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Telephoto converters a must have?

Telephoto converters are a hot topic in the photography community. Should we use them, yes or no? Below you will find my personal experiences and thoughts on the use of telephoto converters.

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What are telephoto converters?

Teleconverters act as a magnifying glass that can be attached to your photo lens.
When attaching a teleconverter you are extending the focal length of your lens. Besides extending the focal length, the minimum aperture changes as well. Although teleconverters can be expensive, it is far more economic that purchasing a prime telephoto lens.
If you are the lucky owner of a prime telephoto lens it can still be a great tool to further extend your focal length and provide close-ups that otherwise would not be possible.


Before purchasing a teleconverter it is important to understand the benefits and limitations.
In the following paragraphs I will share my view and experience on teleconverters and using them in the field.

What type of telephoto converters / extenders are available?

canon 1.4 telephoto converter

Canon 1.4x telephoto converter

There are many brands that produce teleconverters. Do note that a teleconverter is brand specific and not interchangeable.
That has to do with the communication between, camera, teleconverter and lens. The communication flows via the mount type of the camera and lens.

Personally I photograph with Canon equipment and therefore will use that as an example.

Canon offers a 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverter. For EF and RF lens mounts.
How much will it extend the focal length of my lens when using one?

Example: If you have a 500mm F4 telephoto lens and add a 1.4x teleconverter it will result in a 700m focal length (500 x 1.4 = 700). The minimum aperture will be impacted as well and changes from F4 to F5.6 in this case (4x 1.4).

Why choose for a teleconverter?

To me the main reason is to get more frame filling images by extending the range.  It provides me with possibilities. Adding a 1.4x tele converter to a 70-200mm lens gives me a 98mm – 280mm F4 zoom lens. A great range for animals in their environment. While a 500mm F4 + 2x telephoto converter provides me with 1000mm F8 for portrait images. Being able to extend the range means as well I that  have to crop less in post, leaving me with higher megapixel files for selling prints.

However, nowadays you can argue if telephoto converters are a must with the new generation of a camera’s like the Sony A1 and Canon R5. Both camera’s produce 50MP image files. Cropping the file will still leaves you with a good enough file size for printing large images. Friends of mine therefore decides to stick with a 300mm F2.8 and R5. When they crop 50% they are still left with a 25Mp file. The same file size as of my R6 mark II and even a bit larger than the 18mp file size my Canon 1D X produces.

Tocu Toucan portrait. Image captured using a 500mm lens + 2x teleconverter @ 1000mm

Image quality and telephoto converters

While a teleconverter can give you that extra focal length, it’s not all smooth sailing. The image quality is affected in a negative way when you’re using one. Distortion and chromatic aberration can be problems when using teleconverters. However, these effect are not not that prominent in my experience.
When looking at the sharpness of images, the telephoto converters take away the tag sharpness. The images are a bit softer. However, when putting up the F number you are able to get some sharpness back.

Pros and Cons of telephoto converters

PROS

CONS

Images taken in the Pantanal using telephoto converters

Below a few example images from the Pantanal. All image are taken with telephoto converters. 

Personal view and conclusion

For me it is clear, tele photo converters are a great tool to bring along on your photography trip. Often I am using tele converters to get frame filling images and intimate portraits. For people into bird photography it is I feel a must, using a 500mm +1.4  is a killer combination.

As shared in the blog, The softness that sometimes is noticeable when using converters is not an issue with the ability to add some sharpness in the field upping the aperture and the options in post processing to add sharpness.

What are your thoughts and experiences, please share them with us in the comments.

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