canon 50mm f1.4 Rating: 10 (see below)
is it worth the money?: Yes
would i buy it again?: Yes
Pros: small and light. Quick, quiet, and accurate AF; this lens focuses even in very dim conditions where i don't expect AF to work - probably due to the large aperture. Focus ring is a good size and operates smoothly. Full time manual focus nice. build quality is good and feels solid, though not comparable to an L lens.
Cons: Doesn't come with a hood, but i knew this before the purchase so i'm not deducting any points.
Comments: Wow, this is a great lens! I’ve also got the 50mm f1.8 mk I, which compared to what I’ve read from owners of the mk II version, seems to be better both optically and physically. the f1.4 version is much better than the mk I. in shooting test shots, the results from the f1.4 are sharper than the f1.8 at the same apertures, which really surprised me. I also had a lot more miss-focused test shots from f1.8. I only compared the in-focus photos and have not repeated the test yet. In real situation use, the f1.4 locks focus quickly and accurately (quietly too), and full time manual focus is a real plus, while the f1.8 lens is “iffy“ with AF and doesn‘t have full time MF. Another thing that surprised me is that the build quality of the 50mm f1.8 mk I is just as good as the f1.4! I expected the f1.4 to be better but the only real difference is that the f1.4’s focus ring is wider and feels smoother. I’ve had a lot of fun using this lens and I’ve even been able to shoot at speeds of 1/200 at night outside with it! I’ve shied away from using the 50mm f1.8 at large apertures because it can easily miss focus, but with the f1.4 it’s not a problem even wide open. I’m blown away by the results it gave me shooting portraits: very high % of in focus shots at f1.4 (I think most of the blurs where from my own shifting about or subject movement) and really blurry backgrounds even with objects that are only 1-2 feet behind the subject.
My only issue with this lens is that out of focus lights in particular start to show slight corners with apertures smaller than f1.4. At f1.8 the 5 bladed 50mm f1.8 mk I actually renders it’s out of focus lights rounder, but by f2.2 the f1.4 lens is better. For some reason it really is just lights indoors and at night that show this problem in particular - during the day highlights showing through foliage are round and smooth even at f4 (have not tested daytime bokeh smaller than f4 yet). To be fair, even all my L lenses start to show angles in their bokeh (again, at this time only referring lights indoors or at night) when stopped down one stop.
If rating this lens for what it is: a compact, $305 (not including $45 rebate), f/1.4, non-L lens, with micro USM and full time manual focusing, then I give it a 10.
If comparing to all the other lenses I’ve used, which includes L lenses with L build quality and ring USM, even an L prime, I give this lens a 9.
This lens has me really wanting a 35mm f1.4L and 85 f1.8. Funny, the 50 f1.8 never got me this excited about other extra-large aperture lenses. This is really bad for my wallet!!!
Below are some examples of out of focus street lights shot with the two 50’s I have. I had to interpolate the image slightly cuz I downsized them too much at first and didn’t want to redo the whole thing. Note that I left out f1.6 and f2.5 because I thought they were unnecessary for this comparison. You can decide for yourself which bokeh you like better. Personally I like f1.8 from the f1.8 lens, I’m not too sure about f2, and the rest goes to the f1.4.
Sigma 18-125 DC (Nikon Mount)
Is this lens worth the price? Yes
Would I buy this lens again? Yes
Rating: 8 of 10
Pros: The perfect size, weight, and FL range (7X) for a walk around lens. On a Nikon D70 this lens focuses fast, even in low light, and zoom is quick and smooth. Color and contrast are not quite pro grade, but better than other zoom lenses I have tried in it's price class including the Nikkor 18-70 DX.
Cons: these are all nit-picking: Occasional minor vignetting (but I shoot primarily in NEF and NC4 easily removes vignetting). AF is a little noisy, but for $270... Some CA, but no more than other consumer zooms. Overall picture quality makes up for the shortcomings.
Would I buy it again? Absolutely. I have not found a zoom lens for under $500 that can match this lens on a Nikon dSLR. I wish that Sigma would introduce this same quality and range in a pro grade f2.8. I would be first in line.
Canon 400mm f5.6 L, rating: 10
is it worth the money? Yes
would you buy it again? Yes. Even if I were to own the 400 f2.8 IS L (11.8 lbs!!!) i would still keep this lens for when portability is important.
Pros: This lens has been a real blast to use. auto focus is fast and accurate - considering the small aperture it also works surprisingly well in dim light. Sharpness and contrast are VERY good (it is an L prime after all) and I really donít notice a difference stopped down or when used with the canon 1.4x II TC. Build quality is very good and feels very solid. The lens feels lighter that I expected and the built in hood is very nice as well. The focus ring is very wide (the rubberized part is a full 2 inches), smooth, and great for precise focusing. Overall handling is excellent. So far flare seems well controlled. DOF is actually pretty shallow for f5.6 so you can still get good background blur. Minimum focus distance is not great on paper, but still very reasonable for this focal length and actually isnít a problem in real world use. Comes with a tripod collar and nice zippered case (although I never use the case).
Cons: no real cons here, as you know it is a 400mm f5.6 lens before you buy it and for the cost I really cannot expect it to be any better.
NOTE: these are not real ďcons,Ē The problems associated with long focal lengths should be firmly kept in mind. The following are just a few observations to inform people of what they are getting into:
it can be very difficult to keep the shutter speeds fast enough for this focal length, especially when used with the 1.4x TC. Due to the long focal length camera shake can be a very big problem, especially when it gets a bit dim. You will need a large, sturdy tripod and ideally a good ball head for ease of use. A bigger aperture and/or IS would really help, but of course if you want that it would come in a much larger/heavier package and cost $5300 for the f4 IS and $6600 for the f2.8 IS L. Does not AF at all with the canon 1.4x TC on a non canon pro-body; it works with the pins taped but it is very slow and sometimes wonít work at all. I have not tried it with the tamron SP 1.4x TC or Kenko 300 Pro 1.4x, with which I heard AF does work on a non pro-body. The user should know all this before you purchase or use the lens. Only pro grade canon bodies are capable of AF with apertures smaller than f5.6, so this should not be blamed on the lens.
Again, these are not real faults for a $1100 (actually, I got mine for $954 new after shipping and rebates), L grade, 400mm f5.6 lens and I am not deducting any points for the things mentioned. I am rating the lens for what it is and itís purposes. It is a low cost, very portable, fast and accurate auto focusing lens with excellent optics and great build quality.
Canon 70-200 f2.8 L, Rating: 10
Is it worth the price? Yes
Would I buy I again? Yes
Pros: Very fast and accurate AF, even in dim conditions, and a focus limiter speeds up AF even more. Very good sharpness and contrast even wide open. Very good build quality. Nice bokeh, and shallow DOF when you want it.
Cons: No complaints so far. The weight, size and costs are expected for this kind of lens. If you want a lighter/smaller version or one with IS they sell those too, but I can’t ask any more from this particular model.
Comments: not much else I can add that isn’t already mentioned in the “Comparisons” section below. I haven’t done the same shots that gave me flare with the f4 version yet. Will post update when I do.
Comparisons between the f4 and f2.8 (non-IS) versions: I’ve added this little comparison section to make it easier for those shopping for a lens and are having problems deciding (I assume that‘s what these reviews are for)
Note: this is the same comparison listed in both the canon 70-200 f2.8 and f4 reviews.
- in terms of sharpness and contrast at f4, both lenses are pretty much identical
- compared to the f2.8, the f4 lens so small and light that it’s simply a real pleasure to use
- the f2.8 lens focuses faster in dim conditions
- the f2.8 comes with a tripod collar, and you’ll need it. The f4 does not come with a tripod collar, which I don’t feel is necessary as the lens is so light anyways. If you want to get a collar for the f4 lens it will cost an extra $120 (you can get a black one for a little less). I’ve used the collar with the f4 lens (it’s the same one that came with my 400mm f5.6) and while it’s real nice to use on a tripod, I still don’t feel that it’s necessary. For some reason that little collar makes the f4 look AND feel and lot bigger (IMO).
- the minimum focus distance of the f4 is about a foot shorter than the f2.8. The min focus distance of the f4 feels just about perfect for indoor use, while the extra foot needed for f2.8 lens sometimes causes me to back into objects or forces me lean backwards into awkward positions to get enough distance.
- the f2.8 lens obviously provides greater background blur and extends the creative possibilities beyond the f4 aperture.
- since stopping down beyond one stop usually causes out of focus highlights against dark backgrounds to show slight edges, the f4 lens will render rounder highlights at smaller apertures.
- the extra stop afforded by the f2.8 lens can make a big difference in dim or slightly dim lighting. The extra stop is also very noticeable when using a 1.4x extender - used on the f4 lens you end up with f5.6, which can easily be too dark at 280mm in even slightly dim lighting (shutter speeds too low or ISO too high).
- The larger aperture also means you get a brighter view through the viewfinder. When shooting in any of the following situations or combination of situations listed below, the extra stop can mean a world of difference when attempting to locate the subject/compose an image or manually focus:
*in dim lighting
*using a TC (even worse with a 2x TC)
* using a polarizer
*using neutral density filters - solid, graduated, whatever.
*using extension tubes
Note: At first when I only had the f4 version, I thought that having a smaller aperture would cause a lot of miss-focus problems with portraits, etc. due to DOF that is too shallow. However, with the excellent AF speed and accuracy of the f2.8 (and better Canon lenses in general), I find that I am very consistently getting spot on focus at f2.8. Now I realize that the reason I believed the f2.8 aperture would be unusable and therefore unnecessary was because at the time I was using the Tamron 28-75 f2.8 and Canon 50mm f1.8, both of which are very slow and unreliable/inaccurate with Autofocus.
Important note for those new to indoor shooting: f2.8 does not afford very high shutter speeds inside houses, etc. lit with the usual light bulbs, fluorescent lights, etc. unless it is VERY bright. So if you are planning to shoot in these environments I’d suggest either using support like a tripod, monopod, bean bag, getting the IS version, getting a larger aperture prime lens, or using an external flash.
My personal reasons for upgrading from the f4 to the f2.8? I sold the Tamron 28-75 f2.8 due to the AF problems I was having with it and needed some kind of large aperture replacement to cover the 75mm range. I figured that if I went with a canon 85mm f1.8 lens I’d leave it at home too often to be worth the $$$. The 70-200 f2.8 would not only cover for the tamron, it would improve the bokeh in my portraits and provide a larger aperture at the telephoto end (really needed when using the 1.4x TC). I “settled” on the f2.8 lens because I simply cannot afford the IS version (IS costs an extra $550!). And to address the weight/size issue that i mentioned in the f4 review (as a major reason for choosing the f4), well i got used to the weight and size rather quickly so it isn't an issue. the 70-200 f2.8 lens also doesn't really weight any more in the bag than the 70-200 f4 and tamron 28-75 f2.8 combo that it replaces either.
Tamron SP AF 90mm f2.8 macro 1:1
Is this lens worth the price? Yes
Would I buy this lens again? Yes
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Pros:Incredibly sharp lens, can hold up with any macro lens on the market. Great colours and contrast, has that Canon L feel to it. Light yet sturdy mostly plastic lens, does not add much weight to your camera bag. Comes with lens hood, but the front element lays so deep that I have never used it. Tamron has a few gems in its line-up, and this is one of their best optically.
Cons: AF motor is loud and quite slow, this is the only area why one would choose the Canon EF-S f2.8 60mm or Canon EF f2.8 100 mm macro's over the Tamron. Sometimes AF can hunt a bit.
Would I buy it again? Yes, definately. Probably even on an EOS 5D this lens would be a gem. If the AF was less noisy and faster, I would rate it a 9.5.