Macro "filter" vs extension tubes

I am tempted to start looking into the macro photography but I do not want to invest to much into it.
So, I’d like a cheap solution, like Macro “filters” OR some extension tubes.

Q1: how does each tool influence the photo quality (the sharpness), if it does?

Q2: what would you recommend and why?

Q3: what’s the difference between different extension tubes?
Why some are cheaper than others and, what should I look after when I’ll buy one.


A nice video about this but, without so many details


Q1 - Any optical addition will affect your image; some more so than others.
Q2 - Start out with Raynox because it lets you use in-camera aperture setting and autofocus.
Q3 - The main difference is whether or not they link electronically or in the case of Pentax, mechanically, between camera and lens. Look for a chipped extension tube if you’re on Canon or Nikon.

Fyi, this is my site, it is only about stuff like this. 200 pages about extreme macro:

Q1 Tubes have no lenses and so I would guess they are better than screwing an extra filter on the end.

Q2 I would go with tubes as you can use any lens ( no different filter diameters ), hopefully better quality than a filter. You can also stack the tubes for different magnification.

Q3 As said tubes with electrical connections are more expensive than ones without; but not by much. Personly I do not use autofocus as I get better results manualy but the in-camera aperture settings are useful as a start point.
Again the tubes do not have lenses and within reason there seems no point in spending to much.

Some people reverse lenses - screw the lens to the camera via the filter ring and adaptor.

I brought a ring light to use for macro but found that the light is doughnut shaped and when close to the subject there is no light on the subject!

I’d like to keep the connection between body and lens so, IF I’ll get a tube, it will be with
the electronic communication included, so I will be able to control the aperture and the focus.

  • Didn’t try the manual focus but maybe in macro it’s more applicable than in other cases - ie. for portrait.

This makes me think that an extension tube could be better.

Nice! I will not go that far, into extreme, because I only have a limited budget. But, I will take a look and maybe “steal” some ideas :slight_smile:

This was my first thought BUT there is also a drawback to tubes: it’s a bit difficult to mount/unmount them. You have to [detach the lens], [detach the tube] and [put lens back]. It’s easier to get dust on your sensor, that’s why I’m thinking that if i get a filter for my 35mm it will be easier to work with it.

Didn’t try but, the aperture must be forced, without any electronic control + you expose inside of your lens to a lot of dust.

Did you understand why did that happen?

Hello vectorialpx,

A couple of FYIs:

  • In reversed or extreme macro it is very unusual to focus in any way other than manually by moving the camera backwards and forwards.
  • Ring “lights” are notoriously useless - too weak. Ring “flashes” are better. Some light panels using LEDs are good but you need a lot of LEDs to have enough light to come close to using a fast enough shutter speed. LED technology is advancing very very rapidly but just not quite there yet, at the moment the guys making ring lights are cheap and cheerful companies in the far east but it’ll only be a matter of time before we get enough lumens out to make it worthwhile.
  • aperture doesn’t always have to be forced: see . I don’t know your brand but there’s a novoflex thing that works with canon and a ?br2 reversing ring for Nikon.
  • feel free to steal as many ideas as you like, that’s why it’s there :wink:

Fyi I assumed you meant reversed lens on extension tube. With reversed lenses the aberration at the edges can be pretty bad and worse than just using a Raynox on a regular way round lens.

You have a very interesting site nass; I have had variable success with macro and one thing that never worked well was using microscope objectives. I will have to study that section of your website; the main problems I had were the DOF being so small and I think I need a LWD objective but am unwilling to spend to much on one until I know more.
I made a tube to fit on my camera and have a homemade setup that I am remaking - slowly!

With this setup I move the sample and obviously not the focus. When I use tubes in this setup I also move the sample.

As I say the problem with my ring light is the dark part in the centre; I assume the LED’s are not at the correct angle for something that close. I wanted a ring flash but it was a Christmas preasant and I could not complain!

I have thought about making a ring and having LED’s on the inside that would be angled into the centre I could stand this on the stage around the sample. I have not done anything to my new setup for a year - lacking motivation?

I have some halogen lights but they tend to dry a lot of samples out due to the heat as well as heat up the lens!

I find it is better to manualy focus or move the sample in macro anyway as my camera will not focus very well when taking macro photos.

My favourite/most successful macro photo:

Rubble, that’s really cool, and thank you for your comment! Microscope objectives are pretty tricky!!! I use a stackshot myself but it’s a pricey exercise, not for the faint-hearted, with a [URL=“”]universal stage that I made myself. All this DIY fabricating is one of the reasons I like extreme macro. Lighting is a topic in itself too long to get into here… this is a sample photo from my Flickr:

I have been working with Arduino’s at work over the last month and was thinking about making a sort of stackshot system using one of those and a stepper motor.

Yes I think lighting is very important and for something that you think should be quite simple is complicated - another mod for my macro jig was to make the stage from acrylic and put a LED behind it for a bit of back lighting.

Your universal stage is very interesting; one of the problems with my flat stage is getting things at the correct angle.

Maybe these are the reasons why my new rig is taking so long!

Thank you for the comment on my “bubbles” I was just trying things out and I think I got lucky with that one.

Very doable! My friend Rylee has a nice writeup at but a couple of other guys I know through Flickr did it too - check out Richard’s stuff here: Arduino is something I’m messing with too (badly), but to make something completely different although macro related!

I read your pages about objectives @nass ; and I already knew about the different types but the dispersion part was interesting. I had a look around work today and can still not find any nice objectives I can bring home :frowning:
Anyway I found an old cell and it has an iris built in and I thought I would give it a go - the front lens is a bit damaged which is a shame but it is OK for some tests.

With a smaller aperture ( small hole I always get confused if a small hole is a bigger or smaller aperture! ) the result was a lot nicer. It is a shame I can not find a better subject than a 10 pence piece at the moment.

Larger hole first:

Wow! That’s amazing!


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