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Add-on and converter lenses are camera accessories that often get lost in the shuffle. It’s easy to identify the need for an extra memory card, a camera case, an extra battery, a dedicated flash or in the case of an SLR, an additional lens or three as add-on options for your camera.
Converter lenses for point and shoots generally attach to a bayonet or screw mount around the camera’s lens. Often your camera manufacturer will provide an optional adapter to facilitate their use. Refer to your user manual to see if your model is compatible. They can also be used with many compact video cameras that feature a filter thread on the lens.
Adapters for SLR systems in the form of teleconverters and extension tubes, attach in between your camera and its lens. If you’ve ever changed the lens on your camera, you’ll have no troubles figuring out how to use them. With that in mind let’s take a look at some fun and possibly, to some of you, unfamiliar accessories.
Wide-Angle and Fisheye Adapters
If you’d like to expand your field of view, consider a wide-angle adapter for your camera. How much wider you can get depends on the magnification factor. If you’ve got a camera that has a 28mm lens, sort of on the wide side, adding a 0.5x adapter will convert that to the field of view of a 14mm lens!
You’ve got a lot of different options to widen your camera’s horizons. You can consider Kenko’s SGW-05, a 0.5x adapter lens that can attach via a 37mm filter thread. If you want to go even wider, and don’t mind the distorted fisheye effect, consider Vivitar’s VIV-21-37MM, which creates a 0.21x magnification factor, sports multi-coated glass and also attaches via a 37mm thread.
Raynox’s HD-6600 is a 0.66x conversion lens that attaches via 43mm filter thread. While it won’t offer as dramatic an effect as a 0.5x or fisheye add-on lens, it will certainly be a boon for anyone who would like to go a little bit wider in their images. It is also available with a 52mm thread, the size commonly found on DSLR kit lenses. Raynox also offers a 0.7x version—the HD-7000—with a 58mm filter thread, compatible via adapter with the Canon G10, G11 and G12 when used with the optional FA-DC58B adapter.
Vivitar makes a 0.43x wide angle attachment lens, available in 52mm and 58mm threaded versions. The adapter can features a steel barrel for enhanced durability, and you have the option of attaching a 62mm filter to its front thread, perfect for adding ND filters or a circular polarizer.
If fisheye is what you crave, consider one of two adapters from Zeikos. Its 0.18x fisheye lens can attach to a 52mm or 58mm lens. Constructed from durable steel, the lens creates a stunning circular fisheye effect. Its glass lens is multicoated for superior image quality and flare resistance.
For a more subtle fisheye effect, consider Zeikos’s 0.40x fisheye adapter lens. It can attach via 46mm, 49mm, 52mm and 58mm threads thanks to the included step-up rings. The lens barrel is constructed of steel and the lens itself is multicoated glass.
Telephoto and Macro Adapters
If your’e looking to get a little more reach from your camera, consider a telephoto adapter. Vivitar makes a 2.2x telephoto attachment that mounts on 58mm threads. It allows you to bring distant subjects much closer, photographically, and features a 62mm front thread for filters or a hood.
While many compact cameras have pretty amazing macro capabilities these days, sometimes you just want to focus on something that is extremely close to the front of your lens. SLR users who are starting out with the standard kit zoom may find themselves limited by its lack of macro-focusing capability. This is where the Raynox DCR-250 can come in handy. It’s a 2.5x macro adapter with a snap-on design—making it compatible with lenses that accept filters between 52mm and 67mm in size. When used with a zoom lens, make sure it is set to its telephoto extreme for maximum effect.
SLR Extension Tubes
Extension tubes can be used to add close-focusing capability to any SLR lens. They work by adding distance between the rear of the lens and the camera’s sensor (or film, for the three of us who still use 35mm). This allows the lens to focus much closer than it normally can, but you will lose the ability to focus on objects that are far away, making these an extremely specialized solution for close-focus photography. You will lose some light depending on the length of the extension tube and the size of the exit pupil of your lens you. For best results and fewest headaches, we recommend you use a digital SLR, or a 35mm SLR that supports TTL metering.
Kenko offers a set of three extension tubes: 12mm, 20mm and 36mm in length, available for Nikon and Canon cameras. The tubes feature circuitry which makes it possible for the camera to communicate with the lens for focusing and metering functionality, although it’s probably best to focus manually. You can stack the tubes if you choose, if an individual extension tube does not provide enough magnification to suit your needs.
Zeikos also offers a set of extension tubes: 13mm, 21mm and 31mm, for use with Nikon or Canon cameras. Similar in functionality to the Kenko set, the Zeikos extension tubes are great for hobbyists on a budget. They are more modestly priced than their Kenko counterparts.
If you’d like to get a bit more reach from your favorite telephoto lens, consider adding a teleconverter to your SLR. Both Kenko and Zeikos feature a 1.4x converter, compatible with Nikon and Canon cameras, in their lineup. The 1.4x converter sits between your lens and the camera, extending its focal length by 140%. Adding the teleconverter to your 70-200mm makes it a 98-280mm! Bear in mind that there is also light loss when you use a teleconverter. An f/2.8 lens with a teleconverter can only capture about as much light as an f/4 lens without one. Autofocus and metering functions work with both of these teleconverters, but keep in mind that most cameras can only autofocus at apertures of f/5.6 or larger, so don’t try to attach it to a lens that already has a maximum aperture of f/5.6.
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