For many years now I have used 1.4x and 2x extenders with my still lenses for both photography and video, and I am familiar with their advantages as well as their shortcomings. Since PL mount lenses have really become my gear of choice lately, I was in the market for a good PL mount 2x extender. I am now the happy owner of the Duclos 2x Extender and I wanted to take a minute to share my first impressions of it.
The first thing I noticed is that it’s a precision instrument and it’s built to last. It’s rock solid in your hands and all the moving parts move smoothly, precisely and without any play including the back-focus adjustment mechanism (which is an incredible feature and as far as I know, unique to the Duclos extender).
The extender mounted to the camera solidly, as did my lens. For my first shoot with the Duclos 2x, I shot some daytime exteriors with my Zeiss CZ 70-200mm T2.9. The lens mounted solidly and securely as expected. The next step was to set the back-focus. The Duclos extender’s back-focus adjustment will immediately cause you to never want to use another extender ever again. It really does spoil you. To be able to set and lock perfect back-focus is a huge bonus. Having shot on many ENG style lenses from Canon and Fujinon over the years, this was a very familiar and welcome feature.
I am very familiar with the characteristics of the Zeiss 70-200mm T2.9, so I am confident that if the image quality or character of the lens changed in even a small way, I would notice. The Zeiss is an extremely sharp lens with even sharpness from corner to corner, little to no vignetting, and is pretty much void of any aberrations. It has one of the softest, smoothest and most pillowy bokeh of nearly any lens I have ever used. Since it’s such a sharp, contrasty, clean lens with almost no aberrations (at least none I have ever seen) even wide-open, I think it’s a perfect lens to test out the optics of an extender. If there is a decrease in sharpness or all of a sudden there are aberrations, I know they are being introduced by the addition of the extender.
Other than the fact that the lens now tops out at 400mm, I really couldn’t see any changes in the character of my lens. There is of course the 2-stop light loss, which is a trade-off when using any 2x extender, but as far as image quality is concerned, I couldn’t see any degradation even when shooting wide open. My tests were not scientific in any way. I am sure if I shot charts and measured line pairs there would be some distinction between my lens with and without the extender. I am basing my opinions on what I saw looking through the viewfinder and going through the footage on a 26” monitor at home.
I think it’s important to note that when shooting subjects that are at a great distance, it’s very hard to get an accurate gauge of a lens’ sharpness. On any given day in LA there is a lot of air pollution and heat waves between your camera and a subject that is literally miles away. Whether I had a 400mm lens without an extender or my Zeiss 70-200mm with the extender, at 400mm shooting a building that is a ½-mile away, can get you an image that’s only so sharp. To more accurately gauge sharpness I shot subjects at various distances including right up to the lens’ minimum focus distance. The extender makes the Zeiss 70-200mm a legitimate macro lens! I was filling the frame with my friend’s eyeball. And with a minimum focus distance of about 5’, that means I can get those macro shots but still give the subject space. Not only is that helpful with making the person feel more comfortable, but it also makes it a lot easier to keep your shadow off of your subject when you’re 5 feet away.
In every situation the Duclos extender performed really well. In fact everything was going so well (again with no signs of aberrations) that I tried to shoot some situations that could cause a lens to show some weaknesses. There were some cars parked nearby, and they were getting hit directly with afternoon sunlight, but the glare, and hard reflections on the metal of the cars didn’t produce any purple or green fringing, or any other issues at all.
Overall my first impression of the Duclos 2x extender is very positive. It’s built like a tank, it’s the only extender available with a simple, ENG-lens-style back-focus adjustment, and from what I can see has amazing optics too. I think a more in-depth, scientific test is needed to make any accurate and objective statements about its optical capabilities. However, I have a feeling it will perform extremely well compared to the other extenders out there.