Cropping – much like using a teleconverter – exaggerates issues like lens aberrations, diffraction, and noise. Unlike a teleconverter, it also reduces your photo’s total pixels. Whether you crop or use a teleconverter, you’re making some compromises, but which one gives you better results?
If you’re starting with a high-resolution camera like one of Nikon’s 45-megapixel bodies, it’s reasonable to wonder if the teleconverter is even necessary. And with a bad teleconverter, it would definitely be better just to crop! How do the two Nikon Z TCs hold up? Below are my high-resolution crops to help determine the answer.
Shooting Notes: All of the photos below were .NEF files taken with the 45-megapixel Nikon Z7, then converted to JPEG upon export from Adobe Lightroom. Crops are taken from the center of the frame. Lightroom’s default import sharpening was applied, but no noise reduction was applied to any of the photos. In order to display images of the same size, I upsampled the lower-resolution photos upon export from Lightroom. Every photo was taken with the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S zoomed into 200mm.
Test #1: Bright Light Simulation
For the first of two tests, I’m simulating a bright environment – even something like landscape photography – where ISO and aperture values are held constant. In all three photos below, I used an aperture of f/5.6 and the base ISO of 64.
In order, the photos below are: 200mm, 280mm, 400mm. (In other words: no TC, 1.4x TC, 2.0x TC.) Click to see full size and switch between the three photos more easily:
This goes to show that teleconverters still beat cropping! The least detailed crop above is the photo without the teleconverter, while the most detailed is the photo with the 2.0x TC. That said, the difference between the 1.4x and 2.0x TC photos is relatively small. More fine detail is visible in the 2.0x TC image if you look closely, but it’s not as dramatic as the 200mm vs 280mm difference.
Test #2: Low Light Simulation
Now I’d like to simulate a more common situation in wildlife photography, where you’re fighting to capture as much light as possible. In this case, I’ve set the lens to its maximum aperture value each time, and I used a higher ISO (ISO 800, 1600, and 3200 respectively). The order of the photos is the same: bare lens, 1.4x TC, 2.0x TC.
The story is the same this time – the teleconverters both beat the bare lens, and the 2.0x teleconverter captures more subject detail than the 1.4x teleconverter. To my eye, the benefit of the 2.0x TC is greater this time, probably because the 1.4x TC didn’t have the luxury of stopping down to f/5.6. In any case, I was glad to see these results – it means that the teleconverters exist for a good reason!
On the next page of this review, I’ll dive into the question of sample variation with the Nikon Z teleconverters. So, click the menu below to go to the next page, Sample Variation.
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