A teleconverter, also known as an extender, is a camera accessory that attaches between the lens and body of an interchangeable lens camera. They were made for 35mm and medium format cameras and are hard, if not impossible, to find for micro 4/3rd. That said this article is using one on a micro 4/3rds fitted with a Pentax K adaptor.
Whats does a teleconverter do?
A teleconverter increases the focal length of a lens by the number of x. The most common is 2x but models have also been made in 1.4x, 1.5x and 3x. With a 2x teleconverter your 300mm telephoto lens becomes 600mm.
What are the advantages of a teleconverter?
The main advantage is size and cost. A teleconverter and one lens takes up much less space than two lenses And it’s much cheaper to buy a teleconverter than a second lens.
Another advantage is the closest focusing distance of the lens doesn’t change when a teleconverter is attached so the magnification is doubled with a 2x from the same distance.
What are the disadvantages of a teleconverter?
The teleconverter adds a few more layers of glass for the light to travel through so there’s chance the image quality will be degraded. This is more noticeable on cheaper models where contrast can suffer as well as added distortion and reduced sharpness.
The teleconverter reduces the amount of light reaching the film/sensor by the same factor as the magnification. So a 2x converter loses two stops of light and a 3x converter loses three stops of light.
Can you use more than one teleconverter?
Its possible to add several teleconverters in a stack. Sharpness decreasing and light loss increasing with each one added. In this article Stacking five 2x teleconverters Petapixel stacked five teleconverters onto a 300mm lens to get a huge 9600mm telephoto.
A couple of test photos with a teleconverter
Below are examples of two subjects taken with the illustrated combination above – an Olympus OMD EM5 MkII with a 50mm f/1.4 Pentax lens and a budget priced Ozeck 2x teleconverter. The left photos are without the 2x teleconverter and the right hand ones are with the teleconverter. The map is taken at the closest setting of the lens, and the city view is with the lens at infinity. The bottom pair are highly cropped pics from the city scene. You can click on the four top pics to see the full size version.
For those viewing on a mobile device 1, 3 and 5 are without teleconverter and 2, 4, 6 are with teleconverter
As you can see the converter loses contrast, but sharpness is not as bad as many people have made out over the years, and a converter is certainly a good idea if your budget is tight.
We have a selection of second-hand teleconverters here at PhotographyAttic – used teleconverters
There’s a video doing the rounds at the moment titled Leon The Professional. It’s being shared by photographers who’re impressed by the featured photographer’s home made “shooting” accessory. The gent in question has adapted a wooden rifle stock to the bottom of his camera to create a comfortable hand holding gadget for long lens shooting …in this case bird photography.
Photographers who’ve been around before the digital age will remember this type of gadget is not new.
Back in the 70s they appeared in a kit from Russia called the PhotoSniper.
This was a Zenit camera with a chunky 300mm telephoto and a very realistic rifle grip below. Supplied in a metal box style case, at a very good bargain subsided price. But was seen as specialist gear as heavy and cumbersome for the majority of photographers.
Way before this in the 1950s-60s Novoflex had added a handle grip to the base of their long lenses in a gadget called the Pistol Grip Follow Focus. Available in 400mm, 600mm and 640mm with a 560mm joining the range in the 70s. This gadget focused the lens when the trigger was squeezed…later models had a push pull action to focus. Lots of imnformation about the Novoflex system here NOVOFLEX accessory system for Exakta Varex at Photo but More
In the 70s-80s thanks to the popularity of the SLR and rise of camera accessory brands several budget Japanese/German products appeared from the likes of Rowi, Hama and Kaiser that could be attached to the base of your 35mm SLR to convert into a rifle grip. The Kaiser Kamera – Schulterstativ 6005 Rifle Grip was one such example.
These were light weight and had a cable release attached to the trigger to make rifle shooting simple. Camera Retailers Jessops and Dixons also sold rifle triggers for under £20.
And throughout the history of the 35mm camera, manufacturers have produced trigger grips that attach to the base of the camera to provide alternative and more comfortable ways of holding and firing the shutter. These are just a simple hand grip shaped handle which are much lighter and far less bulky than the rifle grip.
A stepping ring is an adaptor that screws into the front of your lens to change the filter thread size. The idea is you can make one filter fit a number of lenses with different filter thread sizes by attaching a stepping ring in between the filter and the lens.
Their are always two numbers on a stepping ring. The filter thread size of the lens, and the filter thread size of the filter. They always start with the lens filter thread size first. You use a step up ring to attach a larger filter on to a lens with a smaller filter thread size And you step down to use a smaller filter on a lens with a larger thread.
So a 49-58mm stepping ring is a step up ring and will let you screw a 58mm filter onto a lens with a 49mm thread (see pic above). While a 67-55mm stepping ring is a step down ring and will let you screw a 55mm filter onto a lens with a 67mm thread.
Generally its better to use step up filters on wide angle lenses to avoid vignetting where the smaller filter encroaches into the edges of the frame. A step down filter is better used on telephoto lenses.
Here at PhotographyAttic we have a wide range of stepping rings from a number of brands. And we’ve reduced the price so most unbranded ones are £2.00 and ones with brand name are £3.00. Buy here: Stepping Rings for sale
Extension tubes are tubes without any optical elements that you place between the camera and lens of an interchangeable lens camera. They extend the lens so it can focus closer, giving the lens macro capabilities. Some have full automatic couplings so the camera can continue to be used in all its auto and program exposure and focus modes. Some lower priced ones have no couplings, so the camera needs to be used in manual.
Tubes are often sold in sets of three. The set illustrated above has 13mm, 21mm and 31mm extensions, and these can be attached in any combination giving a total of seven different extensions:
- 34mm (13mm+21mm)
- 44mm (13mm+31mm)
- 52mm (21mm+31mm)
- 65mm (13mm+21mm+31mm)
Here a set of three tubes can be seen attached to a Nikon digital SLR camera.
This photograph of a British one pound coin was taken using a nikon camera with a 55mm lens set to infinity and an extension tube added. The smaller coin on the left is with the 13mm and the coin on the right is with the three tubes attached giving 65mm extension. The lens was at f/2.8 to show how shallow depth of field is. When using tubes you either need to use a very small aperture or shoot the subject parallel to the CCD or film plane. Here the coin was at an angle so only a shallow strip across the centre is sharp.
Advantages of using Extension Tubes
Low cost macro
No optical degradation
Disadvantages of using Extension Tubes
Limited magnification variations
Fiddly changing between magnifications
Taking lens off increases risk of dust intrusion
We have a selection of extension tubes in different camera fittings
The BPM bellows system around in the 70s was a versatile system with mounts to accommodate most camera and lens fittings. But it wasn’t the only one. The likes of Soligor, Hama, Russian, Kenlock and others made similar interchangeable systems, but with their own system of mounts. Im not sure which are interchangeable between bellows makers, but maybe the anatomy of a BPM mount may help you find out if the bellows you have can be used with a BPM mount.
Occasionally I will write about interesting gadgets to help improve photography…today I introduce the Gorillapod.
A camera support is an essential piece of kit to prevent camera shake, which would result in blurred photos. Tripods ( a large stand with three legs) are common among enthusiast photographers, but they are bulky and often heavy. So manufacturers produce small alternatives, in the form of miniature tripods, pods, clamps, beanbags, spikes etc.
The Gorillapod from Joby is a unique version of a mini tripod. Yes it has three legs and can be used in the conventional tripod way , but the Gorillapod has a unique leg design made of several stacked ball joints that bend, allowing total flexibility.
The design made from a gripping type of plastic means it’s not only good on a bench or table, but also on uneven surfaces and, thanks to the bendy legs, it can also be wrapped around a table leg, or tree branch to provide support in many versatile ways.
The one I’ve illustrated here is the compact model. It weighs just 45 grams so you’d hardly know you have it with you. It will support a compact digital camera or phone, but not an SLR. Joby also make larger versions for SLRs.
Check out other camera supports here
The small FM-LM3 slip on flash supplied with the Olympus OM-D E-M5II is a really useful addition for close up shooting, but the light can be very direct and harsh resulting in strong defined shadows.
I found a way to improve it using a gadget sold in the 70s called the Rima Blitz Flash Converter.
This handy gadget was designed for use with a small flashgun mounted on a film camera, but can also be used on the Olympus FM-LM3 flashgun. It splits the flash beam into two giving a wider spread of light almost like a really expensive macro flash set up.
You can find them occasionally on eBay and they original came in a box with some colour filters, a mounting adaptor to hold the converter securely on the flash and a right angle shoe adaptor for flashguns without a bounce facility.
The mounting adaptor doesn’t work with the FM-LM3 so you need to hold the Rima Blitz converter in place unless the camera is level and then it will rest on top without need of any support.
The camera’s flash output is reduced due to the bouncing of light inside the converter but the camera’s automatic exposure system compensates for the change in flash level so photos with the Rima Blitz in place will be correctly exposed.
Here are two examples of the Rima Blitz Flash Converter in use on the Olympus OM-D E-M5II’s FL-LM3 flashgun
Straight flash without Rima Blitz
Flash with Rima Blitz attached
The main difference here is there’s less reflection on the camera’s silver coloured front plate and there are two soft shadows behind the camera on the surface.
Straight flash without Rima Blitz
Flash with Rima Blitz attachedHere the shadows have lost their hard edge under the spout and plunger when the Rima Blitz is attached.
Rima Blitz Flash converter for sale here: Rima Blitz Flash Converter kit
Many of us have a need to photograph small objects for inclusion with auction posts on sites like eBay, or on shops such as Etsy, or to show your products on you own web site. There are also many who have an interest in photography of insects and other close up subjects from an artistic perspective.
Often the available light isn’t good enough in such situations so you resort to the built in flash of your DSLR, or slide the hotshoe mounted one to the camera. And that’s where you may find you have a problem.
When shooting close ups the lens is often so close to the subject that it obstructs the flash and results in a shadow of the lens cast over the subject. A ring flash is attached onto the lens. It provides a circular light that results in shadowless illumination. This is ideal for small items, and the light wraps around 3D items so you get a more even tone.
You can buy ones made by your camera’s manufacturer, but these tend to be very expensive so it’s worth looking around for an independent model, and some great older ones can be picked up for much less money. The manufacturers’ ones and some of the more expensive independents have TTL (through-the-lens) exposure so they adjust the flash output and compensate automatically for close up extensions and filters. But as most cameras used now are digital it’s easy enough to use an older manual ringflash and check the result on the LCD display.
At PhotographyAttic we have a small selection of used models and really like the Sunpak GX-8r because, unlike others, the batteries are in a separate power pack…and that means the flash unit attached to the lens is much lighter. This is an important consideration as it puts less strain on the lens mechanism. There’s a review of the Sunpak GX8r here
For those on a budget, check out the Centon MR20. It does have batteries in the flash, but just two AAs so its not too heavy. This flash unit was also made for the Vivitar, Starblitz and Cobra brands too. Doi also made an interesting unit for those who don’t have a flash sync socket on their camera, this one had the battery pack that slides onto the camera’s hot shoe.
Wildlife photographers often wish they owned a longer lens of 500mm or so to taking close ups of birds and other smaller creatures. And often they may already have such a lens in the form of a spotting scope. By attaching the camera to the rear end of the spotting scope you create a lens with a similar magnification to that of around 800mm
This technique is referred to as digiscoping.
You need to buy an adaptor to attach the camera to your spotting scope. These are often specific to the spotting scope and with the exception of a few
camera brand adaptors, they usually all have a T2 mount thread at the camera end. So you buy the adaptor, attach it to the scope and then screw in a T2 adaptor that’s specific to your camera mount. We have the T2 camera mounts here at PhotographyAttic
Camera specific scopes such as the Pentax PF80D need the PF-CA35 which has a direct camera mount.
The Nikon Fieldscope range including the EDIII A need the FSA-L1. Nikon also produce the FSA-L2 for exclusive use on EDG Fieldscopes
Opticron have a wide range of scopes and several adaptor combinations all requiring a T2 mount at the camera end. See the Opticron Telephotography and Digi-scoping page for more details
Swarovski also have a range of scopes and a really informative page on digiscoping: Equipment – spotting scopes, cameras, etc. You need a T2 mount with their systems
Barr & Stroud supply a spotting scope adaptor for their Sahara and Bresser Safari spotting scopes. T2 mount required. This adaptor also fits some Helios, Bresser, Meade and Praktica spotting scopes.
Leica’s DSLR Photo-adaptor allows T2 mounted SLRs to be attached to the Leica Spotting scopes
T2 adaptors do not have any form of electrical contacts so you have to use your camera’s manual or aperture-priority mode. As the spotting scope doesn’t have apertures you just point and shoot and the camera will set the correct shutter speed. You could use the ISO setting to adjust shutter speed and increase the ISO for a faster shutter speed.
Focusing is manual. Focus the scope like you normally would but take more care on accurate point as the lack of depth of field will mean you have to be spot on to get a sharp photo. Also the increased magnification will make it difficult to hand hold so it’s better to use a tripod.
Peta Pixel have an interesting article comparing the use of a Spotting scope against a Canon Super telephoto
Hoyarex filters were arguably the best filter system made. Optically superb, several made from glass, solid filter holder, brilliant adjustable rubber hood for wide or super telephoto, and a useful range of filters.
Hoyarex was a filter system developed by Hoya. Hoya was the big name in optical filters and then French manufacturer Cokin appeared with a system that would revolutionise the filter world.
Hoya reacted fast but not fast enough. Cokin had soon taken hold of the filter market with serious and special effect filters. Photographers were no longer buying one or two filters they were investing in cases full.
The Hoyarex system emulated what Cokin had done, but in our opinion did it better, some filters were glass, others had frames around them so handling was better. The holder was more flexible and had a more versatile lens hood. The filters slotted in more comfortably and the adaptors clipped in easier.
But they were too late and Cokin won the battle. Hoyarex disappeared as quick as they came.
You can still find remnants of the system sold in the second-hand sections of various photographic retailers, and there are many here on PhotographyAttic.
The illustration above shows the filter holder with an adaptor ring (available in sizes from 43mm up to 77mm) and the wonderful rubber Pro hood that clipped on the holder and had a variable extension.
Two filter holder can be clipped together and rotated when special effect filters were inserted.
Here in numeric order is the entire range with links to buy individual used filters at photographyattic.com