Monday, March 29, 2010

Nikon AF-I Teleconverter TC14E 1.4x Review

The Nikon AF-I Teleconverter TC14E 1.4X is the previous generation teleconverter from Nikon, but it shares the same optics of the current TC14EII. The differences between the two are purely cosmetic as far as I can tell from charts on Nikon's website. The older models having the same crinkle surface texture, like AF-I lenses, such as the Nikon 300mm F4 AF-S IF-ED. The only other possible possible difference between the AF-I TC14e and the current TC14E II is in the coatings applied to the glass, although this cannot be confirmed. I note to people interested in a Nikon 1.4x TC, this review is based only on use with the Nikon 300mm F4 AF-S IF-ED.

Build Quality: 
This teleconverter is made of metal and thus has a rugged construction. The TC comes with a standard rear Nikon cap, and the BF-3 front cap, designed to fit only the TC. The BF-3 does not fit on a camera body. As noted before the surface texture of the the TC14E 1.4X is the same as that of earlier Nikon AF-I lenses. The aperture lever is loose when the TC is not mounted on a lens, don't be alarmed this is normal. The front element is surrounded by a rubber gasket, to protect it when mounting the lens to the TC. Mount the TC on your camera as you would a lens, then mount the lens on the TC. Note: Nikon TC14E/TC14EII will not auto focus screw driven lenses, only AF-S and AF-I lenses.

Auto Focus Speed and Accuracy:
When using the TC14E there will be a reduction in auto focus speed, as the amount of light your lens can gather is reduced by 1 stop. The camera will report the loss of one stop in the aperture reading in camera and in EXIF data. If you shoot a moving subjects, such as birds in flight, start tracking them a little bit earlier than you normally would, to insure that you can achieve focus for the critical moment. I used the TC14E on my AF-S 300mm F4D IF-ED in low light conditions and it can cause a camera like the D300 to struggle in achieving accurate focus at times, so make sure you use a cross type AF sensor when using the teleconverter.

Image Quality:
From my tests, both of static objects at home and in the field, I would say that my copy of the TC14E is very sharp, and makes almost no noticeable reduction in image quality. You will notice a drop off in resolution, especially if you do any heavy cropping. Image samples can be found at the bottom of the page.

Comments and Conclusion:
On a DX body, with a 300mm lens, the TC gives you approximately 630mm field of view. On an FX/35mm film camera, it increases your focal length to 420mm. An F4 lens effectively becomes an F5.6 lens with the TC14E mounted. The camera sees this and shows that information in the viewfinder. The proper information is also shown in EXIF data, unlike some third party teleconverters. Do not, under any circumstances attempt to use a Nikon teleconverter on lenses such as the Nikon 55-200mm AF-S VR, or 70-300mm G/ED/or AF-S VR, doing so could damage the rear element of your lens, and the front element of the TC. The current Nikon teleconverters are only designed to be used on lenses that are 200mm or longer, with apertures of F2.8 (ALL) or F4 (Only TC14EI & II).

- Used Prices are low (half that of a TC14e II)
- Same high quality optics as current TC14e II
- Made of Metal, thus it can take a beating like a pro lens

- No dust or moisture seal on front or back of the TC
- Slight loss of resolution, noticeable when cropping heavily
- Reduces auto focus speed, and accuracy under some conditions.

Sample Images: Click on image for higher resolution view.
All taken with a D300 or D700,  AF-S 300mm F4D IF-ED and TC14E 1.4X