70-200mm 2.8 L IS and Extender EF 1.4x II Discussion

Sloth Costa Rica
Birds Costa Rica

Elk Point Reyes

Thislens combination has become my favorite, to my surprise. Previously I had a 200mm and a 1.5X extender both of which I didn't usevery often.  The 200mm was large and heavy and it never reallygave me enough power or resolution to capture the animal life I wasgoing after. When I used it in conjunction with my 1.5X extender Istarted to get enough power to capture some wildlife, but theresolution of the shot looked terrible with the 1.5X extenderattached.  It was also very difficult to use without a tripodbecause of camera shake.

After I decided to purchasethe Canon 10D I began doing research intolenses.  First I had to decide what focal lengths I wanted tocover, and next what lens quality I wanted to pay for.  After,reading many web sites it became clear that most pro's recommendedCanon L glass.  This is Canon's top of the line lenses and theycost significantly more than their other lenses.  Any Canon lensthat has an L in the name is considered top quality.  You can goto Canon's web site and read the difference in the type of glass usedif you like.  For myself, it doesn't matter what Canon says aboutthe glass quality because I don't understand it anyway.  Whatmattered to me is what users saw in their pictures.

From all the research I did(and now from my own experience) what youget with a top quality lens is much higher sharpness throughout theentire field of view, especially when the lens is wide open;  lessdistortion (pincushionfor wide angle lenses and barreldistortion for telephotolenses); better contrast; less flare,faster and more accurate auto focus; and better build quality.

Ihave been quite amazed by the quality of photos I have been able toachieve with the above lens combination.  To be honest I rarelyuse thezoom without the 1.4X Extender attached.  When taking photos ofanimallife it seems rare that you have too much power.  All three photosabove were shot at 200mm with the 1.4X extender, this gives a finalfocal length (corrected by 1.6x for the small sensor size) of448mm.  Ihave taken photos with and without the Extender and to my eye I can seeno loss in sharpness in the final image.  At full zoom the imagesareamazingly sharp, detail rich, and have great tone and contrast.

Allof the above images where also significantly cropped.  The Elk hasbeen cropped approximately 3X, the birds 5X, and the Sloth 10X!!! And still there is an amazing amount of detail present.  I printedthe Elk out at approximately 11x14 and it still looks great!  Ididn't save the information on the Elk, but the Sloth was shot at f 4.5and 200 ISO, while the birds were shot at f 16 and 400 ISO.  Since the Sloth image is cropped so much you can't tell if there is anydistortion in the image at 4.5, but it sure was nice to have such awide aperture available on such a large zoom.  Now the birds wereshot at 400 ISO, and still there is very little noise in theimage.  This is a testament to the 10D; even at 1600 ISO the noiselevels are surprisingly low.

In addition to the above zoom being an L class lens it also has ImageStabilization, which is designated by the IS in it's name.  ImageStabilization is an amazing technology that Canon employs to reduceshake in it's higher powered lenses.  All of the above photos werehand held.  I have actually never used a tripod with this lenscombination.  If you have never tested out Canon's IS technology Istrongly recommend you go to a camera store and try it out.  At448mm and IS off you can see a lot of camera shake, once you switch theIS on it is magically reduced by a surprising amount.  This lenscombination would be significantly less useful without the IStechnology since I don't often bring my tripod along and set up andwait for animal shots to happen upon me.

I must add that all of myimages have gone through Photoshop.  Icrop, sharpen, employ noise reduction techniques, adjust contrast,saturation, and sometimes tone on most of my photos.  Out of thecamera the images don't look as good, but in my opinion this is thegreat benefit of the digital world.  I believe that you shouldtake all of your favorite images and mess with them in Photoshop. But remember, in photography your photos will only be as good as yourweakest piece of equipment.  If I was shooting with a lessercamera and with inexpensive lenses I would not have been able toachieve the quality of photos shown above, even with the help ofPhotoshop.

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Photos by Rob Bukar