Sometimes the lens on your camera doesn't quite do what you would like. Maybe the castle on the hill appears as a dot on screen or you just can't get that group at the party in the frame without squashing them uncomfortably together. With an SLR you can take one lens off and replace it with another more suitable option, but with digital and compact cameras you're often stuck with what you've got. Digital camera owners can often increase the scope by attaching a lens on front of their existing one.
Several independent accessory manufacturers make lenses to fit, but Nikon are one of the few camera manufacturers to offer solutions, and they produce five converter lenses that will work with current and most older Coolpix digital cameras. These include two wide angles, two telephotos and a true fisheye. We had a go with the telephoto 2x and 3x lens and the amazing fish eye.
The lenses attach to the camera by screwing them in to the filter thread. You need to select the optimum focal length on the zoom and adjust exposure to ensure the results are the best. Nikon make this easier with an automated control on their Coolpix cameras. Simply go into the set up menu and, from the lens submenu, select the lens you are using. The lenses obscure the flash so you can only use them in daylight or with studio flash.
Fisheye lens FC-E8
This is the widest lens available for a digital camera and converts the Nikon's Coolpix 995 lens to the 35mm equivalent of 8mm focal length which an deliver stunning 183 angle views. With this lens attached you can almost see behind you when taking pictures and, because of this, you have to watch that you don't get your feet in the picture. The photograph produced has all the traits of a fisheye lens a circular image with a black surround and dramatically curved straight lines.
Images on this lens are quite soft, even at the highest resolution. This is because you're adding to a lens rather than replacing an existing one like you would on an interchangeable lens camera. Having said that, the results from this, and the two telephotos, are better than those made with the old camcorder supplementary lenses, but we are talking about a lens that costs 220.
Colour fringing also appears at the edges of the circle and where light and dark pixels meet, such as in the branches of trees where sky appears.
To remove the fringing on the diameter of the photo you can make a selection using your image-editing program's circular selection tool then reduce this by a few pixels to crop the colour fringe before you copy and paste onto a new background colour of your choice. Images taken in this way can be fun and suit projects or artistic presentations. The shot on the right shows what happens if you forget to keep your head out of the frame!
The lens can also be used at the telephoto end of the zoom to create full frame ultra wide shots, once again with exaggerated curvature and a loss in sharpness.
What makes the fisheye so spectacular is when combined with the Coopix's close focusing. You can shoot with the subject almost touching the front element of the lens and everything is in sharp focus. I tried this out in woodland and managed to get full frame fungi with sharp distant trees. Cool effect.
The fisheye has another trick up its sleeve. There is a piece of software made by iPix that stitches two fisheye pictures together. Shoot the two back to back and the created picture will be like you're inside a ball that's painted with the photograph - scroll up and you'll see the ceiling or sky scroll down and you'll see the ground. It's amazing, and to see it in action take a look at the separate Rotator review.
Model: Nikon Fisheye Converter FC-E8
Design: 5 element in 4 groups
Angle: 183 degrees
Minimum range: 5cm
Dimensions: 74 diameter x 50mm length
Teleconverters increase the magnification of your camera's lens. Nikon produce two models one with 2x magnification and one with 3x.
3x Tele Converter TC-E3ED
By tripling the lens' focal length you obtain roughly 345mm when using a Coolpix 990 which, using the calculation based on 50mm being the magnification of the human eye, means the subject will look seven times bigger than it does with the naked eye. This one is perfect for bird photography and safari shots or sports and action down at the local park. If you also switch on the camera's digital zoom and shoot at maximum 4x you obtain over a 1200mm focal length, which is enough to fill the frame with the moon!
The main problem with this lens is holding it steady. Most of my none-tripod mounted shots were unsharp caused by camera shake. Once on a tripod its fine. You have to be aware that most CCDs tend to give a small amount of colour fringing and this is magnified by this optic. As a result any areas where bright detail meets dark we tended to see a halo of colour. This was most noticeable on the shot of the moon, which has a circumference of purple.
Nevertheless it's a useful addition to the bag and one that will come in really handy.
Tech specModel: Nikon Tele Converter TC-E3 Price: 220
Design: 6 element in 3 groups
Angle: 7 to 9 degrees depending on camera
Minimum range: 80cm to 3m
Dimensions: 75 diameter x 79mm length
A less obvious use for the 3x converter allowed me to take this shot of a Red Admiral feeding on a flower at the top of a tree. The photo was taken at the highest resolution and cropped. Without the converter it was just a spec in the frame.
Using the 3x converter and the 4x digital zoom I was able to obtain a 1260mm focal length which was enough to fill the frame with the moon.
The 3x converter is ideal for filling the frame with distant buildings
With a bit of practice I will start to get some good shots of the garden birds.The cage is sharp. I just need to prefocus a couple of cm in front.
2x Teleconverter TC-E2
This doubles the focal length so the Coolpix 990's lens becomes 230mm.
This is perfect for larger waterfowl, nature photography and recording the kids at the school sports day. You can also use it for candids and distant portraits.
Having started out with the 3x this 2x is decidedly unexciting. While the optical quality is marginally better than the 3x the magnification increase is not marked enough to make it worth having and your money would be better spent on the 3x, which gives more versatility. The results are good but if you have a zoom camera you can always zoom back to around the 2x magnification point using the camera's zoom when the 3x is attached. Go any wider and you start to see vignetting.
Model: Nikon Tele Converter TC-E2
Design: 4 element in 3 groups
Angle: 11 to 20 degrees depending on camera
Minimum range: 30cm to 110cm
Dimensions: 65 diameter x 45mm length
The 2x converter is perfect for wildlife photography. Here the coot was too timid to come near the bank of the lake, and the 105mm of the Coolpix 990 wasn't powerful enough to fill the frame.
Nikon also make a couple of wide-angles, which we intend to review at a later data these are:
Wide-angle lens WC-E63 106
This shortens the focal length of the lens making a 35mm convert to 24mm on the Coolpix 990 allowing you to get more in shot. The lens has ED glass which Nikon say will ensure high quality wide-angle shots.
Wide-angle lens WC-E24 76
This has a similar 0.66x magnification to the WC-E63, shortening the Coolpix 990's 38mm to 25mm and it's smaller and lighter, but doesn't have the ED glass.
Having the option of accessory lenses really helps if you're a keen photographer and need extra versatility. There are a number of independent manufacturers producing lenses that will cost less, but the Nikon options are designed specifically for their cameras so can give improved performance. Our view is these are expensive add ons that you have to think seriously about to justify the cost. The fisheye is the fun one and, when use in conjunction with the iPIX software, will give your web page images a marked difference from the crowds. If that's important, this lens will serve you well. The 3x telephoto is super practical add on for nature photographers and will help you to obtain higher resolution results rather than cropping the frame or using the digital zoom. The 2x is less exciting. In each case the optical quality is reduced, so don't expect the same quality that you would get from interchangeable lens models.