Discover how to use extension tubes to shoot great close-up and macro photography without all the hefty costs.
If the warmer spring weather has got you itching to shoot macro photography but you don’t fancy forking out for a dedicated macro lens, using extension tubes may be the answer.
These hollow tubes fit between your existing lens and camera to enable it to focus much closer than before. And even if you get a macro lens later, you can still use the tubes. Combine them with macro lenses and you’ll get greater than life-size reproduction of tiny subjects.
Most independent manufacturers of extension tubes supply them as a set of three, each of a different size, but original camera manufacturers tend to sell them individually.
There are two main types of extension tube; those with the electronic connections to work fully automatically, and those without.
The latter are slower, because you have to set the exposure and focus manually, and only offer limited metering on most SLRs. But for less than £20 they offer a cheap route into macro photography.
Fully automatic tubes are much more convenient because they enable features such as metering and autofocus. They start at around £90, though.
How to use extension tubes
Attach the extension tube
The tube fits between the lens and camera, so you need to remove the lens. Attach the tube to the rear of the lens, then fit this combination onto the camera. The more tubes you attach, the closer you’ll focus.
Adjust your settings
Some tubes work automatically, but set the lens to manual focus – the camera will struggle to focus accurately at such close distances. Also, shoot in aperture priority mode for control over the depth of field.
Position the camera
With the camera set up, you can position it close to the subject. While you can handhold the camera in bright conditions, it’s good practice to use a tripod, to avoid shake and to enable you to frame and focus your shot more accurately.
Fine-tune the focus
Accurate focusing is critical with extension tubes. With the camera in position, fine-tune the focus by using the focus ring on the lens. Because the focusing range is reduced with the tube, you may need to move the camera backwards or forwards.
How to set your autofocus for macro photography
Free macro photography cheat sheet
Professional Photographer to the Rescue: close-up photography tips you can trust
Camera Angles: 5 ways to add impact with unusual perspectives