To some extent all of us are creatures of habit, doing things the same way that we’ve always done them. How we use our camera gear is not immune from our habitual behaviour. My favourite lens to use with extension tubes is the 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 and I often only bring this lens with me when planning some close-up photography. During recent visits to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington Ontario to photograph frogs, I was reminded that considering the minimum focusing distances of our lenses is important when using extension tubes.
Photographing frogs in glass display cases served as a great reminder that we often do not have as much flexibility as we may want in terms of our physical distance to our subjects when doing close-up photography. This often means that we need to switch out, or stack, extension tubes to achieve the correct focusing distance and magnification effect we need.
While using longer length extension tubes or stacking them are viable options, these decisions do come with a cost. We lose more light with every increase in extension tube length which in turn affects our exposure. This can result in the use of higher ISOs and/or slower shutter speeds, both of which can impact image quality especially when shooting hand-held. Increasing the magnification effect of our lenses with extension tubes also can make the optical imperfections of our lenses more apparent.
I visited the frog display at the Royal Botanical Gardens twice during the past week. The first time I only took a couple of sets of extension tubes and my 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 with me. While this combination of gear gave me quite a bit of flexibility, I did take note of a number of specific situations when it was not the optimal choice. Typically these were situations where a subject frog was right up against the display glass, or conversely was a bit further back in the display. Under both of these scenarios I was not able to capture images exactly as I wanted.
On my second visit I took the same extension tubes, but also added the 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 and 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lenses to my kit which included the 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6. Each of these three zoom lenses performs quite differently in terms of their minimum focusing distances. For example, the 10-100mm f/4-5.6 has a quite short minimum focusing distance making it ideal to capture subjects that were very close to the glass on the display cases.
By mixing and matching extension tubes to different zoom lenses based on their minimum focusing distance and my camera-to-subject distance, I was able to more effectively use my gear in terms of reducing the number of extension tubes needed, maintaining reasonable shutter speeds and ISO levels, as well as achieve my desired magnification effect.
Regardless of the camera gear we may own, remembering to consider the minimum focusing distances of our lenses when using extension tubes can help us get better performance from our equipment.
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held in available light and are displayed as 100% captures without any cropping. All images were produced using my standard process of DxO OpticsPro 11, CS6 and the Nik Collection.
Article and images are Copyright 2018 Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use duplication or reproduction of any kind is allowed without written permission. Photography Life is the only approved user of this article. If you see it reproduced anywhere else it is an illegal and unauthorized use.