Canon 400mm F/4 DO IS II With 2x Extender – INSANITY!

I’ve always been a big fan of using extenders, and those that say great images aren’t possible with them have a personal invitation to come round to my office and peruse my archives. Many of my best photos have been taken using extenders, and I recently showed you guys that even cheaper (and by cheap, I mean relative to super tele primes) zoom lenses like the stunning Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 L IS II, can work exceptionally well with a 1.4x extender.

Recently I’ve been carrying my Canon 400mm f/4 DO IS II around with me a lot. You can do that with this lens, simply carry it around just in case an opportunity presents itself. It’s a distinct advantage over all of Canon’s other super telephoto lenses, because the others are so big and cumbersome that they require some forethought and often a different carrying solution. I’d simply never carry my big 200-400 f/4 around with me unless I really knew that I was going to use it. Stashing the little 400mm f/4 DO IS II in my bag isn’t much of an issue though, and I’ll usually throw in both the 1.4x and 2x extenders as well.  This gives me a 560mm f/5.6 option, and an 800mm f/8. With the 5D Mark IV’s new AF system, all AF points are active with with an f/8 lens, so I still get great compositional flexibility.

There’s two incredible things about this setup: Firstly, that’s an easily hand-holdable 800mm lens!!  And secondly, it’s STUNNINGLY sharp! In fact, I think this might be the best performing Canon lens ever, with the 2x extender.

Usually I’ve no issues at all with using a 1.4x extender on a super telephoto lens, but in general, to use the 2x extender I try to limit myself to using it in really ideal circumstances. Nice contrasting, bright light for example, because the 2x can lower contrast a fair bit on some lenses, and this reduces perceived sharpness. When I first tried the 2x extender on the 400mm f/4 DO II though, I was staggered. This is a combination I could use all day long, and not worry about sharpness at all.

1280mm – Hand Held!

Canon 400mm f/4 DO IS II with 2x extender.

This sample I’m I’m providing here, was shot hand held with the 7D Mark II, so that’s a 35mm field of view equivalent to 1280mm. Hand held!! Are you kidding me? This is game-changing performance as far as I’m concerned. Not only do you save weight on choosing this lens in the first place, but you can also do away with taking a large tripod, and a heavy gimbal head. This combination is a real winner for wildlife photographers who want to venture off the beaten path a little more. Sure, if you’re only going to shoot a few feet from your car all the time then this isn’t a consideration, but for people that want to search for wildlife in more remote situations, this lens is simply stunning.

Note that this was taken with a 7D Mark II, so ISO performance isn’t as great as if I had used a 5D Mark IV or other full frame camera. The results would have been even more impressive had I used that.

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Dan Carr

Founder of Shutter Muse, full time photographer and creative educator. Dan lives in the Canadian Yukon, but his wanderlust often sends him in search of images all around the world to meet the needs of clients and readers alike.

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