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Kenko Extension Tubes for Macro Photography - Nikon AF

My Nikon 105mm 2.8G lens gives a 1:1 magnification which is very good for macro work. Andy Cundell looks at the options available.

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Features and Handling

My Nikon 105mm f/2.8G lens gives a 1:1 magnification which is very good for macro work, but some people may wish to photograph images of a higher magnification and truly delve deep into the miniature world of macro photography. I felt like this and began to explore the options available.

Canon users can wield the astonishing MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5X Magnification lens, but Nikon users have no such option with a single lens/ apparatus set up. The Nikon ‘Bellows’ option can be costly but can reputably give users an amazing 22X magnification (PB-6E Bellows with extension). Another option is by using a ‘close up filter’ attached to your existing lens. This is the same as putting a magnifying glass in front of your lens, but again, can be costly as the best quality glass is very expensive and cheaper glass would compromise the image quality. After doing my homework, posting on the forums and reading all the other posts about macro photography, I opted for another option, Extension Tubes. Without going into the technical side too much, they are just ‘tubes’ that alter the focal length of the lens to the camera, allowing you to get ‘closer’ in to your subject. They sit in-between your lens and the camera housing.

These tubes vary in price from around £15 for a single tube to £300+ depending on make/ model and functionality. I opted for a rather modest Kenko Automatic Extension Tube Set which comprises of a 36mm, 20mm and 12mm set for £92, in Nikon AF mount for use with my Nikon D90.

Kenko automatic extension tube set DG


Kenko Automatic Extension Tube Set DG Features and Handling:

The Automatic tubes electrically connect the lens to the camera by contacts like the ones at the end of your lens and inside your camera housing, so you can still use functions like auto focus, aperture select and TTL functions.

The photograph below shows a shot of a ruler taken at the minimum focal length (1:1 magnification) with a Nikon 105mm f/2.8g lens.


The next photograph shows the magnification with the 20mm and 12mm attached, also taken at the minimum focal length giving maximum magnification.

20 and 12mm attached

The last picture shows the maximum magnification with all the tubes attached.

All tubes attached

With all these tubes attached you do add to the overall length of the camera lens and it can prove a little cumbersome when manoeuvring.

All tubes




Kenko Automatic Extension Tube Set DG Performance:

With all the tubes attached you get an approximate magnification of 1.8:1 with the 105mm. The box comes with an instruction leaflet that explains how to work out the magnification and gives an example of a 50mm lens of having a maximum of 1.47:1.





105mm 12+20mm
105mm Macro - Snail 1cm across its opening. 12+20mm Tubes attached.
All tubes attached
All on: 12, 20, 36mm tubes attached.



Kenko Automatic Extension Tube Set DG Verdict:

There are a few drawbacks to these tubes. Many of you may know that a macro lens DOF is very small anyway (maybe 3mm on a 105mm at f/2.8G) and by adding the Kenko tubes and increasing the focal length, it decreases even more, the more tubes you attach. You can’t use a lens hood because your maximum focal length dramatically reduces with infinity becoming unusable. The biggest drawback I found was my own doing, by getting even closer to your subject and having to find the right focal length, you can quiet easily startle yourself when the big hairy spider comes into focus!




Article by Andy Cundell.

Kenko Automatic Extension Tube Set DG Specifications

Effective MagnificationNo Data
FittingCamera body mount
Box Contents
Box ContentsFront & Rear Caps

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I'd just like to comment that to claim that extension tubes or bellows change the focal length of the attached lens is completely wrong. Only zoom lenses have variable focal length. What extension tubes do is to alter the focal range, that is to say the range of distances from the front element that may be brought into focus.
You are doing your readers a disservice in recommending extension tubes WITH ANY LENS HAVING INTERNAL FOCUSSING, ESPECIALLY the Nikon 105/2.8 AFS VR. Extension tubes should only be used with lenses without internal focussing, irrespective of the make of the tubes (I understand that the Kenko tubes are perfectly OK) and precisely for that reason Nikon does not offer extension tubes for AFS lenses. The combination you suggest would probably work perfectly well with any older macro lens, even those with some degree of internal focussing, provided they are stopped down to some degree (exactly what Nikon recommend with their old MF 105/2.8 macro (the lens is marked to which f-stop it has to be stopped down to for any given magnification), and would probably work well, stopped down, with the old 105/2/8 AF. But with the new lens shown in your report, or with ANY macro lens having ONLY internal focussing, where the lens is is not extended during focussing (it is in effect a zoom lens with a different focal length for any given magnification) you will NOT acheive acceptable results. Far better results can be acheived with a resonably good converter (such as the Tamron/Kenko professional 1.4x & 2x converters, especially the 1.4x, which I use regularly with excellent results), or especially with the Nikon AFS converters (almost prohibitly expensive). However, using extension tubes on the 105/2.8 AFS as shown, can only lead to mi
serably poor results - as can be seen in the results you publish, even on a computer screen without further magnification.
Thankyou for your comments, everyone is entitled to their own thoughts and views. The whole point of my review was to highlight an alternative to spending a massive amount of money to achieve better magnification. At around 270 for a 2 x Nikon teleconverter and 140 for a Kenko 2 X, its is more expensive and doesn't give you the variable magnification you can achieve by the different configirations achievable with 3 tubes.

Andy_Cundell 11 1.1k 5 England
Added: I would love to see some of your work mosesmegiddo as an example of the teleconverter, maybe you could write a review as well. I looked at your profile but couldn't see any uploads since you joined. It would make a fantastic comparison piece!
Andy, I would be only too happy to show you my work, if only I knew how; however you can see some of my photos taken (mainly) with the 105/2.8 AFS VR together with the Tamron 1.4x PRO and Nikon TC 2x III converters (not of course together) in Facebook, though not of course at high resolution:
Alternatively if you write to me., I can send you some photos with better resolution - here is my mail: [email protected]. You are completely wrong about being limited in magnification with the extenders. Very much on the contrary - you can get from infinity down to 1.4x or 2x life size continuously using the converters (or the equivalent of almost 2x and 3x with cameras having APS sensors - i.e. with the 2x sensor, you can photograph objects from infinity down to 8 x 12 mm.!), whereas using tubes, you have to constantly change the tubes to vary your magnification. Not to mention the fact that using the converters you will be photographing at considerably greater distances from the subject, which is far easier and enables you to light the subject better (I almost invariably use whatever natural light is available).
mosesmegiddo - you comment confidently about how the reviewer's lens/extension tube combination will not produce acceptable results, yet it sounds like you've never actually used this combination. I've been using this exact combination of extension tube/Nikon 105mm VR for a couple of years now. All of my insect images were taken using it. The combination works perfectly with no loss of image quality. There are disadvantages, which are mentioned in the review - namely it is cumbersome. With all the tubes on you can vary the magnification from about 2:1 to 1:2, just by adjusting the focus. The distance from the front of the lens to the subject is about 200mm which is fine for insects etc.

There are many advantages to telecoverters, which are well described in numerous forums. It sounds like this is your approach.

Unfortunatly, Your comments about this lens combination are completely wrong. I've posted this so
that readers of the review don't accept your comments as fact .
While I agree that the original poster's examples are not particularly good, I must question mosesmegiddo's comments.

Extension tubes do give better results than teleconverters. ALL teleconverters degrade the image. Extension tubes do not. Well, they do, but only because most lenses are designed to give their best results within a specific focus range. As soon as you go outside this range the quality will be affected (but only a very tiny amount). But this is the same with teleconverters too. With teleconverters you have the added disadvantage that there is more glass added, which adds to any defects within the parent lens and adds it's own on top; therefore, degrading the image further.

Also note: Teleconverters modify the focal length of the lens; extension tubes modify the focusing distance. So teleconverters are not very effective at getting close enough in order to get bigger magnification which is the object of the exercise.

I don't know any macro photographers who use teleconverters over extension tubes as standard, and when they do it is as a last resort. Teleconverters are usually used with telephoto lenses to increase the focal length in order to photograph subjects that are far away; this is the area for which they were designed and where they work best.

I notice that on Mosesmegiddo's website his example images are not really macro at all, but mostly just close-ups. l. So fail to see the revelance of his post and question his experience in this topic.
I have bought a canon 100 mm usm is L macro lens and am considering getting an extension tube for it , has anyone any advice on the subject and is it worth getting the Canon one or is the Kenco ones just as good ?

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