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Thread: A 100-420mm Nikon-Nikkor Zoom?

  1. #1

    Default A 100-420mm Nikon-Nikkor Zoom?

    Ok Nikonians, don't get your hopes up just yet: Nikon doesn't make one. (even though Canon has had their excellent 100-400 telephoto zoom on the market for many years)

    However...

    When I bought my D90, it came with a 18-55 kit lens, and also the fairly decent 70-300mm VR telephoto lens. Now, you pros out there might cringe at this, but on a whim I decided to try my Kenko Teleplus Pro 300 DGX 1.4X converter on the 70-300 VR. This is "not supposed to work", according to the Nikon literature, and everything I've read says converters don't work well at all with zooms. In fact, a Nikon tele-converter will NOT mount on this particular lens, because of a mechanical stop they engineered into their teleconverters. But, that doesn't stop other manufacturers from omitting this mechanical stop...such as the Kenko I have....it happily mounts just fine.

    But the question remained: would the auto-focus work, and would the picture quality be so bad that it wouldn't be worth having a "100-420mm zoom"?
    Well, I can tell you the AF works great on a sunny day. (haven't tried it in overcast conditions yet). The AF speed seemed to be just as fast as without the converter, and it did not "hunt" around at all. Furthermore, the metering works just as it should, the proper f-stop is reported to the camera, and the effective 100-420mm magnification also shows up in the EXIF data. AND: the VR still worked just fine! I just could not believe it: all of a sudden I had a very compact super-telephoto with VR! I wondered what would happen if I dared to take a few shots at 420mm handheld....no tripod? So...I tried it with the lens aperature cranked wide open. Judge for yourself the results.

    100mm effective:


    Same scene at 420mm, also handheld:


    Ok, so it seems to work if the light is good. I need to experiment more in other light conditions. And with a tripod to see what the difference might be. The bad: the maximum wide-open f-stop you can get with this particular setup is only f/8....meaning a slow lens that needs lots of light to work. No, it's not as good as a prime 300 f4 lens with this same teleconverter on a tripod, but I had a lot of fun doing this experiment. You Canon guys might want to try this if you happen to own the 70-300 IS USM...I'd be interested in hearing if it works and how the picture quality is.

    Marshall/Ak
    "I love my country...it's the government I'm scared of"

  2. #2
    Member Floyd_Davidson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marshall/Ak View Post
    Ok Nikonians, don't get your hopes up just yet: Nikon doesn't make one. (even though Canon has had their excellent 100-400 telephoto zoom on the market for many years)
    Nikon does have an even better 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 AF-D VR lens.

    And the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII coupled with either a Kenko DGX Pro 300 2x teleconverter or the slightly better and more expensive Nikkor TC20EIII teleconverter is just as good as the 80-400mm optically, with better VR and faster AF-S focusing! (And you pay the price to get that quality too!)

    However...

    When I bought my D90, it came with a 18-55 kit lens, and also the fairly decent 70-300mm VR telephoto lens. Now, you pros out there might cringe at this, but on a whim I decided to try my Kenko Teleplus Pro 300 DGX 1.4X converter on the 70-300 VR. This is "not supposed to work", according to the Nikon literature, and everything I've read says converters don't work well at all with zooms.
    Anyone that is critical will indeed cringe, but at the misquoting Nikon and the misunderstanding! :-)

    Nikon does not say it won't work, they do correctly say it will not meet their standards. They aren't wrong about that, but sometimes we are all willing to settle for a bit less, especially if the price is right. The 70-300mm VR lens just barely meets Nikon's standards for sharpness, and adding a TC certainly doesn't make it any better! But... for images that will be reduced in size to be posted on the web at say 1024x768 or smaller, that lens will probably also do fairly well with a Kenko 2x TC!

    And there are worse ideas too. Here's an image that I posted in a different thread a few days back:



    Not exactly the greatest shot in the world, but I liked it because all of the different colors are displayed well. The Exif data says it was shot with an "AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II" at 500mm. Huh? Well, that is indeed the fabulous 70-200mm f/2.8G VRII lens! It also had a Kenko Pro 300 DGX 1.4x TC and a Nikkor TC20EIII TC between the lens and the camera!

    Now, I would never say that is recommended... but the fact is that I printed a different shot of that duck at 16x20 and it may not be as sharp as it would have been using a Nikkor 500mm f/4 lens (that I don't have) or a Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 lens with just the 1.4x TC (which I do own but did not have with me at the time).

    Okay, the truth is that I was stuck without the lens I wanted and tried that on a lark, and just as you are pleasantly surprised that using a TC made something possible that otherwise was not... so was I!

    What actually does work depends on how critical your needs are, and on the quality of the glass. For example, neither the 70-300mm or the 40-800 will AF with a 2X TC, but will "work" with a 1.4x TC. Almost certainly better than two TC's stacked on a 70-200mm f/2.8G too! But all of those, while absolutely usable, are less than stellar. Compare that to a 400mm f/2.8 with either a Nikkor or Kenko 2x TC, which makes an 800mm f/5.6 lens that is as good as any $10,000 800mm f/5.6 except for one little characteristic. With an 800mm f/5.6 it works well to also use a 1.4x or 2x TC, and the results are good, but adding another TC to the 400mm + TC gets a lens that is like the 70-300mm with a TC and barely acceptable (but I've done that too).
    In fact, a Nikon tele-converter will NOT mount on this particular lens, because of a mechanical stop they engineered into their teleconverters. But, that doesn't stop other manufacturers from omitting this mechanical stop...such as the Kenko I have....it happily mounts just fine.

    But the question remained: would the auto-focus work, and would the picture quality be so bad that it wouldn't be worth having a "100-420mm zoom"?
    Well, I can tell you the AF works great on a sunny day. (haven't tried it in overcast conditions yet). The AF speed seemed to be just as fast as without the converter, and it did not "hunt" around at all. Furthermore, the metering works just as it should, the proper f-stop is reported to the camera, and the effective 100-420mm magnification also shows up in the EXIF data. AND: the VR still worked just fine! I just could not believe it: all of a sudden I had a very compact super-telephoto with VR! I wondered what would happen if I dared to take a few shots at 420mm handheld....no tripod? So...I tried it with the lens aperature cranked wide open. Judge for yourself the results.


    Ok, so it seems to work if the light is good. I need to experiment more in other light conditions. And with a tripod to see what the difference might be. The bad: the maximum wide-open f-stop you can get with this particular setup is only f/8....meaning a slow lens that needs lots of light to work. No, it's not as good as a prime 300 f4 lens with this same teleconverter on a tripod, but I had a lot of fun doing this experiment. You Canon guys might want to try this if you happen to own the 70-300 IS USM...I'd be interested in hearing if it works and how the picture quality is.

    Marshall/Ak
    The basic tricks are just the same as with any less than stellar lens. Close the aperture down 1 or 2 stops from wide open, and don't expect something you can blow up to poster size without seeing the low contrast and chromatic aberrations. With a zoom lens, the short end of the range may be okay, but almost certainly the long end will be significantly less sharp. (Hence I set the 70-200mm to 180mm rather than all the way to 200mm for the image above.) And VR is nice, but it's better to turn it off and mount everything on the biggest heaviest tripod that can be hauled to the location.

  3. #3

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    Hi Floyd

    You're right...there are many other options that work out much better than a teleconverter. And you are also right: Nikon never actually said it won't work...they just quietly made sure it wouldn't work. (with their teleconverters)
    But...these other options tend to be expensive. In fact, I also own the Nikon 300mm f/4 prime lens, and it works really great with a teleconverter. The downside is I have to always use a tripod. (no VR) And it is bigger and heavier than my little 70-300. But the pics are simply astounding with that combo. (It took me some mighty fast talking to convince my wife that I should spend $1400 of our savings on that lens!) And a fast f/2.8 telephoto isn't even on my radar screen...
    Wow...you stacked two teleconverters? What was the effective f-stop on that combo? Your eider pic looks good to me. (in addition to the 1.4X Kenko, I also own the Nikon 1.7X teleconverter....'ya know, you're giving me BAD ideas....LOL!) I guess my main point was that without spending an extra small fortune I discovered I had a workable combination already in my bag, that I hadn't thought of before, because "conventional wisdom" posted on the internet told me it "wouldn't work", and, indeed, I would be very foolish to even think about it. I would say if you already happen to have a telephoto zoom, and a 1.4x teleconverter, then just try it. You may find the combination to be useful...

    Marshall/Ak
    "I love my country...it's the government I'm scared of"

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    Member Floyd_Davidson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marshall/Ak View Post
    Hi Floyd

    You're right...there are many other options that work out much better than a teleconverter. And you are also right: Nikon never actually said it won't work...they just quietly made sure it wouldn't work. (with their teleconverters)
    But...these other options tend to be expensive.
    Better photography solutions are almost always the more expensive options! :-)

    Of course "better" almost always translates to mean "more flexible with greater functionality" too, so a less expensive solution will still provide a great deal of fun, and can produce great pics, but just won't do as many things. A professional photographer of course makes more money by doing more things, so the expense of more functionality is money in the bank. To just have fun doesn't require being able to get every possible shot...

    In fact, I also own the Nikon 300mm f/4 prime lens, and it works really great with a teleconverter. The downside is I have to always use a tripod. (no VR) And it is bigger and heavier than my little 70-300.
    Incidentally, I don't think VR is worth much on big long telephoto lenses! That 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 AF-D that Nikon makes can be hand held, and carried on a hike, so the VR on it is very useful. The same is true of a 70-200mm f/2.8, even with a 2x TC. But I'm just not able to either hand hold or even carry for very far any of the 300/400mm f/2.8, 500/600mm f/4 or longer f/5.6 lenses!

    But the pics are simply astounding with that combo. (It took me some mighty fast talking to convince my wife that I should spend $1400 of our savings on that lens!) And a fast f/2.8 telephoto isn't even on my radar screen...
    Wow...you stacked two teleconverters? What was the effective f-stop on that combo?
    The 2x TC reduces the aperture by 2 stops, and the 1.4X TC cuts it by 1, so the 70-200mm f/2.8 becomes a 196-560mm f/8 lens. I shot the Eider duck at f/9 using a 500mm. It was at ISO 2800 (using AutoISO) and with a shutter speed of 1/5000. I did experiment a little with some slower shutter speeds, but now I wish I'd tried stopping it down at least to f/11 to see if it would have been a little sharper. I'm going to have to try that with a controlled test and see. I've also got a Kenko 2x TC and I need to try that instead of the Nikkor TC20EIII to see which of those works best too.
    Your eider pic looks good to me. (in addition to the 1.4X Kenko, I also own the Nikon 1.7X teleconverter....'ya know, you're giving me BAD ideas....LOL!)
    That's the idea! :-)

    I guess my main point was that without spending an extra small fortune I discovered I had a workable combination already in my bag, that I hadn't thought of before, because "conventional wisdom" posted on the internet told me it "wouldn't work", and, indeed, I would be very foolish to even think about it. I would say if you already happen to have a telephoto zoom, and a 1.4x teleconverter, then just try it. You may find the combination to be useful...
    And go even farther than that! If possible, rent borrow or steal more than one or two teleconverters and try them all. There are sample variations too, so even trying two of the exact same model might make a difference. But there are differences between, for example, the Kenko 1.4x or 2x and the Nikkor's of the same multiplication. For non-AF lenses there are lots of possible TC's that can be bought on eBay at prices reasonable enough to risk that it might never be used. I've got half a dozen different manual focus TC's, and I have to keep a list of which one is the best with each lens.

    Now, just to give you more cause to try more "bad ideas"... here's another Eider duck shot that I worked on today to provide someone else with an example. This one is not resized for web viewing (which hides the unsharpness of a lens), and instead is a 100% crop! Basically, if the original full sized image were printed as is, this is what it would look like. (And given how this was made, I am just astounded!) The main characteristic that pleased me the most is a lack of color fringing. I actually printed another of these Eider images at 16"x20" and was very pleased. I'm tempted to see how big I can make this one.


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    You guys are an inspiration!! I just bought a D3100 with 18-55 and 55-200 and I can see now that I need a TC for the big one. Is the Nikon TC that much better and does it allow VR to work?

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    Member Floyd_Davidson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lowrider View Post
    You guys are an inspiration!!
    We both thought "desperation" was the operative word... :-)

    I just bought a D3100 with 18-55 and 55-200 and I can see now that I need a TC for the big one. Is the Nikon TC that much better and does it allow VR to work?
    The only zoom lenses that Nikon lists as compatible with their teleconverters are the 80-200mm, 70-200mm and 200-400mm. The 80-200mm is an AF-D lens and will not Auto Focus on your camera. The others progress from way too expensive to mind boggling...

    The Kenko DGX PRO 300 1.4x will almost certainly "work" to some degree. Be aware that a TC multiplies the size and all of the aberrations. Hence a lens (and most zooms with a greater than 2:1 zoom range fit this to a greater degree) with barely acceptable color fringing or astigmatism or spherical aberrations will be literally twice as bad when using a 2x TC. Don't expect super sharp images towards the zoom range extremes or with the aperture either wide open or stopped down farther than f/11 or so. Backed off from maximum zoom a little, and stopped down maybe 1 or 2 stops, and you'll likely get "very good" results.

    The question of whether it will "work" also involves Auto Focus, where lens/TC combinations that have a maximum aperture smaller than f/8 probably will not Auto Focus (and also may work on pro models like a D3S but not with your D3100). The lens might not focus at all or might spend a lot of time hunting when they do work. Your lenses are f/4.5 at the widest end of the zoom range and might AF there. But they are f/5.6 and the long end of the zoom range, and almost certainly will not AF with a 2x TC, and might not with a 1.4x TC.

    I have a Tamron 24-135mm f/4-5.6 lens that I commonly use as a "walk around" lens. It focuses fairly close for near macro shots, so I tried putting a Kenko 2x TC on it. It works great... at 24mm. But at any focal length greater than 50mm it won't AF. Oh well.

    I suspect that your 55-200mm lens will work with a Kenko 1.4x TC. They aren't terribly expensive, so if you get one and it doesn't work, just hold onto it and get a lens that it will work on. Fixed focal length lenses are definitely better candidates for use with a TC, but the zooms that will work are a lot more fun.

    Unfortunately a D3100 body does not have the built in focus motor required for older AF-D lenses. You can't use, for example, and older 80-200mm or an 80-400mm either. None of the older bargains will work for your camera. All of the consumer level lenses have issues with the use of TC's. It's one of those cases where knowing that in advance might have caused you to look at a D90 or D7000 body rather than the D3100, and possibly would have saved money in the long run.

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    Thanks FLoyd!

    I bought the D3100 on advise of a Canadian friend who is a < semi-pro if you know what I mean. I used to be into B&W photography back in the early 70's and into the 80's. I lost interest with the loss of time and money when kids came along. I still have my cameras and lens from that time but wanted to get into the digital era with something better than a point and shoot. I have a Nikon body and a 1.4 55mm lens but most of my stuff is Canon, Minolta, Yashica and Mamia Secor...both bayonet lug and screw on lenses that won't like the D3100.

    I thought I would like the consumer level zooms and I do, but can already see that I need/want to be able to reach out some for wildlife shots. Now that I have this set up, I guess I need to use it some and get aquainted with it's shortcomings before I get anything else. I have a 400mm I used to use with a 2X TC years ago and I did a fair amount of pretty good work with that lens and a tripod. Maybe I will look for a 300mm fixed and a 1.4x Kenko to play with and AF is not important with that set up.....I think.

  8. #8

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    I like Floyd's advice: borrow a TC first, if you can, and try it with your camera and lens. (go to a camera shop with your camera and lens, and ask to try the TC...if they have a display model most will let you try it) Not all combinations will work, and some won't even mount together. (I have a Nikon 70-300 VR, and NONE of the Nikon TC's will mount to it! You may find that to be also the case with your 55-200 lens as well) However, that mechanical limitation is not the case with the Kenko "Pro 300" DGX. That "X" in the DGX is kinda important: this latest iteration was to change the electronics in the TC to report the correct lens aperture to the camera. There are older "DG" versions, and the newer "DGX" version. (A majority of the 3rd party TC's that were made don't do this correctly, but the DGX version corrects this problem)
    Floyd is also correct: any aberration or optical flaw in the lens will be magnified and made worse by the TC. Think of it this way: a 1.4x TC will make the flaw roughly 1.4x worse in your images, a 2x TC will make the flaw twice as bad, a 3x TC three times as bad, etc. For my own casual use, I've noticed the 1.4x TC's usually produce acceptable results. Not "pro" quality, but acceptable. The better your lens is to begin with, then the better the results. (because there is less lens flaws to magnify)
    Bear in mind that just because my D90 will auto-focus fine with a TC and a zoom lens (just for example) it does not mean that all of Nikon's cameras will auto-focus with a TC. Your's might, and then again it might not. I tend to agree with Floyd: the Kenko will probably work with your camera. Before investing in a TC, I'd do a simple Google search of the web first, to see if anyone else has tried it and whether it works. (use search words "Nikon 3100 teleconverter 55-200" etc) That way, if you find it doesn't work with your camera model, then you just saved yourself from wasting $$$. My $.02

    Marshall/Ak
    "I love my country...it's the government I'm scared of"

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    Great advise!!

    Thanks!!

    We don't have a corner camera store but when I get to the "big city" I will try to get a "demo" TC and go from there. The internet is full of info...some good and some not worth the electrons it takes to retreive it but you are correct there is valuable data out there and I will pursue that as well.

    Maybe it is planned obsolesence on the part of camera manufactures learned from the auto industry but it sure would seem that they would design their products to be at least partially backward compatable. Even if the AF doesn't work at least it would be nice if the lens fit older cameras and you could manual focus. I would think that would encourge folks to buy better quality products knowing it will work on future models, at least to some extent. I know technology is moving faster than I am these days but product compatibility seems like good marketing strategy in any market.

    Thanks again!!

    Joe

  10. #10

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    Hey Joe:
    Here's a link to an excellent and well-written article on teleconverters: http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/tutorials/tc3.html
    And here he tries a TC on a consumer-grade tele-zoom (towards the end of the article): http://www.bobatkins.com/photography...n_200_500.html

    Bob Atkins is a well known pro with a vast equipment reference base on his website, plus a section with reviews from users on most other brands of lenses as well. The site is mostly aimed at Canon users, but that shouldn't stop Nikon owners from tapping into this knowledge base. The thing I got from reading his teleconverter article is one should do a simple test: take a shot of something with your zoom lens/TC combo, and the same shot without the TC, just the zoom maxed out. (use a tripod, to eliminate movement on your part) Then blow up the latter shot to be the same size as the first one with the TC. Do a side-by-side comparison. Is the pic using the TC better than the one without, that was blown up? If not, you are wasting your time using the TC. (your lens is not good enough to use a TC) On the other hand, if it is better, then you have something. Results will vary according to the type and quality of lens you put a TC on; you just have to try it to find out.

    I have read articles from other so-called "pros" who will not even consider putting a TC on a zoom lens. Without having tried it, they roundly condemn the practice as "no good". My question is, how do they know something is "no good", if they haven't actually tried it? Aren't they then voicing a biased opinion, with no (recent) factual basis to back it up? TC's may have been just as they said 15 or 20 years ago, but there have been very notable advances in both TC and lens design since then. I think they may be suffering from what I call "lock-brain". (refusal to consider anything new...they "know-it-all"...all wrapped up in their own pride...don't want to be labeled as "amateurs" by their peers, etc) You will run into guys who proudly proclaim "all my lenses are CANON" (or "all my lenses are NIKON")..."I don't use 3rd party JUNK lenses like Sigma, Tamron, Tokina" (etc). The thing of it is, some of those "junk" brands now produce some darn good high-quality lenses...every bit as good as Canon or Nikon!
    Example: http://www.bobatkins.com/photography...vc_review.html

    Another example: http://www.photozone.de/canon-eos/27...w--test-report

    A person that has actually tried something, and then explains the results...they are the real pros...a person can learn from them. Just IMO, of course! Thanks for listening to my rant...I feel better now!

    Marshall/Ak
    "I love my country...it's the government I'm scared of"

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    Member Floyd_Davidson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lowrider View Post
    Even if the AF doesn't work at least it would be nice if the lens fit older cameras and you could manual focus. I would think that would encourge folks to buy better quality products knowing it will work on future models, at least to some extent.
    If you buy bottom of the line, you get... the bottom of the line! Don't expect a camera that has to compete with others at that price to have all the features that more expensive cameras have.

    A Nikon D3100 is intended to be a low cost entry level camera for people who want low price at the expense of functionality. A D7000 has significantly more functionality, and a higher price, for people who want more functionality, but within limits.

    By the same token, if you want as much functionality as Nikon can cram into a DSLR the D3S is a fabulous camera!

    Various models in between those have more or less functionality, and price tags scaled as well. From the D7000 on up they all absolutely are compatible with lenses from decades ago...

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    Thanks Gentlemen!

    I read the Atkins articles and I think I need to do some more research and use the my camera before I get to the purchase stage. Maybe I need to go with a fixed len and then add the TC. I went with the "starter" D3100 with the intent of using it for awhile to see if I get bitten by the photo bug again and if I don't, I won't have invested thousands into something that will not be used ot it's full potential.

    We're going to Glacier National Park next week so I will have chance to wring out the D3100 some with the lens I have and I'll learn the camera somemore as well. You guys have given me a lot of things to consider and I appreciate your wisdom imparted.

    Thanks,

    Joe

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