Useless Teleconverters

I have been down this road before, but I thought I’d try it again. I should have learnt my lesson.

A cheap and nasty way to double your zoom capabilities, is to use a screw-on 2X teleconverter. You can buy these in the thread size to suit your camera for less than $20 on eBay.

I thought, “The HS10 has 30X optical zoom, by adding one of these I would get 60X zoom. That would be awesome!”

The marketing ploy is full of wonderful descriptions of how much effort their laboratory technicians have put into producing premium grade optics, finely polished to give you the clearest image.

They show you before and after shots to suck you in, by making it look like magic, as seen here.

The reality is far from the marketing though. What you actually get is a blurred image, with poor lighting and massive distortion. You can click on the images to see a larger version.

The longer your camera’s focal length, the worse the outcome. On my earlier Fuji cameras, with native 4 or 10X optical zoom and using a 1.5X teleconverter, the result was barely acceptable. With the HS10, it was unusable. So that was money down the drain and a reminder that you get what you pay for.

So the idea occurred to me that, since I have a 10 megapixel image, what would happen if I cropped the centre out and doubled its size? I would still have an acceptable 5 megapixel image in theory.

The native size the HS10 takes is 3648 x 2736 pixels. So I put a cropping layer 1824 x 1368 pixels in size over the original image and moved it around to centre it over the target I wanted to use. I could then resize the cropped image back to full size.

The first image is the original using the full 30X zoom. The second one is after cropping it.


As you can see, there is virtually no difference in quality when viewed on a computer screen. I doubt you would see any difference in a normal print of the photo either. But there is a massive difference between what you get by doing this and using the teleconverter!

This got me thinking, what if I cropped one of my close-up photos? I found I could bring out the real target of the image, changing it altogether as seen here.


So, by using cropping, I can not only simulate 60X zoom, but I can simulate closer macro shots. The best part being, loss of quality is barely noticeable.

Of course, anyone who understands photography would not find anything clever about this post. But if, like me, you are a stock amateur and barely able to venture past point-and-shoot techniques, then hopefully I have saved you the waste of time and money of going down the teleconverter route. They really are pieces of junk.


Camera Batteries

Digital cameras ask a lot from their batteries. Apart from the obvious, such as charging the flash, there is the LCD screen and the focusing system. I have three Fujifilm cameras, which all take four AA batteries.

This means the camera is expecting a 6V power source. While they will work from a 5V AC adaptor or external battery pack, the cameras will shutdown at voltages below around 4.4V. It has been a few years since I have used my previous two cameras and when I bought the HS10, I was again faced with the problem of which batteries to use.

I did have some old NiMH rechargeable ones lying around, but I really needed some new ones. So I ordered two sets of four 3000mAh ones and a new smart charger for them. Putting them in, I found I got to take one or two photos and the camera would shut down. So I tried them in my other cameras, only to get the same problem.

Doing some Googling around, I found most people recommend using NiMH batteries over normal, disposable dry cells. But some people were having the same problem as I was. Being a technician, I began to wonder what was going on.

Dry cells have a voltage of 1.5V, but NiMH and NiCd batteries have a nominal voltage of 1.2V when fully charged. So the best you can get with four batteries is 4.8V, not the 6V you get with dry cells. That only gives you a 0.4V margin above the shutdown voltage cutoff.

Theoretically, NiMH batteries will stay at 1.2V until almost discharged, which is why they work. But I began to doubt that was happening. To test my theory, I made a tester out of an AA battery holder and a 2.2V, 470mA globe. This represents a fair current draw to load the battery. I then monitored the voltage from fully charged to when the globe went out. The result was quite surprising.

The initial charged voltage of 1.23V immediately fell to 1.19V and dropped by 0.01V every 5 minutes. So, after only 20 minutes, the voltage was 1.15V and still falling. That means I would only get 4.6V instead of 4.8V. The batteries were not top quality ones, so more expensive ones may perform better. But I still wanted to compare them with a dry cell.

Using a standard alkaline AA battery, not a heavy duty type, I repeated the test. The initial voltage was 1.57V and fell immediately to 1.45V. But it took 80 minutes before that fell to 1.15V. The two tests confirmed what I had thought, that under real conditions in the camera, the voltage would fall below the shutdown voltage of 4.4V very quickly with the NiMH batteries.

So I started looking for an alternative and found they now make Lithium Polymer AA batteries. This intrigued me, because the native voltage of lithium batteries is 3.7V, so how come they were 1.5V AA’s? It turns out they have a tiny circuit built into the top of the battery that is a voltage regulator. Each battery has its own micro USB port, so they are charged at 5V. You can see that here, and the charge cable you can buy for them.

ZNTER AA 1.5V Lithium Polymer Betteries ZNTER Battery Charge Cable

I was a bit dubious, because they are only rated at 1250mAh, so I didn’t think they would last long. But unlike NiMH batteries, lithium ones can be recharged up to 3,000 times. So having two sets to swap over would probably be enough for a day’s shooting. The price of a set of four on eBay was much the same as quality NiMH ones. But the major benefit of lithium batteries is, they maintain their voltage right up until they are almost fully discharged.

Once I got them, I repeated the test procedure. The initial, fully charged voltage was 1.53V and fell immediately to 1.47V. But what amazed me was, it stayed at that voltage for over two hours, when I decided to stop the test. So using these batteries gives me a constant 5.88V, which is more than enough to keep the camera happy. So, once again, technology marches on and some smart thinking person has solved the rechargeable battery problem with an ingenious solution.

You can find these batteries on eBay by searching for ZNTER batteries. You will probably have to order the charging cable separately though, as I found out the hard way. The lower 1250mAh rating doesn’t seem to be a problem, most likely because it is regulating that native 3.7V down to 1.5V, giving the battery a much longer life as an AA imposter.

As I said, you may not get the problem with top quality NiMH ones, but why pay premium when these are the same price or lower, and you get the full 1.5V of a dry cell? Plus you don’t need a charger, just anything that can provide 5V via a USB connection. As a technician, it seems a no-brainer to me.


Gallery Opened

I have just managed to get my hands on a brand new Fujifilm HS10 bridge camera. Released in 2010, it’s a 10 megapixel camera with a built-in, non-removable 30X zoom lens. While being nothing special by today’s standards, it has a myriad of options, that make it almost as useful as a real DSLR.

Fujifilm Finepix HS10

I’ve also managed to get hold of a brand new LG V20 smartphone, which came out a couple of years ago at a very high price. They are much more affordable now on eBay and with dual rear cameras is capable of some excellent 16 megapixel shots.

I have some older Fujifilm cameras that I had bought addon close up lenses for and they take great macro shots. So I thought I’d create a photo gallery website to put up some photos. I have opened a 500px account, but people are really only interested in looking at professional photos there.

So having my own site gives me more freedom to showcase my amateur photos without lowering the tone of 500px. I have resized my photos to make them unsuitable for commercial use, so feel free to download them if you want.

This is the first digital camera I’ve owned that is capable of taking decent shots, so hopefully it will get me out of the house and away from the computer. I’m no photographer, so it’s all about fun for me, and an opportunity to do something different from sitting in front of a computer screen all day – usually achieving nothing useful!

I hope you find some of them worth looking at. I know I’ve had fun taking the time to make each one something special and not just happy snaps.