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1.4x or 2x Teleconverter for my Canon 70-200 f/2.8 L

BJ Donnelly , Oct 25, 2001; 02:41 p.m.

I have recently purchased a barely used (perfect condition) Canon 70- 200mm f/2.8L USM lens off of eBay. I am VERY happy with the purchase. It is my first good lens I've ever bought and I am very excited about it. It takes great pictures, is incredibly fast and sharp, and very well made.

I live in Florida and there is unfortunately not much wildlife to shoot here except for a wide variety of birds. Now I love birds as much as the next nature photographers but my passion is filming larger animals in the west such as bear, elk, etc... Since I am in Florida 98% of the time, I would like to be able to shoot birds with my new lens. Some birds in more habituated environments (such as parks) allow me to get relatively close and they fill the frame nicely. Others however are just too small or too skeeterish for this lens length.

I cannot afford to buy a big prime lens (especially after paying for this one) and am looking at getting either a 1.4x or a 2x TC to use with this lens. I hear a lot of mixed reviews about these little guys. Many say not to bother with a 2x because of the lack in sharpness. I would like to blow these pictures up real big (up to 20- 30) if possible so sharpness is a factor. However, I don’t think that a 1.4x is going to be long enough. Does anyone have any experience with this combo or in this environment? I know the Canon TCs are designed for this lens. I would not consider buying a 3rd party. Also, I have a Gitzo 1349 tripod and Studioball Head so camera shake shouldn’t be a problem either. Thank you so much for your responses.

Responses


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J. Scott Schrader , Oct 25, 2001; 02:57 p.m.

I have gotten good results (and published) with both Canon's 1.4x and 2x. I use the 1.4 most often (more as a result of the light loss issue rather than a sharpness issue) and only resort to the 2x when absolutely necessary. I have heard and read about George Lepp stacking those two extenders and having very successful results.

Bob Atkins , Oct 25, 2001; 04:06 p.m.

Most people would say that 20x30 (inches) is already at the limit for a sharp prime lens from a 35mm negative/slide, if not over the limit. Adding a TC will just make things worse.

While I haven't tried the TC on the 70-200/2.8L I have tried them on the 70-200/4L as well as most of the Canon primes 300mm and longer. Results with the 2x are ALWAYS less sharp then with the 1.4x, there's just no question about that.

You have the wrong lens for small bird photography (and you know that) so you will have to compromise on results. Either by not attempting to fill the frame, living with reduced sharpness and/or making smaller prints (in fact you may have to live with all three!).

I don't think anyone can tell you whether the 1.4x or 2x will be better for you. You're trading magnification for sharpness and only you know what compromises you're willing to make in that area. I'm lucky enough to have longer lenses available. I'll add a 1.4x to a 300mm lens with no worries about sharpness, but I'll drag out the 500mm before I'll put a 2x on a 300. A 2x is my last resort. It's not about speed, it's about sharpness.

If you're really serious about photographing small birds on a tight budget you really need the 400/5.6L, plus maybe a 1.4x (about the same price used as a 70-200/2.8L, maybe even cheaper).

Lee Shively , Oct 25, 2001; 05:23 p.m.

BJ, I use the 70-200 with a 1.4X more often than naked. I do not now own a 2X but would not hesitate to use one on this lens. Bob is right, however, it's not a bird lens. I cannot afford big glass currently either but I get good results with the 400 f/5.6L and the 1.4X. I look at is this way, you got to dance with the girl you brought to the prom. If the best you can do is a 2X on the 70-200 right now, dance with it. You'll have to work harder, maybe build some blinds or learn to stalk birds while you wear silly looking camo clothes, but you can make some fine photos by working hard.

Bill Ballard , Oct 25, 2001; 06:02 p.m.

I have tried both 1.4X and 2X converters on zooms and have never, not once, been satisfied with the results - but that's just my own experience. I know of many folks that use TC's regularly on zooms and are quite content.

I would have to agree with Bob - I use the 1.4X routinely on my 300 f2.8L - although I have, once or twice, used a 2X on it as well and I did lose some sharpness. As Bob said, I now use the 2X as a last resort. Until I can afford the 500mm, that's how it's gotta be!

I would suggest that you see if you can rent or borrow the TC's, run some chrome through them, and check the results - if you're still compelled to get a TC, then buy the 1.4X!

Bill

Michael Lopez , Oct 25, 2001; 06:09 p.m.

"Canon TCs are designed for this lens. I would not consider buying a 3rd party [TC]."

It is your wallet, of course. But you might want to look into the Kenko Pro 1.4x and 2x teleconverters. They are very close (not quite equal) to Canon TC quality, at roughly half the cost. You could buy just the Kenko Pro 1.4x for $172, and deposit the difference in cost to start a savings fund towards purchasing a second-hand 400/5.6. Over the last month or two, I've seen a used Canon 400/5.6 for $850 at B&H, a used Sigma 400/5.6 HSM for $600 at Adorama, and Tokina or non-HSM Sigma used 400/5.6 lenses for around $300 to $350 at Adorama and KEH. For Tokina, you'd want the AT-X APO version; for Sigma, you'd want the most recent non-HSM or HSM versions. Depending on your camera model, you may or may not be able to auto-focus when a 1.4x extender is attached to an f/5.6 main lens. Among 400/5.6 lenses, spending more gets you significantly better quality, especially in the focusing motor.

BTW, Bob Atkins knows vastly more about bird photography than I do. If he disagrees with me, believe him.

Shun Cheung , Oct 25, 2001; 06:23 p.m.

To put it bluntly, a 70-200 zoom is the wrong lens for bird photography in general, regardless of what TCs you are going to use with it. A 2x along w/ the 200mm end might get you closer, but most likely you will be very frustrated. I have been there before myself.

If you are really interested in bird photography, try to save for a 400mm/f5.6 as a starting point, and it is not that expensive. Eventually you'll probably grow beyond that, and you'll need the big guns then.

I S , Oct 26, 2001; 07:42 a.m.

The Canon 1.4X TC is a great introduction to teleconverters, because its quality is so high. I use one with great results on my 300mm F4L IS and 70-200 F4L (optically very similar to the F2.8), so I don't think you'll be disappointed with the results. The 2X mk II is said to be very good for a 2X TC, but don't expect results with it to be brilliant.

Gary Voth , Oct 27, 2001; 09:37 a.m.

My background is photojournalism, where getting the shot is more important than lp/m pairs of resolution. So I have used the 2x with the zoom on more than one occasion with okay results. You must stop down at least to f/4.0 (effective f/8.0), however.

That said, I agree with the other posters that in the realms of outdoor and wildlife photography you will not be competitive with this setup. Ultimate sharpness and photographic technique are critical factors in the success of this kind of work, and you just cannot achieve that with a 2x and zoom lens.

Save that $250 or so you would spend on a 2x converter and put it towards a used 400 f/5.6L. 400mm is just long enough to work well for many kinds of wildlife, and is very good for birds in flight. The quality of this prime lens is such that it should be fine with a 1.4x converter too, though you will need to use a good tripod.

Enjoy the 70-200, it is a fine lens.

Terry Dvorak , Oct 27, 2001; 10:30 a.m.

"You could buy just the Kenko Pro 1.4x for $172, and deposit the difference in cost to save toward a second-hand 400/5.6."

Or you could buy the Canon 1.4 used for around $200 (I did, through photo.net classifieds, even BEFORE the price of new Mark I 1.4's dropped to the levels where they are now, which I think is around $280). I've never been thrilled with 2x TC's and have to admit that I wince even when I have to use a 1.4, although no one's ever complained about the resulting photos, so if you want to "increase" the range of your kit it's the best way to go on a budget.


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