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Review: Nikon TC-14E vs. TC-14EIII

The Nikon TC-14EIII has been completely redesigned and is compatible with select Nikon telephoto lenses.
The Nikon TC-14EIII has been completely redesigned and is compatible with select Nikon telephoto lenses.

I’ve been using the Nikon TC-14E teleconverter now for years. Even though it was “updated” to the MkII model a while ago, the only differences between the TC-14E and TC-14EII were the exterior cosmetics (finish). The optical formula remained the same (5 elements in 5 groups) between them.

Recently, Nikon completely redesigned their 1.4x teleconverter, and released the TC-14EIII. This new teleconverter uses a different optical formula (7 elements in 4 groups) and includes fluorine-coated front and rear elements to improve resistance to dirt and oil. The body of the TC-14EIII was also redesigned, to include a more prominent grip. It also includes weather-sealing (gasket) on the F-mount.

The real question is whether the new TC-14EIII is better optically than its predecessor. While all teleconverters will degrade an image, the 1.4x versions are usually the least destructive. The TC-14E/EII has long been considered to be an excellent teleconverter, delivering sharp results across a wide range of Nikon telephoto lenses.

Caveats

Before I go on, let me remind you of a couple key points about teleconverters.

  • Teleconverters restrict light coming into your lens. A 1.4x TC results in a one-stop loss of light. Thus a f/4 lens becomes a f/5.6 lens when shot wide-open using the converter.
  • Teleconverters magnify imperfections in your lenses. If you put a teleconverter on marginal glass, you’ll notice soft corners and other imperfections that you may not have seen. The better your base optics, the better results you’ll get when using a TC.
  • Nikon teleconverters (TC-14E, TC-17E, and TC-20E models) only mount on certain AF-S lenses. The F-mount is modified to work only with a specified list of telephoto lenses. You cannot physically connect a Nikon TC to lenses it is not compatible with.
  • On lenses with maximum apertures of f/5.6 or greater, autofocus may not operate well or at all unless you are using a newer Nikon DSLR, such as the D4, D800, D810 or D750.

Testing Methodology

In order to compare the TC-14E with the TC-14EIII, I set up my Nikon D810 on a tripod. I used mirror lock-up to eliminate camera shake. For each converter, I focused using Live View and then set the camera to manual focus to lock the lens focus. My test target was a newspaper taped to my wall about 8′ from the camera.

I tested each teleconverter on my Nikon 70-200mm f/4 AFS G VRII lens. I know from experience that this is an incredibly sharp lens that handles teleconverters well. I examined the teleconverters performance from f/5.6 (wide-open) to f/11. My rationale being that most of the time you’ll be wanting to use your lens as close to wide-open as possible to maximize shutter speed.

Once I captured the images, I viewed them side by-side in Lightroom 5 with all lens corrections disabled. I wanted to see any effects of vignetting or distortion on the images. I compared the center and corners of each aperture pair.

Results

Overall, both the TC-14E and TC-14EIII were excellent in the center of the image frame across the range of tested apertures. As I moved to the outer third of the frame, The images from the TC-14EIII had slightly better contrast and sharpness. In the extreme corners, the TC-14EIII images were sharper than those using the TC-14E.

I also noticed that despite identical exposure settings, the images from the TC-14EIII were between 1/6 and 1/3EV brighter than those captured using the older TC-14E. This may be due to slight differences in optical coatings. Nevertheless, the histograms clearly indicated that the shots captured with the TC-14E were slightly underexposed as compared to the new teleconverter. Both converters handled light fall-off well.

At f/8 and f/11, both teleconverters delivered excellent results, with the TC-14EIII having a very slight advantage in the image corners.

Comparisons

For each of the images below, click to see a larger view.

Full-frame comparison of TC-14EIII (left) and TC-14E (right). Notice that the right image is slightly (about 1/6 stop) darker.
Full-frame comparison of TC-14EIII (left) and TC-14E (right). Notice that the right image is slightly (about 1/6 stop) darker.
TC-14EIII (left) vs. TC-14E (right) image center, captured at f/6.3 (1/3 stop down from wide-open).
TC-14EIII (left) vs. TC-14E (right) image center, captured at f/6.3 (1/3 stop down from wide-open).
Image corner viewed at 100% of TC-14EIII (left) and TC-14E (right), showing a slight improvement in contrast and sharpness of the TC-14EIII image.
Image corner viewed at 100% of TC-14EIII (left) and TC-14E (right), showing a slight improvement in contrast and sharpness of the TC-14EIII image.

Conclusions

The TC-14EIII is Nikon’s latest redesign of their venerable 1.4x teleconverter. Optically, the new design delivers slightly brighter and sharper image corners than the previous version. For photographers looking to maximize image quality on pro glass, the TC-14EIII is an excellent teleconverter. It also adds weather-sealing and dirt/oil resistant coatings, making it desirable for outdoor/nature photographers.

Overall, the optical differences between the new and old teleconverter designs were quite subtle. Unless you’re using top glass, such as Nikon’s telephoto primes, and a high-resolution camera like the D810, you probably won’t notice too many differences in everyday images. In fact, if your images are close-ups with out of focus backgrounds, then the improved corner sharpness won’t have any bearing on your photos whatsoever.

The Nikon TC-14EIII teleconverter lists for just around $500. The TC-14EII has been discontinued, but can be found on the used market.

Fujifilm 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Hands-on Review

Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak captured with the Fuji 18-135mm OIS lens.
Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak captured with the Fuji 18-135mm OIS lens.

After spending a lot of time using my Fuji X-T1 body this past spring and summer, I decided to purchase the recently released 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Fujinon lens. This lens is the first offering from Fujifilm to include weather-sealing, in the form of a gasket around the lens mount. In this post, I’ll attempt to answer the most common questions you might have regarding this lens, especially as it relates to the existing 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS kit lens. Scroll to the bottom for my video review of these two lenses.

Basics

The 18-135mm Fujinon is a solidly constructed zoom lens that is larger and heavier than the 18-55mm. It weighs just over one pound (490g) and is just slightly smaller than the 55-200mm Fujinon. Its focal length range is equivalent to using a 27-206mm lens on a 35mm format camera.  It uses a 67mm front filter thread and includes a petal-shaped bayonet lens hood. The lens is weather-sealed via a rubber gasket on the lens mount. Continue reading Fujifilm 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Hands-on Review

Sensor Plane Podcast #11: Nikon D810

Hands-on with the Nikon D810

I just received a new Nikon D810, which I bought from site sponsor B&H Photo. Although I’ve only had the camera in my hands for a few hours, I like it a lot. On paper, there aren’t that many discriminators between it and the D800/e. The D810 has a new sensor that dispenses with the Optical Low-Pass (OLP) filter entirely for ridiculously sharp images with amazing detail and resolution. In reality, these differences are quite small as compared to my D800e which used some technical trickery to “eliminate” the OLP filter.  In this episode of The Sensor Plane, I discuss my rationale for upgrading and compare the D810 with my other cameras. Stay tuned until the end where I offer some tips for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom!

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Download an audio only version of this podcast (mp3) here

Why did I choose to upgrade? As usual, it’s in the details. While no single feature of the D810 blows me away, it’s the sum of the parts that really makes this a solid upgrade. More importantly, it’s how this camera fits into my kit that sold me on it. Continue reading Sensor Plane Podcast #11: Nikon D810

The Sensor Plane Photography Podcast #9

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A trip to South Texas for birding means packing big glass and using the right settings. In today’s episode, I review the Think Tank Photo Airport Security 2.0 roller bag, and share my tips for getting sharp shots of small birds. I also share some of my images from this year’s South Texas Birding Experience photo safari.

For an audio-only version of this episode (MP3 format), click here.

 

Review: Think Tank Photo Mirrorless Mover 30i

Since I bought my Fujifilm X-T1 system, all of my camera bags were suddenly too big! I purchased a Think Tank Photo Mirrorless Mover 30i to carry it in. It’s perfect for walking around with the camera and a couple of lenses plus accessories. I still may get a slightly larger bag for times when I want to pack the entire kit, but right now, the Mirrorless Mover 30i is a good fit for me. It’s small, well-built, and can carry the X-T1 plus four lenses and accessories, including my iPad. For vacation travel, that’s a perfect combination!

Check out my review of the Think Thank Photo Mirrorless Mover 30i bag on YouTube:

[youtube_sc url=”http://youtu.be/WPJ-bf4xQXU” title=”Think%20Tank%20Photo%20Mirrorless%20Mover%2030i%20camera%20bag%20review” autohide=”1″]

Check out the Mirrorless Mover bags at Think Tank Photo and receive a bonus item with any order of $50 or more.