About two years ago I wrote about an el-cheapo wide-angle adapter I had bought for my camera. (See Teleoscope: Merkury Optics .45x Wide Angle Converter) At the time I gave it a so-so review but since then I have found it to be a valuable addition to my photographic bag of tricks. Someday I will probably replace it with a better one but until then I will happily use it from time to time to get shots I couldn't otherwise get -- such as this one:
In the meanwhile I am looking for a teleconverter to give me a bit more reach at the long end of my zoom. My current camera (a Kodak p850) has an image stabilizer which helps a lot with hand-held telephoto shots and it is tempting to get greedy with magnification for wildlife photos, birds and the like. Once again, the teleconverter I ought to buy costs more than the el-cheapo stuff on eBay so I decided to try one of the cheap teleconverters and see if I could get lucky again.
With a teleconverter the dividing line between useful and useless is the ability to get a better image using the teleconverter than you would get without it by cropping and enlarging (or using the "digital" zoom which is the same thing). So I clicked the "Buy Now" link beside this image in Amazon.
Here are a couple of hand-held photos I took from my front porch. I have used browser magic to scale these to make them fit in my blog layout. This may make them a bit jagged looking. To get a more accurate look at the images go to my Flickr page for this month's photos
Here is my neighbor's side porch at full zoom on my P850 without the teleconverter:
Here is the same shot with the teleconverter:
Here is a mailbox without the teleconverter:
Here it is using the Opteka lens converter.
And without the teleconverter using the P850's digital zoom to get the same shot:
While I was shooting the mailbox a Cardinal perched on it. He wouldn't sit still to get comparison shots in the same pose. Here he is without the teleconverter:
And then with the teleconverter:
He's a bit soft in both shots. In the first shot (without the tcon) he might have been moving or else the autofocus liked the bushes better than the bird. The bushes, at least, are nice and sharp! The shot with the teleconverter is just a mess.
The thing that stands out about the teleconverter is its chromatic aberration. Different colors of light focus at different places. This seemed to confuse the camera's autofocus mechanism which struggled with the converter on and sometimes simply failed to find a focus zone at all. (And, yes, I turned on the accessory lens setting that is supposed to help.)
Since one is always supposed to show a crop from near the corner in a comparison like this here are three crops of the finial from the three mailbox shots above.
Without the tcon.
With the tcon.
Without the teleconverter, using 2x Digital Zoom
Of the three shots above the shot at full optical zoom but without teleconverter is easily the best. Even if you blow it up to the same size as the other two it still looks better. I am not sure why the digital zoom shot is so soft. Maybe the focus was off and maybe the image stabilizer couldn't correct for camera shake. I dunno. But the digital zoom shot, disappointing as it is, is still miles better than the shot using the teleconverter.
Bearing in mind that the dividing line between useful and useless for a teleconverter is its ability to capture a better image than one can get with a "digital zoom" the Opteka 2.2x teleconverter falls well within the useless category. I currently can't think of a situation where one would get a better photo with the lens on the camera than one would get without it. In fact, the only two uses I can think of for the lens is as a paperweight and to incinerate ants on a sunny day. But I have too many paperweights already and the rear macro element of my wide-angle lens does a bang-up job on the ants so I sent the Opteka back.
I will now save a few more pennies to try a better-regarded converter, probably either an Olympus TCON-17 or a Sony DH1758. There is an interesting comparison of these two 1.7x converters here (photos are here) The Kodak 1.4x converter also gets good reviews but the extra bit of magnification is tempting.