Gromit's reviews

  • Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    IQ, build, speed, compact size
    Bad purple fringing at 1.8

    Having sampled the delights of the Nifty Fifty on my EOS 7D, I thought that it'd be fun to go slightly longer and get the 85/1.8. I wasn't disappointed.

    Bad bits first...

    Purple fringing can be quite bad at f1.8, plus the lens is very edge-soft when wide-open.

    Good bits, as there are loads of 'em...

    Once stopped past f2.5 it blossoms into a wonderful bit of photo-taking glass. USM is fast, the bright viewfinder also a major bonus. In terms of sharpness and richness of colour/IQ it beats my 24-105L easily - in fact the combo of 50/1.8 & 85/1.8 has really got me thinking to I really need the 24-105L? I'm thinking not - just the 'red ring snob' in me makes me keep the L glass.

    Very highly recommended - just don't take pictures of chrome/silver-plated stuff at f1.8!

    reviewed November 3rd, 2013
  • Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4 R

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Pretty much everything
    Cannot think of anything

    I'll say it here and now - this is one of the best pieces of glass I've owned. It's small, light, beautifully built, has stunning image quality - even wide open it's super-sharp with the smallest amount of softening at the edges. A perfect 'people' lens - I just bung it on 1.4 and leave it there 90% of the time. No excuses such as 'ooh I need to stop it down to sharpen it up' needed with this lens. Very highly recommended.

    reviewed March 31st, 2014 (purchased for $450)
  • Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Fabulous IQ - up with the very best
    Er...haven't found any yet!

    I got this to complete my 3-lens set for my recently bought X-Pro1 and it's just blown me away. It's beautifully made, light, works very smoothly. The zoom ring is still quite stiff but this should loosen off over time I think. Also it does extend a LONG way when thrown out to 200mm - that really is it for downsides, if they really are? The upshot though is the image quality which is staggeringly good - I simply cannot fault it. A 55-200mm zoom, with OIS which is cheaper, and as good as a Canon 70-200 F4L IS? You betcha.

    I'm delighted with it, and whilst it's really the only choice for Fujistas who need a longer f/l they need not be disappointed. This is a cracker of a lens.

    reviewed March 23rd, 2014 (purchased for $550)
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Fabulous IQ - ridiculously good for the money
    Truly cheap build quality

    I bought this as a used lens from my Canon dealer a couple of weeks ago, in preparation for our summer holiday and had just enough time to get a feel for it - both in the hand and for its performance - before we went away. Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first...

    Build quality - it's very light, it rattles a bit, and feels like I could break it squeezing it in one hand. It doesn't always lock-on first time with focusing, USM lenses are better in this respect.


    Its image quality is beautiful - I've now started to realise why the pro's say that 'every Canon owner should have one in his/her bag'. It's soft at f1.8 and doesn't really start to sing until f2.8 but from then on it's a dream. Rich colours, and with pin-sharp resolution that even shades my 17-40L. Its compact size and low weight make my camera feel so much more wieldy too.

    By far and away the best £60 I've ever spent on camera gear. I LOVE this lens.

    reviewed August 31st, 2013 (purchased for $80)
  • Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD SP AF

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Focus speed, solid build, great IQ, 5 yr warranty (UK)
    Stiff zoom ring...that's it!

    I bought this lens a few months ago, and tried to do a lot of homework before visiting my photographic dealer, discounting several lenses which didn't reach the starting grid. I then short-listed 2 Canons - 70-200 F4L USM (non-IS) and the much-loved 70-300 IS USM. The salesman threw in the Tamron as a wild card and I'm seriously glad he did.

    We spent 2 hours in the store making detailed comparisons using my MacBook (with 2 other guys in the shop offering very valued, experienced but un-biased opinion) including making crops of each image. On all settings, the Tamron edged out the Canon 70-300 fairly easily, and the Canon was excellent to start with! Against the 70-200 F4L, the Tamron loses slightly when wide open, but once stopped down to F5.6/8 the differences were extremely hard to find, with the Tamron only losing <very> marginally at the corners. In several of the images I took, we really couldn't tell any difference between the Tamron and the Canon L - it even came to the point that we couldn't remember which images were from which lens, they were that close.

    Downsides? It's slightly soft at 300mm/F5.6-8 but as I very rarely go there it's a non-issue. The zoom ring is also stiff at the moment, hoping this eases off over time. It's also a big lens - and I have large hands. I'm also not a big fan of the zoom ring being at the front of the lens and that it turns opposite way to my other lens (Canon 17-40 F4L) which feels odd at the moment. Not a deal-breaker though.

    Doesn't feel special like the L lens either, but of course not much does and it would be cruel to expect a 300GBP lens to do so

    For one 1/3 the price of the Canon 70-200 IS (L) the Tamron is surely a great buy and very highly recommended.

    reviewed June 22nd, 2013 (purchased for $460)
  • Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    Excellent IQ, nicely built, light
    Doesn't feel 'special' for the price.

    I've had this lens a couple of months now, it replaced a Tokina AF193 (19-35mm) zoom which a friend had kindly let me borrow. Used on an EOS 40D, the upgrade on the Tokina has been obvious, but to be honest not the earth-shattering improvement I'd expected - proof that the Tokina is a very good little lens. The 17-40L was clearly better when compared to the EF-S 17-85 & 15-85 (I tried them back to back in the shop) though.

    Good: There's a sense of 'rightness' about its image quality, it's very sharp pretty much from the get-go and doesn't seem to mind where the F-stop is set. The lens is nice and light too.

    Not so good: Optically, my Sigma 10-20mm/f4-5.6 is sharper from 17-20mm when stopped down. It doesn't <feel> special - the zoom ring whilst quite smooth, feels slightly cheap. Ditto the focusing ring. For what I paid (540GBP) I'd expect better. Doesn't feel anywhere near as solid as my old Nikkor AI lenses did, for example. Different era though, to be fair.

    The photos the 17-40 takes are very good though, and I have no real complaints.

    reviewed June 23rd, 2013 (purchased for $850)
  • Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Build, excellent IQ, price
    Soft in corners until f8

    Bought this little beauty very recently and have put upwards of 200 shots through it at a guess. Getting used to having an UWA has been loads of fun (was quite novelty to start with) and I think this lens will spend more time on my EOS 40D than my others - it's just so darn useful!

    Good: It's neatly built - not quite up to L-Series standards of course - but zoom and focus action is very smooth and well-damped. Finish is good too. It's sharp in the centre from wide open, improving markedly by f8 which is where its sweet spot lies.

    Bad: At the price? Not much really - it's soft at the corners when wide open, there's some CA present when focusing close-up. I have heard stories of variable quality between different examples - seems Sigma's QC isn't always up to scratch.

    Summary: Great value for money, nicely built and great performing lens. I'm extremely happy with mine.

    reviewed June 28th, 2013 (purchased for $450)
  • Tokina 19-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF 193

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sharp optics, built like a tank, bargain price
    None, especially when it's so cheap.

    A friend of mine kindly let me borrow his AF193 whilst I was deciding on a 'full time' lens for my EOS 40D. To my surprise (especially at the price) the Tokina is superb.

    Good: It's beautifully built, feeling very solid. It's sharp right to the corners when stopped down beyond f5.6 and focuses very quickly. I did a back-to-back with my Canon 17-40L today and in good light (ie sunshine outdoors) the Tokina is virtually identical, only with the Canon showing slightly richer colours. If anything, the Tokina is slightly sharper!

    Bad: Seems cruel to criticise at this price.

    Summary: If there's a true bargain out there in photo-land it's called the Tokina AF193. I'm seriously considering selling my 17-40L and going FF, using the Tokina as a super wide-angle. It's a fabulous little lens. Buy one (for not much £!) and enjoy it.

    reviewed July 3rd, 2013