It’s a mystery how this little one-inch wonder remained unknown to me for so long. I finally discovered it when — bemoaning my fate to spend over two thousand on a Canon tilt-shift macro — a colleague suggested trying an extension tube.

A thrifty little gift from the camera gods themselves. In case you also haven’t had the pleasure of meeting it: let me introduce you to my new favorite piece of gear, the EF 25II Canon Extension Tube.

In my commercial work, I do a lot of macro photography. The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro is the lens that takes the title for the most-beloved lens in my bag. It has always delivered what I needed as far as sharpness, image stabilization, and more. It was the perfect lens… until this one contract. I was hired to shoot monthly for the biggest producer of CBD in the US. Each month, I photographed new strands and I found myself wanting to get closer, and closer, and closer. Each strand had unique leaf shapes, and the element that really drew me in was this minuscule part called trichomes which are fuzzy, crystal-like dots on the plant. My 100mm was just not cutting it. I was about to pull the trigger on a macro tilt shift, when I came across the EF 25II Canon Extension Tube.

Priced at $144.95, I figured it was worth trying it before investing over two thousand on new glass. Wow, was I impressed!

What Are Extension Tubes?

An extension tube is a ring that is mounted between your camera and your lens. This extends the physical distance between the two, allowing the camera to focus closer than your lens’ minimum focus distance. In simpler terms: it allows you to zoom in closer.

My Experience Shooting With It

As I mounted the tube to try it out, I was concerned about two things: image stabilization and sharpness. I generally like to use gear the way it’s designed to be used. I was pleased to find that adding the tube didn’t degrade the sharpness or reduce the image stabilization in any way that I could detect in my images.

Here are some side-by-side images of shots I took with my 100mm with and without the extension tube.

Here are a few more I captured using the extension tube. 

On an informal Instagram survey, I asked photographers if they knew what this was.

Close to 60% responded that they were not familiar with the little black wonder.

Another Convenient Perk

When doing research into some of the macro lens options, I learned that many of these lenses have a very shallow depth of field and require shooting with a focusing rail.

Since these macro lenses require you to shoot very close to your subject, it limits you to a very shallow focal depth. If you want more than a small sliver of your image in focus, it’s likely you’ll have to use a focusing rail. A focusing rail is a system that allows you to move your camera forward and backward in minuscule increments. With your camera mounted to the rail, you can photograph your subject, then refocus on a distance a little further away, click again, and repeat the process until you have shot the entire subject with various focal lengths. After that, you will need to use image stacking to combine all the photographs to create one finished image. 

Shooting with the extension tube still allowed me to get closer to my subject, without limiting my depth of field in a manner that I had to utilize this involved process.

If you’re interested in diving deeper into the world of macro photography, this may be a great starting point. It keeps the process simple and it’s a much more economical option.

Have you ever used them? The best part of the conversation is sharing your experience in the comments below. 

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