Teleconverters...Good or Bad?



  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    @ sideways

    Post the link to your 500px photo if you want folks to see the large size.

    And, the 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII with the TC-20EIII...

    70-200mm f/2.8 VRII Nikkor w/TC-20EIII at f/11, 1/100sec, ISO 250
    Full size:
    Msmoto, mod
  • shawninoshawnino Posts: 453Member
    I am currently confused about ordering a TC 20-III. Specifically, I'd be using it on my longest lens the 200-400 f/4 (VRII). I would need semi-reliable AF as I effectively shoot one-handed.

    So... does the 20-III AF with the 200-400? I'm bouncing around the Internet and I think I'd have better luck on tying to get agreement on who is the One True God (because I somehow got everyone to agree that, sure, some god exists). The Mansurovs say forget it. Thom Hogan says it can fairly well, or that's at least attributed to him. The FM crowd are split down the middle, and the DPReview mob are split down the middle and hurling insults at each other.

    I am wondering if there is copy-to-copy variance on the TC or the lens? Or for that matter, individual bodies. (I read D800 users who have seen AF work at f/8, and others who flatly state that the camera won't even bother hunting.) At first I wanted to slough it off on photo background issues, but this goes beyond inhospitable background. These people are loudly banging the table on opposite side of what ought to be a point of fact and not a matter of opinion. Not living in a city where I can just go test one, or two, or three TC copies and buy one that works, I'm confounded.

    I understand I'll get some softness at f/8. That's OK: I'm only going to slap the TC on when I can't shoot-and-crop without it. Soft shot isn't perfect, but soft shot beats no-shot ten times out of ten.

    Anyone with personal knowledge of how this will or will not work? Currently I'm on D800E, D90 backup. More interested in the D800E results and figuring the AF system on D90 has no chance, but happy to be proven wrong for a 1280mm FOV.
  • DJBee49DJBee49 Posts: 133Member

    I do not have the 200-400 f4, nor do I have the TC2.0. But, your effective maximum aperture will, as you say, be f8. The D800 will AF at f8 but only using the central focus points- certainly up to 21 I would think. The sensor on the D800 is designed to do this and is the major reason that I bought this camera- I cannot afford a f2.8 300 or a f4 600 and am saving up for a TC2.0! The advice you have seen from the Mansurovs and others applies, I believe, to the bodies before the D800 and I am fairly sure your D90 would not AF with this set up at all. I think it may be true that the AF will be slower and will suffer in poor lighting but this applies to some extent to all AF lenses.The batch variations probably have little to do with the different opinions I would say. Many people are happy to just quote the Nikon compatibility chart as gospel- but see below for this! People with actual experience of what you want to try out are possibly more help.

    I do have a 300mm f4 and a TC1.7EII though and this set up works very well on the D800, even in less than brilliant light, with its f6.7 effective maximum aperture. I have not really used it for 51 point focussing but I imagine it would still be OK. Note that your camera will not let you set either 3D or Auto focus modes though. I enquired of Nikon why mine would not allow me to set these with the 300mm and TC1.7 and they said that the camera was programmed to block these settings with this set up- I presume because it would not work.

    Nikon's chart of TCs and compatible lenses is not accurate as far as AF performance is concerned and I found my set up has worked well enough, even on the D700 in reasonable light. Most pundits, and Nikon, stated that this would not work on the D700 but that was not my experience. Note that I am not talking about the lenses that Nikon don't recommend because they physically hit their rear elements on the TC! Whether your set up would be sharp or not, I could not say. The usual advice seems to be that zooms and TCs do not mix but my 70-200 f2.8 is excellent with the TC1.7 and is similarly said to be excellent with the TC2.0 III.

    I hope that all helps and I agree with you that it should not be a matter of opinion! This is not religion but a matter of technological fact.....or not! Could you not make a special trip to a camera shop to try one out? I wonder if a 4X ND filter would replicate the situation for you if you have one (it would knock your maximum aperture down to f8)- it should do.
  • tc88tc88 Posts: 537Member
    edited January 2013
    Ok, here is my take on the AFS 300 f/4 with TC20III on a D5100.

    AF, it AF at f/8. In fact it seems to AF with all points though the center point is more reliable. Of course you will need good light and contrast and it will hunt more than at f/4. But that’s to be expected. I typically set it to use 3D focus mode with the center point as the starting point. I like that Nikon did not purposely disable f/8 as Canon did, just not officially supporting it which is reasonable considering that you need quite good light for it to work well.

    Sharpness, sometimes I feel the sharpness is a little bit lacking compared to without the converter. One thing one needs to keep in mind is that at 2x the focal range, any shake will be more pronounced. Also you will be shooting at 4x ISO. So noise will have an impact.

    AF speed, that’s the biggest problem I see. For static shots where one can take time to get technique and settings right, it works pretty well. But the AF rotation seems to be much slower (3x?) compared to without the converter. I don’t know whether D800 will improve on AF rotation speed. Haven’t got one to find out. The problem is that once it loses focus or hunts at 600, it’s all a blur and you can’t tell anything and then with the narrow angle of view, it’s difficult to keep the bird in the frame, let alone on the center point. Of course, it may have much to do with my technique, my failure rate on BIF with the converter is probably 99%. Since I’m more interested in BIF shots now, I have chosen to shoot without the converter. Or maybe I will get a D800 and give it a try.
    Post edited by tc88 on
  • DJBee49DJBee49 Posts: 133Member

    That is interesting- your D5100 allows you to set it to 3D. My D800 won't, even with the TC1.7! To quote an old saying, what has yours got that mine hasn't? I should look it up but how do the sensors compare between the two cameras?

    All your points ring true except that I don't have trouble with hunting (as long as the light is reasonable) but of course, I am using the TC1.7, not the TC2.0, so It may be different with that. I will find out when I get one and will feed back. BIF are very difficult and as this is a new area for me I am on a steep learning curve but getting better slowly.

    Your point about camera shake is very true but of course applies to all long lenses. I have examined some of my results carefully and have had to up my shutter speeds considerably to cope with this, rarely shooting (where possible) below 1/1000 sec. and/or use a monopod or tripod where possible. The rubbish about having to have 'approved lenses' to cope with the 36 million pixels of the D800 is indeed rubbish but for sure you notice camera shake more critically and I have learnt some slightly painful lessons here! When I do get it right, I find it pretty sharp though, even wide open.
  • shawninoshawnino Posts: 453Member
    tc88: thanks for the very helpful words. What you say is well reasoned. I may just bite the bullet.

    I also got this useful PM, which I'd like to quote liberally:
    I own both a 200-400 VR II and the TC 20EIII but I've only shot them on [DX]. With those cameras the focusing ability is very light dependent, works in good light, otherwise not so much. I would think that a D800 would perform much better.... Using all the long lens tricks,(mirror up, locked down tripod, remote release, etc.) I've gotten some acceptable shots. I think the reason you see such diverse opinions on the performance of the combo is the variation in what is "acceptable" to different photographers.... Sadly, I don't think you'll really know if it works for you until you have it in hand and have given it a try. Only then can you judge if its acceptable to you.
  • TaoTeJaredTaoTeJared Posts: 1,306Member
    I have thrown on my Kenko pro 2x on my 70-300vr and it focus in mid-day overcast quite fast. Not that I do this really at all but wanted to see what the D800 would do - and it did it well. The F8 focus does only work with the central 9 af points, center being best, but I usually only use the center spot anyway, and if you are shooting that far, I'm guessing you do too.

    That is interesting- your D5100 allows you to set it to 3D. My D800 won't, even with the TC1.7! To quote an old saying, what has yours got that mine hasn't? I.
    That is weird, my D800 can with the 1.7 with the 70-200vr ver 1 fine or at least it seemed to work fine. It is certainly select-able.
    D800, D300, D50(ir converted), FujiX100, Canon G11, Olympus TG2. Nikon lenses - 24mm 2.8, 35mm 1.8, (5 in all)50mm, 60mm, 85mm 1.8, 105vr, 105 f2.5, 180mm 2.8, 70-200vr1, 24-120vr f4. Tokina 12-24mm, 16-28mm, 28-70mm (angenieux design), 300mm f2.8. Sigma 15mm fisheye. Voigtlander R2 (olive) & R2a, Voigt 35mm 2.5, Zeiss 50mm f/2, Leica 90mm f/4. I know I missed something...
  • DJBee49DJBee49 Posts: 133Member
    Yes, mine will too with the 70-200mm f2.8. I was referring to the 300mm f4 which will not allow the selection of 3D AF with the TC1.7 and I would presume not with the TC2.0 either.
  • GlueFactoryBJJGlueFactoryBJJ Posts: 6Member
    These pics are great and I'm really enjoying them... until I take a look at the cost of the lenses used to take most of these (and those listed on Nikon's compatibility chart). My questions is how well do they work with "poor folk" super zooms like the Nikkor 18-200mm (I have the VR I version)? Do these only work well with really expensive glass or is there hope for us amateurs?

  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    edited January 2013
    GlueFactory, the issue of compatibility is whether the rear lens element hits the front element of the TC. Second is whether the effective f/stop will allow enough light for AF. The disaster of course is if glass hits glass. So, if Nikon says will not work at all, it may indicate a mechanical problem. Some lenses do work with manual focus only.
    Post edited by Msmoto on
    Msmoto, mod
  • GlueFactoryBJJGlueFactoryBJJ Posts: 6Member

    Ahhh, I see. Besides, after looking at the Nikkor TCs, I've realized that I might as well save up a bit more and just get another lens with more reach. Thanks for the information on the potential interference issues. That would be an UGLY way to damage some glass!

  • DJBee49DJBee49 Posts: 133Member
    edited January 2013
    Just a thought here.

    There is considerable uncertainty on this with confusing and incomplete information coming from Nikon and a variety of opinions from all sorts of people that are sometimes not based on their own experience but quoting other sources. There seem to be three issues:

    1. Converters that physically are incompatible with various lenses. ie. as Msmoto says above, the elements of TC and lens actually comes into contact. Obviously disastrous!
    2. TCs that do not auto-focus in any, or some, AF modes with various lens/body combinations.
    3. TCs that meet the above criteria but which produce unacceptable IQ and are therefore not worth using.

    Perhaps we could pool our personal experiences on this? If we strictly keep it to our own, actual, real experience, not opinions we have picked up elsewhere, it may help with decisions on lens/camera body choices. For instance, my main reason for buying a D800 to replace my D700 (lovely camera) was the fact that the sensor is capable of handling max. apertures of f8. This allows me to reach 600mm with my 300mm f4 and a TC2.0III (when I can afford one!). In the meantime, my TC1.7II does pretty well at 500mm. The lovely 300mm f2.8 or 600mm. f4 are way beyond my financial reach unfortunately.

    Just in case this is a good idea, here is my six pence worth!

    300mm. f4. + TC1.7II. Effective max. aperture f6.7.
    Focuses in good light with D700 using AF central points only. (Nikon says not!) IQ good especially one stop down. No physical problems.
    Focusses well with D800, but no 3D or Auto possible. IQ good, especially one stop down, no physical problems.

    70-200 f2.8 VRII. + TC1.7II. Effective max. aperture f4.8 Focusses perfectly well at all AF settings. Very good IQ, no physical problems.
    Post edited by DJBee49 on
  • DenverShooterDenverShooter Posts: 416Member
    Used the 70-200F/2.8 VRII with the Nikon TC-20E III and thats a good combination on my D4. I haven't had a need to use that combo on my D800E yet.

    Denver Shooter
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    @ DJBee49

    I have posted several links with the 70-200mm f/2.8VRII and TC-20EIII. It is an excellent combo on the D4. The TC-14EII is as well.

    And, the 400mm f/2.8 with the TC-20EIII
    Msmoto, mod
  • DenverShooterDenverShooter Posts: 416Member
    Nice Picture Msmoto!

    I have the 400mm F/2.8 and never thought about using the TC-20E III with it.

    I will have to check it out.

    Denver Shooter
  • TaoTeJaredTaoTeJared Posts: 1,306Member
    My observations:
    1. Converters that physically are incompatible with various lenses. ie. as Msmoto says above, the elements of TC and lens actually comes into contact. Obviously disastrous!
    The NEWER TCs will not mount on lenses where this is the case. There is a designed something that prevents this.
    2. TCs that do not auto-focus in any, or some, AF modes with various lens/body combinations.
    Personally have not paid much attention to this but I almost always shoot in single spot AF. This may be more of a Body (5100) or lens (AFD) difference than a TC difference. I slapped my 105vr on with my 1.7 and all modes including 3D work fine. For 3D I do believe you have to have the AFS versions of lenses though.
    3. TCs that meet the above criteria but which produce unacceptable IQ and are therefore not worth using.
    The only TCs I have heard not being up to par (but still very good) are the older TC 20E I&II (Ver 1&2) AFS.
    D800, D300, D50(ir converted), FujiX100, Canon G11, Olympus TG2. Nikon lenses - 24mm 2.8, 35mm 1.8, (5 in all)50mm, 60mm, 85mm 1.8, 105vr, 105 f2.5, 180mm 2.8, 70-200vr1, 24-120vr f4. Tokina 12-24mm, 16-28mm, 28-70mm (angenieux design), 300mm f2.8. Sigma 15mm fisheye. Voigtlander R2 (olive) & R2a, Voigt 35mm 2.5, Zeiss 50mm f/2, Leica 90mm f/4. I know I missed something...
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    edited March 2014
    Well, this thread has not been open for awhile, and I was capturing some birds in the snow with the 400mm f/2.8 and TC-20EIII. Thought I might point out how one can get 800mm out of 400mm when used judiciously.

    The image must be viewed in 3000 px size to appreciate the sharpness.

    Here is the small version

    D4, 1/1000 sec, f/8, ISO 3600
    Post edited by Msmoto on
    Msmoto, mod
  • manhattanboymanhattanboy Posts: 1,003Member
    I dislike teleconverters intensely. I would much rather use a DX 7100 than add a 1.4 to an FX camera. DX is essentially an optically perfect 1.5x teleconverter that doesn't cause you to lose a stop of light. If you're using FX, getting a D7100 as a teleconverter is a pretty good deal. If you're already using DX, never mind. :)
    I agree with you (and wanted to also say I liked your website when I visited it).
    I carry two cameras now, a crop with a tele attached and a FF zoom for all non-tele.
    I should add that the 7100 also has 1.3 crop mode allowing some play in the framing if shooting with a tele prime.
    I don't own an expensive tele prime but if I did I might use a TC on it as long as the IQ on the 7100 held firm. In addition to money, it is also a size thing: how do you fit a 400 2.8 with a camera attached into a shoulder bag?

    I think the newer Nikon crop sensors have been brutal for lens IQ. FF sensors allow a lot more slop in image sharpness than these newer crop sensors. Its a little ironic that the cheaper DX cameras actually have more expensive lens requirements. 8->
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    +1 PB I agree with you. Be prepared for the onslaught of FX bigots who will tell you you gain a stop of light on FX and how much more beautiful the FX pixels are. Besides everyone should have an FX and a DX body to double their lens collection.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    Let me see, if I use the D7100 (will have to purchase one) and the 400 + 2x….1200mm….effective…

    There is one teleconverter which is of course not an add-on, but is designed as a part of the lens itself…it comes with the 800mm f/5.6….
    Msmoto, mod
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    The teleconverter for the 800mm doesn't count. From what I understand they are serial number matched set. You might as well call it another element :D
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator

    Precisely, but Nikon calls it AF-S Teleconverter TC800-1.25E ED. Some of us saw serial number 001 in Colorado Springs last year….thanks to DenverShooter.
    Msmoto, mod
  • haroldpharoldp Posts: 984Member
    Thank you for the photo. I just got the new 400/2.8, I have tce14II and tce17II, I will be shooting diving eagles, and will now try the tce20II as well.

    Tighter pixel pitch crop sensors only help if the lens resolution is as good as the sensor. 24 mpx DX is about 52 mpx FX in pitch. Very few lenses, and no TC's are that good.

    ... H
    D810, D3x, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4D, 24-70/2.8, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/2.8 VR1, 80-400 G, 200-400/4 VR1, 400/2.8 ED VR G, 105/2 DC, 17-55/2.8.
    Nikon N90s, F100, F, lots of Leica M digital and film stuff.

  • PhotobugPhotobug Posts: 5,751Member
    Picture of a Bald Eagle moments before it was released after recovering from a broken wing.

    D300 + 70-200mm F/2.8 G VR + 1.7 TC
    Shutter: 1/640 @ F/6.3
    ISO: 640
    320mm or 480 equivalent
    Hand held. Wish I had my monopod, it would have been sharper.


    Here is my Flicker link:

    I was very happy with the photo. It looks great on my office wall.
    D750 & D7100 | 24-70 F2.8 G AF-S ED, 70-200 F2.8 AF VR, TC-14E III, TC-1.7EII, 35 F2 AF D, 50mm F1.8G, 105mm G AF-S VR | Backup & Wife's Gear: D5500 & Sony HX50V | 18-140 AF-S ED VR DX, 55-300 AF-S G VR DX |
    |SB-800, Amaran Halo LED Ring light | MB-D16 grip| Gitzo GT3541 + RRS BH-55LR, Gitzo GM2942 + Sirui L-10 | RRS gear | Lowepro, ThinkTank, & Hoodman gear | BosStrap | Vello Freewave Plus wireless Remote, Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth |
  • BesoBeso Posts: 464Member
    I thought I would toss in my experience as I have been sorely disappointed with the Nikon TC-20E III. Just last week I shared some images with Nikon Tech Support using a D800, Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, and TC-20E III. The tech indicated the TC would degrade the image quality, and may require manual focusing for best performance. I subsequently sent images with and without the teleconverter. Those with the teleconverter are what I would consider unusable and certainly unacceptable. Nikon said they would be happy to evaluate the combination of gear if I sent in the camera, lens, and TC. I may well do that in the near future. I may have gotten a bad TC-20E III because others seem to be having better success.

    I would encourage anyone considering the TC-20E III to make sure that the point of purchase will accept returns if dissatisfied.
    Occasionally a decent image ...
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