Kenko 1.4X Teleconverter Review

Kenko 1.4 teleconverter EF Sony Canon Fuji
I know I never seem to have a long enough lens, even with a 400mm monster in my case. My next shorter lens is a 70-200 2.8 Tamron, which again I always seem to want a little more reach with. Enter the 1.4X converter. this turns 200mm into 280mm of reach. The trade off is a 1 stop light loss, and some image degradation according to the pixel peepers.
Now you’ve probably never heard of Kenko, or at best passed the name by as some low quality brand. The fact is the converter appears to be identical to the Tamron converter except in color and price. A number of still shooter sites had good things to say about the Kenko, but of course until you have a unit in hand, you never know.
There are at least 3 versions of Kenko’s 1.4 Converter. The newest model is the Kenko C-AF 1.4X DGX Pro 300 converter version which is a 7 element converter.  This is the top of the line unit, with a price to match. There is an older DG model, and there is a the MC4 model which is a 4 element version which is about $110 cheaper. The DGX and DG are 7 element converters which offer better quality and ideally the one you want.
Kenko 1.4x converter tele 2x
The Good
The Kenko is a nice small compact unit. You can easily carry it in your pocket for when you need to travel light and fast, but could use some extra reach. It has a full set of contacts to pass thru lens control to the camera body. With several lenses I tried, it also seems to add exposure compensation so that a mounted 2.8 lens will read 4.0. This is a very cool feature to have, especially for shooting stills. Autofocus works when shooting stills.  I won’t offer any comments on focus speed and accuracy because its not something I’ve used very much so far. When shooting video I’d never be using AF even if it was an option. The converter does work provided the lens you put on doesn’t put you below 5.6 where the AF system won’t work.
canon 1.4x EF tele extender converter
The canon converter as I mentioned only works with longer lenses, but the Kenko will work on anything you can mount to it. I’ve used my Tamron 17-50 2.8 on it with success creating a 24-70 F4 lens. The Tamron 17-50 2.8 also continued to have its super close focusing as well. This is so handy when you need a little more reach and can live with the light loss of 1 stop. With the converter my 50 1.4 OM is now a 70 F2.0. Kenko does recommend using the converter on longer lenses only, but the bottom line is if it works and the image quality is ok, who cares.
The canon 1.4X extender of excellent optical quality has a serious limitation :  its front element sticks out past the front of the lens mount. It is really only designed to work with long canon glass like the 300 2.8, 70-200 2.8 and bigger. If you wanted to get about 70mm from your 50mm by adding the extender, well thats not happening. With the canon they just won’t fit together without hitting glass elements each other, thats if they would even mount together at all. Its a bit surprising that canon has not changed this design with a model III unit, but I guess they wanted the absolute best performance with their long lenses. Just as note, the canon comes in model II and model ( more expensive ) III.  Maybe if you are a working pro photog competing with 20 other shooters to sell the same shot, the ( I’m sure ) every so slightly sharper canon might possibly be your edge… except 15 of the other shooters probably have one too. I don’t have a canon 800mm L lens here to see if it that makes a difference either, but if you can afford one of those lenses, then this extender isn’t even sales tax on the big lens.
The Optical Quality
Tamron 70-200 2.8 @ F4 + Kenko 1.4X DGX TelePlus Pro 300 – click on image for larger version
Alright, this is the question that got you to read this  most likely, so lets get to it !
The optical quality of the Kenko is dead on awesome. With my tests, both stills and video, there was no way to tell it was in use. Maybe this means I needed to test harder to see the difference that should be there. I shot my tests with a Tamron 70-200 2.8 which is an excellent optical performer on par with the canon 70-200 2.8L II. I have no question that using this unit is not doing any harm to your image sharpness that anyone will even see including the even the pixel peepers. Well that is to say unless all you do is shoot resolution charts all day long perfectly. My image chart tests revealed nothing, or should I say no noticeable loss when shooting with a 60D. This is a crop sensor camera so its using the best part of the converter’s image. You MIGHT find a 5D there is some softness on the edges, or not.
My test results where consistent in both shooting stills and video of test charts.
Shooting some real world video on real shoots, the 1.4X performed perfectly. The shots I got from it I could not tell were taken with the converter, it except I already new. With some lenses, you may need to open them up a stop since not all lenses will talk to the camera body thru the converter correctly. Most of my lenses did ok.
All the online reviews I read put this right up against the canon for image quality, except of course the canon costs a good deal more. I’m going to say yes its true this is a great converter that will keep even the very picky happy.
Optical Quirks
This is the slippery slope where it gets more interesting. One thing I found is that when using a zoom like the 17-50 Tamron, focus changed between focal lengths. If I focused at 50mm, then pulled back to 35 or 24, the image got soft. I had to refocus at that focal length. This isn’t the end of the world, but it is something have drilled into your head when shooting in fast moving situations – focus focus focus ! Don’t zoom in focus and then pull back with the converter mounted, you have to use the camera’s image zoom function to check critical focus.
I also found the 70-200 also exhibited this quirk. Its not the end of the world, but it is something to be on your toes about.
The Bad
Are there any downsides to this unit ? Well all 1.4X converters cause a 1 stop light loss, so I can’t complain here. There is probably one thing I will complain about, and its the front lens mount on the converter. When a lens is mounted to the converter, there can by a little bit of play in the mount. The mounted lens may have some wiggle. Its very small, but its there. This wiggle so far has not caused me any problems that I can tell, and may represent the only thing there the canon might beat this one out. I think this is a minor problem for the cost vs the great optical quality of the unit.
UPDATE : 5 or is it 7 years later I still have this converter in use when I need a little more reach.

Opteka Extension Tubes

What are extension tubes ? A very affordable and simple way of getting marco shots using the lenses you already have. Here is a quick review and tutorial on using extensions tubes. The set I’m using is from Opteka but these are identical – Vivitar Macro Extension Tube Set (Set of 3) for Canon.

DaVinci Resolve Computer Setup and Basic Grading

“In Production” is a brand new video chat program where hosts  I and long time friend and friend Carey Dissmore discuss tools and topics related to the video production business. I think we both have a unique perspectives as independent production business owner/operators. We aren’t just here to talk about stuff in a generic review sort of way, but to share insights on using those tools in the real world. Does this thing _really_ work work better, does it make you money faster & easier ? Can you use this with a client in the room ?
This show will be produced periodically as series around specific topics. Our first series is on the topic of Color Grading and DaVinci Resolve. This series is comprised of 6 episodes, to be released weekly. The first two episodes are embedded below.
We hope you like this show and, as always, welcome your comments.
In Production : Intro To DaVinci Resolve

Direct YouTube Link http://youtu.be/V_MZYY8O4sY
DaVinci Resolve : Grading Basics

Once There Was Analog Video Gear In HD, A Look Back

96 point bantom audio patch batch
Looking at all this analog gear, and its complexities makes everything digital almost seem simpler, as long as it works.
I’m pulling gear out we thought would work longer then it has. Goodbye Beta SP ! I certainly don’t remember the last time I actually recorded an edit or even dub out to the format. Two years or so ago I went through a massive digitize thing where all beta SP tapes went to hard drive in ProRes. I haven’t used that deck since although with moving things around I’ve found maybe a couple more tapes I need to run thru and thats it.
There was a time when I could put 5 or 6 machines into record at once and make multiformat masters complete with matching TC.  These days even the local TVS’s are taking spots in some digital form – video DVD’s or finally actual QT files on disc or FTP.  So the need for all this stuff is pretty much gone.
I’m trying to figure out what last bits still count – 5.1 for analog outs to speakers for SRS mixing, maybe 1 composite line to feed scopes. Thats about it. We are building a small back room area for capturing the last beta SP, DV and HDV via FW. That setup is going to pretty much be just wires straight from the VTR into the MXO2. No need to route that or patch it thru to other rooms. We’ll capture on this one system and push the files onto the NAS and use them from there.
There is is some need to make the occasional TC burn from a HDV tape, but even that is fading away. When I can use the MAX encoder to turn out h264’s 5X faster then real time for SD with TC burned in, I’m not going to waste time running tape. I”ll still bill per running hour for TC burns, but it will be very different. Capture tape into computer which you have to do anyway, apply TC filter, encode, burn to DVD or push it up to our server for the client to view on whatever device they want. With tapeless formats, copy the card contents, drop into the NLE, and its done even faster.
Do I miss analog ? no so much. Ok I’ll admit a 1″ machine running, or even better yet shuttling at 50X with 2hr reels is quite impressive ( and dangerous ! ) but really I don’t miss the crankiness of that gear at all.
Well this shot was this morning. Tonite, most of this has been taken apart and I’m wondering whats worth messing with. I”m pretty sure I may well rip this all apart, maybe use one patch bay for audio and video and the other two will go away. Its just redundant for the most part. With SDI its just one wire instead of 3 video ( YUV ) + 2 audio lines.  Any of the Y/C connections at this point are pretty much useless too.
I have a stack of Y/C ( SVHS ) connector to BNC break out cables if anyone wants them !
I have LOTS of cable. There is something like 400ft of audio cable in this rack ! Here are some ends that run out to speakers that I pulled back to transport everything.

DIY Quick Fixes For Your Busted Letus Hawk

For $400, ( Ok, B&H has them on special for $349 ) none of what I’m going to reveal next should be needed. The repairs I’ve done and problems I’ve had are to be expected from something at maybe 1/3 of the price where you can say ” well it was cheap, and the fix wasn’t bad, some I’m ok with it.”

When I first got the Letus Hawk LCD Viewfinder Loupe, the mounting holes stripped out. The inserts in the very sexy carbon fibre body are soft steel. My next replacement had ok inserts, but some weird blob, probably fungus developed on the inside of the lens. Ok, third time is a charm, right ? Well yes, for a while.

After a bit of use, the hex screws came loose. I tightened them, and one of them stripped out again. This time, I just wasn’t in the mood to exchange the unit again, even if it is covered under warranty. Instead I realized that since the bracket design was flawed, I needed to come up with a better idea. The fix was very simple, epoxy. Given that the body is carbon fibre, its made of either polyester or epoxy resin. Epoxy will stick to either very well, and I had some good quality epoxy that dried glossy black.

letus hawk DSLR viewfinder magnifier fix
letus hawk DSLR viewfinder magnifier fix with black epoxy

First I cleaned up the hood body by wiping it off with paint thinner, and letting that completely evaporate. Next I actually glued the rubber gasket on using ACC ( crazy glue ) by running the glue around the inside of the rubber bumper. I slipped the bumper onto the loupe body and this just isn’t going anywhere.

Next in the area where the metal bracket meets the loupe body, I sanded that area a bit to improve the bonding area.

I slid the loupe bracket into its socket on the camera, and made sure it was sitting the way its supposed to, and then placed the loupe itself on the LCD screen in proper alignment.

Finally I mixed up the epoxy, about a teaspoon’s worth, and applied on the area where the bracket mounts to the loupe body. The epoxy I had was very thick, and I applied a pretty small amount to just cover the immediate bonding area. Since I was working above the actual camera LCD screen I was being super careful about not dripping or squeezing out any epoxy onto the screen surface.

letus hawk dslr zacuto viewfinder
I then screwed in the two screws, each with some epoxy on their shafts. Even though one was stripped out, it still gave me some grab, and the steel pin glued in place doesn’t hurt anything.

With the remaining epoxy, I globbed it on and around the metal bracket and out onto the loupe body for additional bonding area. I also got epoxy into the screw slots in the bracket to again help with getting  the best bond I could. Epoxy does have body strength and I was just taking advantage of it.

I let it dry over night, and so far, so good. It looks like I’ll now have a solid dependable connection that isn’t letting go all the time. Sure its hard to design small reliable brackets likes this, but this is old ground in engineering. The answer is simple : hardened steel or stainless steel, not the cheap soft steel screws and inserts that are currently used. Also, if you haven’t yet stripped out your screws ( it takes 2-3 adjustments to do so in my experience ) you can add a #4 washer ( read really small ) between the screw and the bracket. This will stop the bracket from moving away from the camera when you tighten it the one or two times that you can.

So my word to Letus is : get some hardened stainless steel bolts and inserts, or just change the mount completely… please ! the great optics deserve a better mounting system.