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Macro Tubes... to AF or not to AF that is the question.

3 Sep 2012 9:32PM
Good evening.

Saving for a Uni degree doesn't come cheap and I'm keen on macro stuff so was looking at buying a set of macro tubes to play with as I cannot stretch to a macro lens.
I have seen the very cheap ones for about 8 which do not have to AF ability or have seen a Polaroid set with AF for around 60.
I was wondering what people's thoughts are on these and whether AF is important?

Many thanks


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strawman 14 22.1k 16 United Kingdom
3 Sep 2012 10:20PM
My view is that I would want a set of tubes that keep the lens functions active, because on the camera systems I have used the electrical contacts are needed to stop the lens down as well as operate the auto focus motor. Doing macro photography with the lens at its widest aperture sounds tricky and a bit of a limitation in my view. As for AF, well I prefer to manual focus for macro so its not a big issue in my eyes. Also sometimes when you use tubes the focusing direction of the lens reverse so Af can get lost in those cases.

So in summary, if your macro lens has aperture control on the lens, (like for example some older Nikon lenses) I would not be worried. If your lens has full electronic controls (Like a Canon EF or EF-S lens) then I would want electrical contacts.
Ade_Osman 15 4.5k 36 England
3 Sep 2012 10:45PM
Either or either really I have both.....It all depends on what you want to do. Personally speaking I'd go for a set that will use autofocus, it just gives you that much more flexibility. However I very rarely use autofocus when using macro, preferring instead to trust my own eyes and not the camera.....Confused? Yeah and me Grin I suppose the real answer would be to go for a dedicated macro 1:1 lens with autofocus built in. But this will soon lead you to wanting to get even closer and get even more detail. That's the time to use tubes and then you will need to learn how to use manual focus as things can and will get more complex! Tripods and focussing racks amongst other things come into play and like me you'll end up becoming a total macro fruitcake Smile

I'd only advise buying tubes if your on a budget and will only use them occasionally, otherwise save your pennies and try and buy a dedicated macro lens. I'm blowing my own trumpet a bit here, but look at my p/f and some of the kit I use and you'll see what I'm getting at and remember I very rarely use autofocus Wink If you want any more advice or help, drop me a PM and I'll be only to pleased to help and advise if you need it.

dandeakin 10 209 3 England
3 Sep 2012 10:57PM
If you use the 8 ones with a lens set at f 11 or f16 then the image will be exceptionally dark, and very difficult to focus (impossible in anything other than bright light).

If you use the ones with electrical contacts (eg kenko etc) then they will keep the aperture wide open until you press the shutter (making the image the 'normal' brightness, hence much easier to focus).

If you spend 8 on the cheep ones you'll probably end up buying the 60 ones (or 220 on a second hand sigma 105mm/tamron 90mm etc).

As has been said, autofocus is really not that useful for this sort of thing.

I would save your 8.
Ade_Osman 15 4.5k 36 England
4 Sep 2012 1:24AM
[quoteIf you use the 8 ones with a lens set at f 11 or f16 then the image will be exceptionally dark, and very difficult to focus (impossible in anything other than bright light). ]

Very good points made by Dan there, I'd forgotten about that.....

I do use them, but only with strange lens combinations when doing focus stacks and where the aperture is set on the lens mechanically and not on the camera electronically !.....which is a completely different kettle of fish.

As Dan above states, save the 8......

hobbo Plus
7 1.2k 2 England
4 Sep 2012 7:33AM
I know that may not please purist macro shooters, but I have had fantastic results using a 59 RAYNOX 250 auxilliary lens attached to a 200 or a 300 lens (or on a Bridge Camera) .....they are very well made in Japan fron optical glass.
Before going for tubes can I suggest that you Google and YouTube the RAYNOX 250, then look up what they can do on photo forums.

My other macro advice is to build a DIY flash snoot lined with kitchen foil then the bottom and front opening wrapped with a single sheet of kitchen towel to act as diffuser.

Always use the......Rock Back and Forth.....focussing method on live subjects, it takes much practice but once you get your eye in, it really pays off.

Don't forget that you will only get very shallow depth of field with any Macro set up......Look up Photo Stacking if you want sharp all round shots.........if taking single shots, I always attempt to shoot my subjects sideways on to ensure the largest focus areas.


Ade_Osman 15 4.5k 36 England
4 Sep 2012 8:32AM

Quote:I know that may not please purist macro shooters, but I have had fantastic results using a 59 RAYNOX 250 auxilliary lens attached to a 200 or a 300 lens (or on a Bridge Camera) .....they are very well made in Japan fron optical glass.

You're perfectly within rights of saying this Hobbo, I have one myself and they work much better than the chepo Dioptre lenses.....A very good point made.

keith selmes 14 7.4k 1 United Kingdom
4 Sep 2012 9:03AM
The reason I use tubes rather than a magnifying lens on the front is because you can use different lenses with them.
If you only use one lens, or all your lenses have the same filter size, glass on the front is probably a simpler option.

The very cheap tubes are fine if you can adapt them to manual lenses with manual aperture control.

If your lenses are electronic, af isn't important, but aperture control may also be electronic - it is on Canon EOS bodies and EF or EFS lenses.
Therefore you'd need the more expensive ones that do carry the signals.

As an example of using the cheap tubes, I have some manual lenses and adapters to use them on Canon EF, so the cheap tube could go on the camera, the adapter on the front end and then an old Contax or M42 lens on that.

I don't make great claims for macro work, I more often do macro-ish close up anyway, but what I would usually use indoors is a 10 bellows unit with a 1 adapter ring and a 60 105mm enlarger lens.
Pete Plus
17 18.8k 97 England
4 Sep 2012 9:34AM
I see from the photos you've uploaded you are using Canon EOS which has electrical diaphragm control so the cheap ones are less useful. As there's no way to set an aperture on the lens you need to do this by stopping down to the desired aperture on the camera then using the depth of field preview to physically set the aperture and detaching the lens with this held down. As stated above it's a lot of messing around that the auto ones would resolve.
4 Sep 2012 1:28PM
Many thanks for all the responses, definite food for thought.....Watch this space Smile
cheddar-caveman 14 1.1k England
4 Sep 2012 4:13PM
You don't say what camera you have? If you have one of the modern DSLR's then to AF or not to AF is not the question you should ask but "how do I control my aperture! On DSLR's the aperture is in the lens, not the camera body, and is controlled from the camera body via the set of contacts between the lens and body. No contact, your aperture will probably on its highest setting.
LenShepherd 10 3.6k United Kingdom
6 Sep 2012 8:01PM

Quote: "how do I control my aperture!"

Specifically Nikon most lenses are now G.
The only way to control the aperture with G lenses on tubes is to use Kenko AF tubes as they have the body to lens contacts for the G lenses.
The Kenko also have a "screwdriver AF drive" for older AF and AF-D lenses.

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