anrieff's reviews

  • Canon EF 35mm f/2

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    Fast, small, light, unsuspicious, VERY sharp, useful focal length, build quality good, close focus
    CA, color reproduction

    This is a very good "normal" prime lens for 1.6 crop dSLRs. The pictures produced are very realistic and have an retro touch (effect highly pronounced when B/W). However, every now and then, this glass spoils some image, even given the perfect shooting conditions (be it missed focus, CA, colors ...). Behaves somewhat unpredictably.

    The lens goes well for the most of the optical parameters. Its sharpness is superb, and you can really use all of the aperture range (f/2 – f/22). It is VERY sharp even at f/2.8, at f/4 being just a bit more. If you are in short supply of light, even f/2 won't let you down. Center is always sharp. Vignetting and flaring characteristics are good also.

    What this lens suffers in is color reproduction and CA. The former is responsible for the overall dully-looking photos, with a bit washed out, unattractive colors. Since I'm using it on a crop body, the 35mm equivalent of 56mm focal length (very close to normal) makes pictures very candid, but also too ordinary. Combined with the color reproduction, the photos somehow exactly fail to please the eye.

    The other thing that keeps popping here and there is purple fringing. I know that every lens suffers from it to some degree, but it seems that my copy performs quite bad here: none of my other lenses show CA so noticeably, and I expected more from my 35mm f/2, at least for being a prime. (I tested a Sigma 17-70. The latter is the only lens with worse CA characteristics I tried).

    Prior to adding the 35mm f/2 to my gear, I believed it will crush and smack the kit lens (18-55 f/3.5-5.6) at 35mm. While the 35mm f/2 is sharper than the kit, otherwise their performance is very similar. Contrary to tests at this site, my kit becomes quite a good performer at 35mm and f/8. It is sharp enough, CA is good (apparently better than the prime!), its flare control is excellent, colors are noticeably more vivid. Well, it requires full four steps down to achieve this, but in a bright environment the kit lens actually outperforms the 35mm f/2.

    That said, it would be unfair to call this lens a bad one; it just does not justify its price, if you already own the kit and don't need its fast f/2 aperture that much. Both big buggers (colors and CA) are easily attributed via postprocessing. Also I find the view angle of this lens very useful, perfect for a walkaround prime lens (on 1.6 crop). In fact it stays most of the time on my camera, except for travel, where I'd use the kit.

    Compared to 17-40 4L, this lens is a winner in terms of center sharpness (a bit), but fall short on corners (both sharpness and especially CA).

    I use this one frequently for portraiture, it does a fantastic job there. Group shots are also easy, view angle is enough. Nearest focus distance is 0.25m, so closeups are quite impressive, too.

    I find the build quality of this lens being quite reasonable. The bayonet is of metal. The decoupling of the focus ring when in AF mode is a cool feature. The ring itself is comfortable and quite fun to use. It has a lot of travel - half a turn from closest focus to infinity (compare to the 50mm f/1.8 II, which has less than 1/4 turn). As with most wide-angles, there is a steep increase in focus distance once you get above 1m. The focusing markings go like this... [0.25m.........0.3m......0.35m...0.4m......0.5m......0.7m...1m .. 1.5m 3m infinity]. With the abrupt change after 1.5m, it becomes a bit tricky to focus manually, when your subject goes more than 1.5m away. Same holds true for AF, though: it will sometimes miss focus when shooting objects > 2m away. The issue is chronic for, e.g. the 50mm f/1.8 II, while this lens shows it only occasionally. That said, things are exactly opposite at close distances: the focusing is extremely accurate, albeit a bit noisy.

    This lens is at least three classes above the 50mm f/1.8 II in terms of build quality (the only other prime I own). Optically, the 35mm f/2 is also a winner (it falls short only in terms of CA, the 50mm is remarkably better corrected), with view angle much more useable.
    So this is what it really is – a fast, normal (on crop dSLRs), light, small and unsuspicious lens, which delivers excellent sharpness. If you can live with its colors and CA characteristics (or are willing to postprocess your photos), it is just as good as it gets. It is not awfully expensive, too.

    Last note, if this is your to-be-first lens and you are puzzled between the 35mm f/2 and the kit – go for the kit. It's much more versatile, and, in right hands, can produce very good photos.

    Test images:

    reviewed January 18th, 2007 (purchased for $300)
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    IQ, range, IS, bokeh, price
    USM noisier than expected, build quality

    Before buying this lens I had a big time deciding between this one and the 70-200 4L. When I finally got it two months ago, I felt I made the right decision. This lens is exceptionally sharp and its IQ did not match anything seen by me! As they claim (here and at other sites), 70-200 4L might be sharper, but as a non-pro, I think that extra sharpness wouldn't be really needed. Moreover, it does not justify the lack of IS on the 70-200, not counting the extra 100mm.

    The optical quality requires no extra comment. Sharp, contrast, colors are perfect. No noticeable vignetting or CA. Barrel distortion is noticed if you trace something @ 70mm, but not noticeable on photos. The softness at 300mm is not a problem, as long as you stay at f/8.0

    Out-of-focus areas are just beautiful, very nice.

    A bit surprized by the USM - a bit noisier than expected, not absolutely silent. It is very accurate, though.

    The build quality does not impress, but is OK. The lens feels very solid in your hands, but overall, a little plasticky. Specifically the zoom lock - it feels fragile. Good news is, you probably wouldn't need it - my copy doesn't show the zoom creep mentioned in the review. I guess it is newer revision.

    The lens is well designed, too. Looks like a pro (besides not L) with all that switches, etc. Of course, it draws quite a bit of attention, but probably less than the 70-200 (especially, if you set up a tripod, which you'll probably need for the latter).

    All in all, a great lens with L-glass optical quality. And at this price, it is a steal.

    Some sample photos:

    reviewed January 11th, 2007 (purchased for $800)
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

    7 out of 10 points and recommended
    Cheap, Good IQ, works well in low-light
    AF problems, awful build quality

    There is a hype around 50mm lenses. They are the classic and put a retro touch on your pictures...

    ... or at least, when used on full frame cameras. On 1.6 crop, this becomes an inconvenient lens: too short for tele, too long for a walkaround. Too long for group photos. Excellent for portraiture, though.

    As any Canon shooter, I purchased this lens early on and is now collecting dust on the shelf. The reasons for not using it are mainly technical, and may relate my copy only, but:

    * Constant problems with AF. My copy chronically front-focuses by a measurable margin. The simplest test - shooting my LCD monitor - results in a fuzzy image. If shot by focusing manually, you can see the individual LCD pixels clearly - the image is just WOW - very sharp;
    * The already mentioned rarely-usable focal length;
    * There seem to be some defects on the front glass of my copy. A few specks, that look like a lack of coating. Or a smallish crater on the glass. It does not spoil images normally, but manifests itself in the bokeh - as specks on the out-of-focus highlights.
    See this sample:
    * While not really a problem, I'd like more focus ring travel.

    In conclusion - if you like the "classic" 50mm look on a crop dSLR - look at the 28-35mm range. The 35mm f/2 is certainly not a bad choice. If you need 50mm exactly, go for the 50mm f/1.4 - that's a good lens, albeit not usable until f/2.

    Why I gave it an YES after all? This lens is damn cheap. You can't go wrong buying it, and if you've only used the 18-55mm kit, you'd certainly FEEL the IQ difference. Just hope your copy is not bad as mine :)

    Test images:

    reviewed March 4th, 2007
  • Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    good range, excellent IQ
    a bit heavy & bulky, "only" f/4.0

    This lens is as good as it gets. Bought it four months ago just before a trip to Malta - it turned out to be the perfect decision (I came from there with 900+ photos - most of which simply rock).

    This is not the perfect walkaround lens, but hey - it is not designed to be. It is a pro-ish and its IQ is the best you can afford for the bucks. I actually compared this one to a prime - the EF 35mm f/2. It turns out, this one has better CA across the frame, better corners, and comparable center sharpness. The prime beats it up at f/4 (only). It may sound ridiculous how can a zoom be a better than a prime... well, here you have it.

    I've noticed that my copy of this lens has some tendency to overexpose - about 1/3 step... nothing much, you just have to compensate it by dialing -1/3 exposure...

    Anyways, this is a nice addition to the bag of any serious shooter. You simply won't regret it, the quality of this lens kicks ass (not to mention you also got a hood and a pouch.. handy).

    Some photos:

    reviewed May 26th, 2007 (purchased for $969)
  • Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    THE sharpest lens I've ever had, bokeh, colors
    rarely used, colors, "only" f/2.8, a bit long for portraiture

    This lens has some features to impress you. I was astound... no, astound is not enough... say, stunned... when I saw the SHARPNESS you got here. It is like the EF 50mm 1.8 II, even sharper, including the corners. Just what you need for macro work.

    I also hoped this lens will be the perfect portrait lens (since I sold my 50mm f/1.8 due to having build-quality related problems). It turns out you ought to get quite far from your model. In a small room, this means your model will be close to the walls, and since your max aperture is "only" 2.8 => You don't have the perfect background blur (as you'd like to have). IMHO, a f/2.0 aperture would be a killer, even if it did incur some IQ losses... forgot to say, bokeh is simply beautiful, it cannot get any better 8)

    I said twice "colors" in both Pros and Cons. Color reproduction is not verbatim - this lens tends to get them a bit warmer. In fact, this is not bad, I seem to like it, it is better than going to magenta or blue... When shooting colorful flowers, e.g. roses, the lens makes your colors seem a bit odd on the LCD screen - e.g. the roses being not-exactly-red... a slight pink hue there.

    Anyways, this is not a big gripe, it is so easily correctable in PS... ;)

    Build quality is almost perfect. The AF operation is silent, a bit slow though. For a macro lens, one would like more focus ring travel - this has 1/2 turn, which is already good, but - hey - the 35mm f/2 has 1/2 too, and is not a macro! This is why I gave it 9/10, otherwise focusing is quite fun, the ring operation is so smooth :)

    All in all, if you need it - don't hesitate buying it - it is not very expensive, and for the sharpness you get, it can even be considered a bargain.

    Some photos ...

    reviewed May 26th, 2007 (purchased for $390)