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Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM

Review Date: Jan 20, 2015 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Sharp, fairly portable
Zoom/focus rings in wrong places, no tripod collar, can't lock zoom when hood reversed

This lens replaced the 70-300DO for me. While obviously larger and heavier, it is still portable and makes a good travel lens. But the real difference is in image quality. Results are much sharper than the DO and have better contrast as well. I regularly shoot wide open at all focal lengths now, and get sharp results.

While this lens specs out well, Canon dropped the ball on the details. How can they sell an L series lens capable of using a tripod collar and not actually include the collar?

The swapping of the zoom and focus rings is frustrating. I constantly worry about accidentally shifting the focus because of the way I cradle the lens in my left hand while shooting.

Once you reverse the hood to put the lens back in the bag, it blocks the zoom lock switch, so you have to make sure you lock the zoom first (something that's not always top-of-mind when shooting on a cold Canadian winter day). While the lens doesn't suffer from zoom creep, the zoom can extend when pulling it out of the bag if not locked.

All-in-all I'm glad I replaced the 70-300DO with this lens. It's just not clear why Canon couldn't make it a bit more ergonomic.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM

Review Date: Nov 21, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: Build quality, reasonably sharp
Not as sharp as Canon equivalent, focus hunting, unpredictable bokeh, was overpriced but price coming down

I bought this lens to replace the poorly-made Canon 50/1.4. The Canon's auto-focus stopped working, and after paying to have it fixed it stopped working again.

Overall I'm a little disappointed. The focus sometimes oscillates and it struggles to lock in. The sharpness is good, but not quite as good as that of the Canon. On the other hand, distortion and vignetting are better than the Canon.

I'm surprised that people praise the bokeh of this lens. While it is capable of producing nice soft background blur, I have had seen bizarre OOF areas as well. It's especially bad at large apertures with darker lines against a larger expanse of light background (e.g., tree branches against a cloudy sky). Branches in front of the focus plane can be blurred nicely, but are visibly purple. Behind they are green. I've also seen blurred areas with ugly sharp edges.

Nonetheless, this lens is still more usable than a broken Canon lens.

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM "S"

Review Date: Nov 21, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $3,150.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: 300mm/2.8, sharp, great bokeh, price relative to primes
Attaching hood in reverse position for storage, size and weight (no surprise there)

This lens is incredibly sharp, even wide open (5D2). Sigma lenses have a reputation for focus problems, but my copy is spot on. Stabilization works well.

Obviously this is a big heavy lens, but I have carried it in a backpack and even hand carried while walking. It is hand-holdable in daylight. I haven't tried it at lower shutter speeds. Its size makes it quite conspicuous.

The hood has a thumbscrew to make sure it is securely attached, and that works well when shooting. But when reversing the hood for storage, it doesn't seem to twist into position as well, and I've had it fall off even with the screw tightened.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Review Date: Oct 20, 2011 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 4 

Pros: Reasonably sharp from f/2.8 on
Abysmal build quality; soft from f/1.4-f/2.8; lens hood not included

This lens worked fine for a few years though it seemed very soft wide open. But last year the autofocus stopped working. It could focus in one direction but not the other. I sent it to Canon, paid them to repair it, and it came back working again. Recently, however, it stopped working with exactly the same problem, and Canon makes it pretty clear that I'll have to pay again for the same repair. I have used it for less than 50 pictures in the intervening year. It always "felt cheap", but this experience has been very disappointing. I've had the Canon 85/1.8 and 135/2 primes and they have never had any problem, despite greater use.

Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 AF APO DG OS

Review Date: Sep 20, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: 500mm; price
A little soft; OS not that effective; cannot use with Canon 1.4x converter

Reading the some of the reviews, it appears that newer copies may be better than older ones. Mine was purchased mid 2008, so take this review with a grain of salt.

The image quality is not up to that of the Canon 100-400 (an admittedly more expensive lens).

It is also rather unwieldy. Press the shutter button half way and the viewfinder image does stop shaking. However, it continues to move around at a lower frequency. Images are more likely to come out motion blurred with the Sigma 150-500 than with the Canon 100-400.

This lens may work with a Sigma tele-converter, but you cannot attach the Canon 1.4x converter. The inside diameter of the lens is to narrow to accommodate the protruding part of the Canon converter.

All-in-all, the Sigma 150-500 has been something of a disappointment. I tend to forgo it and take the Canon 100-400 instead.

Tamron 28-300MM F/3.5-6.3 XR Di LD VC AF

Review Date: Sep 20, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 6 

Pros: Zoom range; vibration control
Soft beyond 100mm

I really want to like this lens. A single lens providing 28-300mm would be very useful for traveling light. But images in a good part of that range are very soft, bordering on unusable between 200mm and 300mm. There is also very strong CA at that end of the range. Admittedly, most of my lenses are more expensive, but reminding myself of the Tamron's price doesn't help when looking at a shot that is too soft to use.

I bought this lens for traveling light. But after looking at the results, I purchased the Canon 70-300mm DO lens to complement my Canon 24-105/4, and put up with the extra bulk and changing lenses before traveling to the Mediterranean last year.

On the positive side, the vibration control is outstanding. Press the shutter button half-way down and the viewfinder image quietly snaps still. It is better than the IS in any other lens I currently own.

My experience is on a Canon 5D (original) 12mp FF DSLR. I cannot imagine putting this lens on the 5DII or crop sensor camera, where the photo-sites are smaller. It would be a waste of the camera's resolution.

I use mine for snap-shots only now.

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM

Review Date: May 3, 2008 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated


Just a follow-up to my earlier review. After purchasing the Tamron 28-300VC, I felt I would no longer travel with two lenses (24-105L and 70-300DO) when I could travel with one. I fully expected the 28-300 to be optically inferior to the 70-300DO, but presumed it would be "good enough" for travel-light situations. If I was really concerned about optical quality, I still had my L glass. So I sold the 70-300DO.

Big mistake! The Tamron 28-300 just didn't cut it at the telephoto end. Horrible CA and soft at any aperture. So, sheepishly, I purchased another 70-300DO. The new one (now my 3rd copy) is disappointingly soft at 70mm (even softer than the Tamron at that focal length). But it crisps right up by 100mm and blows away the Tamron from that point on. The overall optical quality of the 70-300DO more than makes up for the inconvenience of traveling with two lenses. I'll just have to be careful to use the 24-105 when working in the 70-100 range.

The 70-300DO is still highly recommended.

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM

Review Date: Dec 27, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Small, sharp edge-to-edge on 5D, no CA
Price, placement of zoom lock switch (nit)

I bought this lens as a small, inconspicuous telephoto zoom to complement the Tamron 28-135 (since sold) or Canon 24-105, on the 5D. In both cases, the result was 24-300mm in just two lenses. This combination proved very successful during a trip to Europe in late 2006.

The lens focuses fast and is very quiet. Results are sharp across the 5D frame. Chromatic aberration is absent, even in tough shooting situations. Contrast can be a little low, but shooting in raw and correcting in 16-bit PS yields very good results.

I'm actually on my second copy of this lens. The first performed flawlessly. However, a small mark appeared on the inside of the rear element just before the warranty expired. Though it probably wasn't affecting image quality, it seemed prudent to get it looked at before the warranty expired. That was actually a mistake. The Montreal repair facility had the lens for months, and sent it back with the mark still there and internal elements in the front loose. I returned it for further repair, and it appeared fixed the second time. However, they had messed up the optics somehow. Sharpness beyond the centre circle was abysmal. So I took it to the Toronto (Mississauga) facility. Their pronouncement: the lens was damaged beyond repair, and sent me a new one for free.

This second copy performs up to the high standard of the first (before Canon Montreal messed it up).

To nit-pick, this lens' one annoyance is the placement of the zoom lock button. If you're putting the lens away (either on camera or off), and reverse the lens hood before setting the zoom lock button, you cannot get at the button without removing the reversed hood.

All-in-all though, a versatile general-purpose tele-zoom.

Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM

Review Date: Apr 10, 2006 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 3 

Pros: Price, field-of-view at 10mm
Focus, soft

Since switching from film to digital SLRs in 2003, and buying a number of lenses, this is probably the worst. In the store I tested it against the Canon 10-22 by shooting pictures of the building across the street. The two appeared to peform similarly. Unfortunately, those were the best pictures I got out of this lens; it's been downhill ever since, even though I purchased the copy I tested with.

Pictures are consistently soft and lack the oomph of a good crisp super wide angle image. I suspect this is due to the lens's inability to focus consistently (on a Canon 20D). Each time you press the button, the HSM hunts for a focus point--even if you're still shooting exactly the same scene. I could not trust it to produce a decent shot.

The lens produces moustache distortion--harder to correct than the barrel distortion of many other lenses. Fortunately it's not that obvious in most real world shooting situations.

In the 18-20mm range that overlaps the Sigma 18-125, the latter consistently produces better results, even though it doesn't have HSM and is not an EX lens.

Since getting the FF Canon 5D, which makes wide angle lenses wide angle again, the Sigma 10-20 has sat on a shelf. I eventually sold it, even though I still use the 20D.

Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX DG Aspherical RF

Review Date: Nov 29, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: Aperture, price, build quality
Hit-and-miss optical quality, cumbersome manual focusing mechanism

I really wanted to rate this lens higher than a 7 but just can't. I have a trio of Sigma EX lenses (20, 15-30, 24-70) that just don't produce sharp enough results on the Canon 20D. This lens and the 15-30 had largely been relegated to "shelfware".

Then came the Canon 5D. I'm very pleased with these Sigma EX lenses on the 5D. Sharpness is noticably improved and contrast is better. Makes me wonder whether the 20D has a focus issue with Sigma lenses. Yet the 70-200EX I used to own produced outstanding results on the 20D. So perhaps the resolution of the 20/1.8 isn't quite up to the smaller pixel size on the 20D.

Generally, the Sigma dual focus system has not been a problem for me. However, with this lens, the focusing ring occupies so much real-estate that simply pulling the lens out of the bag often switches its mode.

Another petty annoyance: In spite of the shallow hood, it's next to impossible to attach the lens cap with the hood on.

Now that I have the 5D, this lens is a keeper. But be wary with a reduced sensor camera, especially one with a high pixel count.

Sigma 18-125mm F3.5-5.6 DC

Review Date: Jan 26, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: Versatile zoom range, small and light
Sigma quality control, maximum aperture, inconsistent focus

You have to keep reminding yourself what you paid for this lens. It is not L glass, nor does it strive to be. But is a good walk-around lens when you want to travel light.

I'm on my second copy. The first had real sharpness problems on the right side of images, especially at the telephoto end. On a Canon 300D, it didn't focus consistently either. I'm now using a 20D and the second copy seems to have more consistent focus.

I'm pleased with the sharpness, considering the price. But I do have to remind myself that it was cheaper than all my primes and shouldn't be expected to provide the same sharpness as they do. Also, it seems there is less colour saturation with the 18-125 than my other lenses.

However, it's range is a valuable asset. I do find myself in situations where I don't want to lug around a lot of equipment and this lens is ideal. Anyone with a 1.5/1.6x DSLR and a desire to travel light should seriously consider the 18-125.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

Review Date: Jan 26, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, useful focal length, aperture, focus speed
To nit pick: separate hood and the way the hood attaches

Probably my favourite lens; certainly my favourite prime.

On a 1.6x factor DSLR, I find it the ideal focal length for individual portraits and candids. Quiet, fast focusing and not too large, it is very unobtrusive (not only to my subjects, but also to me). It just works.

Produces consistently sharp images with good bokeh. I love the perspective it gives.

One tiny downside has to be the hood. You must purchase it separately and it is clumsy to attach.

Otherwise, an outstanding lens.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

Review Date: Jan 24, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Price, sharpness, aperture
Build quality, bokeh, no distance scale

First, the positive aspects of this lens are far more important than the negative ones. It is an amazing bargain, getting you into the world of sharp, wide-aperture primes for very little money.

On sharpness: it's a little soft wide open, but not intolerable. Indeed, understanding DOF is more important at large apertures. Stopped down, it is excellent, only a little off from my sharpest lens (IMO), the 85mm f/1.8 (see profile for complete list). I have recently upgraded to the 50mm f/1.4 USM and cannot see any difference in sharpness between the two 50s.

On a 1.6 crop camera, this becomes a good portrait lens for small groups (2-4 people), though I prefer the 85/1.8 for head shots.

It's small, light and I have been know to go out with just it on the camera. It's really a no-brainer for someone building a lens collection who doesn't specifically want the 50/1.4.

Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX APO IF HSM

Review Date: Sep 1, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, contrast, quick focus, price

Because of the size/weight, I sometimes get out of the habit of using this lens. Then it comes out for some special occasion and I am again blown away by its image quality.

Lately, I've been using it at my teenage daughter's soccer games. Hand-held, it has produced some great action shots. On a 1.6 frop factor camera, it's almost ideal for a full-size soccer field, though just a little short for the far corners. However, I'm not afraid to crop pictures taken with this lens; the results are still sharp.

You really need a tripod for serious photography at slower shutter speeds. While any big lens is conspicuous, at least this one is black--not quite as obvious as the white Canon equivalent (which costs 50% more here; 100% more if you want IS as well). I wish Sigma would produce an IS version.

Price includes case, tripod mount and hood (and 7-year waranty Canada).

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

Review Date: Sep 1, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 6 

Pros: Price, wide, close focus
Physical size, flare

Most reviewers report this as a sharp lens. However, in my experience, its sharpness is only average--not any better than the Canon 300D kit lens in the range they have in common. Even on a 1.6 crop factor camera, edge sharpness deterioriates noticably at wider aperatures. That has been my biggest disappointment.

Flare can appear as blue circles/ovals that often become more prominent as you adjust levels in PS, and can be hard to edit out.

Though noisy, the focus is quick.

Sigma rates the closest focus distance as 30cm. That would be to the film plane. Given the sheer size of the lens, you're actually closer than that for some very cool effects.

Canon EF 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 USM

Review Date: Aug 31, 2004 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 6 

Pros: Versatile zoom range; fast, quiet USM focus
Optical quality; does not reach 200mm; zoom creep

This has to be one of Canon's most panned lenses, with its mediocre optical quality and the fact that it doesn't zoom all the way to 200mm (I would rate it as a 28-175mm).

However, as the first additional lens for my 300D, it nicely complemented the kit lens, providing an equivalent range of approximately 45-270mm on the 1.6 crop factor camera. It was my most used lens for about eight months and I got some very nice shots with it. Printed at 11x14" and framed, you cannot see the optical faults of the lens.

About a month ago, I got the Sigma 18-125mm which is clearly sharper. Now this lens and the kit lens both sit on a shelf. Moreover, I understand that the Sigma and Tamron 28-200mm lenses are better.

Bottom line: there are better choices, but mine served me well.