40mm micro or extension tubes?

Started Jun 12, 2012 | Discussions
jam91
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40mm micro or extension tubes?
Jun 12, 2012

Hey everyone.

I really want to get into macro photography. The only two lenses I currently own for my D90 are the 35mm1.8 and the 85mm1.8D. My initial plan was to go for a 105mm macro so that i woundn't be too redundant in mid range telephoto, but all the options are too much for what i'm looking to spend. The 40mm micro is pretty cheap used ($250 refurbished) but that's almost identical in focal length to the 35mm. The 60mm is also manageable if I get a good find, but again, it just seems to close to the 85mm to be worth it.

So my question is, is it worth the 200 bucks for the kenko extension tubes to use with my two current lenses, or will I be more satisfied just buying the 40mm micro?

Thanks in advance.

Nikon D90
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kgbruce01
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$200 for extension tubes? Get manual ones, $20 (nt)
In reply to jam91, Jun 12, 2012

jam91 wrote:

Hey everyone.

I really want to get into macro photography. The only two lenses I currently own for my D90 are the 35mm1.8 and the 85mm1.8D. My initial plan was to go for a 105mm macro so that i woundn't be too redundant in mid range telephoto, but all the options are too much for what i'm looking to spend. The 40mm micro is pretty cheap used ($250 refurbished) but that's almost identical in focal length to the 35mm. The 60mm is also manageable if I get a good find, but again, it just seems to close to the 85mm to be worth it.

So my question is, is it worth the 200 bucks for the kenko extension tubes to use with my two current lenses, or will I be more satisfied just buying the 40mm micro?

Thanks in advance.

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David Lal
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Do your homework first
In reply to jam91, Jun 12, 2012

You need to do your homework thoroughly before parting with any money. There is more information about macro in this forum than you can shake a stick at so in that sense you have come to the right place but you've got to do the legwork yourself.

For a start, what is your favoured macro subject? Stamps, coins, jewellery, flowers - or insects? Are you the sort of person who knows how to set up his camera properly and be in manual mode (including manual flash) or do you expect auto this that and the other to make your decisions for you?

Tubes are good in that there is no optical component, hence no optical interference with image quality. Maximum reproduction ratio is the ratio of lens focal length at infinity to the length of the extension tube - so with your 35mm you might expect almost 2x lifesize reproduction ratio with the maximum Kenko tube extension of 68mm. The downside is that there will be an equivalent light loss of nearly 2 stops.

The big problem with macro lenses is working distance - the distance between front lens element and subject. This falls as focal length falls. 40mm is way too short, in fact anything less than 90mm is way too short for general macro in my opinion as it can a) make it difficult to bring light to the subject and b) if it is a living thing, induce it to run away - or bite you!

I'd recommend a Tamron 90 or Sigma 105 or (outside your budget) Sigma 150.

If you really want to do things on the cheap, as kgBruce mentions, you can get extension tubes without the electrical contacts. You will then not have autofocus or autoexposure - but I am of the opinion that the best macro is done fully manually anyway.

David

jam91 wrote:

So my question is, is it worth the 200 bucks for the kenko extension tubes to use with my two current lenses, or will I be more satisfied just buying the 40mm micro?

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NowBlue
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Re: 40mm micro or extension tubes?
In reply to jam91, Jun 12, 2012

Extension tubes are inexpensive, but are not as fast or easy to use as a dedicated macro lens. Look for a lens that is fast - you'll you need to stop down to get depth of field, but will appreciate being able to shoot wide open when the wind blows or your subject is moving. Also look for a lens that will yield a 1:1 ratio (or better).

Common macro lens focal lengths are 60, 90, 150, 180mm. The longer focal lengths can give you more working distance - if you will be shooting insects or other small critters, more working distance will help you not to spook your subject.

Whether the focal length is close to a lens you already own is not important. You'll use a macro lens for macro work or portraits. They tend to have finer, slower focus motors, so will dissapoint as a general purpose lens.

You might want to try a lens rental firm to try a few different lenses and see which is the best focal length for you.

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Catallaxy
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Re: 40mm micro or extension tubes?
In reply to jam91, Jun 12, 2012

I agree with manual tubes for the 85 to save on costs.

I have an old Nikon pk-13 and it works well. Very rugged compared to my Kenko set.

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PSCL1
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Re: 40mm micro or extension tubes?
In reply to Catallaxy, Jun 12, 2012

I echo the posters who are asking you what kind of pictures you want to take, and from what working distance. You say you can get a 40 refurbished for $250; but you can get a NEW one for $280 from B&H, Adorama, et al. $200 for extension tubes, AF or not, is a total waste of money. You could look at Tokina or Sigma 100/105 macros which have been reasonably well regarded, maybe you can find a used one. There is also a Tamron 90 in different interations, which you might find too close to your 85. Again, it depends on what you want to shoot.

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Tbolt47
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40mm Micro
In reply to jam91, Jun 12, 2012

The 40mm Micro I wouldn't think would be very useful as a macro lenses because at macro you only have a working distance of about 3cm which means getting the light to the subject a lot of the time could be tricky. I would go for something longer.

I personally don't own a macro lens yet, I just use a achromatic CUL for my macro work, not quite as sharp as a macro lens but it's not too bad. These were taken with an Olympus E-620.

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winparkman
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Re: Do your homework first
In reply to David Lal, Jun 12, 2012

Obviously, David, you have never shot with a small macro or you wouldn't make such a patently absurd statement as this:

The big problem with macro lenses is working distance - the distance between front lens element and subject. This falls as focal length falls. 40mm is way too short, in fact anything less than 90mm is way too short for general macro in my opinion as it can a) make it difficult to bring light to the subject and b) if it is a living thing, induce it to run away - or bite you!

Macro photography is not always about a 1:1 or better magnification ratio. In fact, as a flower photographer, I seldom get to 1:1 because flowers are not particularly small. I use the Tokina 35 f/2.8 macro. Within a week of purchasing the lens, I had sold my Nikkor 35 f/1.8. It could not match the Tokina in build, sharpness, bokkeh, contrast or color. The lens is on my camera more than any other and my Tamron 90 doesn't get out of the bag much.

I will admit that if you want to shoot skittish insects, a longer macro helps but more in the 150mm+ range. But if your subjects are still AND you want a good walk around lens, dump your Nikkor 35 f/1.8 and pickup the Tokina 35 or Nikkor 40mm macro.

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Tbolt47
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Macro
In reply to winparkman, Jun 12, 2012

winparkman wrote:

Obviously, David, you have never shot with a small macro or you wouldn't make such a patently absurd statement as this:

The big problem with macro lenses is working distance - the distance between front lens element and subject. This falls as focal length falls. 40mm is way too short, in fact anything less than 90mm is way too short for general macro in my opinion as it can a) make it difficult to bring light to the subject and b) if it is a living thing, induce it to run away - or bite you!

Macro photography is not always about a 1:1 or better magnification ratio. In fact, as a flower photographer, I seldom get to 1:1 because flowers are not particularly small. I use the Tokina 35 f/2.8 macro. Within a week of purchasing the lens, I had sold my Nikkor 35 f/1.8. It could not match the Tokina in build, sharpness, bokkeh, contrast or color. The lens is on my camera more than any other and my Tamron 90 doesn't get out of the bag much.

Well he was replying to the OP who want's to get into to macro which is 1:1 or better. Yes he might use it for non-macro shots but if your buying it mainly for macro then working distance is a very important factor.

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bencho
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Re: Do your homework first
In reply to winparkman, Jun 12, 2012

This thread is relevant to my interests. Newbie here so take my thoughts with a grain of salt!

Currently I have the 18-105 and 50/1.8G . I think these work well for me as a beginner and lately, I've been itching to get the Nikon 40/2.8 macro because I found the minimum focus distance to be too far. If I wanted to put things on my desk and shoot them, I always have to back up a lot. Same goes for food when I go out to eat. Restaurants may have dimmer lighting so the 18-105's f3.5 is harder to work with for me. I got the 50/1.8 because it was faster but didn't realize it had the same focusing distance.

Your D90 is a DX format like my D7K. So the 40/2.8 macro is a true 40 for DX bodies. I believe the other Nikon macros are FX so the focal length will be more than advertised.

A lot of lens selection threads come down to what you want to photograph. You need to know if you're mixing DX/FX bodies/glass to know what focal length you're actually shooting at. For me, I want to do mostly stationary stuff like things I put on my desk or food so I can get up close with no issues.

Figure out what you want to shoot! Then spec the glass you want to fit the photos you want.

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winparkman
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Re: Macro
In reply to Tbolt47, Jun 12, 2012

It is a factor but not a particularly important one. If you think this is about 1:1, you are missing my point. 1:1 is great and a macro lens should be able to get that ratio but 1:1 is not where the bulk of macro shots are taken.

Here is a recent post with the 40mm macro lens. There are also a number of posts that show what the Tokina 35 can do, as well.
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1034&message=41755572

Tbolt47 wrote:

winparkman wrote:

Obviously, David, you have never shot with a small macro or you wouldn't make such a patently absurd statement as this:

The big problem with macro lenses is working distance - the distance between front lens element and subject. This falls as focal length falls. 40mm is way too short, in fact anything less than 90mm is way too short for general macro in my opinion as it can a) make it difficult to bring light to the subject and b) if it is a living thing, induce it to run away - or bite you!

Macro photography is not always about a 1:1 or better magnification ratio. In fact, as a flower photographer, I seldom get to 1:1 because flowers are not particularly small. I use the Tokina 35 f/2.8 macro. Within a week of purchasing the lens, I had sold my Nikkor 35 f/1.8. It could not match the Tokina in build, sharpness, bokkeh, contrast or color. The lens is on my camera more than any other and my Tamron 90 doesn't get out of the bag much.

Well he was replying to the OP who want's to get into to macro which is 1:1 or better. Yes he might use it for non-macro shots but if your buying it mainly for macro then working distance is a very important factor.

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winparkman
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Re: Do your homework first
In reply to bencho, Jun 12, 2012

The 40mm macro is equivalent to a 60mm on a crop body. Lenses are not measured for DX or FX.

bencho wrote:

This thread is relevant to my interests. Newbie here so take my thoughts with a grain of salt!

Currently I have the 18-105 and 50/1.8G . I think these work well for me as a beginner and lately, I've been itching to get the Nikon 40/2.8 macro because I found the minimum focus distance to be too far. If I wanted to put things on my desk and shoot them, I always have to back up a lot. Same goes for food when I go out to eat. Restaurants may have dimmer lighting so the 18-105's f3.5 is harder to work with for me. I got the 50/1.8 because it was faster but didn't realize it had the same focusing distance.

Your D90 is a DX format like my D7K. So the 40/2.8 macro is a true 40 for DX bodies. I believe the other Nikon macros are FX so the focal length will be more than advertised.

A lot of lens selection threads come down to what you want to photograph. You need to know if you're mixing DX/FX bodies/glass to know what focal length you're actually shooting at. For me, I want to do mostly stationary stuff like things I put on my desk or food so I can get up close with no issues.

Figure out what you want to shoot! Then spec the glass you want to fit the photos you want.

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noobie armed with a d7000. LEARNING!

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OK, not so purely a hobby.

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_sem_
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Re: Do your homework first
In reply to David Lal, Jun 12, 2012

David Lal wrote:

Tubes are good in that there is no optical component, hence no optical interference with image quality.

This not exactly true. There is considerable degradation on extension; depends on the specific lens, but the lenses that appear to be least affected are, erhm, macro lenses. But the good thing is that the degradation is less bad when the lens is stopped down as usually for macro (in order to gain useful DoF).

The downside is that there will be an equivalent light loss of nearly 2 stops.

Well, macro lenses also get dim when focusing close.

The main annoyance of tubes is that you have to fiddle with them to change magnification; with a macro lens you just turn the ring.

If you really want to do things on the cheap, as kgBruce mentions, you can get extension tubes without the electrical contacts. You will then not have autofocus or autoexposure - but I am of the opinion that the best macro is done fully manually anyway.

Nikon tubes lack the electrical contacts but they're not cheap, and best built, which matters with heavy lenses. Electrical contacts are needed for AF with the new AF-S lenses. Nikon tubes have the mechanical screw drive needed by older AF lenses. Kenko and some others have all couplings.

The cheap tubes lack also the AF screw, and the most valuable auto thing which is the mechanical auto aperture coupling. Without it, you aim with the lens stopped down, and hardly see anything at high magnifications.

The big problem with macro lenses is working distance - the distance between front lens element and subject. This falls as focal length falls. 40mm is way too short, in fact anything less than 90mm is way too short for general macro in my opinion as it can a) make it difficult to bring light to the subject and b) if it is a living thing, induce it to run away - or bite you!

The working distance is roughly proportional to the FL, but you must check each lens separately. There are 60mm macros with 5cm to 10cm WD at 1:1.

Another important thing related to the FL is the relative blur of the background. Which is not the same as DoF (which is indeed almost the same with all lenses at a given magnification and F-stop). Long FLs produce blurred background, while short ones a deep-focus impression similar to macro using compact cameras. Handholdability in ambient light is better with short ones.

If find out you prefer a long FL but find long macros too expensive, try a telezoom like the 70-300VR towards the long end with an achromat close-up diopter, for example Marumi DHG achromat +3 or +5.

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_sem_
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Re: Do your homework first
In reply to bencho, Jun 12, 2012

bencho wrote:

Your D90 is a DX format like my D7K. So the 40/2.8 macro is a true 40 for DX bodies. I believe the other Nikon macros are FX so the focal length will be more than advertised.

Erkhm. FL of a lens does not depend on the sensor size of the camera. 40mm on DX does provide an equivalent angle of view as 60mm on FX. Full-frame equivalents are meaningful to some, but confusing to some of those that started their career with DX cameras.

The role of FL in macro is a bit different than in general photography because DoF is mostly very thin. With a flat subject, there is no difference between 40mm and 200mm

Btw FLs of macro lenses tend to change considerably (mostly shrink) from the nominal value at close focus.

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Tbolt47
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Re: Macro
In reply to winparkman, Jun 12, 2012

winparkman wrote:

It is a factor but not a particularly important one. If you think this is about 1:1, you are missing my point. 1:1 is great and a macro lens should be able to get that ratio but 1:1 is not where the bulk of macro shots are taken.

I see you are talking about close up shots not just macro ones then. Of course you might not take the bulk of shots at 1:1 but that doesn't mean other people don't. To me if I'm buying a macro lens for macro the primary purpose of that lenses is to take shots at 1:1, taking shots from further away becomes the secondary use, but I guess it also depends what you are taking pictures of.

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winparkman
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Re: Macro
In reply to Tbolt47, Jun 12, 2012

Macros depend very much on what you are photographing. For the most part, the macro lens is wasted if you intend to use it only at 1:1. You can't make good use of the lens's ability to blur backgrounds and make images pop if you are only at 1:1. Sem writes about this in another part of this string. Even with the Tamron 90, I seldom work at 1:1.

Macros are closeups. There is no magic repro ratio at which you draw a line and say something is macro vs closeup. When we refer to macro lenses, we are talking about lenses specifically designed to achieve large reproduction ratios. When lenses are made in this way, certain desirable optical characteristics are introduced into the lens design. Again, Sem makes these points in another branch of the thread.

For that reason, I prefer a macro lens over a non-macro with extension tubes.

Tbolt47 wrote:

winparkman wrote:

It is a factor but not a particularly important one. If you think this is about 1:1, you are missing my point. 1:1 is great and a macro lens should be able to get that ratio but 1:1 is not where the bulk of macro shots are taken.

I see you are talking about close up shots not just macro ones then. Of course you might not take the bulk of shots at 1:1 but that doesn't mean other people don't. To me if I'm buying a macro lens for macro the primary purpose of that lenses is to take shots at 1:1, taking shots from further away becomes the secondary use, but I guess it also depends what you are taking pictures of.

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David Lal
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In reply to winparkman, Jun 12, 2012

Unusually provocative vocabulary from you Winparkman. Open to conjecture , perhaps. Or there again. Perhaps not.

David

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mnodonnell
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A note on the manual tubes
In reply to jam91, Jun 12, 2012

You will not be able to control the aperture when your 35 f/1.8 (assuming it's the modern DX lens) is mounted to manual tubes. This applies to all of the modern "G" lenses because they have no physical aperture rings.

You'll be fine on the 85 "D" because it has a physical aperture ring.
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bgD300
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G lenses are not so hot on plain tubes.
In reply to David Lal, Jun 12, 2012

No aperture control.
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bencho
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Re: Do your homework first
In reply to winparkman, Jun 12, 2012

The Nikon 40mm is listed as DX... Doesn't that mean it's optimized for the DX crop factor and thus, is actually 40mm on DX bodies??

I have the 50mm and on my D7K I'm pretty sure it's actually like 75 or something.

I thought any Nikon lens marked as DX is optimized to account for the crop factor.

Any Nikon lens not marked as DX is optimzed for FX and when used on a DX body, the focal length is a percentage higher... right??

winparkman wrote:

The 40mm macro is equivalent to a 60mm on a crop body. Lenses are not measured for DX or FX.

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