After having been on the waiting list for more than a year, I finally got a call from Grays last week, saying that they’ve got a TC20E-iii tele converter in stock. Would I still be interested? Oh yes, absolutely, yes! Tele converters aren’t that unusual or exotic, but since Nikon launched this converter in 2009, they have been in backorder ever since. My guess is that somebody in Nikon’s production planning department seriously underestimated the demand.
There’s the annual Southend Airshow next weekend, so the timing was pretty perfect. The converter changes my 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom to a 140-400mm f/5.6. The combo, including camera, weighs in at the wrong side of 7 lbs. So I decided that it might be a good idea to go out and practise a little with a monopod. I haven’t been in South Weald Country Park for ages, so as well as taking the gear for a “test drive”, it was also a good excuse for getting out in the park, soaking up some rays and looking at the birds.
The park was lovely, and some of the Canada Geese still had goslings swimming around after them. Not sure what has happened to this year’s ducklings, but I didn’t see any. As well as loads of shots of cute, fury goslings (I’m sure I’m not the only one who can’t control my trigger finger when I see baby animals), I also tried to get a shot of ducks landing or taking off with spray of water from their wings. That last part turned out to be tricky. I’ve got maybe 200 shots of a duck just about to land on the water, or a duck that landed on the water a second earlier, and one single shot of a duck actually spraying water with his wings, and that one is a close crop.
Most of the time, I was crouched down on one knee, with my camera arm resting on my thigh. I had brought my monopod, but even at it’s minimum extension it felt too long for this shooting position. So while walking back to the car, knees and back aching, I promised myself that next time, I will bring a folding chair and the tripod. Then I’ll be the lazy luxury photographer who sits comfortably without having to hold the weight of the camera, and just takes his time waiting for the birds to perform. Not that different from the attitude most anglers have with their fishing, I guess, and that seems to work well for them.
When I got home to review the pictures, I was keen to see what effect, if any, the tele converter had on image quality. This is obviously not a formal test, and I don’t have identically framed pictures to compare. When pixel-peeping, it seems to me that the image quality wide open is below what the 70-200 on its own can do wide open, but as soon as I stopped the combo down from f/5.6 to f/8, the images were very sharp with plenty of fine detail. Having said that, the images on this page were all shot wide open at f/5.6, and they seem okay to me. I also noticed during the shooting that the auto focus takes a little longer to work than without the converter – not horribly long, but enough that it is noticeable. Maybe I’ve gotten used to being spoilt with fast lenses. So that’s two things for me to be aware of, but other than that, I am very happy with my new acquisition.
There is a slideshow with additional and larger pictures from the day here.