Comparison Test – A Crop Camera vs A 1.4x Teleconverter On Full Frame

So, what’s better – using a 1.4 teleconverter on a full frame camera or, when you need the extra “reach,” switching on a crop camera instead?

Well, there’s a lot to consider, and the video below covers it all and then some! We’ll look at several sharpness scenarios as well as cover some of the other pitfalls that using a teleconverter can create. So, click play, sit back, and enjoy!

Note – towards the end of the video, I can be seen using a belt system for my extra camera. This is the Spider Pro SCS and can be found here. I’ve only had it a short time, but I really like it so far πŸ™‚

Also, check out the images from the video (below) to really see the differences in the photos. Click the photo to enlarge on a new tab. Note that you may need to click the image a second time to see the full-size image (depends on your browser size).

D5 with 1.4 TC E III Vs. D500 All Wide Open




D5 with 1.4 TC E III Vs. D500 Stopping Down TC Lens


D810 with 1.4 TC E III Vs. D500 All Wide Open





Also, I mentioned this in the video, but I want to stress that these examples are only from a small selection of cameras and lenses. However, I do feel like they mimic the typical results I see in the field. However, keep in mind that other combinations may fare worse or better. This video and article are more of a general guideline and each lens / TC / camera combo should be evaluated on its own to discover individual strengths and weaknesses.


If you enjoyed this article, I think you’ll REALLY like my e-books, Secrets To Stunning Wildlife Photography and Secrets To The Nikon Autofocus System. They’re filled with hundreds of pages of information just like this. Check it out – click here (hey, it’s free to look πŸ™‚ )


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This entry was posted in Techniques, Tests, Using Your Gear.


  1. Steven Kersting December 3, 2017 at 11:55 pm #

    Nice video, as usual…
    But there is a common but notable error. The aperture of the lens does not transmit more light to the AF sensor. Instead, it can only restrict the light when the main lens aperture is smaller than the AF system is designed for. The limiting factor is the FOV/aperture of the AF module’s separator lenses. The separator lenses take virtual images from different areas of the objective lens and compares them for position/offset/phase… it is the size of those individual areas on the objective lens that determines how much light is received. The main lens aperture only determines if the separator lenses can see the area of the objective lens it needs. That’s why cross types convert to line types, the portion of the objective lens needed for one set of sensors is blocked by the main lens’ aperture.

    In general, apertures larger than f/7-5.6 do not increase the amount of light at the AF sensor. However, there are other reasons for there to be a potential for lesser AF speed/accuracy with smaller max apertures. I.e. AF points that use sampling points with greater offsets (larger aperture locations) are more accurate, TC’s reduce image sharpness at max (focusing) aperture, TC’s tend to magnify/introduce CA, etc.

  2. Alfredo April 23, 2017 at 8:08 pm #

    Thanks for the useful comparison. If I may ask, I would be interested in a similar test but done the other way: APS-C camera (e.g. D500) vs FX Hi-Mpixel camera (e.g. D810), cropping the FX in post-production. No TC, same lens, same focal, same everything. APS-C will have the 1,5X field of view factor crop, but D810 might be cropped in post production. For those who have a tight budget, it could be interesting to see if a high Mpixel FX body can be used (despite the lower frame rate) to get cropped high quality shots…

  3. Steven Kersting March 15, 2017 at 8:35 pm #

    Just a small note. The D500 almost always tends to fare a little better than the D5 in sharpness even w/o TC’s… this is because the D500 (like the D810) does not have an AA filter. Personally, I think most of the gains noted with the D810 are due to “equalizing” this factor, and the slight improvements over the D500 are due to the increased resolution.

    • Steve Perry March 17, 2017 at 5:27 pm #

      Agreed about the AA filter and I had thought of that when I did the test πŸ™‚ The thing is though, any FX camera that’s about the same resolution of a current DX camera has an AA filter. So, even though the lack of the filter helps the D500 – perhaps even unfairly – the bottom line is that the FX cameras still DO have the AA filter and the results from the test show what happens in the real world.

      • Steven Kersting March 21, 2017 at 2:57 pm #

        I assume by “resolution” you mean total MPs and not pixel pitch/size (the D8xx is ~ equivalent to the D7000 in terms of pitch/size). As I think you alluded to, there is no simple “one answer.” The use of TC’s vs cropping/crop sensor is a circle of tradeoffs.
        My general ROT/recommendation is: Use the largest sensor you can fill, and whatever sensor you are using, do whatever you can to fill it maximally (for the desired composition).

        • Steve Perry March 21, 2017 at 5:14 pm #

          Yes, total resolution, not pixel pitch for this article. And that’s a solid guideline πŸ™‚

  4. Winston March 1, 2017 at 5:36 pm #


    As always your videos are sharp as a tack when it comes to verbal clarity. Clear, concise, and always containing a bit of humor. I bought your Secrets To Stunning Wildlife Photography eBook a bit more than a year ago and it has become my bible. As a bald eagle field researcher and avid ethologist wildlfe has been my main focus for many years, but now when I focus on them via my camera the result is finally sharp.


    • Steve Perry March 1, 2017 at 9:21 pm #

      Thanks for the book purchase and the kind words !I’m glad the book helped πŸ™‚

  5. Dave February 26, 2017 at 7:27 am #

    Thank you Steve.
    I am a Canon user (1D X & 7D mkII) and I would love to see similar review for Canon as well (the same regarding your great book that I bought).
    I would appreciate to hear your opinion regarding a IQ comparison between FF body (in my case 1D X) with x1.4 versus software +40% “blow-up”.
    I am not sure which one is better regarding small birds from up to 25 meters (from practical point of view i.e. risk of dust and slower AF I am not using the x1.4 very often).
    I guess that for longer distance the x1.4 might have an advantage for small objects, while more pixels will be available for the object.
    When I shot small birds with 600 mm on a FF I normally need large crop and some software blow up (I am using Alien Skin Blow Up plugin).
    In most cases, I prefer to use the 1D X (versus 7D) so that I am able to use high ISO (faster shutter), more shots per second and better AF for flying subjects.

    • Steve Perry March 1, 2017 at 9:21 pm #

      I’ve played with software before and, frankly, based on what I’ve experienced I’ll take a good TC shot any day. The problems with the software approach is that no matter how good the program, in order to add pixels it has to make things up as it goes. However, you’ve given me an interesting idea, so I may do some sort of comparison test one day – thanks!

  6. Daniel December 20, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

    Hello Steve, I have not seen any mention about APS-C crop + teleconverter 1.4x. That is why you think is it useless? Have you ever tried it anytime?
    Thanks Daniel

    • Steve Perry December 20, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

      I use that combo from time to time – my D500 or D7200 with the 1.4TC. I’ll admit it’s not my favorite (as you have guessed, I don’t like TCs), but sometimes it is necessary. I won’t use it to cover a very long range though, more for smaller animals that the 600mm and crop camera just aren’t getting to. If I need a TC + crop camera on a 600mm for something large like an Elk, then the animal is likely so far away that it won’t be sharp enough anyway (atmospheric distortion / compression).

  7. Harvey B. November 27, 2016 at 11:17 pm #

    I’ve been using a D500 / 80-400, the old one. I’ve made a comparison shot with a D750. Blew it up 50% and re cropped to about 15″ @ 360ppi. The sparrow in both shots are now the same size. I shot in overcast light at 3200 ISO and the 750 has way less noise. Did I buy the wrong camera? I love everything else about the 500. Thanx, Harvey.

    • Steve Perry November 28, 2016 at 12:31 am #

      Honestly, I’m not sure. There are quite a few variables possibly at play here. For frame filling shots, the D750 should be a stop better. Coping a D750 to DX size and comparing to the D500 though I would fully expect the D500 to kick it’s butt. In fact, my D500 captures far more detail than my D5 does, and the D5 has better ISO performance than the D750. So, not sure why it’s not working out right – I’d try a more controlled test maybe.

    • Sergei May 11, 2017 at 4:22 pm #

      Somebody asked about noise on D500 versus D750. A simple way to compare these is to look at The Camera section lists all cameras by categories. ISO performance is rated in the ‘Sports’ column. This is the ISO setting at which the given camera will still produce a clean image. If you click on the heading, and select Nikon cameras only, you’ll rank the cameras from the best to the worst. Nikon D500 is nowhere near the top. It can have the latest technology, but the 20 MP sensor is what counts. #1 is Nikon DF with ISO 3279. #7 is Nikon D750 with ISO 2956. #18 is Nikon D7200 with ISO 1333. And #19 is – you guessed it – the Nikon D500 with ISO 1324 (!). For these reasons I personally decided on D7200 for wildlife photography, which also fares much better than D500 as far as the Dynamic Range (‘Landscape’ column on dxomark) is concerned.

  8. Frank November 23, 2016 at 5:44 pm #

    Great Steve, this is answering my question which was following me for a long time. The only question remaining: is it right what I have read that the 2x converter is 25% less sharp compared to the 1,4 offering 5% less? So I am hasitating buying the 2x converter for my Sigma 300 2.8 lens with the D500.

    • Steve Perry November 28, 2016 at 12:22 am #

      Hi Frank –

      It doesn’t work that way πŸ™‚

      The sharpness of a teleconverter also depends on how well it interacts with the optical formula of the lens. In some cases, you only lose a bit of sharpness, in others it’s more significant. However, the greater the magnification, the more quality is lost. So, a 1.4TC should always give better results than a 2X – and that’s been my personal experience as well. In fact, I sold my 2X because I just didn’t like the quality I was seeing with it attached to my 600mm. Now, had I been using it on a 300 or 400 2.8, it may have been alright.

      Personally, I’d buy one and see how well it works, you can always return it if you’re unhappy with the quality.

  9. Sebahattin Demir November 16, 2016 at 6:37 am #

    Thank you Steve,
    I have Nikon D810 body and 70-200mm F2.8 Nano lens with using TC-20E III.
    Have you any experience with 2x Teleconverter (TC-20E III)?
    Can I assume that we will have similar result as TC-14E III?
    Thank you in advance for your interest and help.

    • Steve Perry November 16, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

      I have used that combo in the past – you can see it at this link when I tested the 80-400:

      It’s actually not as good as the 1.4 TCIII (or II). You get more magnification, but image quality suffers more.

    • Steve Perry November 28, 2016 at 12:28 am #

      I have used the 2X teleconverter and the 1.4 definitely gives better results. It can vary from lens to lens but a 1.4 will always be sharper than a 2X.

  10. AndrΓ© November 13, 2016 at 9:25 pm #

    Thank you Steve , you always have the most comprehensive and straight to the point reviews . I’ ve learned a lot but what I’ ve found most interesting is that I didnt knew that when you strart stopping down a lens you loose focus points coverage and focus speed ! I’ ts funny because you hear all the time and also from pro’ s, that with telephoto lens youd rather stop down your lens to get more of the animal in focus( considering the smootness of the background you want to achieve also of course) . But I guess with animal in action it is the complete opposite you need to be wide open to use a faster shutter speed but also to take better advantage of autofocus. Is that really what you meant? For my part I am stuck with a 300 pf and a 1.4 tc ii glued to it most of the time since I just can’ t commit to a 500 or 600 just yet ! Thank you

    • Steve Perry November 13, 2016 at 11:37 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words. Note that the AF, speed, etc is ONLY affected by the maximum effective opening (like F4 on the 300 PF, or F5.6 if you add a teleconverter). The F/stop you set the camera to does not make any difference. When you look through the viewfinder, you’re always looking through the wide-open lens and your camera is always using the wide open lens for focus, etc. When you press the shutter and the mirror goes up, the camera then stops down to your selected aperture. So, setting an F5.6 lens to F11 won’t make the AF system act like it has an F11 lens on the camera πŸ™‚

    • Steve Perry November 28, 2016 at 12:26 am #

      I tend to shoot wide open for both the shutter speed and subject isolation πŸ™‚

  11. Russ Heim November 11, 2016 at 11:39 pm #

    Great as always Steve… Haven’t used my TC 1.4 E II in quite a while and after watching this I’m pretty sure I’m gonna sell it…
    It’s the older version and I rarely shoot on my FF D750 cause I can get longer with the crop body.
    Just wondering IF you think there’d ever be a reason down the road where I MIGHT have to buy it back again???
    Thanks in advance and keep up the great work… gonna share this now with all my friends πŸ™‚

    • Steve Perry November 13, 2016 at 6:48 pm #

      I wouldn’t get rid of the TC just yet. While I don’t like to use one, there are times when I still put one on. For instance, maybe I’m shooting full frame and don’t have my crop body with me. I may think I won’t need the TC, but something comes up and I’m glad I have it in my pocket. Other times, even when I have a crop camera it’s still not enough so I put it on the D500 + 600 F4.

      The other scenario where I end up with a TC is when I’m hiking with my D500 and 300 PF. That setup is super lightweight and is the best hiking combo I’ve ever used, but sometimes it’s just not long enough. So, my choice is to use a TC or drag along the 200-500 instead (or in addition). So, I’m willing to take the (small) hit in sharpness in return for the convenience of a small, lightweight hiking kit.

      So, I don’t recommend completely ditching them, just using them when needed.

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