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Working with extension tubes

From: Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up

Video: Working with extension tubes

If you find yourself frustrated by the minimum focusing distance of your lens, if you constantly find that you're unable to frame the shot you want, because you can't get close enough to focus, then you may want to consider extension tubes. An extension tube is an attachment that goes between your camera body and your lens. It's not an optical element. There is no glass in here. All it does is get the lens further from the focal plane. Now, the practical upshot of this is that your minimum focusing distance gets smaller. So, with an extension tube, you can get closer to your subject; you can fill the frame with more of it, and still achieve focus.

Working with extension tubes

If you find yourself frustrated by the minimum focusing distance of your lens, if you constantly find that you're unable to frame the shot you want, because you can't get close enough to focus, then you may want to consider extension tubes. An extension tube is an attachment that goes between your camera body and your lens. It's not an optical element. There is no glass in here. All it does is get the lens further from the focal plane. Now, the practical upshot of this is that your minimum focusing distance gets smaller. So, with an extension tube, you can get closer to your subject; you can fill the frame with more of it, and still achieve focus.

For example, I've got my 24-105mm lens here. And, this is as close as I can get to this flower. I have zoomed in all the way. And, notice the way I'm focusing, just like we talked about before. I'm moving forward and back. This is as close as I can get, which gets me this shot. Nice enough, but I like to get in closer, so I'm going to add one of these extension tubes. So, I have three of them. We're going talk about the difference in a minute. Extension tubes simply go on your camera body like a lens. So, I'm going to take my lens off, and put an extension tube on. I'm using the shortest one; it goes right there.

The reason I'm choosing the shortest one is I don't want to go in real far. I just want to a little of extra boost, so I'm not going to attach the lens to the extension tube. so, you can see I have got a little bit of extension that's going to let me get a little bit closer. So now, with that extension tube I can get into here. Now, there is a trade-off that I have to suffer here, and that is that the extension tube takes some light. So, I may have to go to a higher ISO; I may have to go to a wider aperture.

If I go to a wider aperture, then I'm going to have a less depth of field. So, there is this trade-off of magnification versus depth of field. But what's nice is I got in tighter. I'm not going to have crop my image in postproduction. I get to use more of the pixels in my camera. You can use extension tubes with any type of lens, prime or zoom, a regular lens, or a macro. They are an inexpensive way to get the kind of short focusing distances that you get from a dedicated and much more expensive macro lens. Now, extension tubes come in different sizes. I have a set of three here. I've got one that is 13 mm; I have got one that's a little bit longer, a 21; and another one that's longer still at 31, I believe. Yeah. And, I can stack these together.

And as I stack them, they get longer. And, as they get longer, I get more extension, which means more magnification power. So, I can go all the way up to here. And, if I put this on my camera, I'm going to be able to get all the way into full macro range. And, that's going to open up all of the macro concerns and practices that I'm going to need to think about as I'm shooting in that close. And, those are the things we're going to learn when we get to true macro lenses. The effectiveness of extension tubes decreases as focal length increases.

In other words, you're going to see more of a change sticking this stack onto a 50mm lens than you will when you put it onto 300mm lens. You also need to be careful when working with extreme wide-angle lenses. If I put the 65mm stack of tubes on a 20mm lens, I won't be able to focus at all, because my minimum focusing distance will be pulled back into the inside of the lens. So, one other very important thing to understand about extension tubes, some of them have electrical contacts that allow your camera to communicate with your lens, and some don't.

If you get tubes that don't, then you won't have auto focus or aperture control. Now, Canon and Nikon both make sets of active extension tubes, that is the ones that have these contacts. And, while they work great, they're very expensive. This is a set of Kenko extension tubes with a Canon mount. I can get these with other mounts, Nikon and other mounts. That's K-e-n-k-o. I have all the correct contacts, and they give me full auto controls, but they cost much less than the Canon tubes. Extension tubes are a very affordable way to start getting into a lot more magnification power.

What's more, they're small, they're very light, and they're easy to carry. If you're worried about whether you should invest in extension tubes, or go ahead and invest in a true macro lens, bear in mind that sometimes you'll need to get a macro lens closer to your subject, so you'll continue to use extension tubes, even if you eventually buy a macro lens. In the meantime, they're a great way to start experimenting with getting closer, and even experimenting with true macro ranges, as we'll see later.

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This video is part of

Image for Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up
Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up

47 video lessons · 16585 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 3m 54s
    1. Welcome
      2m 17s
    2. What you need to know for this course
      1m 37s
  2. 20m 33s
    1. What is close up?
      2m 21s
    2. Understanding minimum focus distance
      3m 55s
    3. Comparing wide lens and telephoto
      1m 55s
    4. Understanding depth of field and focus
      2m 11s
    5. Working with extension tubes
      4m 30s
    6. Working with close-up lenses
      5m 41s
  3. 28m 7s
    1. What is a macro photo?
      4m 15s
    2. Understanding how to shoot macro with a reversed lens
      5m 37s
    3. Using a point-and-shoot camera for macro
      1m 55s
    4. Working with backdrops for macro
      3m 45s
    5. Practicing macro by shooting in the kitchen
      12m 35s
  4. 58m 38s
    1. Choosing a macro lens
      2m 4s
    2. Exploring macro lens features: Focal length
      3m 16s
    3. Understanding macro lens shutter speed
      7m 6s
    4. Shooting basics with a macro lens
      8m 24s
    5. Getting closer with macro lenses and extension tubes
      11m 13s
    6. Working with depth of field and macro
      5m 1s
    7. Understanding depth and composition in macro
      6m 43s
    8. Working with subject holders and support
      6m 36s
    9. Shooting with the Canon 65 mm
      8m 15s
  5. 13m 12s
    1. Working with macro stabilizing options
      5m 45s
    2. Working with sliders for macro
      2m 44s
    3. Working with a bellows
      1m 55s
    4. Working with viewfinders in macro
      2m 48s
  6. 52m 59s
    1. Working with direct light
      6m 13s
    2. Macro and the angle of light
      2m 24s
    3. Augmenting direct light with reflectors
      6m 42s
    4. Continuous lighting to add fill to a macro shot
      5m 55s
    5. Lighting your macro scene with continuous light
      4m 50s
    6. Lighting the macro scene with strobes
      4m 59s
    7. Setting up a macro-specific flash unit
      3m 21s
    8. Shooting with the Canon Macro Twin Lite
      7m 56s
    9. Shooting macro in a light tent
      3m 31s
    10. Shooting macro on a light table
      7m 8s
  7. 19m 44s
    1. Field shooting for macro, starting at home
      7m 5s
    2. Managing backgrounds in the field
      7m 39s
    3. Shooting macro water droplets
      5m 0s
  8. 56m 19s
    1. Creating a simple manual focus stack
      4m 40s
    2. Creating a focus stacked image with manual merge
      6m 17s
    3. Creating a focus stacked image using Helicon Remote
      11m 6s
    4. Working with a StackShot rail for focus stacking
      11m 46s
    5. Merging a focus stack with Photoshop
      11m 12s
    6. Merging photo stacks with Helicon
      6m 53s
    7. Understanding the aesthetics of depth of field
      4m 25s
  9. 1m 5s
    1. Next steps
      1m 5s

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