Comparing Some Wide-Angle Converters on the VX2000
DAVID RUETHER

(First posted April 19, 2002 - last modified 3/10/07)


Unfortunately, almost all zooms built into Mini-DV camcorders have as their 
shortest focal lengths rather "unwide" 42mm-48mm equivalents in 35mm-camera 
terms. This limits the angle of coverage at the "wide-angle" end of their zoom ranges 
to approximately what a "normal" focal length lens would provide in 35mm. Many of 
us who like to use wide-angle lenses find this unacceptably limiting. The answer has 
been to add wide-angle converters to the zoom lenses, shortening their focal lengths 
by a multiplier like ".5", ".6", etc. (the smaller the number, the wider the coverage of 
the combination). Among the many inexpensive wide-angle add-on converters made 
for camcorder lenses for increasing the angles of view of their zooms, only a few will 
fit the 58mm mounting thread size of the VX2000/PD150/DSR250. I include here not 
all that are available (notably, the Sony VCL-0758HG .7X, the Century and Optex 
entries [all of which are more expensive than the ones included here - though two 
Century models are shown
here, in the Canon XL-1 review], and some "clip-on" 
Raynox models [I tried the Raynox .3X fisheye clip-on converter, which was 
disappointing - the edges and corners of the image were soft, and there was very 
noticeable red/green color fringing from under corrected chromatic aberration]).

Wide-angle converters fall into two main categories, "zoom-through" and "non-zoom-
through". "Zoom-through" converters permit zooming through at least most of the 
zoom's range with good optical performance and correct focus; "non-zoom-through" 
converters permit use of only a small part of the possible range of zooming before 
either correct focus or acceptable image quality cannot be maintained. Converters 
may also be categorized as either multi-element (these are physically longer, and they 
generally do not change the focus of the lens when attached), or single-element (these 
are flat, and they generally do change the focus of the lens - and require use of the 
"macro" focus range of the lens to reach infinity-focus). All single-element and most 
"fisheye" converters are of the "non-zoom-through" type. Most wide-angle converters 
of all types (even those not called "fisheye") show considerable "barrel distortion" 
(look
here and here for more on lens distortion). The Raynox ".66X" and the Sony 
"HG"-series converters are the exceptions (since writing this comparison I have added 
the 58mm-threaded Sony .7X HG converter to my collection and it is excellent, being 
sharp to the corners, low in distortion, and it zooms through well - but it is relatively 
heavy, large, and expensive [and mine, the 1.7X tele version, and one of my Canon 
WD-58s are for sale - see:
www.donferrario.com/ruether/fs-camcorders.htm]). Most 
converters show various image faults, particularly at the image edges and corners 
(see t
his article for examples and descriptions of many video image characteristics). 
It is obvious from the frame-grabs that the magnification numbers are not always 
accurate (the Sony ".6X" is about as wide as a .5X; the Cavision ".4X" is similar to 
about .6X in width). The Sony ".6X" is used with a 58mm->52mm step-down ring 
(it is one of the few this can be done with - though I tried removing all adapters from 
the Sony and gluing an empty 58mm filter rim to its back, with the results shown 
below); the Sakar ".42X" is used with a 58mm->SeriesVII adapter; the Cavision .6X 
is used with a series of rings for flattest field (58mm->62mm, 62mm->72mm, a thick 
empty Tiffen 72mm filter rim, then a 72mm->77mm); all the others are supplied with 
58mm mounting threads except the Raynox DCR-FE180 Pro, which comes with 
62mm threads plus 58mm and 52mm adapter rings. The ".42X" and ".4X" models 
included here are unfortunately no longer offered for sale new (I have the Cavision
DFA04X58 for sale here:
www.donferrario.com/ruether/fs-misc-video-audio.htm).

Note:

The frame-grabs at the links below (each link brings up a new browser window, 
which can be resized and kept open for side-by-side comparisons) were all shot 
from the same position at f2.8 (except for the Cavision .6X and the Raynox .66X 
+ Cavision .6X images, which were shot on a different day, at f2). They are 
720x480 pixels in size (full-frame), grabbed from the Premiere timeline (best 
frame chosen), and equally compressed (and unaltered from the original except 
for compression but for the "1X" images - which were accidentally shot at f2, and 
modified to best match the others in tone...). Considerable image area at the frame 
edges is not shown on most TVs, and as a result some of the edge/corner softness 
and all of the vignetting that shows in some of the images is hidden in the TV image. 
To best compare the imaging quality of the converters with the same subjects that 
appear in the upper left and right corners of the wider converter frames, there are 
two ("left" and "right") entries for the narrower-angle converters (and one "center" 
entry for the wider).


The converters are, in order of rated magnification:

  - No converter - 1X 
        (o) ---- (
Left - Right)
  - Canon WD-58 - .7X 
       (multi-element zoom-through) ---- (
Left - Right)
  - Raynox HD6600-58 - .66X 
       (multi-element zoom-through - but soft at edges near max 
          tele - unusually low linear distortion - higher than usual
           tendency to flare and ghosting) ---- (
Left - Right)
  - Sony VCL-ES06 - ".6X" (closer to .5X) 
       (single-element non-zoom-through - but zooming slightly 
          from WA is OK) ---- (
Center)
       (same, but with glued-on 58mm filter ring used instead of 
          the included adapters, to remove vignetting) ---- (
Center)
  - Cavision PWA06X77 - .6X
       (single-element non-zoom-through - but zooming some
          from WA is OK - used with stepping rings) ---- (
Center)
  - Cavision DWC05X58 - .5X 
       (multi-element zoom-through) ---- (
Center)
  - Sakar - .42X 
       (multi-element non-zoom-through) ---- (
Center)
  - Cavision DFA04X58 - ".4X" (closer to .6X)
       (single-element non-zoom-through - but zooming slightly
          from WA is OK) ---- (
Center)
  - Raynox HD6600-58 + Cavision PWA06X77 - ".39X"
       (multi-element non-zoom-through - but zooming slightly
          from WA is OK) ---- (
Center)
  - Raynox DCR-FE180 - .24X 
       (multi-element zoom-through - but soft at edges beyond
           about 2X marked range [4X zoom]) ---- (
Center)

For shades and other VX2000 odds-and-ends, go here.

I consider the sample tried of the Cavision DWC05X58, and the combination of 
the Raynox HD6600-58 and Cavision PWA06X77 converters to be not acceptably 
sharp for most purposes. The rest range from good to excellent if used as noted. 
Promising, but untried, is the Century bayonet-mount fisheye (the excellent but 
expensive Raynox 62mm-threaded partial zoom-through full-frame fisheye is included 
above). BTW, the Cavision PWA06X77 is one of the few WA converters available 
that will fit the Panasonic DVX100 camcorder (with 72mm->77mm step-up ring), 
giving about 20% wider coverage than with the same converter on the VX2000.

Some of my many wide-angle and one tele lens converters are available FS - email 
me  at: d_ruether@hotmail.com for more information...

All of this is copyrighted material (David Ruether, 2002-7), and may not be reproduced 
without permission. Permission is granted to copy this material (including any of the 
still photos) for personal use only.

"Hope This Helps"
David Ruether (d_ruether@hotmail.com)


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