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Thoroughly testing the Sony x2 Teleconverter (SEL20TC) – Part II

by | 4 January, 2021 | General Info, News, Professional Work, Review & Recommend, Sony Shooters | 0 comments

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Testing is the only way…

Updated: Feb 21

As previously posted, “I carry a Sony x2 teleconverter in the bag to give the extra reach, should I need it. It rarely gets used, as, long ago, I learned that I always have the ultimate tools to allow me to get closer to the subject (my legs). However, these days, the kit needs to be useful, at least sometimes, to stake its place in the bag, and today was a day of reckoning for the x2 converter…”

Update to that test: I have now taken the time to thoroughly test the x2 teleconverter. Given my lack of success, when casually throwing it between the lens and the body, and the fact that Sony makes the claim that it will “Increase focal length without degrading resolution” on their website, I wanted to find out if it my lack of success was caused by the kit, or the monkey? After my tests this afternoon I can conclude that Sony’s claim is true, when correctly used.

“I guess I’ll have to conclude that it was the monkey.”

Colin Anthony

Photographer, Colin Anthony Photography

This is a “real world” shot using the x2 teleconverter. This was shot on a monopod. It was the only successful shot I took on this day, hence today’s new tests.

Joanna Anthony - Richmond Park

Joanna – Richmond Park

At the end of this article I have added links for readers in the USA and UK with the best deals I can find from the retailers for the Sony x2 teleconverter tested in this article. Click here for the best deal on the Sony x2 Teleconverter (SEL20TC)

Test Set Up Information

Today I set up the camera to test the x2 teleconverter properly.

Camera: Sony A7R Mark III

Lens: Sony FE 70-200 G Master f2.8 @400mm with x2 Teleconverter.

The Camera was on a solid, heavy duty, Manfrotto Tripod.

There was no wind.

The camera is set to AF-C. Expand Flexible Spot.

I have moved the focus point directly over the TV Aerial.

The camera nails the focus every time with a thud. So no focus issues.

The camera is set to Aperture Priority/ISO 100

It is the shutter speed that is the variable during these tests.

Sony-SEL20TC-x2-teleconverter

Important Note to all photographers, especially those of us of a certain age: For this test I switched off both OSS (Optical Steady Shot) on the Lens and IBIS (In Body Image Stabilisation) on the camera, as the camera was on a tripod. I have discovered that the days of my simple to set up Nikon F3 have long gone. If I do not switch off these focussing aids when this kit is being used on a tripod the camera and lens will hunt for focus with little success. Mark Galer did tell me this when I viewed his set up video but this monkey chose not to listen, hence the first test failed. I thought that this had been overstated by the Sony community, however, I found out, to my cost, when undertaking the first test that this is critical. Note: Switching off the IBIS from the menu means switching off “Steady Shot”. Nothing like keeping the terms simple! – This is why we test!

I have uploaded the RAW files for each test so that you can see, in detail, for yourselves, and get beyond the compression from social media and web hosts. Feel free to download them from the download links, for your personal use only. Please remember that they are copyright images and not to be re-used without permission.

This is the shot with text references on it, so that it you will understand what I am referring to when discussing each test..
Test key Image

Test Image Key

Test One @ f5.6:
_CAP7245r-5.6
Both the TV aerial and the brick wall have acceptable sharpness. The TV aerial begins to slightly drop out of focus towards the furthest fin, indicating that the depth of field is still very shallow, even at great distances. The back wall is sharp. The sky has no visible noise at all. The foreground tree looks like red marks on the roof and the foreground hedge is totally unsharp. I could easily pull the sharpness back by using the tools within Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) making this image commercially viable.

Anomalies: The brick wall does have some magenta fringing, running along the top of the orange cap brick work. I’m sure this wouldn’t even be visible for most uses, but as we are testing I thought I’d mention it…

Note: I checked, and this is easily removed using the Fringe Tool under Optics in ACR.

_CAP7245 info

_CAP7245

Note: This downloadable ZIP file contains the original RAW file from the Sony Camera. It is in .ARW format. It is saved as a ZIP Archive file, as most modern browsers and operating systems allow Zip files to be downloaded.

Test Two @ f8:
_CAP7246r-f8.0

Both the TV aerial and the brick wall are significantly sharper. The aerial is sharp from front to back. The back wall is pin sharp . The sky has no visible noise at all. The foreground tree has begun to have more form and the foreground hedge is still unsharp.

Anomalies: The brick wall still has a magenta fringing running along the top of the orange cap brick work, but it is more defined. Once again, I’m sure this wouldn’t even be visible for most uses, but as we are testing… I checked again, and once again, this is easily removed using the Fringe Tool under Optics in ACR.
Note: This only required around half the amount on the slider.

So smaller aperture means less fringing.

CAP7246re
7246info

_CAP7246

Note: This downloadable file is the original RAW file in .ARW format. It is saved as a zip file, as most browsers and operating system allow zips to be downloaded.

Test Three @ f22:
_CAP7247r-f22

I have jumped directly to f22. There’s little value in seeing f11 and f16. All of the buildings are now sharp effectively flattening the image. The TV aerial is sharp but the small aperture is now using so little glass that the image acuity is beginning to degrade “a little”. Not by much, and I would say it has no effect on the commercial viability of the image, but if you are looking for ultimate quality, in an exhibition print. You’ll get a better result back at f8. The depth of field is now very wide indeed. The back wall is sharp. The sky has no visible noise at all. The foreground tree now has form. The foreground hedge is better defined.

Anomalies: The brick wall still has magenta fringing running along the top of the orange cap brick work, however it is almost invisible @f22. Other than this I can see no other anomalies due to the x2 teleconverter.

7247
_CAP7247info

_CAP7247

Note: This downloadable file is the original RAW file in .ARW format. It is saved as a zip file, as most browsers and operating system allow zips to be downloaded.

Additional Test – APS – C Mode

I’m sure a few of you are wondering what happens if I shoot the same image using the APS-C mode on the camera, in addition to the x2 teleconverter. I can’t see any discernible optical difference, and I don’t think there is. The camera simply clips the peripheral pixels giving a smaller file that appears closer. This can be seen on the file information below. The array is 5168×3448 instead of the usual full frame image of 7952×5304. However, I have also attached that file and the information, along with the RAW file, in case someone would like to check it.

Tests Conclusion:

The x2 Teleconverter represents fantastic value for money when you consider that you cannot get the same reach @ f5.6, with any lens in the Sony E Mount range that won’t be at least 3-4 times the cost. And if you want a lens that faster. You will need very deep pockets indeed.

“It has occurred to me that you could buy both the x1.4 teleconverter and the x2 teleconverter for half the price of an equivalent length lens. the x1.4 only loses one stop of light. Therefore, when you need speed, you could use the x1.4 and lose a little length, and when you need length you could use the x2. This increases your shooting flexibility for less cost than an additional E Mount Lens.”

Colin Anthony

Photographer, Colin Anthony Photography

Caveat Emptor: The test results suggest that the x2 teleconverter will reproduce images that are commercially viable as Sony claims. It’s important to remember that you can’t simply throw it on and just expect it to work, without consideration. Losing 2 stops of light is bound to impact on your flexibility in use. You will have to increase the ISO to compensate, if you are to avoid camera shake or subject movement, and this will increase noise in your images. Without increasing the ISO it’s use is very limited. You will need to shoot in bright sunshine or use powerful strobes.

With the ISO issue in mind I ran some further tests to see the effect that using higher ISOs has on the image quality. See below…

The ISO/Noise Tests

As my conclusion is that the x2 teleconverter reduces the opportunities to shoot because of the reduction in speed, I decided to look at the “real world” consequences of this. When fitted, I was confronted with using higher ISOs to compensate for the lack of speed, as will all other users. Of course, it will not affect this test image, as there is nothing moving in it, however, if I was shooting wildlife or, people, I may need to keep the shutter speed fast to avoid subject movement. This means I need a higher ISO. With this test I have just shown the 100% or 1:1 TV aerial and brick wall, so you can see the noise caused by the increased ISO. Of course, what you would find acceptable is subjective, but my eye finds ISO800 to be the highest to be acceptable, unless it was commercially acceptable to the client and required a greater speed, with the associated noise. All tests are at f22

Test One – ISO6400
ISO-6400-TEST

Far too noisy for me. The bricks are broken up and noisy. I would have to adjust pixels to improve this image. Not a good starting place for me. I do acknowledge that there are noise reduction techniques that I could employ, along with specific applications that can reduce the noise and improve the image, however this test is to see what happens to the native capture.

_CAP7250

Note: This downloadable file is the original RAW file in .ARW format. It is saved as a zip file, as most browsers and operating system allow zips to be downloaded.

Test Two – ISO3200
ISO-3200-TEST

Still too noisy for me. The bricks are still broken up and noisy. I would still have to adjust pixels to improve this image. Still not a good starting place for me.

_CAP7251

Note: This downloadable file is the original RAW file in .ARW format. It is saved as a zip file, as most browsers and operating system allow zips to be downloaded.

Test Three – ISO1600
ISO 1600 TEST

OK. I try not to produce images that look like this. For me, this is barely acceptable. It would be fine for online use, as I could easily hide the noise, and the sharpness is commercially viable, but not desirable. Still a little too noisy for me. There’s a lack of detail in the bricks. I would still have to adjust pixels to improve this image.
Still not a good starting place for me.

_CAP7252

Note: This downloadable file is the original RAW file in .ARW format. It is saved as a zip file, as most browsers and operating system allow zips to be downloaded.

Test Four – ISO800
ISO 800 TEST

So, now we have a file that is a good starting point. Although I would still be concerned that large crops would be too noisy, this file looks like it would be suitable for most uses. To me this is an acceptable file. It would be very good for online use, as I could easily hide the noise, and the sharpness is commercially viable, but not desirable. Still a little too noisy for me. Improved detail in the bricks. I would still have to adjust pixels to improve this image. It’s a reasonable starting place for me.
I note that this effectively becomes my break point.
ISO800.
I think I may set my auto ISO to max out at 800 to protect my future work?

“I am always reticent to place restrictions on the ISO settings of the camera, as this can be challenging to adjust in the field, when under pressure.”

Colin Anthony

Photographer, Colin Anthony Photography

_CAP7253

Note: This downloadable file is the original RAW file in .ARW format. It is saved as a zip file, as most browsers and operating system allow zips to be downloaded.

Test Five – ISO400
ISO 400 TEST

This file is a good starting point. I can see noise in the sky, but this could easily be removed during RAW processing. The file would be suitable for all uses. There is very little noise on this file. There is improved detail in the bricks after applying unsharp masking during processing. I would still adjust pixels to improve this image. It’s a good starting place for work with the x2 teleconverter. (Not a great revelation there, as I have simply regained the 2 stops I lost by using the x2 teleconverter, but this is a coincidence.

I am judging purely on “acceptable image quality”.

_CAP7254

Note: This downloadable file is the original RAW file in .ARW format. It is saved as a zip file, as most browsers and operating system allow zips to be downloaded.

Test Six – ISO200
ISO 200 TEST

This file is an excellent starting point. I can see no noise in the sky, it’s effectively the same as the ISO100 shot (_CAP7247.zip above). This file is suitable for all uses. I have noticed an interesting phenomenon as I have run through these tests… From ISO400 downwards the files have lost the coarseness / excessive noise. When viewed one after the other in the RAW processing environment, the lower ISO files look softer (that’s, more blended tones, as opposed to out of focus). This means that they require unsharp masking to look their best. None of the tests had processing applied to them. From 400 downwards they all need unsharp masking to refine the edges and increase the apparent sharpness.

I hadn’t given this any consideration before doing this test. It’s a given that every image requires sharpening when importing the captured file, but I hadn’t considered that higher ISO files require less because of the inherent “detail” or “blocky info” on the file.

_CAP7255

Note: This downloadable file is the original RAW file in .ARW format. It is saved as a zip file, as most browsers and operating system allow zips to be downloaded.

One Final Test – ISO50

I’m sure a few of you would like to see a file at ISO50. Some of you may have a use for it, so here’s the RAW file for y’all.

_CAP7256

Note: This downloadable file is the original RAW file in .ARW format. It is saved as a zip file, as most browsers and operating system allow zips to be downloaded.

ISO/Noise Test Conclusion

There’s lot of people making very bold claims about the “image quality” they can achieve when using very high ISO. It’s quite clear that Sony sensors are very good at keeping the noise down, but when looked at in terms of “image quality” alone, I would caution photographers to be prudent when selecting higher ISOs. Back in the day this very much applied when choosing film and thereafter, how that film was processed. This prudence continues to have merit, and most definitely carries over into the digital age.

“Ultimately, the RAW file is all that we are left with, when the capture process is complete”.

Colin Anthony

Photographer, Colin Anthony Photography

The image stands or falls on the “image quality” alone.
If you are shooting for pleasure, or, as a hobby, you could well choose to shoot way above ISO800, but to claim that there is no discernible noise is simply folly.
At ISO800 all images will require some capture processing during the RAW development stage.
Images shot at ISO1600 are compromised, and will be limited in their use. When applied to this test, it compromises the use of the x2 teleconverter. The fact that it loses 2 stops means it is effectively restricted to tripod use, if you are looking for “image quality”.

If you “need” that shot… If you have a client waiting to see that shot… If it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity (and in my experience they come along quite frequently when behind the lens!), you should think carefully before pulling in the subject with the x2 teleconverter…

I will keep it. I will use it, but most likely I will use it to pull in landscapes and architecture. I will need to further test it to feel confident with wildlife sport and people.
Of course, the alternative is to buy longer lenses and that’s expensive, and not achievable for some. In that case I would recommend it and counsel you to test, test, test! The image quality is fantastic just as Sony claims. Please feel free to comment below

I hope you find the tests and files useful – Colin

7249info

_CAP7249

Note: This downloadable file is the original RAW file in .ARW format. It is saved as a zip file, as most browsers and operating system allow zips to be downloaded.

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