In my previous blog about Bird Photography Equipment, I reviewed the Canon EF 300 f/4 lens with the teleconverter Kenko C-AF 2X Teleplus Pro 300 DGX. I have had a couple of weeks of testing this configuration and further testing revealed some additional amazing results that I did not expect.
The new surprise is that this lens, when used in a cropped body, like a 7D or even a t3i (600D), and the Kenko 2X teleconverter, can also be used as an amazing long distance macro of 300 x 2 x 1.6 (crop factor) = 960 mm !!!! I came across this while testing the 300 with kenko 2X TC and there we no birds to shoot. So I started shooting some butterflies and small flowers without expecting great results. One of the nice things about the 300 f/4 is the minimum focus distance of 1.5 meters which makes for a good long-distance macro. Now add a 2X teleconverter and all of a sudden all those small flowers, insects, etc. are 2X closer to you and the image quality is still very good. Additionally the minimum focus distance does not change with the TC so you definitely see an improvement in the macro side of the lens!
I have gone as far as comparing this arrangement with the legendary canon 180 mm f/3.5 macro with the following examples. Maybe you think I am crazy but look at these pictures please..
This first set of photos compare the 300 vs the 300 with the 2X TC
Canon EF 300mm f/4 with and without Kenko 2X
As you can see the 2X definitely helps the macro shots.
This second set of photos compare the 300 vs the 180. To do this I have gotten both lenses as close as possible to the subject which means the 300 is 1.25 meters away from the subject and the 180 mm is 0.4 meters away. To test both lenses as optimal conditions and at ISO 100 I used a 580EX and the 7D in manual mode f/18 and speed 1/200.
Comparison of 180mm macro with the EF 300mm plus Kenko 2X TC
The image quality of the 180 mm macro is only a little better. I would have expected a bigger difference but at optimal optical conditions there is not a big difference. Here is the uncropped image of the 300 mm f/4 with the “X TC
Uncropped 300mm at f/18 ISO 100
The next set of photos compare the 300 vs the 180 without flash under shadow. In this case the 7D has been set in manual, f/18, speed 1/100, ISO between 2000 and 3200. Some exposure adjustment was done afterwards.
Again we see improvement of the image when the 2X TC is added to the 300 mm lens. The 180 mm macro does a little better but I think the image of the 300 is very good.
The last set of photos compare the EF 100-400 f/5.6 at 100mm plus a Hoya macro lens with the 300 f/4 plus the Kenko 2X TC and the 180 macro. In this test the camera has been brought as close a possible to the subject. For the 100-400 lens at 100 plus a Hoya +4 Macro ring that distance is 25 cm.
Comparison with 100-400 f/5.6 at 100mm with Hoya +4 macro adapter
The macro image quality for the 100-400 with the Hoya is better than the 300 with the Kenko 2X. It looks almost as good as the 180mm macro. Which is another plus for the 100-400mm.
Conclusion: My conclusion is that the performance of the Canon EF 300mm f/4 L IS is significantly improved using the Kenko 2X for macro shots when the light conditions are adequate. In addition the performance is also improved significantly on the telephoto applications as presented on my previous post: Bird Photography Equipment – Teleconverters for 7D and 5D MIII For these reasons I am now birding more and more with the EF 300mm and keno 2X combo making it a better telephoto and a better macro all in one lens!
Renato, I read your original post on the Kenko 2x TC with interest, but since I’m not photographing as many birds as I one was, I thought about the $280, bookmarked it and moved on.
But I am doing quite a bit of dragonfly photography and this post on the macro capabilities of the 300 f/4 and Kenko 2x are interesting indeed. Especially as you say it doesn’t affect the close focus distance of the 300mm.
I’ve been using the 7D with the 300 f/4 + Canon 1.4x with success, but the idea of getting more magnification is attractive.
Thanks for your posts on this subject
Thanks Bosque_Bill, that is an amazing website you have and those dragonfly pictures are great. I think the 2X TC will work for you specially with those sunny days when the dragonflies are active. I have gone as far as adding the Kenko 2X plus a Canon 1.4 TC with very good results but keep in mind that for the 7D that will mean manual focus.
Thanks, Renato, for your compliments on my dragonfly photos. Yes, the odonates are active in the middle of the day, though I sometimes use a higher ISO so I can get more depth of field. And when they are in the vegetation I can’t always get autofocus lock anyhow, so manual focus is not the end of the world 😉 OK, the Kenko 2X goes on the wish list!
Dear Bosque Bill:
Keep in mind that you will lose a bit of depth of field with the 600mm. The 300mm at f/18 at 60 inches away only has a DOF of 0.75 inches, while the 420mm (300+1.4x) has DOF of 0.36 inches, and the 600mm (300+2X) has 0.18 inches. That means you must get in good position to get the odonates fully focused!
Renato, thanks, you are right. On the other hand, if I’m using it simply because I’m farther away from the subject (which would be my main use), then I get some of that DoF back, as I understand it.
That is correct. With the 2X at f/18 and 120 inches away the DOF is something like 0.6 inches. I any case it is a tight depth of field but with these little buggers sometimes you cannot get very close anyway, hence your choice for the long distance macro.