Several times over the past few years I have seen wide angle add-on lenses and wondered how well they actually worked. So, recently I saw a really low-cost wide-angle add-on that I could not resist – Zeikos ZE-WA58B for just $13.19 from Amazon! Setting my hopes and my expectations as low as the price I ordered it … looking forward to find out how good or bad it was. As I was having a reasonable wide angle zoom already – Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM for $480 – I thought it would be fun 😉 comparing them to each other! Putting up some sample pictures! But I can – even without testing – say that the Zeikos will be worse and the Sigma will be better! That said, can I bring this little add-on with me as a replacement to my Sigma lens when I am lazy? At this low price is the Zeikos usable for anything?
I should point out that at no place does Amazon actually say that this is suitable to the Canon 18-55 mm kit lens. There are other similar looking add-ons that states this but I picked this because the picture showed a slightly more wide front lens. This was, I am sorry to say, not the case with the delivered product – it looks very similar to most of the other low-cost wide-angle add-ons!
The assumption that it would be suitable to my Canon kit lens is made by me! Well … the threads should work at least… 😉
Also see my review of a $2 wide angle clip-on for mobile phones!
Fair comparison? Pricewise – NO! Claimwise – ABSOLUTELY! Just for fun – listen to this from the box of the Zeikos ZE-WA58B:
- Professional High Definition Wide Angle Lens – this is very hard to understand what it really means – but is sure sounds as if it is supposed to be something really GOOD!
- Titanium Optics – well your guess is as good as mine where the Titanium is used – I guess it is supposed to impress – and it IS impressive as it IS in fact rocket science (Check this at NASA)
- Digital multi-coated – this is something the big brand guys use – not that I know what the “Digital” is in this context …
- Heavy Duty Construction – not that difficult to grasp
- 0.45x – what does this mean? Guess: 0.45x the focal length? My kit lens 18-55 mm would turn into 8-25 mm which is quite impressive! It would beat my Sigma 10-20 mm in both “ends”!
- 58 mm – this is just the lens filter diameter – it fits my 18-55 mm kit-lens
As you can see in the picture at the left, the box contains a (rather flimsy) pouch and the wide-angle lens itself. The lens is covered by a press-on lens cap at the front and a screw-on cap at the back. There is also a one-page “manual” that says what one-page “manual” usually says! That is not much – but it states that you should not use lens-paper but microfiber cloth. This could indicate that the lens is very sensitive to rubbing – making me wonder about the multi-coating … but you can not expect everything for $13!
Starting with the outside it is actually surprisingly well-built. Heavy Duty Construction? Maybe..! Let me be clear: It is NOT the product that is show on either the Amazon site or the box! It is not at all widening as much towards the front lens.Still, the finish is a good velvety black. It is very difficult to see any of the usual telltale of multicoating – the lens (at least now when it is all new) is extremely clean – not a single little speck of dirt on the lens surfaces! So I once again ask myself is there any multi-coating or for that matter any coating at all? But it is actually stating it right there on the box!
I tested it on the Canon EOS 550D (Canon Digital Rebel T2i) with kit lens 18-55 mm 3.5-5.6 IS one late afternoon when I hurried to catch the last sun rays of the day. “P“- mode. Most settings in normal or standard except contrast +1, saturation +1, sharpness +1. The sample pictures below has not been edited in any way except the name change! (I might try to test it during daytime to see if that matters in any way.)
You actually screw this wide-angle adaptor/lens onto your ordinary lens!
- The model that I bought fits only 58 mm filter threads. It fits quite snuggly on the camera lens. Weighing in at 120 gr it is not directly heavy … It has 62 mm filter threads so you can screw on a filter or a lens hood if you want to.
This “lens” consists of two screwed together parts: first the wide-angle lens itself that is the top part – a little bulging outwards – as you can see in the picture. Then there is a close-up “macro” lens – the narrow part in the picture – with the red text “MACRO“. They can either be used together as the wide-angle add-on or you can use just the close-up macro lens.
Autofocus works well, both with the ordinary phase detecting and the live view contrast detecting. There is a soft “thump” when using the ordinary focusing. This is probably due to the extra 120 gr that has to be moved when focusing and the ordinary focusing is much faster than the live focusing therefore starting and stopping more abruptly.
Vignetting (dark corners) is VERY pronounced at the 18mm setting of the kit zoom. In the picture to the left it is extra pronounced because I have stopped down to f 16. It is softer at bigger apertures – as you can see in the samples below. The vignetting can be either very disturbing … or just a cool effect – you decide! I myself would prefer to add it afterwards – if I ever wanted to. Zooming out to 22 mm it goes away completely – but it is a little dependent on the aperture value … I expected the vignetting – therefore I tried to get an add-on that had extra-large opening diameter hoping that it would help – but as you saw above it missed! I have to point out that there exists other wide-angle add-ons that has larger opening diameter – but at a much higher price and I wanted to go cheap!
How about the 0.45x ?
Before I get into the image quality I want to address the 0.45x – what does it really mean! It is NOT 0.45 times the focal length! Even if that is a reasonable assumption as normally when you talk about a lens you talk about the focal length.
The 0.45x actually refers to the area coverage increase! It would be better to say that it will add 45% more to your picture – but then it would not be so easy to misinterpret it … 😉 I will use % below when I refer to the area coverage. You can see it in the picture – I have marked the original 18 mm coverage with a red rectangle. In this picture the red rectangle represents 55% of the area and the surrounding area is the 45% area increase. (Note that the 18 mm covers the house – so you can see in the other pictures how much extra coverage you will get.)
It IS an increase – even if it is not that much – I am sure that it can come in handy sometimes …! For stationary motifs I would take a panorama picture instead. If you want to get 45% area coverage increase it also means that you have to accept the pronounced vignetting! In the widest setting this translates roughly to a 11.8 mm lens – giving a focal factor of 0.65x. (This is what should have been put on the box!) If you can’t accept the vignetting you will only get what corresponds to a 14.5 mm lens which translates to focal factor of 0.80x – which is not very much to write home about! You only get 3.5 mm added extra zoom – from 14.5 to 18 mm! But still it might be handy in some situations!
I took a number of sample photos with Canon EOS 550D + Canon kit lens 18-55 mm 3.5-5.6 IS with and without Zeikos wide-angle add-on and Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM. I will not bother to put up all of them but will try to put up the most significant ones and also some 100% crops. (Should you feel different, please let me know!) I will concentrate on the wide-angle aspects as this is a wide-angle add-on! But the add-on works in tele as well. Just click on the pictures to see them in full size 18 Mpix!
Sigma 10 mm is where it starts for me. This is the widest angle I have access to. This lens is not the sharpest of lenses even if you select a small aperture – but it is quite wide! Vignetting can be sensed in the far corners but it is not very noticeable. The EOS 550D can correct this automatically in camera but I have not bothered (yet 😉 ) to register the information for the Sigma lens. (Corrections is already included for most Canon lenses.) Calculating the area coverage increase (compared to 18mm) makes it 66% – which actually is much better than 45% – you want the area coverage increase as BIG as possible! I am focusing just below the top centre window in all of the pictures.
The Sigma at 12 mm. Here I tried to get a coverage that was close to the widest coverage with the Zeikos add-on.
The Zeikos at 18 mm. It is close in coverage to the Sigma 12 mm above. This is the widest coverage you can get with the Zeikos – but you pay for it with a lot of vignetting and some barrel distortion – making straight lines bend.
The Zeikos at 21 mm. This is very close to the coverage you would get if you do not want vignetting! There is a very small vignetting in the upper left hand corner that I did not see in the viewfinder when I took the picture. I have not marked the 18 mm coverage but as it covers almost exactly the house (see above) you can see that the extra coverage you get is quite small – a little extra sky and a little along the other edges. This is not much – at least if you have a 18 mm lens to start with! Having a lens starting from 22 mm you would get the advertised 0.45x (or a more common 45%) extra coverage area – without the vignetting. This Zeikos add-on is much better suited for a lens starting at 22 mm! But lenses starting at 22 mm are quite scarce!
I took one picture each with the three different “lenses”. I have created two 100% crops, center and edge. The have been saved in PNG-format so that the picture quality should not be affected. I tried to get a similar coverage on all of them but I did not manage to get the exact same coverage … I had to pick the only focal length that was common – around 18-20 mm. Zeikos add-on was zoomed to 27 mm on the kit lens. Just click on the “tripple-crops” to see them in full size!
The center crop is alright on all three “lenses” I think. Thinking of the price difference they are all amazingly sharp and clear! There are small quality differences but not that much to complain about. Remember that this is a 100% crop from a 18 MPixel camera – meaning that the full picture would be over 1.5 meters (5 feet) in width on a normal screen – like you are probably looking at now! You make your own decission about sharpness at the center – but to my eye differences exists but are small enough to be ignored – if you have a good day! 😉
The edge crop is something different altogether! Here we can see really big differences on all three pictures! The Canon kit lens is by far the sharpest! Canon and Zeikos was stopped down to f 8.0 and the Sigma to f 11.0. This should be the “easiest” focal length for the expensive Sigma lens but it is not even near the Canon kit lens in sharpness – even though it is using f 11.0! But it is still way better than the Zeikos that is really blurry and is showing a lot of chromatic aberration (splitting up colours).
How does this translate to a picture of a normal size? Amazingly enough, scaled to fit on a 19″ screen with an IPS panel all three pictures are actually looking OK! Note though that there are differences! Both the Canon and the Sigma pictures are looking tack sharp! The Zeikos has just about acceptable sharpness around the edges, the blurriness is not so visible scaled down (as expected) but the chromatic aberration is more noticeable – in the light-dark transitions!
The close-up “macro” lens
Unscrewing the rear part of the Zeikos Wide Angle “combo” gives you a rather powerful close-up or “macro” lens. You screw this single element lens onto your favorite lens and will be rewarded with the ability to focus much closer – how much depends on the focal length of the lens used. I used my trusty old 18-55 mm kit lens once again. I could have used my 55-250 mm also – because that also has a 58 mm filter fitting.
I wanted to compare the Zeikos with a proper close-up lens so I brought out my B+W Macro +10 lens. Both lenses have rather wide brims making them less than ideal for use with wide angle lenses. I wanted to see how different they were considering the price difference. The Zeikos – for “free” with the Wide Angle Add-on and the B+W for 380 SEK/40 EUR/$53. The question to answer is if the “free” close-up lens is anything to have?
I started by going as close as I could focus in wide-angle (18mm) to find out if there was any difference between the two close-up lenses. They were both very similar. This also pins the Zeikos in the area of -10 to -13 diopter – a little more powerful than the B+W lens. Both images look reasonably similar – both with powerful vignetting in the corners. The Zeikos has a little more barrel distortion along the edges. Middle sharpness (the only place where you will get sharpness with wide-angle) looks similar with both lenses.
With the kit zoom at 55 mm there is no longer any noticeable vignetting with either of the lenses. Centre sharpness is also quite similar even if the little darker exposure of the Zeikos makes that seem a little sharper when looking at it full-screen. Looking at the pictures pixel-by-pixel reveals that centre sharpness is as good with both lenses but that edge sharpness – though not very good – is slightly better with th B+W lens.
Coming back to the question: Is the “free” Zeikos close-up lens is anything to have? In the real world – where you are not only photographing flat objects – I would have to answer a clear “Yes!”. You could actually buy the Zeikos wide-angle add-on just for the close-up lens! It is close to as good as the many times more expensive B+W lens! Does it give supersharp and crisp images?It does not affect the sharpness very much in the center of the picture but along the edges it certainly gives a definate blurriness! With as powerful close-up lens as this the field of depth is very shallow – which can be both good and bad – but being aware of it certainly helps – use it to your advantage!
Is it worth the $13?
First of all I would say that a cheap add-on like this can be used just for some fun effects – and then you probably will not think too much of the disadvantages or might even consider them to be artistic advantages! Into Lomography perhaps …? 🙂
Secondly, using this on a zoom lens starting on 18 mm is a bit of a waste as you will have to zoom to around 22 mm before the vignetting disappears and that will only give you a corresponding 14.5 mm lens – and to get that very small wide-angle effect you have to put up with rather poor edge performance!
This lens is NOT something to use for serious photography!
Definitely not with the Canon 18-55 mm kit lens – it gives too little wide-angle increase while sacrificing a lot of quality along the edges!
If you have a lens starting at 22 mm or longer then you would not have to accept the vignetting! Also if you have a camera with a non-changeable lens it could definitely have its use – or a with a video camera!
Finally answering my own question: Is it worth the $13? (Note that the price matters much in this answer!)
I would say: Yes – for a 22 mm or longer lens! But be aware of its blurriness along the edges!
Counting also the close-up part of this Zeikos add-on makes this an even clearer “Yes”!
BUT this is ONLY as long as you do not expect a high quality lens for almost nothing…!
This is NOT a high quality lens – but it might be OK for you if you have low expectations!
Be sure to read part 2 here!