Kenko DG Auto Extension Tube Set

The Kenko DG Auto Extension Tube Set is available for users of Canon, Nikon and Sony DSLRs

Extension tubes force a lens to focus closer to the subject than would be otherwise possible, and with no optical elements in their construction they don’t degrade image quality in the same way as a close-up lens or teleconverter might. This, and their low asking price compared to dedicated macro optics explain their enduring popularity, and Kenko’s DG Auto Extension Tube Set is one of the most popular options.

The set comprises three separate tubes - 12mm, 20mm and 36mm - each of which may be used on its own or in combination with any of the others. Each tube is equipped with contacts to maintain autofocus and TTL metering communication between camera and lens, and each also sports a large release button to make dismounting the individual tubes from each other easy.

True, their design is a little dated, and those looking to get into macro photography on a budget should keep in mind that there are a handful of more affordable alternatives available, such as reversing and coupling rings, both of which can be picked up very cheaply. Still, these extension tubes are a more flexible option for photographers with only a few lenses, thanks to the combinations in which they may be used. The most recent Canon version of the tubes provides support for EF-S lenses and both Nikon and Sony-fit versions are also available.

Manfrotto 055XPROB with 498RC2 ballhead

The 055PROBX weighs 5.3 pounds (2.4 kg) and its centre column can be lifted and swung around to face the ground making it ideal for low-level macro work.  The 498RC2 ballhead offers panoramic markings around its base, as well as a quick-release plate.

Manfrotto’s aluminium 055XPROB has been around sufficiently long to have earned a favourable reputation among photographers, and with a 7kg load capacity it can comfortably support anything up to professional DSLR and lens combinations. Its main draw, however, is its centre column. This column can be lifted and swung into a horizontal orientation in seconds, making it ideal for low-level macro photography or copy work.

The 055XPROB's adjustable aluminium legs can be set to one of four angles, to allow the camera to be positioned as low as 10cm away from the ground. The legs themselves have three sections, and each can be adjusted with clasp locks to elevate your camera to a maximum operating height of 178.5cm when the centre column is fully extended.

The 498RC2 ball head, meanwhile, is finished and specified to a matching standard, sharing the tripod’s aluminium construction, and slightly exceeding its weight capacity. Its base is also encircled by degree markings for panoramic shooting, while three ergonomically designed knobs allow it to be quickly locked and released.

If you'd prefer something a little lighter, the Manfrotto 190XPROB3, which is also constructed from aluminium features the same headline specifications as the 055XPROB but weighs in at 4 pounds - 1.3 pounds lighter.

One More Thing...

Smartphone applications range from simple depth of field calculators and photo uploaders to more elaborate location and meteorology tools.

You've probably heard it said that the best camera you own is the one you have on you, but even if you don't use your smartphone's camera all that much, it has the potential to be one of the most useful photographic accessories that you have at your disposal. 

Weather information, including times of sunrises and sunsets, can be found within seconds while local transport service updates can help re-plan a route should there be any delays. Most smartphones are also equipped with a GPS system linked to a mapping software as standard, which is ideal if you’ve lost your way or you simply don’t know how to get to a particular location. More recent models may also be equipped with a compass, for when you really have no idea where you are.

As well as its built-in online and geolocation functionality, your smartphone can also host countless mobile applications, many of which have been developed specifically for photographic purposes. Apps are available that can help you to calculate depth of field or work out hyperfocal distance with your camera and lens combination, while others are designed to help you display and upload your images to the web. Still more are on hand to transform the images from your smartphone's camera into minor masterpieces via filter effects.