Hi! I took my Canon 1.4x III extender out to Ridgefield NWR, May 15, 2013, along with my Canon 400mm f5.6L lens. All shots shown (except one) were taken with this combination attached to my 5D Mark III. As you may recall, a few weeks ago (my May 1 blog post) I also shot for a day with my Canon 1.4x II extender, and shortly thereafter, decided to sell it and pick up the latest III model. So here I am with the latest model attached to my 400mm f5.6L prime lens–shooting at f8.
I arrived at the refuge at sun up and there was an overcast that made me wish I had a faster lens. You’ll see high ISO settings on many of these shots. The clouds stayed with me all day but it did brighten up some as time went on. I’d have to say that consistently getting really clear shots with this combo depends a lot on the distance I was from the subject. I think this is true with any lens though. For me, the best thing I can do to assure a sharp shot is to get close to my subject. Also, being forced to use a high ISO setting does have its negative effect on sharpness. The additional noise introduced in the image requires more noise reduction thereby reducing some detail, which especially shows up in close up shots of birds and other wildlife. By high ISO I’m talking ISO 4000 and above with the 5DM3. This is another reason why using this combo in low light situations can be disappointing. I guess that’s pretty obvious given the max aperture is f8. The 5DM3 does a great job of limiting noise in the ISO 3200-6400 range, which made it possible to perform this test in relative dark conditions.
Compared to the 1.4x II model extender, the III model was more consistent in AF operation. So many shots using the II model were like I never even attempted to focus. Even flight shots with the III model were much more apt to be in focus although I didn’t get any decent opportunities today for BIF’s. AF speed, however, is about the same on both models with the lens I’m using–about half the speed of my lens by itself. It’s my understanding that the III model is supposed to work better with series II/III L lenses. So if I ever do get a better lens I can look forward to better performance when I use the extender. I’m still glad I got the III model even though it cost me $449. I sold my 5-year old II model for well over $200, which I was very happy with. I’m learning when to use the extender and when not to.
At the end of the photos below, I compare two photos of a Wood Duck taken on May 20, one taken with the 400mm and one with the 560mm set up. Be sure to check that out if you’re interested in comparing the shots yourself and discovering which one I think turned out the best. Aside from this comparison, all the other photos in this post were taken with the 560mm 1.4x set up.
Now, getting to the photos I took today using the 1.4x extender–some aren’t too bad but some are softer than I’d like. I’ll give you my assessment as we go through the shots.
[Remember to click on these thumbnails to see the large view and much more detail].
It was fairly dark when I started out and this Ring-necked Duck was too far away–but that’s what tests are for, right?? 🙂 The bird isn’t super sharp (1/400 SS didn’t help!) so I backed off of the crop some to try to get by with it. (6:21 a.m.) ISO 3200, 1/400
I don’t usually take a lot of Red-winged Blackbird photos as they are so common and I have a gazillion of them. But I was trying out the extender and was not too selective today. This one has decent detail but the bird is kind of looking away–so not the best pose. (6:28) ISO 4000, 1/400
Here’s a Cedar Waxwing against a bright back light. It was a relatively close shot and I hoped it would have been sharper. I doubt I would have even taken the shot if I weren’t testing the extender. The background is not pleasing and the branch in front of the bird is distracting. Still, a beautiful bird! (6:52) ISO 4000, 1/400 (The relatively slow shutter speed of 1/400 also could have been a factor in these 3 shots; I think we all need an f2.8 lens!)
For this Marsh Wren, I bumped up the ISO even more to get a 1/500 shutter speed–still slower than I like to shoot birds at since they rarely sit still. (7:18) ISO 5000, 1/500
A truly terrible shot this is but I wanted to prove that I saw this Sora about 25 feet away. The bird’s motion did not help the situation. I don’t see these every day! (7:29) ISO 5000, 1/640
The detail isn’t too bad on this duck that was about the same distance as the Sora. The foreground water is somewhat distracting in my opinion. (7:37) ISO 5000, 1/640
One of the better shots of the day, a Savannah Sparrow sings his heart out on a nice perch. Probably about 12-15 feet away in a little brighter conditions. (7:44) ISO 2500, 1/800
A Killdeer nestled in at the side of the road. (7:54) ISO 2500, 1/800
A stretching Ring-necked Duck at a good distance. It wasn’t sharp enough to crop closer. (8:00) ISO 4000, 1/800
Two European Starling chicks taken from about 15 feet. These are the same chicks pictured in photos I posted on my May 9 blog post where the adult bird is feeding them. There was also a third chick back on May 9 but I have a feeling it may not have made it. (8:35) ISO 4000, 1/640
A “take what I can get” shot of the momma Great Horned Owl from probably around 150 feet. (8:38) ISO 4000, 1/640
Same goes for the little GHO owlet. This year these owls have made it difficult to get a decent shot. (8:43) ISO 4000, 1/640
What I believe is a juvenile Tree Swallow–bright backlighting and not as detailed as I had hoped. Other than the bad light conditions and high ISO, I had no excuse here. (9:09) ISO 4000, 1/640
This Bald Eagle was a good 150-200 feet away and it’s a heavy crop as you would expect. It would have likely been just as bad using the 400mm by itself. This was an extreme test–the bird was at twice the distance at which I could have hoped for a quality shot. (9:17) ISO 4000, 1/1250
And, a couple more blackbird shot since they were close and provided a good test for the 1.4x. The birds had just landed when I captured these. (9:34) ISO 4000, 1/1000
ISO 6400, 1/1250
This is a look at the visible Bald Eagle nest which is over 400 feet from the road. Nothing exciting but it shows the two parents and the two eaglets. One eaglet has its back facing the camera. (10:18) ISO 4000, 1/1250
A couple of male Wood Ducks paddled by. Focus is on the far duck. (11:04) ISO 3200, 1/1250
This next shot leaves something to be desired but it shows some interesting Wood Duck behavior. This guy was at the shoreline and several times he reached up to grab a leaf (or something on or near the leaf) from the brush. (11:27) ISO 6400, 1/1250.
And, another Wood Duck. (11:27) ISO 6400, 1/1250
This Blue Heron was taking a snooze but would wake up periodically. When he slept, he’d close his eyes and nestle his bill right into his chest. (11:32) ISO 6400, 1/1250
Here are a couple more blackbirds, this time with some raindrops. The ISO starts to come down here. (11:55) ISO 2000, 1/1000
(12:12 p.m.) ISO 2000, 1/1250
Not sure how she can swallow against gravity but she was breaking open seeds upside down. American Goldfinch. (12:21) ISO 2000, 1/1250
While I was shooting the goldfinches, I caught a glimpse of some blue on the teasels. Much to my surprise it was a Lazuli Bunting! At least 25 feet away. (12:37) ISO 2000, 1/1250
And then, a flower from about 15 feet. (12:59) ISO 1600, 1/1250
This one with bee.
The next two shots were taken on May 20, 2013. Both were at 1/1000 and f8. The top one is with the bare 400mm lens at ISO 2000. The 2nd image is with the 1.4x III attached and at ISO 3200. The duck was about 75 feet away, which is about twice the distance I would really have liked for a nice detailed image. Be sure to click once on each image to view them large.
My assessment is that between the two shots, the 2nd image has a bit more detail than the 1st. This gives the 560mm set up the edge in this comparison, which is quite surprising to me. There are lots of technical reasons why the two images could differ in quality including the possibility I may have messed up by shaking the camera. But both were taken in the exact same situation and fashion with the camera on a sturdy bean bag. Another factor to consider is that I had to ‘blow up’ the 400mm shot more (heavier crop) to get the bird the same size as the other image. And, as I mentioned above, closeness to the subject is a primary factor in getting a sharp shot. This fell in favor of the 560mm set up since the bird contains more pixels than in the shot at 400mm.
This tells me that if I’m shooting a bird at a distance that is ‘too far away’ based on my experience with the 400mm lens, it could benefit me to shoot some frames with the extender mounted, too, assuming the bird sticks around long enough and lighting is adequate for the f8 set up. My experience tells me that 30-35 feet is the maximum distance I’d want to be for this Wood Duck using 400mm.
400 mm – ISO 2000
560mm – ISO 3200
That’s it for now! Hope you enjoyed this ‘special’ edition of The Blog. Hope to see you next time!