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Photography Question 
Autumn Hernandez

Macro Lens Vs. Extension Tubes

I have a Digital Rebel and I am interested in getting into macro. Now, in class my teacher suggested that before buying all the macro lenses I wanted, that I should try out extension tubes and diopters. Plus, these would be interchangeable with my lenses, allowing all of them to focus closer. Here's my question. I was originally going to go for the 50mm macro lens and use it for portraits also. But then I also read that the plain old 50mm was an OK lens, even for being so cheap. So, do you think I should get the regular 50mm and get an extenion tube, thus giving all of my lenses the capability of macro, or should I go for the specific macro lens? I do like that the regular 50 is faster than the macro lens. I would just like some feedback. Thanks!

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3/15/2006 8:53:44 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  The extension tube should allow full use of aperture. I wouldn't bother with diopters, although some may like them. I got Canon's 50 macro so I'd have a macro and 50mm. It's not known for portraits because everybody goes with typical 100-135 ranges. But I like it ... gives an intimate feel to pictures that I like. Canon makes a life-size converter just for the 50 macro. Something to get later on.

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3/15/2006 11:11:24 PM

Autumn Hernandez   Thanks, Gregory, for your input. Yeah, I do a lot of infant photos so I think the 50 would actually be great for the types of photos I enjoy shooting. Ah, and yes, the life-size converter, yet another thing that makes it harder for me to choose. Why do there have to be so many great toys out there?! It makes choosing so difficult.

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3/16/2006 12:19:06 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  Just keep in mind that extension tubes will cost you light and DOF. The more you stack, the more you lose. Also, with a 50 with one or more 'tubes attached, you will need to get very close to your subject to get it in focus and you will lose the ability to focus on distant objects. A true macro lens can focus from 1-1 lifesize (or 1/2 lifesize) all the way to infinity. For those days I need to travel light (only one body and lens), I reach for my 55mm 2.8 macro (micro) lens for its versatility. I can shoot portraits and landscapes as well as getting close without adding any lens accessories.

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3/16/2006 2:27:27 AM

Patricia A. Cale
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/25/2002
  I learned from a local pro, Walt Anderson, that a 50mm macro is considered a "wide-angle" macro lens, a 100mm macro is considered a "medium" macro lens, and a 180mm is a "telephoto" macro. Each size will let in more or less of your subject. I know people who shoot with any of these sizes, so it really depends on what you like, or what part of your subject you want to capture. Many of my friends, who are just getting into macro, are buying the 100mm macro. It lets you get a 1:1 image without being on top of your subject. This is great for nature shots where you can't get really close to your subject. The 100mm also makes a great portrait lens. I had a Canon AE-1 with a Tamron 90mm macro lens that I used all the time for portraits. I got excellent shots with it.

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3/21/2006 6:40:40 AM

Autumn Hernandez   Thanks for your input, Pat. :)

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3/21/2006 9:42:06 AM

John G. Clifford Jr
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/18/2005
  I have a dedicated, quality, macro lens (the Sigma 50mm/2.8 EX macro) that offers outstanding image quality up to a 1:1 reproduction ratio.

I also have several M42 (Pentax/universal screw mount) lenses, and a set of M42 macro extension tubes.

IMO, the macro extension tubes are the better solution for extreme macros. I use them with a 50/1.4 lens that is VERY sharp, and also with a 135/2.5, and a 300/4 lens.

Macro lenses extend the elements WAY out there... basically like having macro tubes built-in to the lens itself. When you're focusing at a certain distance with a certain focal length, depth of field is the same whether you're using a dedicated macro lens or extension tubes.

I use my Sigma macro lens when I want versatility, to be able to take close-ups and regular images without dinking around or changing things... but IMO, extension tubes are the more flexible alternative. In fact, I'm thinking about selling my dedicated macro lens.

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3/21/2006 10:36:44 AM

Bob Chance
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/19/2006
  Before getting the 50mm and extension tubes, Canon also has the new 60mm macro lens which focuses to life size without the need of a extension tube. Plus it's a little longer focal length making it a slight bit better for portraits. I use to like an 85mm for portrait work, and since most DSLRs' use a light sensor that is smaller than a 35mm film frame, there applies a focal lengnth multiplier. I don't know off hand what it would be for the Rebel, but my 20D uses a 1.6x multiplier making a 60mm lens equivalent to a 96mm lens on a conventional 35mm vamera. This is a perspective relationship. In reality though, the lens will project the same size image regardless.
The 60mm might be a bit pricey, but less than the 50mm plus life size converter.
And if you are really into macro, Canon also makes another 60mm lens that does strictly macro work from life sizt to 5X life size. However, the lens is limited to strictly macro work and is very expensive.
Generally, the reason people opt for a macro lens of a longer focal length is to acheive a greater working distance. Typically a longer macro lens will give you life size image at a longer distance, for those intsances where you can't get as close to the subject as you would like.

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3/21/2006 4:59:54 PM

Dennis C. Hirning
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  If you want to go the diopter route, don't go cheap. I don't know if Canon makes any but the Nikon T5 and T6 are good choices. I guess you have to decide how much you would be using macro to determine how much you want to put into it. I have a Canon Rebel and I have been impressed with the "macro" shots that I have taken with just the 75-300 zoom.

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3/21/2006 5:58:51 PM

Patricia A. Cale
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/25/2002
  Canon does have the new 60mm macro, but it is a digital lens, which means it can only fit on the Digital Rebels (both models), the 20D and the new 30D. You cannot interchange it with any of Canon's other digital cameras that are full frame sensors. So, if you think you may want to upgrade your camera eventually, you should consider whether to buy the EF-S lenses that Canon makes.

Canon does make diopters that come in 250 and 500 strengths. They are made in a coupld of different diameter sizes, too.

My favorite choice to shoot macros is my 300mm lens with extension great! But, I do have a 50mm true macro that I use and will put extension tubes on it, too.

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3/21/2006 10:19:48 PM

John G. Clifford Jr
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/18/2005
  The advantage of macro tubes is that they will make ANY lens they fit a macro lens.

The disadvantage of macro tubes on manual lenses (like my M42-mount lenses) is that they do not allow autofocus. Not a big deal.

A good macro lens will cost you a couple hundred dollars minimum. A good M42 50mm lens, an M42 adapter for your camera, and a set of extension tubes will run you under $100... and if you want a 200mm macro lens, you just need to buy an M42-mount 200mm lens that will cost you less than $100.

And, if you REALLY want macro capabilities, get a macro bellows off of eBay for $30 or so and have at it!

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3/23/2006 2:28:46 AM

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