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Raynox Wide Angle Conversion Lens
Tuesday, August 28, 2012  
Millions of people now use video cameras to capture their travel memories. Even the most modestly-priced consumer camcorders can deliver HD quality better than commercial cameras did ten years ago. Every camcorder has a lens that is set to a specific focal length (e.g. 35mm) that will determine the amount of image it will capture when set to its widest setting (no zoom). For most cases, the lens provides an acceptable range of view. However, there are times when a camcorder's lens may limit what you can fit into your desired shot. In these cases, what is needed is a wider angle. An example would be shooting a large group of people where you may be limited to how far back you can move to get everyone in the shot. Also, broad landscape images can benefit from a wider angle of view.

Fortunately, most camcorders have threads inside the lens barrel that allow for the addition of wide angle conversion lenses. During our recent trip to Russia, we tested the Raynox wide angle conversion lens for our Panasonic TM900 HD camcorder. Raynox makes a variety of conversion lenses for a large variety of camcorders.

We used a Raynox HD-6600Pro with .66 magnification. Since our TM900 has a 35mm focal length, our result with the Raynox attached is a 23mm lens. Any more reduction and we would likely begin to get a fish-eye distortion around the edges of the image. Raynox also makes .5 and .7 versions of this lens. The proper lens magnification for your camcorder will depend on the results you are trying to achieve and the focal length of your built-in camcorder lens.

INSTALLATION

Installing the Raynox conversion lens is simple. In the case of the TM900, I had to remove the lens hood (sun shade), and simply screw the Raynox onto the lens barrel.


Panasonic HDC-TM900 with Raynox installed

DESIGN

I was very impressed with the heft and quality feel of the Raynox lens. It is rather heavy and does add considerable weight to the camcorder, but it is obviously very well made. I recently added a larger battery to the back of the camcorder which helped to balance the weight a bit.

FUNCTION

From the moment I screwed the Raynox onto my Panasonic, I was hooked. This is the lens I wish the camera came with. I am always in need of a wider angle of view, especially when shooting interior shots of cruise ship staterooms, which are very cramped. I found myself using the Raynox for virtually all shots on our Russia assignment. The image quality was virtually indistinguishable from the built-in lens. The only caveat was, in bright sun conditions, I would get some lens flare if the camera was aiming into the light. A lens hood might have prevented that. There was virtually no distortion produced by the Raynox, and light levels remained the same.

One problem I did experience with the Raynox was related to the way Panasonic placed the flash, which is located inside the threaded area of the lens barrel. When I tried to shoot a flash photo using the Raynox, the flash fired inside the lens itself. So, using the flash on a TM900 is not possible with the Raynox, or any conversion lens or filter for that matter.



Image taken with standard camcorder lens at widest angle


Same image with Raynox .66 Wide Angle Conversion Lens

The two images above are actually single frames captured from a sample video shot with a Panasonic HDC-TM900 camcorder. The top image uses the 35mm lens built into the Panasonic while the bottom frame shows the effect of the Raynox .66 conversion lens. Notice how much more information is in the bottom image. From the exact same tripod position, you can see the bow of the ship and much more of the aft portion of the vessel. Even vertical information is increased: notice how you can see my shadow in the bottom image.

The only image distortion I could detect was when fully zoomed (10X) there is some fuzziness and distortion at the horizontal edges. This does not occur every time, but you can see it in the image below. Notice the left side of the picture, the
motorcycle's silver front fork is blurred.


Full zoom (10X)

SUMMARY

Not everyone will need a specialty conversion lens for their camcorder, but for those of us who take video seriously, wide angle shots are important and necessary. As I said before, as soon as I put the Raynox on my TM900, I was a believer. It is a quality piece of equipment that any professional or semi-pro should have in their bag of accessories.


SAMPLE VIDEO


     
     
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One Comment
 
BOB MEADE
 
Very informative and useful review!
 
Sunday, March 29, 2015 12:00 AM  
 
 
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