Kenko 1.4x TELEPLUS PRO 300 DG Review
May 2011, Carl Garrard
Kenko 1.4X Teleplus 4 AF Extender for Minolta/Sony
Every once in a while you run across a piece of photographic equipment that ends up surprising you. The Kenko 1.4x Teleplus PRO 300 DG teleconvertor is one such piece of equipment. Affordable at about $219.00 retail, this teleconvertor gives you near pro teleconvertor performance for just a fraction of the price. Before you go out and buy one though, you'll need to know a few things about this bargain optic that will give you much more versatility from some of your lenses.
The little 55-200mm Tamron focuses quicker than its bigger brother, exhibits a sharper performance characteristic, it is smaller and lighter, and has a wider field of view at the beginning of its focal range. The only reason this isn't my favorite budget telephoto is because the maximum magnification and telephoto reach are slightly limited in comparison to other offerings. Otherwise, it is a great lens with some wonderful characteristics.
Today I tested out the Kenko on the 70-300mm Tamron, and the 55-200mm Tamron and found some suprising results. In the end I prefer the 55-200mm and Kenko combo to the Tamron 70-300mm with or without the teleconvertor, especially with it on.
First bonus was that I could auto focus through the whole range with the 55-200mm 1.4x combo where as I could only do so up to 135mm on the 70-300mm Tamron, and autofocus much faster through that range as well. Second bonus was that the maximum magnification and telephoto range of the 55-200mm/1.4x combo was getting really close to 1:2 of the larger Tamron (roughly 1: 2.5x). Cool stuff.
Also, the 55-200mm has a smoother zoom ring and generally handles better with the attached 1.4x Kenko than the 70-300mm Tammy. Using my Alpha A580 as a test bed, focusing speed was quick enough to get a lock on a bird in flight if I had too, and it was very accurate when it did lock on. The same cannot be said for using the 70-300mm 1.4x combo, in fact, not even close.
Image quality was also better on the 55-200mm combo than the otrah. I saw just about no degradation of image quality using the Kenko on the little 55-200mm, in fact, it gained a real usable advantage. This is exactly what you want a teleconvertor to do contrary to what normally happens.
The added versatility of the longer focal range (now 77-280mm) and increased magnification make this lens and teleconvertor combo a perfect combo for many circumstances. Since the 55-200mm Tammy keeps it's maximum f/4 aperture to about 135mm, adding the teleconvertor gives you a 190mm APS-C focal length equivalent at f/4. This translates to a lens combination that is EXCELLENT for portraiture because the longer depth of field at a relatively large aperture just butters out the backgrounds making for wonderful bokeh (or defocused fore/backgrounds).
Another advantage is for backpackers or trekkers that want to carry as little weight as possible. I find this combo to be a wonderful wild life documentary combination because of just that- lightweight and versatile. From flowers to flying birds or UFO's this little combo is a good bet- especially on medium to small sized DSLR's.
After using this combo I came away wondering why I should keep my 70-300mm Tamron now. Of course I can't see myself selling it but it does make me wonder if it is worthwhile to keep. And I'm even asking the same question about my 50mm Macro Lens too.
On the not so good side is the fact that this teleconverter does not have a recessed lens mount, meaning that many lenses wherein the rear element protrudes beyond the lens mount will not mate or mount with this teleconvertor- there simply isn't enough depth in the t/c to accept these lenses. Many 1.4x teleconvertors are like this, so keep this in mind.
One other small but notable niggle is that this teleconvertor's gearing system isn't all that efficient and has a tendency to labor AF motors and make otherwise smooth manual focus lenses (with body motor drive) gritty in nature.
If you can live with those issues, then this is probably the finest teleconvertor you are going to find for the dollar.
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