Nikon WC-E63 Lens Converter

Nikkor WC-E63

angle of view: 86 close focus: 4.72" (12cm)
filter thread: 72mm hood: not specified


Lil-Le-Hi Fish Nursery, Allentown, PA

Introduced with the Coolpix 950, this high-quality 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 Nikon originally made a low-cost converter WC-E24, but many found this 2-element converter to produce too much barrel distortion and chromatic aberration in the corners. Because of the 28mm thread size on the Coolpix lenses, there is a practical limit to what you can hang off the front of a Coolpix.

The Basics

The WC-E63 is indicated as a 0.63x converter with four elements in four groups. It does not change the aperture rating of the overall lens. Here's how the 0.63x works with the various Coolpix models:

  Coolpix 990 Coolpix 950 Coolpix 900 Coolpix 880 Coolpix 800 Coolpix 700
Focal Length Equivalent (35mm) 24mm 24mm 24mm 24mm 24mm 22mm
Angle of View 86 degrees 84 degrees 87 degrees 84 degrees 84 degrees 86 degrees
Minimum Focus 4.72" (12cm) 4.72" (12cm) 2.76" (7cm) 5.91" (15cm) 4.72" (12cm) 3.94" (10cm)

Curiously, Nikon's definition of 24mm equivalent has a wide variance, ranging from 84 to 88 degrees. A real 24mm lens has an 84 degree angle of view, so using this accessory on the 990 and 900 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.

Up front, the WC-E63 takes 72mm filters and accessories. Surpisingly, Nikon doesn't specify a hood for this lens converter, though it probably could use one, due to that big piece of curved glass at the front (it catches direct light, which lowers overall contrast considerably. As with all Nikon converters, the back end is covered by a small metal cap that screws on to the threads; the front is protected by a standard Nikon 72mm lens cap.

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-E63 is a beefy little fellow, weighing in at just over 5 ounces (150g) due to the metal barrel and big lens elements. It seems pretty impervious to minor scrapes and bumps, but be aware that the front element is quite exposed, and easily damaged. The weight makes your Coolpix front heavy, but not absurdly so (as with the TC-E3).

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, keeping the near tree and the distant trees in focus required me 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 notch closer, but the focus I achieved is more than acceptable).

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-E63 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: is the WC-E63 better than the smaller, lighter WC-E24? Yes, to a degree.

Distortion is much better corrected, though still evident. Edges are slightly better, though still soft compared to a real 24mm on my 35mm bodies. Chromatic aberration is better handled, though can still be seen in high contrast situations. In short, this new converter does everything just a tad better than the original.

Drawbacks

Competition

WC-E63 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.

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