CANON EOS FAQ Version 2.4
All original material is Copyright © 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 Alvin
Chia-Hua Shih and Robert M. Atkins.
Date: November 1993
For a comprehensive chart of Canon lens offerings, please consult
an EF lens guide, such as the one found in the "EF Lenses"
brochure. Per Danielsson has posted data on many EF lenses and
his table is given in Appendix B at the end of this FAQ.
Alvin Shih has also abstracted information on EF lenses and his
table is given in Appendix C at the end of this FAQ.
The following lenses were announced in the USA on Feb 17th 1993.
The information below was supplied by Chuck Westfall of Canon:
Canon U.S.A., Inc. announced 3 new EF lenses at the 1993 PMA
(Photo Marketing Assn.) dealer trade show in Atlanta. The new
lenses are: EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 USM, EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, & EF
400mm f/5.6L USM. Here are the basic specifications:
Specification 20-35/3.5-4. 50/1.4 400/5.6L
AF Drive Ring USM Micro USM Ring USM
(Groups/Elements) 11/12 6/7 6/7
Min Focus Distance 1.1 ft/0.34m 1.5 ft/0.45m 11.5 ft/3.5m
Length 2.7 in/69mm 2.0 in/50.5mm 10.1 in/257mm
Weight 12 oz/340gr 10.2 oz/290gr 43.8oz/1.25kg
Filter Size 77mm 58mm 77mm
List Price $725 TBD TBD
The EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 USM was designed as an easy-to-use
wide-angle zoom lens at a more affordable price. The new lens
features internal zooming and focusing to help maintain its
compact size and light weight, while providing a non-rotating
filter thread for use with a circular polarizer or other special
effects filter. The USM provides quick, silent AF with a
full-time manual focus override.
The EF 50mm f/1.4 USM meets the needs of a wide range of advanced
amateur and professional photographers, due to its large
aperture, light weight and compact design. The optical quality of
the new lens exceeds that of the FD 50mm f/1.4, with even greater
contrast and resolution. The new lens is equipped with Canon's
latest Micro USM focus drive for high-speed, silent AF, with a
full-time mechanical manual focus override for added creative
control. Other features include a metal mount, distance and depth
of field scales and an IR index.
The EF 400mm f/5.6L USM is targeted to professional and advanced
amateur photographers who require a compact, lightweight and
easy-to-handle long telephoto lens for a variety of outdoor
applications. The lens uses a rear-focusing optical system and
Canon USM (Ultrasonic Motor) technology for silent, high-speed
autofocusing. The EF 400mm f/5.6L USM has 7 elements in 6 groups,
including two elements of Canon's Ultra-Low Dispersion (UD)
glass. This is the first EF telephoto to use Canon's
newly-developed "Super UD" glass. The new glass features
dispersion characteristics similar to fluorite, producing
outstanding resolution, contrast and color fidelity.
A full-time mechanical manual focusing mechanism makes it
possible to switch to manual focusing at any time without
switching out of AF mode. Dual rubber manual focusing rings are
positioned on both the large and small sections of the lens
barrel to provide improved operability. A sliding lens hood is
built-in and the new lens is equipped with a focusing range
selector switch and a detachable tripod collar. The EF 400mm
f/5.6L USM is compatible with both EF Extenders for autoexposure
and manual focus.
The EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 USM will be available through authorized
Canon USA dealers by the end of March. The EF 50mm f/1.4 USM & EF
400mm f/5.6L USM will be available by the end of June, with
pricing determined at that time.
Though Canon offers lenses of similar focal lengths, they are
targeted at different audiences. Canon has 3 broad categories of
lenses: A, B,and L.
The "A-series" consists of low-cost lenses for the "snapshooter"
market.The original A-series consisted of lenses which were
AF-only for use on the 700 and 800 series. They had no manual
focus capability of any sort, and also lacked focusing scales.
These lenses marked with an "A" after the focal length and
aperture designations. For example, "100-200/4.5A".
The new "A-series" does allow for manual focus, and may even
sport USM, but still lack focusing scales, and are not designed
to be as durable as other EF lenses. They no longer have an "A"
in their lens designation. Indeed, the lens mounts of all but the
longer lenses are polycarbonate instead of metal. The optical
performance is reasonable for the money.
At the other end, there is the "L" series. The "L" designates
"Luxury" (or as Mike Coren would say, "Life's savings" :-). These
lenses are targeted towards professionals or advanced amateurs.
L-series lenses typically include special elements of UD or
Fluorite glass for outstanding optical performance. Some lenses
of this series are also designed to withstand the abuse which
comes with professional photography (photojournalism in
particular). They are generally sold complete with case and lens
Any lenses which fall in between are simply in the "B-series".
These lenses are generally reasonable value for the money and
should serve the typical "enthusiast" quite well. They all
include manual focus capability, and distance scales as well.
Outside of the three major categories, there is the class of
"special-purpose" lenses. These include the TS-E lenses (the 24mm
is an "L", but the 45mm and 90mm are not), as well as the macro
There is a mount converter from EOS to FD, but it is a MACRO
converter only! That is to say, it does not allow the fitted
FD-mount lens to focus to infinity. In addition, it does not work
with cameras that do not have interchangeable focusing screens,
and certain FD lenses might not fit! Ask Canon for the list of
incompatible lenses before investing in an FD-macro setup.
Available from Canon Professional Services ONLY, there is a
1.26x teleconverter for certain 200mm+ lenses (and the FD50-300/4.5L,
the FD85-300/4.5 and FD150-600/5.6L) which also functions as a mount
adaptor. Part number (item code)is C54-2131, and the cost is $240.
However, this costs 2/3 stop, and only stopped-down, metering is
available. (No autofocus, of course.). There are also metering
restrictions on many cameras. The EOS 1 works best, but the
620,630,650/RT series also work well with the Focusing Screens E-D and
E-H and will work with E-I. Screens E-A, E-B, E-C(standard) and E-L are
not recommended. The EOS 1 can be used in Tv, Av, Manual, Depth and
Program exposure modes, but other EOS cameras require the use of the Av
mode if TTL meteing is to be used. Manual metering is not recommended
exept for the EOS-1, and even on the EOS-1 spot metering cannot be
used. The 10s also requires exposure compensation to correct for
metering errors when used with the FD->EOS converter. The compensation
depends on the lens aperture and the metering mode, varying from -0.3
stops with an f/1.8 lens setting and partial metering to +0.9 stops with
an f/16 lens setting and partial meteing, and from 0 stops with an f/1.8
lens setting and evaluative metering to +0.8 stops with an f/16 lens
setting and evaluative metering. The 620 and 650 require +0.5 stops of
exposure compensation. The 630 and RT (with the correct screens)
require no exposure compensation.
I do not currently have data on the Elan or A2/A2E/5 operation
with the FD->EOS converter. If you need more information and/or
current price and availablity you will need to contact Canon
Professional Services at (516) 488 1400 (x3354) or (516) 328
Also see section 9.18
No. First, the EF mount is bigger than the FD mount. Second,
the adaptor would have to convert the mechanical aperture setting
action for the old FD lenses into electrical information for
the EF lenses. Since you can't stop down an EF lens mechanically,
even if you had stopped-down metering, you'd still be stuck. It
would require quite the contraption to make EF lenses work, and
is probably not worth anyone's effort to research and develop.
Having the focusing motor in the lens allows the lens to have a
motor that is "matched" to its focusing characteristics. Heavier
glass can be supplied with more powerful motors. It should also
simplify lens design since there is no need to design a
transmission that takes mechanical energy from a fixed point in
the lens mount to some other point in the lens. With the motor in
the lens, the motor can be placed where ever it will be most
In some cases, it probably does. If the retail prices of
third-party lenses is any indication, the motor does cost
something (comparing a 3rd-party Nikon AF mount lens to its Canon
EF mount equivalent). However, the lenses from Canon are
generally regarded as faster focusing, so it may be worth the
Note that some recent lenses (e.g. Sigma 70-210/2.8 APO) are
priced exactly the same in manual and all AF (Nikon, Minolta,
Canon) mounts, so maybe the 3rd party manufacturers have refined
their design and manufacturing costs to the point where the cost
of the internal lens motor is not significant.
There are two varieties of USM lenses. One variety, commonly
found on some of the "L" series lenses, converts rotation of the
manual focusing ring into electrical pulses, which in turn are
converted into motor movement. On such lenses, the ring is
referred to as an "electronic focusing ring". The benefit of this
system is that some of the "L" lenses can be set to different
focusing ring sensitivities to allow for speed or precision as
the user requires.
By default, the electronic focusing ring is disabled after AF
since leaving it enabled draws significant amounts of power from
the battery. However, on some bodies, the electronic focusing
ring can be left enabled via CF after AF for "fine tuning" of
focus by the user.
Most other USM lenses have a mechanical coupling that works after
AF regardless of the custom function setting. Though this draws
no battery power, the angle of rotation from close-focus to
infinity is usually regarded as too short.
In a survey taken by Mike Coren, it would appear that some
animals can detect USM noise at close range, but are not annoyed
by it. Indeed, some animals may be even curious. However, there
was one report of a cat who is particularly annoyed by the
28-80/2.8-4L. This may be an exception.
The lenses in the sample population were:
- 85mm f/1.2 L - 1
- 300mm f/4.0 L - 1
- 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 - 2
- 28-80mm f/2.8-4.0 L - 1
- 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 - 1
- 35-105mm f/4-5.6 - 2
- 70-210mm f/3.5-4.5 - 2
- 75-300mm f/4.0-5.6 - 1
- 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 - 1
On USM lenses with electronic focusing rings, it appears not. On
USM lenses with mechanical couplings, use manual focus.
Because of the built-in motor, 3rd party lenses for EOS are
generally more expensive than their non-EOS counterparts.
Canon has been pretty secretive about their lens interface. There
have been a few postings to the net implying that Sigma lenses
don't AF very well on Canon EOS cameras, or if they do, they only
do so for a limited time before failing. On the other hand many
users are very happy with Sigma lenses and report no problems at
all. Failures may just be isolated cases.
Generally, Canon lenses are of similar or better quality in
comparison to similarly priced competitors. It is probably better
to stick with Canon lenses unless (a) Canon don't make the lens
you want, or (b) You just can't afford the Canon lens. There is
no 3rd party lens which uses the USM technology - a big reason to
go with Canon.
There are rumours that the Tamron 28-200/3.8-5.6 uses licensed
technology to ensure correct operation on EOS bodies. These
rumours are unconfirmed.
Well, many lenses do return distance information, though it is
not currently used for much. Who knows what it might be used for
in future EOS cameras?
Here's a current list of EF lenses with absolute distance data.
The one thing most of these lenses have in common is ring USM
with full-time mechanical manual focus:
EF 14mm f/2.8L (USM)
EF 20mm f/2.8 (USM)
EF 85mm f/1.8 (USM)
EF 100mm f/2 (USM)
EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro
EF 200mm f/2.8L (USM)
EF 300mm f/4L (USM)
EF 400mm f/5.6L (USM)
EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 (USM)
EF 28-70mm f/2.8L (USM)
EF 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 (USM)
EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 (USM)
EF 35-135mm f/4-5.6 (USM)
EF 35-350mm f/3.5-5.6L (USM)
EF 70-210mm f/3.5-4.5 (USM)
EF 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 (USM)
The distance info is not currently used anywhere except the
close-up and portrait PIC modes, and then only with the Elan and
the 10s (not the Rebel series or the A2/A2E.). Whether some
future EOS body will use this information is a matter for
A list of lens ratings given by the French photo magazine
"Chasser d'Images" and was submitted to the FAQ by Christian
Decurnex. It can be found at the end of this FAQ in Appendix F.
This is probably the most complete survey of Canon EF series
lenses. Many thanks to Christian for sending it in to the FAQ.
Christian has also abstracted the Chasseur d'Images tests of all
the Canon EF lenses, and his posting can be found in Appendix H
at the end of this FAQ
George Lepp in his "Natural Image" newsletter tests lenses from
time to time. Most of the tests are on Canon and Nikon lenses,
but he also tests 3rd party lenses as well as a few from Minolta,
Pentax etc. He also tests cameras and film and the "Natural
Image" carries articles on all aspects of nature and wildlife
photography. For subscriptions and back issue information contact
Lepp and Associates, P.O. Box 6240, Los Osos, CA 93412 or call
(805) 528-7385. His lens rating scheme is from 0 to 10, with 6.0
representing the bottom end of his "professional quality" range.
6.0 corresponds to somewhere around 60 lp/mm. A rating of 10
would usually be for the best macro lenses, sharp from edge to
edge and resolving 130 lp/mm+. None of his tests on any of the
Canon lenses have given numbers less than 6.0. The "regular"
lenses usually are in the 7-7.5 range, while the good "L" series
lenses rate in the 8-9 range.
The following numbers are MY attempt at averaging his
test numbers. He usually tests at several focal lengths (for zooms) and
several apertures. The numbers given here are my averages of his
numbers over various focal lengths (for zooms) and over several tests
(for those lenses tested more than once). Numbers are given for
wide-open (W-O) and at f/5.6. Mistakes are mine, not George Lepp's. For
more information see the address and phone numbers above. Note that you
cannot sum up the qualities of a lens in a single number, so take these
numbers as a very general guideline only. Get the original tests for
Lens W-O f/5.6
EF300/2.8L* 8.0 9.0
EF300/4L* 8.0 8.5
EF200/2.8L* 7.5 9.0
EF500/4.5L 7.0 7.5 (est)
EF100-300/5.6L* 8.5/8.0 8.5/8.0
EF100-300/4.5-5.6USM* 7.0/7.0 8.0/7.0
EF70-210/3.5-4.5* 7.0/7.0 8.5/7.5
EF35-350/3.5-5.6L 7.0 7.5
EF80-200/2.8L* 7.5/7.5 9.0/9.0
EF28-70/3.5-4.5II average "overall" rating 8.25 -
Tamron SP 300/2.8 EDIF 7.0 8.0
Tamron SP 70-210/2.8 LD 6.5/6.5 7.5/7.0
Sigma 400/5.6 APO 6.5 6.5
Sigma 500/7.2 APO 5.5 -
A/B refers to ratings at the short (A) and long (B) ends of the
Many of these lenses (marked "*"), along with Canon, Tamron and
Vivitar teleconverters (see section 4.16) were tested in issue
28 of "The Natural Image" (Winter 1991). Also in the same issue
are tests on similar Nikon lenses, so you can get ammunition for
the Canon vs. Nikon wars! For directly comparable lenses, the
Canons seemed to have a slight edge in sharpness. On repeat tests
some sight variations have appeared. For example in earlier
tests, at 300mm and at f/5.6, the 100-300L has tested as high as
8.5, while the 100-300USM has tested as low as 6.5. At the level
at which ordinary mortals (without access to a full optics
testing lab) can test lenses, such small differences are to be
expected from test to test. George has commented though, that in
general, the test results are quite repeatable.
From his test results George has stated that the Canon 300/2.8L
and the Canon 100-300L are the sharpest lenses in their category
from any manufacturer.
Of notable non-Canon lenses, the Sigma 400/5.6 APO rates a 6.5
wide open (f/5.6), and the Sigma 500/7.2 APO rates a 5.5 wide open
(f/7.2), and a 6.0 at f/8 (1/3 stop down). The 400/5.6 APO
represents good value for money and can yield quite acceptable
images. The Canon 400/5.6L has been released but there are no
tests to date (11/93). I would expect it to significantly
outperform the Sigma lens, but at maybe 3 times the cost (ca.
Again, use these numbers with some thought. They are general
guidelines only and should not be taken as the definitive word on
the quality of these lenses. Sharpness is not the only factor in
choosing a lens (though for me it is of major importance). George
Lepp's rating are weighted strongly by central image resolution
Popular Photography has also tested quite a large number of Canon
EF series lenses (and other 3rd party EOS compatible lenses). The
tests are too detailed to summarize here. Check out back issues
(some libraries may have them). A brief (entirely insufficient)
one-letter summary of their full page tests follows. A = Well
above average, B = Above average, C = Slightly above average, D =
Average. Note that "Average" doesn't really mean average in
Popular Photography, since almost no lenses are below "average".
It probably means "acceptable" in some general sense! Note that
there are many inconsistencies in the Pop Photog tests. The
numerical data does not always agree with the written comments.
Look at the tests in detail (especially the hard data) rather
than relying on their (or my) comments.
EF85/1.8 USM April 1993 A
EF14/2.8L USM January 1993 D
EF35-105/4.5-5.6 January 1992 A(35) to D(wide open at 105)
EF35-135/4-5.6 February 1991 B
EF75-300/4-5.6 August 1992 A(75) to D(300)
EF50/1.8 February 1991 B
EF50/1.8II May 1991 A
EF28-80/3.5-5.6 July 1992 A (B at 80)
EF35-350/3.5-5.6USM June 1993 B to D(at 350)
EF20-35/3.5-4.5USM October 1993 B
Interesting Non-Canon Lenses
Sigma 400/5.6 APO May 1992 C
Sigma 21-35/3.5-4.2 February 1992 A
Sigma 70-210/2.8 May 1993 A+
Sigma 28-70/2.8 June 1993 B to D(70mm wide open)
Note however, that the Sigma 400/5.6 actually tested as a
386/6.2. This does not make it a worse lens, but you should be
aware of what you are likely to actually get if you buy one.
Similarly almost all long lenses and zooms over 200mm are
actually significantly shorter (at the long end for zooms) than
they are marked. You can consider yourself quite lucky if they
are within 5% of the marked focal length, for example the Sigma
70-210/2.8 zoom is actually only 195mm at the long end. This
shortfall does not only apply to 3rd party lenses, but to lenses
from almost all the major camera manufacturers.
A much more detailed summary of all the Popular Photography tests
on lenses which are available in an EOS mount has been submitted
to the FAQ by Leszek Mazur. This summary appears at the end of
this FAQ in Appendix D.
The Sigma 70-210/2.8 (or 70-195/2.8 to be more accurate) does
look like a good optical performer at 1/2 the cost of the Canon
80-200/2.8. The following item from "Fotomagazin" submitted by
From: email@example.com (Uli Bodenhausen)
Subject: f2.8/telezooms tested in Fotomagzin
Organization: University of Karlsruhe, FRG
The German Fotomagazin (3/93) tested the f/2.8 AF telezooms.
The summary is (without permission):
Ratings are from 0(bad) - 10(excellent).
These results may not be directly comparable to other ratings of
other zoom lenses in other Fotomagazin tests. The small print in
the test says that the ratings are based on sharpness, contrast,
vignetting, flare, distortions and color. They also say that the
sharpness measurements allow an equal comparison between all
lenses (also in other tests they did). BUT: The contrast ratings
are only comparable between lenses with the same opening (f
stop). The following results should be directly comparable
because all have the same opening. Only one lens of each
manufacturer was tested.
Lens rating rating
Canon AF 80-200 9.2 9.0
Minolta AF APO 80-200 8.8 8.8
Nikkor AF ED 80-200 9.6 9.2
Sigma APO 70-210 9.6 9.2
Tamron AF LD 70-210 8.8 9.4
Tokina AF ATX 80-200 9.0 8.8
The following lenses are mentioned on the net repeatedly for
being able to produce good quality images at a reasonable
price (maybe this info should go into the EF lens guide???):
EF 28-70/3.5-4.5 II:
This lens boasts an aspherical element to improve its performance
when shooting wide open. It is regarded as being one of the best
lenses in its focal length and slightly better than the
28-80/3.5-5.6 USM that replaces it. The factors against this lens
are: a) the front element rotates, b) the filter threads retract
at middle focal lengths, c) the filter size is 52mm rather than
the 58mm that Canon seems to now favour, d) they are becoming
very scarce. [e) Note that it is now discontinued, so if you want
one and you see one for sale, buy it immediately! (RMA)].
Optical performance quite good for the money. Main complaints:
looks a bit flimsy, not the fastest focusing, no distance scales,
and filter threads rotate. It is now available with a USM motor
which provides much faster (and quieter) focusing.
EF 100-300/4.5-5.6 USM:
Noted for its fast focusing, it is supposed to be "quite good but
not outstanding". The main complaint is that it suffers from
This is supposed to be the sharpest lens in its focal length, and
the cheapest of the "L"-series zooms (nearly half the price of
the 80- 200/2.8L). Main weaknesses are that it has a push-pull
zoom mechanism, it's slow focusing, the front element rotates,
and the maximum aperture is quite modest. [I have measured better
than 80 lp/mm resolution at 300mm wide open (f/5.6) on this lens,
which is indeed outstanding performance (RMA)]
Some lenses carry a designation "II" after the focal length and
aperture information. The "II" simply indicates that the lens has
the same focal length and aperture specifications as a previous
Though the 50/1.8 II may be considered "inferior" to the original
50/1.8 (plastic mount, no distance scales), the 28-70/3.5-4.5 II
retains the metal mount and distance scales of its predecessor.
The 28-70 II is not optically identical to its predecessor and a
major change was also the replacement of metal gear components
with plastic equivalents. The supposed reason was to increase the
smoothness of the focusing and zooming actions. [Anybody have an
original 28-70/3.5-4.5 who can comment?]
Here is a review by Robert French:
From: rfrench@Xenon.Stanford.EDU (Robert S. French)
Subject: Review of Tamron 28-200/3.8-5.6 AF lens for EOS
Organization: Computer Science Department, Stanford University.
Date: Tue, 2 Feb 1993 07:09:00 GMT
As promised, here is my review of the new Tamron AF
28-200/3.8-5.6 for the Canon EOS.
- The lens is very short (approx 3 3/8" at minimum zoom).
- The lens has a very positive feel to it - the zoom action dial
(which is most of the lens body) has a reasonable amount of
friction and turns through 45 deg from 28-200mm.
- The lens appears to be very well constructed. It feels rugged
and has a metal mount.
- The minimum aperture at 28mm is f/22, and at 200mm is f/32.
- It comes with a bayonet-mounted lens shade that can be
reverse-mounted for storage.
- The freedom of 28-200 zooming is wonderful.
- The lens weighs a lot more than the claimed 15.2 oz. It feels
like it weighs over 20 oz, but I don't have a scale that measures
over 16. I don't know why the lens weighs so much more than
claimed - the 15.2oz figure is printed on the box and on the info
sheet. It takes a little getting used to after using the
extra-light Canon 35-70 and 80-200, but it's not bad.
- There is no focus scale! So much for hyperfocal calculations...
- The minimum focusing distance is ~7 feet at all focal lengths!
- The zoom dial turns in the opposite direction from the 35-70
and 80-200, and I find that very confusing.
- The end of the lens rotates with focusing, so orientation-specific
filters will have problems.
- The focusing motor is fairly slow compared to Canon EF lenses,
and very slow compared to USM lenses.
- At a maximum aperture of 3.8 (which the Canons read as 4.0),
the lens is relatively slow at its wide end, but consistent with
most zooms on the market at the tele end. This doesn't mean it
isn't slow, though.
- 72 mm filters are expensive.
After shooting a roll of film (Kodachrome 200):
The lens appears to perform very well. It appears that the lens
shade DOES interfere with 28mm shooting - there is a slight
darkening around the edges. There is no visible vignetting at
28mm without the lens shade. The lens also worked well with the
Tamron 2x teleconverter. All in all, I like the lens, although it
wasn't the perfect lens I thought it was going to be. The long
minimum focus distance, slow maximum aperture, and relatively
slow focusing motor all make it somewhat annoying. It seems well
suited for outdoor photography, although I'm going to keep some
other lenses around for inside and special outdoor projects. The
28-200 ability makes much of the problems tolerable, though. I
think I'll keep it.
There are a few solutions:
a) Buy a "cap keeper" gizmo that strings your cap to your lens.
(Most people don't like this idea because it reminds them of
b) Pop the spring mechanism out of the cap, heat with a hair
drier while applying force to mold the ring into the desired
shape. An elastic band or two may be useful.
c) Just screw the cap into the filter threads. My caps stay
snugly attached this way!
d) Buy another (brand) of lens cap! (RMA)
Canon make two EOS compatible teleconverters, a 1.4x and a 2x.
They will only mount on EF telephoto lenses of the "L" series
since they have a protruding front element which prevents
mechanical coupling to (almost) all the other EF series lenses.
Even if you could mount them on other lenses, the results might
not be good. The Canon teleconverters are obviously designed to
provide an optimum match to the optical characteristics of their
telephoto lenses. The Canon teleconverters convey the true
aperture of the lens/converter combination to the camera body,
i.e. a 300/2.8 with a 1.4x attached to it will show a maximum
aperture of f/4 on an EOS body. Both converters can be mounted on
any EF series lens if you use an EF25 extension tube. This is, of
course, only useful for macro work. To get AF operation with a
1.4x converter you must use a prime lens of f/4 or faster. f/4 will
become f/5.6 with the converter attached. Similarly to get AF
operation with the 2x converter you must start with a lens that
is f/2.8 or faster. f/2.8 will become f/5.6 with the converter
attached. With lenses slower than the values specified above the
camera will not even TRY to autofocus. Thus unfortunately you
cannot get AF operation with the 500/4.5L and a Canon 1.4x
Tamron, Sigma and Vivitar all make EOS compatible AF
teleconverters (there are also a few "store" brands). These
converters will mount on any EF series lens, or any 3rd party EOS
compatible lens. They do NOT convey the true aperture of the
lens/converter combination, i.e. If you start out with a 300/2.8
and add a 3rd party 1.4x converter, the EOS body will still allow
you to set an aperture of f/2.8, when your true maximum aperture
is f/4. This will not affect exposure accuracy however since the
TTL metering will take care of things for you. If you use a hand
held meter and transfer readings to the camera in manual exposure
mode you will have to remember to make the exposure correction
yourself. The only problem I can see is in situations where the
lens aperture is used to calculate other things, such as depth of
field or flash range. The Tamron 1.4x converter claims to provide
AF with any lens faster than f/4.5 (vs f/4 for the Canon 1.4x). I
don't know how accurate this is. It certainly seems to work fine
with an EF300/4L lens. The Tamron 2x claims to provide AF with
any lens of f/4 or faster (vs. f/2.8 for the Canon). This is not
really true. It does provide some AF when used with an EF300/4L,
but not 100% reliable AF. Under average daylight conditions with
average targets it probably gives something like a 65% success
rate. The reason Canon's specs are tighter is that they quote
numbers where you can expect to rely on AF operation, not that
their converters are not as good (they are at least as good, and
probably better). From some brief measurements I have made, it
looks like both the Canon and Tamron 1.4x converters are indeed
very close to 1.4x. The Canon 2x seems to be very close to 2x,
but the Tamron 2x seems a little less powerful than stated,
perhaps closer to 1.8x. This may not be altogether bad, but it is
as well to be aware of it. The difference should give you a
little more aperture, but at the expense of a little less focal
Converter quality. Canon's are the best, but also the most
expensive. George Lepp (in his "Natural Image" newsletter) tested
a number of converters and found the Tamrons to be the best of
the 3rd party brands (Tamron, Sigma, Tokina and Vivitar tested
with Nikon, Canon and Sigma lenses) most of the time. They were
close to the Canon converters in center resolution, but were not
as good at the edges of the frame. I have found a similar result
comparing images taken with my Tamron converters with those taken
by Jay Schlegel using the Canon converters. The biggest
difference seems to be between the Tamron 1.4x and Canon 1.4x at
the frame edges. Central resolution (used with a Canon EF300/4L)
was good in both cases at 70+ lp/mm. However the resolution and
lateral color at the edges of the frame were better with the
Canon converter. There seemed to be less difference between the
Canon and Tamron 2x converters in terms of image quality.
Contrast with all the 3rd party converters may also be lower, and
they may introduce more chromatic aberration. They cost less than
the Canons, so you have to decide if you can put up with the
lower quality images, though if you intend to use them with
anything other than "L" series telephotos then the Canon
converters are not an option anyway. In general, converters don't
work well with low cost zoom lenses. They can give acceptable
results with some higher quality zooms (e.g. EF80-200/2.8L) and
can give quite good results with high quality telephotos,
especially if you stick to the 1.4x converters. In general, avoid
any 3x converters or "store brand" converters since the quality
of images they produce is not likely to be acceptable. Converters
are a compromise of size, weight, cost and quality. Only YOU can
decide if the quality of the images they provide is acceptable.
Do not expect miracles, and do not use them in critical
applications (like on a one-in-a-lifetime safari) without testing
them on the lenses you will use them with to see if you can live
with the results. A converter which gives great results with one
lens, may not be all that great with another, so test all the
combinations you intend to use.
One final point, despite anything you may read elsewhere,
teleconverters can work no "magic" with respect to depth of field.
Whether you have a 400mm f/5.6 lens, or a 200mm f/2.8 with a 2x converter
(=400/5.6) you get exactly the same depth of field in each
The following additional information on Canon EF series
teleconverters was supplied by Chuck Westfall of Canon:
EF EXTENDERS: THE INSIDE SCOOP
Part of the appeal of the EOS system for professional
photographers is the availability of EF Extenders for selected EF
telephoto lenses. It's easy to understand why extenders are
popular: by increasing the focal length of the main lens without
significantly increasing its size or weight, they perform a
valuable function at a very reasonable price. Equally important,
Extenders EF 1.4x and 2x are fully coupled for autoexposure with
every compatible lens, and autofocus is possible as long as the
maximum aperture of the prime lens/extender combination is at
There are certain resemblances between EF Extenders and others
with similar specifications. For example, Extender EF 1.4x
increases the focal length of the prime lens by 40% and reduces
the effective maximum aperture by one f/stop. Extender EF 2x
doubles the focal length of the prime lens and reduces the
effective maximum aperture by 2 f/stops. But once you get past
these similarities, there are several important differences worth
The front elements of Extenders EF 1.4x and 2x protrude about 1/4
inch beyond their lens mounts. This is done intentionally to
ensure maximum optical quality with the rear-focus EF telephoto
lenses for which they are designed. However, front element
protrusion makes it physically impossible to mount these
extenders on most other lenses, such as the popular EF 80-200mm
f/2.8L. It also prevents "stacking" the extenders.
EF Extenders have 3 extra communication pins in front to match up
with 3 corresponding extra pins on compatible EF lenses. When an
EF Extender is attached to a compatible lens, it changes the data
transmitted back to the camera body through the lens mount. The
changed data includes focal length and effective aperture as well
as AF drive speed and focusing movement information. The only
noticeable effect of the focal length data is the camera's choice
of shutter speed in the camera's program mode; this is designed
to reduce the possibility of unintentional camera shake caused by
increased magnification. The effective aperture information is
relayed to the viewfinder display and LCD panel readouts.
Consequently, no conversion is required for the light loss of the
extender when using either the EOS exposure control system or an
The use of extenders (EF or otherwise) reduces the amount of
focusing movement when subject distance changes. A 1.4x extender
reduces focusing movement by approximately 25% while a 2x
extender reduces it by more than 50%. With a manual focus SLR,
this reduction is rarely noticed and easily compensated by
observing the sharpness of the image through the viewfinder.
However, an autofocus SLR uses computer control to adjust focus.
Therefore,the computer "program" must be adjusted in terms of
focusing movement, or sensitivity, to compensate for the presence
of an extender. The EOS system reduces AF drive speed when an EF
Extender is used. The reduction in drive speed directly
corresponds to the reduction in focusing movement. As a result,
overall AF performance remains unchanged.
Aftermarket extenders currently on the market with EOS mount do
not have extra communication pins. They can only pass the
information of the main lens back to the camera. Without the
extra pins, focal length and maximum aperture data are not
changed, and AF drive speed and focusing sensitivity are not
adjusted. Although the camera does not display the effective
aperture, in-camera exposure metering remains essentially
accurate. In other words, the metering system overcomes the
extender's light loss in much the same way as it would compensate
for a neutral density filter. More importantly, autofocus may
become inaccurate, because the camera tries to extend or retract
the focusing system more than necessary.
Every EOS camera manufactured to date forces manual focus when
the maximum aperture display becomes smaller than f/5.6. This is
why AF is not supported when the EF 300mm f/4L and 600mm f/4L
lenses are used with Extender EF 2x, or when the EF 500mm f/4.5L
is used with either EF Extender. When the effective maximum
aperture becomes so small that the diameter of the light cone it
projects on the AF sensor fails to cover the length of the array,
the accuracy of the AF system cannot be guaranteed. It's not a
matter of light intensity, but rather of physical dimensions.
This comes into play with aftermarket extenders when they reduce
the effective maximum aperture below f/5.6, but don't change the
viewfinder or LCD panel aperture display.
There have been rumours on rec.photo about the Tamron AF TC being
officially endorsed by Canon. Canon endorses no 3rd-party
Some of Canon's earlier wide angle to short-telephoto EF zoom
lenses retracted the filter threads into the lens barrel at
middle focal lengths. The most popular examples of lenses with
this problem are the: 35-70/3.5-4.5, 28-70/3.5-4.5, and
28-80/3.5-5.6. This can make it difficult to turn the polarizer.
In addition, the filter threads on these lenses turn during
focusing. The only current lens with this characteristic is the
The most important thing is to make sure that the filter you buy
fits inside the lens barrel. Avoid circular polarizers with
little knobs and other protrusions. If you explain your
situation, most retail stores will allow you to test the fit of a
filter on your lens.
If the filter threads turn during focus, focus first, orient the
polarizer to taste, then take the shot.
If you are lucky, the filter ring will extend far enough forward
to allow you to turn the filter. There probably won't be much
extrusion, so care must be exercised to avoid getting
fingerprints on the filter. If there is no way to reach the
filter ring, you can set the lens to one of the extreme focal
lengths so that the filter ring is accessible, set the polarizer,
and then reset the focal length.
It may be worth trying extending the filter ring with a skylight
filter, or, better yet, just a filter ring. Cokin sells
"extension rings" for this very purpose of mounting filters on
lenses with retracting threads. CAUTION: This may cause image
vignetting (dark corners). To get the polariser outside a 28-70II
lens set at 28mm you need two filter rings. Even using a 62mm
filter (via a 62 -> 52mm adaptor) there is slight vignetting. The
28-70II is a very, very good lens optically, but a real pig to
use with a polarizer!
Alternatively, many larger camera stores have old filters for
under $1. Try to remove the filter element by popping the spring,
or simply smashing out the glass (with eye protection, of
course). Make sure not to deform the filter ring. Examine the
corners of your negatives for vignetting at short focal lengths.
You're not supposed to. Canon makes specially-matched hoods that
clip on the outside of the lens barrel, or mount in a bayonet
fashion. This leaves the filter threads free for filters. Read
the specification sheet that comes with the lens to determine how
many filters are can be installed on your lens without
Since the lenses with this problem are lenses with a wide-angle
end anyway, a lens hood probably won't help much with flare
anyway (though purists use lens hoods with 20mm lenses, so you be
The type of hood required is listed on the sheet and printed on
the outside of the packaging, so you don't have to open the box
to figure out what hood you need.
Some "clip-on" hoods, after a bit of "working-in" will simply
attach to the lens by being pushed straight on. This saves the
hassle of finding where the clip release buttons are.
The "TS-E" designation is for "Tilt and Shift for EOS". These
lenses have, to a limited degree, movements like that of a view
camera. In particular, they can be tilted and shifted relative to
the film plane. Without getting into view-camera specifics,
let it just be said that this kind of lens is popular for use in
architectural photography because the shift allows for the
correction of "converging verticals" in shooting situations that
do not allow one to get a better angle from which to photograph a
building. They are also useful for taking pictures of mirrored
objects. The tilt feature allows the adjustment of the plane of
focus so that it is not parrallel to the film plane. This is
useful in situations such as photographing a field of flowers,
where you want both near and distant flowers in focus, but you do
not want to stop the lens down to a small aperture. For a full
explanation of the tilt and shift features you should really get
the "TS-E" brochure (see section 1.1).
Current TS-E lenses are all manual focus. There main reason is
that the AF system assumes that the plane of focus is parallel to
the film plane. When a lens is tilted, this is no longer true and
can confuse the AF system. [It might still be nice to have
AF when no movements are involved though...]
See the "EF Lenses" and "TS-E Lenses" brochures for more details.
Because of the movements, the image circle must be larger so that
tilting the lens still puts an image on the film. This involves
more glass. In addition, there are many more moving parts.
Finally, these are specialty lenses that are not in large-scale
Certain combinations of tilt and shift will still move the limit
of the image circle onto the film plane. Since the EOS-1 features
a 100% viewfinder, it is easy to determine when this has
occurred. The EOS 1 can also take a grid focusing screen which is
very useful when adjusting the shift of the lens to get parallel
For Canon EF series lenses used with the EF25 extension tube and
close up filters, see the Canon Close-up System booklet mentioned
in section 1.1. This has a complete set of tables for all the
current Canon EF lenses.
With regard to some non-Canon lenses and accesories:
Bob French has submitted a summary of his measurements of the
close up performance of the following system:
EF 35-70/3.5-4.5 (macro)
EF25 extension tube
His data tables are given in Appendix G.
Panos Tsirigotis has supplied the following information on close
From: Panos Tsirigotis
Organization: University of Colorado, Boulder
[With regard to the Canon close up filters CU240 (52mm), CU450
(52mm) and CU500T (58mm) and Nikon's 3T, 4T, 5T and 6T close up
The numbers on the filters are the maximum focusing distance when
you put them in front of any lens. In terms of diopter power, I
read in the Natural Image (Spring 1987) an article by John Shaw
where he says that this max. distance is "roughly one meter
divided by the diopter power of the close-up lens". From this,
one can calculate the diopter power of the Canon close-ups: Note
that greater numbers imply less magnification.
CU240 : 4.16 diopters
CU450 : 2.22 diopters
CU500T: 2 diopters
About the Nikons :
52mm - 3T, 5T: 1.5 diopters
62mm - 4T, 6T: 3 diopters [actually 2.9]
The following magnification numbers are from the EOS Close-Up
System brochure (Lens + CU500T).
100-300L @100 @infinity: 0.20X
100-300L @100 @min.dist.: 0.31X
100-300L @300 @infinity: 0.59X
100-300L @300 @min. dist.: 0.98X
100-300USM @100 @infinity: 0.21X
100-300USM @100 @min.dist.: 0.28X
100-300USM @300 @infinity: 0.58X
100-300USM @300 @min. dist.: 0.91X
Interesting side-note: since the magnification factors at
infinity are not the same it is easy to see that the USM lens is
longer at 100 and shorter at 300.
Panos Tsirigotis, CS grad
Well, these terms are somewhat mutually exclusive. "Good and
fast" don't really go with "cheap, small and light". It also
depends on what you mean by "telephoto".
If 300mm is long enough then a number of zooms cover that range. The
100-300/5.6 USM is not a bad lens for about $250. The 100-300/5.6L is
better, especially wide open at 300mm, in fact it is probably the best
300/5.6 available. It will cost you around $500. To save some money you
could go with the Sigma 75-300 APO lens (about $300), but you lose the
very nice USM focusing of the Canon 100-300USM and you may not gain
much optical improvement. The Canon 300/4L USM is a very good
lens, but at around $900 cannot be called "cheap". It will work well
with a 1.4x converter (Canon or Tamron), and give passable images even
with the 2x converters. The Canon 300/2.8L is even better and also
works very well with the 1.4x and 2x converters (with full AF
performance to boot!), but at $3300+ it is no-one's idea of cheap.
Sigma have a 300/2.8 APO lens at around $2000+, but it is not as sharp
as the Canon.
If you need 400mm you have a few choices., The Sigma 400/5.6 APO
has a good reputation as a lens which delivers value for money
(about $450). It is not the world's sharpest or best built lens,
but it is capable of yielding good images, even wide open (6.5 on
Lepp's scale, see section 4.12). Tokina have a new 400/5.6
apochromatic lens out, but I have not seen any tests on it yet
(6/93). I doubt it will outperform the Sigma, but who knows?
Canon have announced a new EF400/5.6L lens which I expect to be
an excellent performer. The price is around $1400 (discount
9/93). If you are prepared to use stop down metering and manual
focus only, the Tamron 400/4 can be fitted to any EOS camera
using the Tamron Adaptall mount for EOS. It is a very sharp lens
and will cost you about $1800. Again not cheap. Finally there is
the Canon EF400/2.8L. A very good, very big, very heavy lens at a
price of $5700. Not really an option for most of us.
So you want a 500? Well, the Sigma 500/7.2 APO is available in an
EOS mount (ca. $450). It's not a spectacular performer (see
Lepp's numbers in 4.12), but might be OK for some users and it is
the only "affordable" AF 500mm lens for EOS. You can use the
Tamron 500/8 mirror lens with an EOS Adaptall mount (ca. $325).
It is very small and light. However, like most mirror lenses it
is slow (actually about 1/2 stop slower than f/8) and not very
sharp. It is probably similar to the Sigma 500/7.2 in terms of
optical performance, but you can't stop the mirror lens down to
sharpen things up like you can with the Sigma, and starting out
at around f/9.5 you probably wouldn't want to anyway. Celestron (a
telescope maker) has a 500/5.6 mirror lens. Not as small or light
as the 500/8s, but a stop faster. It may give usable images, but
I would not expect any higher intrinsic image quality than the
500/8 mirror lenses. It may be an option for some people at
around $350. Again Canon have a very good 500mm, the EF500/4.5L,
but it is not cheap at ca. $4800. Sigma also make a 500/4.5 APO,
but it is $3000+ and is not as sharp as the Canon.
More than 500mm? Are you sure? Well Canon have a nice 600/4L at only
$6500. A very, very nice lens indeed, but big, heavy and expensive. You
can also use the 300/2.8L with a 2x to give you 600/5.6 with AF and
fairly good performance, but that combination will cost you $3500+.
Similarly you could use the Canon EF400/2.8L with teleconverters. Sigma
have a 1000/8 APO at $3000+, but 1000mm is very long and not something
most photographers could use and expect good results. Canon also have a
1200/5.6L, available by special order. This lens is more than big,
heavy and expensive - it is very big, very heavy and
very expensive (with a rumored list price in excess of
$60,000!). Sigma have an inexpensive manual focus 600/8 mirror lens in
an EOS mount which might meet some people's needs. Again, mirror lenses
have drawbacks, so be warned.
Telescopes. Can you use a telescope and expect good results? The
short answer is NO. The longer answer is yes, maybe, but...
Very few telescopes yield reasonable quality images. In general
they are too slow and their focal lengths are too long. The
longer the focal length the steadier you have to hold the lens
and the more atmospheric effects will degrade the image. The only
telescopes capable of yielding high quality images (comparable to
the better telephoto lenses) are the fast, short focal length,
apochromatic refractors. For example TeleVue make a 500mm f/5
apochromatic telescope using Fluorite lens elements. It makes a
very good lens (manual focus, fixed aperture), but costs $1700,
weighs 10lbs+ and is about 36" long. It is not easy, but it is
possible, to use it in the field if you have a good tripod. Its
performance as a lens will be right up there with the best
telephotos, like the Canon 500/4.5L, but you have no AF, you
can't stop it down and it's big heavy and awkward. There are a
few other similar telescopes from TeleVue and Astrophysics, but
they are not cheap, or light or small, though they are good.
None is faster than f/5.
To sum up, the best, cheapest all round telephoto is probably the
Sigma 400/5.6 APO if you can live with the sharpness it gives,
which may be perfectly OK for many users. If you need higher
performance then you may have to go for the Canon 400/5.6L
(assuming it tests well), or the Canon 300/4L if you can live
with 300mm and twice the cost of the Sigma. You can put doublers
on shorter, cheaper, lenses, but you will end up with images
less sharp than the Sigma. Also consider the EF100-300/5.6L, or
if you can live with a little less sharpness, the 100-300USM.
Both are a little slow (f/5.6) at 300mm but can give good results
(particularly the "L" lens).
[The above opinions are mine, and may of course be wrong. They
are only opinions - RMA]
I have run a few tests on the Sigma 21-35 zoom lens on an EOS
Elan body. The lens is quite large, with a non-detachable lens
hood. The front element rotates, so there are the usual problems
with polarizing filters (77mm). It seems to be well built (metal,
not plastic). Comes with a hard case & strap.
Resolution was very good at all focal lengths at f/11. Using Elite
100 film, better than 85 lp/mm were measured in the center of the
field and better than 60 lp/mm at the edges. At small apertures
(f/22) all the numbers were worse due to diffraction effects (as
they would be in all lenses). Wide open resolution was
suprisingly good, slightly worse than at f/11, but not by much.
All in all a very good optical performer.
Slight lateral color was observed at the edges of the image at
all focal lengths, with best performance at 35mm. At all other
focal lengths, lateral color was similar. The degree of color
fringing was not excessive, no more tha would be expected for a
lens of this type and not really observable below about a 10x
magnification. Fairly good performance. There was detectable
barrel distortion at all focal lengths, again typical for a lens
of this type
AF was accurate at all focal lengths from 24mm to 35mm, but was a
bit off at 21mm. The lens is a true zoom, so for best focusing at
21mm it is better to zoom out to 35, focus there, and then zoom
back to 21mm (don't forget to disable AF before shooting, or the
lens will refocus!). This behavior has been reported in a second
lens sample, so it may be a common problem. It is easy to spot.
Focus at 35mm on something about 3 meters distant. See what the
distance scale on the lens reads. Now zoom out to 21mm and AF
again. If the lens shifts focus, something is wrong. At small
apertures, depth of field may help minimize the effect of the
focus error, but don't bet on it.
My tests are consistant with the Feb 1992 test in Popular
photography. It is a very good lens. There is now a low cost
Canon 20-35 USM lens (ca. $450) which should also be considered.
It may be mechanically better (USM motor, non rotating front
element) and I doubt it will have the focus problem at 21mm that
I see in the Sigma lens I tested. It costs more then the Sigma
(ca. $340) but it may be worth the difference. There is a Pop
Photog test in the Oct 1993 issue.
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