“SLR Gear”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showcat.php/cat/11 has a good analytic review set for lenses. Canon is a focus here, but they have Nikon too of course. Unlike many reviews, this one is quite quantitative with good recommendations for what aperture and focal length to use for maximum sharpness:
“Canon EF 100-400mm F/4.5-5.6L IS USM”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/77/cat/11. Image quality 8.61/10. Best results at 100-135mm at F/8 or 300mm and F/11. Corner softness at 200mm, but keep it at F/8-F/11 and you won’t see blurring. Undetectable vignette on sub-frame sensor and some on full frame when you are at F/5.6 and below. Very low distortion less than -0.2% pincushioning at most.
“Canon EF 24-105mm F/4L IS USM”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/145/cat/11. On my 350D, this is too slow, but on a new 5D Mark II, it will be great because it is slower than F/2.8 for available light, but the 5D is so sensitive, it doesn’t matter. 8.97/10 image quality. F/4 to F/8 the lense is very sharp at 24mm. At 105mm, it is slightly soft and best at F/5.6 (either end is soft again). Vignetting is virtually nonexistant. Moderate barrel distoration at 24mm (0.6%) and slight pincushion at 50mm+ 0.2%. Basically a superb lense and expensive too at $1,100!
“Canon EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS USM”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/57/cat/11 is amazing at 9.47/10 image quality but costs $1660. F/4 and above has no blur at all and it is very sligth at 135mm and F/2.8. At F/16, diffraction limiting causes a tiny blur only. Chromatic abberation is low and then become medium toward 200mm. Essentially zero distortion at 0.2-0.16%
For a full frame geek, this is a great set that gets you an everyday lense (24-105), a zoom for those birds and soccer games (100-400) and medium shots too in low ight (70-200), the only one missing is a true wide angle which is the
“Canon EF 16-35mm F/2.8L II USM”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1082/cat/11 which is another amazing 9.67/10 lense. Main bummer is it takes an 88mm filter instead of the 77mm that all of the other lenses above take. These big wide angles tend not to be too sharp, but this one is very sharp wide open at F/2.8 and then gets software at F/4-5.6. The sweet spot appears to be about 24mm at F/5.6. If you zoom out to 20mm, losts of softness goes away. On a full frame sensor thought, it has lots of issues with corner sharpness even at F/8 and there is quite a bit of chromatic aberration at 16mm but does best at F/2.8. It also vignettes quite a bit with a full frame. About 1.75 stops at the corner darker. Low distortion is at 22mm on full frame.
With a fast camera like the 5D Mark ii, the “Canon EF 17-40mm F/4L USM”
“Canon EF 17-40mm F/2.8L II USM”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/31/cat/11 which is another amazing 9.67/10 lense. might be a better choice because it is half the price at $680 vs. $1300.
h3. Subframe sensors
If you have an APS-sized sensor like the 50D or the 450D, then there are a bunch of very nice lenses that take advantage of the smaller frame size:
“Canon EF-S 10-22mm F/3.5-4.5 USM”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/135/cat/11. 8.82/10 quality. Its maximum sharpness is between F5.6-8 at 10mm and F8 at 14mm and 22mm. Chromatic abberation is a little high at 10mm. Shading is a little high as well at 0.85EV at F/2.8 and 10mm but drops to 0.5EV at F/5.6. Distortion is actually kind of amazingly low.
“Canon EF-S 17-55 F/2.8 IS USM”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/353/cat/11. 9.41/10 image quality. It is very sharp at F/4, but at F/2.8, it is OK. Chromatic aberration is a week point, with high CA at 17mm. High vignetter of 0.85 EV at 17mm and F/2.8 but drops at half at F/4. Distortion is modest at 17mm, but gets high at 20mm. Good for available light shots with older generation Canons like by 350D.
Finally point if you win the lottery and want to do really great wildlife or available light soccer games, then the $5000 “Canon EF 500mm F/4L IS USM”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/168/cat/10. If you can manage the 13 pounds of weight. You pretty much want to get a 1.4x convertor and use a fast camera like the 5D Mark II to get those wildlife shots at dusk.