Extension tubes are tubes without any optical elements that you place between the camera and lens of an interchangeable lens camera. They extend the lens so it can focus closer, giving the lens macro capabilities. Some have full automatic couplings so the camera can continue to be used in all its auto and program exposure and focus modes. Some lower priced ones have no couplings, so the camera needs to be used in manual.
Tubes are often sold in sets of three. The set illustrated above has 13mm, 21mm and 31mm extensions, and these can be attached in any combination giving a total of seven different extensions:
- 34mm (13mm+21mm)
- 44mm (13mm+31mm)
- 52mm (21mm+31mm)
- 65mm (13mm+21mm+31mm)
Here a set of three tubes can be seen attached to a Nikon digital SLR camera.
This photograph of a British one pound coin was taken using a nikon camera with a 55mm lens set to infinity and an extension tube added. The smaller coin on the left is with the 13mm and the coin on the right is with the three tubes attached giving 65mm extension. The lens was at f/2.8 to show how shallow depth of field is. When using tubes you either need to use a very small aperture or shoot the subject parallel to the CCD or film plane. Here the coin was at an angle so only a shallow strip across the centre is sharp.
Advantages of using Extension Tubes
Low cost macro
No optical degradation
Disadvantages of using Extension Tubes
Limited magnification variations
Fiddly changing between magnifications
Taking lens off increases risk of dust intrusion
We have a selection of extension tubes in different camera fittings
Many of us have a need to photograph small objects for inclusion with auction posts on sites like eBay, or on shops such as Etsy, or to show your products on you own web site. There are also many who have an interest in photography of insects and other close up subjects from an artistic perspective.
Often the available light isn’t good enough in such situations so you resort to the built in flash of your DSLR, or slide the hotshoe mounted one to the camera. And that’s where you may find you have a problem.
When shooting close ups the lens is often so close to the subject that it obstructs the flash and results in a shadow of the lens cast over the subject. A ring flash is attached onto the lens. It provides a circular light that results in shadowless illumination. This is ideal for small items, and the light wraps around 3D items so you get a more even tone.
You can buy ones made by your camera’s manufacturer, but these tend to be very expensive so it’s worth looking around for an independent model, and some great older ones can be picked up for much less money. The manufacturers’ ones and some of the more expensive independents have TTL (through-the-lens) exposure so they adjust the flash output and compensate automatically for close up extensions and filters. But as most cameras used now are digital it’s easy enough to use an older manual ringflash and check the result on the LCD display.
At PhotographyAttic we have a small selection of used models and really like the Sunpak GX-8r because, unlike others, the batteries are in a separate power pack…and that means the flash unit attached to the lens is much lighter. This is an important consideration as it puts less strain on the lens mechanism. There’s a review of the Sunpak GX8r here
For those on a budget, check out the Centon MR20. It does have batteries in the flash, but just two AAs so its not too heavy. This flash unit was also made for the Vivitar, Starblitz and Cobra brands too. Doi also made an interesting unit for those who don’t have a flash sync socket on their camera, this one had the battery pack that slides onto the camera’s hot shoe.
Hoyarex filters were arguably the best filter system made. Optically superb, several made from glass, solid filter holder, brilliant adjustable rubber hood for wide or super telephoto, and a useful range of filters.
Hoyarex was a filter system developed by Hoya. Hoya was the big name in optical filters and then French manufacturer Cokin appeared with a system that would revolutionise the filter world.
Hoya reacted fast but not fast enough. Cokin had soon taken hold of the filter market with serious and special effect filters. Photographers were no longer buying one or two filters they were investing in cases full.
The Hoyarex system emulated what Cokin had done, but in our opinion did it better, some filters were glass, others had frames around them so handling was better. The holder was more flexible and had a more versatile lens hood. The filters slotted in more comfortably and the adaptors clipped in easier.
But they were too late and Cokin won the battle. Hoyarex disappeared as quick as they came.
You can still find remnants of the system sold in the second-hand sections of various photographic retailers, and there are many here on PhotographyAttic.
The illustration above shows the filter holder with an adaptor ring (available in sizes from 43mm up to 77mm) and the wonderful rubber Pro hood that clipped on the holder and had a variable extension.
Two filter holder can be clipped together and rotated when special effect filters were inserted.
Here in numeric order is the entire range with links to buy individual used filters at photographyattic.com
Unless you’re lucky enough to have chosen a camera with a tilting /hinged screen taking photos from ground level can be very uncomfortable or awkward. The titling screen feature on certain digital cameras allows you to view and compose from a height by looking down on the screen that is angled upwards.
This makes the camera easy to use when shooting flowers and fungi or other similar subjects from ground level.
Many of us don’t have such luxury feature, but there is an option available if your camera has a viewfinder with a slide in eye cup frame. The right angle finder slips over the viewfinder in place of the eye cup and provides an optical path set at 90 degrees. so you look down into the viewfinder. It still means you have to bend down to see, but at least it’s from a more convenient angle.
Many right angle finders also have built in diopter correction so they’re prefect for those of us with glasses. And some even have a built in magnifier going from standard 1x view to a cropped 2x or even 2.5x view. This is great focusing aid as you can be sure your subject is in perfect focus.
Finders are usually sold by the camera manufacturer, but there are also several available from accessory manufacturers. They’re not quite as popular as they used to be but there’s plenty around on eBay and we have several on PhotographyAttic – Right Angle Finders and Viewfinder attachments. You need to choose one that fits your camera’s viewfinder as each brand can be slightly different. Check before buying.