Teleconverters are a cheap way of extending the reach of a lens, and thus have become most popular to many photographers - amateur to pro. Not only scan they extend the reach of certain lenses, they often bring new life into some lenses and have the added benefit of allowing the photographer to carry a small converter to extend the reach of a lens and thus remove the need to carry yet another heavy piece of glass into the field.
In August of 2014, Nikon updated their popular 1.4x teleconverter to the third edition, "III". This is a quick look at their new offering.
The newly introduced model, TC-14e III, is thiner and lighter than the prior model, the TC-14e II. Designed for some of the higher-end Nikkor prime and zoom lenses, the new lens features front and rear optical surfaces with fluorine coatings, which repel water droplets and is weather-resistant to suit working in inclement conditions. (The teleconverter was introduced at the same time the $11,000 Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 lens was announced - a great pair if money is no object.) So has this little gem really improved with this new release?
A Closer Look
Where this teleconverter really stands out in the series of Nikkor teleconverters, (TC-14, TC-17 and TC-20), is that it offers a 40% increase in reach while just losing one f-stop. The old one did that but the glass elements have now been improved for better purity in light transmission. Translation - better image quality. The issue with the prior version was that there was a slight loss of sharpness - as is inherent with most teleconverters. But not nearly as bad as the other in the series. Although both the TC-17 (1.7x) and TC-20 (2x) both increase reach, the cost of light loss and poor overall image quality turns most pros off. But not the TC-14e models.
The TC-14e III maintains full support for autofocus, exposure metering, and VR image stabilization with compatible lenses. Ah the rub - only some of the Nikkor lenses are compatible with the new teleconverter (please see Nikon's website for the complete list.)
TC-14e Teleconverter Comparison
|Nikon TC-14E III (new version)||Nikon TC-14E II (old version)|
|Lens construction||7 elements in 4 groups||5 elements in 5 groups|
|Minimum focus distance||Same as that of a prime lens||Same as that of a prime lens|
|Diameter x length
(distance from camera lens mount flange)
|64 x 24.5mm||66 x 24.5mm|
Just how much better is this teleconverter over its predecessor is the focus of this 'quick look'. I took controlled test shots using a Nikkor AF-S 70mm-200mm f/2.8 ED VR II and a Nikkor AF-S 80mm-400mm f/4.5-5.6 ED VR Lens. The test camera was a Nikon D810 mounted on a tripod and a remote shutter release was used with MirrorUp with Front Curtain to keep vibrations down. There is not much more I could do to ensure there were no variables to adversely affect the samples. I took ten test shots to determine if the samples were the same.
Each shot was reviewed as to whether any real loss in image quality was visible when viewed at 100% and at 200% magnification.
In each of these tests, I expected the greatest loss in quality to be at the fully extended zoom position. So was the case. For this quick review, I have only posted lenses at their extreme zoomed out positions. All images have been cropped to be the same size for comparison purposes. Each lens was set to f/8 with an ISO of 64.
70-200mm Test sample with and without the TC-14e III.
70 - 200 f/2.8 @ 200mm
70 -200 f/2.8 @ 200mm w/TC-14e III = focal length of 280mm
At a 200% crop, I notice little to no loss in image quality when using the TC-14e III on the 70-200mm. The Nikon D810 will certainly bring out any flaws in this lens combination. From center to edges, I found no issues with this combination. I often shoot at f/8 for sports, but this winning combination works at f/4.
TC-14e III compared with the TC-14e II
80-400 f/8 @ 400mm w/TC-14e III = focal length of 560mm
80-400 f/8 @ 400mm w/TC-14e II - focal length of 560mm
When compared to the TC-14e II on the 80-400mm, the TC-14e III is sharper (to me) - especially the edges.
In the end, I found nearly no loss in image quality when I added the TC-14e III to either zoom lens.
Adding the teleconverter to the 80-400mm did affect quick focus in low lighting causing the lens to hunt at times. Wide open it is f/8 which is a contributing factor of course. In bright light, however, I had no problem with quick focusing and my 80-400mm lens becomes a 112mm - 560mm f/8 zoom lens.
I found no issue with the 70-200mm. The TC-14e III makes this lens a 98mm-280mm f/4 zoom lens.
In terms of contrast, color saturation and overall image quality, I did find the TC-14e III to be an improvement over the TC-14e II. But is it worth getting rid of your TC-14e II and upgrading to the TC-14e III? If you are a pixel peeper and want the best teleconverter that the market currently offers for specific Nikkor lenses - then absolutely. But that's just me. Will it make a 70-200mm lens as sharp as a 300mm prime. It is pretty close to the 300mm f/4 (plus now you have the added zoom capability from 98mm ). But it is not perfect. Will it make an 80-400mm as good as a 600mm prime. No, but it also does not cost $10,000. For around $500 - this little guy makes a great investment that you can easily carry and add on whenever you need extra reach and want to retain the image quality of the better Nikkor lenses.
With a limited number of interesting subjects in my backyard - I decided to shoot each of the next two images as examples of a real word environment using each lens fully zoomed out (200mm and 400mm) with the TC-14e III. You can decide if you think it is worth having.
70-200mm @ 200mm w/TC-14e III = 280mm, f/8, 1/320, ISO 250 (tripod mounted)
(Notice the fine spider's web between these tiny 1/4" leaves)
80-400mm @ 400mm w/TC-14e III = 560mm, f/8, 1/640sec, ISO 320 (tripod mounted)
Before and After
(focus was on the tiny one inch rose bud)
80-400mm @ ~ 342mm w/TC-14e III = 480mm, f/8, 1/200 sec, ISO 1250 (tripod mounted)
80-400mm @ 400mm w/TC-14e III = 560mm, f/8, 1/100 sec, ISO 125 (tripod mounted/MirrorUp mode)
Final Crop @ 150% = 840mm effective focal length
80-400mm @ ~ 400mm w/TC-14e III = 560mm, f/8, 1/100 sec, ISO 125 (tripod mounted)