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Teleconverters were popular gimmicks in the 1970s when everyone shot fixed prime lenses. Even the cheapest SLR came with a 50mm f/2 lens, and the cheapest telephoto was a 135mm f/2.8. Lenses got faster from there.
With a 2x teleconverter your 50mm became a quite usable 100mm f/4 and your 135 became a useful 270mm f/5.6.
Unfortunately teleconverters are almost useless for practical photography with today's zoom lenses. Popular zoom lenses are too slow. Teleconverters are most useful if you already have a fast (f/2.8) lens to begin with.
When you put a 2x teleconverter on a fast, constant aperture f/4 70-210 zoom you wind up with a useless f/8 lens. The f/8 equivalent is useless for two reasons: 1.) The f/8 is too slow to allow autofocus to work correctly, and 2.) f/8 requires long exposure times. Longer exposures with longer doubled focal lengths almost always gives images blurred by camera shake.
In order to use a 2x teleconverter you need to start off with a lens of at least f/2.8, and with a 1.4x teleconverter you need a lens of at least f/4.
Avoid 3x teleconverters. They almost assure a dark, blurry image every time.
Nikon realizes this, and therefore does not offer teleconverters for their AF lenses except for the fast, expensive f/2.8 AFS lenses.
If you are silly enough to insist on using a TC with most of the Nikon system you'll have to use an off-brand here.
For fast lenses of f/2.8 and faster by all means try one.
Forget it with slower zooms like the 80-400 VR. I also got poor results (unsharp) with the 80-200 f/2.8 AFS and TC-20E. I have not tried the $8,000 200 - 400 f/4 AFS with the TC-14E; it might work well.
The TC-20E extends into the rear of the lens fitted to it. F/2.8 pro telephotos have room for it. Mid range zooms like the 18 - 200 VR, 18 - 70, 18 - 55 and 17 - 55 have too much junk in the trunk to allow the TC-20E to fit, even if they were fast enough for it to make sense.
Generally I only suggest teleconverters for fixed lenses. Zooms, great for use by themselves, are usually unsharp or just too slow when paired with a teleconverter .
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29 September 2003