Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II Gear Questions from the Non-believers :) « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II Gear Questions from the Non-believers :)

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This Great White Pelican (if I have the correct species name….) was photographed at Lake Kerkini, Greece with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens (hand held at 175mm) and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/2500 sec. at f/5.6. There were 2 of these birds present the week before I arrived but we saw only one (and that from a distance) until late on our sunny morning when this this beautiful bird graced us with its presence. At times in Greece I worked with the prime lens alone. Sometimes I added the 1.4X III, and when we photographed the larger Dalmatian Pelicans at a small rocky island I added the 2X III TC so that I could work very tight when trying to create images of body parts or feather detail.

Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II Gear Questions from the Non-believers ๐Ÿ™‚

Rob posted this question in the Comments here.

My situation.. I currently own 100-400, 70-200 2.8 IS, and a 2X II. I want something better for BIF and lighter than my 500 f4 IS (I am also using a 1D Mark IV). I was going to get a 400 5.6 but after reading here daily for a couple weeks I am almost sold on selling the 100-400 and my 70-200 and picking up a new 70-200 2.8 IS II. However, I donโ€™t feel that the new 2X III is worth the money compared to my 2X II at this time (your pics with the 2X II seem to confirm this to me but please explain if I am wrong). My dilemma is this: conventional wisdom says a prime (400 5.6) is always sharper than a zoom AND an extender will always degrade the image to some extent. So, I do find it tough to imagine a 70-200 WITH a 2X extender will be as sharp as the 400 5.6 prime. I love this site and will use the links from here to order from B&H after I convince myself it is the right choice. Thanks for the expertise.

I answered:

Rob, Thanks for your kind comments. Do remember to comparison shop with Gary at Hunt’s Photo to make sure that you are getting the best price. If you do decide to purchase from B&H know that we greatly appreciate your using a BAA link.

As you probably know, I used the 400 f/5.6L IS a lot in the film days; I think that I was quite responsible for the great popularity of my beloved “toy lens” among bird photographers. I now champion the new 70-200 f/2.8L IS II with both Series III TCs.

I have used the Canon 400mm f/5.6 L lens only rarely with digital. I have not done any sharpness testing with either lens. Heck, I have never done a sharpness test on any lens…. I am a seat-of-the-pants type of guy. As I have written from the get-go, initial autofocus acquisition with the 70-200 II and either 2X TC will–as expected–be on the slow side, especially when compared with the lightning fast AF acquisition of the 400 f/5.6. But for AI Servo tracking accuracy and sharpness I simply love the results I have been getting with the 70-200 II and any 2X TC. Once I acquire focus with the 70-200 f/2.8 IS L II lens, most every image in the series will be sharp on the bird’s eye (barring operator error). I do believe that the 2X III TC is marginally sharper than the older 2X II TC.

I cannot use a lens without IS any more and the 4-stop IS on the 2.8 II performs superbly. I made lots of sharp images with the lens and the 2X III TC while hand holding at 400mm and using shutter speeds as slow as 1/100 second (see the image below…). It really is amazing. With the 70-200 II and either 1.4X TC initial AF acquisition is lightning fast, about as quick or quicker than with the 400 f/5.6L. And with the prime lens alone initial focus acquisition is–as would be expected at f/2.8–pretty much instantaneous. As you can use this lens with either the 1.4X or the 2X TC, or by itself, it is amazingly versatile. And the sharpness and image quality are–as you have been seeing here and in the BAA Bulletins for the past year, spectacular.

So why is the conventional wisdom no longer on the money? With their vastly superior optics the newest lenses are far sharper than previous those of previous generations; even when TCs are added folks with decent technique are able to make incredibly sharp images on a consistent basis.

To sum up, I would say that the 70-200 f/2.8L IS II with the 2X III TC is as sharp as the old 400mm f/5.6L. I used the 70-200 II for at least 75% of my images on the recently concluded trip to Greece (but only rarely with the 2X III TC as the pelicans were quite close).

Please let me know if you have any additional questions. And thanks for your initial one.

Note: you can see six more fabulous 70-200 II images here (he added modestly :)).

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I created this tight close-up of the breast feathers of a Dalmatian Pelican with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens and the 2X III TC (hand held at 400mm!) with the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/100 sec. at f/16 set manually. To ensure enough depth-of-field when creating images like this you need to work at small apertures.

Somewhere on a BPN thread someone asked, “I already own both teleconverters, is it worth it to sell my Canon 100-400mm IS L zoom lens and purchase the 70-200mm f.2.8L IS II lens?

I responded something like this:

I can never know if anything is “worth it” to someone else…. I do know that the 70-200 II is far more versatile than the 100-400, far more rugged, and, in the right hands, will consistently create sharper images :). I recently sold my 100-400 and will be selling my last 400 5.6 when the person who borrowed it returns it :). And I will likely be selling my 400 DO soon…..

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I created this image of a Dalmatian Pelican skidding in for a landing with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens and the 1.4X III TC (hand held at 140mm) with the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 1600. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/1600 sec. at f/4 set manually. Note the fine high ISO performance of the MIV. You can reduce noise by pushing your histogram to the right as detailed in Exposure Simplified in ABP II. I added canvas to the right side of the image using techniques detailed in APTATS I & II.

Request for Help

If you purchased a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens using a link from the blog, I would appreciate hearing from you via e-mail. Thanks a stack!

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear that I used to create the images above. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. Man, I am loving this lens on my shoulder with the 2XIII teleconverter. I also use it a lot–depending on the situation–with the 1.4X III TC.
Canon EF 1.4X III TC. This new TC is designed to work best with the new Series II super-telephoto lenses.
Canon EF 2X III TC. The new 2X III TC is a bit sharper than the 2X II.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. The very best professional digital camera body that I have ever used.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Delkin 32gb e-Film Pro Compact Flash Card. Fast and dependable.

26 comments to Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II Gear Questions from the Non-believers :)

  • avatar Tom

    Just a follow up on our previous conversation regarding the 70-200 II and a 1.4x extender. I rented the lens and extender and I am glad that I did. The results I obtained were far less than dazzling and in fact, I was really disappointed. I had great difficulty obtaining a sharp, clear image. Then I tried the lens on a friend’s camera (60D) and the results were quite good. I was really surprised but glad that I only rented this lens for a short time. I am thinking that instead of a lens, I need to consider a new camera. (perhaps the 7D) My 50D is one of the first when they came out and over the past year I have had image issues despite the microadjustment. Thanks for all the comments and suggestions. And I am assuming that you have a link to B&H on your web site.


  • […] and cool box that when opened, you would in an instant identify if it has been tampered with.   If you are after either a Canonย 300 f/2.8L IS II or 400 f/2.8 L IS II the good news is that B&… f/2.8 L IS II the good news is that B&H Photo announced they had some stock. However because of […]

  • avatar Tom

    Back again with another question about the 70-200. I like taking photos of small warbler sized birds and am wondering if the 70-200 with the 1.4x extender is strong enough to handle the job. Possibly the 2.0x entender would be a better choice? Just thinking and wondering before I purchase (yes, through your links). Thanks Tom

    Hi Tom, It depends on where. In spots where migrant warblers gather to forage when they are exhausted a relatively short, handheld telephoto can be the ticket. I would recommend both TCs but the 2X would likely be best with these relatively small subjects. Many thanks for using our links; that will be greatly appreciated :). I am still loving my 70-200 f/2.8L IS with both the 1.4X and the 2XII TCs. artie

  • avatar Tom

    Thanks for the suggestions. I have a Mongoose M3.5 I purchased directly from John Zeiss at 4th Generation. He upgraded it and I really like it. I use it on a less than adequate tripod and a monopod. Once I have upgraded the lens, I intend to upgrade to the Canon 7D and maybe someday purchase the new Canon 300 f2.8. They are a super lens but the price is prohibitive.

  • avatar Tom

    Artie, In regards to the Canon 70-200 F2.8, I have a Canon 50D body. Tom

    Hi Tom, I would recommend the 70-200 only if you can get the newer version, the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. However, with a 50D I would recommend that you get the 1.4X III TC first as you will already have 1.6X magnification from the crop factor of the camera. Qnce you can make them sharp with that combo then you might consider adding the 2X III teleconverter but for that I would recommend a Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod and the Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. If you can’t get the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens I’d go for the 300 f/4 IS and the 1.4X III TC. Why? Version II of the 70-200 is a lot sharper than version I even though version I was plenty sharp…. Please remember to use our links :). artie

  • avatar Tom

    I am ready to replace my Canon 100-400 lens and purchase either a Canon 300 f4.0 with a 1.4 extender or a Canon 70-200 f2.8 with a 2x extender. Which in your opinion is the better purchase for photographing birds – the 300 f4.0 1.4x or the 70-200 f2.8 x2.0? Thanks

    If you can get the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens and the 2X III teleconverter I would go for that combo. But, before you purchase let me know what camera body you own. Once you make your decision, please use our B&H links and earn some free contest entries! artie

  • avatar yurilee

    I would be interested in the upcoming 200-400mm f4L TC, it seems to be a very versatile tool.

  • avatar yurilee

    There was a bug in previous comment…
    Should be, 300mm, 400mm & 500mm focal lengths in the primes…

  • avatar yurilee

    The 2X TC III effects on 400mm focal length on a 300mm/2.8 400mm/2.8 and 500mm/2.8 primes in MTF
    We can see that the finest lines (The highest frequency MTF, which defines the sharpness of the lens)at the centers of the primes are degraded from ~99% ground truth contrast output to around ~97% or so as affected by the 2X TC III.

    Using the information, we can make a reasonable assumption that the TC will amplify “imperfections” of lens output from ground truth 3~5 times. (i.e. if a lens’ MTF indicates it’s output being with 99% ground truth contrast in the center, adding the TC, under the previous assumption will result in a lens with center MTF between 95%~97%.)

    Then we can observe that

    70-200L II’s MTF at 200mm center is pretty close to 100%! If we assume it be 99%, then, under the previous assumption, applying the 2X TC III would result in a lens with MTF 95%-97%.

    If we compare it to 400mm 5.6’s MTF
    we can see that the MTF chart indicates that at the center, the MTF of 400 f5.6 is somewhere around 94%

    Thus, if the assumption holds, the 200mm 2.8L II+ 2x TC III would be really comparable to 400mm f5.6 in terms of sharpness.

    So, I think Mr. Morris has his point, the 200mm 2.8L II is a more versatile option than the 400mm f5.6, yet providing comparable image sharpness.

  • avatar Selwin

    Art, I wasn’t trying to be smarter than anyone, especially you because you are quite obviously more experienced than myself, especially when it comes to tele work. It’s just my way of speech and I’m sorry if I offended you. No harm intended! I am merely trying to grasp the magic about the 70-200/2.8ISmkII/2xTC combo that you seem to be so happy with and my doubts if it will suit my personal photographic needs. By the way, by mkII I meant 70-200/2.8ISmkII, not a camera. I use a pair of 1DsIII’s, 24LII, 35L, 85L and 135L. The 70-200/4IS, along with a 24-105, go with an old 5D for light travel. Regards, Selwin

  • avatar Selwin

    Hi Art,
    It always brings a smile to my face seeing anyone to be so enthousiastic about photography. You are doing a great job judging by your images. Still being a non-believer in the mkII+2xTC combo (at least for now) I can’t resist to comment with the following.
    How can it be that someone like you, who is obviously very experienced, is so enthousiastic about a zoom+converter and wants to sell his prime 400/5.6? I read someone argued about conventional wisdom. You say the mkII/2xTC combo is as sharp as the prime, but you never held them side by side. Others have and found the prime is significantly sharper. So why are you still so happy with it? I suppose the answer lies in IS and zoom versatility. Those features may count more than absolute sharpness for your type of photography. Looking at all the different focal lengths you’ve been shooting the pelicans at, many of them are shots you would have missed with a fixed 400mm. Sharpness is evidently adequate for your needs.
    Inspired by your blog I decided to rent a mkII and 2xTCIII. I shot a wedding with the mkII and I was very impressed with the IS and the IQ. So much so, that I am considering getting the mkII regardless of the TC’s performance, to use it at weddings, for kids, for travels, for events like stages or concerts. However, the shots I took with the 2xTC were not what I had hoped for. Not pin sharp and not the best bokeh. When shooting birds, yes, bokeh is good on the mkII but it’s because the background is so distant. Shooting in a forest, with bush all around is the ultimate bokeh challenge and the zoom just doesn’t match a prime.
    I am looking for more range than my current 70-200/4IS can offer (I’m on FF) and I don’t typically shoot birds. My subjects for the 400mm are animals I see while travelling the world and that I cannot reach with 200mm. Like raccoons, elephants, tapir, monkeys, lions, etc. These are static subjects (more static than BIF anyway) that generally don’t depend much on IS. So I think you should be careful advising people to ditch prime optics in favor of the mkII combos, because it might not be the best choice for everyone’s shooting needs. As for me, I will probably get the mkII and rent a 1.4xTC to try that. BTW I read reports that the 1.4TC/II version is sharper than the III, and that it’s much sharper than the 2xTC’s. So maybe, if I really like the mkII/1.4x combo performance, I might get a 7D and get a 156-448mm zoom. I noticed you sold your 7D. Any particular reason?
    Thanks, Selwin

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Selwin, If you go back an re-read all of the posts and Bulletins you will see that I am not telling anyone to do anything. All that I say is here are the images, here is the gear I used, here is how I did it. And I share my opinions. After 28 years I am a fairly good judge of image sharpness. You keep mentioning a MII But I have been using a MIV for more than a year. You seem to know quite a bit about photography so thanks for sharing your thoughts and knowledge with those not quite as smart as you. You say that you read that I sold my 7D and ask why? You quit reading too soon. The answer was in the next sentence….. Enjoy the monkeys and lions.

  • I just ordered a 70-200 f/2.8 IS II, mostly because two recent trips convinced me I wanted:

    A) a smaller (lengthwise) than 400mm lens in my luggage
    B) zoom

    I’m actually quite happy near home with my 400mm f/5.6: it’s lightweight, and very sharp; but at home I can pick the lens for what I want to shoot on any given day. I discovered that away from home I often want to shoot things other than birds and the wider range would be very nice.

    Having said that, I currently only have a 2X II. How much of a difference does the 2X III make? E.g. do you think the 70-200 + 2X II is still as sharp as a 400mm f/5.6 or the less sharper 100-400? Or would the 2X II compromise the combination enough that it’s less sharp than one or both of these alternatives?

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    IMHO, that was a big mistake. With just a bit of practice zooming in and out would have become second nature. Sorry that I did not see your comments till now.

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Jim, We are of like mind on the zoom deal ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks a stack for your spot-on comment. artie

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Robert, I do not understand your problem at all. Just frame the image by turning the zoom ring. Who cares about what focal length you are at? No me. When you cannot zoom in any tighter you are at 400mm…..

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Ian, I will be doing a post on that compares the intermediate telephoto lenses soon ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for your comments.

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Jim, The optical performance of the 1.4X II and the 1.4X III are for all intents and purposes, the same.

  • […] Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II Gear Questions from the Non-believers […]

  • Jim thanks for your response. I’m aware of everything you told me but I tried to keep the setting at 400 but just with normal use changing hands to carry the heavy camera and lens it would change the setting and although it was set at 400 initially it may have changed to some other setting in handling. I believe the setting was too easily changed in normal use. Perhaps this was a quirk of this particular lens. In any case it didn’t work for me and I sent it back to the vendor.

  • avatar Jim Kranick


    I don’t quite understand your problem. With any of my Canon zoom lenses installed if I twist the collar clockwise the lens zooms out (wide)and if turn it CCW it zooms in, closer that is. So if you turn CCW until it stops you are at 400mm (200mm X 2.0x). If you turn it the other way you would be at 140mm (70mm X 2.0x). I would look through the viewfinder and turn until I got the framing I liked.

  • I bought the 70-200 F2.8 lens and TC 2 III and I have the lD MIV and used it for a week in the Everglades. I was not happy with it for the following reason: I could never tell at what mm setting I was on when I made the shot. I was trying to shoot at primarily 400 mm because we were not getting many close shots. Most of the shots turned out to be somewhere between 140 and 400mm. I did get better toward the end of the trip when I would check the setting just before I made a shot but this took extra time and with flying birds was not good in my opinion. I’m sure some of the problem was my not being familiar with the equipment as I had been shooting with a fixed 400mm DO lens with and without the 1.4 TC for years and never had to worry about the setting just before a shot. The images I did get were sharp so I have no complaint on that count.

  • avatar Ian

    I can’t speak for the new 70-200 with the new 2x, but I have been really happy with the results from my 400 5.6. It takes a lot of discipline to get good photos in the first light of the day – tripod, mirror lock up, cable release, but an hour or two after the sun comes up, handholding is no problem. I find the lens to be razor sharp, the color and contrast is excellent and the USM is top notch and extremely fast. Other than the lack of IS, it is an absolute steal for the money. I use it in conjunction with a 70-200 f/4 IS with an optional 1.4x on a second body and find the light weight combo works well. I’m usin the spare cash to save up for a 500mm or longer prime. For those who can’t afford the new lenses and see willing to put in the extra effort of not having IS or a fast lens, I think you’ll find the 400 5.6 is a pretty remarkable little lens.

  • avatar Jim Kranick

    Thanks for the information. It has answered some questions I had and will probably cost me some money soon. I’ll have to consider the increase in weight in going from my 100-400 to the 70-200 f/2.8 II with the 2x III. The 100-400 is about as heavy a lens as I can hand hold for a while on my 7D. Perhaps I’ll need to start working out with some weights.

    I have one 1.4x II that is used on both the 500 f/4L and the 70-200 f/4. Do you think it would be worth getting a 1.4x III to work with the 500 rather than another 1.4x II?

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Hi Carol, Which comments??? I made lots of them.

    Best advice: sell your 100-400 and purchase the 70-200 f/2.8L IS II and any 1.4X II TC ๐Ÿ™‚ The 7D will AF with both TCs on any 70-200 f/2.8 lens.

  • avatar Carol

    I do not have a 1D MIV. I have the 7D. Do your comments also apply to my camera?

    I have the 100-400 (which I never have liked because of the push/pull action) and just sold my 70-200 2.8 IS and 2xII.