OT: Wide angle camcorder lens

jeff92k7 wrote on 12/28/2013, 10:01 AM
I am trying to find a decent wide angle camcorder lens for a few years old Canon HF M301 camcorder (same as HF M30, 31, 300).

I tried a cheap $15 lens from Amazon and had horrible results. The worst being that the camcorder could not hold focus with the lens attached. I'm looking for another option and found that Canon used to make one (WD-H37c), but the pricing on that one was ridiculous. Even used copies are still $150+.

After searching amazon again, I came across a brand called Hyla Optics. They look like they make one lens and sell it under a bunch of different names to make it easy to find when searching for camcorder model. Regardless, there are very few reviews on them and the reviews aren't written very well.

The appearance of the lens looks almost identical to the Canon lens, but the specs list it as a wider lens (canon's is .7x the Hyla is .45x) so I know it's not a direct copy.

For around $40, is it worth trying it? Has anyone here used any Hyla Optics lenses? If so, can you provide your experiences?



larry-peter wrote on 12/28/2013, 11:03 AM
Without knowing your definition of "decent" I wouldn't invest in a wide adapter with such a low price without trying it first. I have a Century .6X that cost around $150 a few years back and thought it was acceptable on the 720p HDV camera I was using at the time. Barrel distortion was fairly extreme and image was a bit softer.

Using it with a 1080p camera made the chromatic aberration quite obvious. I thought everything on the outer 1/3 of the frame was unacceptable. Cropping put me at a tighter shot than I could have got with my stock lens.

jeff92k7 wrote on 12/28/2013, 12:33 PM
Here's what I found with the $15 lens that I tried. Maybe this will help to explain what I'm looking for and what I'm willing to put up with.

It had noticeable barrel distortion, extremely noticeable vignetting, chromatic aberrations at the edges of the frame, and worst of all, the camera wouldn't stay focused.

I can deal with the barrel distortion, and could tolerate the vignetting, since it went away after zooming in a bit. Even zoomed in, it was still a bit wider than the on-camera lens. I really didn't like the chromatic aberrations, but I don't expect perfection in a $15 lens either. What I couldn't tolerate at all was the inability of the camera to keep focus. It would slowly lock focus, then about every 30 seconds, focus would shift and it would again seek and lock focus. This continued throughout the videos - even on static images/scenes.

The problem with that lens was the barrel was too narrow, so I'm sure that caused the vignetting. Other lenses I'm looking at have much larger front elements that will hopefully negate the vignetting. The picture imperfections, I can also tolerate. Again, I'm not expecting $2000 results from a $300 camera. But I can't deal with the shifting autofocus. I need something with reasonably good optics to allow the camera to lock focus and hold it.

The main thing I want the wide lens for is for school programs. I typically use two cameras. The camera needing the wide lens is normally set up on a wide shot to cover the whole stage. I then use my T2i with 17-55 to do medium to close shots (slow pans, tighter shot areas, etc.). However, the widest setting on the video camera is a 40mm equivalent and I can't quite get the whole stage in the shots from where I have to set up. I then find myself using the T2i and 17-55 to pull occasional full stage wide shots too. (It's 27mm equivalent is wide enough for the full stage.). I really need only a wide lens with a .6x or .7x to get me in that same 24-28mm equivalent focal range for the video cam - so zooming a bit with a .4 or .5x wide angle attachment is fine.

I've looked at replacing the camera, but the cheapest camera I can find with a built in lens wider than a 40mm equivalent costs over $1500. I just don't have that kind of money, so I'm back to a wide angle attachment for the current video cam.

I've also found a Bower .38x ultra wide angle attachment with 37mm threads that might work. It's also in the <$50 range. I have a feeling I'm going to have to just buy one of these two options and try it to see if I can live with the compromises.

richard-amirault wrote on 12/28/2013, 2:47 PM
I really don't think budget wide angle lenses will give a decent result ... especially when they offer a wider angle than a name brand lens. I have wide angle attachment lenses for two of my consumer grade mini-DV SD camcorders, my Canon GL-2, and my Canon XH-A1s. All were made by the camcorder manufacturer and worth every penny.
riredale wrote on 12/28/2013, 3:06 PM
I think the no-name wide-angle lenses will almost always be a lousy deal compared with "official" lenses carrying the brand's name (Canon, Sony, etc.).

When I first got involved with shooting video years ago I bought and used a tiny little clip-on lens for my little Sony DV camcorder. It worked fine as long as I didn't zoom. For a pinch it was great. Quality-wise, well, hey--it was DV anyway.

Later, for my much-nicer Sony VX2000 I bought a Canon WD-58. That, too, worked well,and now I could zoom with it attached.

Then for my Sony FX1 HDV camera I bought the official Sony lens, a giant of a thing that was .8 in power. It has been a great lens also, and doubles as a throwing device if I should ever need one while in a dark alley.

But I'd run away from the no-names, or anything wider than .6 or .7. I've bought all my lenses on eBay and one can find some great deals there.
PeterDuke wrote on 12/28/2013, 6:10 PM
I have a Sony VCL-HG0737C "High Grade Wide Conversion Lens" (Sony's title) 0.7X, 37mm, that cost about $200 (from memory). I use it with a Sony camera.

Note that there is a menu setting within the camera that you can set to tell the camera that you are using a wide or telephoto attachment to improve auto focus.

The lens has slight barrel distortion and slight chromatic aberration but not normally noticeable. I used to have a Sony 0.6X as well, but its distortion was more obvious.
BruceUSA wrote on 12/30/2013, 12:51 PM
$15 wide angle lens. What do you expect? seriously, you need the Canon verson wide angle lens to get good quality out of it. As you have mentioned, it expensive. I still got my Canon wide angle lens for my old HG10 avchd camcorder. I paid $150 for it.

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tim-evans wrote on 12/30/2013, 3:01 PM
When I went over to HDV from SD ,my wide angle conversion lens would vignette horribly so I bought a Raynox HD-6600PRO for my Canon HV20.

I have used it many times (mostly with a steadicam) and it has given good results considering the image will deteriorate some. No barrel distortion and focus is not a problem. That wide on a HV20 in good light it has an almost infinite depth of field.

The Raynox convertor sells for about $120. If you are only looking to spend $15 on a lens then you really can't complain at the results you get!
videoITguy wrote on 12/30/2013, 3:17 PM
+1 for Peter Duke - the Sony .7x lens once originally sold for $40 has been the only acceptable cheap lens - most like Century Optics way more money!
jeff92k7 wrote on 2/5/2014, 1:10 PM
Update/conclusion for anyone interested. I did buy the Bower lens ($50) but it's performance was worse than the cheap little Vivitar lens ($15). Finally got fed up and sent them both back. Though in all honesty, I think the Bower was defective. It had a soft image across nearly the entire frame, as well as vignetting and horrible, horrible chromatic aberration.

Unfortunately, Canon's Wide angle seems to have been discontinued. After searching for a while, I found a like-new Canon WD-H37 II on evilBay. Cost me $80, but it was worth it. The image quality is fantastic with only a little barrel distortion when zoomed all the way out, and a slightly softer image when zoomed all the way in. There is also a tad bit of CA when zoomed all the way in. I can certainly live with that. If I'll be zooming in, then I will just take the lens off anyway. Mostly, I just want this for static, wide shots. Autofocus seems to work just fine in my initial tests.

It's a .7x which translates to a 28mm focal equivalent which pretty much matches my 17-55 on the DSLR.

So to everyone who siad that going with the Manufacturers own lens is best....You were right.

Thanks again everyone.
fldave wrote on 2/5/2014, 10:49 PM
If it's static, then can you manual focus? I very rarely use autofocus anymore, on any camera.
flyingski wrote on 2/5/2014, 11:58 PM
I've used the Canon WD 34 and WD H43 wide angle lens on various Canon consumer grade cameras over the years and found them to be worth the money. The H43 in particular is a big chunk of glass and has worked nicely on an HV-30 and M500. I'd guess the WD 37 would be of similar quality and worth the money as well.