Sunday, June 05, 2005

Merkury Optics .45x Wide Angle Converter

I'm getting ready for my summer vacation and part of the preparations involves adding a bit of photographic gear to my bag. Since the funds available are limited I am doing a bit of shopping online. Some of what I am buying is used and some is off-brand merchandise. For the most part I am happy with my purchases but the rule that you get what you pay for still applies.

Our topic for today is the wide angle adapter I bought for my Kodak dx-6490 digital camera. I like the camera because of its long zoom range (10x optical) but the added zoom is all at the telephoto end. It goes from "normal" at one end to the longest telephoto you can use without a tripod at the other. At the shortest focal length it is no wider than most other cameras.

When faced with a scenic subject that is wider than my lens allows I will sometimes shoot overlapping shots with the idea that I will combine them into a panorama on my computer but, truth be told, I seldom do so. I wind up instead with a bunch of oddly-composed individual shots that I have forgotten can be pieced together into a stunning vista.

For those situations I bought myself a wide angle converter on eBay. The better quality lens for this is the Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 0.7x wide-angle converter (about 130 dollars on eBay) which also requires a $20 converter ring to mount it on the camera. The lens I bought -- a Merkury Optics .45x adapter -- comes with the needed adapter ring and only costs $50 online. I've taken a couple of test shots with it and it appears to be an adequate value for the money. It takes an OK picture and I will use it for a while to see if I find such an accessory useful. If I do I will probably replace it with the more expensive lens at some point.

I thought I would share my test results so other cheapskates can have a bit more information about what they are buying.

Here are two shots I took standing in the road in front of my house. The first one uses the normal wide setting on my camera. The second was taken with the new lens.

If you look closely at the first shot above you will see the wide angle adapter sitting in my mailbox where I set it down to take that shot.

The adapter does widen things a bit but, at least on my camera, it is nowhere near what I would expect from a .45x adapter. The image below shows the normal shot inset in the adapter shot assuming the actual magnification to be .8x. The inset is just a smidge too big (look at the tree in the top right) but it is close. My calculations suggest that the actual magnification is 0.79.

The sharpness at the center of the two image is comparable and the top, bottom, left and right center sections are fine. I don't see any vignetting but the image gets a bit soft in the corners with the adapter. The images below are 2x magnifications of the upper-left corners of the two images.

Without the adapter the corners of the image are sharp and show very little chromatic distortion. (I take the blue smudges to be UV lens flare.)

With the adapter the corners are less sharp and a certain amount of chromatic distortion is visible.

The funny thing is that if I like the Merkury lens I will probably replace it and, if I don't like it I will keep it forever. If a wide angle adapter turns out to be a handy thing to have I will want to get one with a bit better optics and more realistic specifications. Otherwise, I use this one seldom but with perfect satisfaction.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the info and pics, helps me decide to buy or not. Lorne in PEI

Anonymous said...

yeah thanks for info,and I am thinking about buying one from ebay but there are others that are at the price. so, i was wondering, you think its worth it to get that same particular one you got since I think all wide lense has that distortion around the edges?


BigLeeH said...

Hello Joe,

Thannks for dropping by.

I wrote this a bit over a year ago and I have been fairly happy with the Mercury Optics lens since then. I use it frequently, but not all the time. It takes decent photos but I expect that the (somewhat more expensive) Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 0.7x lens that Kodak makes for the camera would be sharper.

As to whether this lens is better than its competition in its price-range, I dunno. This is the only one I have any experience with.

If you do buy a different lens let me know how you like it and I will include your opinions here as an update.


Anonymous said...

hey biglee,

yeah, I just got my wide lense today and I think the maker is by Digital Optics from ebay and just tested it. I pointed at an object close up, and then put on the lense, I say I get like 50% more viewing. I think similar to your test. when I zoom in, I can adjust the focus, it looks sharp even if its zoomed all the way and no blurry edges. I still want that cinamatic look and fell in my video and I hope this can do it when I finally take out and use it on my next project. I will keep you posted :)

Anonymous said...

Just incase anyone is wondering;

The 0.45x wideangle conversion lenses available actually consist of two lenses; a 0.45x Wide Angle lens and a Macro lens.

If you use only the wideangle lens then you will achieve the 0.45x.. but it will be very distorted and a lot less clear anywhere near the edges.
Adding the macro onto the bottom helps to clear up the distortions and soft focus - but it reduces the magnification to ~0.8x.

The 0.7x Xenar actually achieves a wider FOV with less distortion, blurring and chromatic aberration.

Nate said...

This lens will not work with my Canon xti 28 - 80mm zoom lens. It makes no difference at all. Can anyone tell me why or what I can do to make it work?

Anonymous said...

I started to use this lens ( Merkury 0.45 wide), but when I take a picture with this lens attached, the center of my pic. is not so clear, blur. I turned the conversion on "wide" but still having the same problem. Can somebody help me with this?

Thank you.

hog said...

buy a decent camera!