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08-04-2016, 12:59 PM   #1
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Macro Lens or Extension Tubes for the lenses I already own?

Which one should I get? I'm not happy with the lack of close focus ability on my lenses, FA 45-85mm / FA 80-160mm / A 200mm / FA 400mm and the working distance of the A 35mm seems like it would not be the best one to use either. Do any of you have any thoughts on this matter?

08-04-2016, 01:45 PM   #2
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If you want close focus, the 35 or Sigma's 28 macro will do the job. They can almost focus on their front element. That said, magnification isn't as high as the 100mm macro. Extension tubes can work but you will often lose some function so need to operate manually. Same with bellows.

I'm having a great time photographing Lasioglossum bees (4mm or smaller) on flowers in the yard or in the field with the 100mm macro and a Sunpak ring flash. Much easier than last year without the flash, it's honestly amazing what that flash has done. Shooting P mode, f/16, 1/160sec at 100ISO. Using AF.C focus mode. Yeah, it takes practice but it works.

So my big question is do you need close focus or magnification? What are you trying to photograph so closely?

You can also reverse-mount lenses, do a forum search for that.
08-04-2016, 01:47 PM   #3
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I have macro lenses, extension tubes and bellows that I use with various lenses. Extension tubes and bellows get you the closest, but so far, using them with standard lenses (50mm Super Tak m42, 105mm and others), with my K-1 I start getting vignetting if I go in too far. I am looking at getting a true bellows lens to give me a wider field of coverage than these lenses I currently use. IQ is great, but I do not get full coverage on the sensor,. It was fine on my K-7 though!

Macro lenses (I have a 50mm Pentax, 90mm Tamron Adaptall and 105mm sigma) are all great, sharp lenses. They offer more convenience than the extension tubes or bellows, though you can't get quite as close (though, this is relative to just how close you want to get!). On the K-1, none of them vignette either.

08-04-2016, 01:51 PM   #4
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Another lens is always better if you can afford it. I love my sigma 70. I also use my takamur 150 with tubes when i cant get close. Its only advantage is distance. That said I could be happy with tubes but it is like a kit lens vs a high end lens.

08-04-2016, 02:18 PM   #5

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Keep in mind he the OP is asking for medium format, not standard DSLRs.
OP, it works like this: got money? Macro lens. Otherwise, tubes
08-04-2016, 02:22 PM - 1 Like   #6
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Why are people chiming in with your 135 format lens' experiences in the Pentax Medium Format thread, they are all great lenses but inapplicable to a Pentax 645 camera.

@littledrawe: Pick up a Pentax-A 645 120/4.0 Macro or FA 120/4.0 (harder to find and more expensive) for 1:1 macro capability. I've used my A645 120/4.0 with my K-5 and while it's heavy (a lot heavier than 135 format macro lenses) it's really nice to shoot with, with it's long focus throw and the silky smooth focus action. As for the weight, it balances quite well even with my K-5 and I don't really notice the weight while shooting, it's only when I pick up the camera with the right hand the extra weight becomes very apparent.
08-04-2016, 02:30 PM   #7
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It all depends on how much magnification you need and what IQ you want. If you just want to get a little closer, extension tubes are fine. But be aware that your lenses weren't optimized for close focus. The greater the magnification and IQ requirements, the more you'll need a real macro lens which has been designed to be sharp close up.

You could buy the extension tubes first, see how it goes and then add a macro lens if you're not happy. A macro lens + extension tubes will get you even more magnification.

What are you trying to shoot?
08-04-2016, 02:33 PM   #8
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Also worth a mention is an -A 75mm/2.8 with the 58mm reverse adapter.....gets to around 2x life size and it's a cheap and easy lens to find.


08-04-2016, 02:58 PM   #9
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Well the difference between tubes and a manual focus macro lens is only 50-100 bones depending on the condition which is kind of why it makes it a little more tough to decide. AF pushes the price difference up significantly.
08-04-2016, 03:23 PM   #10
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Coming from 35mm again but with general advice. Tubes are cheap, but unless they have aperture linkage (either mechanical or electronic as appropriate) to meter open through the tube, they can be an absolute pain unless the subject is stationary, the camera is on a tripod, and you can prefocus and stop down with impunity before metering and taking the shot.

The more macro I've shot, the more I've learned that active AF is less critical than focus confirmation (if the body offers it), and the ability to meter wide open makes things so much easier it isn't funny. I am beginning to understand now why the MX and LX came with focusing screen options specially optimised for stepped down situations where split prisms were uselessly opaque; that happens so fast even with a short extension tube it isn't funny. They eat light to billy-o, and having to use the lens stopped down makes things even worse.

The one big advantage, of course, is that they make every lens in your collection a macro lens - or at the very least an ultra close focusser, which is sometimes just as good.
08-04-2016, 04:27 PM   #11
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I bought a set of 645 extension tubes and the shortest one is perfect for breaking the min focusing distance barrier
08-04-2016, 04:56 PM   #12

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A120 macro can be had for US 200 and the same goes to extension tube. A combination of both will be great for real macro works.

08-04-2016, 05:22 PM   #13
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Some good information here from B+H

08-05-2016, 06:41 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bob L Quote
Also worth a mention is an -A 75mm/2.8 with the 58mm reverse adapter.....gets to around 2x life size and it's a cheap and easy lens to find.


I agree that a lens reversing adapter is well worth having and using for some macro pictures. Usually that means using the lens in total manual mode when reversed. Reversing also works better with prime lenses, though I have an old Vivitar zoom that worked great when reversed. Recently, though I tried reversing another zoom and it couldn't focus on anything reversed!

You might also get some amazing results by reversing the 35mm on the front of the 200mm. A reversed prime lens is remarkably better than those little +1-+4 diopter supplementary lenses on the front of a lens.
08-05-2016, 06:53 AM - 1 Like   #15
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I've experimented and done macro with just about every method there is. My advice: the least expensive, most convenient route to good or even excellent quality macro images are the Raynox achromatic close-up lenses. Carefully done comparison images of the same subject indicate that when mounted on a good lens, the Raynox can deliver image IQ virtually indistinguishable from images made with extension tubes or a dedicated macro lens. Using a close-up filter such as the Raynox means no loss of aperture, as with tubes, and 100% retention of all lens-to-camera data transfer, including pTTL flash control. Raynox is absolutely THE BEST WAY TO START doing macro. Among the lenses you've listed, the 45~85mm and A200f4 will probably yield the best result. REMEMBER, when using the Raynox or any close-up filter, the lens-to-subject distance with the lens set to infinity is exactly the same regardless of focal length.

Track down the thread for posting images done with Raynox filters and see what they can do, keeping in mind that the lens to which they are attached, the use of flash versus natural light, tripod versus hand-held, and the skill of the photographer can enormously influence IQ.

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