This and That

Random bits of my life

Extension Tubes, the Poor Man’s Macro Lens

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 25, 2009

Condensation on a water bottle:

Playing with extension tubes

Weavette square:

Weavette Square

A few weeks ago, while browsing photos in the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens pool on Flickr, I saw a macro shot of a fly’s eye. Since I can’t get closer than 16 inches to an object, I asked the photographer how he did it and he told me about extension tubes. I found a cheap set on AmazonUK. For £6 for a set of three tubes, what could I lose? These are extremely basic extension tubes, basically a tube of plastic with couplings for the camera body and lens. You have to focus manually.

In the reviews someone posted a method for setting the aperture with these tubes: you set the aperture with your lens on the camera. When you press the button to release the lens, keep your finger on the button, and then insert the extension tube. I haven’t tried this but in theory it will retain your aperture setting.

These tubes do have a locking mechanism. There is no documentation, so make sure that you know how to release the tube from your lens. The Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens is not very robust, to put it gently, and it could crack or fall apart if you try to force a tube off the mounting. A small silver button slides up to release the tube from the lens, but it’s not obvious.

Macro Extension Tubes

The Kenko extension tubes, available on, are more expensive ($169) but you get the autofocus (and, I presume, aperture control as well). It still costs a lot less than a macro lens, however.

Finally, if you’re on a really tight budget, here are instructions for a macro tube made with a Pringles can! I wouldn’t have the courage to try this with one of my lenses.

5 Responses to “Extension Tubes, the Poor Man’s Macro Lens”

  1. cssolutionsltd said

    wow this is really awesome shot , i love it.

  2. pam said

    I love both of these shots. Great job.

    Extension tubes used to be the best way to do macro photography – manual camera days. We used them a lot with the Hassies.

    Can’t wait to see what you do with frost. Do you get frost?

    • apinnick said

      Pam, are you serious?! I had no idea! I had never heard of extension tubes until very recently (and I wasn’t interested in photography back in the manual camera day). How interesting!

      Frost? Not really. Where I live, the winters tend to be rainy. I’ll keep it in mind, though!

  3. […] Previous posting on macro extension tubes […]

  4. […] DSLR, then you have it made. And if you don’t have a macro lens, you can use extension tubes (Extension Tubes, the Poor Man’s Macro Lens. But in the amount of time that it takes to fit a tube between the camera and lens and focus on the […]

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