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  Reviews by: GC Montgomery  

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Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

Review Date: Sep 21, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,400.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: IQ, f/2.8, great build quality
price, weight, lack of IS

I got this lens the same day I picked up my 5D Mark II. Coming from a 40D and 7D that I'd used with the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS, I felt f/2.8 was pretty important to my style of shooting. Shot it for several months on my 5D Mark II and loved it. It's been great for candids and as a general purpose lens but, I think most people would be better served by the 24-105L. If you don't need f/2.8 (and I'd say most don't), the 24-105L offers more versatility if you can only afford one of the two.

On image quality, my copy has been very good. It's sharp across the frame with readily correctable distortion that's only noticeable to me if I do something goofy like a head-on shot of a brick wall. The zoom and focus rings are well placed and well damped. There are no errant rattles or loose fitting pieces. It's built like a tank and called the brick...I think both names are well suited to this lens.

While I think one can get better results from the combination of the 24L, 35L, 50L and 85L, the combined cost and weight of said combination is far greater than that of the 24-70L with none of the convenience. With that in mind, I think the 24-70L is a better than average value. Third party alternatives like Sigma's 24-70mm f/2.8 are tempting and probably work just fine for some but, the total experience of having used that lens along side the Canon tells me it's worth my time and money to save my pennies long enough to go with the Canon option.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Review Date: Nov 16, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: IQ, full-frame viewfinder, ergonomics
As most will agree, outdated autofocus

My only regret is not getting one sooner. The autofocus, controls and weather seals are not as good as the 7D but, some of that should be expected given the fact the 7D was released more than a year after the 5D Mark II. Still, Canon could easily have put the 1D/1Ds AF in this body as opposed to recycling and already outdated system from the 20D. They should be kicked in the face for that one.

Moving up from a 40D, there is a marked improvement in overall image quality. Tones are much smoother by comparison. The difference is less significant between the 5D Mark II and the 7D. Prior to the 5D Mark II, I might have said 21mp was too much. I had the same initial reaction to my 7D. Having shot a Nikon D300s and D700, I don't see a negative impact on image quality this time around. The extra resolution allows a great deal of latitude with respect to cropping. You can crop almost half the image and still get a decent 8x12 or larger print.

Overall, I like the camera a lot and it is a constant companion. That said, if you aren't going past 16mm, the 7D, 60D and Rebel T2i/550D make it hard to justify moving to full-frame. Images straight from the camera look sharper on screen but, the proof is in you prints. I've got identical images from the 7D and 5D Mark II. Without seeing the electronic file and EXIF data to go with it, you couldn't tell the prints apart.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM

Review Date: Jan 13, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,699.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, fast, weather-sealed, rock-solid feel and focuses quietly/quickly with no wiggles or rattles that don't belong.
Not exactly cheap and tends to draw unwanted attention.

I've been thinking about this lens for two years. I debated going with the f4L version for less weight and money. Today, I'm glad I splurged to get this along with a new 7D. It's deadly sharp on the 40D but, it shines while tracking with the 7D's new AF system.

Yes, it's heavy but, you don't buy a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens because you are concerned about weight. I've heard of soft copies but mine is not one of them. I've heard people talk about vivid colors and great contrast from a lens but, I didn't get it until I shot this lens. Coming from a 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM, this lens is a huge leap in image quality and build quality.

The only complaints I have are price and the attention this lens tends to attract. I paid 1699USD with Canon's rebates and I honestly felt that was a bit stiff. I'm not sure IS is worth a near 50% price increase over the non-IS version. But knowing a new 70-200mm f2.8 was coming at a higher price, I figured if I didn't go for it now, I never would.

I realize there are people who get a sense of enjoyment from other people seeing their stuff may even see owning lenses like this as a status symbol. I am not part of that crowd. While I don't mind the curious persons approaching me to ask about my gear, I've actually been targeted for victimization by vermin who thought they might be able to take my gear forcibly. Thankfully, I've been able to convince every single one of them that there were easier targets....I love Texas Smile.

Canon EOS 7D

Review Date: Dec 27, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,700.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: New 19-point AF system, bigger viewfinder (have to use it to appreciate it), build quality, speed, high ISO image quality
Wish the AF points covered more of the frame (ala Nikon).

When you buy this camera, ignore web reports of soft images because they screw with your head. For about a week, I swore my old 40D had more accurate autofocus and rendered sharper images. I finally had to rig both camera up on a tripod at my own test targets shooting my two best lenses.

After comparing JPEGs straight from the camera as well as RAW files converted in both ACR 5.6 and Canon's DPP 3.7, there is no question the 7D is worth the money. The additional resolution of the 7D is readily evident in 100% crops of the same scenes. This becomes even more evident if/when you enlarge the 40D images to match the size of those from the 7D. And the images are certainly sharper and more detailed than what comes out of my 40D.

The fact that Sony now offers a full-frame cameras in the same price range makes the cost of this camera a little hard to swallow. Still, I felt there was sufficient value to pay $1700 to own one and I don't regret it. This camera kept me from jumping ship to Nikon this time around. If Canon decides to make a full-frame version, I'll be sticking with them when I go full-frame too.

Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM

Review Date: Feb 4, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: f/2.8, Image Quality, Image Stabilization
Cost, weight, extremely prone to flare and ghosts if there are any bright light sources in the frame

This was my third major lens upgrade since buying my 40D/17-85mm kit in October of 2007. It is intended to replace my 17-85mm IS lens. After roughly three months, I'm generally happy. Occasionally I miss the reach of the 17-85mm as a general photography lens but 90% of the time, 17-55mm is just fine.

I have only two complaints. First, the lens is very prone to flare and ghosts. Second, the hood is a requirement for nearly all shooting but must be purchased separately. Specifically, if there are bright light sources in the frame, you will see significant flare and ghosts. Furthermore, the hood does not help much except in situations where such light sources are just outside the edge of the frame and the asking price for the hood is a fairly steep $54USD.

Anyone shooting night time cityscapes needs to be aware of these issues as you will find it necessary to adjust your shooting or select a different lens if bright light sources cannot be removed from the frame.

Canon EOS 50D

Review Date: Dec 21, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Overall build Upgraded LCD to match the competition Auto ISO range and Program Exp mode seems to work better than my 40D
Still only 9 AF areas like the 40D Still need ST-E2 or 5xx series flash to control other strobes

I still haven't decided to buy one of these cameras. There was so much talk about it that I borrowed one to see if I should consider upgrading. I shoot a 40D but, I really preferred the Nikon D300...I just couldn't justify the extra $500 and felt that money was better spent on my EF-S 10-22mm USM. The 50D was said to be Canon's answer to the D300 so I wanted to see if I could have what I wanted without jumping to Nikon.

The 50D is a nice camera. The LCD now matches those available from Nikon and Sony. Program Exposure doesn't always shoot at the widest available aperture as it did on the 40D. I didn't have to constantly use program shift or aperture priority to get a smaller aperture. Auto ISO runs smoothly as needed from 100-1600 ISO rather than working at only 400 or 800 in the 40D.

The 50D also includes features than were little more than fluff to me. The boost in resolution didn't translate to superior IQ in my photos, even when shooting L series glass. High ISO IQ might be one stop better than the 40D but, that's subject to individual opinions. I had no need to use the microfocus adjustment for any of my lenses but, it might make a difference for those with much older glass.

Finally, I wish Canon had done more to answer Nikon's sudden acquisition of huevos in their camera development. These two firms usually leapfrog each other but, this time it seems Canon just fell short. Despite this, I still think the 50D is a solid camera and a solid choice for anyone looking at Canon. It's a hard sell for me to upgrade from a 40D but, were I shooting a Rebel I think the 50D would be a no brainer.

Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 EX Aspherical DG DF

Review Date: Nov 28, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $425.00 | Rating: 5 

Pros: Image Quality (when I could get it to focus) Overall build quality
No fulltime manual focusing Wish they made it with image stabilization It's a big hunk of glass Backward zooming but the Canon 24-70 does the same weird thing.

A friend who owns an earlier copy of this lens thinks I may have simply had a bad copy but I don't have time to wait on a replacemen. So, I returned it and placed orders for Canon 17-55mm F2.8 IS and 24-105mm F4 IS lenses having been much happier with samples tried over the Thanksgiving Holiday. I've seen lots of my friend's work with this lens and it all looked tack sharp to me which was one of the reasons I bought the lens.

My biggest complaint was inconsistent autofocus (with my copy) and the fact that I just could not get a sharp photo at with shutter speeds below 1/125 second or apertures wider than F/4. I also had some issues with flare from street lights on night time shots but that was probably my fault...Didn't have the hood attached in the photos with flare.

I'm using a recent production 40D and could not get a consistent focus lock with this lens. I had to make the same shot three to four times to get one keeper. I know my hands shake, I know I'm a noob and I know digital is not forgiving of mistakes so I accept many issues may be my own fault. However, I don't seem to have problems getting sharp photos with simple 28 and 50mm F/1.8 primes or any Canon lens, including Canon's own 24-70mm lens, with this camera.

I really wanted this lens to work because I'd love to have a fast 24-70mm zoom and the price was excellent. When I manually focused and kept the shutter speed above 1/125 sec, I had a 50% chance at getting a sharp photo. I'm going to spend more time learning and may try again later. For now, I'm an IS junkie and with the exception of my primes and my 10-22mm, I plan to buy only IS lenses from here on in.