Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's an extension tube anyway?

If you love close up/macro photos you may already know that a macro lens, even a cheap one, is going to set you back hundreds of dollars.   I totally will admit that I've had one on my amazon wish list for several years now, but the truth is, I really need other lenses more.

Gene sells jewelry online, and I really struggle with getting a great shot that shows the details of the piece. 

Introducing... the extension tube.
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An extension tube is just that.  Basically a tube that moves the lens away from the camera base.  There's a couple different sizes that you can buy for a canon mount, but in reality, you can make your own out of some black pipe and some hose clamps.

However, I really wanted my camera to take readings while I got the shot so I went for the OEM product from Canon which costs around $140-$175.  A virtual steal when it comes to "lenses".

Essentially, what happens is that it moves the lens away from the body which reduces that minimum focal distance.  My 50 mm lens before was 1.5 feet minimum distance from the object, but now I can get down to about 4 inches from my subject.

Here's a couple examples of what the extension tube can accomplish.  Both photos below are as close as I can possibly get, no cropping of the image.

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As you can see, the focal length greatly affects also how close you can get, but on some items you may not want to get that close so you can choose a lens with a longer focal length.

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This has greatly improved my close up shots.

You don't want to forget, that with any lens, you need to narrow your aperture to increase your depth of field.  This will guarantee your subject will be nice and crisp.  You'll have to give up something else in return though - you'll need a lot of light the more you narrow your aperture.  (just increasing your ISO will cause grain unless you have a 1dx.  Which I don't)

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My over all evaluation is that the ext tube was a great investment for my return.  Not the same as a macro lens, but pretty darn good anyway for what I need to accomplish.  If you're looking for a good photography gift for someone, this is a winner.
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If you'd like to read more about extension tubes, here is a great article.

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