Review: Bower VL46TC Fisheye with Macro Lens Extension

Posted by bbinkovitz on 2007.05.15 @ 21:00

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The Bower VL46TC Titanium Super Wide-Angle “Fisheye” lens with “macro” claims to be:

  • Titanium” (I think it’s actually aluminum)
  • High Resolution” (It’s a glorified magnifying glass, so it unavoidably blurs around the edges.)
  • Digital” (This one baffles me. It contains no electronic parts whatsoever.)
  • AF” (AutoFocus. Again, contains no electronics, or even moving parts. My lens’s autofocus still works when this is attached, for the most part. However, under some circumstances, the attachments confuse the camera and necessitate manual focus.)
  • To fit : […] ALL FINE SLR CAMERAS.”

OK, now the fun stuff: pictures!

I used a Canon Rebel XT for all of these, and did white balancing with Aperture.

(Quick note: I have a Canon 50mm Compact-Macro lens as well as the new “macro” adapter. For clarity, the word Macro without quotations refers to the former, while the word “macro” with quotations refers to the latter. )

Bower 0.42x Fisheye/Panoramic Lens Extension with Detatched Macro

First I played around with the “macro”. I attached it to my Macro (no need to unscrew the UV filter already on the Macro, as typical simple filters are double-threaded, with both ends being the same measurement) and set the focus on as close as possible, first without, and then with the “macro”. Here’s what I saw:

Canon compact-macro without extension

Canon compact-macro without extension

Canon compact-macro without extension

Then, on the same lens, I added the “Fisheye” part. The Macro has no zoom; its field of view varies a little bit with the focusing required, but other than that it has a certain field of view that doesn’t shrink or grow. On the left is a picture illustrating the breadth of its view, and on the right is the same lens in the same position taking the same picture with the “Fisheye” (I’m putting it in quotes because the full Fisheye effect, i.e. vignetting, distortion, etc. is only really seen with this lens under certain conditions. More about this later.).

Canon compact-macro with Bower 0.42x adapterCanon compact-macro without adapter

Canon compact-macro with Bower 0.42x adapterCanon compact-macro without adapter

I was a little disappointed not to see the true “Fisheye” effect (though it’s considered by many to be a flaw of wide-angle photography or call it gimmicky, I like it). I decided to test the “Fisheye” out on my Promaster 28-80mm zoom. You’ll notice that 28 is less than 50 and that therefore even without the aid of the “Fisheye” it can view a much wider frame than the Macro can, when it’s fully zoomed out. I did just that and attached the “Fisheye”, and viola!

Promaster at 28mm with Bower 0.42x adapterPromaster at 28mm without adapter

Vignetting! Distortion! Blurred edges! Oh joy!

Now, it’s still no Lomo Fisheye, but until Lomo makes hi-res, digital versions of its cameras, my heart will beat unrequited.

[A photo I took with my LomoFisheye] [And another. Look at those internal reflections!]

One last detail about this Bower doohickey: I read on messageboards that these extensions were all cheap plastic, but that doesn’t seem to be true of this one. As I mentioned, it seems to be made of aluminum, and even has this snazzy little retractable light shield:

Bower Fisheye with extended light shieldBower Fisheye with retracted light shield

I forgot to mention – this probably has much better distortion and vignetting on a film camera than my digital SLR because of the cropping that occurs on a digital.

overall: Is this a piece of junk? I was near to buying one :S

it is not a “piece of junk” per se. if you are looking for professional-quality sharpness at high magnification of your photographs, this is not for you. if you use your SLR to take better pictures than all the other moms at your kid’s soccer game, then this is totally adequate and buying an expensive fisheye lens would be overkill. the macro that it comes with is pretty useful for certain applications as well.

Would you recommend this as an add on for family pics while on vacation. It seems that you need to manually focus a little bit and needs to adjust settings of dSLR to get good pictures. I’m worried that I might spend a lot of time focusing and make everybody wary of posing for pictures, or I might miss most of the time. Mine is a 300D, its old but its trustworthy. ;)

autofocus still works with this on my zoom lens, it’s just a bit slower. on the macro lens, whose autofocus isn’t very uesful anyway, it doesn’t work. for normal family vacation snapshots it should be just right. no settings need to be altered to use this for normal snapshot photography.

These are quite useful if you have a camera like fuji s5600 etc with a fixed lens.

I have some photos from them on my site http://www.flickr.com/photos/routergod

I have a Fuji S700 if that helps. Does it autofocus if the macro is not attached? Does the fisheye part attach directly to the camera, or does it need the macro part? For the rough price of $50 is it worth its money? Can you please take a picture with it outside for me? Thanks!

It doesn’t autofocus because there is no focus involved in the “fisheye”/”macro” extension. If you have a lens that uses autofocus, it will probably still sort of work with the “fisheye” extension. The macro will confound autofocus because it’s just too much of a distortion from what the sensors expect. It’s probably worth the money if you just want to take snapshots, but if you want to take truly professional-quality pictures and/or make very big enlargements of your pictures, it’s probably best to save your pennies for a genuine wide-angle lens.

Is it the best bet for my up to $75 price range for a fisheye type? It says it is specially made for 46mm cameras, so if that is true will there be no vignetting/black ring for my 46mm S700? If not could you get rid of it by zooming in? Thanks

I saw these on ebay for $43 shipping included, so don’t pay more than that. That being said i do not own this product, nor have i ever tried using it, so i can not comment on the quality of it.

I just got this and I can’t use the macro at all because it’s extremely blurry. There were no instructions for attaching it to my camera either. The fisheye part won’t attach unless the macro piece is attached, and then the whole thing works, but only if I keep it above f4. So, it might work for some “creative” landscapes if I don’t mind the distortion and blurred edges. I won’t call it a waste of time, but if you can afford something else, get it.