Zoom lenses are great, but what do photographers reach for when they need extra zoom and don’t have a longer lens? A handy little add-on lens known as the teleconverter allows them to get closer to the subject without sacrificing resolution. So far, teleconverters come with a fixed magnification capability, usually either 1.4x or 2x. But if news about Canon’s upcoming teleconverter is accurate, it might just be a dream come true for many photographers.
The lead image used for this article is a mockup. We currently do not have any photos or verified designs of what the product looks like
Teleconverters Can Save The Day
A teleconverter is a lifesaver. Sacrificing a stop of light or less, they add some extra reach to your already powerful telephoto zoom lens. In most cases, this is an add-on accessory compatible with some, not all lenses in a camera brand’s lineup. Using a teleconverter can be tricky when it’s not already mounted to your lens. Unmounting your lens and adding the teleconverter to your setup takes about 20-30 seconds. That’s potentially many winning photos you could be missing out on. Especially in sports and wildlife photography, those are frames that are gone forever.
Nikon, Canon, and Olympus have made life easier for sports and wildlife photographers by introducing telephoto lenses with built-in teleconverters in them. Nikon’s Z 400mm f2.8 TC is one of them, with a 1.4x teleconverter built in. The Olympus 150-400mm f4.5 has a 1.5x tele. You’ve saved some time and stress with just a flick of a switch or lever. Inbuilt or not, using a teleconverter has some limitations to it. For starters, you’ll lose light. The amount you lose depends on how much reach the teleconverter gives you. And there’s that other key limiting factor – the zoom. You’ve got no variable zoom when you slap on a teleconverter. Unless the folks at Canon’s R&D lab have something to show us in the coming months…
Canon Might Be Introducing A Gamechanger
If the news from CanonRumors is correct, we might be hearing of a new zoomable teleconverter from Canon coming in the last quarter of 2023. That’s right, a zoom-capable teleconverter. Possibly the first of its kind in recent years, it reportedly allows users to choose the amount of extended reach they want from their Canon RF lenses. Whatever genre of photography you’re into, if you’re a teleconverter user, this is a groundbreaking product for you. Imagine not just being able to extend the zoom capabilities of your lens but also being able to have a zoom range within that teleconverter. Until now, super tele prime lenses like 600mm f4 and 800mm f5.6 lenses would remain primes when teleconverters were added. But with this upcoming product from Canon, those primes would instantly become zoom lenses. Still with a fixed, albeit slightly reduced, widest aperture value.
It’ll be a small gadget but an impactful one when it launches. Canon is basically combining its 1.4x and 2x teleconverters into one unit. This makes complete sense for photographers like me who prefer lower-resolution cameras and don’t enjoy cropping for reach. It’s like those variable zoom binoculars you’d see on safaris. It would be cool if it wasn’t just hard stops between 1.4 and 2x. If you could get any focal length between those zoom ranges, such a product would sell out quickly.
What’s The Catch?
For starters, it can’t be cheap. We’re looking at something that might possibly be as expensive as a decent f2.8 lens would cost. And that’s understandable, considering that to come up with zoom capabilities in a small size would require a great deal of research and design.
Secondly, it probably won’t be compatible with all RF lenses. I’m sure many of you were disappointed to learn that Canon’s RF 70-200mm f2.8 wasn’t compatible with their RF teleconverters. Likewise, this new teleconverter may only be compatible with a few lenses in the Canon RF range.
It’s bound to be bigger than any existing teleconverter. That also makes me wonder if there will be a noticeable reduction in autofocus speeds when using such a device. For the most part, Mirrorless mount teleconverters have been exceptional compared to their DSLR counterparts. The sharpness and AF speed drops, if any, have been minimal. This wasn’t the case with teleconverters of yesteryear. Still, with possibly more glass needed to facilitate a zoom-capable teleconverter, some AF speed drop can be expected.
The Ultimate Teleconverter
Now, if only any of the major camera brands could find a way to integrate a zoomable teleconverter inside of a lens. That would be the ultimate game-changer. I’d put money upfront for that kind of lens.