How to Make the Most of Your Lenses With a Teleconverter

Sometimes when we’re out photographing, we want to take pictures of subjects that are a little bit farther away than we’re used to. As a result, we might not have the necessary lens to get the shot. An easy fix would be to buy a new lens — but a spur-of-the-moment lens purchase is not realistic for most photographers’ budgets.

Rather than miss the shot next time you’re out, consider investing in a teleconverter for your existing lens. Let’s cover what a teleconverter is, what the advantages of it are, and any disadvantages.

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What is a teleconverter?

A teleconverter is basically a lens. Unlike most lenses though, it can’t work on its own. It’s designed to attach to your existing lens and it works to increase the magnification of your existing lens.

Canon 2x Teleconvertor

“Canon EF Extender 2x III” by Gürkan Sengün via Wikimedia Commons

Say, for example, you have a 70-200mm lens. If you wanted to increase the effective focal length of this lens, you could purchase a 2x teleconverter, which would double the focal length of the lens, giving you a 140-400mm lens.

It’s important to ensure that your teleconverter is compatible with your lenses: Usually a manufacturer sells teleconverters that are guaranteed to work with a range of their lenses, and those are the ones to go for.

Advantages of a teleconverter

If you already have a series of lenses that you are happy with, a teleconverter can be a cost-effective way of extending your current focal lengths without purchasing entirely new lenses. A teleconverter will set you back in the region of $100 – $500, which is far cheaper than a high quality lens (particularly ones at longer focal lengths).

A teleconverter also means you don’t have to carry so many lenses. This piece of equipment is relatively small and lightweight compared to a telephoto lens, so you’ll lighten your load, also.

Canon EF 500mm f4L IS USM with teleconvertor

“Canon EF 500mm f4L IS USM” by Mdf via Wikimedia Commons

Another advantage of a teleconverter is that it doesn’t change the minimal focal distance of a lens, so if you could previously focus at, say, 10 inches from the front of the lens, you will still be able to do so. This means you can get shots you previously couldn’t get of subjects that were too close, which is particularly effective for macro photography.

Finally, a teleconverter doesn’t impact any image stabilization features of your existing lens or camera body — these will all continue to work as normal.

Disadvantages of a teleconverter

Teleconverters aren’t perfect, unfortunately. First, they can affect the quality of your image: Images shot through a teleconverter are usually a little less sharp.

Second, lengthening the lens by attaching a teleconverter means that your lens’s maximum aperture is going to be reduced. The reduction varies depending on the strength of the teleconverter, but the more magnification a teleconverter offers, the more light you lose.

For example, Canon’s 2x teleconvertor, the EF 2x III Extender, causes a two-stop reduction in light. This means the lens with the teleconvertor can only let in 1/4 the amount of light compared to with the teleconverter. So an f/2.8 lens will start behaving like a f/5.6 lens in terms of the amount of light.

Teleconverters can also reduce the speed that your camera autofocuses. Your camera and your lens work together to achieve a focus based on your lens’s native focal lengths, and the teleconverter changes those. That means you’ll need to do some additional calculation to achieve accurate focus.

Finally, a teleconverter will make your set up a little heavier and more unwieldy when attached to your camera.

Should I get a teleconverter?

Personally, I think a teleconverter makes sense if you just want to increase the range of your existing lens portfolio for occasional photography purposes, or if you can’t quite afford the dedicated lens that you would otherwise need.

If you are going to be shooting a lot of subjects that would need a teleconverter (rather than the occasional shot), then I would suggest buying a dedicated lens. You’ll end up taking higher-quality images and not suffer the other disadvantages of a teleconverter.

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