The big new shiny lens is here!!!!! :mrgreen::mrgreen::mrgreen: Ok ok party over lets get down to things and what we get *will probably take some pics at some point maybe *. First of packaging, yes lets talk about the packaging - this lens comes with a full 1 inch of stiff packing foam around each end and side - that means a far bigger box than the original and a far more secure package. And this thick packing is even more added to with a good half an inch more packing around the lens itself inside its fabric case. This package could take a serious dent and still deliver in good condition! Opening the lens up we see very little difference to the first version of this lens, in fact you could put the two next to each other and not be able to tell the difference. Body of the lens is exactly the same with regard to switches and markings, only a little II has added onto the lens name on the barrel and the rubber on the zoom and focusing wheels feels improved; a bit stiffer and more grippy. The major improvement though is the lens hood - this has stepped up a level. First the plastic is thicker and more sturdy, the finish on the outside is also matt instead of shiny and so less likley to take scuffs and marks. Also the (probably worst part of the original lens) mount itself is more secure and sturdy (it no longer feels like it will break) and the hood has a clip function to help lock it into place. Overall then not much change over the original, save with the improved hood design. Onto the lens itself and the first time I mounted this lens to fire I got a shock - a big one! Having set the IS to on and held down the shutter button I couldn't hear the IS starting up. I was worried, flicked the IS on/off switch a few times and tried again. Still nothing! Did my new lens have a broken IS? Thankfully no! But I now have to place my ear right up to the lens to really hear the soft whirring of the IS working its magic. This is a big step up from the original where, whilst it was not horribly loud, it was still audible. Now its truly as quiet as the fast USM focusing. Test shots and stuff - not really done any yet I'll edit some proper ones in once I have them. But early views all the same: 1) Its sharp - really sharp and the IS works a treat! 2) With a 2*TC it also appears to retain a lot of sharpness - for me this is where the real difference in glass shows - as I push it to the extremes. I'll do some proper test shots but suffice to say I can already see an optical improvement over the original here!