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04-24-2011, 11:14 AM   #1
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Auto Extension Tube Set for Pentax K-x AF

A friend was telling me that I should invest in some extension tubes for an inexpensive way to shoot quality macro. He bought the Kenko tubes for his Nikon. Those seem to be hard to come by for my K-x. Not knowing a whole lot about tubes and/or photography in general, I figured I would post here to see if I could get some guidance. Do I really need AF tubes? Extension tubes seems to range in price from $6 to over $500. I have gotten myself lost in a sea of them all day today and I've come full circle. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

04-24-2011, 12:47 PM   #2
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The choices for extension are:

1) Expensive autofocus / auto automation tubes. Autofocus isn't necessary for CLOSE macro work; you and the camera may have different ideas there! Auto-aperture support is VERY handy if you're using flash. So,

2) Less-expensive A-type tubes, or de-glassed teleconverters. I use a couple gutted 2X TC's that cost me about US$16 each on eBay. Each TC is about 25mm thick, so you need few to reach 1:1 magnification on longer lenses.

3) Cheap cheap cheap M42 or PK tubes, or cheap bellows, with no aperture automation. Tubes are cheap; bellows are flexible; both are good when you have control over external light, or just want to diddle around.

I'm a cheap bastard so I avoid option (1). I use option (2) with a few A-type lenses. I use option (3) with everything else, especially cheap enlarger lenses with edge-to-edge flatfield sharpness. You CAN do quality macro with any of these options.
04-24-2011, 12:59 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
The choices for extension are:

1) Expensive autofocus / auto automation tubes. Autofocus isn't necessary for CLOSE macro work; you and the camera may have different ideas there! Auto-aperture support is VERY handy if you're using flash. So,

2) Less-expensive A-type tubes, or de-glassed teleconverters. I use a couple gutted 2X TC's that cost me about US$16 each on eBay. Each TC is about 25mm thick, so you need few to reach 1:1 magnification on longer lenses.

3) Cheap cheap cheap M42 or PK tubes, or cheap bellows, with no aperture automation. Tubes are cheap; bellows are flexible; both are good when you have control over external light, or just want to diddle around.

I'm a cheap bastard so I avoid option (1). I use option (2) with a few A-type lenses. I use option (3) with everything else, especially cheap enlarger lenses with edge-to-edge flatfield sharpness. You CAN do quality macro with any of these options.
That pretty much sums it up.

I recently de-glassed a 2X AF teleconverter to make a 25mm TC with functioning AF for about $30 (link). The AF works fine, although as the poster above mentioned as you get close, it's often better to MF anyway. The "A" contacts, however, not only make it easier to use "A" lenses, but also allow you to control the aperture on lenses without an aperture ring (like the DA limiteds for example).
04-24-2011, 01:29 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by dgaies Quote
The "A" contacts, however, not only make it easier to use "A" lenses, but also allow you to control the aperture on lenses without an aperture ring (like the DA limiteds for example).
Oops, yes, I should have said, "A-type or newer", which includes F, FA, DA, etc. I just (sloppily) used "A-type" as a generic label for aperture-controllable lenses. Those contacts allow for PTTL flash metering as well as automatic stop-down metering and exposures. I find this VERY useful with my cheap old TTL-only ringflash, or with any flash combination, as well as when shooting at smaller apertures when tripodded.

04-24-2011, 01:34 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by dgaies Quote
The "A" contacts, however, not only make it easier to use "A" lenses, but also allow you to control the aperture on lenses without an aperture ring (like the DA limiteds for example).
Oops, yes, I should have said, "A-type or newer", which includes F, FA, DA, etc. I just (sloppily) used "A-type" as a generic label for aperture-controllable lenses. Those contacts allow for PTTL flash metering as well as automatic stop-down metering and exposures. I find this VERY useful with my cheap old TTL-only ringflash, or with any flash combination, as well as when shooting at smaller apertures when tripodded.

I omitted another possibility too: cheap de-glassed TC's with mechanical aperture linkage, which can often be found for well under US$10. Set the camera to M(anual) mode and hit the Green button for metering and stopped-down exposures. This can be useful for tripodded non-flash macro shooting.
04-24-2011, 01:40 PM   #6
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Thank you much for your input. I need to read over this a few times and Google some things to understand it all but it sounds like you/I should be able to accomplish a lot for minimal investment. Just gotta know what I am searching for and how to use it. This forum reminds me a lot of reading Stephen Hawking's last book. I get about 20% the first time thru
04-24-2011, 07:52 PM   #7
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I'm still rather new at using my K-x, and I wanted to experiment w/ macro on the cheap. For less than $7 I bought the non-A tubes on ebay (look for "Macro Extension Tube Ring For Pentax K"). I attached my M 50mm F1.7 to them, and it really works well using the green button. It helps to have lots of light, of course, and I haven't tried w/ flash. If you want to try macro, this is a great way to start. BTW, I have found the best option is to use catch in focus to get those macro shots.

Last edited by mgvh; 04-24-2011 at 08:07 PM.
04-24-2011, 08:18 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by tonytooth Quote
...it sounds like you/I should be able to accomplish a lot for minimal investment. Just gotta know what I am searching for and how to use it.
"If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably end up somewhere else." The trick for being cost-effective with this, is to have a fair idea of what you want to accomplish. And also, to be able to wing-it, and improvise. We can accomplish many impressive things just by throwing various stuff together.

The first determinant: Whaddya wanna shoot, and how close? Different gear may be most cost-effective for studio work vs outside (field) shooting. Expensive longer AF macro lenses are GOOD for field work with a flash. Cheap enlarger lenses (EL's) on bellows are GOOD for much studio work and outside shooting too. Reversed, cheap (or better) camera lenses are GOOD with adequate light, for shooting flat OR rounded subjects.

The next determinant: How much gear do you want? Some may pick one lens and stick with it. I like playing with many options, so I've got gear piled up around me. More stuff generally means more flexibility, more ways to accomplish something.

And, most important: Whaddya know? For that, read everything you can on macro shooting; and try it out. My bible is FIELD PHOTOGRAPHY by Alfred Blaker, still a steal at Amazon. And read all the MACRO threads here, of course.
_________________________________

Let's say that 1) I know what I know now; 2) I've lost all my photo gear except my K20D body, battery, and charger; 3) I *must* shoot macros and portraits; and 4) I have a budget of 25 bucks. What would I do?

I'd get a cheap trashy SMC-A 35-80/4-5.6 zoom, arguably the worst kit lens Pentax ever sold. Shouldn't cost more than US$15 shipped. And I'd spend US$5 on a 49mm-PK mount-reversal ring. Reversed, that lens is sharp! At 35mm it reaches 2x magnification; at 80mm, it focuses to infinity, or as close as 7 inches. So I have a general-purpose manual macro and portrait lens. And I'd have five bucks left over for snacks.

Or suppose 1) I'm not hungry for snacks, 2) I don't care about headshot portraits, and 3) my budget is just US$15. What now? Well, I'd spend US$8 set of PK macro tubes, one buck on a PK body cap, and six bucks for an old Argus-C3 camera (shipped). I'd unscrew the Argus Cintar 50/3.5 lens (copied from the Leica Elmar), drill a hole in the body cap, and screw the lens in there. Now I've got a sharp, contrasty lens that on those 50mm of tubes will reach 1x magnification. Easy! Or maybe instead of the Argus and body cap, I'd just get any cheap no-name 50mm lens in PK mount. That works too.

QuoteQuote:
This forum reminds me a lot of reading Stephen Hawking's last book. I get about 20% the first time thru
We do get a bit dense at times, especially when we start throwing acronyms and slang around. A couple +dioptre strap-ons will kill your IQ quick, even far from the diffraction limit. A Tak 50/1.4 has really thin DOF but a good AOV for headshots -- too bad you can't use pTTL with it. Et f*cking cetera.

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