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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