grahambo's reviews

  • Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 USM

    4 out of 10 points and not recommended
    cheap, decent micro performance
    cheap, slow, front threads rotate when focusing

    I purchased this lens with the 300D when if first came out. I returned them after a week of trying to fall in love with the camera.

    My impression matched the test results on this site. Notice that cheap leads both the pro and con lists.

    This lens is a master of nothing. But, with prodding and ideal conditions, acceptable results can be achieved. My best results with this lens were shooting outside in full daylight. When focusing very close, the lens seemed to deliver sharp results even almost wide open. Good for flowers, plants, etc.

    Indoors, the results were not good. There is no way to stop this lens down adequately and still use available light. The lens on the G3 I was using at the time was fast enough to make up for the 300D’s ISO advantage.

    reviewed November 26th, 2006 (purchased for $100)
  • Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Ideal portable telephoto, image-quality/weight, image-quality/price, VR works great
    Hard on batteries, not compatible with teleconverters (or so Nikon says), bokeh less than fantastic, does not focus close

    Compared to the really professional optics, this lens does make compromises in order to remain small, light, and affordable. For something you can carry on an all-day hike, this is as good as it gets. It may be light, but it feels like a high quality piece of equipment and the results bare this out.

    My primary thing is nature photography. I can take the 70-300 on a long hike without beating myself up, but still get pictures that don't make any major compromises. The VR lets me keep the ISO down when the light gets good in the morning and evening.

    This lens is also great for shooting sports, in my case Ultimate Frisbee. It is light enough to hand-hold for the entire game, and the 70-300 range seems good for covering the entire field. It's plenty sharp for this wide open. I use it with the battery grip on my D80. The extra weight gives a great balance, and the extra power is nice because the VR can be hard on batteries. I seem to use about 1.5 batteries over a full day of shooting. The VR will take one down over 5-10 minutes of hard use, but it will bounce back in another 5-10 minutes. The D80 switches between the two batteries in the grip automatically.

    There are compromises. My experience is the same as the blur plots indicate - things get a little less sharp beyond 200mm. Also, the bokeh is not soft. Objects, like grass or leaves, retain a pattern even when they are way out of focus. They loose texture, but never really blend smoothly. Close focus is non-existent.

    And, for some uses, it would be really nice to go beyond 300mm. Unfortunately, because this lens does not work with teleconverters, there are no options other than another bigger, heavier piece of equipment.

    70-300 VR on my photoblog:

    reviewed February 24th, 2008 (purchased for $475)
  • Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 SP AF

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    sharp, bokeh, handeling, cluth mechanism, logical limit switch
    Old style focus mechanism (sorry D40/D60 owners), Not a zoom?

    Tamron has been offering a great rebates on this lens. I got $90 back. :)

    I don't use is as much as my zooms, but when this is the right tool for the job, there is no substitute. Image quality is impeccable on my D80.

    Consider carefully what length macro lens you get. At 90mm (actually longer when focused close, that's just how macro lenses work), I have to stop down a lot for depth of field. For flowers, a 50mm or 60mm might be better, but you have to be careful not to shade the subject. 90mm to 105mm is really the starting point for doing bugs and portraits. It gives a better working distance and stronger bokeh. The 90-105 lenses seem very general-purpose. For seriously chasing bugs, consider a 150 or 180 and a good flash.

    Pictures with the 90mm macro on my photoblog:

    reviewed February 24th, 2008 (purchased for $390)
  • Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF SP AF

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    fast, sharp, cheap, light
    limited zoom range, softish at 50mm, boken less than fantastic, D40/D60 autofocus

    I chose to get this instead of the "standard" 18-135mm with my D80. It does some things very well, but does other things only OK. Indoors, this is the perfect lens. The focal range is perfect, low light performance is great, and with an SB-600 it gets even better. Outdoors, the lens feels limited. 17mm is useful, but isn't fantastically wide. And 50mm is awful short for a walk-around lens. Image quality is great stopped down, but if you've got the light to stop down......

    This is not, as some have suggested, a substitute for a macro lens. Bokeh retains a lot of pattern and the manual focus ring is way too touchy.

    Wide open, it is fantastically sharp through 35mm, but gets softer, especially at the edges, near 50mm. 50mm is improved a lot by stopping down to F4.

    Contrast is decent at F2.8. It isn't wild, but that keeps highlights from blowing out and works well indoors with flash. Contrast increases dramatically from F4 on. Often, it seems there is too much contrast. Outdoors, it is hard to keep the scene exposed well and keep highlights from blowing out. Again, the lens plays well to its specialty.....

    I will definitely keep this lens for indoor use, but I am looking for a better jack-of-all-trades lens.

    Photos with the 17-50mm on my photoblog:

    reviewed February 24th, 2008 (purchased for $450)
  • Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    sharp, CA resistant, Flare resistant, 10mm
    corner distortion, cool color rendition

    I borrowed one of these for a friend when I went on a trip last year. I waffled around on which wide angle lens to get for a while, but when I went back through the pictures I took, I realized the 10mm really made a difference. The lens is not perfect, but for my purposes I am happy with it.

    Sharpness and contrast are good. Not perfect, but good enough. Color is a little bit cool. I consistently need to warm pictures from this lens in post processing (Capture NX makes this really easy).

    Distortion is noticeable in the right situations, but does not show up in my landscape photography. Distortion seems confined to the corners, so if I crop a 2:1 from the middle of a picture, the distortion is almost completely removed.

    On other bizarre effect of 10mm is that dust on the front of the lens is not defocused. I need to check the lens for specks every time I take the cap off.

    Picures with the 10-20mm on my photoblog:

    reviewed February 24th, 2008 (purchased for $470)