As mentioned earlier, I promised that I would do a little test/review with my new macro extension tube (shown above) that I bought from Fotodiox (via Amazon) for a whopping $11. First thing to note is that they make extensions for a variety of models – Olympus, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, etc – so make sure you have the correct model for your camera.
The adapter comes in four parts – 1, 2, 3 – and a segment that connect your lens to the front. Each of these three segments can be unscrewed, removed and reordered for maximum macro-ability. Using it is pretty simple. Remove your lens, attach the extension length you want to the camera body (for this test I did 1+2) and then attach the lens to the front of the extension tube. Voila, it’s time for macro photos.
For this test I decided to try 3 different lenses:
1. 18-55mm zoom (my standard Pentax lens)
2. 35mm F2.4 AL Prime lens
3. 22-80mm SLR zoom (from an automatic film Pentax, digital conversion changes the distance to 44-120mm)*
*The reason I included an SLR lens is that it has a manual aperture ring, which was not offered on my digital lenses. They suggest using a manual aperture because once the lens is disconnected from the camera, you can no longer control the aperture.
Before (for comparison, taken from the same distance):
I forgot to take a before photo with the SLR lens, but the results would be similar – the closer one gets to the seeds, the harder it is to focus.
After (taken from closest distance that provided a crisp focused image):
Clearly the macro extension does it’s job and does it well. With all three lenses, the results were closer than I could ever imagine getting from a $11 adapter. Plus it’s portable and lightweight, compared to some other macro extensions, which makes it easy to use off tripod (when coupled with the right lens). And I love the fact that you can customize the degree of macro-focus. Definitely thrilled with my new toy.
However, my little experiment made it very clear that having a manual aperture ring is a must. With both of my digital lenses, the viewfinder was so dark it was nearly impossible to see and the 35mm required taking test shots just to focus. The SLR lens was the complete opposite – I had no problem with visibility and was able to shoot at 1/6-1/10 (considerably better than the 6-8 seconds required for the other lenses). The simplest solution is to use a lens with a manual aperture ring. For folks like me with old SLR lenses lying around, this is a blessing in disguise (but don’t forget to calculate for the digital conversion – 1.5 x original lens length). For those who don’t have the extra lens or can’t afford to buy one, the use of hot lights or a stronger light source should help compensate for the lost light.