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Monday, April 26, 2010

Camera Gear - The 2x Tele-converter

I am going to start doing more reviews of the camera equipment I have or have tried in hopes that it dispels at least a little of the frustration I felt trying to weed through what certain pieces of equipment did or did not do.

For those of you not interested let’s bring out one of my favourite posts from the archives, my attempt at forced spelunking that tested my fragile view of what I was willing and unwilling to do, see here.

Last November I bought the 2x tele-converter for my camera (currently own the 50d). This was after I did extensive reading online and comparison photos between the 1.4x and the 2x tele-converter. I read about the degradation of the image with both, how with the 1.4x it is less noticeable than the 2x. I even rented the 2x tele-converter hoping that would solve the question for me. After testing it I still had questions but I opted for the purchase knowing that if it is not right for me now with the equipment I have then it will be right for me in the future with my final goal of equipment purchases.

So after using it for five months I have a firm grasp about its wonderful advantages and disadvantages. If you have ever worked with a tele-converter be prepared for a shock. This little addition to your camera setup can get more than twice as far of a reach for a small price. However in life and in photography there is always a trade-off you don’t get something without giving something. By using a tele-converter on anything longer than a 300mm lens you are going to lose some image sharpness and color. If you are like me and want the best then I have some advice, your photos will only be as good at the equipment you are using will allow them to be. Buy midrange equipment and get mid-range results. Buy the best equipment and get the best results. If you have a good camera, the 100-400mm lens and the canon converter you have the best setup you can get (unless you buy a prime 500-800mm lens). Do not think that the 100-400mm lens will ever perform perfectly with either tele-converter for the simple reason that you lose autofocus and in my mind for wildlife photography that is unacceptable.

Now with that being said if you still want to use a tele-converter there are little tricks that I have learned that do help make for a more consistent clearer image.

1. First make sure your diopter is set correctly. Most often than not this is a crucial error with most photographers. They have never set their diopter. It is super easy and does not take much time. Simply get a typed piece of paper tapped to the wall, put your camera and lens on a tripod and then adjust the diopter so the text is razor sharp.

2. Next with tele-converter you are locked to a tripod. Any shakes with the focal length you are trying to reach with the many extra layers of glass the tele-converter adds will lead to a blurry photo. Even a small gust of wind, a too zealous snap of the shutter or foot traffic around your tripod will cause blur. Trying to shoot handheld with a manual setting is like trying to catch a fly with chopsticks blindfolded. You are moving slightly handholding a camera, the subject is probably moving slightly and you are trying to constantly adjust the focus. Save yourself the heartache and accept that it just is NOT going to happen, so use a tripod.

3. Step down at least ½ to 1 stop when using a tele-converter. Loss of light is another culprit when trying to get more reach with this equipment. By stopping down some it helps. Also make sure you are shooting in a situation with a lot of light. These two things will save your photo.

4. Use the fastest shutter speed you can to reduce the blur. The problem is if you are trying to shoot without enough light it will introduce noise which in my book is not ok. Shoot in AV mode and try for an ISO no higher than 400, ISO preferably 100 or 200.

Now for some examples, I have gotten some awesome shots with this lens plus tele-converter.

When images go right, like these two, it is awesome. However notice that they both are not SUPER sharp still, still I would count these as successes (Sad I know) none would ever be considered professional quality.

041610_burrowingOwl2

032910_nest03

596_goldfinch2

Now those are successes you can only imagine when it goes wrong it goes HORRIBLY WRONG like this photo.

041410_lazuliBunting

or like this, it almost has a painterly quality to it.

120109_larkSparrow

horrible clarity and a ton of noise

249_blackSkimmer

My final thoughts are if you are using the 100-400mm don’t use a tele-converter. If you are using a prime 300, 500 or 600 use the 1.4x tele-converter. I would suggest under no circumstances ever using the 2x the results in my opinion are not worth it and I will be selling my 2x to replace it with the 1.4x.

Any takers on a used 2x tele-converter?

1 comment:

paul peggy zeus said...

You sure do your homework when it comes to your equipment. Great job.

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