Thursday, December 31, 2015

Lens adapters and converters

There are clip-on and screw-on converters to make the image wider, longer, add distortion, and more.  Most are incredibly cheap and lately, there are focal reducers, which adapt lenses and make them work as though they're made for lower light than they can do natively.

I've never really been comfortable with optical tricks.  I want high quality lenses that work well from the start, not those that require firmware in the camera to adjust the image.

I resisted micro Four-Thirds for quite a while because of all the fixes that the camera does instead of making really good lenses.  Panasonic bodies fix Panasonic problems and Olympus bodies fix Olympus problems but it doesn't always work is when you mix companies.  I have bodies and lenses from both companies.

Now, you'd think that I was new to adapters and converters at this point, but that isn't quite so.

Back around 1999, my Olympus OM-1N died and I replaced it with an Olympus IS-20DLX.  The IS-series was a set of SLR (single lens reflex) cameras with a fixed zoom lens.  It was a bold gamble that Olympus took, to create the ZLR (zoom lens reflex).  The IS-20DLX has approximately a 3x zoom lens, as I recall it was roughly 35-105mm--no conversion is necessary since it uses 135 Format film.  In order to reach further there was a 1.9x teleconverter that screwed onto the front of the lens in the filter threads.  It was meant to be used at the longest focal length possible; otherwise, it would not work correctly, showing more in the frame than image you were trying to capture.  Sounds a bit like those fisheye photos you've seen, yes?

The next year, I bought an Olympus C-2500L, another ZLR, but this time a digital model--the first with a TruePIC processor.  There was also a 1.4x teleconverter for it, since the lens was fixed to the body.

Both teleconverters worked well, as long as I photographed by the warnings.  They were rather expensive, which isn't surprising, although neither were labeled Zuiko, but only Olympus.

A couple of months ago, I bought a fisheye converter for a buddy who got a Pentax K-50 I bought for him.  Naturally, for US$35, you can't expect too much.  Being that it fit the 52mm filter threads of the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit zoom, it was enough for what he wanted, and being able to zoom was an additional positive point.  It was easy to find a point where you couldn't see just the frame, but a surrounding field of black.  It was good enough.

At skate parks, there are many of these adapters because "everyone" wants a fisheye lens.  They first thing people ask me is "Is that a fisheye?" and I want to reply "No, it's a camera lens."  I'm usually the only one who actually has one, although I've seen one person with a Rokinon/Samyang fisheye lens.  At US$299, they're a popular manual lens but US$35 is much more affordable to someone who is more concerned with buying equipment to ride.

 This last week, I was looking at some suggestions provided by and there was a converter.  I clicked on the link and started thinking.

I ended up buying a 2.2x teleconverter for 58mm threads for two lenses and a 0.42x wide angle/macro converter that separates and apparently has internal threads to work with several different sizes of filter adapters.  The combined converter requires 46mm threads, which works with two (Leica/Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 and Panasonic 25mm f/1.7) lenses I have and you can use the the macro part by itself.

While I was playing with the bits and pieces, I got the Olympus teleconverter for comparison.  It uses 52mm threads and I have a Four-Thirds macro lens that it fits.  The sad thing is that I've had the Olympus teleconverter since about 2000 and the 50mm macro lens since 2005.  I could have used the combination for a while.  However the 50mm f/2.0 macro lens is my least-used lens ever.  Even after I bought the extension tube for it, I didn't use it much.  The auto focus for it is miserable (not surprising for a macro lens) and the extension tube makes it even more difficult to gain a focus lock.  It seems to work better through the adapter to be used on micro Four-Thirds Panasonic bodies.  Using the teleconverter on the lens will give it a 95mm focal length.

Olympus 1.9x teleconverter, Neewer 0.42x wide/macro, Altura 2.2x teleconverter

The 2.2x teleconverter is Altura brand, if that matters.  I would imagine that it's a generic product that is sold under a number of brand names.  It generally seems a magnifying glass with some blue fringing.  There is a definite rattle, as though the lens elements are loose.  It has a similar look to Canon products.  You can use 72mm filters.  For US$30, it's not bad.  It should be interesting to see how it works on two of my expensive micro Four-Thirds lenses, the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 and 35-100mm f/2.8.  It will also work on the K-50's kit lens, probably on any APS-C dSLR's kit lens.  The 12-35mm will be equivalent to 26.4-77mm and the 35-100mm lens will be 77-220mm.

The 0.42x wide angle/macro adapter is Neewer brand.  It seems well made, especially for US$20.  There are no loose lens elements, thankfully.  Looking through it, there doesn't seem to be any color fringing.  There is a fisheye effect, and the macro bit by itself works at a very, very close distance, similar to the Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 with the 25mm extension tube.  It works well with the 25mm f/1.7 lens, but doesn't fill the frame with the 15mm f/1.7, similar to the fisheye adapters I see so often.  The 15mm should be equivalent to 6.3mm and the 25mm should be equivalent to 10.5mm.  (Phase One Capture One Pro is reporting the focal length as 15mm, which would make the adapter 0.6x, wouldn't it?)  Since the 25mm lens works well with the adapter, it should be interesting to see if it can provide good enough image quality to be an substitute ultra wide lens.  It would only be slightly less wide than the Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens that I already have.

Normal lens with 0.42x wide converter

Normal, Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 lens

Panorama from GX8 with 25mm, wide converter

Update 2015.12.27: The company behind the Altura brand teleconverter sent me an e-mail late Christmas Day, hoping for good feedback.  I sent a reply within two hours, only to get an automated reply stating that they weren't open.  Today, I got a reply that they are preparing a replacement.  I replied to ask them to shake the thing to see if it would rattle.  Surely, they would take precautions to not waste money.

Update 2015.12.31: Three days ago, I went to San Francisco.  I tried being the tourist and went to as many less than typical locations as possible.  I attached the wide/macro converter to the Panasonic normal lens and only removed it once, just to get a comparison photo.

It did okay, and considering that it was US$20, it was amazing.  There is a little fisheye distortion, but the colors are definitely distorted where straight lines become curved lines.  I could have pulled out the fisheye lens, if I wanted good color and real fisheye distortion, but that isn't the point.  We know what expensive lenses will get us.

I will continue to update as I try the other converters, and hopefully, as it becomes warmer.

Update 2016.01.01: Got the replacement teleconverter.  I'm confused as to when there was mail delivery on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.

The replacement makes less of a rattle, thankfully, but it isn't gone completely.  Given the price point, I can't really complain, but the wide/macro adapter is quite tight.  As we're having some extra cold days, I'm not out much.  Sunny California isn't always having summer weather.  I'd trade 37 degrees F for 37 degrees C any day.  I miss living in Central Florida where 50 degrees F was the minimum for a typical winter day.

Update 2016.01.18: Tried the 2.2x teleconverter with two of Panasonic's finest lenses for micro Four-Thirds: 35-100mm f/2.8 and 12-35mm f/2.8, even though I knew the latter wouldn't be suitable.

35mm without 2.2x converter

35mm with 2.2x converter

100mm without 2.2x converter

100mm with 2.2x converter

12mm with 2.2x converter
In a pinch, I could live with the results versus not getting the detail at all when I didn't have the appropriate lens with me.  Obviously, there are serious problems but the teleconverter works, as did the wide/macro converter.  I see plenty of equipment like this at skate parks and people have to decide what their goal is and how much they can spend.

Getting a 220mm lens for micro Four-Thirds isn't easy.  I have my Four-Thirds Olympus ZD 50-200mm f2.8-3.5, which is an excellent lens, but it is now a lot to carry and my bag has to be reconfigured to hold it, unless I want to carry a bag of dSLR equipment also.  I'm not exactly sure whether I should trust the MMF-3 adapter with much weight.  It doesn't seem that strong.

I don't plan to buy the Panasonic/Leica 100-400mm f/4.0-5.6 lens that has been announced as I don't shoot much in telephoto range these days.

Update 2016.05.15: The other day I tried the Olympus 1.9x teleconverter for the IS-series, along with the ZD 50mm f/2.0 lens.  It seemed to do an excellent job with zero drawbacks.

Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 + 1.9x teleconverter

Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0

Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 + 1.9x teleconverter

Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0

Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 + 1.9x teleconverter

Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0

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