Friday, September 20, 2013

Canon SX50 add-ons: Lensmate 58mm Filter Adapter & Hoya UV(c) Filter Review-ish

New and uncharted territories are fraught with dangers, or in my case, paranoia over one's very expensive new camera. A few weeks back, I got a new Canon SX50. This was a major event -- not because I had never bought anything stupidly expensive before, but because I had never bought a stupidly expensive camera before.
Canon SX50 as delivered
My camera history is filled with cellphone cameras, one dunked relatively cheap point and shoot, a moderately more expensive point and shoot, and finally, the SX50. Everything before this "bridge" camera has been about $150 or under. This one was a nice $380 plus tax and all the accessories I tacked on, and this was before I got the lens adapter and filter.

UV "protection" filter
I've never had a camera that didn't have a lens that withdrew into the body (i.e. compact point & shoot) when it turned off. A lens cap and a huge exposed lens was completely new to me. It didn't take long for the large and shiny glass surface to freak me out.

After some searching online, I was made aware of the UV "protection" filter. It turns out that a lot of people buy very expensive cameras and lenses for their SLRs and throw on a relatively cheap <$100 UV filter for protection. There's a major debate about whether one should buy a finely tuned lens costing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars and then throw on a cheap, $50 UV filter or not.
Canon SX50 Lensmate 58mm filter adapter and Hoya UV(c) filter
I think I understand both arguments. Why not put on a, in my case, $25 layer of glass to protect a couple hundred dollar camera? If the lens gets scratched, that might be a couple hundred dollar repair. Even if dirt can be wiped off, there's a risk of scraping the lens while cleaning and/or wearing down the lens coatings with rubbing. Worst case with the UV filter is that I would have to buy a new one.

On the other hand, why buy a $400 camera or $2000 lens that was exquisitely designed, meticulously put together, and laboriously calibrated to perfection only to tack on a <$100 piece of extra glass? A piece of glass that was probably never calibrated to work with the lens. I have seen examples of photos taken with UV filters attached that show reflections and other anomalies. There are also photographers with decades of experience who believe that UV filters can ruin photos -- they'd rather use lens hoods for protection. However, these same people do acknowledge the use of filters in harsh environments for protection and to actually use them as designed (i.e. to filter light).

Going with the filter
In my case, I am going with the filter because I am a complete novice to expensive cameras. And given the quality of photos that I take without a lens filter (just check out this site), I'm more concerned about keeping the camera intact than the results.

Filter Adapters for Canon SX50
Having made my decision, I was set on getting a UV filter of moderate quality (i.e. not the cheapest thing available). Recommendations I found online were to get a Hoya or B+W filter since they should have better coatings to reduce reflections. I found something local, a Hoya 58mm UV Multi Coated Glass Filter, for $25.

However, unlike a DSLR lens that, from what I've heard, has threads to attach a filter built into the lens, the SX50 does not. It's technically not a DSLR camera. I've found it filed under "Point & Shoot" and "Ultra-zooms" when browsing online stores. Others call it a "bridge" camera. Anything but a DSLR. There are, apparently, threads on the SX50, but they're parallel and only to give the lens cap something to attach to.
New 58mm lens cap beside original lens cap
Canon SX50 mount and official accessories
The SX50 has a separate type of "screw mount" on the front of the lens that I've heard called a "bayonet" mount. Canon has their own line of official accessories including a lens hood and a 67mm lens adapter. I did not care for this official adapter because it would stick out the front of the camera -- the SX50's lens is roughly 58mm in diameter. This would mean that the camera would rest on the lens attachment when put down or stored if the filter were not removed. In my mind, this would defeat the purpose of the UV "protection" filter.

Aftermarket accessories: Lensmate SX50 filter adapter
Just by searching Amazon, I found two aftermarket filter adapters from two companies. They're still available at the time of writing: one is 58mm and one is 67mm. Obviously, I didn't want the 67mm version. The 58mm version looked perfect except that it was not available locally and made of metal. Someone made the argument that metal would be bad since the SX50's mounting area is plastic. Hard on softer material may not be good, which makes sense.

With a little more looking, I found recommendations for the Lensmate version. This company had their own website and I found that they shipped to Canada for relatively cheap. It was also plastic and there was a very detailed description about how it was redesigned with the dimensions of the SX50 in mind. The price was also comparable to the other versions, so I gave it a shot and it got here today.
Close-up of 58mm filter adapter and adapter -- note clearance from table
Lensmate SX50 filter adapter impressions
I ordered the Lensmate adapter along with a 58mm lens cap since the original Canon SX50 one would no longer fit with a filter on. Both items arrived in just under two weeks from Seattle to Ontario. They came in a bubble-wrap envelope and weighed virtually nothing. Customs didn't bother to charge me anything, probably because the total cost was about US$ 25 -- $35 with shipping and currency conversion.

To be honest, I've been avoiding the use of this new camera without the UV filter. This meant that I was a bit eager to snap the adapter and UV filter on and get going when it arrived. I bought the Hoya filter a week ago at a local store, so I was all set. What I did was screw the UV filter onto the adapter first, and then mounted the adapter to the camera. I was thinking that this would give the simple plastic ring some more rigidity to make it easier to screw on. Not sure if I was right or not, but the adapter screwed right on to the Canon SX50's bayonet mount and locked into place. There was a little bit of resistance. However, I felt that it wasn't hard to screw on and the resistance was "enough" to keep the filter in place.

As you can see in the last picture above, the 58mm adapter and filter appear to be just narrow enough that there is a little bit of clearance between the table and the adapter. Instead of the camera resting on the adapter and/or filter, it still rests on the metal or plastic barrel of the camera body.

Lensmate 58mm lens cap
I am extremely happy with the lens cap from Lensmate. It snaps on and off a lot better than the original Canon cap that came with the camera. I think the pinch mechanism on the Canon version I have has too much resistance and doesn't move much. In comparison, the Lensmate cap smoothly pinches and I can actually feel the mechanism move to lock/unlock.

Does it vignette, how are photos?
No clue. It's late and I didn't have a chance to test the camera yet. All I know is that the filter went on. Some other time?

Canon SX50 50x zoom lens extending

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