I used http://www.2filters.com to purchase my camera filters. There out of CT, reasonably priced, and quick turnaround onorders.
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Many thanks to all for your responses/opinions. As an update, I called Abe's and obtained an RMA for the Crystal/Merkury Optic $49 filter kit. (and I thought I was doing good negotiating them down from $149...) No real hassles but, then again, we'll see how long it takes to get the credit - I'll do a follow up report then.
As to the $29+ UPS charges, the response was that is for UPS Ground. I guess that's how they make up for the $323 price on the FZ5.
I took your suggestion, Tom/ttkbear, and looked at 2filters.com. Some postings at http://www.photo.net
recommended them, as well. I hope to have my order from them of the Hoya SMC UV (O), SMC CP and HMC 3-piece Close Up set by Friday. I also just ordered a TCON-17 from B&H.
Reading threads on teleconverters, I realized that going beyond the 1.7x is asking too much of the FZ5's 12X with the issues of sharpness etc. (I remember buying years ago an after market zoom lens that, at full 400+mm the largest F-stop was f16 - ycch)
A couple ofquestions for all, though -
--I've read some threads implying one can double a TCON-1.4 w/ a TCON-1.7. Is this possible and, if so, are there large penalties such as loss of F-stops, sharpness, viginetting,CA etc? I have an interest in long telephoto shots of the local Bald Eagles that winter over in the the local mountains of SoCal...
--Any field tips on settings for both stationary and in-flights shots? Nesting areas are in tall trees and I'll need to shoot from opposite shorelines of lake at ~5,000'+ altitude and/or from a small boat.