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  Reviews by: natalia.atkins  

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Sigma 80-400mm F4.5-5.6 EX OS APO

Review Date: Aug 18, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $400.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Can produce sharp, quality images. Nice weight, fun to use, versatile.
Not recommended for bird photography or action. Finish peels/scratches easily causing poor resale/invetsment value.

This is a fun lens to use and great value on the second hand market right now. I feel that anyone owning this lens would love it for what it is...a versatile zoom that is fun to use and capable of producing sharp, quality pictures at a good variety of focal lengths.

I purchased mine in cosmetically `fair' condition for the same price as a used Canon 70-300mm IS, which is a real bargain IMO. I agree that its optical quality is indeed in the league of the canon 100-400mm IS, as other users have mentioned. Personally, I really like the weight and `feel' of it- I feel that the extra `inertia' makes its easier to hold steady than lighter lenses.

In terms of the cons, the Auto-focus is not too bad for most situations, but for me it is a problem when photographing birds. The AF is so loud & slow , that it often scares my subjects away while it chugs along, looking for focus. By comparison, the Canon 100-400mm IS I used to own seemed lightning fast to me, and it was very quiet. For serious bird photography, I cannot recommend the Sigma 80-400mm OS, and I think investing in the Canon 100-400mm is a far better idea. The Canon produces better feather detail, handles contrast a lot better, and it seems to resolve better on higher megapixel cameras like the 50D and 1DS series of bodies.

Also, the Sigma 80-400 seems to have intermittent issues on my 50D, such as shutter lags and the AF failing to work to at times. This could be an incompatibility issue between the 50D and the 80-400mm, or a problem with this specific lens...not sure as yet.

Finally, the lens may be cheap, but its coating scratches very easily with normal use and this significantly diminishes the resale value. So if you wind up with one, you are kind of stuck with it, or you'll wind up selling it for a major loss. Whereas if you invest in a used canon `L' lens, you can usually get your money back for it if you want to trade up later.

So overall, I think its a decent walk-around lens, and it can produce very impressive images with great colour tone and contrast. However I would not recommend it for somene with a serious interest in bird photography. In those cases, i would recommend a canon 300mm F/4 IS L or the Canon 100-400mm L above thislens, or a Canon 400 f/5.6 L if you are prepared to shoot with a monopod.

Bogen / Manfrotto 3001- Pro Tripod

Review Date: Aug 10, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Weight, Center column, robust
none for the price

This is a good choice for those on a budget. I only paid US $50 for this used, in excellent condition; it was an upgrade for me from the Manfrotto 725B travel tripod with an integrated ballhead. I wanted something only slightly heavier, with the capacity to mount interchangable tripod heads, and I am more than happy!

I was a bit worried about the height, but the tripod head and camera adds about 30 cm to the height, and even my 6' 2 " partner finds the height good with the column only partially extended. We shoot landscapes with this tripod, with the 322rc head and 329 pan head, and the tripod is often used close to the ground anyway.

Just as a point of interest, the upper legs & center column are the same width as the 725B, which means the lightweight ballhead /center column of the 725B can be interchanged with center column of 3001 pro (making a very lightweight combination).

Used with the 322rc or 329 heads, this seems to hold our birding lenses, the Canon 300mm F/4 L and the 400mm F/5.6 L . However we use these lenses hand held or with a monopod normally. Just thought it was interesting to find it robust enough for these longer lenses.

Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Review Date: May 20, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Very sharp, Versatile, Light, Excellent for locking onto moving objects, well built, and great value for money
Minimum focusing distance of 3.5m sometimes limiting, but can be corrected using extension tubes

This is a really terrific lens for its price range (around 900 US dollars). Its light enough to carry around my neck hiking all day, and a lot of fun to use.

I mostly use it for hand-held bird photography, which is probably not its strength but it does surprisingly well , especially in sunny conditions where shutter speeds are typicaly 1/1000 - 1/3200 and above. Like most owners of this lens I am blown away by its sharpness wide open and its motion-tracking capabilities. The Lens really locks onto the subject and keeps it's focus, which opens up so many great possibilities for taking wonderful pictures of birds flying, landing, and taking off.

Overall, its a wonderful addition to the kit and highly recommended.

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

Review Date: Mar 27, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Zoom range, Nice build, IS, great `L' tone and colour
My copy was soft wide open and at 400mm

I owned this impressive lens for a week, but decided to return it and use primes for now.

I enjoyed using the zoom immensely, but the pictures taken with it always left me a tad disappointed, even in great light and with minimal cropping. At 400mm, my copy was surprisingly soft at f/7.1, and unacceptably soft at f/5.6. So to me, it was a bit like owning another 70-300mm IS, with the same weaknesses regarding using it wide open at full zoom. The tone and colour was better, and the reach 100mm further, but I only felt confident in its performance using it stopped down and only partially zoomed (around 200-340mm).

In the mid range (around 200-260mm f/7.1) it was extremely sharp and gave excellent results if the subject filled the frame.

I have heard that there are very sharp copies of this lens `around', and that its best to test it prior to purchase. My copy was definately a `so-so' copy. I would buy it again for general use, but only if I could test it prior to purchase.

Here in Australia, the lens retails for $2550 new, so i feel that it is highly over-priced for the wide variations in quality between copies.