Hi there. Sorry that it’s been a while between posts. January and February were just crazy busy for me as I had three consecutive photo tours. Since I returned a couple of weeks ago I’ve been editing images and catching up on office work so it’s just now that I’ve been able to work up a new post.
Many of you have read the post comparing the image quality of the Canon 2x Series II TC and the new Canon 2x Series III TC (if not, check here), and I promised some impressions of the new 2x TC from actual use out in the field. During the Advanced Tropical Bird Photography workshop that I lead with Doug Brown, Doug was nice enough to lend me his series III 2x TC for quite a bit of shooting. What did I learn?
Since we’ve already seen the results from the controlled test in that earlier review, what follows are simply my impressions of the new TC as well as some shots I took with the old version. And at the bottom, I’ve included a workflow video designed to help you get the best out of the images that you take with a 2x teleconverter.
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In the field, the new Canon Series III 2x TC handled just as well as expected. Though the new series III 2x is a little heavier, the 2 ounce difference is not noticeable in every day operation. And though there is a slightly different finish, the only differences worth considering are the ones inside. I thought that the new TC was indeed a bit sharper than the previous version, which is consistent with the test results reported here. Nevertheless, and somewhat at odds with the test results, I didn’t perceive there to be a major difference wide open between the 2 TCs. In the test, wide open was f8 using the 500 mm f4 lens; in the field, wide open was f5.6 for me with the 300 mm f2.8 lens. Finally, and this time more consistent with the test results reported here previously, the new 2x did improve noticeably when stopping down from wide open.
Following are a number of images, some taken with the old 2x and some with the new 2x. These are not directly comparable; I couldn’t get the birds to stay still long enough to switch TCs! But these images will give you an idea of the possibilities of the both versions of the Canon 2x TC. Click any of the images below to open a larger version in a new tab or window.
I liked this image of a female summer tanager on a perch that Doug Brown and I set up at one of our workshop destinations. I chose the perch specifically because of the little epiphyte growing on it and because of the interesting diagonals of the branches.
Tech: Canon 5D, Canon 300 mm f2.8 L IS lens, Canon 2x TC (new version), ISO 400, 1/500, f7.1, all natural light
This is one of the best bird images I’ve taken in a long time. I loved the open beak of the boat-billed heron chick as well as the habitat elements. The new 2x TC gave me outstanding sharpness, even at a slow shutter speed and a high ISO.
Tech: Tech: Canon 5D, Canon 300 mm f2.8 L IS lens, Canon 2x TC (new version), ISO 1000, 1/100, f8, all natural light
Here’s an image of a macaw (not captive by the way) shot at a secret spot that I included on this tour. This is with the new 2x TC shot wide open. After a little post-processing, the results look quite nice.
Tech: Canon 5D, Canon 300 mm f2.8 L IS lens, Canon 2x TC (new version), ISO 320, 1/1000, f5.6, 550 EX and Better Beamer, fill-flash at -2.3
Here’s the same macaw just an instant later but shot at f8. I think the result is noticeably sharper; check out the three images that follow and decide for yourself.
Tech: Canon 5D, Canon 300 mm f2.8 L IS lens, Canon 2x TC (new version), ISO 320, 1/500, f5.6, 550 EX and Better Beamer, fill-flash at -2.3
Here’s a screen shot of the two pictures above side by side. These are the straight RAW files, and no adjustments have been applied. The only sharpening comes from the values of amount 25, radius 1, and detail 25 that Lightroom applies as a default upon import.
Here they are again, this time zoomed in Lightroom at 1:2.
And here at 1:1. Obviously, the increased depth-of-field at f8 will help some with sharpness in an image like this but I think much of the sharpness increase is due to the performance improvement when stopping down.
Stopping down to f13, a rare luxury here in Costa Rica, yields crazy good sharpness with the new 2x.
Tech: Canon 5D, Canon 300 mm f2.8 L IS lens, Canon 2x TC (new version), ISO 500, 1/400, f13, 550 EX and Better Beamer, fill-flash at -2
Do you need the new 2x TC to make sharp images? If this image is any indication, I’ll say no. This was shot with the old 2x TC wide open and at a high ISO value; I think the sharpness is right on.
Tech: Canon 5D, Canon 300 mm f2.8 L IS lens, Canon 2x TC (old version), ISO 1000, 1/2000, f5.6, all natural light
Here’s another of the same male king vulture. Again wide open and with a high ISO, I think the old TC still delivered! Note, be sure to watch the video below to see how I processed this particular image.
Tech: Canon 5D, Canon 300 mm f2.8 L IS lens, Canon 2x TC (old version), ISO 1000, 1/1600, f5.6, all natural light
I shot this common bush tanager the other day with the old 2x TC and again was pleased with the sharpness.
Tech: Canon 5D, Canon 300 mm f2.8 L IS lens, Canon 2x TC (old version), ISO 800, 1/250, f7.1, all natural light
And finally, one more image with the old 2x. This is a black guan image that I really liked. I set up a decaying log perch for these guys and was rewarded with a cool pose, soft light, raindrops, and an interesting background. The old 2x handled the low light well, giving me a nice sharp image at a high ISO.
Tech: Canon 5D, Canon 300 mm f2.8 L IS lens, Canon 2x TC (old version), ISO 1000, 1/320, f5.6, 550 EX and Better Beamer, fill-flash at -2.3
All of the images above (except the Lightroom screen shots as noted) were processed using the selective noise reduction and sharpening techniques described in the video below. It’s especially important to get the most out of your image in terms of detail and sharpness when shooting with a 2x TC, particularly in low light and with high ISOs — my everyday challenge here in Costa Rica. There are lots of different way to handle noise and to sharpen your images. This is one technique that works for me. I don’t claim it’s the only way, but I hope it will give you some ideas to incorporate into your own processing so that you can display the best and sharpest images possible.
So, do you need the new Canon Series III 2x Teleconverter to make sharp images? Certainly not. The previous version continues to be quite capable of producing great, sharp images, even in challenging conditions such as shooting in low light (where shooting wide open and using high ISOs are a necessity). Nonetheless, I will be upgrading to the new 2x TC within the next few months.
Why? After seeing the test results and after using the new TC in the field, I feel confident that the new version will give me even sharper images than the old version in most instances, particularly when I am able to stop down. At wide open apertures, at least for the equipment I use in the field, I honestly do not see a big difference based on a review of my images, including those here. Stopped down, however, I think the new 2x does offer improved sharpness.Still, I do not think that the new 2x TC is going to open up new worlds for anyone in terms of sharpness at the present time and with the current crop of telephoto lenses. Good technique still seems to be a more important variable than the choice of 2x TC in my opinion.
I did feel that the new 2x TC was a bit faster to lock on to a subject using autofocus, at least with the Canon 5D and the Canon 300 mm f2.8 lens. This is only a marginal impression, however, and it is related to static subjects, not to moving subjects. If you are interested in how the new TC performs in terms of autofocus with birds in flight, I simply cannot say.
It also remains an open question how the new 2x TC (as well as the new 1.4x) will perform with the new super telephoto lenses from Canon but that will be a job for another reviewer as I won’t be able to get my hands on the new super teles because of the shipping difficulties from the US to Costa Rica for lens trials.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Please drop me a line as a comment below and let me know what you think!