fergusonjr's reviews

  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

    7 out of 10 points and recommended
    Very cheap. Very light. Above average sharpness above f/2.8
    Plastic Plastic Plastic. Feels like you only paid $75 for it.

    Given the price, there's really no good reason not to buy this lens. The price is so low, it's one of those lenses you go ahead and buy just for the heck of it. I already had the 50mm f/1.4 when I decided to buy this one for that very reason -- just for the heck of it. Given the choice between the two, there's really no question that I prefer to use the f/1.4 lens, but if you're trying to be frugal and aren't sure you want to pay the extra for the f/1.4 lens, the f/1.8 will not disappoint when it comes to overall image quality.

    Certainly, this lens has its limitations. If you like to use shallow depths of field with nice background blur (bokeh), this isn't the best lens for that. I found the bokeh to be somewhat messy and lacking in smoothness when compared to the 1.4 and especially the 1.2 lens. While its autofocus is relatively speedy, it doesn't feel as fast as the 1.4 lens in part because it's substantially noisier -- you're made much more aware of it focusing. The front focus ring has a very small grip-width and feels chintzy, but probably not as bad as the EF-S 18-55mm lens. Also, if I was interchanging this lens a lot with other lenses, I would be worried about the long-term wear on the plastic mount. But, hey, who cares . . . it's only $75! This is a real bargain, and a great buy for the frugal shopper or someone looking for a decent backup to their wider-aperture 50mm lenses.

    reviewed January 15th, 2007 (purchased for $75)
  • Nikon 180mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF Nikkor

    7 out of 10 points and recommended
    Great image quality
    No internal AF-motor

    It's hard to argue against the image quality from this lens, because it's just great. I suppose my opinion could have been skewed slightly by the fact that I had just come away from playing with a Nikon 28-135 lens whose image quality was just dismal . . . and this 180mm lens seemed like heaven by comparison. But objectively speaking, this is a great lens.

    I'm not a big fan of the type of construction Nikon uses for these larger lenses, frankly. The metal body is reminiscent of military surplus gear and while it feels very solid, it doesn't feel so much like you're getting what you paid for in the same way you do with so many Canon lenses. For the price, I would also expect an internal motor, and not the noisy drive-screw operation. I also found not having FTM focusing a real limitation, particularly at lower apertures (smaller DOF) where I would more often need to fine-tune the focus. Having to switch both the lens and the camera to manual focus was a really crummy limitation.

    My used sample also came with an annoying problem -- the aperture ring-lock too easily unlocked itself, and the aperture-ring would turn by itself and cause the camera to declare an error. It took me a bit to figure out why the error kept coming up. This continued to be annoying as it seemed to disable the camera at the very moment I really wanted to snap a shot.

    However, all the negatives aside, this lens produces some really great images. The background blur (bokeh) is quite nice, and the color transmission is superb. The DOF on this lens can be made exceptionally tight, and even at f/2.8 the focused target is very very sharp. If you can tolerate the drive-screw-AF limitations, need a big aperture telephoto lens, and can get a good used-price, I would recommend this lens.

    reviewed January 15th, 2007 (purchased for $400)
  • Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    Relatively inexpensive. Great focal-length range. Fast, quiet AF.
    Slow lens (f/4-5.6), mixed bag on sharpness and distortions

    First the positives --> This lens has probably the best overall focal-length range for an everyday zoom lens for the 1.6 FOV cameras (Rebel, 20/30D). You get great wide and long coverage. The autofocus is very quiet and very fast. It's relatively light, and you get pretty decent center-sharpness throughout the aperture range.

    Then the negatives --> For the price, the build quality is probably about what you should expect -- okay -- but some of the plastic elements do feel a bit cheap. I've already seen at least one lens whose inner plastic shell got cracked, although I'm not sure how. The maximum aperture is frustratingly small, making this a rather slow lens for its focal-length-range. If you're shooting static subjects, then the IS will help a great deal, but people are impossible to shoot indoors without a flash. The barrel distortion at full-wide-angle is rather pronounced, but I suppose not as bad as some point-and-shoot cameras. Still, it shouldn't be this bad. It's correctable in Photoshop, but not without some loss of your edges. I found Chromatic Aberrations to be quite obvious in many photos, and not just at the largest aperture. Perhaps I'm picky about that kind of thing, or am more likely to notice than most, but I found that to be an annoying trait of this lens. I was also not happy with the way the sharpness seemed to be inconsistent from the center to the edges, with the edges sometimes turning out quite soft.

    This lens has a very enticing focal-length range, but really disappoints with its small max aperture. It's certainly not an available-light indoor camera, but it performs just fine with a flash or outdoors. It does make a great every-day carry-around lens if you can forgive its shortcomings.

    reviewed January 15th, 2007 (purchased for $500)
  • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Fast (big aperture) lens. Great build-quality.
    Heavy. Limited focal-length range.

    This is really nice lens. With its f/2.8 max aperture, this is a very useful and versatile lens. It feels very well-built and quite solid. I personally tend to favor a bit more zoom than wide-angle and kept wanting to dial past 70mm. The reverse-zoom setup where the lens is shortest at 70mm and longest 24mm does take a little getting used to, but doesn't cause any major problems. The only disadvantage I'd give this lens for everyday use is its substantial weight, which is particularly evident on a Rebel body -- it weighs almost twice what the camera does! This is a monster lens.

    Image quality is fantastic and the solidness of the lens is very reassuring. This is a fun lens to use.

    reviewed January 15th, 2007 (purchased for $1,100)
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Great Image Quality. Great Max Aperture for low-light. Well-built
    Not super-sharp below f/2.8

    I love this lens. It's worth every penny. It produces very sharp images, it focuses fast and precisely, and provides great background blur (bokeh) at large apertures. Granted, the bokeh might not be as stupendous as the 1.2 lenses, but it's still quite nice. The relatively quiet and fast AF motor is much more satisfying than on the f/1.8 lens. The lens does feature FTM-focusing, but because of the tighter DOFs, I usually find it necessary to switch to manual if I want to actually manually focus. While it's a pretty tight lens, there's a little bit of play in the focus ring, so that the initial movement doesn't change the focus when moving it in either direction. Perhaps this is a sign of age, but I'm thinking this is more a sign of quality. It also feels like you're pushing against the motor when you're manually focusing, something that I don't feel in the nicer L-lenses.

    Particularly for close-ups, you can't expect to get super-sharp pictures at apertures under f/2.8. I couldn't tell whether this was just general softness or because of overexposure, but if you must have definite sharpness, you do need to stay above 2.8.

    reviewed January 15th, 2007 (purchased for $320)
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Low Price. Superb Image quality. Excellent Sharpness
    Not for low light (f/4)

    Wow, wow, and wow! Quick, buy one of these before Canon realizes they're undercharging for them! This is a really really great lens, and an incredible bargain. In fact, the very fact that you're getting a bargain makes the images seem so much nicer!

    This lens makes some of the nicest images I've ever seen. It's obvious just by looking through the viewfinder that you're getting a better picture coming through. The sharpness and brilliant colors are amazing. The lens itself is a pleasure to use, with its super quiet and fast autofocus, FTM focusing, and solid, substantial build-quality. I like the fact that the lens stays the same length when zooming, and despite all the glass, it's relatively light . . . lighter than the 24-70 f/2.8 anyway.

    This is a remarkable lens. IS would be nice, but this is more of good-light, outdoor lens anyway, so I haven't found myself wanting. Certainly, if you're going to be shooting indoors a lot, the f/2.8 lens is a better choice, but it also costs twice as much. For most uses, this f/4 lens does amazing work.

    reviewed January 15th, 2007 (purchased for $570)
  • Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    L-quality glass, long on zoom, IS
    Pricey, not great for low light (f/4)

    I like this lens a lot. It's somewhat of a tough choice for me to choose a favorite between this and the 24-70mm f/2.8, because, while I really like the versatility of the big aperture on the 24-70, I tend to prefer a bit more length on my everyday zooms. So, I typically use the 24-105mm for everyday outdoor photography, and I use the 24-70 for everyday indoor photography. So far, I haven't really felt like I needed IS on the 24-70, but in a couple of cases, IS has come in handy on the 24-105 because that little bit of extra length leads to slightly more unsteady hand-holding. This lens is a bit smaller and feels a fair amount lighter than the 24-70.

    Just as a small quirky preference, I do tend to favor the fact that this lens has the typical "longer-on-zoom" barrel extension, as opposed to the 24-70 which has the opposite, and odd, feature.

    I have found on a number of occasions when using this lens indoors that the IS does allow me to handhold this and take shots that I would normally need the 24-70 f/2.8 lens, but this is only for static subjects like museum art, and not animated people!

    There's not much one can say differently about this lens that you wouldn't say about another L-lens . . . it's well-built and solid-feeling, it has a super-fast and silent AF, it makes very sharp pictures with great color. I personally prefer a little extra zoom, and this certainly provides that, especially on a1.6 FOV camera, but because of the slower aperture (f/4), I tend to keep this for use in the outdoors . . . which is where the extra zoom is more useful anyway.

    reviewed January 15th, 2007 (purchased for $1,100)
  • Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Extremely Versatile, great image quality
    Not for low light conditions

    This is one of the most versatile lenses I've used. I've used it with great success everywhere from zoos to airshows, and I couldn't be happier with it. The image quality is a great deal better than you might expect with such a long zoom. Very good.
    I'm not a huge fan of the push-pull zoom, but I have gotten quite used it.

    I highly recommend this lens.

    reviewed January 15th, 2007 (purchased for $1,400)
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Incredible Image Quality. Big Aperture. Superior Build-Quality. Super Smooth Controls

    I'm not quite sure how this lens could possibly be any better, except for the addition of IS. This is a phenomenal lens. I didn't add the price to the list of Cons, because at $1,100 I think this lens is a pure bargain.

    Like the 70-200 f/4L, the zoom and focus rings on this lens are as smooth as butter. This lens feels exceptionally tight and solid.

    In comparison to the f/4 lens, I had expected that this f/2.8 lens would have some trade-offs and downsides as result of its larger aperture. But I was wrong. This lens produces the same incredible images with the same fantastic sharpness as the f/4 lens, even down to f/2.8. I expected at least to see some kind drop-off in edge-sharpness, but I was wrong. This lens is perfect.

    The f/2.8 really makes a difference for achieving faster exposures without having to up the ISO. We're talking about being able to capture at twice the shutter speed. I did some quick tests of trying some stop-action captures, and the difference between f/2.8 and f/4 in many cases resulted in getting the shot and not getting the shot . . . one picture stopped and sharp, one picture kinda stopped and slightly blurred. To me, the f/2.8 makes this a feasible indoor lens, although I haven't had a chance to test it in indoors to a great extent. Another benefit of the larger aperture on this lens is that the background blur (bokeh) is even smoother and deeper than on the f/4. You'd certainly expect this to be the case, but the blur on the f/4 is already nice enough such that you don't necessarily think about looking forward to it on the f/2.8 . . . but once you see it, you notice it!

    I really cannot imagine how this lens could be improved, except perhaps by the addition of IS (which you can get for an additional $600!), or by the addition of another 100mm of zoom. I suspect that Canon found a a sweet spot here with the 70-200, where they could achieve a very useful, fairly wide-range zoom without any compromises. The addition of another 100mm would probably make the lens suffer in some way or another, either in sharpness or CA . . . not to mention size and weight, especially at f/2.8. No, this lens is perfect.

    It's important to note that this is Canon's one and only f/2.8 telephoto-zoom lens, and the level of care they've put into making this their flagship telephoto-zoom is evident. It's perfect . . . did I mention that already?

    The only slight negative I can think of mentioning for this lens is the weight. It is about twice as heavy as the f/4 lens, and it's certainly noticeable. The f/4 is about the same weight as the Rebel, and it feels nicely balanced on that body . . . it's almost a perfect match. The f/2.8 is roughly twice the weight of the Rebel, and the balance definitely changes toward the lens. It's hefty enough to make you start thinking about whether you should be attaching your shoulder/neck strap to the lens rather than the camera. So, this is a little compromise, but the performance on this lens is so phenomenal, you forget about the added weight pretty quickly.

    reviewed January 19th, 2007
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Big Aperture, Superior Build-Quality
    Pricey, Barrel Distortion,

    Canon's 'L' lenses are known for their exceptional build quality, and this lens is no exception. Both the zoom and focus rings operate smoothly and solidly.

    The focal-length range may seem rather tight and limited (it amounts to barely more than a 2X zoom), but I still found it be very versatile and was able to use it for a whole range of tasks. More zoom would be nice, but more focal length range tends to result in negative tradeoffs.

    The f/2.8 fixed max aperture is what makes this lens so attractive. I found that at 2.8 at ISO 800, the lens was a very realistic indoor, available-light lens. The 16-35mm focal range is also a much more useful indoor range than, say, a 24-70mm.

    Some problems I encountered with this lens included obvious barrel distortions at at the wider focal lengths and lens flares. Taking pictures of buildings resulted in fairly substantial barrel distortions. While this is something that can be corrected in Photoshop, it's an annoyance that makes this a much less attractive lens for architectural photography. I also found it to be essential to use the petal hood in order to avoid lens flares, particularly in the sun.

    If you really need a solid wide-zoom with the versatility of a 2.8 aperture, this is a hard lens to argue against, particularly if you don't care so much about the barrel distortions. If you don't need the more robust and solid-feeling L-quality body, the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS may be a better choice, as it offers extra zoom, better sharpness, as well as image stabilization and a slightly lower price tag.

    reviewed January 23rd, 2007
  • Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    Big Aperture (f/2.8), Image Stabilization, Relatively light
    Barrel Distortions, Flares, No Macro

    My overall impression of this lens is rather mixed. Perhaps my expectations for this lens were too high. It does very well at some things, but not so well at other things. Despite its positive aspects, I'm having a hard time really liking it, because its limitations do bother me. The truth is that there is no better standard zoom lens for indoor and other low-light conditions. It's hard to complain too much about a lens that will let you take handheld pictures at 1/6sec.

    First the Positives:

    -- This is one of only two of Canon's standard zooms that has a constant f/2.8 aperture, and the only one of the two that has image stablization. This is a big deal. Its ability to take keepable, handheld photos in low-light conditions is unmatched among the standard zooms.

    -- Compared to the metal bodied L-lenses, this is a slightly lighter lens, but it's still fairly hefty.

    -- The lens is pretty darn sharp, but frankly I've had a hard time noticing this so much because edge detail isn't something you're as likely to be looking for on wide angle photos, and this lens doesn't focus especially well on very near subjects where you might be able to more clearly notice detail.

    The Negatives:

    -- Although the lens features a classic zoom range on the 1.6FOVcrop cameras with an equivalent of 27-88mm, it's tighter than I prefer and constantly leaves me wanting more zoom. Having more width than the 24-70 and 24-105 is nice, particularly for indoor shots, but I sure wish there was more zoom!

    -- This is a pricey lens not to have an L-body. It doesn't feel cheap, but it just doesn't have that reassuring solid feel of the metal-bodied lenses.

    -- Barrel Distortions! I like to shoot buildings, and this is definitely not the lens for architecture! The barrel distortions at 17mm are not quite as bad as on some lenses, but still noticeable . . . but what's somewhat surprising is how quickly the lens moves to pincushion distortion as you zoom out. Having to correct every architecture photo I take can get a little annoying.

    -- No Macro! This lens does no Macro focusing at all. I find this especially disappointing, consdering that the 24-70 and 24-105 both do some Macro. Even short of doing Macro, the lens is also just not that great at focusing sharply on relatively close subjects. To me, this really limits the versatility of this lens.

    -- Lens Flares. This isn't an uncommon trait amongst wide-angle lenses, but it's certainly an issue on this lens. The lens hood is essential, and considering the cost of the lens, it seems strange to charge another $45+ for the hood, rather than just providing it up front.

    -- The zoom tension on this lens isn't quite as tight as on the L-lenses, and I've found that the zoom barrel wants to self-extend when I'm carrying my camera off the shoulder. I tend to carry the camera with the lens pointing downward and resting along my body, so it may be more prone to extend in this configuration than with it around your neck . . . but this tendency still bothers and worries me because it leaves the plastic barrel exposed and able to bang into something.

    So, the upshot is that this is a really great lens for indoor photography because it handles low-light conditions so much better than anything else in it's focal-length range. It also makes a fine enough wide-angle landscape lens, but I think its limited zoom makes it much less versatile than the 24-105 or even the 24-70 for outdoor use.

    reviewed February 9th, 2007
  • Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Very sharp through the entire aperture range. Un-matched light gathering power.
    Perhaps the slowish focus speed. Minimum focusable distance is rather long.

    This is such a neat lens to use. It's an enormous piece of glass and looks amazing on any camera. It's light gathering power in dim settings is completely unmatched -- the perfect lens for indoor, no-flash photos. This focal length is much more practical on a full-frame camera (Film, 5D, 1Ds) -- it's a bit too long on the cropped sensors for typical usages. The level of sharpness at the largest aperture (f/1.2) is surprisingly high.

    It's a pretty heavy lens (2.2lbs), but unlike the longer, forward-heavy telephoto lenses, it doesn't necessarily feel that heavy. The auto-focus is a bit slow, particularly when focusing from one end of the range to the other, but I suspect the big aperture tends to help the focus accuracy and once the lens is near the correct focus point, it's relatively quick to hit the mark.

    In Manual-Focus mode, the focus ring doesn't directly control the focus -- instead it's an electro-mechanical ring that impels the focus motor to move the element. It's quick to respond, but the sensation is certainly different.

    One surprising characteristic of this lens is the relatively long minimum focusable distance. The closest you can be is 3.2 feet! That's twice as far as with the 50mm f/1.2L, and still a 1/2ft longer than the 85mm f/1.8. This feels a bit limited, particularly when using it on a full-frame camera and you're trying to close-in on someone's face.

    Overall, a simply wonderful lens!

    reviewed October 12th, 2007
  • Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Super-sharp. Super-fast AF.
    Plasticky body.

    This is one of my favorite lenses. It's fantastically sharp -- its sharpness is especially evident because it's a Macro lens and it's able to reveal such fine details. The auto-focus is blazingly fast -- so fast it sometimes seems instantaneous.

    The lens feels relatively well built, but the plastic body suggests low quality. It's probably fortunate that it doesn't have a metal body, as it would certainly be substantially heavier. Other than having a focus ring that doesn't feel particularly tight, the lens seems fairly solid.

    A superb lens that delivers superb Macro photos!

    reviewed October 12th, 2007