Well, as promised, here is my take on this bit of kit. It's a bit of a deal for me, finally getting L glass after many years of unashamed, abject coveting. My thanks go to Canon,and my exhausted bank balance, without whom none of this would be possible.
Also, a disclaimer: All photos presented in this post are unedited, straight from RAW to Lightroom to JPEG to your screen. The only exception is a couple of crops to examine detail. I have also kept them pretty big so you can see the detail. So dont expect works of art, just 'reference shots'. For really good shots, click HERE.
So, the lens arrived on Friday, after a bit of a customs hiccup (more of which you can read in my other thread HERE). I duly unpacked the box in my office at work, attached it to the front of my 350D and made use of my lunch break.
I headed for Civic Park in Newcastle, for 2 reasons: a) I wanted to particuarly test it out in low light conditions and there is a lovely little grove of big old trees there, and b) I needed somewhere close to work, because I was on a lunch break .
Anyhoo - the first test was a plaque in full shade on an overcast day to test the sharpness and effect of the IS.
Both shots are:
1. Full frame
2. 100% crop of image with IS off (1/60sec)
3. 100% crop of image with IS on (1/50sec)
So, straight away you can see the benefit of IS. At that focal length and shutter speed, it produces a razor sharp image.
Next, a closeup of a tree to check detail and sharpness.
4. IS on, 105mm, f/4, 1/80sec, ISO100, handheld
The JPeg compression doesnt do this justice, but take my word for it this is pretty damn sharp, particularly in the middle where I focused. No evidence of front or back focusing, yay. Note though, the edges blur slightly with the curvature of the lens and the narrow focal plane.
Over to you, bokeh...
Righto, the standard bokeh test - get nice and close to your subject on full extension (105mm), aperture wide open, with the background a fair way in the back.
5. IS on, 105mm, f/4, 1/100sec, ISO100, handheld
So, not the most pleasing of look, actually quite rough, but then I am spoilt by my 2 primes that give off a silky smooth look. Cant beat primes at bokeh. Funnily enough the sharpness of the lens may work against it here?
This is the one and only flower I could find, but bird of prey's are pretty hard to beat anyway. Remember, no pp here, this is the real deal straight out of the lens.
6. IS on, 85mm, f/8, 1/30sec, ISO100, handheld
Wrap it up, I'll take it
OK, now we look at the wide end. This shot isnt much to look at, but it demonstrates the distortion and contrast gradation fairly well. Note sharpness right to the edges, but some barrel distortion, eg a slight curvature to the light pole. I also like that it picks up detail in the light and shadow with no problems or noise. In fact, let's face it. There's zero noise.
7. IS on, 24mm, f/8, 1/100sec, ISO100, handheld
Last but not least for the Friday shoot, a shot in full light of a pale subject to check sharpness and detail. Again, the jpeg compression doesnt do it justice, but I am pretty happy that it gets the detail right across the spectrum.
8. IS on, 35mm, f/6.3, 1/80sec, ISO 100, handheld
For the record, I can zoom right in on this shot and see sharpness and detail throughout. It has blown out a bit above the archway on the walls, but that could be the crappy metering of the 350d? Not sure.
OK, now for one of the main reasons I got the lens. I do a fair bit of work with a local theatre company, shooting their productions and staged shots for promo material etc. If anyone has done theatre work, you'll know just how challenging it is. HUGE variations in lighting in the one shot, very hard to get a decent shutter speed yet people are moving all the time.
I am forced to use a high ISO (1600) to pull a shutter speed I need even with the lens wide open the whole time - on my old Sigma 17-70 I was getting horrible noise on most shots - yes there is Noise Ninja but that softens the shot dreadfully. And here's a picture from that lens's days...
9. Sigma 17-70, no IS (obviously), 17mm, f/3.2, 1/40sec, ISO1600, handheld
Notice the noise in the top and bottom left corners - this was a chronic problem. Also, notice the loss of detail in the faces. It really was a problem that no amount of pp could fix. Maybe on a better body, but that's another story...
So I was hoping that an IS L lens would reduce the noise and at least get me shots at ISO800 - it wont stop motion blur but I could hopefully work with that by timing my shots well.
Here's a couple of shots that tell the tale.
10. IS on, 105mm, f/4, 1/100sec, ISO800, handheld
Now we're talking! Noise is at least halved if not more, given the lens picks up less anyway. Really crisp detail in the clothing and the face. Much better.
But she was standing pretty still. What about if they are moving?
11. IS on, 35mm, f/4, 1/40sec, ISO800, handheld
OK here is the perfect example of the limitaiton of IS, and what you really need to be aware of. Left and right people are still and sharp, even at 1/40sec. But middle person is on the move, hence the blur. So it's not a fix-all, but still much better.
But when you do catch them all standing still...
12. IS on, 65mm, f/4, 1/160sec, ISO800, handheld
Super crisp and sharp. Yay me. I also like that the noise level is respectable and there is detail in the light and dark areas.
So there you have it. My little review is nearly complete. Just some passing comments for you:
1) Weight. I know a lot of people comment that L glass is heavy, but I honestly didnt notice any issues there. Maybe its because the 350d is so light - add the weight of a 1ds and I may think differently.
2) Build quality. Well, it's an L, so... great. Really solid, metallic feel - not the plastic feel of pretty much all my other lenses.
3) USM. Really quick focusing. Really quick.
4) Zoom. THE most annoying feature. It is right up at the back of the lens, so much so your hand catches on the underside of the popup flash unit that overhangs the 350d. That is going to take some getting used to.
All in all, a worthy purchase and one I highly recommend. Thanks for sticking with me and reading the whole thing. Now get off your behind and go buy one for yourself