Longer focal distance for less

In Tips and Tricks by Patrick

As photographers we all want the big sexy lenses that can reach out and pull our subject closer. The reality is that for a great many of us, the price point of these lenses just doesn’t allow us to drop that kind of money. By means of an example, the Nikkor AF-S 600 f/4 lens is $12,500 USD. Phenomenal lens, but at that price, definitely not in the amateurs or photo enthusiasts budget.


It gets even bigger for those who need the reach. The Nikkor AF-S 800 f/5.6 lens is tack sharp and allows for getting real up close and personal with your subjects, but alas at $16,000 USD, you could buy a quality used car, or even a new car nowadays with that kind of money. Again, not something the average enthusiast is going to buy.


That brings me to the whole point of this post on how to get a longer focal distance without having to mortgage the house or drain the kids college fund. The best part is that you can extend your reach more than likely with the lenses that you already have. You can use tele-converters. Most major manufacturers have these as part of their additional accessories and the best part is, they are reasonably priced.

So, how do they work. Well, there are different types. Currently, there are tele-converters that will magnify your focal distance by 40%, 70% and double your focal distance. Below is a list of compatible Nikon tele-converters and how they affect focal distance if you used the Nikon 20TC- III tele-converter. The Canon would be similar.

Nikon TC 20E III Review

OK, so they extend the focal distance allowing for more reach, but is there a trade off. There is, and is has to do with the light. Tele’s suck up light and you will lose f-stops based on the tele-converter you select. For example, using a 1.4 teleconverter you lose 1 stop, the 1.7 and you lose 1.5 stops and the 2x tele you lost 2 full stops. So, knowing that, one has to ask if it matters for your photography. Let me give a personal example. I keep folders of stats on my photography to notice trends for my style. The majority of the time when shooting wildlife, I have found that he most common f/stops I use are f/5.6 and f/8. Knowing this helped me determine that if I am shooting in my backyard studio, birds for example, with my Nikon 300 f/4 lens, using a 1.4 converter will give me and effective f-stop of 5.6 or using the 2x tele I have an effective f/stop of f/8, the settings that I use most often. So in this instance, the purchases of those converters made sense for my style of photography and allowed a longer effective focal distance. When needing to get closer to the subject, there are two ways to do it, zooming with your feet and through eh use of tele-converters. Something to consider as a viable tool in your bag the next time you need to get closer.

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