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Macro Lens vs Extension Tubes ▶︎ What’s the Difference?

Photo Moment - September 24, 2018

Extension tubes are awesome. They turn any lens into a macro lens, and they're very inexpensive. So, why bother buying a macro lens then? Is it worth having the macro? Or are the tubes good enough?

Products Mentioned In Today's Photo Moment

MEIKE MK-P-AF3A Automatic Extension Tube — Get Yours Here

Panasonic 30MM f/2.8 Macro — Get Yours Here

Panasonic Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro — Get Yours Here

Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 — Get Yours Here


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Comments from YouTube

So, which would you rather have? The dedicated macro lens or the macro extension tubes?

See something on the show that you want to buy?
Head on over to

•• MEIKE MK-P-AF3A Automatic Extension Tube ••

•• Panasonic 30MM f/2.8 Macro ••

•• Panasonic Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro ••

•• Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ••
very informative video, I normally use reverse adapter ring with tubes and 35mm lens, and the results quite impressive rather using only tubes. but takes hell lot of practice to use adapter ring, but it's worthy if you not going to buy expensive macro lens. Cheers for video
parveen kumar \
Very informative. Thanks!!
This is honestly one of the best reviews of any photo equipment I've seen on here. Non-bias, approaches from multiple viewpoints, both practical and analytical. Excellent! Earnt yourself a sub :)
So many great points made in this video. Thank you for pointing out the caveats of the extension rings.
Great video...might also be worth mentioning that when shooting macro with a micro four thirds sensor you'll get an image crop that appears to be increased magnification over crop and full frame sensors using the same kit anyway due to the mft sensor size. Whole different discussion but some say this is a big advantage for mft over other sensor sizes. I shoot in all three and slightly prefer crop sensors over full frame and mft when shooting macro videos.
Very clear and sharp. Excellent presentation explaning all the important points.
Glad it was helpful to your
Very informative. Thanks a bunch!
You’re welcome!
Hi. What would be the effect of adding extension tubes to a dedicated macro lens?
focusing inside the lens itself
So helpful in explaining what the diff is. I have a E Mount Sony A-6000. What mid priced macro lens would you recommend for Shooting Flowers? Again, thanks so much and will definitely buy through your site. Thank you!!!
don’t know Sony lenses, sorry
Thanks for a very helpful video! Would you recommend using extension tubes for scanning 35mm negatives? I'm using a Lumix G85 with a light box. Thinking I could photograph an area a little larger than the negative, so I could crop to reduce distortion around the edges.
I am doing the same and found them blury at the edges but I stopped down the apature a lot plus more light or longer exposure and it improved dramaticly. I tested this with some fly screen in a slide holder to gauge the result clearly. You also want a bit of depth of field as the film may not be quite flat.
You'd have to test it. As you saw here it's not as sharp, but it's pretty darn good. I suppose it depends on how good you want it to be ;-) And smart to plan to leave a border to crop out, for sure.
You were talking about the speed of the macro lens. I bought my first macro lens which was the Canon EF L Series 100mm 2.8 which I escaped on the Canon EOS R. The camera since the last firmware update about four months ago has been super fast especially with eye autofocus. But when I use this particular lens. And I like doing 100mm for portraits. I really noticed that the Lynn is super slow when it comes to autofocus. So is that the reason why?
I think I follow your message… I believe autocorrect got the best of you. But macro lenses are usually slower to focus because they have really long focus racks, to facilitate precise focusing over very short distances
great explanation and answered all the questions I had, especially "can a macro lens be used as a regular lens". I hadn't seen anyone else address certain points. Great video. Thank you!
Thanks for watching!
I had the canon 100 mm macro. It’s an awesome lens. I now have a Sony 90mm macro, which is also an excellent lens. Great portrait lens, too. Super sharp. I also tried the extension tubes on a canon 70-200. It worked great but not quite the same image quality.
yeah, macro tubes are definitely a compromise… but a cheap alternative!
could I use an extension tube to a macro lens to get additional magnification? What would be a drawback to that? Thanks!
Depends on the lens. I've tried it where it worked, btu giving very minimal advantage, and I've tried it where the farthest focus point possible is still inside the lens, so basically you can't focus on anything! Short answer is that it's probably not worth it.
would it not be better to then use a longer lens; ie 100mm or 180mm, to loose the edge softening?
Hm, perhaps. But you may not be able to get as close unless you have more extensions. I don’t know what the net-net would be!
@PhotoJoseph I am a lack of knowledge, just getting into macro, and I have some equipment but not extension tubes, it puts some distance between the lens and subject i would figure, allowing for light and seclusion from subject ie bugs.
Sorry if there's a question in there, I missed it… what are you asking?
Very nice presentation.
I have a 90mm 1:1 macro lens and i add a autofocus extension tubes so i dont lose manual focusing. Works great
This video is so helpful. I was about to buy a extension set, but your advice on the minimum focal distance is crucial since my 18-55 wont be able to handle most of the tubes
excellent! I didn't know it either until I made this video ;-)
What a gem of a video! This nailed several questions I had with excellent A/B comparisons. THANKS.
Nice! Thanks for the happy comment ☺️
Does focus speaking work with these tubes ?
Focus "peaking", not "speaking", and yes… the tubes have zero effect on that. Focus Peaking is a camera feature, not a lens feature.
@PhotoJoseph okay thanks for answering !
Wow, awesome explanation. I feel like I knew this information already but after this video I understand it all so much more. Thank you! Ordering those tubes from your link now 👍
Awesome, thank you! Glad I could educate 😃
Cwuality video sir!
The best comparison by far. Thank you
Nice, thanks!
Great show. Just found this video doing a general search. Will watch more often.
Welcome to the channel!
Greetings from Ft Lauderdale in Florida. Thanks again for another great video. Like the previous ones, I enjoyed it.
Subscribed.....good vid....use my soligor tubes quite a lot....Maybe strange but i like to use them on my tamron G2 zoomlenses...24-70 and 70-200.....can set my aperture with them and even my autofocus works quite well......but prefer manual....and as you said....real world....pretty awsome....and if i want to shoot something further away....i have my other camera standing by....but be real....if you are going to do are doing macro....and not bird or kids shooting....sounds disturbing 😁
Very well explained! The difference in sharpness is however noticeable, although on a rather small level, but noticeable nonetheless. One thing I would add is using a telephoto lens for macrophotography with extension tubes. The minimal focal distance with extension tubes for wide angle lenses will be too narrow. Using a telephoto lens will increase the minimal focus distance and make it more practical.
Captain Flint gives up a life of piracy and embraces photography....;)
Great explanation and informative.
Very helpful video! Thanks!!
My pleasure!
Thank you, this was very informative..
ThAnX it was helpful.
So I have the 60mm macro lens from Olympus and it only goes to 1:1. What would I need to get closer to bugs like a 1:6? Would I use extension tubes or reverse macro adapter?
You explain so effortlessly and covered so much . Thankyou ! very very helpful ..every logical question seem answered in one place.
Just close the aperture FFS! :D
What extention tubes would you recommend for my D750 but I have a DX macro lens, the nikon 85mm, thanks.
Get the Nikon version of these. they will have an N in the model #.
Helpful, thanks. I'm almost on board. I have used neither tubes nor macro lenses and trying to learn. My concern with the macro lens was that I have to get so close to the subject that the camera blocks light or casts a shadow. Before this video I misunderstood and thought that there was a sort of "macro mode" on the lens that I switch in and out of, and I assumed that in "macro mode" I HAD to be about an inch or so away.
I still don't clearly understand.
- Are you saying that I can back up and shoot at ANY distance from the subject (1 inch, 2 inches, 4 inches...)?
- If I'm shooting a piece of jewelry with my G9 and that Panasonic 30mm f2.8 and I want to shoot a "macro" shot from 3 inches away to get as close as I can and still get proper lighting, can I do that?
- Is "macro" nothing more than a term that means 1:1 actual size?
Nice questions.
1. Every lens (macro or not) has a “minimum focusing distance”; that’s the CLOSEST you can be when in focus. You can be ANY distance from that closest distance to farther away on a regular or macro lens. So if the lens has a closest focusing distance of 3”, you can be 3”, 4”, 5”, and on to infinity. If you use a lens with a MACRO TUBE, then you can focus more closely, but you lose the ability to focus to infinity. You will have a range you can focus at, say from 1” to 12” but nothing farther.
2. Yes, but as you get closer, lighting can be challenging for the reason you pointed out (the camera can block the light). You need light coming from the side(s) that won’t be blocked. There’s something called a ring flash that you can use as well. But I don’t think I used a flash anywhere in this video.
3. “Macro” simply means very close focusing. There’s no defined distance or ratio. It’s a pretty loose term. You’ll find conventional lenses that say “macro” because they focus closer than most lenses in that category. True macro lenses often go 1:1, but not always.
PhotoJoseph - Great video, great topic, and great answers. Thanks for taking the time to reply. Now, to answer your question... For me, that Panasonic 30mm macro lens looks like the way to go. Can’t beat the price, I’ve seen three reviews and they are all positive, good edge-to-edge sharpness, and as you just explained, I can focus at any distance from the closest on to infinity, so I can use it for portraits as well as product photography.
lens works like human eyes, too close or far from the subject means out of focus. different lenses have different focal length
could I use extension tubes with macro lenses
From what I’ve seen it makes the focus point too close (closer than the front lens element) so you’d need a very small one.
Excellent comparison of the options. Is there any benefit to putting extension tubes on a macro lens?
Usually it puts the focus point too close, but it is worth trying if you’re going for that super macro! Remember depth of field, already tight in a macro lens, may become too shallow to work with.
Slow down man - its coming across as mumble. Especially at the intro
I have been indecisive for about three years now on what system to choose. And the internet doesnt make it any more easy as it apparently is just like a religion to people.
I hope you can help me out here, im dead set on the G9 it just looks like an incredible camera! (You convinced me to choose the M43)
The thing I really dream of doing is macro but I see a lot of negative talk about the two Panasonic macro lenses.
Would i be able to get great macro shots with one of them? Like nice clear shots of the whole bug or whatever it might be.
So here comes a ton of questions:
Which of the two Panasonic lenses should i choose?
Can I in some way use other M43 lenses like the Olympus 60mm? and if yes, then how?
I have seen some very interesting results with the Laowa 15mm f/4 Wide Angle Macro lens, you can get Nikon and Canon M43 mounts for it, but would any of them work on the G9?
Will I still be able to do focus bracketing, focus stacking with any of them?

- And I know im not just gonna pop the lens on and go get good shots, it´s gonna take practice, time and probably a whooole lot of frustation, but im more than willing to do that. I spend most of my free time in the outdoors and always have. So far I have used my phones and with great results actually! But I want to get even closer, I want those extreme details on bugs, critters, moss, fungus and so on.

Im sorry for the whole load here.. But i just get so many contradicting answers when I google this stuff that i get even more confused.
Great video but WAY too long for something that could be explained in less than half the time
This video isn't getting enough attention
Well done mate!
Thank you, I appreciate that. Help spread the word; share it on twitter or tell a friend!
Best explanation of difference between tubes and macro lenses.
What about pairing the extension tube set with the macro lens
I think I tried that and very quickly you can’t focus on anything.
i used this on my sony emount 18-105mm G lens, i used both tubes and no wonder i have difficulties on focusing.. now i know why.. THANKS a BUNCH i feel blessed to watch your tutorial
I use rings for Nikon , and thinking about macro lens, I use 12mm(20 mm) meike plus nikon af-p 70-300mm and i am satisfied with result, I thinking about sigma 105 os hsm macro can you tell about that?
I use d3400
I don't have any experience with that lens sorry
@PhotoJoseph ty anyway
I am thinking about scanning my 35mm negatives with my canon 70D, would extention tube and my sigma 50mm 1.4 art lens do the job or will quality not be great?
@Micke Jönsson It's possible but also time consuming. Negative lab pro is really great if you want to make it good and quick
RAW FILM hi, yea I know but if you have a preset then most of the work is done and only need one click, maybe just some tweaking with white balance etc .....?
I guess labpro is better but trying to find a way around that cost 😎
@Micke Jönsson nah, inverting negative to positive with keeping color characteristic of your film is not that simple. Even with negative lab pro you need to edit each single shot after conversion. There is no way to one click workflow with negatives, even with proper scaner
RAW FILM kinda thought so but still is a hope you know 😜. Thank you though and have an awesome day
@Micke Jönsson You're welcome! ☺️
Information is good but you talk so fast I missed half of what you were saying.
You can ........change............the!!!!
I need to photograph cannabis flowers, and plants for my medical cannabis cultivation business. What lens would be ideal for me?
If you're going to be shooting macro often, get a real macro lens. The extension tubes are great but as you see in this video, they have limitations.
@PhotoJoseph I want super close shots on my partners buns for my brazzers videos. What lens would be ideal for me?
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