a teatray in the sky

Canon Extender EF 2x III review – gone birding

Posted in 5D Mark II, Animals, Birds, Bronx, Gearheadedness, New York City, Photography by firthefirst on March 22, 2011

continuing 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 review how the pairing worked out on my 5d mark II for birding at the zoo.

I’ve noted before that I am no birder.  I’m lousy at pinpointing birds on trees (tina is really good at this, so I suppose I can rely on her to be a spotter).  I have no practice at tracking them while in flight.  luckily, birding is one of those things that you can improve at with practice.  a lot of patience and the willingness to delete a lot of bad photos goes a long way towards improving your skills.

first off, some more image-quality review shots.  each image is followed by an unprocessed 100% crop from the image, showing feather details.  most of the shots are taken at ISO 1600 or 3200.  the bronx zoo has a fantastic collection of birds of all types … it’s a pity they don’t document them better on the website.  maybe they feel creatures with names like “mandarin duck” sound uninteresting, but its a gorgeous bird and worth seeing at any zoo.

I’m not sure what the deal is with peacocks, but the bronx zoo seems to find it OK that these guys wander all over the zoo property.  amusingly, the other animals hardly seem to mind.  I guess peafowl doesn’t show up on too many canivorous wishlists?

the flamingo shot was taken outdoors and you can see how the lens combination performs in ideal conditions: f/8 and ISO 400.

the white throated bee-eater is one of those birds I would never spot in the wild on my own.  nor would you be able to get close enough for a shot.  it’s the nice thing about going to the zoo, you really get to see animals up close in a way you never would be able to experience otherwise.

so … enough with the perched birds, let’s talk a little about birds in flight (BIF), the real reason canon’s L lenses move as many big white units as they do.

I spent perhaps an hour shooting inca terns at the aquatic birds exhibit at the zoo.  these cheery, mustachioed fellows are just under a foot and a half long (they don’t seem that large in person), have the pointiest tongues I’ve ever seen, and can hover over the water before splashing in to snatch a fish or a leaf like some sort of V/STOL aircraft.  they made excellent birding practice targets and reinforced why I don’t aspire to become a greaf BIF’er … I just don’t have the time for the practice required.

the 5D mark II did pretty much what I expected it to: it performed reasonably well but not superbly.  the AF usually misses the first frame before it catches tracking focus, and then usually loses tracking after a couple of shots.  however, you have to give it credit for the fact that I was shooting targets at very close range (which in hunting is easier, but in photography is harder), the inca terns are extremely active and agile, and the subjects were backlit with a busy background.

so maybe in light of that, the camera held up pretty well.  I have no doubt that it can do better under more ideal conditions.  the great thing with the 5D Mark II is that if the subject is somewhat misaligned in the frame, you have a ton of latitude in resolution to crop down.  you can even crop it down to an APS-C size, in which case the 5DII performs like a really clean 30D.

these images are cropped to an APS-H size, in which case you get a resolution of 4320 x 2880 pixels, which is basically a 12 MP APS-H; not bad.  now if only the 5D Mark II could manage a tad over 3.9 fps …

9 Responses

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  1. Elmira said, on March 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    one word…amazing!

  2. yangsc said, on April 13, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    holy crap dude, these are gorgeous! i did not expect the lens to perform this well with a 2x extender. wow.

  3. Tikka said, on May 14, 2011 at 2:10 pm


  4. Stromgard said, on June 21, 2011 at 4:44 am

    The bee-eater pic has really really beautiful colors…

  5. Gene Sullenger said, on July 12, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Hello –

    Can the Extender EF 2X III be used with EF-S lens?


  6. Mano said, on November 16, 2011 at 5:39 am


    Some excellent shots i would say.. but have you used tripod for these shots?


    • firthefirst said, on January 10, 2012 at 3:19 pm


      Nope, all the shots were shot handheld. Thanks for looking!


  7. jatinsindhu said, on October 31, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    I have the lens and was confused about which extender go ho for, the 2x or the 1.4x. This revie cleared up all the quality issues Ishmael the 2x. Great job and thank you.

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