When it comes to capturing stunning close-up shots with sharp focus, it’s hard to beat the capabilities of a top-notch macro lens. However, the hefty price tag of these lenses can be a barrier, especially for those new to the field of photography. But fear not, as there is an alternative solution that may fit your needs and budget: enter the humble extension tube.
Extension tubes have become a go-to tool for many photographers seeking similar results to macro lenses without breaking the bank. But what sets them apart? Does opting for a more affordable option always mean compromising on image quality? And what about focal lengths—how do you choose the right one to achieve that desired level of closeness?
Before you rush into purchasing a macro lens or extension tube for your camera, you should know a few crucial things. This post aims to guide you through the decision-making process, equipping you with the knowledge you need to make the right choice. So, let’s embark on this educational journey and unravel the world of macro lenses versus extension tubes.
- Extension tubes are affordable options that can help achieve closer focus and magnification in photography.
- Extension tubes come in two types: non-electronic tubes and tubes with electrical contacts for control over exposure and focus.
- While extension tubes offer increased magnification, they may introduce limitations such as decreased image quality and difficulties with telephoto lenses.
- Macro lenses are dedicated lenses designed for close-up photography, providing sharp details and a closer focus range.
- Macro lenses excel in capturing subjects with fine details, making them ideal for food and portrait photography.
- When choosing a macro lens, consider factors like focal length, minimum focusing distance, and reproduction ratio (1:1 ratio for capturing life-sized subjects).
- APS-C sensors, often found in cropped sensor cameras, offer advantages for macro photography, such as increased depth of field and tighter focus distances.
- Stacking extension tubes can further enhance magnification but requires compatibility and careful attention to potential light leaks.
- Extension tubes may limit the ability to focus on distant objects and can impact aperture control, particularly with non-manual rings.
- Ultimately, the choice between extension tubes and macro lenses depends on budget, desired image quality, shooting preferences, and specific photography needs.
Extension Tubes vs Macro Lenses
So what’s an extension tube? Extension tubes, or rings, are hollow cylinders that you mount between the front of your camera and your lens.
These tubes often come with no extra optics, bells or whistles and are therefore a cheap and cheerful option. Plenty of third-party models exist for extension tubes, and they’re becoming increasingly popular among those who need to get closer to their subject.
There are two main types of extension tubes available. The first and most affordable option is a non-electronic tube. These don’t keep any form of connection between the body of your device and your lens. Unfortunately, this makes it less convenient to control your setup.
The second option is an extension tube with electrical contacts that keep your device and lens connected. With these more premium models, you’ll be able to control exposure and focus. You’ll also be able to toggle between manual focus and automatic focus modes.
What about a macro lens? If you want to guarantee focus at close range and take large photos with excellent image quality, you might like this option. A dedicated macro lens can really elevate your close up photo game. They have a much closer focus range, which allows them to stay sharp even when right next to your subject.
These lenses’ advantages for close up photography are obvious, but there are some applications that many beginners don’t think of. Macro setups are great if you’re into food photography. The close, sharp detail makes capturing a photo of your meal very easy.
Portrait photography in general is made much easier with a macro lens. There are plenty of options out there to add to your kit. It’s worth shopping around to see which ones work for you. As a general rule, the leading names are Canon and Nikon. Each come with their own list of pros and cons. Check out the rest of this site to learn more.
Picking the right macro sensor can be tricky. Years ago, the competition was less fierce, but there’s now a lot of research involved in finding the right option. One of the best tips, in our opinion, is to go with a prime macro lens. There are two variants out there: prime and zoom.
In our opinion, prime lenses usually produce a better image. Technically speaking, a zoom lens isn’t truly macro in the first place. When picking up a macro lens, remember to pay attention to the minimum distance for focusing and reproduction ratio. This will help you get a phenomenal image every time.
How Macro Lenses Work
It’s much harder to maintain a sharp focus with normal camera lenses when moving close to your subject. The focus range isn’t right for macro photography. Every lens has its strengths, but it’s best to use equipment built for the job for close-up shots.
A true macro lens uses a minimum focusing distance that can stay sharp when very close to its subject. Be sure to choose an option with the right focal length. When choosing a macro lens, look for options that have a reproduction ratio of at least 1:1.
A 1:1 ratio means that what you see on the camera sensor or film plate is at least the same size as the real-world subject. So if you’re taking a photo of a flower with a 1-inch diameter, that same flower should be 1-inch across on your camera’s sensor. You’ll be able to focus closer to your target than with other options and achieve the 1:1 ratio that’s so important.
Macro Lenses With APS-C sensors
The thing about picking up photography as a hobby is that it’s a field full of baffling terminology. One moment you’ve decided to buy a shiny camera, and the next, you’re scratching your head, wondering where on earth to start. So what does APS-C actually mean?
Let’s look at the first three letters. APS stands for “advanced photo system.” Years ago, this was a term used to refer to a film format first introduced in 1996. This film format is now discontinued, but the term is still around. The “C” in APS-C stands for classic.
In the world of digital photography, this format is smaller than its original film counterpart. This is why you may see APS lenses referred to as “cropped” sensors. APS-C lenses are still very common. For macro photos, they have some distinct advantages.
These “cropped” sensors offer a higher depth of field. This makes it easier to capture macro images. With the same field of view, an APS-C setup can focus at a much tighter distance than other options. If you’re interested in macro photography, you may want to look at an option using APS-C.
If a dedicated lens is a little out of your price range, an APS-C sensor may be the answer. These are a more budget-friendly option that can boost your setup’s ability to magnify.
How do Extension Tubes Work?
So we’ve already discussed that when using an extension tube to boost your magnification, you mount what is essentially a hollow cylinder between the front of your camera and your lens. This moves your lens much further away from your device than it was before. The result is a setup with a great magnification capacity.
Thanks to this magnifying boost, you’ll be able to take images that are zoomed-in far tighter than before. If you want to add extension rings to your setup, it’s best to choose a lens with a medium to small focal length.
There is a variety of different width and height options available for extension tubes. The dimensions you go with will determine how close you can get with your set up. The dimensions of your optics will also affect things. If you’re shooting with a 50mm lens, you’ll be able to get super close!
If flexibility is what you’re after, a longer 85mm option will give you more wiggle room. The thing you’re shooting won’t look quite as large in your photo, but you’ll have more room to operate in.
Stacking Extension Tubes
It’s also possible to stack one extension tube on top of the other to maximize your magnification. If you think this is the right approach for you, there are a few tips to remember:
- Use compatible tubes. Not all tubes are designed to play nicely with one another; buy models that fit together.
- Watch out for light leak. Depending on the setup you use, you may experience unwanted light leaking into your system when taking images.
- They can be used to “hack” extenders together. If you own multiple extenders that don’t usually fit together, an extension tube can help them fit. There are tutorials out there online if you’re looking for a more custom setup.
Limitations of Extension Tubes
If you use telephoto lenses, an extension tube might not be a great fit. The increase in magnification with a telephoto lens is minimal and would probably be a waste of time to set up. While we’re on the subject, if you like taking a photo of objects way off in the distance, then a tube won’t be a good option.
Thanks to their design, an extension tube ruins your ability to focus on faraway objects. If image quality matters to you, then we think a macro lens is a better option. Extension rings force your lens to focus more closely than it’s supposed to. This will result in lower image quality for each zoomed-in photo.
If you use a zoom lens for your macro photography, you would be better off with a macro sensor. A lens like a zoom lens will lose focus practically every time you zoom in or out. If you’ve used a setup like this before, you know how frustrating this can be.
The final limitation we want to discuss in this article is aperture control. If your setup doesn’t use manual rings, then an extension ring could drive you mad. Your lens aperture will be locked open at the widest setting. This can force an imaginative photo in the right context but can also be frustratingly limiting.
- This Macro Extension Tube Set includes 3 extension tubes:13mm,21mm,31mm
- This macro extension tube set is suitable for all Canon EF EF-S and IS series lenses. Transform your Lens into a Macro Lens,such as Rebel X, Rebel XT, Rebel XTi, Rebel XSi, 1100D, 700D, 650D, 600D, 550D , 500D, 450D, 400D, 350D, 300D, 100D, 70D, 60D, 50D ,10D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 5D ,1D-X, 1D, 1Ds, 1D mark II, 1Ds mark II, 1D mark III, 1Ds mark III , 5D mark III,30/33/30V,50/55, kissIII, kissIIIL,100,10, 300V, 300X, 300VQD
- Moves the lens from the film or digital sensor. The closer the focus is, the greater the magnification
- This extension tube does not affect image quality as there is no optics inside
- In comparison, a close up filter is often blamed for degrading the quality of image. Auto-focus function can operate
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In the realm of choosing between extension rings and macro lenses, it’s important to remember that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Your preference ultimately depends on what you seek to achieve in your photography.
For those on a tight budget, an extension ring can be a saving grace. However, it’s crucial to keep a few considerations in mind. Firstly, if you’re stacking multiple extension rings, ensure they are compatible and be wary of potential light leaks that could impact your shots.
Secondly, if you’re using a zoom lens, prepare yourself for the challenges of manual focus. Lastly, bear in mind that extension rings operate in a way that may slightly decrease the overall quality of your images. Additionally, they aren’t ideal for telephoto setups. As long as these limitations don’t hinder your creative vision, incorporating an extension ring into your kit can be a worthwhile option.
On the other hand, if you have the means to invest, a macro lens can truly work wonders. The level of detail and sharpness they bring to each photograph is hard to dispute. Particularly for food or portrait photography enthusiasts, a macro lens can be the perfect answer to capturing captivating imagery. Remember to opt for a prime lens and select a model with a 1:1 reproduction ratio to truly make the most of your macro endeavors.
Ultimately, the choice between an extension ring and a macro lens lies in your hands. Consider your budget, shooting preferences, and desired image quality. Embrace the versatility of extension rings if they align with your needs, or indulge in the phenomenal capabilities of a macro lens if it’s within your reach. Whichever path you choose, delve into the world of close-up photography and let your creativity flourish. Happy capturing!