New Tools, Old Fundamentals

The teleconverter brought me much closer to this acorn woodpecker, but it didn't somehow turn shooting in midday light into a good idea. Even with VR, I find it foolhardy to handhold so long a lens.

I’ve never owned a lens longer than 200mm, although I often borrowed longer lenses when I worked in a camera store in 1980.

I always believed that if I ever got a 300mm lens, I’d have all the reach I needed. Of course, today the 200mm setting on my 70-200mm zoom lens looks like 300mm because of the cropped sensor in my Nikon D300. And it’s never long enough.

So I got hold of a Nikon TC17eII teleconverter, which mounts between camera and lens to magnify the lens’ image 1.7 times. That makes my 200mm lens act like a 340mm lens. Of course, on my cropped sensor, that’s similar to using a 510mm lens.

The lack of sharpness in this image results partially from handholding while shooting distant, moving subjects, but it's also a resolution issue, as illustrated below.

Here is the full frame from which the above image is cropped. Even with an effective focal length of 510mm, I'm going to have to get closer for best results.

Here’s my report on the first day using the teleconverter.

  1. If you get one, don’t worry about the weird “loose part” sound it makes. That’s normal.
  2. However long the lens, you’ll sometimes wish it were longer. I imagine guys looking through the Hubble telescope, sighing, “If only….”
  3. In my 35mm days, I would never consider using a 500mm lens without a tripod, so why did I expect super sharp images while hiking around and shooting with a handheld 510mm lens?
  4. I’m glad I did some homework online. The lens/teleconverter combination improves dramatically when stopped down a bit or pulled back from its longest setting.
  5. The teleconverter reduces light transmission by 1.5 stops, so it helps to start with a fast lens.

Even with my "first day mistakes," I'm excited by the possibilities of this new tool.

This is a long-term loan, so I’m sure to have many more reports on this teleconverter, but I found the first day encouraging, and I look forward to getting out with a tripod for some long-range fun.

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Filed under Camera Gear, Nature Photography

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