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Photography Question 
Mary L. Lemley

Extension Tubes and Focusing Distance

This is for digital and film. When I want to get really close, but without a lens practically touching, (ex. flower petal), do I need an extension tube, or a costly macro lens to focus close, but from a bit more distance? I use +10 close-up filter.

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10/14/2007 5:25:27 PM

Michelle M. Peters
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/29/2006
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  All I have ever used for my macro shots are extension tubes. They are just about the best piece of equipment I have ever purchased for my camera. I have never owned a macro lens for the reason of cost.

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10/14/2007 6:09:16 PM

Mary L. Lemley   Thanks Michelle!!! Can you get several inches away, for instance, your M&M's shot is great. I have a book by a BP. Pro and he combines both. He has before and after of a bee & flower, and I think he says he uses ex. tube so as not to disturb bee, but focuses closer, in REALLY better shot. Thanks for your time!!!! MLL.

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10/14/2007 6:52:49 PM

Michelle M. Peters
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/29/2006
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Michelle's Gallery
  Oh yeah! I have used my tubes with two lenses mostly. 70-300mm and 28-70mm with terrific results. If I do not want to disturb something (ie the bee in flower)I put the tubes on with the 70-200mm. The M&M's shot was with the tubes on my 28-70mm. I set them up in a long line on a black board, then placed the camera right at the start of the line and tilted the board down just a little bit for the depth of field I wanted. Quite simple.

FYI....I used a reputable eBay dealer to purchase my tubes.

Good Luck!

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10/14/2007 7:26:41 PM

John G. Clifford Jr
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/18/2005
  An extension tube lets you focus on objects that are closer to your camera. Macro lenses also allow you to do this, usually by extending the front of the lens greatly (just as extension tubes do), and in addition, generally have specialized optical properties that aid in close focusing.
You can use extension tubes with a macro lens to get even closer to the subject (and therefore to get more magnification). If you really want close-ups of things like insects, snakes, etc., but don't want to get close enough to disturb them, get bitten/stung, etc., then a 105mm, 150mm, or 180mm macro is a great lens. You can also use extension tubes with ordinary lenses of longer focal lengths, e.g., a 70-200 zoom.
Depth of field will be very shallow with a telephoto macro lens, so you'll want to stop down, and many macro lenses will go down to as far as f/32 or even f/64. But, be warned that many high-resolution D-SLRs start becoming diffraction-limited at around f/11 or so. You're trading off depth of field for total sharpness, so try to arrange things so that the plane of focus extends along your desired subject. For instance, shoot a photo of a butterfly from the side, not head-on.

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10/14/2007 7:44:30 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  If you need "working distance", extension tubes (and/or bellows units) work better with short to medium telephoto lenses (in the 80 to 200 mm range) ... and better still if the lens is specially designed for close-focusing.
Shorter lenses will allow you to reproduce a larger image within the frame but you WILL need to get in there very close to the subject before it will pop into focus.
Most of my macro work is done with a 105 mm lens mounted onto a bellows assembly, which operates pretty much the same as extension tubes...only adjustable. The size of the image in the frame varies by how much lens extension is used.
The working distance with this lens is around 10 to 12 inches.
A longer lens will add even greater working distance...up to several feet depending upon how many millimeters of extension are applied.
This photo was taken with a 180 mm lens and a 36 mm extension tube from around 2 1/2 to 3 feet away.
(Sometimes, a situation arises that requires full-frame coverage ... but you REALLY NEED to back up.)
Here's a few tips when using extension tubes:
*Depth of field will be limited so you should focus (manually) onto what's most important to your composition ... like an eye of an insect or that particular particle of that flower that first caught your eye.
*Meter something "neutral" in the same light...then re-compose.
Too often, great macros are ruined when the primary point of interest is very dark or very light and a shot that can't be re-done is taken in haste.
*A tripod and an immobile subject are essential.
Camera-shake and subject movement will be amplified exponentially the closer you get.
Hope this helps.

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10/14/2007 7:44:45 PM

Mary L. Lemley   I so much appreciate you guys help. Now I get it!!!! And Bob, "that picture" is a great example of what NOT to get close to,:0)!!! It makes the snake in a pic. I took lately.... well let's just say you have to look hard to SEE it!!!! I knew the answer would be from some great folks, with some beautiful galleries, I might add. Mary Lemley

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10/14/2007 8:18:20 PM

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