Categories: Opinions, Reviews - Tags: Extenders, Lens, Recommended, Wildlife and Nature
Back last year I wrote a blog post all about the new EF MkIII Extenders from Canon looking at how they performed and whether they were worth the upgrade. At the end I concluded that indeed they were very good and definitely a step up from the Mk II Extenders.That was using them in conjunction with an EF300mm f/2.8L IS USM – in other words the outgoing version.
Well, the other week I was working for SanDisk (as part of my being an Extreme Team Member) on safari in the Masai Mara with Jonathan and Angie Scott, two fellow Extreme Team members. For the trip I managed to lay my hands on one of the new range of Mk II Super Telephoto lenses - the EF400mm f/2.8L II IS USM and both the EF1.4x III and EF2xIII Extenders. First of all, that lens is stunning and is a great (if expensive) choice for wildlife photographers, but I’ll write more on that at a later date as this is really about the Extenders.
A lot of my images were taken with either the 1.4x or 2x attached to the 400mm, which seemed permanently bolted to the front of my EOS-1D Mark IV. While shooting I got the impression everything was working well, but it was on looking at the files afterwards I saw just how well. The Mk II lenses really seem to be a step on from previous models, especially when put on an EOS-1D Mark IV – almost like they speak a special kind of ‘super-Japanese’ that makes them even better than you’d expect. However, even with the Extenders attached I was blown away.
In days of old, the 2x Extender was reserved for those ‘dammit, it’s too far away but I really need to get that shot. Oh well, I’ll *have* to use the 2x. Image quality won’t be up to much though…’ situations. In other words it was to be used in a pinch only and only if there was no other solution. No more though. There is one image from the files that really stood out for me. One image that really showed just how far the technology has progressed. If this doesn’t convince you that the Mk III Extenders are a big improvement over their Mk II counterparts then I guess you’re beyond help!
If you’re wondering why I’m concentrating on the EF2x III, it’s because the EF1.4II was always good. The Mk III is definitely better, but the jump in image quality on the EF 2x III is so great that it caught me even more by surprise.
First up is the whole image. This is direct from the camera with the Picture Style set to Neutral so there is no sharpening applied at all. All I have done is re-size it for the web and put the watermark on. I’ll say it again to be sure, THERE IS NO SHARPENING on this first, or indeed second, image. The flat colours are the result of no contrast or saturation being applied by the Neutral Picture Style. Exposure details as follows:
ISO 400, 1/800sec, f/6.3. Handheld.
EF400mm f/2.8L II IS USM, EF2xIII Extender, EOS-1D Mark IV
Next up is a 100% crop of this image. Again, Neutral picture style and no sharpening.
100% crop, Neutral picture style, no sharpening. EF400mm f/2.8L II IS USM, EF2xIII Extender, EOS-1D Mark IV
Now we get into a little bit of processing. Here’s the full image but with the Picture Style set to ‘Landscape’. This adds sharpening in RAW at Level 4 (out of 10).
Landscape picture style, no additional sharpening. EF400mm f/2.8L II IS USM, EF2xIII Extender, EOS-1D Mark IV
Now for the two crops. Firstly a 100% crop of this Landscape Picture Style image:
100% crop, Landscape picture style, no additional sharpening. EF400mm f/2.8L II IS USM, EF2xIII Extender, EOS-1D Mark IV
And finally the same 100% crop but with some sharpening applied specifically for display output using Nik Sharpener Pro 3.0. And yes, it could easily be argued that actually adding any sharpening to the previous image will result in over-sharpening. The settings in Nik for this image have been kept very low, but I personally would not argue with someone who said it’s actually a bit too much…..! :
100% crop, Landscape picture style, SHARPENED FOR DISPLAY OUTPUT with Nik Sharpener Pro 3.0. EF400mm f/2.8L II IS USM, EF2xIII Extender, EOS-1D Mark IV
If you look carefully at these last two images, you’ll notice a bump just below the catchlight in the eye. Well, the catchlight is unsurprisingly the sun. The bump is the vehicle I was in. Yes, I think it’s fair to say that the performance of these Extenders really is a step on. I for one will no longer dread reaching for the 2xIII, knowing that it is more than capable of resolving an amazing amount of detail, especially on the newer lenses.For those of you thinking of buying an EF100-400mm f/5.6L IS USM lens for wildlife, this may convince there there could well be a better option – the EF70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM and an EF2xIII Extender. If you’re thinking along those lines, then I can’t see anyway you could be disappointed as I’m fairly confident that combination will out-resolve the EF100-400mm and given that you can take the Extender off, you’d have a much more versatile lens arrangement.And don’t forget that adding an Extender to the lens doesn’t reduce the minimum focusing distance, so if you want to use an Extender but still get close to your subject for really frame filling shots, you can.
And before someone comments, I suppose I should point out that the four black dots in front of the hyena are not dust spots, but flies buzzing around! This is the lowest of the four shown here cropped out of the image. He’s slightly off the plane of focus so not as sharp as it should be, but it shows the resolving power. This is cropped out of the full Landscape Picture Style image with output sharpening applied by Nik Sharpener Pro 3.0.
Fly! EF400mm f/2.8L II IS USM, EF2xIII, EOS-1D Mark IV
What do you think? Will you be considering making the upgrade, or even buying to the new found abilities of the EF 2x III Extender?