8 Things that you need to know when you buy an extension tube

April 11, 2020

Apologize for the delay! Last week we've used extension tubes for taking close-up photos of oil bubbles; I am hoping to send out this newsletter before the weekend to draw your attention to 8 things before you invest in macro extension tubes.



1. What is an extension tube?


An extension tube is a replacement for macro lenses. It is a hollow tube that goes in between the camera body and a regular lens, allowing you to get extremely close to the subject and fill the frame.



2. Buy extension tubes that have electronic contact with the lens. 


You cannot change the aperture if the extension tube does not have electronic contact with the lens. You will have to nail the aperture before inserting the tube, and detach it every time to change the aperture.

So, you should buy the tubes that have electronic contact with the lens in order to change the aperture normally.

Apart from the specs, price is an indicator of whether the tubes have electronic contact or not. Those that do not have are usually priced below $10 (they are just plastic tubes); you can't go wrong for those that are priced at $30 or higher, they should have electronic contact.



3. You need to get extremely close to the subject.


You will begin to see the subject in the viewfinder/ live screen only when you are very close to the subject.



4. The longer the tube, the bigger the magnification.


A pack of tubes usually come in 2-3 different sizes, you can use them separately or stack them together. The longer the tube, the closer you have to get to the subject, and hence the bigger the magnification.  




5. Start with the shortest one.


Since you have to get extremely close to the subject when you use a long extension tube (e.g 36mm), you are literally blocking the light from the subject. So start shooting with the shortest tube (e.g 12mm), get some practice before taking the next step. 




6. Add a flash or a ring light.


Lighting is an issue in macro photography because smaller apertures (F11, F16) are used in order to get enough depth of field. The fact that you need to get extremely close to the subject also shields the subject away from the light. Macro photographers usually add an off-camera flash (with a small softbox) or a ring light to illuminate the subject. Some lenses such as the Canon EF-S 35mm F2.8 Macro has a built-in LED light, which is very cool.


These artificial lights also separate the subject from the background.  




7. Use any regular lens with focal lengths range from 50-105mm.


Not every regular lens partners well with the extension tubes. Wide angle lenses can't even capture a macro image with any extension tube because the image cannot be projected on to the camera sensor. The best equivalent focal lengths to work with range in between 50-105mm. I've been using these lenses with my extension tubes:

a) Canon 24-70 F4 (zoomed to 70mm)

b) Canon 85mm F1.4

c) Sony 24-105 F4 (zoomed to 105mm)

d) Canon 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 (zoomed to 55mm, which is equivalent to 88mm)




8. My favorite brands:

Kenko and Fotodiox





The pandemic will be over one day. When our lives go back to normal, the Macro Photography Workshop will be back again! The discount code of this class is the answer to this question: "What is Christina's favorite Korean Drama during the quarantine?" 

Hint: The answer is in this video. 






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