Macro Photography with Extension Tubes

Macro Photography is a fancy way of saying close-up photography.  Not portraits, but making little things fill the frame.  Ideally, it is at a 1:1 ratio or closer.  Most lens can take close-ups within limits.  Some lens require a minimum focusing distance of 18 inches or more.  Canon’s  70-200mm 2.8 IS L has a minimum focusing distance of 4.6 feet!  Of course, you can invest in a dedicated macro lens.  But, for the occasional shots, a set of Extension Tubes is a better buy!

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The above image was taken with the 70-200mm 2.8 IS L only 18 inches away using Canon’s EF12 Extension Tube.  The extension tube sits between the lens and the camera.  It is a hollow tube with no optics, so the quality of the lens does not change.  By moving the lens away from the camera, the lens dynamics change, but not the optics. If you match your camera’s brand, you are sure that auto-focusing and  TTL metering will still work properly.  But, you can get closer!

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The above photos were taken at the same 125mm setting and same f-stop.  There are two things to consider when using extension tubes:

  1. Depth of Field becomes shallow and a slower f-stop will help to compensate.
  2. With a zoom lens, the zoom becomes another part of the manual focus.   You must first zoom into the subject and then attempt to focus.  There is still a minimum focusing distance, but it is much closer.
  3. Extension Tubes can even be stacked to get even closer and BIGGER!

Canon offers two different sizes: the EF12 II and the EF25 II.  Kenko makes compatible extension tubes in several sizes for Canon, Nikon and Sony/Minolta.  In fact, Kenko offers a 3-tube set for about the cost of two tubes by either Canon or Nikon.

Before you invest in a macro lens, try an extension tube.  You will be happy with the results.

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