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Canon EF 35-105mm F/4.5-5.6 dSLR Lens Review 

First, a short story. The reason why I shoot with a Canon dSLR, the EOS 350d / Digital Rebel XT, is because last year I spotted an EOS 50e film camera going cheap at our local Sunday Morning car boot sale. The 50e had an EF lens, which I knew would work with a digital body, so I got it for a song and planned on buying a second hand digital back and using the 50e's lens on it.

That lens was the EF 28-80mm f3.5-5.6. When I got my 350d from eBay, the 28-80 served me well, but a few months ago the Auto-Focus started to stick. I'd line up a subject, press the shutter release half-way down and nothing would happen. I'd have to fiddle with the front element to free the AF, and the camera would focus, but this quickly became a pain and I stopped using this useful little zoom.

I've since expanded my lens collection with the 50mm f/1.8, the 28mm f/2.8, the 75-300 f4-5.6 and numerous M42 lenses, but I've always missed a general purpose walk-around zoom for those times when I don't want to be lens juggling with a bag full of primes.

Being on a tight budget means that a new lens would be out of the question, so I kept my eye on eBay looking for a Canon zoom going cheap, and I got the 35-105mm for about £36. It doesn't get the greatest reviews, but we all know that to get the best out of any glass you need to use it a couple of stops down from wide open and not at the extremes of the focal length.

I've been out with the Canon EF 35-105mm f4.5-5.6 quite a few times now, and I have to say I'm impressed. It seems like a solid piece of kit, that as long as you know its limitations (the aperture mainly), you'll be able to make very nice photographs indeed. Lets look at some of the shots I've taken so far.

(Remember that these are not test shots. These photographs have been edited in Adobe Camera Raw, Photoshop and Nik Silver Efex Pro to produce a final image.)

Pier House, Lee On Solent

Look at it big.

Being a budget lens, the 35-105mm is a bit plasticky. This at least means it's light, so as a walk-around lens you're not going to be getting neck-ache. It's biggest drawback is the slow aperture. f/5.6 at the long end is not that much light, so high-ISO's or a tripod are the order of the day to avoid camera shake.

Bedside Lamp

Look at it big.

Auto-focus is responsive enough, if a little noisy. The front element rotates when focussing, so If you're using a Polarising or a Grad filter you've have to re-adjust them after you've focussed on your subject, but that's common to most cheap zooms.

Cenotaph / War Memorial, Lee On Solent

Look at it big.

Let's get back to the main strength of the 35-105mm - its focal length. You've got a great range, from wide to telephoto, although on a crop-sensor body like my 350d, the wide end has a 35mm equivalent of about 55mm, which means that I've got to get my 28mm out if I want a really wide angle of view.

Where I thought this lens was superb was when I put it on my 50e Film SLR. Being full frame (duh!), the 35mm is really wide, and I enjoyed walking around shooting with this lens on the old Canon Film SLR, and I can't wait to get the film developed.

View Through Wooded Park, Stubbington

Look at it big.

Obviously if you've got the cash I'd recommend a newer IS or Image Stabilised lens, but if you're on a budget like me, these cheap Canon Zooms are a practical solution. Hey, at this price, if it breaks it's not the end of the world anyway.

Scrap Destroyer, Priddys Hard

Look at it big.

My technique for grabbing a bargain lens on eBay is simple. Do some research. Decide on the focal length you want and how much those lenses are new on Amazon, so you don't get sucked into over-paying for a second-hand one. Set your budget, then every night do a search on eBay, looking at items ending that night and newly listed. If you see a newly listed without any bidders, send the buyer an email offering to "buy it now" at a reasonable price. If you've got to get involved in an auction, use a service like Gixen to bid for you at the last moment so you don't get involved in a bidding war. I'll say it again, always know what the equivalent, new, lenses are going for on Amazon so you don't overpay for an old lens when you could have got a new one, with a warranty, for a similar price.

Fort Brockhurst, View Towards Keep

Look at it big.

At the end of the day any lens is only as good as the photographs it produces, so click on the link underneath the picture below and have a look at it, at its original size. The shot was taken on a tripod and I think the overall quality is good enough, especially the detail in the parts of the Fort you can see at the end of the moat.

Fort Brockhurst, View To Central Caponier

Look at it really big.

In conclusion, I really like the Canon EF 35-105mm F/4.5-5.6 zoom lens. It's good enough for what I need, and the price was right. Recommended!

Cheers, Rob.

Reader Comments (3)

as an amateur on a budget i was thinking of getting one of these in addition to the 50mm 1.8 prime. Your review and sample pictures have convinced me to go on ebay to pick over up. cheers!

March 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDan d

Hopefully i might get to see some of these sites as im down your neck of the woods next week (butlins!!) , gonna have to get at least one photo of spinaker tower!!


March 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Clark

Hi Matt!

Ah, we went to Bognor Regis a couple of years ago - the water flume that ends in a bowl is wicked, the archery and fencing good fun too!

If you do get down to Portsmouth, check out the tower, but make sure you go into the Historic Dockyard (next door) for HMS Victory and the Warrior.

Cheers, Rob.

March 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob_Nunn

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