xavier's reviews

  • Konica Minolta 24-105mm f/3.5-4.5 D AF

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    wide range, very light, sharp, reasonable price.
    vignetting at 24mm (film), distortion, corners softness in wide angle, under average construction.

    I got this lens together with a Minolta Dynax 7 (or Maxxum 7), film 35mm.

    This lens provides a rather wide and very useful range, at least for 35mm film: 24mm is wide enough for most landscape applications, and 105mm is reasonable telephoto. I often used this lens as my only lens and found it great for travel, hiking and trekking. However, I would not like this range much if I had a 1.5x crop camera, since I would lose wide angle and not get real telephoto, so that I would probably need to carry more lenses for the same application (at least one wide angle), so that it would not be so useful as a landscape kit.

    This lens is very light and very convenient to bring, since it is also quite small. The price is quite reasonable for what you get too (so that one should not be too concerned about using it for travel). Overall, it was the perfect match for the Maxxum 7.

    Regarding to optical quality, I found the lens quite sharp, especially in the middle and in the long part of the range. In the wide angle area, it is sharp enough for producing good slides provided it is stopped down to f/8. As one could expect, the performance is lower around 24mm, especially in the corners, which is a bit frustrating sometimes.
    I have had no chromatic aberration issues with it so far.
    Vignetting can be a problem between 24 and 28mm, especially when using filters (like circular polarizers); I would recommend buying a slim filter. Distortion is also not very well controlled below 28mm.
    My overall opinion about image quality is that it is mostly decent, but never great. The 24-28mm range (which one might be very tempted to use quite often, especially for landscape) is the most difficult to use: not only one needs to stop down, but one must also beware with filters.

    The construction quality is only average. The lens is made of good quality plastic, but it extends quite significantly while zooming and is a bit wobbling when fully extended. I would be a bit concerned about the way the pieces are adjusted and remain so over the life of the lens.

    To conclude, this lens is very useful for travelling light, with a significant range covered in one single lens.

    reviewed November 24th, 2006 (purchased for $400)
  • Konica Minolta 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 D AF

    3 out of 10 points and not recommended
    cheap, light.
    (absence of) image quality, poor construction.

    This was my first SLR lens, bought with a Minolta 404 Si, a few years ago. Sold as part of a kit, it was quite cheap.

    When I compare this lens with my newer lenses, I am amazed with how light this one is. It really weights close to nothing, even compared to the Minolta 24-105 (even though these two lenses have almost the same size).

    However, it turns out in this case that you get what you pay for (both in $ and in weight).

    The image quality limits its usefullness to 4x6 prints (where it can do fine, if used well). I can see the optical issues even when looking through the viewfinder: bad distortion in the wide end, chromatic aberrations, heavy distortion, lack of sharpness in the corners. I cannot find the image quality acceptable below 35mm or beyond 70mm, so this lens should be considered a 35-70 if you plan to print beyond 4x6.

    The construction of this lens is quite poor. It is made of average quality plastic not very well assembled. I am not so much concerned with the ability of the lens to survive a fall (I do not expect any lens to survive a fall onto hard concrete without damage), but with how the lens will sustain use and how precise the alignment of the elements is or will remain. When it extends, I observed the end of the lens vibrates or shakes. This may explain that the image quality is kind of ok only in the middle of the range (where it is not extended).

    Overall, I cannot really recommend this lens. I would probably skip it and look at a lens somewhere in the 250 or 300$ range, where you can find some decent alternatives (like a used tamron 28-75 or similar).

    reviewed November 24th, 2006 (purchased for $60)
  • Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM APO

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    sharp, cheap for the optical characteristics, not too heavy, good contrast, good build quality.
    no stabilized version, AF slower than USM.

    I got the Canon mount version of this lens as a good quality mid-tele for my Canon 10D. I am mostly interested in nature photography (landscape, wildlife, closeups) and travel photography (landscape, architecture, portraits). If I except the fact that this range is a little short for wildlife, this lens turned out quite good for all applications I am interested in.

    The most striking characteristic of this lens compared to the great number of 70-200 zooms is its price: at least 30 % less than most comparable offerings (70-200 with constant aperture 2.8). Despite its reasonable price, this lens is very good.

    First, the build quality is great, but the weight is still reasonable. Without collar and hood, the weight and size are even more reasonable (I could fit this lens with my 10D and 17-40 in a rather small shoulder bag "Lowepro Nova 2 AW"). It seems to be built like a tank; it does not extend while zooming or focusing, so that this lens is very nice to use. The hood works very well and protects the lens both in use and reversed, in the bag. The tripod colar is very good too, and can be removed without unmounting the lens from the camera (which Canon collars do not make possible).

    Most importantly, the optical quality is very good. The lens is very sharp throughout the range from f/4. At f/2.8 and at both ends, there is a noticeable decrease in sharpness, but it is still good. Contrast is good. Colors look a bit cooler than with my Canon "L" lenses. Overall, I like the optical quality of this lens pretty well. I could get very nice prints (mostly 12x8 inches) with it, even with some cropping (body used: Canon 10D).

    Autofocus speed is a little on the slow side, compared to Canon USM lenses. This lens could also benefit from a focus limiter (which many 70-200 zooms have). But this is a reasonable issue, given the price of the lens.
    Another point is that there is no stabilized version as of today, even though Sigma has at least two "OS" lenses. An OS version of this lens would be a winner (and I would probably consider the upgrade, since a 70-200/2.8 zoom without stabilization requires rather fast shutter speeds, especially on 1.5x or 1.6x cameras).

    I can recommend this lens strongly, since it is a very decent performer at a reasonable price.

    reviewed November 24th, 2006 (purchased for $800)
  • Sigma 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 EX OS APO

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    sharp and contrasty, optical stabilization, cheap for what you get, great build quality.
    no HSM so slower focus than competition, weight.

    I used this lens for some time while trying to decide which wildlife lens to get for my Canon 10D. I was deciding between this and the 100-400 L IS.

    This lens is very attractive for the budget limited wildlife photographer, who wants a flexible lens, that is long range and image stabilization. This kind of lens is perfect w
    hen you want not to be static (so tripod may not be very usable and the ability to zoom may help being more reactive).

    In use, I found the lens almost perfect. Compared to the 100-400, I liked the twist zoom design much better. The build quality is great so the lens could survive some harsh con
    ditions (the downside of this point is the rather important weight, even compared to lenses like the 100-400, which do have a much lower weight, for roughly the same build quality).

    The optical quality is great. It is not as good as the 100-400, but not that far. The main difference I found has to do with colors: the colors out of the Sigma are a little le
    ss saturated than out of the Canon. But this can be fixed easily in post-processing. Regarding to sharpness and contrast, I was very happy with the results I got with this lens

    The main disadvantage I found it to have (and the reason why I returned it and kept the Canon) is the Autofocus. This lens has no internal HSM motor and focuses slower than the 100-400 and than my Sigma 70-200 EX... It is not extremely slow but for flying birds, it will be difficult to get it to track. For static subjects, it would definetely be fine, but for fast action, you may probably want for more... But at the price, it is difficult to complain!

    Highly recommended despite the lack of HSM! This is another great lens by Sigma!

    reviewed December 20th, 2006 (purchased for $950)