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Canon Extender EF 2x II

Extender_2x2_1_
Review Date: Feb 11, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $400.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Image quality relative to all other 2x teleconverters
Cons:
Needs to be used very wisely with the very best glass, slows AF dramatically on some lenses.

The best 2x I have ever used, and I have used plenty.
I have used this with my 600/4 and 300/2.8. Don't even consider this for use with non L glass, and even then it has to be the very best Canon produce.

This 2x is often cited as being poor, the truth is far from that if you use it with great care. With the increased magnification that this device creates, many other factors are at play for diminishing image quality, not just the 7 extra glass elements.

Don't blame the EF 2x II for air pollutants being compressed when the subject is miles away, and don't blame it for making absolute stability a must in your set-up.

You'll see what this teleconverter is capable of if you stop down and get the distance down between the lens and the subject, using rock solid support.

I wouldn't ever suggest that the quality of image is perfect with the 2x, but it is still capable of professional work when needs must. It can do the business, just know when to use it.

Its effect on AF speed (even with an f2.8 lens and a 1Ds MkII) can be a handicap for active subjects.

Can be stacked with the 1.4x, but the results are inconsistant and your are probably better up-rezzing with just the 2x.

images and more detail at
http://www.digiscoped.com/canonextenders.html


 
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM

ef300mmf_28_1_
Review Date: Jan 29, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Blindingly fast AF, Sharp as it gets
Cons:
Wish focus recall was on a button close to camera body

Purchased, after my switch to Canon, to act as a replacement for the Nikon 300mm f2.8 VR and to used as a walk around lens in combination with teleconverters.


Not particularly heavy as 300mm f2.8 lenses go, though I would advise replacing the supplied Canon strap for a Neoprene type.


All the normal features of the Canon professional telephoto lenses are present.


3 AF Focus range limits are available, the 2.5 metres - infinity (full) setting allows the lens to focus from minimum distance to infinity. Then the 2.5 metres - 6.4 metres and finally 6.4 metres to infinity. Basically, if your target is expected within a known distance from you, it speeds up autofocus if the lens is not hunting through its entire range to get a lock-on.


It is a fulll time manual lens, which means you can use the manual focus ring at any time.


Two I.S. mode 1 controls movement vertically and horizontally, mode 2 just counteracts vertical movement... so as to allow you to pan along with a subject without the I.S. system trying to compensate.


Lastly in this panel is the focus preset functions. Basically, you can set a focus distance on the lens, press set and you can recall this distance at any time via the twist ring (the ring with the serrated edge) just in front of the focus ring. It is a handy feature if you are likely to be shooting at 2 vastly different distances. I would prefer it if focus recall was an option on the 4 focus lock buttons and in a really ideal world, a focus recall button would be situated far closer to the camera body, or indeed controlled via the camera itself, as some lens functions are on the Canon 1Ds MkII.


In use this lens is awesome in AF speed, even with a 1.4x teleconverter. With a 2x teleconverter, the AF speed is still as fast as many bare lenses, it is still rapid. AF is almost silent in operation.


Results from the bare lens are very sharp, even wide open. With a 1.4x teleconverter, virtually nothing is lost in image quality, stopping down makes for marginally improved images. With a 2x attached, the results are still remarkable though stopping down is certainly preferrable.


Even using stacked 1.4x and 2x teleconverters can produce acceptable results, though very much a method for desperation and manual focus is recommended even with a 1Ds camera body.


More detailed review and photos here
http://www.digiscoped.com/canon300mm.html


 
Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS USM

ef600mmf_4_1_
Review Date: Jan 26, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, Image Stabilizer, Rapid and quiet AF,
Cons:
Costly but genuine flourite element must cost a bomb to produce on its own.

Basically the only reason I switched to Canon.

A big and costly lens but when you consider what you get and the manufacturing process, such as producing a pure naturally cultured flourite element, the price comes into perspective.

I'm used to a 600/4 lens so the weight and size is no shock, the size being more of an issue to me than weight.

The bare lens produces razor sharp images at f4, with the EFII 1.4x very little is lost in any area of image quality and even the EFII 2x, with suitable care, the results can be staggering and more than capable of publishable work., although AF speed drops a fair bit and only centre point focus can be used on the Canon pro bodies.

The tripod collar rotates smoothly, so I presume this has been rectified from earlier models. The tripod foot is fine for me, the rubber grip a very pleasing addition for those who carry the lens by it's foot for long distances.

I would prefer the focus preset to be recalled via a button towards the camera body, or even via the camera itself. Moving your hand down towards the end of the lens is not great for those staked out for wildlife.

AF speed is very rapid and quiet and the magical I.S. comes in to effect quicker than many I.S/VR lenses I have used.

I.S. on lenses like this really comes into it's own in tough conditions, especially when the wind is up in exposed locations and when light is poor (we don't all live in sunny places) with static subjects when using teleconverters. All in all, i find I.S. on long primes to allow me to concentrate on the actual subject and composition, rather than spending every moment trying to reduce vibration... and at 850mm+, that's an issue no matter the support you have.

images and more detailed review at
http://www.digiscoped.com/Canon600mm.html


 
Nikon 300mm f/2.8D ED-IF II AF-S

2125NAS_180
Review Date: Oct 5, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, clarity, colour, VR, AF speed, bokeh, portability
Cons:
none in my use of it

Review of the new Nikon 300mm AF-S f2.8 IF-ED G VR (no review slot for this lens, nor most new Nikon lenses)

It is far more compact than I had imagined (I have previously owned a Nikkor 300/2.8) and the latest incarnation seems far shorter in length, I think some Japanese designer has been active with a hacksaw on the hood or it's a trick of the eye with the main lens barrel being so fat.

Weight wise it does seem far lighter in weight, but I know this is solely because I'm now used to lugging a 600/4 around and that this is a better balanced lens (a badly balanced lens can feel twice as heavy than it really is)

Tripod foot seems minute compared to my bigger lens... and it was removed very quickly (half hoped it would weigh a fair bit, but it's removal didn't shed too many grms). The facility to remove the whole collar was attractive until I realised that I'd lose the lugs for my optech shoulder/neck-strap... so that remains.

This lens was purchased for no other reason than for a handheld VR lens with teleconverters... though my ambitions have gone no further than the 1.4x and 1.7x.

This is an extremely portable lens. In use today, it did not feel any worse than my old 80-400mm VR lens. When taking a shot, it feels very well balanced with most of the weight towards the camera end (helped by a hefty D2x)

VR seems far more responsive and rapid in kicking-in than the 80-400.

AF is very rapid... but most USM/HSM/AF-S lenses are, and the main questions these days revolve around the camera side of the AF equation.

What I had presumed to be nothing more than 4 AF lock buttons on the lens barrel (as with my 600/4) turn out to be multi purpose, the most useful purpose being that a press on any of them will take you straight to a preset focus point (excellent)... unfortunately, if you're handholding the lens, it's not always easy to loacte one of them with your fingers.

Lots of sliding switches on this lens, most are just a waste of space really.

Initial results;
300mm bare = sharpness beyond belief, never had a lens this sharp. Backgrounds were totally convincing, natural and smooth fall-off. No real evidence of improvement to image after stopping down. Colours looked totally accurate to me.

300mm + TC-14E = as above, no visible loss of any aspect of the above... even wide open at f4.

300mm + TC-17E = A major (and pleasant) surprise to me. Wide open at f4.8 there was no significant degradation to the image, just very minor softening. at f5.6 we were back to images all but identical from the bare lens.

The success I had with the TC-17E has even had me wondering about the dreaded TC-20E... Though, deep down, I know I should stick to my original plan.

I honestly haven't noticed a huge improvement in image quality when I have had this lens atop form support with VR switched off.

I'm delighted with the lens... turns out to be far more hand-holdable than I dared hope for and the results are superb, even out to 500mm. Added bonus in not having to find some dedicated camera luggage for it

full review and photos at
http://www.digiscoped.com/Nikon300mmVR.html



 
Nikon 600mm f/4D ED-IF AF-S Nikkor

1952NAS_180
Review Date: Oct 10, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Clarity, resolving power and colour rendition.
Cons:
weight

A big lump of glass and metal!! For small songbird photography this lens is a must. Some may say a Sigma 800mm is the answer but that's f5.6 and the subject to background seperation just isn't as convincing. Besides, stick a 1.4x teleconverter on and you outreach an 800mm Sigma yet still have rapid AF, stick a 1.7x on and you still have AF (though your technique and support will have to be perfect to get sharp results)

Optical clarity, colour rendition stand out in the results. Backgrounds are thrown out to perfection, seperating the subject from any distractions.
AF-S is rapid and quiet.

The 4 focus lock buttons on the lens body don't seem quite as important with modern cameras these days.

The huge HK23 hood has the benefit of being two sections, allowing just one section to be used when conditions allow... flare being less of an issue in cloudy northern europe.

Personally, I would have preferred a more hand-friendly tripod foot with finger grooves (although more comfortable lower profile 'feet' are available)

Minimum focus distance isn't quite up to modern standards but is alleviated with a teleconverter or extension tubes for smaller subjects.

Look for this on the used market for a real bargain, I picked up an optically mint ex paparazzi model (with an exciting history) for a steal.

For goodness sake, realise just how big and heavy any 600mm f4 is before purchasing, for most a 500mm f4 will be a more sensible option. Lens support will need to be the best and this means legsets like the Gitzo 1548 and a gimbal type head.

More details and images at http://www.digiscoped.com/600mm.html


 
Nikon TC-14E II 1.4x AF-S

tc-14E
Review Date: Sep 6, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $280.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Optical clarity
Cons:
none

Using TC-14E mkI (optically identical but heavier build and slightly different exterior finish)
Seemingly, from my experience, this is optically invisible between lens and camera. Have used this teleconverter with Sigma 500mm f4.5 EX HSM and Nikkor AF-S 600mm f4.
Will work with Sigma HSM lenses with a minor modification, that can be carried out by the photographer with relative ease.


 
Gitzo G1548GT Mk2 Carbon Fiber

G1548GT_1_
Review Date: Sep 6, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $700.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Solidity, Solidity and Solidity
Cons:
None

USING THE NON-GT G1548 W/O Rapid Column.

The only real choice for use with 600mm f4 lenses. Build quality is outstanding and is as stable as the rock of Gibraltar.

As a bird photographer I far prefer the twist leg locks to anything that loudly snaps shut, so that's an immediate benefit to myself over any competition... not that there is much.

The non-GT version + Gimbal head fully extended, presents the viewfinder at exactly the right height for myself (6ft 4inch) and only subjects at extremely high trajectories will present any discomfort... obviously the rapid column is an option but will sacrifice some stability, add extra weight and prevent you from opening the leg angles out for working close to the ground. In fact, the Gitzo can get you to within inches of ground level to get those photogenic shots of ground based subjects.

Anyone who quibbles about the price needs a serious talking to... you're likely to be supporting equipment that equals the cost of a new car, moaning about a couple of hundred /$$ to get this equipment performing at it's best is beyond belief.


 
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF

1996NAS_180
Review Date: Jul 28, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: Optical quality, covers many popular focal lengths, VR
Cons:
Build quality, AF not rapid,

Using primarily for mobile bird photography with Nikon D2x, otherwise I use a 500mm prime lens (see Sigma 500mm f4.5 review).

The 80-400mm gives the impression of being far more compact than it's Canon counterpart, though there's less in it than it seems.

The famed plastic tripod mount is (or should be!) condemned to spend it's life in the attic. In reality, you buy this camera to avoid using a tripod so it's no big issue... anyone fancy paying more on the lens price for a sturdy tripod mount?

The other item in the box is far more worthy, the lens hood being just the right size instead of the excessively sized hoods I've seen on many 400mm+ lenses.

In use, it does it's job... albeit at it's own pace. VR clunks in and out with a slightly worrying sound. You can choose to have VR operate only during the picture taking process or whenever you pre-focus, the latter more battery sapping.

AF isn't rapid but it is faster on the pro Nikon bodied cameras with their more powerful and responsive screw-drive motors.

Optical quality is reasonably good, some CA despite numerous ED elements but provides accurate colours and able to resolve detail as well as most lenses around. F8 and above really shows what the lens can do but have no fears at f5.6, it can still produce a cracking image.

Despite all those warnings about people getting fingers trapped in the zoom movement, I've yet to have any problems (can't even see how it could happen?)... and the design is a bit more stylish than an embarrassing push-pull design.

All in all I'm more than happy with the results, ultimately the 200-400VR is the ambition and more appropriate to fast action wildlife photography but I don't see myself going down the route of the 70-200VR + 2x tc.

Talking of teleconvertes, not much from Nikon will work with the 80-400mm but the good old Kenko Pro300 series 1.4x will give you AF and VR... just make sure you've got some good light.

Some images from my 80-400mm can be found at http://www.digiscoped.com/Dslrphotography.html



 
Sigma 500mm f4.5 EX Apo HSM

500f4_5EX_lg_1_
Review Date: May 21, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,950.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: edge to edge clarity, rapid and silent AF, one touch manual focus if needed, cost, weight
Cons:
velvety finish prone to dust/rubbish.

Using Nikon AF-D fit on Fuji S2pro for bird photography. Images (some large) at http://www.digiscoped.com/Dslrphotography.html

Edge to edge clarity/sharpness is amazing on this relatively cheap lens. Weight and length makes for more realistic use in the field than a big f4, I know too many pro bird photographers with serious back problems to venture into 600mm f4 territory!

Have tested my Nikon fit version on Nikon D2h and the AF speed is blindingly fast.

Textured finish is a downside, attracting dirt and dust....now covered most of the lens with no-mark realtree tape.

Not much to say, other than it's an amazing lens for the price and I have absolutely no regrets at buying a Sigma instead of an f4 500mm (current camera AF's perfectly with sigma 500mm with 1.4x tc). Already had a front cover and various other sales with this lens, so it's starting to pay for itself.