Macro Photography on a Budget: Close Up Filters and Extension Tubes

May 19, 2016

Macro Photography on a Budget: Close Up Filters and Extension Tubes

In our last post, we looked at an introduction to macro photography.

In that video, we saw that macro photography doesn't have to be expensive. There are less pricy options for beginners or anyone who is looking to dabble in macro to see what it's all about.

In this post, we’ll look at two of those options: close up filters and extension tubes.

Close up filters

Close Up Filters (also called close up lenses) are magnifying glasses that you screw onto the front of your lens.

Close up filters come in various powers, measured in diopters with values that usually range from +2 to +5. The higher the diopter number, the higher the magnification. Close up filters are often sold in sets of three with diopter values of +1, +2 and +4. Multiple filters can be stacked together for greater magnification.

The video below shows close up filters in action.

So, are close up filters the best macro option for you?

Advantages of Close up Filters

  • Individual close up filters are relatively inexpensive.
  • Close up filters are small, lightweight and easy to carry around.
  • The filters can be attached and removed with the lens still on the camera body.
  • As long as you make sure that you get the right size, a close-up filter works with any lens.
  • The filter doesn’t interfere with camera functions. So autoexposure, aperture and shutter speed control, and autofocus continue to work correctly, although you lose the ability to focus on distant subjects.

Disdvantages of Close up Filters

  • Image quality is often a problem with close up filters. Image distortion and softening can be especially problematic around the edges of the lens. And quality goes down as the diopter number (and, therefore, the thickness of the filter) increases.

    Double element (also called dual-element or multi-element) close-up filters (such as the Canon 500D and the Canon 250D) have significantly better image quality, but they can be hard to find and are generally sizably more expensive than the single element variety.

  • Although close up filters are relatively inexpensive on an individual basis, the cost can add up when you consider that a different close-up lens is necessary for each lens diameter. If you are considering close up filters, look at getting a large size and use it with a set of step up adapter rings to fit all of your lenses.

Extension Tubes

Extension tubes are hollow cylinders that fit between the camera body and the lens. The extension tube is mounted to the camera body and then the lens is mounted to the extension tube. This configuration increases the distance between the lens and the camera sensor which increases the subject magnification.

Extension tubes comes in several different lengths. The longer the length, the more subject magnification. Two or more tubes can be stacked for greater magnification.

Extension tubes are fitted with electronic contacts, so autofocus and exposure functions can still be used. However, with extension tubes in place, you lose the ability to focus on distant objects.

Since extension tubes are mounted to the camera body, they are brand specific. So be sure to purchase tubes that work with your particular camera.

Advantages of Extension Tubes

  • Extension tubes are significantly less expensive than a dedicated macro lens
  • They’re lightweight and portable.
  • Since extension tubes are hollow, they don’t degrade the image with additional glass.
  • Extension tubes can be used on any lens.

Disadvantages of Extension Tubes

  • Extension tubes are less convenient to use since the lens has to be removed from the camera before the extension tube can be attached. This can be a time-consuming task, especially if you need to try more than one extension tube to see which works for your image.
  • Using extension tubes can cause a small amount of image distortion around the edges of the lens.
  • Extension tubes cause a small loss of light, meaning that you will need to use either a longer shutter speed or a higher ISO to get correct exposure.
  • Extension tubes can sometimes be challenging to work with on zoom lenses because you lose focus quickly as the zoom level changes.

If you are still wondering if extension tubes are for you, check out the video below.

For Further Reading…

Getting Up Close with Close-Up Lenses

MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY EQUIPMENT GUIDE AND TIPS

It’s Macro Season!




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