Nikon WC-E24 Lens Converter

Nikkor WC-E24 mounted on Coolpix 880

 


Paris, from the Arc d'Triomphe on a particularly ugly day in February

 

Introduced with the Coolpix 900, this wide angle lens converter can be used on all Coolpix models from the 700 on (some require an adapter ring).

Introduction

One of biggest problems facing any digital photographer is the lack of wide angle options. The Coolpix models have built-in lenses that barely reach into the wide angle range (about equivalent to a 35mm lens on a 35mm SLR). Nikon made the low-cost converter WC-E24 available with the Coolpix 900, and you'll still find this converter at many photo stores and on eBay

The Basics

The WC-E24 is indicated as a 0.66x converter with two elements in two groups (the higher priced WC-E63 is a slightly wider 0.63x converter). It does not change the aperture rating of the overall lens. Here's how Nikon says the 0.66x works with the various Coolpix models (note that Nikon has clearly rounded numbers in their converter specs, and apparently incorrectly for the WC-E63--note the 23mm on the Coolpix 700 as reaching 90 degrees, which is closer to a 21mm equivalent than 23mm; portions in red are interpolated by me [hey if the cameras can interpolate, why can't I?]):

  Coolpix 990 Coolpix 950 Coolpix 900 Coolpix 880 Coolpix 800 Coolpix 700
Focal Length Equivalent (35mm) 24mm 24mm 24mm 24mm 24mm 23mm
Angle of View 88 degrees 88 degrees 87 degrees 88 degrees 87 degrees 90 degrees
Minimum Focus 3.51" (9cm) 3.51" (9cm) 1.59" (5cm) 4" (11cm) 3.51" (9cm) 3.94" (10cm)

Nikon's definition of 23mm and 24mm equivalent have a wide variance, ranging from 87 to 90degrees. A real 24mm lens has an 84 degree angle of view, so using this accessory actually produces a slightly wider shot than expected (not enough to notice, but enough to make a difference if you use math to set up a shot). Note that the 990 doesn't produce the widest possible angle of view unless you specify the lens converter in the menu system. Also note that the numbers Nikon published are highly suspicious. The WC-E24 is a 0.66x converter while the WC-E63 is a 0.63x converter. Angles should be wider on the E63, but Nikon's published numbers indicate they're wider on the E24. Further, close reading of the specs reveals a really weird way of specifying the 35mm equivalent. For the WC-E24 on a Coolpix 950, for instance, Nikon specifies "24mm/0.96." Do the math. That's 23mm. Likewise, the "23mm/0.92" specified for the Coolpix 700 works out to be a 21mm. Those recalculated numbers more closely relate to the actual focal length equivalent, in my experience.

The WC-E24 doesn't have a threaded front element, making filter use tricky (you can try filters mounted between the converter and lens, but they'd have to be remarkably thin to not compromise the performance. As with all Nikon converters, the back end is covered by a small metal cap that screws on to the threads.

In order to mount this lens, Coolpix 880 owners need the UR-E2 adapter, while Coolpix 700 owners need the UR-E1.

Handling

The WC-E24 is small and light, weighing in at only 2.275 ounces (65g). It seems pretty impervious to minor scrapes and bumps, but be aware that the front element is quite exposed, and easily damaged. The added weight is barely conspicuous on your Coolpix.

Focusing becomes a real problem with lens converters on the Coolpix models. First, as noted above, the minimum focus distance changes (though autofocus still works). Second, you have to use the color LCD to evaluate composition and focus. Finally, setting a specific focus distance is trial and error, which makes getting good depth of field difficult. In the example photo, above, even with no near elements of interest, I still needed to drop into manual focus mode and toggle through the various settings, evaluating the results on the color LCD; in retrospect, I'd probably pick a focus point one or two notches further out, but the focus I achieved is more than acceptable--JPEG compression is most certainly rendering the far detail softer in the example photo than it is in the original.

The large diameter of the converter makes it impossible to use the built-in flash of any Coolpix model (except for, perhaps, the upcoming 995). You'll have to use an external flash on a bracket or cancel flash altogether when using this converter. Also, the viewfinder is no longer functional, both because it doesn't show the new angle of view and because it is blocked by the converter itself.

Using the WC-E24 is not a no-brain operation. To take good pictures with it, you'll need to pay careful attention to the color LCD and experiment with manual focus points to get good depth of field.

Performance

The big question is: should you pick up the less expensive WC-E24 over a WC-E63? No, if distortion is an issue (note significantly curved horizon of the example)--the WC-E63 isn't free of barrel distortion, but it's slightly better controlled. No, if filters are an issue--you can't mount a polarizer on the E24, for example. No, if detail is important--the E63 just edges out the E24 in edge detail. About the only time I'd recommend the lower cost converter over the more expensive model is if you're mostly shooting candids in tight places (sans flash, of course).

Color is a bit of a problem with the E24, as well. I have to color adjust virtually every picture I shoot with it, and I'm not always happy with the results (as in the case, above, though the drab lighting played a significant part). Colors seem a bit muted compared to the E63 (which also has slightly muted colors), and there's a significant magenta shift I haven't seen in other Nikon optics.

Drawbacks

Competition

WC-E24 Summary

Sharpness:

Distortion:

Handling:

Value:

Bottom line: Usable for those times when you need to go wide, but be prepared for some learning curve getting the composition and focus points adjusted to your satisfaction. Also, not as good as the E63.

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