jt354's reviews

  • Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    IQ, IS, price, small size and lightweight
    Rotating filter thread, plastic mount, poor zoom/focus ring damping

    I picked up a "used" copy of this lens in new condition for $80 on ebay, and so far I couldn't be happier. The lens is sharp wide open; stopped down it is nearly indistinguishable from the $700 17-40L I used to own. Color and contrast are excellent, and lens flare and chromatic aberrations are well-controlled. Autofocus is very accurate, though somewhat slow and noisy. The front filter thread rotates during both AF and MF, complicating the use of polarizers, gradient filters, and rectangular systems.

    IS performance is good, by my estimate ~2-3 stops. Construction quality is terrible, as expected for the price. The plastic mount doesn't inspire confidence in the lens' longevity. The zoom ring is neither smooth nor well damped, requiring more effort to turn near 18mm. Manual focus is nearly impossible without using the camera's live view function.

    reviewed May 9th, 2010 (purchased for $81)
  • Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    No 3-position focus limiter, incompatible with EF extenders, no tripod ring

    The 100mm 1:2.8 macro is a nearly-perfect lens. On a crop-sensor 40D, it's tack sharp wide open with no apparent distortion and relatively low CA. It produces vibrant, contrasty images at all ranges from 1:1 to infinity focus. The focus ring is not L quality, but it is fairly smooth and has a great range of travel for precise adjustments. Internal focus is a nice bonus compared to the Sigma 105mm and Tamron 90mm macros. Autofocus is reasonably fast, and a focus limiter aids in focusing at portrait range and longer (.48m-infinity). Unfortunately, there is no way to limit focus to macro ranges (1:1-1:5), and the AF occasionally hunts when set to full range.

    Construction quality is very good. The lens feels solid, has a metal mount (and probably metal internals), and balances well on Canon's larger bodies. Near the base is a cutaway for a tripod ring, which is not included and costs a fortune to buy aftermarket. A flange behind the rear element prevents the 100mm macro from mounting to EF teleconverters, and the lens also lacks the extra "extender" electrical contacts. Finally, it's cheaper than the Nikon version!

    reviewed May 9th, 2010 (purchased for $540)
  • Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

    6 out of 10 points and not recommended
    Lightweight, USM, IS
    Optical quality, zoom creep, zoom range on 1.6x

    I received this lens with purchase of my 40D, and sold it on ebay within a few months. The focal range is impressive, but 28mm on the wide end renders it nearly useless as a walkaround/landscape lens on crop. Image quality is nothing spectacular. The zoom creep is very annoying, and the manual focus ring is trash. For a $200 surcharge, the 28-135mm is a reasonably good lens. For $400 retail, it's a waste of money.

    reviewed May 9th, 2010
  • Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Build quality, color and contrast, FF compatibility, distortion performance

    I bought this lens for use on a crop camera with the intention of upgrading to full-frame. This was a mistake, as circumstances prevented me from upgrading and the 17-40L's advantages are wasted on 1.6x sensors.

    Image quality is very good. My copy was strange in that it was tack sharp at close-focus distances and merely ok at infinity. Color saturation and contrast are excellent, flare was only an issue when used with rectangular filters directly into the sun, and CA and distortion are well controlled. Close focus is great, about 4 inches from the filter ring.

    The lens' build quality is outstanding. It feels very solid in hand and has excellent, smooth focus and zoom rings. Internal focus is a nice touch and adds to the dust/water resistance (when used with a filter over the front element).

    All in all, a great lens on full-frame and film cameras. On crop, the 17-55 IS, 15-85mm, Tamron 17-50mm, and 18-55mm kit lenses are more appropriate.

    reviewed May 10th, 2010 (purchased for $700)
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sharpness at wide end, color reproduction, lightweight, build quality
    200mm softness, poor AF performance

    Judging by the reviews on this site, I'm assuming my copy to be an anomaly. I bought a gently-used 2004 70-200mm f/4L and have been fairly unimpressed. AF performance is terrible, with severe backfocus on all images. The lens is sharp from 70mm-135mm wide open, but is very soft at 200mm. The build quality is excellent, metal barrel and internals with smooth focus and zoom rings. Furthermore, the lens is lightweight for the focal range. Unfortunately, none of this can justify the issues my copy has at the most frequently used focal length.

    Edit: I recently exchanged my lens for a new copy which is sharper at 200mm and autofocuses much more accurately. The lens still remains just a bit soft at the long end compared to Canon's prime offerings, the 200mm f/2.8 II and the 200mm f/2. But it's certainly a versatile lens, and an excellent choice for travel and backpacking. I wouldn't hesitate to use it with the Canon Extender 1.4x.

    reviewed May 16th, 2010 (purchased for $600)
  • Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Fast aperture, lightweight, compact, ring USM, 58mm filters
    Soft at f/1.8, MFD

    All things considered, this is a great lens at a very reasonable price. Build quality is similar to the 50mm 1.4, 28mm 1.8, and 100mm 2, which is to say good, not great. The focus ring turns smoothly and the lens features a metal mounting ring, but the barrel is cheap plastic.

    At f/1.8, the 85mm is soft -- IMO unusable for anything but portraits, admittedly the lens' intended use. Sharpness increases rapidly as the lens is stopped down, and is usable by f/2.5. Autofocus is quick and fairly accurate, I've used this lens for basketball and tennis with mixed results. Probably the most frustrating characteristic of this lens is the minimum focus distance of .85m. I've often wanted to move closer to a subject, only to find that the lens will not autofocus at the intended distance. Thus, I replaced it with the 100mm macro in my kit and haven't looked back for any application.

    reviewed May 21st, 2010 (purchased for $380)
  • Sigma 70mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sharp, high-quality construction, inexpensive
    Extending barrel, AF performance, not full-time manual

    The Sigma 100mm macro is a suitable alternative for Canon and Nikon photographers on a budget, and probably the best macro option for Pentax and Sony users. The lens is nearly tack-sharp wide open, though my copy did suffer from a "slanted" line of best focus at macro distances. Build quality is great, not as refined as a Canon L lens but not nearly as expensive, either. Focus is slow, somewhat loud, and inconvenient (no full-time manual override, barrel extends when focusing.) The price is right, though I consider the Canon 100mm macro well worth the premium.

    reviewed May 21st, 2010
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM

    6 out of 10 points and not recommended
    Cheap, light, IS
    IQ, build quality, filter thread rotates

    I tested this lens at a local camera store and was relatively unimpressed. The 70-300 IS is built like a toy, features "micro-motor" USM that is slower than a screw drive, and is soft through the 200-300mm range. Compared to the 70-200mm f/4L + 1.4x, the only benefits are cost and stabilization, which aren't trivial, but can't justify the lens' poor image quality.

    reviewed May 21st, 2010
  • Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF SP AF

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Vignetting at 17mm, AF noise, focus ring

    I just received this lens today and wanted to share a few first impressions.

    Build: The barrel is mid-grade plastic, similar to Canon's higher-end consumer lenses. The zoom ring is a bit stiff to turn but is well damped -- I haven't noticed any issues with zoom creep or looseness of the extending inner barrel. A lock switch holds the zoom at 17mm, this may be necessary as the lens "wears in." The focus ring is only slightly better than that on the kit lens :P, in that it has a distance scale. I'm not a fan of the short travel for manual focusing, which makes it difficult to fine-tune focus. The hood is...subpar.

    Sharpness: Excellent from 17-35mm wide open, very good at 50mm. Tack-sharp stopped down at all focal lengths. Far better than the 17-40L, and comparable to the 17-55mm IS.

    Vignetting: Very noticeable at 17mm wide open, improves stopped down but can still be seen @ f/4 and f/5.6 on the wide end.

    Distortion: Distinct pincushion at tele, not horrible but definitely there (I've been shooting pieces of artwork all day and it's pretty obvious for rectangular frames). Some barrel at 17mm.

    Autofocus: Pretty quick and accurate, very loud and obnoxious. The focusing ring turns and the lens doesn't feature manual focus override (you have to switch to MF to be able to focus manually). The focus ring is too close to the zoom ring IMO, easy to bump by accident.

    All in all, a pretty nice little lens. I'll be keeping it.

    reviewed February 8th, 2011 (purchased for $460)