OK, here it is. My 2012 WORLD FAMOUS HILLBILLY Lens test. My wife asked me why I call it a hillbilly test. Here's why. So many variables that the test is not perfect by any means. Example, I was going to do this lens test yesterday afternoon. But I couldn't. Why? It was partly cloudy. I can't test one lens while the sun is hitting my target and then it be in the shade by the time I mount my next lens. So that is one variable. (Lighting and cloud conditions.) Another is wind. As I am on the 28th floor, if the wind is over 5 knots or so, this building sways. Not much, but if you are using an 800mm lens with a long exposure (Say 1/250) an image of the distance, later magnified is going to be blurry. I have learned these lessons the hard way. Many a night, I will get home from work in the dark, pick up my big binoculars and see that Dallas looks crystal clear and take some photos with my biggest lens... only later to see they are just a mess. They look out of focus for example. Problem was that maybe it was a very long exposure, like a second. In a second, if it is windy, my location is varying like a half inch in a second. (Completely guessing at the amount.) So I am asking too much of my gear to take a long exposure from a tripod on the balcony of a skyscraper. I have learned, that I am better to push the shot to 4000 ISO they accept the blur. (But except the graininess of high ISO in the dark, where it is most evident.)
So all that being said, there are many variables. Some I cannot control. So the test is not perfect by any means. But is it useful and telling? You betcha...
Let me start by showing you all my original photos in their native size. It will give you an opportunity to see the difference different focal length lens make. These photos are 100% un-molested. Did not crop, adjust contrast, sharpen or anything else. They were only dumped out of my camera and uploaded to my host server. Most of you know this, but for those that don't, I have a Canon 5D MKII camera. I am testing all my current lenses. I will label the lenses.
My target is the top of the Purina Mills plant on I-35, just East of Downtown Fort Worth. I am thinking about a mile from me.
Canon 17-40mm 4.0L This shot at 17mm.
Canon 17-40mm 4.0L at 40mm
Canon 50mm 1.2L
Canon 70-200mm Zoom 2.8L IS (at 70mm)
Canon 70-200mm Zoom 2.8L IS (at 200mm
Canon 400mm 5.6L
Canon 800mm 5.6L IS
Canon 800mm 5.6L IS With Canon 2X adapter on. (1,600MM)
And here is a crop from each image. (All a different lens) This magnification will really point out the difference in quality
of the long range capture.
The 17-40 at 17
The 17-40 at 40
The 70-200 at 70
The 70-200 at 200
The 800 double to 1600
The lenses in the test. I laugh, that I have to use my i-phone to take a shot of gillion dollars worth of photo gear. (Last camera standing)
Conclusion? Well, it is pretty obvious that bigger lenses capture images far away than smaller lenses. But I can take away these things. My new 800mm was $15,000.. Though an amazing piece of glass, and worth 15 grand to me, it is definitely not 8 times better than my 400mm even though it cost 8 times more. So unless you are rich, or take long distance shots for a living, Canons biggest lens is not worth it. But I am thrilled with it and have no regrets. The fun is just beginning for me...
One other little takeaway. Still not sure the 2X doubler is worth 500 bucks. The reason is primarliy that you have to focus manually when it is on. A VERY critical procedure to high quality images. In fact, I am going to start having to hook my camera up to a laptop to focus good enough. I think you can see in my test that the 800 by itself produced a sharper image than the 800 doubled with the 2x. Had I had a better focus, I think it would win.