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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


Videos Mentioned In Today's Photo Moment




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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 \
Is it possible to use the extension tube on the macro lens to give it even more close up shots
Possibly but depends on the lens. With a long focal length, possibly. A short one; not likely.
You can actually also use extension tubes with macro lenses for even higher magnification. The shorter the focal lenght of the lens, the bigger the increase. Furthermore, since macros are optimised for close focusing and low field curvature, they are much better suited for use with extension tubes than most non-macros. Zooms are the worst choice, because their field curvature varies with the focal length.
Fun. I tried adding tubes to macros but the lenses I have were already so close-focusing that the tubes made even the farthest focusing point inside of the lens!
@PhotoJoseph I can stick 68 mm of extension tubes behind my 50 mm macro lens, focus at minimum focusing distance ... and get something like 3x magnification.
I can even put that same 68 mm of extension on my Minolta 3x-1x macro zoom, which has a built-in, motorised, variable extension tube (0-65 mm extension) at full extension for a maximum total extension of 133 mm (2½-3 times the focal length) - and still focus just in front of the lens, which has a focal length of 45-52 mm depending on the magnification ratio.
In theory, 1:1 magnification is reached at four times the focal length, and focusing at twice the focal lenght or shorter is not possible - or: it wouldn't be ... were it not for retrofocus lenses. Luckily, most normal and wideangle lenses for SLR's are just that: retrofocus.
I can't say for MFT, though.
However, very short flange distances imply very sharp angles for light hitting the corners of the sensor. With retrofocus, light hits the sensor more perpendicularly.
@Klipsen Dk that’s amazing! Thanks for sharing!
I liked the clear explanation of the tubes vs lens usages and drawbacks: the real life shots were particularly helpful.

I'm looking at a Fuji mcex-11 second hand tube on sale for £40 (about $54) to use with my Fujifilm x-t3, so will probably go ahead. If I get hooked on macro photography there are plenty of options out there for actual macro lenses - when I find the cash!

Thanks for the review :-)
Thanks David, and good luck! Macro is super fun
I subbed.. Your explanation is very good.
Im having adhd and you kept my attention for a long time.. 9.34 to be precise.
I will be back for more :D!
I have a question. Can I use extension tube with a true macro lens? Does it make more effective? Also if I use the Raynox DCR 250 with it, can I have even better macro?
Really great and informative video. Thanks for sharing the knowledge
Great video!
How 'bout macro lens PLUS tube, good idea?
Hmmm, wasn't aware of the tiny focus area with the tubes, bummer
So, with, say, a 100mm lens, you could pretty much stack up ALL tubes in the kit, right?
Great video, as always.
Hence focus limiter. 😊
3:52 - sure enough, there it is on all of my cameras, and I never knew! :-D thanks!
Hehe yep! Every camera 😁
Exactly the right video at the right time. Answered my questions. Very direct, not a lot of meandering. Excellent content and, again, right when I'm considering these options.
Nice! Glad to accommodate ;-)
With all respect, the aperture was wide open so it's softer, but usually in a macro you want lots of details, around f/8, which would fix the softness in the edge. Another thing, you could use reverse rings, by doing that the 24mm would have more magnification compared to 35mm and it's a even cheaper solution, not to mention, as annoying as it is to hold, it can be done by only reversing the lens without the ring, cost, $0,00
could a macro lens/extension tube replace a zoom lens?
I watched a few similar videos before this and yours was the best explanation by far.
Thank you!
thanks.. One other factor is the size of the macro lens. I have a 200 mm macro that seems to put the macro subject out of arms reach (literally). With tubes and a 50 the subject is right there.
Anything poisonous or that has teeth should be photographed with a 2000mm macro lens.
Awesome video and for the cost much easier to decide to try this before opting for a full on macro lens. That being said, I'm now to photography, I'd like a recommendation for what tubes to buy. Want to help out so if you provide a link so you can get some credit that be great. I shoot a Panasonic GH5 but have the Metabones Speed Booster Ultra to fit EF lenses. My lenses are all EF at this point. I have the Canon 50mm f1.8, Canon 75-300mm f4-5.6, and the Sigma 18-35mm f1.8. Please help if you can and thanks again
Hm, a rube on an adapted lens might not work but it’s worth a try. I’d put the tube between the camera and the speed booster. So, the same tubes I linked to in the description would do the trick. Good luck!
Thank you so much for the examples in this video! This is super helpful and informative.
My pleasure!
anyone ever tell you, you look like David Bowie loool
LOL I’ve heard that once or twice. If I had 10% of his looks and 5% of his talent, I’d be the king of youtube 😁
Great comparison. Every few minutes, you had me changing my mind on whether to return these extension tubes and save up for a macro lens instead. LOL! I'm having an issue with these extension tubes. I just got them. I can't get them to autofocus with my lenses/camera. Could you give me a hand/tip please? I have a Nikon D5100, a 17-70mm lens and a 50mm lens. I bought the MEIKE N-AF1-A Macro Electronic Mount Auto Foucs Macro Metal Extension Tube Adapter for Nikon DSLR (Amazon).
Here's to quorst comparisons!!! ;)
Thank you so much for these thorough explanations. I was unsuccessfully trying to use an old Pentax film and slide copier with a mirrorless camera, and thanks to your video I now understand why I had such poor results using a non-macro lens with extension tubes.
Umm… what if you use the extension tube on the macro lens? Can i get a macro-scope? hehe
Thank you so much for this video! It helped a lot its concise and straight to the point, been looking for this answer this question for months.
Oh great! Glad to help!
I don't think a lot of people shoot macro on 2.8, why not test it on smaller apertures
Damn. I wish I seen this video before I bought my extension tubes. When I can afford a true macro I'll come back. Subscribing...
Great video ,... to the point without all the BS and technical jargon,.. im subscribing
Hi Joseph, thanks for the informative video! I found it while wondering about the same combination (ex tubes plus PL 25mm), but I wonder where did you find the 10+14mm tubes? Everything I find is 10+16 (as you do at the end of the video), and I was wondering whether that 1mm of surplus would still make impossible to focus? Thank you!
Superb explanation!
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 ☺️
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