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Old Mar 4, 2007, 12:34 AM   #21
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Over the years I also went through the same (rather painful) learning experience with buying thrid-party conversion lenses. My conclusion is - quality is always proportional to reputation of the lens manufacturer PLUS price (not just "price" only - even stores may sell you pricey junk!)

If you read the forums here, you see over and over again disappointment with the image quality of non name brands (especially from eBay) like Crystal Optics, Titanium, Optek. I would rather stick to the better known third party conversion lens manufacturers like Raynox and Tiffen, but these afermarket digital camera products are also getting quite expensive.

My experience is that the non name brand wide angle conversion lenses are useless - major vignetting problems, barrel distortion etc. When the distortion gets too high these companies simply market the lens as "fisheyes"!! I also find that the no name brand telephotos with 2X or more magnification does not work (or does not work very well) - major problem with autofocus at high zoom, especially when your camera already has a long zoom (eg. 200 mm plus), low resolution/ sharpness. I also find that the "power" of these lens (X0.7, X2 etc.) are never as good as they claim (but the manufacturers may argue that it "varies with different point&shoot cameras).

You must understand that the design of non-DSLR cameras is integral - the autofocus, exposure etc. only works best with the specific lens of the camera, and specifically designed conversion lens with widening/ telephoto power within the design limits of the particular camera. True I believe the name brand aftermarket manufacturers like Raynox do make far superior lenses than the non name brands, but their conversion lenses may still not work perfectly on every non-DSLR, because the conversion lens sits in front of the camera lens and has to accomodate the optical elements of the original camera - this is very different from a DSLR, when the interchageable lens IS the optical element (unless you are using a tele or wide converter that sits behind the original lens)

Actually I must say that the autofocus problem with very long zoom should not be blamed on the quality of the lens alone - true if the conversion lens produces a fuzzy image, the camera will never be able to autofocus. However, difficulty with autofocus is always a problem with long telephoto lens (eg. digiscoping).

What I have done in the past for bargain hunting, is to look for old camcorder lens from major manufacturers like Canon and Sony. Just like SLR lens, there used to be real good bargains with these camcorder lens, because the camcorders they fit have long been discontinued. I have bought brand new Canon camcorder wide and tele conversion lens from clearance for about $15 each, and they work well with my old Minolta Z10. True I agree camcorder lens may not have good quality like digital camera lens (eg. in terms of resolution), but at least I am sticking to major brandnames only. There is also no guarantee that the particular conversion lens/ camera combination will work - the main reason is the bargain: you lose a few dollars if they don't work.

It is a pity this type of bargains are also long gone, because just like SLR lens for DSLR cameras, many stores realize the potential of these major manufacturer's conversion lenses for digital cameras, and they immediately jack the price back up to normal.
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