Macro Photography Using Extension Tubes

How convenient would it be if you could use your regular lens to take close up shots of subjects just as if it were a macro lens? While macro lenses are perfect for close-up images, they can be expensive for someone who doesn’t do much macro photography. This is where an extension tube can be of help. David Bergman from Adorama sheds some light on types of extension tubes and their benefits:

Extension tubes are non-optical attachments that go in between your camera and the lens. The tube doesn’t have any optics but it affects one important aspect of the lens, and that is minimum focus distance. Every lens has a minimum focus distance, and the farther the lens is taken away from the sensor, the closer it can focus on the subject. This allows you to shoot with greater magnification—hence the macro effect.

Types of Extension Tubes

The cheaper version of extension tubes are basic hollow tubes with no electronic contacts. This means that the camera cannot communicate with the lens when using this kind of extension tube. You cannot control the aperture of the lens unless you’re using a vintage lens with manual aperture control on the lens itself. Having a control over aperture is very important in macro photography because the depth of field tends to be very shallow when shooting up close. If you have no control of the lens aperture, it will be wide open, causing the photo to be blurry due to shallow depth of field. Also, since there is no communication between the lens and the camera, the EXIF data will not include the lens data and settings.

types of extensio tubes

On our left is an inexpensive extension tube with no electronic contacts and on the right is an extension tube with electronic contacts.

A more expensive version of extension tubes are the ones that are specifically designed for the camera, like the Canon EF 25 II, which is designed specifically for Canon DSLRs. You can find such extension tubes for other brand of cameras, as well. These types of extension tubes have electronic contacts, which allow the camera and the lens to communicate with each other. This means that the camera can autofocus the lens, change the aperture, use stabilization features of the lens, and also include the lens data in the EXIF.

Now a question may arise why people go for dedicated macro lenses instead of opting for a cheaper solution of getting an extension tube. The reason is image quality. Since by using an extension tube, we are using the lens in a way it is not intended to be used, we do lose some image quality. So, go for an extension tube only if you rarely take macro photographs.

“Extension tubes are a great way to get started into macro photography and can open up creative world like you have never seen before.”

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current: