since i had the car and was closest to the super market, my mother called me this morning to remind me to get some groceries for her. after i made my list, i drove to market basket. i was luckily this time and managed to find a parking spot right away, even though it was at the farthest reach of the parking lot. despite the crowds and the long lines, i really love going to market basket. the dirt cheap prices certainly help, but i also enjoy how crazy it is with all the different people. it's probably because i work at home and i'm just starved for stimulation. afterwards i went to the cafe to deliver the supplies before returning home.

a check of my junk mail folder revealed an e-mail from a person i wrote to last night regarding an ad on craig's list. up for sale: a used canon ef-s 60mm f/2.8 usm macro lens for $295, which is $50 cheaper than the cheapest deal on ebay (not even figuring in the shipping cost) and almost $100 cheaper than if i bought it brand new. i've been considering getting a macro lens for a while now, but since i bought the 17-50mm fast lens more than a week ago, getting a macro wasn't high on my priority list. i was trying to figure out some other ways (cheaper ways) to get macro on my canon, like using extension tubes. but when i saw the canon 60mm at that price, it renewed my interest. i knew it was great macro lens, but i never thought i could afford it ($400), instead settling for a 3rd party manufacturer like tamron or sigma. the difference with this canon macro is it's a better build and it's all internal focusing so the lens barrel doesn't extend out. i thought about it long and hard but in the end decided to just go for it. the only drawback (besides being down $300) is it's an ef-s lens, which means it'll only work with small format DLSR's (but i think it's going to a long time before i can afford a full-size DSLR camera).

anyway, the seller turned out to be an asian guy named jimmy (was his last name choo? does he make shoes?). we exchanged some e-mails and figured out a time to meet: 4:45pm in cambridge near davis square. i parked in a residential permit spot but saw a meter man making his rounds (end of the month, be careful!), so i got back in the car and found a metered spot (i figured 25¢ was better than a $50 fine). i met jimmy at his apartment, we transacted in the hallway. before i left, he asked if i'd be interested in a canon ef-s 17-55mm f2.8 IS lens (i said no, it was $925). i stepped out of the building with my "new" lens attached to my camera.

my first impressions: fast and silent! (thanks to USM - ultrasonic motor drive). 60mm on a small format camera is equivalent to a 96mm lens. it look a while to get used to, since its a fixed lens (no zooming!); the focus ring works even in autofocus mode (in all my other lens, the focus ring is locked during AF).

i got some gas first before going home. up in the sky i could see some weird-looking clouds.

first thing i did when i got home was to go out into the backyard and look for things to take photos of. my neighbor jen was in her backyard sweeping her deck. i crawled on my hands and knees capturing some small spring bulbs poking out of the garden.

what struck me the most was how breathtakingly sharp the images are. are all prime (fixed) lenses like this? prior to the 60mm, i thought my new tamron 17-50mm was the sharpest thing i've ever seen, but after seeing the results from the 60mm, there's no comparison. it's so crystal clear it's like somebody did a photoshop sharpen filter on all my photos. the sharpness is so intense that it almost hurts to look at the images.

could the 60mm macro on the canon 350d beat the king of macro, the nikon coolpix 4500? i did some tests:

canon 350d
f2.8 60mm
(96mm equivalent)
1/100 sec ISO 1600

nikon coolpix 4500
f3.4 15.8mm
(76mm equivalent)
1/56 sec ISO 400

2272x1704 pixel crop
from canon image
(nikon equivalent)

the nikon can still get closer than the 60mm lens. it's also easier to stabilize the nikon coolpix because it's smaller and lighter than the canon. but the nikon is only 4 megapixels while the canon has 8 megapixels. taking that into consideration, and cropping out the equivalent image size from a canon photo (2272x1704 pixels out of 3456x2304 pixels), the 60mm actually "appears" to focuses closer.

and how could i not try taking some photos of my fish? because it's not any faster than my 17-50mm f/2.8 tamron lens, there's no real advantage other than the closer (macro) focusing ability. fast swimming fish still show up as blurs, but if on the rare chance they happen to stand still for a split second, then i can get amazingly sharp captures. interesting note: some of my more mature baby guppies are starting to show not only colors but patterns in their tail fins.

all in all, the 60mm is a good purchase. i'd already planned on getting a macro lens sometime in the future, just didn't realize it'd be so soon after i got my fast tamron lens. i could resell the macro to somebody else and still make a profit at the price i bought mine at. with the purchase of this lens i now have pretty much full coverage with my canon, from macro to wide-angle and mid-range to telephoto. hopefully i won't have to purchase another lens for a long long time.

friday was over rather quickly, leaving the weekend wide open to finish up my work. lunch came in the form of canned soup while dinner involved the toaster oven and a pizza. an tao didn't get back home until late, after paying a visit to my mother to say good-bye then returning to his workplace to clean out his office. when he got back home he finally started packing; i gave him one of my oversized chinese tarp-material tote bag because he didn't have enough room in his one suitcase. afterwards we watched the end of a basketball game between the lakers and the rockets (coincidentally, yao ming was playing, who's originally from shanghai, where an tao is returning to). an tao decided to sleep for an hour or two while i'll probably just stay up the whole night. we're leaving for the airport at 4:30 (for a 7:00 flight) - i'm normally still awake at that time.

it's weird, just a few more hours and i won't have a roommate anymore. including an tao i've had 5 roommates over the course of the 4+ years i've lived here. i definitely learned the most from an tao and i'll miss those nights where we'd be up discussing some US-china issue, or i'm asking him about life on the mainland while i reveal to him what america is really like. maybe one day he and his wife will revisit america, a real vacation where he doesn't have to work all the time. vice versa, if i ever make my way to china, i'll have more reason to see shanghai.