Extenders, Still worth it, now that cameras have tiny pixels?

TexPhoto

EOS 6D MK II
Apr 15, 2011
1,233
17
San Juan, PR
I shoot most field sports in both day and night conditions. When I acquired my 400mm F2.8 IS almost 11 years ago, I purchased a 1.4X and 2.0X Externder, both version II. At the time I was shooting a 5D with 12.8 MP, and I found the quality not perfect, but much better than simply cropping. A shot of a batter from the outfield fence for example requires an 800mm, 1200 if you want to fill the frame on FF.

Then I acquired a 7D. Some time later I sold my Version II extenders and bought version III for both 1.4X and 2.0X Extender, which were better.

Now that I have a 7Mark II, and my 5D is a Mark IV, I find I don't use the extenders much. Cropping works seemingly just as well. I have owned both a 1DX mark 1 & II over time, but sold them.

I have toyed with the idea of purchasing an 800mm IS lens, but when I look at image quality comparisons on The digital Picture (dot com) the quality seems similar to my lens and the 2X extender V III.

Just looking for a discussion here.
 

unfocused

EOS 5D SR
Jul 20, 2010
4,991
1,344
66
Springfield, IL
www.mgordoncommunications.com
Sounds like you are a better and more disciplined shooter than I am.

I shoot a 1DxII for most sports with a 100-400 zoom outdoors and a 200 f2.8 indoors. I don't shoot tight and seldom use extenders because I tend to cut off limbs or lose the ball if its too tight, so almost all my sports shots are cropped, sometimes severely. I guess the main exception would be field events like discus, hammer throw, etc., where using an extender helps to get back further (for my own preservation).

I would agree with your observation that today's cameras can sustain a lot more cropping than they once did. I do own a 7DII and a 5DIV, but don't use either one that much for sports, although I may start using the 7DII again this fall (I've gotten spoiled by the 1DxII). I do use a converter sometimes when I shooting birds (for personal enjoyment) where it seems like I'm much more likely to be distance limited and the subjects are a lot smaller. With birds in flight I'm more likely to reach for the 5D IV and add a converter if the light is less than perfect. Mid-day, I'll use the 7D II.

It also depends on what you are shooting for. Most of my sports shots end up on the college's web galleries, with just a few every year ending up in print publications. I try to make sure the quality is there in case a shot is needed for print, but honestly, the web gallery stuff is downsized anyway, so not much of a problem.

Lately, I've also gained a lot of respect for the high ISO performance of the cameras today. Indoor sports I'm routinely shooting at 6400 and cropping without much of a problem. I feel like, but have no evidence to prove it, that Adobe may have improved some of their algorithms or something, because I would swear I am getting less noise than I was a year ago from the same cameras. Maybe just my imagination though.
 
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Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
Mar 25, 2011
15,521
748
Its a matter of doing what works for you. I have a couple of extenders that seldom get used, but they do come in handy for far distant shots. It also makes a difference based on the lens. Some lenses work well with them, some just have too many optical distortions that get magnified.
 

AlanF

Canon 5DSR II
Aug 16, 2012
5,745
3,076
There is no simple yes or no answer since it depends on whether or not you are reach limited, size of frame limited, light limited, AF speed limited, diffraction limited, field of view limited, the nature of the subject and the level detail required etc. On some occasions I use the 1.4xTC and on others the 2xTC with a gain of resolution with telephotos on even a 5DSR, and on others the bare lenses when I don't need the resolution or want a wider fov, faster AF, lower iso etc. Without the TC, you will get a shot in more situations but might be insufficient pixels for the best image. With the TC, you might get better detail but you might be too tightly framed or need higher iso or AF too slowly. With the TC, it might be easier to spot focus on a small bird in foliage but the narrower field of view might make it more difficult to find etc etc etc. There is still use for extenders in Nature photography on some but not every occasion.
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
Mar 25, 2011
15,521
748
I feel like, but have no evidence to prove it, that Adobe may have improved some of their algorithms or something, because I would swear I am getting less noise than I was a year ago from the same cameras. Maybe just my imagination though.
Using lightroom, you can choose the processing engine, so take some 5 year old shots and reprocess them with the later engines. I was able to reprocess some old shots and have what I thought were much better results. I've played with it a little, the difference from process version 1 to 5 is dramatic, but with careful tweaking, that difference might be reduced.