RadiantLite's reviews

  • Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    great value, fast focusing, compact and sturdy, great color and contrast, sharp at f/2.8 and beyond
    soft below f/2.8

    Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM is probably the best value Canon lens. The quality of the image is very good, big aperture allow low light hand held shot and create a shallow depth of field. The auto focus is quiet and very fast.

    Build quality of this lens is very good, feels very solid and definitely a step up from kit lens. It is relatively short and light weight compared to general purpose lens (3.0" x 2.8", 15.0 oz. / 75.0 x 71.5mm, 425g).

    Application of this lens will be portrait, indoor sport (basketball, volleyball), art performance and candid photography.

    Using this lens for soft and sharp images

    Wide open at f/1.8, this lens is soft but create a very nice 'bokeh' great for girls portraits.

    at f/2.8, the center of the image is very sharp, my favorite setting for general portraits and sports.

    at f/4 and above, the image is very sharp edge to edge, especially f/8 where you get the maximum sharpness.

    There is nothing that I can complain about this lens at this price point because it has very good built quality, excellent in low light especially freezing motion, and awesome for portraits. It worth every penny. I recommend this lens in addition to your general purpose kit lens.

    Check out sample photos and other review at http://www.radiantlite.com

    reviewed June 12th, 2009 (purchased for $350)
  • Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    contrast, depth of field, built-quality, AF speed

    I bought Canon Macro 100mm for fun, because of the deep cashback from live.com in the thanksgiving week. First I think if I don't like it, I will sell it, but the lens is just too amazing to be sold.

    Canon Macro 100mm is quite affordable and do a fantastic job. No wonder a lot of professional use and recommend it. The lens is primarily use for macro, for small things. The lens have ability to focus really close to object so that the camera can capture a life size image.

    The depth of field is very shallow, especially wide open at f/2.8 as you can see in some samples that I have uploaded. So, f/8 or higher is recommended if you want to capture a sharp object.

    But the shallow depth of field is not bad thing for many people, it helps the photographer to point out where is the most interesting part of the picture.

    The focal length of 100mm, make it ideal for portrait lens because it flattens out the facial features and blur the background making the subject more appealing especially girls portraits.

    The color contrast is also very good, it turns everyday boring object becomes interesting.

    Physically, the lens are slightly longer and heavier than most general purpose lens, the built quality is almost similar to 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM and slightly better than 50mm, 85mm primes.

    The focusing bar is big make manual adjustment becoming very easy (manual focus is important for Macro work to ensure accurate focusing, although the auto focus is very fast due to USM (UltraSonic Motor). We can adjust the focusing to macro range (close up) or standard to long range.

    This lens focal length is bit too long for indoor shot and in crop sensor camera (Rebel series, and X0D series) but ideal for full frame camera (5D, 1D(s) series), but it is perfect for outdoor.

    Other alternative for APC-S camera is the EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM which is smaller more suitable indoor and have almost equal price and image quality. The drawback is the EF-S lens can't be use in full frame camera if you want to upgrade later.

    For sample photos and other reviews, please visit

    reviewed June 12th, 2009 (purchased for $600)
  • Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    compact, very sharp wide open, good color contrast, bokeh
    lack of stabilization

    One of the best and sharpest lens around. Great for portraits.

    Check out

    for sample photos and video tour

    reviewed June 13th, 2009 (purchased for $1,100)
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    sharp, lightweight, IS
    maximum aperture of f/4

    Sharpest telephoto zoom in the market. IS works like wonder. Lightweight despite the focal length. This lens is worth every penny.

    check out sample photos here:

    reviewed June 13th, 2009 (purchased for $1,100)
  • Pentax 40mm f/2.8 Limited SMC P-DA

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    tiny, great image quality

    Pentax 40mm f/2.8 limited is an exotic lens which can produce a really nice image quality even wide open at f/2.8. Physically, it is very small and thin even with the lens hood attached. (When you buy this lens you will get the lens hood and also nice small leather pouch). It can focus pretty close 30cm to infinity. When you focus in, the lens will rotate and protrude around 1/2 inch. At around 165g, this lens is very light, basically you'll feel like you are only carrying a camera without lens, which is good for portability.

    Check out http://www.radiantlite.com/2008/12/pentax-40mm-f28-limited-review.html
    for sample photo and reviews

    reviewed June 13th, 2009 (purchased for $300)
  • Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    sharp wide open, fast focusing

    One of the best 50mm lens ever made. Image quality is very good and sharp even at wide open f/1.4. The AF performs very fast and accurate. Great for indoor sport and low light condition. Highly recommended.

    Check out
    for sample photos and more reviews

    reviewed June 13th, 2009 (purchased for $575)
  • Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 II EX DG Macro HSM APO

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    image quality, bokeh, very sharp at center of image, price
    not very sharp edge to edge, lack of stabilization

    Sigma 70-200mm is one of important alternative for Nikon shooters, especially for sports photographer. Mounted in Nikon D700, it delivers great image quality, sharpness and a smooth bokeh.

    About the sharpness
    Sigma 70-200mm meets my expectation, the images are detailed and sharp even pixel peeped. Bokeh is very smooth. For comparison, the sharpness is close to Canon EF 70-200mm f4 is which is regarded as a ultra sharp lens. if f4 has score of 10, the sigma will get score of 9.

    Auto Focus performance
    Not as quick as USM, but with d700 51 points tracking system. it tracks movement in basketball arena very well. It is quiet, and snap on.

    a little bit comment about the D700 shutter, it is very sensitive. only need a little bit pressure to focus/track.

    Please check out

    for sample photos and other review

    reviewed June 13th, 2009 (purchased for $750)
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor

    0 out of 10 points and recommended
    Built quality, bokeh, sharpness
    Slow AF

    Nikkor AF 85mm f/1.4D has been hailed as legendary lens for Nikon DSLR or film camera. I think it is because of its unique characteristic but also its age. This lens has been around for thirteen years.

    Image Quality and characteristic
    Mounted in Nikon full frame camera D700, the lens is sharp at maximum aperture of f/1.4D, which is excellent. Stopped down to f/2.8, the lens become very sharp. But extreme sharpness is not what this lens is made for. It is primarily made for its ability in low light condition, and its ability to create a beautiful out of focus effect in background or foreground.

    Because of those characteristic and its fixed focal length, this lens is ideal for portrait. It is also good for candid portraiture such as in wedding. For Nikon pro wedding shooters, this lens is one of must have lens.

    Unfortunately, this lens suffers a bit from purple fringing in high contrast area (see sample pic below), it is also susceptible to flare, but not as bad as other lenses.

    Auto Focus operation
    Because Nikon 85mm f/1.4D does not have built-in motor focus like modern lenses (AF-S) lens, it relies on camera body to focus. It speed will also depend on the camera body. The more higher-end model such as Nikon D700, D3 or D3X will focus faster than the entry-level camera.

    When mounted in Nikon D700, the lens focus very fast. Unfortunately entry level user such as Nikon D40, D40X and D60 only can use manual focus because the camera body doesn't have the capability to focus AF lenses. This lens also create some noise when focusing because lack of Silent Wave Motor.

    In sport games such as basketball, the lens has difficulty in continuous tracking. It fails to lock on the object properly resulting in many blur image. I don't recommend it for sports.

    Build Quality
    Built quality of this lens is awesome, it is average in size and weight and very nice to handle. The focus ring is smooth. Closest focusing is 85cm, make it not very ideal for macro / close-up photography.

    It will come with "metal" lens hood. Unfortunately the lens hood it screw in type and you can't reverse it for more compact storage. In spite of that, the lens hood is fully metal, so it is better than regular plastic type and a lot more durable.

    Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D vso 85mm f/1.8D
    Compare to f/1.8D version, This lens is 2.5 times more expensive, the cheaper lens is not as sharp as f/1.4D in its maximum aperture of f/1.8. At f/2.8, the sharpness is almost equal. The build quality is also a lot worse than the f/1.4D. But the 85mm f/1.8 is more compact and portable.

    In Conclusion
    You might want to get this lens because of several reasons:

    You frequently shoot at extremely low light condition which f/1.4D is often needed

    You are concern about artistic, especially smooth background blur.

    You might not want this lens if you are looking for the sharpest lens from edge to edge of the image. (The lens is designed to be sharp in the center "focus" and soft in the corner).

    Don't buy this lens for indoor sports, it is better to get either f/2.8 telephoto zoom lens or lighting equipment.

    Please check out http://www.radiantlite.com/2009/01/sigma-70-200mm-f28-ex-dg-macro-hsm-ii.html for sample photos and more reviews.

    reviewed June 13th, 2009 (purchased for $1,050)
  • Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X 116 PRO DX SD

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    built quality, image quality, big aperture
    color fringing

    Tokina 11-16mm is the best super-wide angle lens up to date. The build quality of the lens is very good. The image quality is excellent in any aperture and focal length. Auto focus is fast and quiet.

    Unlike Canon EF-S which have a smaller aperture of f3.5-4.5, and also is not compatible with full frame body, Tokina 11-16mm have a constant aperture of f/2.8 and compatible with full frame body up to 15mm which is great. It is also slightly cheaper.

    The constant aperture of f/2.8 made this lens great for low light and also good enough to create shallow depth of field.

    The limitation of this lens will be the zoom length. 11-16mm definitely shorter than Canon EF-S 10-22mm, Sigma 10-20mm, Nikon 12-24mm, and ultra wide lens from Tamron. (Tokina is available for Nikon cameras as well).

    There is also no manual focus override, you need to push-pull the focus bar to change focusing mode.

    Overall this lens is great in super wide angle category. If you are in love with the ultra-wide coverage for landscape, architecture (outdoor and indoor), and some of photojournalistic work (close crowd shots), then this lens is a must have.

    Please check http://www.radiantlite.com/2009/01/tokina-at-x-116-11-16mm-f28-pro-dx-for.html for sample photos, video and more reviews

    reviewed June 13th, 2009 (purchased for $650)
  • Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    compact/short, great value, constant big aperture, great image quality and bokeh
    AF switch, fat/big diameter

    I bought this lens several months ago because I need a wide zoom lens for my full frame DSLr camera, Nikon D700. Previously I use Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 and Nikkor 35mm f/2.8, but I feel I switching lenses all the time is quite cumbersome for type of photography I like to do, event photography.

    This lens is regarded as high-end lens, the one usually used by serious photographers such as professionals and advanced amateur photographers.

    Nikon does not have many lens optimized for full frame camera. Nikon does offers Nikon 24-70mm AF-S f/2.8, but it is simply too expensive considering I am not full time photographer.

    Fortunately, last year, Sigma launched 24-70mm f/2.8 HSM. This lens attracts my attention especially because I can use it in full frame camera or crop frame camera (Nikon D90. D300, D60, etc). Here is the list why this lens is attractive:

    * Price: More than half the price compare to Nikon AF-S 24-70mm
    * Size: It is compact, but the diameter is big. It takes 82mm filter.
    * Built Quality: Great built quality, typical of Sigma EX (high-end lens)
    * Image Quality: Sharp, good contrast, consistent result across focal length and aperture. Smooth bokeh but not as good as prime lens such as 85mm f/1.4
    * Focal Length: 24mm is quite wide for many purpose although if you primarily take ultra-wide angle, consider Nikon 17-35mm or 14-24mm. 70mm is decent range, not too long and not too short.
    * Auto Focus: Quiet and fast, tracks well thanks to HSM (hypersonic motor).

    Despite all of above, there are couple things that I personally do not like: Sometimes, the auto focus switch automatically switch to manual focus. Until now, I don't know what trigger it. Although I like the compact size (short), but I feel the lens is not as comfortable to hold as the thinner, 77mm lens.

    I highly recommend this lens for anybody who love "affordable" high quality lens. The lens works very well in full frame DSLR cameras, but it also works great in crop sensor camera. You can get a lot of value out of this lens even though you have crop sensor camera.

    The only difference of mounting the lens on crop sensor camera will be the focal length. In crop sensor camera, it is equivalent to around 35-105mm. It might not wide enough in tight space, but looking at the positive side, you gain 35mm of extra focal length, which is great for head and shoulder portrait.

    I posts several sample images in my blog http://www.radiantlite.com

    reviewed July 5th, 2009 (purchased for $900)
  • Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    versatile, image quality
    no USM, price/value

    Canon EF-S 18-135mm IS is an affordable all purpose lens designed especially for Canon beginner digital SLR camera users. The built quality are very similar to Canon Rebel XS, XSi and T1i body. It does not feel heavy and too long.

    Focal length of 18-135mm (equivalent to 29-216mm) is very versatile. It is wide enough for indoor or long enough for outdoor.

    There is no USM (ultra sonic motor) in the lens, so it will make a a bit of noise when the lens auto focus is activated. AF is moderately fast and very good for everyday use.

    Image quality is very good, although it is certainly not as good as expensive high grade Canon L lenses. Bokeh is round and quite pleasing. Check out sample images at


    reviewed November 15th, 2009 (purchased for $450)
  • Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR DX AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    compact, focal length, consistent image quality
    slow aperture

    It is one of the best general purpose lens for Nikon DX cameras.

    Please Check out complete review and image samples at


    reviewed January 13th, 2010 (purchased for $500)