In Search of Reach: Tele Converters

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, Mar 23, 2016.

  1. In Search of Reach: Tele Converters

    Way back in 1959, a few people had re-discovered that in addition to close-up plus-lenses, there were also minus-lenses. With the latter it was possible to jury rig a bellows and those minus lenses with a particular lens (as designed) and to multiply the effective focal length.
    Modern Photography 1959-11.
  2. From this it was a fairly short step to the concept of making such a device in one unit. By 1963, Spiratone was offering something they called a “Dual-Range Attachment” or D.R.A.

  3. By February of the following year, 1964, Spiratone ads were featuring what they called a “TelXtender” ™ for a wide variety of mounts, including M42-Praktica, Exakta, and Nikon F. These effectively doubled the focal length of a lens.
  4. "Modest" claims were made for practicality, they even suggested that TelXtenders could be stacked for even more increase in effective focal length.
  5. Of course, the ASA (as it was then) had to be boosted also by a 2-stop factor. Clearly, TTL metering was a big enabler for this sort of device.

    Nikon TC-1 Teleconverter
    The big-time outfits thought maybe they were missing an opportunity in this area.

    "Nikon's first teleconverter was introduced in 1976, it was called TC-1 and designed for focal lengths up to 200mm, including the zooms in this range as well as the ReflexNikkor 500mm,f/8. It consisted of a seven-element optical system with NIC-coating and was suitable for lens speeds of f/2 and less.” — Hillebrand and Hauschild 1993 Nikon Compendium.​

    This was a teleconverter praised by Keppler in his SLR Notebook column in Modern Photography 1978-02 as “perfect” - tried by Modern’s staff with results as good as the lenses without the converter.
    “the Nikon converters were tried by MODERN's testers at the 1976 Olympics at Montreal ("Keppler on the SLR," Nov. 1976, page 42) with Nikon tele lenses and produced practical results every bit as good as did the Nikon lenses alone.​

    Vivitar Tele Converter

    Keppler also praised a special Vivitar converter made especially for the Vivitar 70 to 150mm f/ 3.8 close-focusing zoom lens. The one I have used here is a later, more generic, version.
  6. These are two converters tested here on the Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8 lens and the Celestron 1250mm f/10 lens.

    Practical Comparisons

    First, however, here is the Reflex-Nikkor 500mm mounted on a Canon EOS 50D (1.6X “crop”) camera. There is a fair amount of noise because dark conditions required fairly high ISO (1000) and I wanted to eliminate any additional body vibration (also lock-up mirror, release).
  7. And here is a 100% crop from the above image (1600mm equivalent):
  8. Here is the full image taken with the Nikon TC-1 2X converter
  9. and a 100% crop
  10. While this is not fully controlled, the comparisons show that the Nikon TC-1 “practical results” are a credible way of doubling the focal length without strong degradation of the image.

    Here are the TC-1 and the Vivitar converters on the Celestron 1250mm f/10 lens (see ). First, the 1250mm without converter on a Canon EOS 5Dii ("full-frame":

  11. Then on a Canon EOS 50D (1.6X "crop")
  12. And here is a comparison of the Celestron +1.6 "crop" + the Nikon TC-1 2X and the Vivitar 2X, respectively (~4000mm)
  13. The Vivitar seems at least as good as the Nikon TC-1 on the Celestron lens.

    Finally, here are the bulk of my tele converters, mostly accumulated as a by-product of buying various camera outfits and lenses with these attached. I did buy the Nikon TC-1 from KEH, and the Vivitar 2X used was purchased new a long time ago. There are also a few Exakta-mount units not shown. I’m afraid my patience gave out before my hope of testing all of them was realized. Just as well, for that matter. :)
  14. Previous discussions of tele converters include the excellent article here on by Bob Atkins ( ) as well as on his own website ( ).

    Wikipedia is also a good introduction ( ). I still think Google™ is your friend if you want to see still more discussion. :|

    Isn't this enough, if not too much already?
  15. Nice writeup as usual JDM. I've missed seeing your water tower. I'd always assumed that the
    only TC's worth using were the camera brand ones. That Vivitar one makes me think twice,
    though. My only previous experience with TC's has been a Tokina model that introduces a lot of
    CA. I also recently acquired a tamron adaptall model that came with the 80-210 zoom, but
    haven't really tested it out.
  16. Good post, JDM
    I've had a couple of good TC's over the years. The Canon EF 1.4x II was excellent. I didn't use it much though. The one that got the most use was the Vivitar 2x Macro Focusing Teleconverter. Darn good quality and so useful for bugs and butterflies.
    So nice to see a post from you! Thank You.
  17. I'll second Louis's comments. I own Vivitar Macro 2x's for both Canon FD and Nikon F. I've used them for over 30 years and have always been very pleased with their performance.
    These days, I have stacks of TCs. I probably have a Canon FD stack that's 12" tall and a Nikon stack probably 8" tall. Plus I have a couple of M42s -- a 2x and a 3x -- and three Tamron TCs (one 1.4x and two 2x's) And these are all good TCs too -- no junk. The junk ones just get tossed in a junk box. No point in even trying to sell them.
    I've found that stacking TCs can be fun, especially if you start out with a fast lens, like a 50mm f/1.4. Stacking 2x's I get: 100/2.8. 200/5.6. 400/11. Or my FD 85mm f/1.2: 170/2. 340/4. 680/8. Or if I start with a really fast one, like my Tamron 300/2.8, I get 600/5.6, then 1200/11. And what's surprising is that, in many cases, the resolution is not bad, either.
  18. Yes, the Vivitar Macro 2x Focusing tele-converter is a handy little thing, but other than that I've not found much use for extenders, generally. I guess it all depends on the types of photography one is into. By far my best results with converters have been with Tamron lenses and the excellent Tamron SP Flat-Field Tele-Converter for the Adaptall II system. Interesting post; many thanks, JDM.
  19. I generally don't use TC's. However, I do have a couple of 2X teles, but the 3x that I had and used once went straight to the garbage. Good to see you back JDM. I've been away (busy) for a while myself.
  20. Interesting for sure. I have a couple of the old 2x Vivitar converters for Nikon (one AI, the other pre-AI), though sadly not the Macro ones, and it's always been something of a surprise how decently they work. I often carried one with my 80-200 F4 zoom when traveling light, as it gave an unexpectedly good 400 in a pinch.
    Nowadays with sharp high density digital sensors, it's getting to the point that cropping works as well as extending, and sometimes better. I don't use converters much nowadays.
  21. Wow! Those are creditable results. I think I have a Nikon teleconverter lying around somewhere. I should try it on the back of my 300mm Nikon and see what happens!
  22. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    The Bathing Beauty folder posted here was shot hand held with a Nikon 300 F4 AI converted and Nikon TC 201 2x on a DF. It worked out quite well. I also used it with the Nikon 500 Cat for some of the Moon shots in my Lunacy folder. Small, convenient and affordable if you have the right old lenses and a compatible camera.
  23. That 1964 Spiratone ad brings back memories. I used the 135mm f/2.8 preset lens shown there and their TelXtender on a Yashica Penta J. Here's a picture from that combo taken around 1966.
  24. One of my favorite converters was the Soligor Multipurpose Teleconverters. Out of the box it's a decent, if unspectacular
    4 element 2x converter. The inner barrel (which has the optics) can be removed and then the converter serves as an
    extension tube. I have two: one in Olympus OM flavor and the other Minolta MD.
    And JDM- great work with the teleconverter mirror lens combination.
  25. I first knew about teleconverters when my dad bought one, along with a Canon Pellix and Canon 50/1.8 lens, in 1968. Then I got to use his Canon rangefinder much of the time.
    I now have a 2X and 1.4X for Nikon AF. The 2X has a 2:1 gear ratio on the mechanical coupled AF, but doesn't slow down the motor built into the lens. The result is that AF tends to overshoot, oscillate around the proper focus, and otherwise not work. I have used it with a 500mm Vivitar mirror lens, manual focus, with good results. Only good, as it is not easy to focus. Even at large distances, focus is very sensitive. It seems that vibration reduction still works fine though.
  26. JDM, as long as you're in an accumulating frame of mind you should try to get one of these: To get back on this thread's topic, try to find the matched multiplier (2x TC) that goes with it. T-mount lens, T-mount TC.
    I have the TC, not the lens. It isn't all that wonderful on my Questar 700, but at 1400 mm the problem may be unsteadiness more than optical performace.
  27. Unfortunately, I seem to always be in an "accumulating frame of mind". :|
    At the end of the article on the Vivitar 450mm f4.5 (link) it says:
    Unfortunately Vivitar's once great lens designs are pretty much a mystery to today's Vivitar. Repeated emails and phone calls on company history are usually unreturned. Occasionally I was told "we don't have those records." Sad, for a once leading Photo Optical Company not to have a clue about itself.
    The reason for this is that only the NAME of the company was purchased by the new owners - nothing else. They apparently just wanted to exploit what was once a recognized and honored brand.
  28. Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe the teleconverter can trace its origins back to Peter Barlow, a mathematician and physicist developed such a lens for telescopes during the 1800’s. In general Barlow lenses are not as well corrected as teleconverters, but only have to work over a limited field of view. Although originally intended for visual use, some Barlow lenses have T-threads for attaching photographic T-rings. Edmund Scientific used to sell unmounted Barlow elements so one could custom design one’s own system to multiply focal length.
    Sorry, JDM, I hope I didn't hijack your thread.
  29. Way back in 1959, a few people had re-discovered that in addition to close-up plus-lenses, there were also minus-lenses. [emphasis, JDM]​
    Of course in the broader sense, the teleconverter is a form of Barlow lens, which is and was a combination of minus lenses, etc. However, I still think that the modern history of the camera lens teleconverter, as such, is as outlined above.

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