Get more from your superzoom using a conversion lens

August 11, 2009

Superzooms have a fantastic zoom range as it is, but as with everything you buy, you always end up wanting more.

A conversion lens gives you that extra that you need for a reasonable pricel. These can be bought for both bridge cameras (advanced superzooms and compacts) as well as DSLR’s.

The fz-28 already has a rather large zoom range. Its macro mode allows you to focus as little as 1cm away when using the wide angle (no zoom) and 1 meter away at full zoom. This is great for taking photos of flowers. For example:

It also has a great telephoto of 486mm (35 mm equivalent) allowing you to take great close ups of wildlife such as this

But still you will want more. You see these pictures of insects taking up the whole frame and wonder how on earth that shot got taken. You see full frame pictures of baby animals that should be easily startled.

Well for these types of shots you need a few things. Firstly, and most importantly, you will need a macro lens for the super small and tele converter for the extra zoom.

First lets talk about my favourite of the two, the macro lens. This is possibly one of the best and most fun bits of kit you can buy for a camera because the difference it makes is huge. The macro lens i bought is called the Raynox 250. It simply clips on to the front of various size lenses so has no screw thread. Some cameras (such as the fz-28) will need an adaptor tube to fit this, but its worth it. The adaptor tube is called the DMW-LA3 E. This same tube will allow you to fit the Tcon-17 tele converter as well.

The raynox 250 macro lens will do a few things.
-It will magnify your subject by about 3 times
-It will massively reduce the depth of field. So much so that it will only be a few mm big
-It will make your focusing distance about 11-13 cm away depending on the zoom.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that the focusing distance gets increased compared to using full wide angle without this lens where you get a 1cm focus distance. As its wide angle you still see a lot of the frame. On the fz-28, as you zoom the focus distance changes. At full zoom it is 1 meter away and will give a similar close up as using 1cm away at the wide angle. With the raynox attached its about 12cm at FULL telephoto.  Mixed with the 3X magnification the lens gives you really do get extream close ups.

Before i show you some examples this next image is about as close as you can get with the standard lens. This doesnt include massively croping an image as that would make the image tiny and fairly unusable for anything but the web. This next image was still cropped a lot but it remains a fairly usable size

That isnt a bad result of course. You get a nice enough picture and you can pic up the detail on the bees wings.

But compaired to the following, this is nothing. These are some of my favourite macro shots i have taken recently using the Raynox 250.

As you can see you can get incredibly close to your subject with one of these lenses. The detail you can pick up it quite incredible. From these pictures you can see what i was talking about with having a very small depth of field. In the first picture of the fly you only get the flys head in focus. That is at full zoom. You can increase the depth by reducing the  zoom and also by closing the aperture but dont expect it to increase by much.

Other things you need to know about using a macro lens is that you really need a lot of light and you need to be stable. I tend to get myself into a possition where i can rest my elbows on something, otherwise you rock back and forwards to much making it incredibly hard to get a shot in focus. I also only do this on a sunny, bright day to get enough natural light. You can use a flash but the light looks very unatural and the final image is never as pleasing to the eye. Try and stick to shutter speeds at a bare minimum of 1/125. You will be suffering from camera shake (even with image stabalisation) at this sort of magnification and you need to counter it with as fast a shutter speed as possible.

The most important tip you will need to know is this. Move slowly. If you move slowly the bugs dont even seem to know your there. Sudden fast movments will send them packing. The fly head shot i got, i managed to move a chair and sit next to it simply by moving slowly.

Now onto tele converter lenses. The one I own is the TCON-17. This gives you a 1.7x magnification. It has a few other advantages as well as some disadvantages. Lets get the bad stuff out the way first. Teleconverters eat up light. You will need very good light to get decent shutter speeds. If you only plan to use them on a sunny day then this isnt really a problem but in low light they are a bad idea as cameras struggle enough in those situations already. The other downside is that almost all teleconverters will have soft edges to the images. Luckily i have found the TCON-17 to not suffer to badly from this. The center and even most the frame stays pretty sharp with only the edges being slightly soft, not really enough to cause to much of a problem but the issue does exist. One extra thing to note is that you will of course get even more camera shake. Make sure your in a stable position when using one.

Now for the good. You increase your zoom by 1.7x. That alone is pretty cool. This turns my 486mm zoom into a HUGE 826mm zoom. The other bonus i have found is that i can use it to increase the max shutter speed of the fz-28’s max zoom without the teleconverter. That sounds confusing but i shall explain. The fz-28 has a max shutter speed of 1/2000 at the a wide angle. But this decreases to 1/1300 at the max telephoto. And that only if you close the aperture. If you set the aperture to be wide open (4.4) then this decreases to 1/1000. This is still fairly fast but for subjects such as sports and wildlife its nice to be able to get to about 1/1500 to really freeze the action. So heres what i found out. With the Tcon-17 attached i can set the camera to 10x zoom. this will give me about the same as 18x zoom without the tele converter attached. Becase the camera isnt zoomed as much it now allows me to shoot at 1/1300 at its max aperture (and its aperture is larger as its not as zoomed, about 3.7) and 1/1600 if you close the aperture up a bit. This is a nice shutter speed increase for sunny days when light is in abundance.

So thats the pluses and minuses. Now for the example shots. Ducklings are nice to shoot but to get a full frame shot of them bobbing in the water is hard if you dont fancy a swim. What you need is more zoom. Well heres one i got using this lens.

and heres one of a duck splashing about in the middle of the pond

without the lens i wouldn’t have got as close and therefore not as much detail.

Some people could argue that you could just use the EZ (extra zoom) function to get closer but that isnt really the same. Cameras that offer this extra zoom in exchange for less mega pixels are basically just cropping the image and it isn’t real zoom. Its a nice feature but if your after maximum detail its best you stay clear. Also its nothing you cant just do your self more accurately in post processing later on.

Out of the two lenses  i would highly recommend a macro lens to anyone. It gives you a totally new area of photography you can cover and turns your back garden into a jungle of insects.

The teleconverter is also fun and a good purchase but it is used a lot less as more often than not the normal (albeit large) zoom range of this sort of camera is more than enough.

Here are the amazon links to the 2 lenses and the adaptor tube.

Adaptor tube for panasonic fz-18 and 28 (and i imagin the new fz-38 as well)

The Tcon-17 1.7X tele converter

and lastly the pick of the litter. The Raynox 250 macro lens


10 Responses to “Get more from your superzoom using a conversion lens”

  1. Alsay said

    very nice review, i have learned very much from this.
    such wonderful pictures, especially the macro shots.
    i would like to suggest you link the pictures to their original place in flickr so that we can click to see the original size.

    now lets see some cool PS manipulations from you, and of course how you do that.
    Good Luck.

  2. Alsay said

    and one more thing.
    to give a fair estimate of how close you can get with a telephoto lens, you need to take a shot of the moon, it stays almost same distance for everyone, and everyone can see it. that way one can judge how close you can get with the teleconverter lens.

  3. adwig said

    good points there Alsay, il try set up the links and when i get a chance for a moon shot ill do one with and without the Tcon.

  4. Cwiddie said

    Thanks, but, now i want a conversion lens as well as the Raynox. LOL

    Cant wait for the manipulation tutorials now, ooh and the moon pic.

    Good luck

  5. Gerry said

    Excellent writing, very easy to read and understand. Especially the correlation between the tcon17 and 10x zoom to increase the shutter speed. Whilst I like to see the macro shots that others have taken, I prefer the long distance zoom shots…even if they are “noisy” I think it is the “fun” side of photography to reach that far, without actually going there…. (moon????) Yes I have done the moon shot with the FZ28 and also a Fuji S5600 (10x zoom) great fun!

  6. pinkermun said

    Hi Adwig ,

    Thanks for your writting !
    For the Photoshop, I am not really understand, but I try to copy exactly what you instruct , if still have problem , will let you know .

    For the Macro lenz, I made it my self, I went to grasses shop and order 1 ( +4 ) but, I cannot get enlarge degree as you did . If you lenz is +4 diode ?

    • adwig said

      I think the raynox 250 is +8. The raynox 150 is +4.

      Unfortunately i have no idea about making them. I only know that the raynox are fairly highly regarded

  7. Frederik said

    I read somewhere that the FZ-28 with the adaptor suffers from ‘barrelling’ (In wide-angle you can still see a part of the adaptor around your frame). This has been holding me back of purchasing one of those, did you notice anything of this?

    As for your site, I really like it, tomorrow I’ll read through every article on here as all of them seem very handy for me, as a novice photographer. Could you do an article on Filters if you use them, because I’m interested in a Polarizing Filter, but not entirely sure yet.

    • adwig said

      You may be talking about using the wide angle converter lens. I dont actually own one of these but from what i have seen, yes its true. It does cause some barrel distortion. However there arnt many super wide angle lenses that dont cause this. Also it can be corrected in photoshop.

      However if you do mean the teleconverter lens then it hasn’t caused any barrel distortion i have been aware of, only some softening at the edges. At the wide angle you will see the edge of the lens but the point of a teleconverter is to give you extra zoom, so its unlikerly you would be using it at the wide angle anyway.

      As for filters i own a UV, polarizing and ND filter on my fz-28 and i plan to do an article on them in the future. But without the article i can tell you a polarizing filter is worth it if you take a lot of landscape shots or shots involving water as it stops the light reflections on non metalic surfaces and gives amazingly blue skies.

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