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Canon EF 135mm f/2.8 with Softfocus

Review Date: Dec 4, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: lightweight, sharp, versatile - 2 lenses in one - sharp 135mm prime, and a softfocus lens as well.
cheap construction - dont get it wet.

I picked this lens up for the softfocus feature to add some creativity to my portraits. I never really considered getting a 135 prime because I have the 200mm f2.8 L which makes very nice portraits indeed. But when I was looking as some pictures in books of the softfocus effect, I decided to buy it.

If you dont want, need, or even consider using the softfocus feature, this lens is still a nicely priced, fast, sharp 135mm 2.8 prime. Great for standard portraits and street scenes etc, light weight, so good for travel, and relatively inconspicuous. It looks a bit strange sticking on the end of a 5D, and has a strange rubber band encircling the end of the lens. Also, the front glass element is set back inside the barrel, so you have like a mini hood, about 1cm, with a thread inside it that goes down to the glass. Strange 1987 design.

AF seems ok - you cant override the AF with manual, but I find the focus switch to be fairly easy to flick with my thumb, it should be a bit lower on the lens to make it more ergonomic, and the focusing ring is way too narrow. It's still useable, but it should be wider so it's easier to find. When you turn the ring, MF is fine. Sure it's not like the 200mm 2.8 L, a solid, well designed, expensive lens, but it does the job. AF noise is there, but so what. The lens records light, not sound.

Soft focus is an art in itself that I am only just starting to learn. You need the right lighting - back or side lighting, a darker background that the subject to show off the 'halo' soft effect, and there are many settings to use to get the desired effect. The soft focus ring has a notch for settings 1 and 2, and locks off at 0 for no effect. But you can set the ring anywere on the dial between 0 and 2. And by adjusting the aperture between 2.8 and 5.6, you have many combinations of this effect to try. After 5.6, the effect basically can not be seen.

So, a nice, fast, lightweight, inexpensive, 135 prime, with the added bonus of soft focus. What is there not to love?

Canon EOS 5D

Review Date: Apr 23, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Full Frame, large body - fits well in the hand
Some plastic parts a bit flimsy

I chose the 5D 2 years ago after deliberating and testing it agaisnt the (then current) 20D. The image quality of the full frame sensor is superior to the cropped sensor, particularly in low light, high iso situations. The grain on the 5D image is fine at 1600iso, whereas the 20D was coarse, pixelated almost, when I enlarged to A4 (letter) size.
The 40D is now an improvement on the 20D, but the larger physical size of the pixels and sensor on the 5D makes a cleaner image. The 40D is slightly better colour, 14bit, the 5D is 12bit, but this is not a major significance, particularly with some very simple post tweeking of the RAW files.
The larger size of the 5D body also appealed to me, it feels more like a camera. The 40D feels a bit small, particlarly when you look through the viewfinder, which is darker and smaller because it is scaled down to match the smaller sensor size.

The real reason I brought this camera was because the lenses work the way the are supposed to. No crop factor. Two thumbs up.

The 5D is not classed as a professional camera by Canon, although many pros do use it. This shows up in the build of the camera. The battery and CF card doors are very flimsy; the batter door creaks against the heel of my hand when I hold the camera to my eye. The camera is not water or dust sealed either. But these are only minor points, and if you need this type of camera build, you must get a 1 series.

All said, I rate this camera a 10. The images it produces are comparable to my old Nikon F3 35mm. In fact, the prints I do at home on a Canon IP400 printer look no different to photo prints made from a negative. So it doesnt have sensor cleaning or live view. Big deal. Live view is only for studio tripod work anyway, get an Angle Finder C, the quality is better than the camera screen, and with a little care and a decent blower, you can keep the sensor clean.

Here are some images taken with it:[email protected]/2389245110/[email protected]/972898685/

1600iso[email protected]/973667480/

Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM

Review Date: Apr 21, 2008 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

Pros: Sharpness, Bokeh

A quick update to my reveiw below. After some test shots of my wife I have found this lens to exceed my expectations. It is so sharp my wife is scared of it. The backgrounds blur out to perfection, and colour contrast is very lifelike. Very light-weight and easy to compose hand held portraits. A high end lens. Recommended for portraits, landscapes, products (with extension tubes) A very, very sharp lens.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

Review Date: Apr 16, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: focal length versatility, IS, ergonomic

Brought this lens with a 5D over a year ago. The range from 24 to 105 is the reason I went for this over the 24-70f2.8. I shoot art, street shots, so the IS was a better choice than the 2.8, because I dont often shoot fast moving subjects, and so the shutter doesnt have to be super fast. If you want a fast lens, this is not the one to get. If you want a versatile lens, this is amazing. 24mm gives me great street scenes when travelling, and the 105mm end gets in close for portraits. I have taken a shot at half a second with IS, 40mm, and it is razor sharp at A3 -I am not kidding.[email protected]/974024376/
(It's a small jpg, but you get the idea)

I have a steady hand, so this wont be possible for everyone, but without IS, it would be impossible for me. I love the IS on this lens, it is amazing.

When I go traveling this lens is glued to my camera. Great for wandering the streets of Hong Kong or Tokyo. Snap a wide street scene, then zoom in for a portrait. I use a clear canon filter to keep dust and crap off the lens, and this can show up as dark areas in the corners of the shot at 24mm - full frame cameras only. Take the filter off and it diminishes, but can be seen a bit.

The lens is very sharp, weather sealed (I have had it in the rain and only worried about the body, leaving the lens to its own devices.) The zoom ring works smoothly, going from 24 to 105 with barely a flick of the wrist. Not like the 28-300, with is super versatile, but a nightmare to change focal lengths. The lens hood is unobtrusive, and works well at 24mm, but the cut corners defeat the purpose a bit at zoom. You can always attach a full hood to use with full zoom.

Overall, for what this lens is, a versatile f4 wide to mid zoom, it is fantastic. I only have positive things to say about it because I believe it is a high quality lens when used within the limitations f4 imposes.

Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM

Review Date: Apr 15, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Size and weight, discreetness

I wanted a fast lens with high image quality, and a long(ish) focal length for my 5D. I considered the 70-200 2.8 (IS or non IS), but reviews, and Canon's MTF charts, say that these lenses are not equal in IQ to the 200mm 2.8 prime. The primes are always going to be better because of the way the lens is constructed (less glass, no moving lens groups) I also knew that if I brought a tele-zoom, it would be on the tele end most of the time. So I started looking at this little guy.

Yes, its a prime. How can that be a con? You know its a prime, that's why you buy it. I think that the versitility of a zoom only makes up for the lack of versatility of a photographer. My 24-105f4L is extremely versatile for vacations, but on vacation I dont want to be stuffing around with equipment. A 24mmf2.8, a 50mm1.2, and an 85mmf1.2 would give better quality images over a similar range, I have no doubt, but more planning would be required, and they are three lenses, while the zoom is just one. Versatility won the wide-angle argument for artistic snaps, but for serious portraits, I knew what focal length I needed.

So, back to the 200mmf2.8. Dont think about it, just buy it. Wedding photographers should appreciate how light-weight and compact this lens is, which makes composing faster, and the superior quality it has over their zooms will give a superior enlargement. Just position yourself in the right spot and dont [email protected]#k around wasting time with the zoom. And being black, it doesn't impose on the wedding ceremony or a candid shot(he's pointing it a me, I better smile, or hide) Too many ceremonies are ruined these days by the presence of an inexperienced photographer trying to work out an angle and zoom in or out with his ridiculous white telescope. Not all of course, but most people are 'professional' wedding photographer these days, aren't they . . .

When you see the clarity of the image, and in particular what this lens does to the backgrounds, you'll remember once again why you are doing photography. Heavenly. I brought this lens for portraits, both street and staged, and although I havent gotten to know this lens fully yet, what I have seen so far makes me know I made the right choice. Yes there is a 200mm prime which is faster, but the 2.8 bokeh is amazing, while the lens is lighter and inconspicous (not huge and white - my wife thinks it is no good because it is not white, and I'm sure this attitude is not limited to her alone). Yes zooms are versatile, and some are truly great, but it all comes down to what you need a lens for - if you want the highest quality, and know how to work a prime, you have already made your decision.