Macro Photography with Extension Tubes - Impressions and Expressions by Kunimasa Hiroshi

Staff Blog

Macro Photography with Extension Tubes - Impressions and Expressions by Kunimasa Hiroshi

Oct 26, 2017

Are you enjoying macro shooting?
From summer to winter, every season offers its various flowers blooming to be enjoyed and, of course, captured in your shots! 

Macro photography’s first real charm is to be able to shoot as closer and bigger as we could possibly think.
In this way, the usual scenery beyond us becomes a completely different new world…amazing, isn’t it! And when you get absorbed into such a world while shooting, you get eager to shoot even more and more big. So you move one step closer, then another step closer, closer and closer until you reach your target object and…you figure out you cannot properly focus! An unpleasant surprise everybody experienced, am I wrong?

Although macro lens allows shooting closer and bigger compared to regular lenses, there are some limitations. But I think the desire to shoot closer still persists. Particularly, isn’t a common desire to shoot at small objects, like small flowers etc., to see them bigger? In such situations, as there are limits on how much you can get closer, you may think there is no other way but to give up, right?
No, don’t worry: there are still different ways that will allow you to shoot closer and bigger.

One of this, if you are using a full frame camera, is to replace it with an APS-C camera.
For Nikon, APS-C cameras have a 1.5x crop factor that allows capturing distant objects, making them appear bigger. As the minimum focusing distance does not change, even if you shoot from the same distance, the subject will be enlarged accordingly (in practice, it is as if it was cropped) and shot bigger.

Another way is the one I will talk about in this review.
That is, shooting with Extension Tubes.
An extension tube is a device that, once installed between the camera body and lens, allows shooting further closer at the subject than the lens minimum focusing distance. In few words, it is a device with the magical power of letting you shoot further closer and bigger at the subject you want to shoot. 

Kenko Tokina has released an Extension Tube Set in 3 rings of 12mm, 20mm and 36mm respectively. Whether you use one ring at a time, or combine more rings together, this set allows you to shoot in 7 different ways. Being so, it seems you can finally get your chance to shoot as bigger and closer as you want! 

So, let’s see in practice how the image can change when extension tube is used.

First of all, the following one is a shot taken with a macro lens only.
The minimum focusing distance is at its limits.

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The real distance between the camera and the subject is like in the following picture.


If you try to move a little closer than this, you won’t be able to focus.

The following picture was taken with the extension tube’s 12mm ring installed on.
Can you see how bigger you can shoot compared to using a macro lens only?

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And the real distance between the camera and the subject gets a little bit closer.

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Now let’s see a picture taken with the extension tube’s 20mm ring on.

The subject appears even bigger than before.

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Also, the distance between the camera and the target object is a little bit closer.

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Following on, let’s have a look at pictures taken with the 36mm ring.
Compared to the very first picture, the subject appears considerably bigger.

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And the distance between the camera and the subject is considerably close.

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In the end, let’s try and see how it will be shooting with all the 3 rings (12mm, 20mm and 36mm) installed on.
I could shoot even further bigger than before. The subject appears even bigger than when shooting with only the macro lens installed.

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If we consider the real distance between the camera body and the subject, we can see how the ends of the lens body almost touch the subject.

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Beside those showed above, there are several different combinations of extension rings you can try to shoot with.

However, when using an extension tube there are things you have to pay attention to. For example, shaking will occur more easily compared to using a macro lens only. As you can see from the image above, as the distance between the camera and the subject becomes considerably closer, the magnification power gets higher as well. As the shooting magnification increases, the subject will appear enlarged, so even a little shaking will appear bigger and more noticeable.
It is of course necessary to pay attention to hands shaking, but also to subject’s shaking as well. Even a small breeze barely felt on your skin can appear like a windstorm shaking a flower on an enlarged viewfinder. Some meticulous attentions, like making use of a tripod and choose a moment without wind blowing to shoot, are therefore necessary. Particularly, you should be cautious in case you want to shoot using various rings combined, as the lens becomes extremely longer and, even when using a tripod, the balance might still be bad and shaking effects easy to occur. 
Another piece of advice: when installing the extension tube’s rings, the distance between the camera and lens will get longer only by the value of the ring or rings attached. For this reason, the amount of light that reaches the camera will drop significantly (aperture gets darker).
When shooting in aperture priority mode (AE), the shutter speed will get slower, therefore blurring and shaking get easier to occur. In this case, you can avoid blurring by increasing the ISO sensitivity.
Moreover, be also careful not to get too close and hit your lens against the flower you want to shoot! It will be quite a shock for you if you hit with your lens the water droplet you want to shoot and accidentally drop it!
Furthermore, when installing the digital extension tubes set on, focusing on distant subjects will become difficult. So, if you try to focus distant objects with the set installed on and figure out you cannot focus at all, don’t panic!
It’s not a malfunctioning, and you can still keep on shooting after removing the rings.

It’s all for now…did you find it helpful?
In addition to macro lenses, you could also make great use of this extension tubes set, and try taking pictures with a different flavor from those you had shot until now.

Kunimasa Hiroshi – Kuniphoto Works
Web site: 

About Kunimasa Hiroshi

Born in 1971 and currently living in the Osaka prefecture, Kunimasa Hiroshi (nickname Kuni Hiro), is a “macrographer” that loves to freely flip through macro lenses and draw fantastic and mysterious worlds where light and blur interweave. The expression of flowers changing hour by hour and the comical appearance of insects are what make him hearted up and heal his soul while capturing the expression of that moment.

Certified photo instructor for the Japan Photography Association (JPIO) and leader of the "Kuni's flower macro photography school".