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DPChallenge Forums >> Hardware and Software >> extension tubes vs. macro lens
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02/19/2007 02:57:32 PM · #1
Spring is not too far away in the Northern Hemisphere, and I want to be prepared for those bug-and-flower macros. I know it has been asked before, but I have some specific questions. My main question is 85 or 50 f/1.8 with extension tubes, or 100 f/2.8 macro? Specifically...

What length of tubes is needed to convert the 50 or 85 to 1:1?

If using Kenko AF tubes, once 1:1 (or close to it) is attained, will the extended 50 or 85 function just like a 100 macro? (Or will I have to focus centimeters away or always shoot wide open, etc.?)

Lots of questions - any sort of assistance is greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
Luke
02/19/2007 03:07:31 PM · #2
I am using some off brand extension tubes and as cool as they are if I had the money I would go with the macro lens. But if you only have $20 or so the extension rings are a great deal.
02/19/2007 03:16:14 PM · #3
I have set of Kenko tubes, I also have a 100mm f2.8 macro and a 65mm macro.

Buy the tubes now, buy the 100mm when you know you like macro. You can always stack the tubes and the 100mm macro to get additional magnification.

Then when you are really hooked go and buy the 65mm which gets 5:1 magnification, but maxes out the credit card too.
02/19/2007 03:19:02 PM · #4
the only thing i don't like about tubes is the loss of focus to infinite ... so you have to remove the tubes in order to use the lens normally. not so with the macro lens.

but they're much cheaper and do the same thing :)

Message edited by author 2007-02-19 15:19:20.
02/19/2007 04:07:58 PM · #5
Thanks to all for the replies.

Originally posted by timfythetoo:

I am using some off brand extension tubes and as cool as they are if I had the money I would go with the macro lens. But if you only have $20 or so the extension rings are a great deal.


Are you saying that if I can afford the macro lens that I should just buy it? I certainly have more that $20, but I'm still not to eager to pay $400-500 for the lens. I noticed that one of your photos was with your 50mm with tubes. What sort of working distance does that give you?

Originally posted by Falc:

...Buy the tubes now, buy the 100mm when you know you like macro. You can always stack the tubes and the 100mm macro to get additional magnification. ...


I already know I like macro.
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So are you suggesting the 100, too?

Originally posted by hopper:

the only thing i don't like about tubes is the loss of focus to infinite ... so you have to remove the tubes in order to use the lens normally. not so with the macro lens.

but they're much cheaper and do the same thing :)


I'm not too worried about removing the tubes to allow focusing at infinity, considering the price difference. What does concern me is working distance and DOF control (can you stop down? if so, does it make a significant difference?).

Again, thanks for the replies.
02/19/2007 04:22:14 PM · #6
If you have a 100mm focal length lens, using tubes will give you about the same working distance at 1:1 as would a "true" 100mm macro lens. With a 50mm lens, that's pretty short. Still, you really aren't going to use 1:1 that often. If you find that you really do a lot of macro and/or a 100/2.8 prime is something you'd use regularly, then the 100 Macro is a good buy.
If you use the tubes that maintain electrical connection, like this Kenko set, you'll retain control of aperture, and even AF, though AF will be pretty useless.
02/19/2007 04:24:31 PM · #7
One more question, I bought the Kenko 1.4 Tele-converter so I would maintain full metering on my D70, would the Kenko macro extension tubes also give me this capability?
02/19/2007 04:43:56 PM · #8
Originally posted by kirbic:

If you have a 100mm focal length lens, using tubes will give you about the same working distance at 1:1 as would a "true" 100mm macro lens. With a 50mm lens, that's pretty short. Still, you really aren't going to use 1:1 that often. If you find that you really do a lot of macro and/or a 100/2.8 prime is something you'd use regularly, then the 100 Macro is a good buy.
If you use the tubes that maintain electrical connection, like this Kenko set, you'll retain control of aperture, and even AF, though AF will be pretty useless.


Thanks, Kirbic!
02/19/2007 04:47:56 PM · #9
Originally posted by Falc:



Then when you are really hooked go and buy the 65mm which gets 5:1 magnification, but maxes out the credit card too.


*drool* How much magnification do you get with that with extenision tubes added? I've been thinking about getting tubes for my macro lens but since it's 180mm length I'd imagine I wouldn't get much bang for the buck.

Message edited by author 2007-02-19 16:48:11.
02/19/2007 04:57:48 PM · #10
Originally posted by yanko:

I've been thinking about getting tubes for my macro lens but since it's 180mm length I'd imagine I wouldn't get much bang for the buck.


No, you wouldn't. you'd need 180mm of extension to increase your max magnification to 2:1. However a 1.4x teleconverter would take you to 1.4:1.
02/19/2007 05:07:32 PM · #11
I would suggest buying the 100mm macro lens AND the tubes. That way you get the best of both worlds. You will probably also want to look at your lighting as adding tubes reduces the available light. I started out with a 550EX, then bought a 420EX as a slave and now have a 580EX. This allows me to light the subject and the background.
02/19/2007 05:08:36 PM · #12
Both, There is nothing more fun for macro than the 100mm f2.8 ontop of a set of Kenko tubes. Now that is getting close. Much closer than 1:1.
02/19/2007 08:33:59 PM · #13
without hijacking the thread can a green horn ask a question?

This is my first DSLR and I only have the 40-150mm lens and the kit 17.5 to 45mm lens. What is an extension tube? I looked at the provided link and don't quite understand it. Is it something I would use with my existing lenes?

Thanks for letting me hijack a little.
02/19/2007 08:41:29 PM · #14
Originally posted by sabphoto:

without hijacking the thread can a green horn ask a question?

This is my first DSLR and I only have the 40-150mm lens and the kit 17.5 to 45mm lens. What is an extension tube? I looked at the provided link and don't quite understand it. Is it something I would use with my existing lenes?

Thanks for letting me hijack a little.


you can use them on any lens. essentially it lets you focus closer to your subject than without them. I love my tubes with my 100 2.8.
02/19/2007 08:56:27 PM · #15
I have the Kenko 3 tube set and have used them on everything from my 24-70 to 100-400. Besides being less expensive, because they don't have any glass in them (they really are just tubes) you don't get any degradation of your image. As mentioned, working distance becomes a factor also. When I used my 85mm, the working distance is pretty short. The more tube I put on the short it gets. I find that if I use my 70-200 2.8L that when I have it at 100mm the working distance is a lot better and I can use all 3 tubes. It's really interesting when I've used it on the 100-400 because it turns the long zoom into a nice portrait lens but with a different perspective of the person because of the flattening aspect of a long lens.

They really are neat to have and easy to throw in the bag when out and about.

Mike


02/19/2007 09:15:18 PM · #16
May I recommend a book? I just finished "reading" Closeups in Nature, written by John Shaw (ISBN 0-8174-4051-8).

Yes, it's 20 years old (published in 1987) and is all done with film cameras, but the material regarding closeups and macro photography still apply.

He goes into great detail on SO many areas, you'll want to keep it for a reference book. Teleconverters, extension tubes, macro lens, diopters with zoom, stacked lenses, reversed lens, combinations, using flash with all of the above (how to make a butterfly bracket for your flash), etc, etc... Various matrixes and formulas for the technical people. If you want to get really, really close there's a section on using movie-camera lenses.

Very complete and quite helpful IMO.
02/19/2007 09:57:23 PM · #17
Originally posted by Falc:

Then when you are really hooked go and buy the 65mm which gets 5:1 magnification, but maxes out the credit card too.


amazon.com is selling this lens for $820 ... considering the magnification you're getting, i wouldn't say this is a credit card killer! :)

i'm going to go hunting around and see if nikon has an equivalent lens.
02/19/2007 10:58:39 PM · #18
Originally posted by glad2badad:

May I recommend a book? I just finished "reading" Closeups in Nature, written by John Shaw (ISBN 0-8174-4051-8). ...

Since picking this up at the library I've been meaning to look into buying a copy of this book. Talking about it here gave me the reminder I needed. :D

FYI - Just bought it on Amazon for $8 + shipping.

Amazon.com: John Shaw's Closeups in Nature
02/20/2007 02:27:45 AM · #19
As an official 'cheap-ass grad student' I went with extension tubes. Although, I recommend going a step farther and getting a reverser ($11 on e-bay) to go with the 50 mm prime.

With the full tubes and a reverser you can get 2:1 magnification out of a Canon 50 mm f/1.8 prime. Plus, you get a much larger working distance (so the camera/lens doesn't block light as much) and using the reverser makes it a little more convenient to set aperture: plug the lens in normally, set aperture, hold DOF-preview button while you remove it to set the aperture and hold it, and flip it around and put it on reversed and you are ready to go.

Just remember to disable autofocus so the wimpy little motor doesn't try to move all that weight.

Details are here:

//stanfordphoto.blogspot.com/2007/02/macro-photography-with-50-mm-f18.html

That being said, if I had the money, I'd go for the dedicated macro lens. Being able to autofocus would be handy and I have to expect the actual macro lens will let a lot more light in (the viewfinder gets really dark at 2:1 magnification).
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