a teatray in the sky

tuesday gear day — Canon Extender EF 2X III

Posted in 5D Mark II, Gearheadedness, Photography, Strobism by firthefirst on January 26, 2011

there are things in life that deserve a bad rep.  they’ve worked hard for them, they’ve deeply aggrieved people, they’ve done terrible things under the flimsiest of pretexts.  like, african dictators.  enron executives.  hippopotamuses.  previous models of the hyundai sonata.  and, of course, tele-extenders.

let’s be honest, ask anyone about tele-extenders (pre-2011) and they’ll tell you the truth: they suck, and are unfit for human consumption.  there’s something about sticking a magnifying glass to the back end of a camera lens that just doesn’t seem to cut the mustard.

but that was then.  this is now.  canon clearly saw, with the advent of the new hyundai sonata, that what was once absolute dreck could be rehabilitated and turned into something astounding.  or maybe canon executives have been watching My Fair Lady.  one way or another, they threw down the gauntlet and made a promise no one thought they were really going to keep: that Canon would release a new 2x extender that not only didn’t suck, but would make photos look good.

here we are in 2011, with the new 1.4x III and 2x III extenders available pretty much everywhere.  was Canon all talk, or did they deliver?

Canon delivered like a Fedex truck before christmas.  the 2x III is better than I thought any extender could be, and it was clearly designed with the new 70-200 f/2.8 L IS II lens in mind.  you can go to Bryan’s site at The Digital Picture and check out the ISO charts to see the chart data.  the 70-200 f/2.8 II and 2x III combined at 400mm aren’t quite as sharp and contrasty as the 100-400 f/4-5.6 L, but they get pretty darn close.  what’s it look like in terms of real world shooting?

I’m definitely happy with it.  shot at some trees as well to see how it works with complex detail (bark and branches), but don’t worry, I won’t bore you with shots of tree trunks.  here’s my findings:

  • at 400mm, f/5.6, the 70-200 II/2x III combo is usable, but definitely shows some vignetting and is not at optimum sharpness
  • at 400mm, f/8, the vignetting is mostly gone, and the sharpness really goes up a level.  I think I will ideally shoot at f/8 whenever possible with this combination
  • at 400mm, f/11, you’ve pretty much reached maximum sharpness.  I don’t see a difference from f/11 through f/16, after which diffraction starts to kick in a little
  • even with the 2x III on it, the 70-200 II’s IS system works pretty well.  I could get handheld shots steady at around 1/80th of a second, which is like a 2.5-stop improvement over what you’d expect without IS.  as I’m assuming anyone who is using this combo is really trying to shoot wildlife, I’m not sure when/why you’d ever really need to shoot at 1/80 anyway

I plan on taking this combo to the zoo sometime soon to test it on moving animals, and to see how sharp it still looks when rendering fur.  for those of you who are interested, here’s a 100% crop of the wheel from the car image above, without any post-processing or noise reduction.

hoping it snows big tonight …

*UPDATE – 1/26/11*

I’ve been asked to put up the branch and bark photos, and so I have.  again, all settings in camera are set to zero, and not post-processing or sharpening has been applied to these images.  the f/11 ones are not  critically sharp since for some reason I didn’t have IS turned on.  all images should have full metadata/EXIF and you’re free to download them for yourself to check out.  not sure why my first image was shot at 365mm instead of 400mm …

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5 Responses

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  1. Hendrik Müller said, on January 26, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Thank you to pst these Pictures which seem to be very good. I am also thinkong about buying an extender, but i habe a crop camera and a 300 2.8 on it, where the camera is some sort of extender already. for me it would be interesting to know, whether i get additional resolution with an extender compared to cropping the the final picture and naturally with given distance to my subject.

    If the sensor already outresolves the lens, i cant get more detail out of the lens. So I would be interested o know which camera you used to shoot your test

    Thanks and habe a nice evening

    • firthefirst said, on January 26, 2011 at 12:34 pm

      all of these were shot with the Canon 5D Mark II. I didn’t realize I didn’t mention the camera used. which crop camera are you shooting with?

      the 2X III should go very well with the Canon 300 f/2.8. however, if you don’t need a 2x for reach, the 1.4x III pairs even better with the 300 f/2.8. at 420mm f/4 that combination appears very sharp even wide open.

      • Hendrik Müller said, on January 26, 2011 at 12:49 pm

        at the Moment with a 50d. I see i will borrow both extenders or even all four (Typ II and III), i will inform you about my results 🙂

  2. Izzy said, on October 19, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    Hi,
    I’d like first to thank you for the great review as there aren’t many around for the mark3 version.
    I’m wondering how both 1.4x & 2x perform at Servo mode, need to buy one extender to compliment my 70-200 f2.8 IS II & using 7D, it would be mainly for wide life.
    I’ll be honest, I’m more leaning toward the 1.4x
    Thanks

    • firthefirst said, on November 7, 2011 at 11:26 am

      I don’t see much of a performance drop on the 5D mark II with the 2x extender, and I would assume the 1.4x would affect the 7D even less. Arthur Morris, the famous bird photographer, has been using the 1.4x on the 70-200 and 7D with really great results, so I would take the fact that he’s satisfied with the combination as a very good sign.


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