Macro...Ext. Tubes, Reverse Lens or dedicated Macro Lens?


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fWord

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Macro photography in the past was a cheap thing for me to pursue in the past. All I needed was a 15X magnifying glass over my Canon A40 and that did the trick.

Now that I've moved on to a DSLR, I need to look into other options for macro photography. It's still a very murky area for me, so I thought to pose some questions to the folks here who would definitely be more experienced. Any help is most appreciated.

Currently, I have one kit lens (18-55mm) and a telephoto zoom (70-200mm).

1. I've heard of extension tubes, which work to reduce the focusing distance of a lens and in so doing, allow an object to be more frame-filling. How many varieties of extension tubes are available for Canon DSLRs, and how much do they usually cost? Besides requiring a longer exposure time, are there any other things I need to watch out for?

2. I've also read about the Reverse Lens Technique. Is it possible to buy a cheap 50mm prime and then mount that in reverse onto my telephoto zoom for a good macro setup?

3. Diopters (?), which I believe are basically just magnifying glasses seem to be readily available, but I heard that it drops image quality dramatically as the magnification is increased. Should I still consider this?

4. Then the most expensive option remaining seems to be to purchase a dedicated macro lens. There's huge numbers of these on the market...which ones have you used, and what would you recommend? To be safe, I'd just say that I wish to photograph insects and flowers smaller than 2cm across (eg. flies, small spiders).
 

seanlim

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Oct 28, 2005
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#2
UP!!...keep this thread going..i also wanna noe the answers....i asked a similiar qn. recently though
 

fWord

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#3
Heheh...we need more answers on this, otherwise I'll continue to remain clueless. Ah well...if no answers, then I don't do macro photography...save a few hundred bucks. :bsmilie:
 

ricohflex

Senior Member
Feb 24, 2005
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#5
macro is fun.

Yes you can get good results from extension tubes and reverse lens (we call stacking).
Do read an excellent book by John Shaw.
He gave example using Nikon equipment, but it is the same with any brand.

Extension tubes are troublesome, as then you need a tripod and a focusing rail.
The viewfinder becomes dim and it is no fun.
Diopters are only for fun, no for serious macro.

Reversing lens, same problem as with tubes, you need tripod and rail.

If you are serious on macro, cut the above described crap and go straight for the macro lens.
Optically the best deal.
If you shoot insects that are afraid if you get too near, buy the 180 or 200 macro.
If not, 100 macro can do.
50mm macro is ok too. Can use as a standard lens too.

You can use bellows too. With special adapter for bellows macro lens. But that is another complicated story.
 

fWord

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Jun 23, 2005
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#7
ricohflex said:
macro is fun.

Yes you can get good results from extension tubes and reverse lens (we call stacking).
Do read an excellent book by John Shaw.
He gave example using Nikon equipment, but it is the same with any brand.

Extension tubes are troublesome, as then you need a tripod and a focusing rail.
The viewfinder becomes dim and it is no fun.
Diopters are only for fun, no for serious macro.

Reversing lens, same problem as with tubes, you need tripod and rail.

If you are serious on macro, cut the above described crap and go straight for the macro lens.
Optically the best deal.
If you shoot insects that are afraid if you get too near, buy the 180 or 200 macro.
If not, 100 macro can do.
50mm macro is ok too. Can use as a standard lens too.

You can use bellows too. With special adapter for bellows macro lens. But that is another complicated story.
Thank you for the detailed advise. A dedicated macro lens would definitely be the least unwieldy setup in the end, though it does involve a considerable cost. I'm estimating that I'll need something in the order of $1000 to get a 180 macro.

In the long run though, it just might be the best way to go.
 

fWord

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Jun 23, 2005
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#8
radiation said:
hi there . . .

actually i;ve stumbled upon this webby quite some time back .

haf fun ya . i'm usin extension tubes also .

http://www.oncloserinspection.com/Photomacrography/Articles/Extubes/extubes.htm
Thank you for the link...interesting read, and also quite technical, especially the bits on calculating magnification. At this point I am still not sure what focal length I should look for when getting an extension tube, if I do decide to take this route.
 

An drew

Senior Member
May 27, 2005
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#9
Have a look at the setup of Megaweb, one of the macro gurus.
 

fWord

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Jun 23, 2005
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#10
An drew said:
Have a look at the setup of Megaweb, one of the macro gurus.
Thank you. Yes, I might check that up some time down the track. Now I have so little money and so many things on my mind. If I do save up enough, I might just go for a Tamron 90mm macro...it looks like a popular choice amongst many people.
 

fWord

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#12
eawtan said:
For more accurate calculations with ext tubes, dipoters : http://xoomer.virgilio.it/ripolini/Introduction to closeup.htm
Gee...that's a lot of equations and numbers. I'd need to read it again to make sure I fully understand it. It's a great article however. It's technical, but definitely not too much of a problem with just a bit of time invested.
 

toasty

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#13
fWord said:
Currently, I have one kit lens (18-55mm) and a telephoto zoom (70-200mm).

1. I've heard of extension tubes, which work to reduce the focusing distance of a lens and in so doing, allow an object to be more frame-filling. How many varieties of extension tubes are available for Canon DSLRs, and how much do they usually cost? Besides requiring a longer exposure time, are there any other things I need to watch out for?

2. I've also read about the Reverse Lens Technique. Is it possible to buy a cheap 50mm prime and then mount that in reverse onto my telephoto zoom for a good macro setup?

3. Diopters (?), which I believe are basically just magnifying glasses seem to be readily available, but I heard that it drops image quality dramatically as the magnification is increased. Should I still consider this?

4. Then the most expensive option remaining seems to be to purchase a dedicated macro lens. There's huge numbers of these on the market...which ones have you used, and what would you recommend? To be safe, I'd just say that I wish to photograph insects and flowers smaller than 2cm across (eg. flies, small spiders).
1.extension tubes are mounted between the lens and the camera body. They typically need to have electrical contacts to transmit the electrical signals from the body to the lens. Otherwise their only purpose is to move the lens further from the plane of the film. In so doing, by the laws of physics, they reduce the minimum focusing distance of the lens. However, they also make the lens unable to focus at infinity. Normally the maximum focusing distance will also be very close, ie: you can only shoot nearby subjects. Another side effect of moving the lens away from the film plane is that the light intensity (photons striking the film per second) is reduced. This has the equivalent effect of a reduced f-stop of your lens. So when your lens reads F2.8, it actually is maybe F4. I am not certain, however,that this reduced f-stop leads to an increase in the DoF, because it simultaneously reduces your focusing distance, which tends to reduce your DoF. Another thing about tubes is that they have a greater effect on the shorter focal length lenses. ie. a 50mm lens with a 25mm tube will have a greater magnification effect, than a 100mm lens with a 25mm tube. If your tried to mount a 15 mm lens on a 25mm tube, your points of focus could even be moved inside the lens, rendering it useless. The tube should cost maybe $50 or so, much cheaper than a dedicated macro lens. It allows you to turn your current lenses into macro lenses, it has no quality degradation, as there is no additional glass inserted, only air. It's disadvantages are a loss of the infinity focus, a reduction in the F stop (not usually a problem as you want to shoot with small F-stops for macro).

The reverse lenses are like a diopter you put an additional piece of glass on the end of your lens that reduces the minimum focusing distance. Don't go for the cheap diopter filters. you'll quickly find the loss of quality is not getting you the pictures you see on clubsnap and elsewhere and will soon discard them. The 250D or 500D canon lenses/filters are high quality add-ons that turn your current lenses into macros. A 500D costs around $200, second hand (77mm thread, less for the 58mm thread). the 500D puts the plane of focus, at about 500mm from the film plane. Its advantages over the tube is that it is easier to mount (don't have to take your lens off), and there is no loss of F-stop. The disadvantage is that there will be a loss of quality, although the better your filter, the lower the quality loss.With the 500D, I'd say there is effectively no quality loss, so if you have a good lens to mount it on, then it would be suitable. the 70-200 is very suitable for use with the 500D. The 250D similarly reduces your focusing distance to about 250mm. However in either case, you will also lose the infinity focus.

Reverse mounting a 50mm lens simply requires you buy the reversing ring with the correct threads on either side, and is a good option if you already happen to have a 50mm (prime) lens (don't try to reverse a zoom, they're too bulky), but if you dont, then it'd probably be better to buy the 500D or 250D.

The third choice of the dedicated macro is typically the best, most versatile and most expensive option. You retain infinity focus, so the lens can be used for portraits or other uses as well. And macro lenses are typically very sharp. I wouldn't recommend the 180mm lens to start with, it is rather specialized for catching those flighty insects that don't stay still when you get too near. The 100mm macro by canon is an excellent choice, F2.8, sharp, not too heavy and can shoot at a 1:1 reproduction ratio, focusing down to 30 something cm. The Tamron 90mm macro is another excellent and cheaper choice. The main reason for the price difference, I'd say, is that it is a third party lens, and not because of any significant performance loss. the 100mm macro is around $1000 new, or $800 second hand, depending on the quality. I believe I've seen Tamron 90mm macros for around half the price on CS. If you're on a budget, and want the versatility of a dedicated macro, get the tamron 90mm. If you want to make use of your 70-200, I'd recommend the 500D.
 

Lenscapes

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Apr 28, 2004
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#14
or you could get a Tokina 100mm F2.8. got mine new for 600+ good contrast and sharpness. wished the weather would be better so that can play with it more.
 

fWord

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Jun 23, 2005
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#15
toasty said:
1.extension tubes are mounted between the lens and the camera body. They typically need to have electrical contacts to transmit the electrical signals from the body to the lens. Otherwise their only purpose is to move the lens further from the plane of the film. In so doing, by the laws of physics, they reduce the minimum focusing distance of the lens. However, they also make the lens unable to focus at infinity. Normally the maximum focusing distance will also be very close, ie: you can only shoot nearby subjects. Another side effect of moving the lens away from the film plane is that the light intensity (photons striking the film per second) is reduced. This has the equivalent effect of a reduced f-stop of your lens. So when your lens reads F2.8, it actually is maybe F4. I am not certain, however,that this reduced f-stop leads to an increase in the DoF, because it simultaneously reduces your focusing distance, which tends to reduce your DoF. Another thing about tubes is that they have a greater effect on the shorter focal length lenses. ie. a 50mm lens with a 25mm tube will have a greater magnification effect, than a 100mm lens with a 25mm tube. If your tried to mount a 15 mm lens on a 25mm tube, your points of focus could even be moved inside the lens, rendering it useless. The tube should cost maybe $50 or so, much cheaper than a dedicated macro lens. It allows you to turn your current lenses into macro lenses, it has no quality degradation, as there is no additional glass inserted, only air. It's disadvantages are a loss of the infinity focus, a reduction in the F stop (not usually a problem as you want to shoot with small F-stops for macro).

The reverse lenses are like a diopter you put an additional piece of glass on the end of your lens that reduces the minimum focusing distance. Don't go for the cheap diopter filters. you'll quickly find the loss of quality is not getting you the pictures you see on clubsnap and elsewhere and will soon discard them. The 250D or 500D canon lenses/filters are high quality add-ons that turn your current lenses into macros. A 500D costs around $200, second hand (77mm thread, less for the 58mm thread). the 500D puts the plane of focus, at about 500mm from the film plane. Its advantages over the tube is that it is easier to mount (don't have to take your lens off), and there is no loss of F-stop. The disadvantage is that there will be a loss of quality, although the better your filter, the lower the quality loss.With the 500D, I'd say there is effectively no quality loss, so if you have a good lens to mount it on, then it would be suitable. the 70-200 is very suitable for use with the 500D. The 250D similarly reduces your focusing distance to about 250mm. However in either case, you will also lose the infinity focus.

Reverse mounting a 50mm lens simply requires you buy the reversing ring with the correct threads on either side, and is a good option if you already happen to have a 50mm (prime) lens (don't try to reverse a zoom, they're too bulky), but if you dont, then it'd probably be better to buy the 500D or 250D.

The third choice of the dedicated macro is typically the best, most versatile and most expensive option. You retain infinity focus, so the lens can be used for portraits or other uses as well. And macro lenses are typically very sharp. I wouldn't recommend the 180mm lens to start with, it is rather specialized for catching those flighty insects that don't stay still when you get too near. The 100mm macro by canon is an excellent choice, F2.8, sharp, not too heavy and can shoot at a 1:1 reproduction ratio, focusing down to 30 something cm. The Tamron 90mm macro is another excellent and cheaper choice. The main reason for the price difference, I'd say, is that it is a third party lens, and not because of any significant performance loss. the 100mm macro is around $1000 new, or $800 second hand, depending on the quality. I believe I've seen Tamron 90mm macros for around half the price on CS. If you're on a budget, and want the versatility of a dedicated macro, get the tamron 90mm. If you want to make use of your 70-200, I'd recommend the 500D.
Thank you...excellent answer. The information is really clear, and I now have an idea as to how I should proceed to enter the world of macro. Currently, I am still in the process of saving, that I have to juggle that between getting a flash, upgrading a lens, and also trying for macro...just need to take things one step at a time.:embrass:
 

fWord

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#16
Lenscapes said:
or you could get a Tokina 100mm F2.8. got mine new for 600+ good contrast and sharpness. wished the weather would be better so that can play with it more.
This lens is definitely well-priced compared to the other macro lens options I've seen people use. Is this the one that was recently on sale at CP? If I remember correctly, there's a Tokina lens that required an additional attachment to turn it from an ordinary lens into a macro one.
 

Lenscapes

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#17
fWord said:
This lens is definitely well-priced compared to the other macro lens options I've seen people use. Is this the one that was recently on sale at CP? If I remember correctly, there's a Tokina lens that required an additional attachment to turn it from an ordinary lens into a macro one.
no attachment required. this is a new lens from tokina.
http://www.thkphoto.com/products/tokina/afl-m100-a.html
yes was on advertised by CP.
 

fWord

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#18
Lenscapes said:
no attachment required. this is a new lens from tokina.
http://www.thkphoto.com/products/tokina/afl-m100-a.html
yes was on advertised by CP.
Thanks for the link. Looks like it offers similar capability to the Canon macro lens. Can't find too many reviews on it at the moment though, and there aren't any on Fredmiranda.
 

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