Seattle Photographer | Macro Photography with Extension Tubes

It’s time for my Tuesday blog post and my blogging group has been talking about macro photography this week. Macro photography absolutely amazes me. I find it very impressive that a lens can be focused to make a tiny object look much greater than its actual size. I’ve wanted to purchase a macro lens for quite some time, but I’m somewhat hesitant about spending the money because I’m not sure how much I would use it.

The good news is that there is a less expensive alternative to achieving macro results by attaching an extension tube between the lens and the camera body. The tube does not contain any optical elements, and it’s purpose is to move the lens further from the image plane. The longer the extension tube, the greater the magnification. Unfortunately, this also cuts down on the light hitting the sensor, so a longer exposure time most likely will be required. The ability to focus to infinity is also lost in this process.

There are a number of extension tubes on the market these days. Check out Amazon, Ebay, B&H, Adorama, and your local camera store to find the option that works best for your needs and fits your budget. Prices vary from $150 down to $5.00. From my research, it appears that you get what you pay for when it comes to extension tubes. I have Canon cameras and if I purchase their EF 25II Extension Tube, I will be able to focus and control the aperture with my EF lenses. However, if I purchase a $5 extension tube set on Amazon by Bolo Brands, I will not be able to control my auto focus system or choose my aperture

Will adding an extension tube to one of my professional quality lenses allow me to achieve the same image quality as if I used a macro lens, such as the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM ? At this point, I believe that it’s possible, but I anticipate a few downsides with the extension tubes, especially the cheaper ones.  I mentioned above that a longer than normal exposure time will most likely be needed. Since I generally handhold when shooting, I’ll have to use my tripod. This is not a complete downside, but it may be inconvenient at times.  I’ve also heard of larger lenses falling off the cheaper extension tubes and that is something that I certainly don’t want to risk with my expensive lenses.

I’m willing to give extension tubes a chance while keeping these limitations in mind so I’ve ordered a set from Amazon.com. If I like working with them, then I might invest in a better quality set or one of Canon’s excellent macro lenses.

Now go check out my friend Tara of Tara Colburn Photography and see what her macro photography post is all about this week by clicking here!

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Tara ColburnNovember 13, 2012 - 7:21 am

Great info! I’ve been wanting to try extension tubes for a while since I know I would RARELY use a true macro.

Karen CooleyNovember 13, 2012 - 7:45 am

Ooo, love this info! I forgot about extension tubes… I should invest in a set until I can get a macro lens. I’m such a detail junkie that I think the lens would be a good investment! 🙂

David GNovember 13, 2012 - 8:28 am

Another inexpensive option is a lens reversing ring, which allows you to mount your lens “backwards” onto your camera body. Of course you lose auto focus and exposure capability, but it’s another way to make it work for a lot less money than the lens itself!

BrianNovember 13, 2012 - 9:16 am

I have tried the reverse 50mm the dof is paper thin. also heard good things about the kenko extension tubes but have not tried them yet

JamaNovember 13, 2012 - 9:52 am

Wow, great info! I wasn’t aware of so many options. Thanks.

ChristineNovember 13, 2012 - 11:58 am

I never knew how extension tubes worked – thank you for sharing!

I played with the Canon 100mm f2.8 macro last week and LOVED it. I figure it is pretty dual purpose – the bokeh is so dreamy with portraits. Definitely considering purchasing it, seeing as I don’t HAVE to use it solely for macro!

Tina BeckettNovember 13, 2012 - 12:36 pm

Thank you for the information on macro tubes! Never really looked into them before 🙂

Jennifer BatzNovember 13, 2012 - 5:10 pm

great information! I should get some extension tubes!

Melissa BergNovember 13, 2012 - 5:55 pm

Great info! I never had luck with extension tubes and finally recently got the 100mm macro 2.8. Love it so far!

Huong ForrestNovember 13, 2012 - 8:18 pm

Very intriguing, Ally! I’ve never tried extension tubes and may have to do so soon!

[…] need a macro lens to do macro photography at all!! Yes, you’ve read that right! Check out this post about using extension tubes instead! It is an inexpensive solution that will you get you the macro […]

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