Olympus 50mm f/1.8 OM F.Zuiko8 out of 10 points and recommendedExcellent image quality, small, light, chic, works well with adapters, cheap!Slightly wobby aperture ring, not much "character"
Literally the day before this went up, I wrote a short article about the lens for my blog, where I tested it briefly on a full-frame Canon 5D. I was looking exclusively at its extreme corner performance at f/8. On a Canon 5D I concluded that it is at least as sharp as Canon's EF 50mm f/1.8, in the extreme corner, at f/8. The colour balance seemed to be relatively cool. Mine was a later version, with a serial code that indicates it was made in January 1983, with "Made in Japan" written on the front.reviewed July 9th, 2009 (purchased for $30)
I imagine that its performance on a less pixel-dense sensor than the Four Thirds standard would be very, very good. If the Micro Four Thirds - OM adapter cost $17 rather than $170 it would make sense as a backup. For $200 it is silly. Of note, I have a Pentax Takumar 55mm f/2 which is almost as small as the Zuiko, and seems to perform just as well, at least in the corner at f/8.
It would be interesting to see how the Olympus 24mm f/2.8 fares with such a setup. I have one of these lenses and it is very, very sharp right in the centre even at f/2.8.
Sigma 15-30mm f/3.5-4.5 EX DG Aspherical6 out of 10 points and recommendedVery, very wide. Looks awesome. Very sharp in the centre when stopped down.Not great on full-frame. 15mm setting gets old quickly. Doesn't stand out at narrower focal lengths.
I bought one of these to go on a Kodak DCS 460 (which has a 1.3x sensor crop), but I've also used it on a Nikon D1x, which has a 1.5x sensor crop, and a full-frame Canon 5D, with a Nikon-EOS adapter.reviewed September 17th, 2009 (purchased for $250)
On a physical level it is very impressive. It looks wonderfully imposing and the front element resembles a glistening glowing robot eye. The build quality seems very good, and although it is bulky the lens is not heavy or a pain to carry. The matte finish attracts dings and scrapes.
On a full-frame body I tended to use it at f/8 and f/11, in which case it is very sharp in the centre of the frame, but stretched and blurry around the edges and in the corners. With clever framing and a little bit of cropping this isn't so bad, and the extreme wide angle effect is striking. It has a large "wow" factor that impresses people, although it is not the kind of lens you would use for a client who demands images that are sharp from corner to corner. The 15mm setting is tricky to compose for , and if you point the lens up or down even a little bit, the perspective effect goes beyond striking into the realm of the grotesque. I very rarely used the lens at focal lengths other than 15mm (I have other lenses for that - lenses that have filter threads). Geometric distortion was surprisingly well-controlled. My copy seemed to be blurrier towards the right of the image than it was towards the left. The aperture ring was a bit of a pain to use, because it's small and tucked away in between the camera body and the zoom ring.
On a full frame body there is no way to use a polarising filter unless the filter is a foot in diameter, and it would be extremely hard to use a graduated neutral density filter. There is a filter slot at the rear of the lens, and I experimented by putting coloured bits of plastic in this, but I was always worried that the filter would fall out and ruin the shutter curtains, so I gave up on it. On an APS-C D1x I had some success holding a neutral density filter against the lens hood, although I had to angle it slightly to prevent it reflecting the things that were behind me. Even if you had a foot-wide polarising filter you would run into problems with reflections on the glass.
The lens has a reputation for "Sigma yellow", and I can attest to this. That images that I took with this lens tended to have a mild yellow cast; my fingers became yellow, skies tended to look a bit duskier. It's not awful and you can correct it.
On a D1x or DCS 460 the lens makes more sense, because the offending corners and edges are cropped out. The problem is that, since the 15-30mm was released, there has been a wave of designed-for-digital APS-C ultrawide lenses that are much smaller and allow for the easy use of a front filter. On a D1x the supplied filter holder produced vignetting at 15mm, and although this went away when I zoomed in, I didn't buy a lens with a 15mm wide angle setting so that I could use it at 20mm. I bought it so that I could use it at 15mm.
Flare control is very poor. If you point it towards or just away from the moon or the sun or a street light you will either have a big blob of flare, or the image contrast will vanish.
If you're in a situation where you need a wide angle lens to fit on both a full-frame and a cropped sensor camera (e.g. perhaps you have a digital SLR, but you also like to shoot film with your Nikon N90 every so often), this is one of a very few choices. Indeed it is one of a very few full frame lenses that goes wider than 16mm. In my opinion, if you have an APS-C camera, you would be better off with a dedicated APS-C wide lens; if you have a full frame camera there isn't anything that will go this wide for less than £900 short of using a fisheye lens and software correction. For the novelty alone it intrigues you.
As far as I know it was discontinued by Sigma in favour of the newer 12-24mm, which is the widest full-frame zoom lens ever made, and one of the widest lenses of any kind ever made. Based on the samples I have seen the 12-24mm is less sharp than the 15-30mm in the centre of the frame, and it has all of the 15-30mm's practical problems, but its geometric correction is excellent and it is unique.
Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 AD Aspherical IF Macro SP AF7 out of 10 points and recommendedNice and sharp at 24 to about 60mm; solid buildVery large and bulky; unimpressive at 135mm
I owned one of these for a few months at the beginning of 2009, after reading a favourable review at Photozone.de. I went on holiday to Morocco and needed a "do-everything" lens for my Canon 5D, and this seemed a good choice. On a full-frame camera the focal range is almost exactly the same as the modern, Canon 15-85mm EF-S. Unlike the newer lens it does not have image stabilisation. The lens is only available on the used market and cost me round £120.reviewed November 22nd, 2009 (purchased for $160)
It's an older design that dates from 2000 - it was released as part of Tamron's 50th birthday celebrations and as far as I can tell every one has a special "50th Birthday" logo on the lens cap. I used it mostly at 24mm, and it was very sharp in the middle at f/8. Towards the corners, the outer 15% or so were soft and the very extreme 5% was muddy and had very noticeable vignetting. There was also noticeable barrel distortion, although correcting this had the positive effect of cropping off the muddy corners.
Up until about 60mm it remained good but suffered from obvious pincushion beyond that. F6.3 at 135mm was unimpressive around the edges but still decent in the middle. Zoom lenses that start at 24mm are fairly rare and I suspect Tamron wanted to beat the range of Canon's 28-135mm. This is a shame, because if Tamron's lens was restricted to 24-105mm (say) and optimised for those focal lengths it would deserve a few more stars.
On a physical level it felt well-made, and my sample was thankfully free of dust. It had a turn-zoom design. Mechanically, the focus mechanism whined a lot but focused accurately. Unfortunately the focus ring is coupled to the autofocus motor and rotates as the lens focuses, which means that unless you hold the lens daintily by the zoom ring only, the focus ring will catch your hand. And because the focus ring is covered with grippy, ribbed rubber, it'll hurt!
It's a girthsome lens that extends as you zoom in. Ultimately I got fed up with the bulk, and because I used it at 24mm most of the time I sold the lens and opted for a 24mm prime. It's often compared with the Canon 28-135mm, which is slightly less wide, apparently not quite as sharp, but has image stabilisation.
Canon EF 24mm f/2.87 out of 10 points and recommendedSharp in the very middle at all apertures; sharp almost to the corners at f/8; small; light; good colour, contrastFeels redundant - you really have to want it; overpriced; physically old-fashioned
I wanted a small, wide autofocus prime lens for my full-frame Canon 5D. I already have a superb 24mm lens - a tiny Olympus 24mm f/2.8 that I use with an OM-EOS adapter - but I find myself running out of patience with manual stop-down and zone focus. I want something that I can use on the fly, on the hoof, in changing conditions, one-handed, so that the camera is an extension of my will instead of an apparatus that I have to hold and operate.reviewed January 17th, 2010
Canon's prime range appears to be almost uniformly great above 50mm; at 50mm it is variable but generally very solid; wider than 50mm it is variable. The 35/f2 seemed like a good choice but is apparently soft in the corners, the 20/f2.8 comes across as a dog, the two 28s don't appeal to me. The L primes including the 24mm f/1.4 are no doubt superb, but if I had £1,000 to spend on a lens I wouldn't spend it on a lens, I'd spend it on a fortnight's holiday to Italy. The fast zooms that encompass the 24mm focal length are also large and expensive, and the 24-80mm I used to own wasn't great at 24mm. The Tamron 24-135mm I also used to own was good at 24mm but bulky.
Which leaves the 24mm f/2.8. It's is one of Canon's oldest primes, and is a fairly obscure lens. The only sustained piece of writing about it on the internet is a piece at Prime Junta, written by "psulonen", who is one of the reviewers below. The lens is obscure because its full-frame focal length overlaps with a bunch of popular zooms, including the 17-40mm, and so most photographers already have something that is as wide or wider. If you have the 24-70/f2.8 it doesn't even have speed on its side.
Physically the lens is plastic, slightly more girthsome than I expected. The autofocus goes vzzz but the focus travel is so small that moving from infinity to close-up takes a split-second. The tiny manual focus ring rotates freely when in autofocus mode.
On my 5D it's sharp in the middle at all apertures, with roughly the outer 10% of the corners being mushy at f/2.8. At f/8 roughly the outer 5% at the corners are mushy (the edges are fine, and to be fair this corner softness tends to be lost in grass, soil etc at the bottom of the frame). There's a certain, mild amount of red/cyan fringing, which is fixed with a setting of -20 red/cyan in ACR. At 24mm and f/2.8 it's hard to throw the background out of focus, but to my eye the background blur looks a bit "busy", with lots of well-defined circles rather than a smooth paste.
One thing I have noticed is that, at closer focus ranges, the lens is less wide than my Olympus 24mm f/2.8. Based on the samples I have shot, the Olympus lens is sharper across more of the frame, but of course it's more fiddly to use. This leaves me in a quandry, though. If I go on holiday it would be silly to pack both; it would be irritating to waste time fiddly with a manual focus, manual stop-down lens; it would be silly to not capture foreign scenery with the best optical quality I can afford. These conflicting requirements gnaw at my mental well-being.
Colour and contrast are subjective things. To my eye it seems to be a colourful, contrasty lens, rather than a washed-out yellow mess as per the Sigma 15-30mm I was glad to get rid of. My copy at least seems to have a slightly purple bias.
I don't have a formal test set-up, and of course I'm biased in favour of a lens I paid for with my own pocket. I'm not likely to go on the internet and tell the world that I bought a lemon. Nonetheless SLRGear's test results seem unusually pessimistic. The review at Photozone.de suggests that the lens has pronounced field curvature, which might explain why it seems to perform so poorly at f/2.8.
On a crop-sensor camera it would be a decent walkabout 31-38mm depending on whether you have a 1.3x or 1.6x camera. I have an old Kodak DCS 560, which is a Canon-mount digital SLR with a 1.3x crop sensor, and in that context it's a handy all-purpose lens that is sharp across the frame one stop down. The problem with this is that almost all crop-sensor zooms are sharp across the frame one stop down, and a lot of them have image stabilisation as well.
Would I recommend it? If you have a crop-sensor camera it doesn't make a lot of sense although it is generally sharp across the frame. If you have a 24-70mm f/2.8 it's almost pointless. If you're going abroad and you need to pack light and small - this is me - it makes a certain amount of sense. Cropping off the outer 5% improves the image quality greatly although it's still not quite as good as my Olympus 24mm, which admittedly is a vintage manual focus lens that only works with an OM-EOS adapter. 24mm is noticeably wide but relatively mundane by modern standards; it's not eye-popping. At the retail price of about £350 it's overpriced for what it is. It seems to be the best mid-range wide Canon prime although it's a shame that it's not objectively the best mid-range wide prime.
Canon EF 28mm f/2.86 out of 10 points and not recommendedSmall, very cheap, sharp and good walkabout range on APS-CAncient design, not great on full-frame, redundant
There's an odd thing; I have a Canon 24mm f/2.8, which has a terrible blur plot here at SLRGear but performs well on my full-frame Canon 5D MkII when stopped down to f/8. It is sharp in the extreme corners at that aperture and beyond. I also have a 28mm f/2.8, which is the other way around, in the sense that SLRGear's profile is glowing but my copy, at least, is very unimpressive.reviewed May 5th, 2010
Having said that, my lens was made in August 1987, so it's almost as old as the EOS system itself and might have been knocked about. The optical design apparently dates from the FD era. The lens is still in production, unchanged since it was introduced, although it is overshadowed (and should really have been dropped in favour of) the 28mm f/1.8. For a while it was, I assume, a popular "second lens" for people who bought a Canon Rebel SLR and a 35-80mm kit zoom combination. Subsequently it has assumed a role as a decent "normal" lens on APS-C digital cameras, although Canon's modern 18-55mm IS is nowadays a much better choice.
On a full-frame camera, my copy of the lens is sharp in the middle at all apertures, with a bit of glow at f/2.8, but it gets very sharp when stopped down. However the corners are no better than my old 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 zoom lens, and are objectively not great, even when stopped right down. The extreme edges are downright mushy at wider apertures than f/5.6. The 24mm f/2.8 is much better in this respect. I have no complaints with regards to colour and contrast.
On a physical level it has a noisy focus mechanism and a titchy manual focus ring. It's built to a higher standard than the 50mm f/1.8 but not by much. It doesn't seem particularly robust but then again my copy is twenty-three years old and still works. The 24mm f/2.8 doesn't rotate or extend during operation, whereas the 28mm f/2.8 has a filter thread section that moves in and out when focusing. As with the 50mm f/1.8 MkII I am wary of screwing anything too tightly into the thread.
It appears to be the second-cheapest Canon prime lens on the used market, after the 50mm f/1.8, because nobody really wants it. The 50mm f/1.8 is one of those lenses that people buy and keep because it fills a niche and it has emotional appeal. The 28mm feels anonymous and a bit pointless. There are oodles of cheap old manual focus 28mm lenses out there, some of which are excellent performers - the Olympus OM 28mm f/2, f/2.8 and f/3.5, for example, and also the Contax/Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 Distagon. The Zeiss will set you back a bit, but you could buy a pair Olympus 28mm f/3.5's for the price of a used Canon 28mm f/2.8 and pay for the postage too.
And that is that. Even in the 1990s it had been made redundant by a legion of 24, 28-Something zoom lenses. On a full-frame camera the corner sharpness is insufficient for my needs, and on a crop-sensor camera it offers very little over a decent zoom lens.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM9 out of 10 points and recommendedSolid; consistent image quality; extremely practicalHeavy; huge; awkward tripod foot
I've had one of these for a while. As of 2011 it still costs a fortune on the used market, but it's very good at what it does, and although there are compromises they are overwhelmed by the sheer practicality of the thing. It was sickeningly painful handing over the cash for it - the same money will buy a used 85mm f/1.2, or a brand-new non-stabilised 70-200mm f/2.8, for example, and that's a tough choice - but and but and and etc. Man up, hand over the cash, take the blow.reviewed October 21st, 2011
A few competing lenses have slightly better image quality (Tamron makes a very nice 70-200mm f/2.8, for half the price) but none of them have the same combination of dependably accurate autofocus, solid image stabilisation, and excellent build quality. Canon's quality control often comes in for some stick, but centring defects and focus faults seem to be far, far more common with the competition.
On my 5D MkII I have no problem with central sharpness at f/2.8 at all focal lengths. At 200mm it's a tiny little bit soft, by a trivial amount that does not bother me. The corners lag behind (the extremes never seem to become 100% sharp) but they're usually outside the plane of focus anyway. In all other respects - distortion, CA, bokeh, falloff, etc - I have no problem with the lens.
No, I have one problem. The minimum focus distance is a bit long. It's about one and a half metres, and limits my ability on a full-frame body to get tight on faces. Two problems, the tripod foot gets in the way and it's not large enough to use as a handhold (and if I remove it, there's an exposed screw). The reversed hood blocks the switches.
With the hood on it's very conspicuous. The f/4 lenses and the older 80-200mm f/2.8 have plain, bowl-shaped hoods that are emotionally neutral; the f/2.8 models used a spiky, shark-like hood that has an intimidating look. With the hood off the lens is less huge than it appears in photos. You may, or may not like the attention it gets you. Actual pro photographers will peg you as an amateur straightaway, because it's not the MkII. Ordinary people will peg you as an ambulance-chasing paparazzi or, worse, an American tourist.
Historically this was the top of Canon's tree, the quintessential general-purpose photojournalist telephoto lens throughout most of the 2000s; an actual bona fide professional lens used by real professionals. Like most professional products it's essentially a mass of compromises raised to a high level. For less money a 135mm f/2 will give you superior image quality, but only at 135mm.
Nowadays it has been overshadowed by the MkII, which is optically superior and has a more advanced stabilisation system. Based on the plots here the f/4 lenses are similar across the shared aperture range, although they apparently have slightly inferior bokeh. I wanted f/2.8.
Oh yes, unusually for Canon you get some accessories. The hood, which costs £50 separately or £7.50 for an eBay clone, and a bag which is actually not bad. And the caps.