Do Extension Tubes Degrade the Quality of the Images? (2023 Guide)

do extension tubes degrade the quality of the images

If you are a fan of nature photography, you might want to start getting into macro photography but one of the things holding you back could be the cost of buying a dedicated macro lens. In this post, I am going to show you, how you can do macro photography on a budget or using extension tubes.

Now I don’t actually own a macro lens, so if I want to do macro photography, I usually borrow it from friends. Therefore, I have been thinking about buying some extension tubes for a while, and currently in the US, here in New York, I picked some extension tubes made by Kinko.

Do Extension Tubes Effect Image Quality?

As mentioned above, the extension tube does not affect the quality of the image directly. The picture quality with an extension tube will be the same as the picture taken without the extension tube. But the problem arises where the light is not sufficient because as an external component is attached to the lens, its aperture size is decreased.

In short, when the aperture is small, the camera will require more time to let the light in, meaning that shutter speed will be decreased depending upon the exposure. If the light is not good enough (at low-light conditions), the shutter speed will be reduced, and you might need a tripod because taking slow-shutter photos can result in the shakiness of the hand creating blur in photos.

So, it’s cleared that the extension tubes don’t have any effect on the sharpness or quality of the image. But it’s also important to check the compatibility of the extension rings with the lens.

If you are having an extension tube, you need to be sure that the tube you are using it with the correct lens. With a longer lens, use longer extension tubes and for a shorter lens, use a shorter tube.

Normal lenses are designed for normal photography having a maximum magnification of about 10 to 1 which means the distance from the subject should be about 10 focal lengths. Extension tubes just increase the focal length of the lens and don’t have any glass component to degrade the quality of the image.

How to Fix an Extension Tube To a Lens?

Fitting an extension tube is much easier. All you need is to remove the lens from the camera, attach the extension tube in place of the lens and then attach the lens to the extension tube and you are ready to shoot with a bigger focal length.

Working of Extension Tubes

Now, you know what extension tubes are, so put them to the test. So, I am out in the backyard, taking some photos and putting the extension tubes to the test. It’s been a lovely sunny day and the light level is good which will help in decreasing shutter speed and eliminating camera shake and blur.

Autofocus can be a bit tricky when doing macro photography, so I prefer manual focus and the camera mode to be selected as aperture priority. I will put all the details of the settings at the end of the article, so you can check those out.

Now we will be testing 3 extension tubes here. They are all going good results but the one I’ve settled on is the shorter 12mm tube. It’s because I am taking pictures of flowers and buzzing bees particularly.

Now with the longer the extension tube, the closure you have to bring the camera to get focus. So, if we are taking a picture of flowers, that’s not really an issue because you get nice and close. But while you’re taking a picture of a bee, if you bring the camera closer, the bee will fly away. That’s why I will use the shorter tube.

One thing I have to mention is the depth of field. When you’re doing macro photography, your depth of field is very small. Depth of field is the amount of focus or area that is in focus in your image. When you get really close with these tubes, you get about a millimeter or two a focus.

Compatibility of Extension Tubes with the Lens

There are extension tubes for all kinds of lenses. Longer lenses do well with longer extension tubes while shorter lens needs shorter extension rings. For example, with a 50mm nifty-fifty lens you can use a 25mm extension tube but with a 35mm lens, it’s better to use a 12mm for comparable magnification. With the right lens and extension tubes, you can convert your lens into a macro lens.

Would I Recommend Extension Tubes?

Macro photography is something that always fascinates me, something I haven’t really explored at a very professional level but with these extension tubes, I am having a lot of fun. I have been taking photos of flowers, insects, matchheads, eminence, etc. I also took an awesome photo of the grooves on the vinyl record and the Kinko extension tubes does a very great job. I will show you some photos below.

So, I will do recommend the extension tubes because, on one hand, they are affordable as you don’t have to pay for a $1000 Macro lens, and on the other hand, they let you take amazing macro shots without any degradation of image quality when used with better measurements.

do extension tubes degrade the quality of the image

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What to Do When You Don’t have Any Macro Lens or an Extension Tube?

If you don’t have a macro lens and even an extension tube, what you can do is to rotate your lens, so that the rear element of the lens which was supposed to be attached to the camera, is now facing the subject. By doing so will lose the auto features of the lenses but you will get a sharper photo.

There are also rings or tubes available for this, known as reversing rings or reversing extension tubes. One more thing you need to know is that it will decrease the shutter speed by decreasing aperture, so make sure you are prepared for it.

Why Macro Lens is Considered Better than Extension Tubes?

Macro Lens is better than extension tubes because the macro lens can reach up to 1:1 magnification which extension tubes can’t. Another thing is that the macro lens can focus on a macro subject from minimum focus to max, but extension tubes can focus from at least a millimeter or two.

What is the best lens to use with extension tubes?

It depends on your lens. Smaller lenses work better with a shorter tube and longer lenses work better with a longer extension tube. I will recommend using these extension rings with a prime lens or one with a fixed focal length, so you won’t have to worry about the compatibility of the tubes.

What is the Disadvantage of Extension Tubes?

There is only one disadvantage of an extension tube and it is loss of light because it reduces the aperture. If you can deal with this issue, I mean if you have proper light, these extension tubes don’t have any such disadvantage if you have proper light or if you can balance it with manipulating ISO and shutter speed.

Can Extension Tube Degrade a Camera?

I guess Not. The extension tube doesn’t have any effect on the camera or image quality. It is just used as a bridge between a lens and a camera to increase the focal length to increase magnification. So, it won’t cause any repair problem.

Can I put extension tubes on a macro lens?

Of course, you can use the extension tubes with a macro lens too. This will bring its magnification ratio over 1:1 and thus you can focus more closer even that a macro lens.

Which is better: Close-up Filters vs Extension Tubes?

Extension Tubes are far better than the filter. These extension tubes don’t have optical components, so they won’t affect the quality of the image. Yes, the extension rings are a bit expensive, but they also perform better. They are not as expensive as those $2000 Macro lenses.

Bottom Line

Extension tubes don’t directly affect the sharpness or blurriness of the image, but they lower the aperture size meaning the photon flux is reduced in trade of magnification. It means that the camera will take longer to take in all the light if the exposure is not correct. You know what measures to take then. So, if you liked our post, share it with your friends and read the following too.

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