01 May 2020

Using the Canon Extender EF 1.4x III for Bird Photography

Using the Canon Extender EF 1.4x III for Bird PhotographyOver the years I have had numerous requests of photographers wanting to know the Autofocus capability and image quality in using a 1.4x extender / teleconverter with the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens.

Many birds in flight / general birding photographers purchase the  1.4x extender for the various f/5.6 Canon EF lenses (400mm / 100-400mm) just to never really be satisfied with the results.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens
I recently took some time out for testing the Canon Extender EF 1.4x III paired with my Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens.

I've never used this pairing before (for birds in flight) due to the following criteria:
  • The 400mm f/5.6 lens will default to f/8 as the largest aperture 
  • Possible slowing down of the AF capability of camera / lens paired with the extender
  • Possible image quality loss at 560mm focal length (400mm x 1.4x)

Canon's listed Advantages on the EF1.4x III Extender (Source)
  • Extends the master lens focal length by 1.4x
  • Outstanding image quality
  • Highly resistant to dust and water
  • Improved communication between lens and camera
  • Optimised lens coatings
  • Compatible with L-Series telephoto and telephoto zoom lenses

Personal findings
(Birds in Flight / General Birding)
  • 400mm extends to 560mm (400mm x 1.4x)
  • Could only use 1 point AF and 4 Point Expansion (Canon EOS 7D Mark II)
  • AF is slowed down just a fraction
  • Image quality deteriorates at 560mm for birds in flight
  • Image quality is still reasonably sharp for perched / relatively still birds

Conclusion for Birds in Flight / Birding Photography
I've never been keen on using the Canon EF 1.4x III extender / teleconverter for birds in flight (paired with below gear) and after using the Canon 1.4x Extender is still of the same opinion that my own images at 400mm are of much higher quality (at 400mm at f/5.6) without the Extender.

The Canon EF 1.4x III Extender will perform more effective on 300mm and 400mm f/2.8 and f/4 lenses - also when paired with bodies provided with more |AF Points (compared to the EOS 7D Mark II with a maximum AF Points array of 4 points).

Equipment (Birds In Flight Photography)
  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR camera body
  • Canon EF 400mm f/5.6l USM Lens
  • Canon EF 1.4x II Extender (Teleconverter)
  • Sandisk Extreme Plus SDHC™ UHS-I Card 120MB/s 64 GB

Exposure / Focus Settings
  • Manual Mode Settings / Lens AF On
  • Shutter speed: 1/3200s
  • Aperture: f/8
  • Focal length 560mm
  • Auto ISO (ISO 640-1250)
  • Continuous shooting mode (10 fps) / AI Servo
  • AI Servo / AF Mode Option (4 Point AF / Case 1)
  • Lens AF On / No IS / Handheld

Post-Processing
Adobe Lightroom 9: Cropping. Colour correction / Lens profile correction. RAW to JPEG conversion.

Birds in Flight Location
Woodbridge Island Milnerton, Cape Town

Grey Heron in Flight with Canon Extender 1.4x III (Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm f/5.6L Lens)
Grey Heron in Flight with Canon Extender 1.4x III (Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm f/5.6L Lens)

White-Breasted Cormorant in Flight with Canon Extender 1.4x III (Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm f/5.6L Lens)

Mandarin Duck with Canon Extender 1.4x III (Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm f/5.6L Lens)

Weaver with Canon Extender 1.4x III (Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm f/5.6L Lens)

Yellow-Billed Duck with Canon Extender 1.4x III (Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm f/5.6L Lens)
Birds in Flight Photography Training Milnerton View