A Conversion Lens extends the functionality of existing cameras by adding to the focal length range of your lens. A Digital conversion lens is a great way to expand your camera’s capabilities without breaking the bank. If you only have a few new shots in mind, and you don’t want to upgrade your whole camera, get a converter.
Not every camera model will allow you add a conversion lens, and on some camera models you won’t want to add one. Typically speaking, models toward the bottom end of the consumer spectrum will not allow you to use converters, but the models just one step down from a digital SLR will. If you have an SLR camera (or camera that already has an interchangeable lens), don’t use a conversion lens.
Different kinds of converters
There are a lot converters on the market for many different kinds of point and shoot cameras.
The first class of converters helps you with your macro photography. These tend to be advertised with some kind of increase in magnification. The most common of these is the 2x macro converter, which basically doubles the magnification of your current point and shoot lens and get you closer to your subject with macro photography. These are a huge money-saver if you want to get started with macro photography and don’t want to shell out $500 for a digital SLR and another $500 for a lens. Most of these converters only cost $100.
Another type is the tele-converter lens that attaches to the end of your lens and increases the effective focal length by some factor. If your camera comes with a 3x zoom lens, a 2x tele-converter will turn your 3x lens into a 6x lens. This is quite handy when you’re shooting wildlife or faraway landscapes as the conversion lens will allow you to zoom closer than you would normally be able to. Just make sure you bring your tripod!
Wideangle and fisheye converters are also common. They effectively allow you to “zoom out” even further. If your camera can only zoom out to 50mm, a .50x wideangle converter will effectively give you a 24mm lens. A fisheye converter will get you close to the 6mm to 10mm range. They tend to bend the image into a spherical shape, leaving you with some pretty cool results. If you want an interesting and up-close perspective, you should definitely try them out.
Possible extra expenses
Usually the lens converter will tell you what cameras it works with. Make sure the type of converter you purchase is compatible with the camera you have.
Some converters will require you to purchase an extra lens adaptor that fits their lens onto your specific camera. The adapters usually aren’t that expensive, just another thing to consider.
Some people complain of lens distortion with converters, but here are the facts. Every lens distorts what it “sees”, even the super expensive ones. Most distortions are only really visible when your camera’s aperture is set to a high number like f11 or f12. At high apertures, your camera picks up more sharpness and more of the image will be in sharp focus (greater Depth of Field). The extra detail makes the distortions visible.
If you notice the distortions, you can usually make them go away by opening your aperture (using a smaller F number).
Are converters worth the money?
At the end of the day, you’re probably wondering if you should buy one of these things. It all depends on your financial situation and previous camera model commitments. If you don’t really want to spend the extra money to get a full digital SLR, but you want to have a telephoto, wideangle, and macro lens on hand, these are great. Just realize that you won’t get the same degree of versatility with a converter that you would with an SLR zoom lens. Wideangle converters only give you a fixed length. Wideangle zoom lenses give you the entire spectrum.
In short, converters are an excellent choice for hobbyists who want to explore photography a little more. They don’t require a huge financial commitment, and they effectively expand your camera’s capabilities. They will help you hold out until you can afford that new SLR model you’ve been eyeing.
If you use some kind of converter to take pictures with your point and shoot model, I’d love to see what you’ve come up with. Send them my way, and I’ll pick one for a photo critique.