The long rumored IS version of this lens is out already, and my prediction is that it will retail at about $1600-$2000 at good dealers such as B&H Photo Video in New York City. BTW, if you ever need equipment, these guys have usually the best prices and the most professional service. Almost everything here was bought from them.
Well, the lens is out now and it retails for about $1899 at B&H. Not a bad prediction, but still a very high price.
On extended trips I typically rent the lens below. In New York City, I highly recommend Lens & Repro. They are very well stocked with equipment and very professional.
I have seen photos with the equivalent Sigma lens and I can't complain about its sharpness. At under $500, the Sigma lens is a very good deal. My only complaint on the Sigma is the filter size. All of the Canon lens above are 77mm in size, so I only buy 1 filter size. The Sigma is a staggering 82mm. For rare uses, I don't feel like spending on this kind of lens yet.
I have successfully, although very rarely, used this TC with the 100-400L lens above. This is at the edge of usability since the max aperture for the lens is already f/5.6, while the TC pushes it to the next stop at f/8. On the D-30 this shuts off the Auto Focus system because it doesn't have enough light. If you stop the lens down 1/2 to a full stop, you can get good sharp photos. Some people have found ways to put a tap on some of the contacts of the TC and fool the camera into thinking it's using a regular lens and still run the AF. I haven't tried this yet, maybe next time.
Photo printers today have evolved tremendously. You can buy a new 7-color Epson R-800 and print not only perfect color, but beautiful black and whites. Since mid-2001, I have used one of the best consumer ink-jet printer that can print at and even surpass traditional methods for photo prints -- the Epson 1270/80/90. Reviews aside, I am still amazed at the quality of the prints that come out of this printer. If you can find the 1270 cheaply and you are interested in photography, by all means get one. You can settle for the 1280, but for a little more. This isn't so much limited to photos produced by a digital camera. Any photo in your PC can be printed with incredible quality on this printer. The only thing that truly sucks is the lack of a good continuous flow system for this printer. Epson is definitely making a killing on the inks here. The best I have managed is an average of about 15 letter size photos with 1 color ink cartridge.
Some updates on the Epson. I have been able to squeeze about 4-5 letter size photo prints from a color cartridge after a manual reset following a notice of an empty cartridge. This is a risky operation since you could run out of ink and ruin the print head. But it shows you how flawed Epson's estimation system is. I heard and have seen reviews of continuous ink flow systems, but there remains an ink matching issue. Some of these are not bad if you are willing to correctly profile your system.
There are numerous reports on the Internet regarding the longevity and orange shift concerning this printer's ink and some papers. All I can say is that I haven't had any shifts whatsoever on my prints. I have photos that have been framed for months now with no difference. I also have dozens of them in clear, archival plastic sheets, and dozens more sent out to family and friends, and I have yet to see any problems. I am waiting to try out the new and improved ColorLife paper from Epson that's supposed to have better longevity and coating for protection from atmospheric contaminants, while retaining the glossiness of the Premium Glossy Photo Paper which has been associated the most with the orange shifts.
For Software, what can I say: Photoshop 6.0. There's simply no substitute for this. I used it on my vintage Dell circa 1998 with PII 333mhz and still use it on my 2001 home-made AMD Athlon machine with 1GB RAM. For photography, disk space and tons of memory is a must. Always backup, make CDs or DVDs, two of them. You never know.
For do-it-yourself printers like me, monitor calibration is another caveat. I can't say that I have a 100% calibrated system, but I can say that the printouts are 99% of what they look like on the monitor. My monitor for the past 2.5 years is ViewSonic P95f. It's a great monitor, with very good controls for self-calibration. Unfortunately, I have had a couple of issues so far. It had to be replaced after less than 1 year because of discoloration on the edges that was unfixable. Recently, it stopped responding to the PC signal and had to be refurbished. It is a great monitor with high resolution and high frequency, but these problems are worrying me more and more. I'd love to move to an Apple Cinema Display, but need $$$.
My only calibration issue has been with the new ColorLife paper from Epson. This paper has similar texture and look to the Premium Luster Photo Paper. It has supposedly better lightfastness, but according to some reports, it needs 1 day to dry because it has very low resistance to water. Even after exploring all options, the prints on this paper have been mildly cooler than on the other papers. I have been able to make some minor changes by lowering the magenta to -7 on the color controls option with better results. But for now, this paper has remained in the box.
Finally, what's a self-respecting digital photographer to do without BreezeBrowser. It's the perfect tool for managing tons of images. Lightweight, fast and indispensable image browser that can turn proofs (I don't use them) and websites fast. I highly recommend it to anyone even dabbling in digital photography. And finally, I have to recommend this because it's well thought out, but I use it sparingly: JAlbum. It's a java based standalone web-gallery tool. You have fully customizable templates shared by people, and it cranks things fast. The result can be ftp-ed to your site. It's a great tool. I don't use it often because it won't sharpen the images like I do with BB above.