a teatray in the sky

Canon Extender EF 2x III review – leaping lemurs

Posted in 5D Mark II, Animals, Bronx, Gearheadedness, New York City, Photography, Primates by firthefirst on March 21, 2011

ever since getting the canon extender EF 2x III to pair with the canon 70-200 f/2.8 L IS II in preparation for august’s galapagos trip, I’ve been meaning to give the system a formal shakedown (I did a very preliminary test run here).  with work in the way, that review has taken far longer to get to than expected.  I had a lucky break this past weekend when Tina got sent to the big apple for a symposium.  I packed up the photo gear and merrily tagged along, with zero intention of thinking any architectural thoughts — I was headed to the Bronx Zoo.  while few of the larger mammals were out due to the chilly-for-africa temperatures, the Bronx Zoo has a huge and exciting collection of primates and birds, so I spent most of my time photographing the furry and the feathery.

along with each image in today’s post, I am posting a 100% crop with no noise reduction and no sharpening: what I see straight out of my camera.  there is a lot of noise mainly because the lemur exhibit is all indoors and under very dim lighting.  the good thing is, they don’t keep the lemurs behind glass, so there’s no image quality loss from poorly cleaned, nastily tinted zoo glass.

the in-the-field testing backs up what I first surmised from my informal testing on trees and other inanimate objects.  the 70-200 f/2.8 L IS II + 2x III combo is usable at f/5.6, but it really improves by a massive leap when you stop down to f/8.  anything above f/8 makes little difference. 

the one thing that stood out is that the combination actually focused fairly well even in dark environments — here I was shooting at ISO 3200 but the extender and lens strapped to the 5D mark II almost never missed focus (on static shots, I’ll talk about tracking focus in my next post showing how this holds up on birds) and in fact rarely even hunted.  color me very impressed.

the other aspect of the combination that I’m pleased with is that the bokeh remains very smooth despite the addition of the extender.  I’m very happy with the quality of the out-of-focus areas in the images, even at f/8.

if I get around to it in the next couple of days, I plan on posting part 2 which will evaluate how the 70-200 f/2.8 L IS II + EF 2x III combination holds up when shooting birds, both stationary and in flight.

check out the hairs on the jaw from this shot.  it’s what you get for shooting at f/8.  really solid stuff, considering its a shot taken at ISO 3200:

7 Responses

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  1. […] from yesterday’s post about using the new Extender EF 2x III on the 70-200 f/2.8 L IS II, today I’m going to […]

  2. meir said, on April 23, 2011 at 6:49 pm


    This is some really good post.

    I am wondering if you have 2 pics that shows quality of the same object with and without the extender in daylight (low ISO), its interesting to know what part in quality damaging if at all the extender has.

    thanks again for sharing


    • firthefirst said, on May 13, 2011 at 2:04 pm

      hi meir, I don’t really do lens testing at that level of detail, but there’s an excellent site called The Digital Picture that has ISO-chart comparisons of different cameras and lens combinations, and I know they’ve got very detailed comparisons of the 70-200 II with and without each type of extender

      go here:
      and then click on the first item, the ISO 12233 chart comparison tool

  3. Mo said, on May 13, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    I’m a first year photography student . I have a EOS Rebel T2i EF-S and use a EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. I’ve been wanting to purchase the Extender
    EF 2x III but wasn’t sure if my images would turn out as good as yours since my camera body isn’t the same. Do you think it’s worth purchasing the extender?

    • firthefirst said, on May 13, 2011 at 2:09 pm


      I’d say in good daylight you’d get the exact same quality out of a T2i as you would off the 5D Mark II (from ISO 100-800 there will be marginal difference, if any).

      the one difference is, you’ll probably need a higher shutter speed because of your focal length multiplier, the 70-200 + 2x on an APS-C camera makes it into a 224-640mm lens … even with IS on, I’d probably keep my shutter speed up around 1/500 or so, ideally.

      what you can do instead is purchase the 1.4x. that will give you a brighter viewfinder, a faster max aperture (f/4 instead of f/5.6), and you’ll still have an equivalent length of 156-448mm, which gives your more reach than I get on the 5DII and the 2x.

      hope that helps, enjoy shooting

  4. Robert K said, on July 17, 2011 at 8:07 am

    Thanks for posting and the pictures. I’ve got a 7D with the 70-200mm II + Ext 2.0 III and I recently paid another visit to the Amsterdam Zoo and shot some pictures. What struck me is that there is a definite decrease of picture quality (at 100%) /especially/ in harsh light. The 70-200mm lens is a fantastic lens and I’ve shot many pictures with it in harsh lighting conditions but was never disappointed by the image quality. The extender though did make my pictures look harsh and not smooth at all. It’s almost as if the whites are blown out but when you check it out, you’ll see that they’re not (or just a few pixels are) but the contrast just isn’t there anymore. I’ve linked to the photos in question on my Flickr site.

  5. yangsc said, on August 19, 2011 at 10:57 pm


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