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Macro lens or Extension Tube

limvo05
Rising Star

Hi All,

 

With the lockdown, I am thinking of playing around with macro photography. I was thinking of getting a dedicated macro lens like the 100mm f/2.8, but then I saw some youtube videos of people playing with extension tubes.

 

I have a 24-70mm f/2.8 ii and a 70-200mm f/2.8 ii. Both of these lenses are fantastic especially when paired with my Canon 5Ds.

 

In that sense, is the macro lens any sharper than my two lenses paired with the extension tube? And if you recommend an extension tube, which brand would you recommend?

 

Thanks.

23 REPLIES 23

Ray-uk
Whiz

A macro lens will be sharper across the entire frame, give less distortion and give you a focus range that usually goes from 1:1 to infinity. Extension tubes are clumsy to use and give limited focusing distances.

Although you can get some great shots with extension tubes they are a poor replacement for a proper macro lens.

Ray-UK, thank you for answering my question.

 

What if I am going to use photo-stacking? Also, it would really depend on the situation and style, by that I mean, not always I want the entire photo or subject is in focus. I find both styles are pleasing.

 

FYI. I bought an extension tube once but it did not work. I was not able to get it to focus, even when manually focusing so I returned the unit. That said, it was one of those cheap quality ones. Perhaps, getting a Canon extension tube would work better?

 


@limvo05 wrote:

Ray-UK, thank you for answering my question.

 

What if I am going to use photo-stacking? Also, it would really depend on the situation and style, by that I mean, not always I want the entire photo or subject is in focus. I find both styles are pleasing.

 

FYI. I bought an extension tube once but it did not work. I was not able to get it to focus, even when manually focusing so I returned the unit. That said, it was one of those cheap quality ones. Perhaps, getting a Canon extension tube would work better?

 


There are many good third party products- Kenko is one. 

John Hoffman
Conway, NH

1D X Mark III, Many lenses, Pixma PRO-100, Pixma TR8620a, LR Classic


@limvo05 wrote:

Ray-UK, thank you for answering my question.

 

What if I am going to use photo-stacking? Also, it would really depend on the situation and style, by that I mean, not always I want the entire photo or subject is in focus. I find both styles are pleasing.

 

FYI. I bought an extension tube once but it did not work. I was not able to get it to focus, even when manually focusing so I returned the unit. That said, it was one of those cheap quality ones. Perhaps, getting a Canon extension tube would work better?

 


What was the focal length of the lens?  How many mm of extension tube did you use?  It is possible to use too much.

 

As a general rule, you do not want to add extensions that total up to more than 25-33% of the focal length of the lens.  For example, only use up to 25-33mm of extension with a 100mm lens.  The reason for that is tied to the fact that extension tubes significantly reduce the maximum focusing distance.  

 

With most lenses, add as much 40-50% mm of extension will cause the maximum focusing distance to reduce to the point where it is inside of the barrel of the lens, which results in a lens that does not seem able to focus on anything.  

 

At the opposite end of the scale is that you will not begin to see any significant reduction in the minimum focusing distance until you add extensions that are more than 10-15% of the focal length of the lens.  This minimum can vary widely, depending upon the original minimum focusing distance of the lens.

 

Buying a real macro lens is much better.  Extension tubes do not always attach perfectly straight.  Stacking them up will only multiply any alignment errors associated with the multiple mounts.  Finally, extension tubes have known to get stuck on the lens that you might attach them, too.

 

There are some pretty good brands, though.  I have used a set of Kenko extension tubes with Rebel T5 with the "nifty fifty" in the past with without any issue.  I never tried to use auto focus much, at all.  I always used a tripod and Live View to focus manually.

--------------------------------------------------------
"The right mouse button is your friend."

I tested with both the 24-70 2.8 ii and 70-200 2.8 ii. Both lenses failed to focus even in manual mode. Not sure what happened? I checked the comment for the unit I bought and it appears to be a common theme, thus I've returned it.

 

Canon does sell extension tube, but the price is 3 times as much as other brands.

 

Which macro lens would you recommend to go with the 5Ds? I am looking at the 100mm f/2.8 IS. If I am not mistaken, this lens was released at least 11 years ago.

Thanks.

Greetings limvo5,

 

Lens have a minimum focus distance.  Meaning (the distance) of how close they can get to an object a still focus correctly.  Might this be the reason you were unable to get clear focus?

 

EF 100 is about a foot - 0.99 ft./0.3m (maximum close-up magnification: 1x) 

70-200 is about 3.94ft - 3.94 ft. (maximum close-up magnification: 0.21x) 

 

And yes..  EF 100 Macro was released in Sept 2009.

 

 

~Rick
Bay Area - CA
~R5C (1.0.1.1) ~Many Lenses ~DxO PhotoLab Elite ~Windows10 Pro ~EVGA RTX 3080Ti FTW3 Ultra
~ImageClass MF644Cdw ~Pixel6 
~6D2 (v1.1.1) retiring

I thought with the extension tube, I am able to focus at much shorter distance than without? This is the extension tube I bought and returned https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01E0W26RS/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?tag=thomas093-20&ie=UTF8&linkId...

 

Thanks.


@limvo05 wrote:

I thought with the extension tube, I am able to focus at much shorter distance than without? This is the extension tube I bought and returned [ LINK DELETED ]

 

Thanks.


Yes, that is true.  But, you have yet to tell us exactly what you tried to do.  For example, how far away was the subject, how much extension did you add to which lens dialed in to what focal length?  

 

One of the "pros" for extension tubes is that they contain no optics.  Not being able to achieve focus manually would strongly suggest that you did not use them properly.  There are no electronics to impair focusing.  It is all a matter of finding a good working distance to use.

 

As I have noted, the most common error is using too much extension, which can cause the maximum focusing distance to fall within the lens barrel, which would mean the minimum focusing distance is even closer to the image sensor.

 

If you sent those back, then it makes no difference now.  I had bought the Kenko tubes so I could dip my toes into the water.  I had first tested them with the least expensive lens in my bag.  They did not get stuck, and they seemed to work as advertised.

 

-------------------------------

 

I use the EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens now.  It is extremely sharp, perhaps too sharp for some subjects; i.e. head shots.

 

There are two significant differences between a macro lens and a more conventional lens.  The first is the reduced MFD and the higher magnification at that close distance.  The other significant difference is the shape of the plane of focus.

 

Conventional have a focus plane that is actually more spherical than flat.  For example, if I were to take a photo of a wide wall mural with a conventional lens, the center of the image may be in perfect focus.  As you move away from the center of the mural, the distance to the camera increases, and eventually you reach a point where the wall is outside of the Depth Of Field.

 

On the other hand, a macro lens has a much flatter focus plane.  If used a macro lens to photograph that same wall mural, it would be sharp in the center of the photo.  As you moved away from the center, the mural will stay in focus, within the DoF, over a noticeably wider range compared to the conventional lens.

 

--------------------------------------------------------
"The right mouse button is your friend."


@limvo05 wrote:

I tested with both the 24-70 2.8 ii and 70-200 2.8 ii. Both lenses failed to focus even in manual mode. Not sure what happened? I checked the comment for the unit I bought and it appears to be a common theme, thus I've returned it.

 

Canon does sell extension tube, but the price is 3 times as much as other brands.

 

Which macro lens would you recommend to go with the 5Ds? I am looking at the 100mm f/2.8 IS. If I am not mistaken, this lens was released at least 11 years ago.

Thanks.


You would not be able to focus much more than 1-2 feet away from the lens with extension tubes installed.  The price of using extension tubes is that you lose the ability to focus out to infinity.  [You trade a focusing range of say 18 inches to infinity for a compressed range of say 8-24 inches.]

 

The Kenko tubes work just fine.  I used one (12mm?) with the EF 16-35mm f/2.6L II USM to take this photo.  [@35mm].

 

9A5BF68C-0005-440C-8B53-E8B5697FC4FD.jpeg

 

This image is actually a focus stack of about 10 separate images.  I bumped the tripod near the "top" of the coin.

--------------------------------------------------------
"The right mouse button is your friend."
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