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Entries in lens reviews (16)

Thursday
Apr242014

600d / T3i Budget Zoom Review: Canon EF 100-300 f/5.6 Push Pull dSLR Lens 

(If you can't see the vieo, please click here.)

Before I start writing about this lens I'd like you to remember one thing: a newer, better lens, the EFS 55-250mm f4-5.6 IS goes for about GBP£140 / US$180 on Amazon, with a years guarantee. Never, ever, pay close to that price for an older 100-300 or 75-300 non IS lens for a cropped sensor dSLR. Just save up a little more and buy the 55-250 instead.

Now we've go that out of the way we can concentrate on the push-pull 100-300 f/5.6, one of the first budget EF zooms, that if you can get for a bargain price is worth adding to your lens collection, especially if you want to experiment with cheap teleconverters to really reach in to the distance.

Instead of turning the lens barrel to zoom, you push it in and out. Once you've used it a couple of times this is a very natural way of doing things, but it also means that when a lens has had a fair amount of use they are very prone to zoom creep - when the camera is at an angle different to the horizontal the lens zooms out or in.

 There's no Image Stabilization on this glass either, so really keep an eye on the shutter speed to avoid camera shake, or use a tripod. It is a constant aperture, but f/5.6 is pretty slow, and that also means that if you add a budget teleconverter, usually a 2x one, you'll lose auto-focus and you'll need to focus manually.

I got my example for £40, which I think is a fair price. I use it occasionally with a 2x teleconverter, but it by no means is a replacement for my Canon 55-250 IS, but if I didn't have that lens I'd be more than happy to try and get the best out of its longer, older EF counterpart.

In conclusion, if you haven't got a decent telephoto zoom and are on a tight budget, one of these push-pull lenses will do the job on bright sunny days, but treat it with respect and learn to get the best out of it.

(Click for my previous review of the lens, with example photos, on the Canon 350d / Rebel XT.)

Cheers, Rob.

Friday
Apr182014

Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 Pancake STM Prime Lens Review Video

(If you can't see the video, please click here.)

I'll admit that I probably wouldn't have purchased the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 Pancake Prime Lens if it hadn't come free with my Canon 600d / T3i dSLR, but as I've got it, let's see what it can do.

First up, it's important to understand the weaknesses of this lens before we can talk about it's undoubted optical strengths. The 40mm pancake is an EF lens - so it'll work fine on crop sensor bodies like the 600d / t3i, 60d, 7d, etc, and full frame bodies like the 5d and 1d.

However, it isn't a wide angle lens on a crop sensor body. If you're anything like me, when you're out shooting you'll be spending a lot of time at the wide end of your 18-55 kit lens. 75% of my photographs are probably taken between 18 and 35mm - wide on a aps-c type sensor - so the 40mm pancake is a little too telephoto, or close, than what I would normally use.

This means in practice that you'll find you'll need to back up more when using the 40mm, which is pleasing for portrait and people shots, but can be difficult (or impossible) for landscape of urban type photography. You just haven't got a large enough angle of view.

The Canon 40mm also doesn't have IS, image stabilization, so although it has an extra stop of light over your kit zoom, you might need that to keep your shutter speed fast enough to avoid camera shake or subject blur.

I don't think that the 40mm would end up being a walk around lens to replace your kit zoom. It's just not versatile enough - they'll be too many times when you'll wish that you could squeeze more into the frame. I'd say that the 40mm f/2.8 is a great additional lens to have, along with your wide-angle zoom - but it isn't the lens to replace it.

Now onto the 40mm's strengths. It is incredible small, light and inconspicuous. Snap this glass onto the front of your dSLR and you'll be amazed how little it is. All of a sudden that nasty big black camera becomes a lot less visible, making it a great lens for street and candid photography, as long as you can adapt your style to the smaller angle of view.

Being a prime lens (no zoom) the 40mm f/2.8 is noticeably sharper than my 18-55 kit lens. Photos appear crisper, with more contrast and better colour. It's not a huge difference, but enough to make you take a second look when editing the images in post.

Having STM, a new stepped focus motor, this lens is very quiet, and with compatible cameras (the T4i / 650d onwards) you can have silent continuous auto focus during video capture.

The 40mm EF is also a bit of a bargain. Priced at just over £140 on Amazon.co.uk, and under $200 on it's American counterpart, this isn't an expensive lens to add to your collection. The build quality is better than the 50mm f/1.8 mk II, it's more useful on a crop sensor body, and it makes your camera almost inconspicuous.

So, as I said at the beginning, although this is a great lens, I don't think I would have bought it if it didn't come free when I purchased my Canon 600d / T3i. I've already got a 50mm f/1.8 for low-light / small depth of field work, and I'd probably have spent the money on a new microphone or tripod.

Having said that though, I really like the lens, and if you're not on a limited budget (like myself) and haven't got a nifty fifty, I'd say get the 40mm f/2.8, it's a great, value for money piece of glass.

Thanks, Rob.

Church, Southsea

Buckwells Butchers

Debenhams, Southsea

Street Sculpture, Southsea

Tuesday
Mar052013

Canon EF 100-300mm f/5.6 Push / Pull Zoom Lens Review

(If you can't see  the video, please click here.)

Gumtree - a great place for bargains if you persevere checking it every day. I picked up this Canon EF 100-300mm f/5.6 Zoom lens for £40, and it has turned out to be a bit of a bargain.

My everyday zoom is the most excellent Canon EF-S 55-250 IS, which is ultra sharp and has that ever so useful IS for hand holding at lower shutter speeds. It is however, an EF-S lens, which means that it is incompatible with most 2x Teleconverters like the Jessops one I picked up from the car-boot sale last year for a fiver.

The old push-pull 100-300 is an EF lens, so it is compatible with my Jessops teleconverter, so with it I can push out to 600mm, or if you take into account the crop factor on my 350d, an amazing 900mm.

There are of course, compromises, and with the EF 100-300 f/5.6 they lay mainly around its' slow f/5.6 maximum (although constant) aperture, which keeps shutter speed down in lower light situations, which can lead to blurred photographs.

The answer could be to put your camera on a tripod, which is fine for static subjects but no good for moving ones, or if you've got a newer camera, wack that ISO up to get the shutter speed fast enough to eliminate camera shake and subject blur. The most practical solution might be to recognise how to get the best out of the lens, stop it down to f/8, and then use a tripod for fixed subjects, or only shoot moving ones on Sunny days!

Using an extender poses more problems with light. A 2x Extender cuts out two stops of light, which means it turns the lens into the equivalent of f/11, or f/16 if we've stopped it down to increase sharpness. To put it another way, if the shutter speed was at 1/500th without the extender, it'll be 1/125th with the extender, enough of a reduction to introduce an awful lot of camera shake and subject blur. The final problem with using an extender on this lens is that you loose auto-focus, so it's back to squinting through that view-finder and twisting the barrel in the old-fashioned way.

Don't let this put you off though, because as you can see from the samples below, which are all hand-held, you can get good results, and I'm sure with practice I'll get even better images.

Thanks, Rob.

 

l

Sunday
Sep092012

A Trio Of Macro Solutions But No Dedicated Macro Lens...

Roses, Lensbaby Composer With Double Glass Optic and Macro Converter, f/16

Brush Flower

Spider vs Bee

Macro photography is a part of the art I really enjoy. When I used the Fuji S5700 I loved nothing better than sticking it in Super Macro Mode and then going sneaking up on unsuspecting insects, but now in the wide-world of SLR's things are a little more complicated and a lot more confusing.

Aside from running out and dropping over 400 notes on a dedicated Canon Macro Lens there are a few other options, so I thought I'd explore a few today with some example photographs. I tend to do most of my macro photography in our back garden because I'm quite lazy and can't be bothered to lug extra lenses around when out and about on a photo walk, so the simplest (and lightest) option will probably be the one for me....

50mm f/1.8 With Jessops 2x Extender:

IMG_0726

An unusual option this, but I thought I'd give it a go when I picked up the Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 Mk. 1 from the car boot sale a few weeks ago. I'd had the extender for several months (another car boot bargain) and as I snapped the fifty on to see what it looked like as a 100mm, I realised that it would also magnify anything at the lenses minimum focussing distance, so it might work as a macro accessory.

Lets see a quick shot:

IMG_0585

Not too shabby. Nice magnification and quality is OK. This could be a good macro solution, but it would mean I'd have to have the fifty and the extender in with my regular kit, and there's not much room in my Lowepro Photorunner...

Canon EF-S 55-250 (At The Long End)


This is the macro option that most appeals to me, and should have been blindingly obvious, but i haven't realised how close the Canon EF-S 55-250 can focus when it's at the long end, and the answer is pretty close indeed:

IMG_0596

As you can see, the 55-250 when zoomed all the way, but then focussed on something close (1.1m) offers a magnification similair to the 50mm with the extender, but in a package that I already carry and is image stabalised for sharp shots at slower shutter speeds...nice.

M42 135mm f/2.8 Helios Manual Focus Lens With Extension Tubes and EF-M42 Adapter:

IMG_0717

This is the fiddliest option, consisting of an old lens, extension tubes and lens mount adapter. It's also the trickiest to operate, with manual focus, no ETTL flash, and a dark viewfinder when stopped down for a larger Depth of Field.

It does however offer excellent magnification:

 IMG_0621

The above garden spider is about the size of your finger-nail, all from a piece of glass and adapters that cost less than £20 for the car boot and eBay. A great option, but it does need a lot more effort than the other two lenses. Which would you go for?

Conclusion:

For maximum magnification and some very special images, the M42 lens with extension tubes is a real winner. The 50 with the extender is ok, but as it doesn't offer any more "reach" than the 55-250 there isn't much point in going with that choice.

For now I'll be exploring the capabilities of the 55-250, with the M42 combi for the real close up stuff. I've had a quick go with some close-up filters, but again I felt that the 55-250 was better. One thing I really need to try are proper Canon extension tubes (that retain auto-focus and auto-exposure) but reduce the minimum focussing distance of any EF lens... Watch this space!

Thanks, Rob.

Thursday
Sep062012

The Metal Master: Canon 50mm F/1.8 Mk.1 EF Lens Review

(If you can't see the video please click here.)

The Nifty Fifty. The Fast Fifty. Whatever you call it, a 50mm prime lens is the cheapest new addition you can add to your SLR lens collection. Available for under £100, fifty mm f1.8's give you a flattering focal length, creamy smooth background blur, and the ability to shoot in very low light without flash. Great stuff.

As you well know, early on a Sunday morning Suzanne and I spend a couple of hours walking around our local car-boot sales, and a couple of weeks ago I picked up a Canon 50mm f/1.8. I've owned two of the nifty fiftys before, and had to sell them both, so I could hardly believe my luck when I saw a stall with an old Canon film camera in a tatty bag, and tucked in the corner of the bag was a lens.

IMG_0461

When the seller said they wanted £4 for the lot I had a fiver in their hand before they knew it, and when I realised that the lens had the metal mount and distance scale of the Mk.1 I was over the moon. Canon changed the earlier design of the lens to the current "plastic fantastic" design, loosing that metal EF mount and the scale, the glass is probably as good but the build quality isn't. The Mk.1 50's go for a premium on eBay, normally over a hundred notes, so that made this find even better.

The proof is in the pudding as they say, so until I got the lens home and fixed it onto my 350d I didn't know it would work. Thankfully it did, and a prime piece of glass was added to my small collection. Sweet! I had been planning to ask for the Mk. II 50mm for Christmas, so this means that I can ask for something else...!

IMG_0427

Whether you get your hands on the MK.1 or Mk.2 versions of the lens, you'll have a specialist piece of kit. The f/1.8 maximum aperture means that the lens can nicely blur the background in any portrait, and shoot in poor lighting conditions where normally you'd have to use a flash. On a crop-sensor body like my 350d the 50mm acts more like a 75mm, so wide sweeping landscapes are a no-no, but flattering portraits and a more intimate view of the world around you are.

It's worth remembering that at f/1.8 if you're close to your subject your depth of field (how much of the scene is in focus) will be very small, so you're better off opening up to f/3.5, 5.6 or f/8. You might then well ask what's the point of using this glass over your kit zoom, but the fact that this is a prime lens, so it will be sharper at any particular focal length, with a bit more contrast too. (Check out this article for a discussion about depth of field.)

The Most Important Tool

 I've been playing with this lens for a few weeks now, and I'm suitably impressed. I wouldn't buy a Mk.1 for the inflated prices they go for second hand, I think you're better off buying a new Mk. 2 with a years guarantee, but if you track down a cheap Metal Mount, go for it, just remember that it will have quite a bit of wear and tear, so try and check it before you buy. (Unlike me!)

The fifty won't be replacing my kit lenses, the 18-55 and 55-250, it's not wide enough for the type of architecture shots I like, but the Canon 50mm will find it's way onto the front of my camera when I want to take beautiful portraits, simple macros, still lifes or naturally lit indoor photographs.

Thanks, Rob.