems like an afterthought, 82mm filters (Canon was able to use 77mm filters on their 24-70/2.8L, so why not Sigma?)

This review is directed at the Nikon-mount version of the lens.

I picked it up for $250 new, which was certainly a good price. I expected the image quality to be closer to Sigma's 28-70/2.8 EX, but with a better wide angle for digital. I was wrong, as this lens is simply not sharp when you need it most.

I shot a stage production last night (kept the aperture between f/2.8-4), and suffice it to say that I needed to apply some unsharp mask to EVERY IMAGE.

It was a bit of a letdown, but for $250, I have no right to complain. I've spent more on normal primes.

Sigma 14mm f2.8 EX Aspherical

Review Date: Jul 6, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Color rendition, close focusing distance, build quality
flare, flare, and more flare. also, not sharp below f/5.6

I managed to pick one of these up cheap used, so I'm not going to list the price. It's certainly nice and wide, and is helping me build my experience using an SLR with one hand. Why, you ask? It's because I have to constantly shield the lens from any light sources.

That being said, the color rendition and exagerrated perspective are great. It was money well-spent, I think.

Nikon 105mm f/2.8D AF Micro

Review Date: Jul 6, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: tack-sharp, 52mm filter size, great MF feel
slow AF (terrible in low light), pricey for what you get

I've had the chance to use this in the studio a few times, and from what I've seen, it's a great lens with excellent color rendition and sharpness. I've gotten good results in portraits only with a SoftFX filter- without it, you'll see every pore. The focus ring feels almost as nice as the older MF Nikkors- kudos to Nikon, they realize that macro photographers will be manually focusing pretty regularly even in the AF age.

In short, I love it. I would have bought one already, but I'm waiting to get my hands on the 200/4 Micro for comparison purposes.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor

Review Date: May 15, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $75.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Inexpensive, 52mm filters, sharp, great colors/contrast, (almost too) lightweight, fairly responsive AF, no visible CA yet
feels cheap/plastic-y, flare handling disappointing, not internal focus

I wanted a sharp, low-light prime to add to my kit, and everyone needs a 50mm lens. I had a friend who decided she liked her cheap Sigma zoom better, used this lens once, and sold it to me for $75 (well, $80 with a UV filter).

This lens is really no good for sunsets, even stopped down. I was disappointed by the number of photos that exhibited flare. The photos were taken on a D70, maybe that was a contributing factor.. For everything else, it's sharp and contrasty. The pictures are acceptably sharp at f/1.8, but really look great from f/2.8-11 or so.

Unfortunately, I feel like I'm going to break this little plastic nub on my camera with normal use. The D70's not built to pro standards, but the plastic there feels much more solid than the stuff used in this lens. The focus ring and the front of the lens move during AF, which can be annoying if you rest your hand in the wrong place (the other lenses I have are IF and have caused me to develop bad habits).

All in all, it was worth the little bit of money I paid

Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF

Review Date: Mar 19, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $580.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: price (used, for AF-D version), build quality, color rendition, very reasonable weight, incredible bokeh, sharp wide-open
AF not as fast as AF-S version, but.. you get what you pay for.

I purchased this lens used from Adorama about a month ago, in "Very Good" condition. I'm pleased with the results so far, although the AF leaves me waiting in situations where I'm shooting sports.

For indoor stage productions, this thing is a dream. Every nuance of the lighting is captured perfectly, and without any visible flare.

I'm not aware of a teleconvertor that can be used with the AF-D version while maintaining autofocus, so I guess that would be a nice thing to have. I really just bought this lens to tide me over until I can afford the 70-200/2.8 with VR.